Friday, 26 May 2017

The Experiencer

The Ultimate Truth is that there is experience and there is an experiencer. Everything else is details. We can now descend into the details, not much, just the important ones. We will start with the Experiencer and note some of its characteristics by direct observation.

What is it?

As you know very well now, most of the enquiries start with a "what" question. It reveals the most basic and fundamental description of the subject under the question. So we apply it to the Experiencer also. So what is an Experiencer?

Pretty simple to answer - its the sink for the experiences. All experiences end in the Experiencer. Another way to describe it is - its the unchanging part of the Presence. Presence being all that is. So the changing aspect of the Presence becomes an experience and the unchanging aspect becomes the Experiencer. This is also our direct observation, and it satisfies all criteria of the truth.

Its easier to point to it by stating what it is not. That's a strange way to describe something, but it works. Firstly, you will notice that it is not a "thing", its not an entity, because all things can be experienced, and the Experiencer is at the receiving end of all those experiences, so it is impossible for it to be a thing. You can deny that by saying that its a thing, but you can then immediately question it - if its a thing, what is it that experiences it? And you will left with only one explanation - the Experiencer cannot be experienced.

Secondly, its not a quality. Only things, or objects have qualities. So when you try to know it using the mind - the knower of all qualities, you will find that the Experiencer has no qualities at all. Its invisible, has no colour or shape, no sound, no smell etc. Its not even a mental object or quality. Its not a thought, not a memory, not an imagination or emotion. Its not physical and its not non-physical. All these things can be experienced, and hence cannot be the Experiencer itself.

To the mind, it appears to be just nothingness, but since it is something, a better word is - Emptiness. It appears empty of everything, nothing can fill it, it is very-very pure, nothing can make any impression on it. It merely witnesses, it does nothing at all.

In essence, it is not all those things that can be experienced or form the part of the Presence called experiences. So when you discard all that can be experienced, you are left with only one thing - the Experiencer.

The Experiencer is also called the Self, consciousness, observer or Atman. Perhaps there are many more names.

More questions

Now we can ask more questions of the fundamental nature and get the knowledge about the Experiencer via direct observation or logical deduction. So lets know it more.

Where is the Experiencer?

Let's check where it is. If you say its inside the world, you will end up with trouble because the world appears to be inside it. Take a look. The world is being experienced by the Experiencer and the Experiencer is not an object, not a part of the world, so it must be outside the world. World is just a collection of objects, placing it inside a world doesn't make sense, its not one of the objects or processes in the world.

You can say its inside the body, perhaps in the head. But take a look. The body is inside it. The body is perceived and experienced, and the body is an object, so the Experiencer cannot be a part of the body, or head or any other organ. So its outside the body too.

Perhaps its in the mind? Well, the mind can be experienced too, and hence the Experiencer cannot be a part of the mind. Mind being a collection of mental or non-physical objects - thoughts, emotions, memories, imaginations, desires and so on. So the Experiencer is not even non-physical. Take a look, the mind is inside the Experiencer.

Is it in some other "dimension" or magical realm? A seeker stays away from such fairy-tale-ish fantasies. You can ask that question only if you can experience the thing you call a "dimension". Anyway, if there is such a realm, it has to be a part of the experience of some kind, and hence it cannot contain an Experiencer.

Now we have run out of places, so the only conclusion left is - the Experiencer is not located anywhere, it is non-local. All locations are experiences experienced by the Experiencer, the location of the Experiencer cannot be experienced, and hence is an impossibility.

This is a strange result indeed. But that's all you get, no matter how you twist it. It may as well be called a truth. The consciousness is non-local, its not in space, cannot be found at a place. In fact where ever you go, where ever you look, you will find the Experiencer already present there. Have you ever experienced a place where the Experiencer was not? Obviously no. Else there wouldn't be any experience of that place. So yet another conclusion is - the Experiencer is omnipresent. Its everywhere.

So we end up with seemingly paradoxical statement - the Experiencer is nowhere yet its everywhere. That's puzzling. Experiencer itself seems to be perfectly ok with this situation.

When did it begin? When was it created?

Lets assume the Experiencer began in past at a particular time. This assumption quickly puts us in trouble. What or who witnessed this beginning? The beginning, being an event must be an experience, so who experienced it? Moreover, if it was an experience, how can it be an Experiencer? If something witnessed its beginning, that witness must be an Experiencer, and that means it was already present even before it began. So we arrive at this impossibility that the Experiencer had a beginning. We can only say that the Experiencer is eternal, it has no beginning, and hence no end, since only that which begins, ends. If it ends, there must be something to witness it ending, which will be none other than - the Experiencer. And hence its impossible for it to end.

Lets assume it was created. We again invite trouble. What or who created it? If it was created, the creator must have witnessed its creation, but the the creator itself falls in the category of the Experiencer, and hence creation means that the Experiencer was already present before its creation. Hence we arrive at this impossibility that it was created. The Experiencer is uncreated, it exists by itself.

