I am God.
This is so revolutionary a statement that it can land people on death row. We are so forced into believing that we are some lowly entities and that some one “special” will come with special access to some faraway “God” – who is unapproachable and something different.
In Hinduism, Upanishads contain four Mahavakyas – Great Sayings – which culminate in the same declaration:
1. Prajnanam Brahma – “Consciousness is Brahman” (Aitareya Upanishad 3.3 of the Rig Veda)
2. Ayam Atma Brahma – “This Self (Atman) is Brahman” (Mandukya Upanishad 1.2 of the Atharva Veda)
3. Tat Tvam Asi – “Thou art That” (Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7 of the Sama Veda)
4. Aham Brahmasmi – “I am Brahman” (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10 of the Yajur Veda)
Aham Brahmasmi -> I am God.
The journey is logical and very clear.
But people in other cultures and theologies were not so lucky as the Maharishis of what was known as Sanatan Dharma (Eternal Law). These people who made similar claims were not celebrated by calling their utterances as “Mahavakyas” but became blasphemy and reason for their deah.
Mansur al-Hallaj (full name Abu- al-Mughi-th Husayn Mansu-r al-Halla-j) was a Persian mystic and a Sufi. He was executed for heresy at the orders of the Abbasid Caliph Al-Muqtadir. In one of his trances he was to announce Ana- l-H.aqq or “I am The Truth”. This was meant to also believe “I am God” since al-H.aqq means “the Truth”.
This was so unimaginable for the Muslims of his time (and many even now – check this website for his critique) that he was imprisoned for 11 years in Baghdad, tortured and finally publicly crucified on March 26, 922.
Rumi wrote about his statement later and made a very valid point regarding Mansur’s claim: People imagine that it is a presumptive claim, whereas it is really a presumptive claim to say “I am the slave of God”; and “I am God” is an expression of great humility. The man who says “I am the slave of God” affirms two existences, his own and God’s, but he that says “I am God” has made himself non-existent and has given himself up and says “I am God,” that is, “I am naught, He is all; there is no being but God’s.” This is the extreme of humility and self-abasement.
Just something as simple as that had created such a big furore that entire lifetimes were consumed after that for both the sides to “explain” or run down his claim within the overall framework of Islam.
Sadguru Jaggi said in one of his lecture that there is a reason why India has been the land of Saints and Enlightened. And that is because in this country revolutionary thinkers and people making totally different claims than the ones accepted in the majority were welcomed. Such people were never persecuted. From Buddha to Nanak to Osho to today’s Saints everyone made their own claims, which were similar to “Aham Brahmasmi”. They would still get away .. in fact thrive and grow!