If we can remember this also in relation to the I, then the I is also only utilitarian. But we are not aware of an interesting phenomenon: we call others by name, but if we call ourselves by name it would be inconvenient. If I were to call myself by my name it would seem as if I were calling someone else, hence the common way we describe ourselves is as I. We use a name to describe others and we use I to describe ourselves. Hence I works for each one to refer to himself. When we use I, we know that we are pointing towards ourselves, when we use a name it is pointing towards someone else.
That is why the people around Ramateertha found it difficult to understand him, because when he spoke he did not use the I. He used to say, “Rama was walking down the lane and a few people began to insult him.” He would say, “Rama is going to a town to deliver a speech.” He did not say, “I am going to deliver a speech.” Listening to him, it seemed as if he was talking about someone else.
There is nothing wrong in using the word I; there is no sin or no crime in using I, it is practical and convenient. Only this much should be remembered: the I is for convenience and it is not real. Then what is the problem in getting rid of the I? The problem arises when the label becomes our soul; as long as it is only superficial no problem arises.
But we become so attached to labels that we paste these labels all over ourselves. All over we are only labels and labels, it becomes difficult to find the person. These merely utilitarian labels stick so fast to us that sometimes, instead of being useful, the labels become harmful.
I have heard:
Nasruddin was working in a big office. Some glassware needed to be dispatched and the boss asked him to stick a label on the box showing which way is up, so it would not be put upside down. So he stuck the labels on and the box was sent. When his boss asked him, “You did not forget to put on the label, did you?”
Nasruddin replied, “Forget! I put them all over – they are visible from every side.”
Such is our situation. The label would have been useful had it been put only on one side, on the upper side, so that care could be taken. But Nasruddin put them on every side, visible on every side. Now this box cannot be taken care of because each of its sides is the “up” side.
With us the utilitarian aspect also becomes suicidal. It could have worked, but the entity whose name it is is forgotten and only the name remains. It would have been alright if only others were to fall in this illusion, but it happens that the person himself falls prey to this illusion and it goes deeply inside him.
If all of us sitting here were to sleep here tonight and if someone were to call out, “Rama,” no one would hear this voice except for the man whose name is Rama. It clearly shows that even in sleep he is aware that he is Rama. The rest of the people would remain sleeping. They would not even be aware that somebody is calling Rama. But this man, even in deep sleep or sunk in dreams, knows that he is Rama.