Who are you? The distinction between personality and individuality

N Balasubramanian

Greek philosopher Socrates once said: “The unexamined life is not worth living” but what can a deep introspection reveal to a human being and more importantly, is it possible to carry out such an examination of one’s life?

“Personality” is so often confused for “Individuality”. Personality is an outward manifestation, a phenomenon with a beginning and therefore with an end whereas Individuality is the true sense and conception of ‘I’. 

Personality is ever in a state of flux, while Individuality is unchanging and present everywhere in every personality. Personality is in time while Individuality is in eternity. Death is always the end of Personality but never of the Individuality. This Individuality or the Individual we refer to is also called the Spirit, Soul, Atman, Brahman, the Universal Self, the Cosmic soul, and the real Self.

Knowledge – although it is itself a phenomenon bound by time -- can at best lead us to this intellectual conviction but cannot actualise the real Self which is beyond time, and without a beginning or an end.

By intense practice, one can actualise a state of thoughtlessness but only for a limited duration. This is because one’s exertion itself is an event in time with a beginning and an end. But, there is nothing better than actualising this experience of thoughtlessness, shedding one’s personality and ultimately becoming one with the Cosmic Self.

Self is beyond the realm of knowledge and thought because how can the knower be known? However, intellectual conviction will most certainly change one’s perception of life and the world one lives in.

At the true dawn of understanding and the subsequent internalisation of this knowledge about Self, it will equip us to conquer the demons within us – such as fear, anger, lust, greed, hatred and envy. Kindness, compassion, love, understanding, and selfless deeds will become our new way of living and relating. Miseries and tragedies will all be differently perceived. Light of the soul and its inner voice will be our guide in all our outward actions.

Let us attempt to look at it in another way in existential terms. It is a well-established fact that a will to live is common to all species in the universe. As the term suggests this “will” can attain its fulfilment only in existence. Rather, we can go to the extent of saying that this “will” is the cause of existence.

Wherever and whenever there is existence, this “will” must exist. It is innate in everything that exists. The particular person or an individual is not its particular concern. It is, in fact, concerned with existence in general.

One cannot experience direct consciousness of this will to live except in oneself. Hence, there is this illusion that the death of our personality ceases our existence. Death is the end of one’s personality but not of the real Self or Individuality.

--By N. Balasubramanian

N Balasubramanian is an old time honours graduate in economics and has vast experience and expertise in human relations and resources development. A devotee of Sage of Kanchi - Maha Swamigal, N Balasubramanian is living a quiet and meditative life based upon the Guru's teachings. An avid reader of philosophy in his younger years, he wholly devotes his energies presently, in discovering insights and practical wisdom from ancient Indian scriptures. Based upon his understanding of Acharya's discourses and writings on spirituality, N. Balasubramanian shares these thoughts on IndiaNewsBulletin.com to just provoke your thoughts and kindle your interest in spirituality and philosophy.  

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