Who are we?

The Vedanta-sutra (1.1.1) states, athato brahma jijnasa: "Now one should inquire about Brahman - The absolute truth, the transcendental, spiritual nature"

The first aphorism in the Vedanta-sutra is athato brahma jijnasa. In the human form of life one should put many questions to himself and to his intelligence. In the various forms of life lower than human life the intelligence does not go beyond the range of life's primary necessities--namely eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Dogs, cats and tigers are always busy trying to find something to eat or a place to sleep, trying to defend and have sexual intercourse successfully. In the human form of life, however, one should be intelligent enough to ask what he is, why he has come into the world, what his duty is, who is the supreme controller, what is the difference between dull matter and the living entity, etc. There are so many questions, and the person who is actually intelligent should simply inquire about the supreme source of everything: athato brahma jijnasa.

[SB. Canto 4, Chapter 25, Text 5, Text26, purport]


The question – “Who am I?” has haunted numerous intelligent being since time immemorial. Let us take a journey to understand.

Year 1637

In the era of Modern Philosophy, the first person to revolutionize the idea was - René Descartes.

Descartes, had to first of all to seek out a solid starting point ( evident idea ), and from this opens his deductive process. To arrive at this solid starting point, he begins with methodical doubt , that is, a doubt which will be the means of arriving at certitude . 

You can doubt all the ideas that exist within your knowing faculties, whether they come through the senses or through the intellect , you can doubt even mathematical truths, in so far as it could be that the human intelligence is under the influence of a malignant genius which takes sport in making what is objectively irrational appears to me as rational. 

So doubt is brought to its extreme form . But, in spite of this, the hyperbolic doubt causes to rise the most luminous and indisputable certainty . Even presupposing that the entire content of thoughts is false, the incontestable truth is that “I think”: one cannot doubt without thinking; and if I think , I exist : "Cogito ergo sum" (French: Je pense, donc je suis; I think, therefore I am), found in part IV of Discourse on the Method (1637; written in French but with inclusion of "Cogito ergo sum") and §7 of part I of Principles of Philosophy (1644; written in Latin).

Therefore he concluded – I am thought


Year 1929

The discovery of electroencephalography (EEG) in 1929 by the German psychiatrist Hans Berger was a historical breakthrough providing a new neurologic and psychiatric diagnostic tool at the time.

This tool is a monitoring method to record electrical activity of the brain or thoughts. To observe and understand our brain better, scientists had recorded EEG waves for a person in both awakened state and sleeping state.

As per René Descartes, we are Thought. 

This study made the scientists believe that since Thoughts originate from Brain, therefore we are Brain.


Studies continued, and then, a discovery was made. Coma - a prolonged state of deep unconsciousness, caused especially by severe injury or illness. Some of the coma patients suffer brain death.

This is called Brain Death Syndrome.

However, even if the patient’s brain is dead, he is still alive – with properly functioning heart!!! This perplexed our scientists. It was evident that we are not Brain, but then who are we???

So we are not Thought, Mind, Brain. 


Year 1980

Studies continued and before science got an answer to the mystery, another puzzle came up.

British neurologist Dr. John Lorberr highlighted in a 1980 article in Science called into questions the notion that the size of the brain is the most important consideration for human intelligence (Lewin 1980).  Lorber studied many cases of hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”) and concluded that even when most of the brain’s cerebral cortex (the brain’s outer layer) is missing, patients can live normal lives. Science writer Roger Lewin quotes Lorber in his article:

There’s a young student at this university [Sheffield University] who has an IQ of 126, has gained a first-class honors degree in mathematics, and is socially completely normal. And yet the boy has virtually no brain…When we did a brain scan on him, we saw that instead of the normal 4.5 centimeter thickness of brain tissue between the ventricles and the cortical surface, there was just a thin layer of mantle measuring a millimeters or so. His cranium is filled mainly with cerebrospinal fluid.

Lorber’s provocative findings suggest that we need to reconsider our long-held beliefs about how the brain works and the physical foundation of human intelligence. I submit in the epilogue of The Biology of Belief that human intelligence can only be fully understood when we include spirit (“energy”) or what quantum physics savvy psychologists call the “superconscious” mind. 

