“The karmi thinks of this world as ‘mine,’ and the jnani thinks ‘I am’ everything. The whole material conception of politics, sociology, philanthropy, altruism, etc., conceived by the conditioned souls is on the basis of this misconceived ‘I’ and ‘mine,’ which are products of a strong desire to enjoy material life.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.2 Purport)
Whether we follow the route of fruitive action or the path of mental speculation, the result of our choice is the same if there is no connection to the Divine. That connection is what ultimately defines us, and so when we reject it we lose sight of our true identity. An object used the wrong way never brings the best benefit, just like a fork shouldn’t be used to drink soup and a spoon shouldn’t be used to pierce through food. For the conditioned spirit soul, the tallest hurdle to cross over in the path towards the constitutional position is the flawed mindset, which manifests in the thinking of “I” and “mine.”
What is wrong with “I” and “mine?” Does not the word “I” identify who I am? When I speak to someone else about things in my life, should I not refer to myself as “I”? Also, those objects which I hold, are they not mine? Who else do they belong to? Indeed, if I say that they belong to someone else, for that other person the object is referred to as “mine.” Why, then, do I need to shed the mindset of “I” and “mine?”
In the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of India, the concept of “I” and “mine” is mentioned quite frequently. The way “I” and “mine” are typically used shows that they are not properly understood. The fruitive worker thinks in terms of “mine.” “This object is mine; that object is mine.” This is a flawed mentality because the objects are temporary. Moreover, we didn’t possess anything at the time of birth. How, all of a sudden, can we just go up to something and claim complete ownership over it? It was there for someone else to take as well. It can also exist long after we have left this world.
Possessions leave us even during our time on earth. I may own a very nice house and fancy cars, but the pulsing flood waters caused by a hurricane can ruin everything in an instant. That which was previously mine no longer exists. Therefore to think solely in terms of “mine” is not wise. That which belongs to me eventually won’t; so it never should have been the source of my identity to begin with.
The empiricist thinks in terms of “I”, namely relying on “I am.” “I am white; I am black; I am a man; I am a woman; I am an American; I am a child; I am a philanthropist; I am a philosopher; I am a welfare worker.” These identifications are based on temporary association with the material energy. Today I might be a child, but tomorrow I will be an adult. My identity shouldn’t change, but in my mind I think it has. I also think that the person next to me is somehow different from me. This is flawed because they too undergo the same changes. Even the most inclusive use, which is “I am everything,” is invalid, as I am not you and you are not me.
The “I” and “mine” mentioned here are flawed because they are based on the conception that the material energy is solely for the individual’s enjoyment. “I” and “mine”, which are used by the karmi and jnani respectively, are made right when there is real yoga. Yoga is the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. The proper use of “I” is to say that I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of God. “Mine” is used properly when I say that the Supreme Lord is my best friend whom I will serve with all my thoughts, words and deeds. My possessions in this world are on temporary loan to help me maintain that connection to God. When the connection is in the mood of love, the yoga is known as bhakti, which is the constitutional engagement of the spirit soul.
The karmi thinks they are superior because the quantity of that which is identified as “mine” is quite large, or at least they think that amassing such a quantity is the ultimate goal. The jnani thinks they are superior because they think that whatever they identify with is the most important. “I am” means I am superior to everyone else. In the worst cases, the “I am” equates to God, wherein the individual thinks they are the Supreme Controller, a person immune to the dualities of heat and cold, light and darkness, and happiness and sadness.
If I don’t know how to identify myself and I don’t know the temporary nature of the objects I possess, naturally I will follow paths that don’t do much benefit. Think of it like working so hard to maintain the clothes that you wear. Ultimately your clothes don’t mean much. You could wear old and withered garments and still be the same person. If you take so much effort to maintain your clothes, your time is occupied but you haven’t made the best use of your potential for action.
If I base my identity on a temporary condition, I will think that others can be helped by reaching a temporary condition as well. Therefore I will direct my efforts towards helping others attain a position of material opulence. Or perhaps I will try to get others to identify as part of a political group or section of people that are deemed oppressed; this way they become ideal candidates to reach a higher temporary position.
Actually, everyone is in the same boat, so to speak. Every individual, including the lower species, is a spirit soul. The soul’s constitutional position is to serve God. In the conditioned state, the service still exists, but it gets directed towards other areas, those which have nothing to do with spirit. Worship of matter under the veil of a rubber-stamped religion is also not spirituality at all; it is maya, or illusion. The illusion is rooted in the misconception of “I” and “mine.”
The best way to shed the flawed mindset is to directly worship God. The procedures for that worship are kindly passed on by the spiritual masters, those who already worship God with thought, word and deed. They know that God is a person, someone who possesses opulences to the fullest degree and at the same time. They know that He can be addressed through sounds which speak to His features. They know that His energy plays an integral role in pleasing Him, so they regularly chant a mantra which addresses both God and His energy: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)
The spiritual master knows that they are a servant of God and that God belongs to them, residing within their heart. The Supreme Lord is not exclusive in this regard; He can be every person’s best friend. In the Bhagavad-gita He promises to deliver anyone who surrenders unto Him. Concomitant with that surrender is the release of the misconceptions previously generated through karma and jnana. The yogi in bhakti can follow any activity, fruitive work or philosophy, and not be led astray because they know the Truth.
Because always “mine” saying,
Karmi their ignorance displaying.
“I am” is term the jnani will use,
This, that and everything will include.
Temporary is the nature around,
Therefore neither logic is sound.
“God is my friend” is how “mine” to be known,
All objects of this world on temporary loan.
“I am a spirit soul, part of God”, is “I am” right,
From the Supreme Lord comes Brahman’s light.
For His service take all elements surrounding,
Reach pinnacle through holy names sounding.