We can just be who we are. Being authentic means being unique. On the assumption that we can be everything we want lies all suffering. I cannot be you and you cannot be me. If we want to be at peace with ourselves and life in general, we can just be who we are!

Now I invite you to read the following story from Heinrich Zimmer’s book, The Philosophy of India:

“Once upon a time there was a tigress who was about to give birth. One day when she was out hunting she came upon a herd of goats. She gave chase and, even in her condition, managed to kill one of them. But the stress of the chase forced her into labor, and she died as she gave birth to a male cub. The goats, who had run away, returned when they sensed that the danger was over. Approaching the dead tigress, they discovered the newborn cub and adopted into their herd.

The tiger cub grew up among the goats believing he, too, was a goat. He bleated as well as he could, he smelled like a goat, and ate only vegetation; in every respect he behaved like a goat. Yet within him, as we are well aware, beat the heart of a tiger.

All went well until the day that an older tiger approached the goat herd and attacked and killed one of the goats. The rest of the goats ran away as soon as they saw the old tiger, but our tiger/goat saw no reason to run away, of course, for he sensed no danger.

Although the old tiger was a veteran of many hunts, he had never in his life been as shocked as he was when he confronted the young tiger. He did not know what to make of this full-grown tiger who smelled like a goat, bleated like a goat, and in every other way acted like a goat. Being a rather gruff old duffer, and not particularly sympathetic, the old tiger grabbed the young one by the scruff of the neck, dragged him to a nearby creek, and showed him his reflection in the water. But the young tiger was unimpressed with his own reflection; it meant nothing to him and he failed to see his similarity to the old tiger.

Frustrated by this lack of comprehension, the old tiger dragged the young one back to the place where he had made his kill. There he ripped a piece of meat from the dead goat and shoved it into the mouth of your young friend.

We can well imagine the young tiger’s shock and consternation. At first he gagged and tried spitting out the raw flesh, but the old tiger was determined to show the young one who he really was, so he made sure the cub swallowed this new food. When he was sure the cub had swallowed it all, the old tiger shoved another piece of meat into him, and this time there was a change.

Our young tiger now allowed himself to taste the raw flesh and the warm blood, and he ate this piece with gusto. When he finished chewing, the young tiger stretched, and then, for the first time in his young life, he let out a powerful roar – the roar of the jungle cat. Then the two tigers disappeared into the forest.”

Symbolically, we are all raised as goats; we are all raised in cultures and families where we are trained to think, feel, and see in specific, predetermined ways. This is the very conditioned reality we live in. But some of us at least will meet the “dark night of the soul” and eventually face it. These moments are usually crucial and very special in our lives, and its consequences can range from being forever trapped in social conventions or being true to one’s nature. Thus there is no choice for the authentic-self! In other words, there is just one way of being you, of being authentic. Ra Uru Hu once said: “The value of such knowing is the acceptance of the unique and perfect nature of your being. To love yourself as you are, for what you are, in the now”.

But, what does it really mean? How do we know who we really, truly are? In my opinion, the supreme aim of each of us is to live in accordance with what we know to be correct to ourselves. Once we have found the way of being in the world without resistance, our inner voice will thrive and we will know what does it mean to be authentic and what our purpose is, because it will unfold naturally. This voice could be called the authentic-self and it’s opposed to the ego, mind or not-self voice that judges, has preferences and opinions. It comes from a deeper place, a place everyone knows in their bones and souls but only few will ever listen it. With practice and time we can learn to tell the difference between the voice of our not-self and the voice of our authentic-self. For me, it took a lot of time and experimentation to distinguish between these two voices. Now, the difference is very clear to me. The challenge is definitely in choosing to listen to my true-self rather than to my not-self when they don’t agree.

By holding the intention of being true to our authentic-self and shifting the focus of our attention from our minds to our bodies, we learn to hold ourselves accountable. It becomes a self-editing process where we do more and more of those things that express our truth and less and less of those that do not. And the result is profound authenticity!

Living from a place of profound authenticity involves being rooted in the truth of our body. And this truth will be reflected in our thoughts, words and actions. This means being willing to sacrifice any relationship, situation or circumstance that violates our truth. But this does not mean that once we’re living from our authentic-self we will live a charmed life because life happens and unfolds in sorrows as well in sweetness, whether we want or not. And I think is worth it to quote Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan here: “Expecting life to be fair because you are a good person is like expecting the bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian”. However, having the wisdom of knowing who we are to guide us and responding correctly to the outer world will give us what we need to diminish the friction and discord in our lives. And ultimately will lead us to peaceful and meaningful lives.