We may have advanced in our understanding of Identity, with branches of studies like Philosophy and Psychology deriving many concepts and logics of Identity. But with all our understanding of our Self Identity and Social Identity, is our Identity positive for our world?
Identity as per Metaphysics
Identity is the relation that each thing has to itself and to nothing else. It can be defined as an equivalence relation that is reflexive, symmetric and transitive like having the same shape.
X is numerically identical to y so x and y are the same with two different names.
X is qualitatively identical to y if and only if x and y are exactly similar.
Locke on Self Identity
For since consciousness always accompanies thinking, and it’s that, that makes everyone to be, what he calls self, and thereby distinguishes himself from all other thinking beings, in this alone consists personal identity, i.e., the sameness of a rational being, and as far as this consciousness can be extended backward to any past action or thought, so far reaches the identity of that person.
I am an animal. Someone existing at an earlier or later time is me if and only if he is biologically continuous with me (i.e. participates in the same biological life).
Identity as per Psychology
Identity is the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and expressions that make a person or a group.
Since we are conscious beings, so it’s natural for us to have a Self Identity and a Social Identity. But having an Identity can be constructive or destructive for self and others. So I think we should know how to filter out all the destructive elements from our Identity to make this world a better place.
I don’t think there is anything wrong to have a Self Identity or a Group Identity, to follow your beliefs and to express yourself, but then that doesn’t give you the right to harm others or destroy things.
What are the things in the world that people identify with?
One of the popular groups would be sports. And there is nothing wrong to play sports or be a member or a fan of any team. In fact, sport is such an activity that keeps you healthy, unites societies, makes you positive.
But in between this positivity of sports, you would also see the negative nature of our Identity. You would see cases where there are fights between players or fans. Also, there are cases of racial discrimination.
People also identify themselves with different cultures or religion or country. In fact, people should be proud and enjoy the diversity of their culture, religion and country. But for centuries with the aim of proving themselves to be stronger or better than others and wanting more, people have raged wars, resulting in mass killing and destruction.
Then people identify themselves with gender, social status and education which make us self centered beings.
In our present world, people identify themselves to be modern. They use many materialistic items which makes them happy. But the cost of their happiness is the destruction of the environment and wildlife.
When I analyze this nature of human identity, it puts me in doubt if human beings are really intelligent and have wisdom. Even though we are conscious and intelligent beings and have wisdom, the destructive nature of our identity supersedes the constructive nature of our identity.
For this reason, we should have a way to filter out this destructive nature of identity. There can be many ways and people can follow it as per their understanding. I have confidence in the way Buddha teachings explain, what identity is and how we can filter out the destructive nature of identity.
From Buddha teachings, I have learned that, though today we say that we live in a globalized world, but our identity doesn’t explain the same. Our identity makes us selfish, self-centered and chauvinistic beings. The longer we hold on to this identity, the more problem it creates and leads to interpersonal conflicts and group conflicts.
All these conflicts arise because of human cravings or desires. These are sensual craving and craving for existence. Sensual craving makes beings to want more and compete and thus lead to conflict and lack of peace. When you crave to exist or crave to be somebody, identity emerges, which leads to conflicts.
From Buddha teachings, I have learned that it is senseless for people to fight over such differences and we should redirect our sense of identity which is supportive of world harmony and thus our identity can become useful.
Any identity that you have is to feel good about yourself. For that you have to be a kind, caring and a good person, live a life of moral purity. It is not about being the perfect person, rather continuously improving, and doing as much good as you can. Then only you can quietly rejoice your qualities, without showing any ego and feel good about yourself. And once you keep on practicing this path of compassion, love, kindness and peace, there would be a time when you wouldn’t differentiate or discriminate among others and live in harmony.
As per Buddha teachings, we cannot refine ourselves immediately. But it is a gradual process of refining and improving your qualities.
You start by finding your problems. Then you can keep a precept of morality that makes you a better person. Then you gradually start adopting good qualities and practicing it at a time. Like practicing compassion, love, and being kind. Then you can practice not thinking bad for others or getting angry. You cannot overcome your anger by meditating; rather you have to think in the right way to overcome your anger. And when your strong desires subside in the right way of thinking, then only you can start with meditation. Know what your problem is and then deal with it and then only move to the next step.
Once your mind starts becoming pure and you start meditating, still there won’t be absolute stillness. This last face of becoming absolute calm is by letting go of your identity. Because of the substantial part of what your mind thinks has to do with your identity. While meditating your mind fights with this calmness, because once you stop thinking your mind loses its sense of self.
So once you stop thinking about your identity, then only you can enter into a deep state of meditation and become absolutely calm and find peace. And once you become absolute calm, it feels beautiful to not to think about any conflicts and become so peaceful.
Because of this you start looking at the world differently and start behaving differently, in a way that unites everybody, removing all the ill thoughts, harming and destruction from the world.
I wouldn’t be able to say if we have a soul or there is life after death, but yes by following the right path we can all become better beings and live a blissful life and care for the environment and other living beings.