If you ask somebody “Who are you?”, they may say “I am Ram,” “I am son of Lakshmi,” “I am a student,” or “I am Krishna’s devotee.” Many of us know that Amma said 333 33 when someone asked her who she. I think, on the face of it, the previous 4 answers give some information over this answer by Amma. Also, if you look at it objectively, 335 33 is a sentence with zero information.
This sentence is similar to “రాముడు మంచి బాలుడు” Proper noun, adjective and common noun. However, the whole sentence has only one root word. The same word (3) has been used twice as a noun and once as an adjective.
I think Amma translated the question “Who are you?” by others into “Who am I?” before answering it. Unless one does this translation, she/he cannot objectively answer the question “Who are you?”. I wanted to understand how she arrived at that answer and what is the real meaning of it.
Bhagavan Ramana has popularized this question the most. There is a lot of literature around this specific question. Whatever the vedanta book that I refer to, I get a feeling they are trying to answer this very question. But, how do we arrive at the answer Amma gave?
I hold a stick and ask myself. Am I this stick? No. I am not the stick. I cannot be the stick as I am able to recognise its existence. As long as I recognise something A, I cannot be that A because there is something B that is recognizing the A. So, there is always a difference between the recognizer and that being recognized. In other words, if you recognize the existence of something then, you can’t be that. “I” cannot be recognized, it can only be experienced.
I recognize all (including internal) parts of this body so, therefore, “I” cannot be associated with any part of this body including mind (manas) and memory. In fact, “I” cannot be any property (including emotions) of this body including intellect, ego, reasoning faculty, ignorance (buddhi, ahankara, chitta, tamas).
In fact, Vedanta says there are 5 sheaths distributed into 3 bodies. The five sheaths are Annamaya, Pranamaya, Manomaya, Vijnanamaya and Anandamaya koshas. The three bodies are sthula, sukshma and karana shariras. I refer you to Adi Sankara’s 2 prakaranas on this subject Vivekachudamani and Panchikaranam, for more details as the understanding of these aspects is intellectually very challenging exercise. Since one is able to clearly articulate all these 5 sheaths and 3 bodies, “I” is different from these 3.
I would like to restrict this discussion to only the memory. Because all of us recognise the functioning of memory in terms of recollecting what we experienced in the past, “I” is different from the memory. Then, if we try to answer the question “Who am I?” without recollecting anything from the memory, what will we get? In case we need to say it out loud, it will be “I am” or “I am what I am”. There are no adjectives. And because “I” does not have the past it is always fresh. This is when you may get a glimpse of I and experience what Amma meant by “నేను నేనైన నేను ”
But, why “నేను నేనైన నేను”? Why not “నేను నేనే”? I think, “నేను 35″ is to indicate that the only adjective” can have is “” and it is of the type (associated common noun)”. That is, there is no other way to define “నేను”. Hence, “నేను నేనైన నేను” is the only answer, in case you have to say it out, to the question “Who am I?”.
Any amount of reading alone cannot help one to experience “I”. One has to contemplate on “I” to experience it. I think,” 33333″ can be used for deep meditation and/or contemplation leading to self knowledge.