Ceasing to be an individual and becoming a person
The question of the “person” is a crucial point. There is a distinction between ‘personality’, ‘individual’ and ‘person’.
- Personality is a psychological characteristic, so that the same individual can have several personalities. I don’t just mean “split personality” but different ways of being according to different situations – “he is an angel in public but a devil at home”. This idea is not relevant in this discussion.
2. The individual has a sense that “I am living here, with this job, this group of friends etc.”. It is therefore limited, confined and particular: “My house, my life, my money”. It is inhibiting and confining, making that individual a “bonded animal” (paśu). This limitation is considered to be the basic “stain” (mala) in Kashmir Shaivism. It is the basic illusion (māyā) since in fact the human being is not essentially limited in this way. As long as the individual remains individualistic, he or she remains limited, cut off from other people. Individualism is a “stain”. Our present-day society seems very individualistic. It is the “me-generation”.
Kashmir Shaivism does not eliminate the individual but understands it. The individual “becomes” eternal when he/she recognises that they are the expression of the eternal “I am”. Character, personality, history, experience, and emotions: all are retained but transformed when they are truly understood. There is a lot more to say on this.
3. The crucial distinction is between person and individual. Liberation consists in abandoning the limitations of time and place, of “this” and “that”, and acquiring a sense of universality. The limited person becomes universal. They realise that their true nature is not “I am this person living in this city” but simply “I am”. This is extremely difficult to do and it very hard to say “I am” without having at the back the mind “I am Simon ” or “I am Judy”. I acquire the divine mind and know “I am” and see my “I am this” as a natural expression of “I am”. Thus my “I am this” is seen as valid and valuable. When I look at another person I do not say “I am not that person” but rather “that person is my very self”. This attitude is exactly opposite to individualism. It involves relationship: “You are my”, but also identity: “very self”. This attitude can only be understood in the experience of love.
In the experience of love human beings move from being merely individuals to being persons and to becoming so personal that we live in each other and become profoundly each other.
4. This begins to help us understand the notion of the Trinity, which is a communion of love, where the three Persons (not personalities or individuals) are One Ultimate Reality (and not one person).