[Lewin, R. (1980). “Is Your Brain Really Necessary?” Science 210: 1232-1234]

Many such cases has been recorded, the latest is of year 2007, a 44-year-old brainless man.

Hence the conclusion – we are not brain is clearly understood.


Year 1991
The Pam Reynolds case.

Pam Reynolds Lowery (1956 – May 22, 2010), from Atlanta, Georgia, was an American singer-songwriter. In 1991, at the age of 35, she stated that she had a near-death experience (NDE) during a brain operation performed by Robert F. Spetzler at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. Her experience is one of the most widely documented in near-death studies because of the circumstances under which it happened. Reynolds was under close medical monitoring during the entire operation. During part of the operation she had no brain-wave activity and no blood flowing in her brain, which rendered her clinically dead. She claimed to have made several observations during the procedure which later medical personnel reported to be accurate.

Diagnosis and operation

Reynolds reported to her physician that she was experiencing symptoms of dizziness, loss of speech and difficulty in moving parts of her body. Her physician referred her to a neurologist and a CAT scan later revealed that Reynolds had a large aneurysm in her brain, close to the brain stem. Because of the difficult position of the aneurysm, Reynolds was predicted to have no chance of survival. As a last resort, Robert F. Spetzler — a neurosurgeon of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona — decided that a rarely performed surgical procedure, known as hypothermic cardiac arrest, was necessary to improve Pam's outcome. During this procedure, also known as a standstill operation, Pam's body temperature was lowered to 50 °F (10 °C), her breathing and heartbeat stopped, and the blood drained from her head. Her eyes were closed with tape and small ear plugs with speakers were placed in her ears. These speakers emitted audible clicks which were used to check the function of the brain stem to ensure that she had a flat EEG — or a non-responsive brain — before the operation proceeded. The operation was a success and Reynolds recovered completely. The total surgery lasted about 7 hours with a few complications along the way.

Claimed NDE (Near Death Experience) & OBE (Outer Body Experience)

Reynolds reported that during the operation she heard a sound like a natural 'D' that seemed to pull her out of her body and allowed her to "float" above the operating room and watch the doctors perform the operation. Reynolds claims that during this time she felt "more aware than normal" and her vision was more focused and clearer than normal vision. Reynolds says she was able to identify surgical instruments and hear conversations between operating room staff.

This case added complexity to the already complicated mystery. So we infer, we are not Thought, Mind, Brain, Body 


Year 2010
Science advanced and it was able to identify the functional-zone of human brain.

However now, the twist in tale occurred The Unsolved Mysteries of Neuroscience: The Binding Problem.

The binding problem is when you look at what's happening in the brain, you find there's a division of labor.  You have some parts of your brain that care about vision, some about hearing, some about touch.  And even within a system, like vision, you have parts that care about colors, parts that care about orientations, parts that care about angles.  And how this all comes together so that you have a unified perception of the world is one of the unsolved mysteries in neuroscience.

Another challenging aspect – we know that image formed on the retina is inverted. But strangely we see the world erect and not upside down!!! How??? This is another Unsolved Mystery called – Inverted Image Problem.

So we understand that these subtle functions need Intelligence, or an Intelligent Being, to bind the information as gathered by brain. 

Now scientist, calls this as “Ghost-In-The-Brain” or Homunculus (small human in our brain)


Let the scientist call us a “Ghost-In-The-Brain” or Homunculus, our Scriptures beautifully calls us Soul (Holy Bible), Rooh (Holy Quran), Aatma (Veda). 

The fact is;
  • We are not this body, we are spirit soul
  • We are eternal unlike our pampered mortal body

Irony of modern science is – it tries to reject the clear Evidence of the Evident and confidently misleads the society into the darkness of atheism.


This article was inspired by a Lecture of HG Keshav Anand Das Prabhu

[Dr. Keshav Anand Das is a doctor from Manipal Academy of Higher Education. He is a writer & preacher dedicated to ISKCON since last fifteen years and has written numerous books on science and spirituality spanning wide variety of topics. He mostly spends his time traveling and delivering discourses and seminars. Most of the lectures and articles on this site are delivered and written by him. He is a disciple of H.H. Bhakti Vikasa Swami (a disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada).]

Please watch the video for better explanation:


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