(from the February 1997 internet discussion forum)
From: Audrey Kitagawa
Hi, my name is Audrey Kitagawa. I was asked to participate in this month's discussion on pluralism and self-identity.
The external self defines itself through associations with and the accumulation of experiences in the external world. The external self defines its worth and importance by such things as name, fame, material wealth, achievement, and so forth, which I will call the "fruits of the tree of life." While these experiences and associations have effect and consequences upon the external self, there is an inner self that transcends the external, and is unaffected by the myriad of activities in which the external self engages. This inner self is the Divine Self; it is the Source of pure, unconditional love which each person seeks to realize. While name, fame, and fortune may pass away, the inner self remains. This inner self can never be extinguished or diminished, and it is the essence of who we really are.
The external self seeks fulfillment in the fruits of the tree of life, and expends great energy in gathering these fruits unto itself. While some modicum of satisfaction may be experienced in the gathering and acquiring process there is a concurrent underlying tension and fear of loss of the fruits acquired, or having expended so much energy in acquiring the fruits, one finds that it is not suitable or desirable after all, and disappointment follows. The external self is perpetually engaged in this intricate interplay of desire for acquisition and fear of loss of that acquired, or fear of never acquiring what is desired, and thereby feels unfulfilled. The external self exists in the temporal, tension-filled realm of competing interests, and desires, and after a while, becomes exhausted.
At some point the individual must reassess and reexamine the deeper core of who he or she is. Who is the me that remains after I strip away my job, my titles, my houses, cars, bank accounts, relationships, etc.? Who is the me that preceded and existed before I became a name, a form, a title, and who is the me that exists after I remove these things? This essential, inner self is who we must realize, for we are this eternal, immortal self, and not the transitory, external self. The experiences in the temporal realm propel us to search for the inner self when the awareness comes that our true joy and satisfaction cannot be found in what is transitory.