Am I the Same Person?

Currently I am 31 years old.

It feels as though I have already lived at least four completely different lives and that I have been different people in my different stages of life. Who I am today is radically different from who I was at 18. When I was a kid I was legalistic about morality. Now I’m sometimes accused of being too open-minded (Yes, the accusation of “moral relativism” has been leveled against me)!

It strikes me sometimes that the person I was at 18 would hate the person that I am today (yet I’m much happier now than I was then, so she can go hang, as they say).

I’ve changed in so many ways. Life and experience have changed me. I’ve grown in my faith and in my understanding of life.

Then I start thinking about how our cells die and refresh themselves over and over again and I wonder what I have even physically in common with the people that I used to be earlier in my life. What is the same? My DNA. Anything else? The soul might be the continuity between who I was and who I am now. Or maybe it’s just my memories.

I bear some resemblance to 12-year-old Ambaa, to 7-year-old Ambaa, to 19-year-old Ambaa, to 26-year-old Ambaa, yet I am such a very different person from any of them. I think my trajectory makes sense, I think I’m going in the right direction (or at least a good direction), but the more I grow and change the less I recognize those previous versions of me.

It really does get at the heart of that basic philosophical question: What makes me me?

Perhaps this is why reincarnation doesn’t seem like a leap to me (you know, that and it being the default belief when I was growing up).

Do you feel like you’re the same person you were twenty years ago? In what ways?

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Y. A. Warren

    I have purposely gone back in my beliefs to my six-year-old self, before people told me that I was wrong in what I believe and how I live my beliefs. My six-year-old self seems to be my truest self, and was always beckoning me from under the religious rubble.

    I don’t believe in reincarnation per se; I simply believe that the sacred energy from which the universe is formed continues to manifest in many forms of life for eternity. I believe we become part of all with whom ewe engage and that they become part of us. For this reason, we must be careful to whom we are vulnerable.

  • Brad Choate

    The question of identity and the
    questions of identity over time are quite interesting. As in many
    things I believe this should be looked at in two ways: conventional
    and ultimate. Conventionally I have a self and it continues over
    time it changes and grows and maintained continuity.

    Ultimately though there is no self.
    We can take the classic Buddhist mereology example of the chariot.
    So I have a chariot, it is made of wheels, an axle, a harness, and a
    platform. Where is the chariot? It is no where to be found. Lets
    take a person then. We have the body with all its component parts.
    We have the psyche too. Where is the person, where is the self? It
    is no where to be found.

    As to the continuity of self over time
    lets take the western philosophical example of the Argo. The ship of
    the Argonauts went on a long journey and over this journey the
    shipwright replaces boards and sails when they are damaged. Over the
    course of the entire journey the entirety of the ship is replaced.
    Is the ship at the end of the journey still the Argo when none of the
    parts of the Argo that left port are still a part of it? If yes,
    then what if we take that Argo from the end of the journey and scrap
    it, and the wood is taken by some villagers. That wood is used in
    houses, campfires, and benches. Is the Argo now a house, a fire and
    a bench?

    These are fun to think about.