"Doubt is the incentive to truth and inquiry leads the way" - Hosea Ballou
Have you ever asked yourself, “who am I really?” Or better yet, “what am I really?” This kind of introspection would be called self inquiry. What are you, literally? We can only assume that there has been a handful of people from every generation asking this question. But how many of those people keep asking this question. Most people get stumped and give up. Even more don't even start because going this deep into the nature of yourself is scary. Maybe subconsciously they know that they wont find anything, and thats threatening to the ego.
Self inquiry is essentially looking for yourself. Looking for the very core of your being. And usually when people do this they cant find anything. That is, if they are being totally honest with themselves. They cant find anything and then keep on looking for “something.” But wait a minute, isn't that just a little odd? You cant find anything at all. No sign of a true self whatsoever. Yet there are plenty of things to find in your experience.
Fist of all, what is the self? The ego, the thing you’ve been identifying yourself with. Well, the self, and reality as a whole, is merely a collection of senses. Ask yourself, how do I even know “I”, or reality all together exists in the first place? What evidence do we have? We have sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, thought, and emotion. This is what reality and the self is, just senses. And all of these aspects of reality come and go. The self comes and goes. Just sit down and let your mind wander. You will eventually lose self awareness. That is just the nature of it, every sense you perceive will eventually fade away. But what is that thing (or no thing) that has never once changed? Think back to a childhood memory. You’ve grown and changed a lot. But what is it that has stayed exactly the same?
So why am I talking about finding a “true self?” You may have no objections with your identity and/or where it is placed. But like I said, the self is a collection of senses. And we are aware of these senses. We are observing the self. And this is where most people have trouble with this. They keep looking for themselves and trying to find something. But the thing is, if you were to find anything at all then that would just be another object of awareness, just another sense. So the question is, What is it thats doing the looking? What is observing the self? What would be doing the finding? Heres a little hint, nothing…
We know that there are senses. And there has to be an awareness of those senses. If there were no awareness there would be no senses. With no senses theres no existence. Awareness is the essence of existence. Its the invisible quality of reality. This can be realized. If you keep doing this deep inquiry you will eventually come to this. So heres a thought, is what I really am the awareness itself? Am I pure awareness? Am I the mere watching-ness? Its not a thing, but at the same time its not quite nothing. And awareness itself never changes. Its the pure stillness underlying your experience.
So awareness and the object of awareness go hand in hand. Look very closely at your own senses right now. The sense and the awareness of it are coming into reality together. So this poses the question; are the two the same thing? If there is an aspect of reality there has to be an awareness. And if there is awareness there has to be an object to be aware of. So if what we are is actually pure awareness, then that might mean we are everything as well. Now I don't know this for certain. I haven't had this realization myself. All I know is the mind and body is not what we actually are at the core. The self is ultimately an illusion.
Now lets go even deeper.
If you're no stranger to meditation or self inquiry, you might have reached the core of your identity. What the identity really is… you guessed it, a sense. That’s why they call it the sense of self, or self image. So then, the question is not “what am I,” “am I this or that.” Because the “I” is the identity, and that, in and of itself, is an object of awareness! So if you have realized pure awareness and wondering if thats what you actually are. Just know that you are trying to apply an object of awareness to awareness itself. And this makes for a beautiful, confusing, life altering paradox. There is no “I,” there is no “you.” Just awareness, and objects of awareness. Or at least thats the deepest I’ve gone.
Everything you have ever known and experienced is an object of awareness. Senses are “content” of reality. What awareness is is the “context” of reality. Its where everything is taking place. It transcends existence all together.
In Hinduism there is a method called “Netti Netti.” It is a sanskrit word for “not this, nor that.” What this is is recognizing all senses, one by one, and understanding that you are not the content. You are not a temporary sensation. This is a form of self observation, which takes a lot of constant awareness. The more you observe yourself, the more you realize that you are observing yourself. And this leads to awakening. You realize that you are not this, nor that.
You wont be able to find yourself right away. Know that whatever you may find will be an object of awareness. Keep inquiring into nothingness, and focus on your pure being.
What we’re doing here is science. It may not be a formal route. But it’s going beyond physics. Thats why they call it “metaphysics.” Science may be good at coming up with an explanation of our sensations, but thats all it will ever be. Just a man made explanation of what is. Science is just stating an observation. Modern science often denies consciousness. But consciousness, or pure awareness, is the most fundamental thing about reality. And sure, quantum physics can be very helpful with this work. But it will never provide a genuine understanding. Thats up to you to discover.
Yes, I do this work myself. Im leaning with you. I don't have all the answers but I'm striving for them. If you want the truth about what you are, you have to be asking this simple question every day; “what am I.” Its that simple. The key is you have to keep asking it. Doing this once or twice isn't enough to have a serious breakthrough. Constancy is everything. But it is very possible to have deep realizations into the nature of what you are. I’ve had one myself and it’s utterly remarkable. But I cant have the realizations for you. If you really want truth you have to put in the work. You have to really want it. Spirituality is the one thing that cannot be learned. Nobody can teach you, you can only be guided. And when we read about spirituality, philosophy, and religion we get convinced. People that talk and write about this are very articulate, and metaphorical. This in turn paints a nice picture in your head, and makes you think you understand. The image in your head isn't truth, direct experience is. So if you're serious about understanding reality, don't believe me or anyone else. You have to be truly lost in order to be found. Take the methods for your advantage and find out for yourself.
Thanks for reading, and stay curious.