May the Real Birthday Stand Up


Another birthday. Another year gone by. Another revolution around the sun completed today. Come to think of it, we never imagine ourselves having completed a trip round the sun whenever we celebrate our birthdays – but that’s the truth of the matter. A year has gone by and a year is defined by the time the earth takes to go around the sun. So we are on this gigantic spaceship called earth hurtling into space at incredible speed and once every revolution, we celebrate the event. But what is so exciting about completing one circle around the sun? Of course people wish you – many many happy circles to go (returns of the day) – have a great rotation (day)

A birthday is a very slippery concept if you go a little beneath the skin. We are all made to believe that we were born on the day we emerged from the mother’s womb. But if birth is the same as coming alive then were we not alive the day before we came out of the womb or even a month before that? We were quite alive even then. So when were you really truly born / become alive? There are many possible answers.

  • You are born when you come out of the womb. This is the most widely accepted day as birthday. But here also there are slight complications. What if you are an American baby born in India. If you are born on 16th in India, it is 15th in America. So is your birthday 16th or 15th?
  • You are born when you became a fetus from an embryo – typically around the 9th week after the start of pregnancy. A fetus is recognizable as a human being while an embryo is not. This is the point of debate between those who think abortion is a choice versus those who think abortion is tantamount to murder.
  • You are born when you were conceived. i.e when sperm met egg. Why not? After all, both sperm and egg are living cells with the unique DNA that will determine what color your eyes will be. So if a cell is a living thing, why wait till it becomes a fetus to declare it a person?
  • You are born when your mom and dad thought of making a baby. Every action is born of a preceding thought. So it would not be totally wrong to say that you were not born as a thought first. If they had not thought about it, you would not be born.
  • You are born when your ego is born. Till then you are only a vegetable. Psychologists say that a child develops his ego / personality by the age of 5 which more or less remains the same through the rest of his / her life.
  • You are born when you are told you were born. Till that time you did not even know there was a thing like birthday. People tell you – you were born on 16th and therefore you accept that. So this is the semantic origin of birthday.
  • You are born when you become conscious of yourself. Now this is a tricky proposition. It is very difficult to determine that. Most people live their lives unconsciously and therefore the spiritual masters say that you are truly born only when you die (ego death). And so many people are attempting to give birth to themselves by struggling to kill their ego.
  • You are born when your soul is born. They say that the soul is never born and never dies but only changes bodies as if they are clothes. So unfortunately, your soul can never celebrate its birthday.

Scientists point out that each cell in our bodies is replaced once every 7 years. That means we are a new person every 7 years and must celebrate our birthday only once in 7 years. Too less!

Going further the Meditators say that everything changes every moment, so from that view, we are born every moment and die every moment so every day is a birthday. Too much!

I am sure wise people would have deliberated about all this and coming to a consensus, would have arbitrarily decided one event as the birthday.

Now that the decision is made, whatever it may be, a birthday is definitely a time to feel good. Many people remember you at least once a year and reach out to wish you. It is a nice feeling. There is cake and the snacks and all the friends and family with you as you become the center of attention. Probably that’s the origin of the saying – every dog has its day!

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