Assumption of a beginning or a creation from something also means that the Experiencer evolved out of something that existed prior to it. One can argue that perhaps there was a proto-experiencer with no capability to experience anything before this Experiencer came into being. But that implies some kind of change in the proto-experiencer, which changed into the Experiencer. And if there was a change, this change falls in the category of the experience, since it must be witnessed for it to be a change. Without any witness, there is no change. And if there was a witness, it implies that it was the Experiencer that was witnessing the change, the change in proto-experiencer being reduced to an experience.

So we find that any kind of change if witnessed is just an experience, and it cannot be an Experiencer. As soon as we assume that there was a change in the Experiencer, the change becomes the experience, and the Experiencer becomes it witness, standing apart from the change. So we arrive that this strange conclusion that the Experiencer cannot change. The Experiencer is changeless. This again strengthens our observation that it cannot begin or end, since both beginning and end imply a change in it.

How does the Experiencer experience anything?

This question implies that we are asking for an explanation or mechanism of the experience. We notice that an experience and the Experiencer always appear together. One never exists without the other, and this indicates that they are simply two parts of one whole. They are one and hence same. Therefore, there is no requirement for a mechanism.

But why do they seem to be different then? They are perceived as two by the mind, which divides the oneness into two by calling the dynamic part as the experience and the static part as the Experiencer. In the absence of the mind, this division disappears.

How many Experiencers are there?

If you check your own experience, you will find that you never encountered more than one Experiencer ever, which you refer to as "I". So there is only one Experiencer. 

You do see others, but you see only bodies. Perhaps you can deduce that they have minds too, from their behaviour, but you never see their consciousness, the Experiencer. So at most, it is just an assumption that others have their own private Experiencers.

Lets assume that there are just two of such Experiencers. Now, how will one Experiencer know the other? Obviously, it has to experience it, and as soon as it does that the other Experiencer is reduced to an experience, and hence we are left with just one in the end. Same from the point of view of second Experiencer. And therefore, it is impossible to witness another Experiencer, and one must conclude that one and only one Experiencer can exist.

Lets assume that there are two Experiencers being witnessed by a third Experiencer. Now, where are the two? Obviously, they are just experience of the third one. So the third one encompasses the first two and we are left with only one Experiencer again. You can go on and on with scenarios and you will find that you are always left with only one Experiencer. The consciousness that you are, is identical to the consciousness that I am. How amazing is that?!?

Is it possible that the Experiencer is just a fantasy of the mind, since mind creates all the illusions, probably its creating the illusion of the Experiencer too?

Ya, we can't trust mind, so lets check it out. If the Experiencer is an illusion created by the mind, the question is - who or what witnesses this illusion? Oh no, we are again left with one answer only - the Experiencer. It won't go away. So the Experiencer cannot be an illusion, its the witness of all illusions, and of the illusion-maker, the mind.

The mind does create a thing called "separate self" or identity or a person. It is a label it assigns to everything it is directly related to - a body, actions, thoughts, emotions, relations, professions and so on. The label itself can be witnessed as an idea, and hence the identity is not really an Experiencer.

Why does the Experiencer exist?

Well, that's the mother of all questions. When we say "why" we are trying to find a reason or purpose of it. For example, why does a knife exist? Obviously, to cut up stuff. Why does a chair exist? Someone created it for sitting down. So on and so forth. But you we see something amazing when you extend the "why" to things beyond your daily use. So why does a lake exist? Well, probably it formed because the area was low and water collected there. But that's an answer to "how", not to "why". You will never find the purpose of it. Same for the mountains, or birds, or sky and planets. You may find "how", perhaps some theories, but never a reason. Try it.

Almost always, you can ask a "why" again to the answer and you will soon see that it leads to infinite series of why questions or to silence or it will just irritate the one who is trying to answer. You will be asked to shut up.

So "reasons" are a creation of the mind, which is simply an explanation it assigns to the things it can use. The mind finds it impossible to come up with a reason for things that do not really aid in survival or social situations. So we will never find a reason for existence of the Experiencer. There is no reason, and there is no reason for anything really. Things simply are.

People do come up with reasons and purposes. But then, there are millions of reasons, which one is true? Obviously, none, they are all beliefs, fantasies. The good news is - you can make up your own reason, if it pleases you.

Given the unity of the Experiencer, how should be our conduct?

This is an easy one. If everything and everyone is me, I treat everything and everyone as I treat myself. You do not need ethics or brainwashed concepts of good and bad to operate from. This knowledge of the Self, the consciousness, is enough and best to arrive at a reasonable conduct. So the answer is - we try to cause minimal harm to everything and everyone around us. In other words - we naturally love everything and everyone. When we embody this knowledge we become nonviolent and compassionate naturally.

When we see that the separation is an illusion, we try to liberate ourselves from this illusion, we try to be free from it. Its a result of the ignorance, and hence our goal becomes - gaining knowledge and becoming free. We find that its the mind that causes this illusion of separation, but its again the mind which brings knowledge and frees itself from this illusion.

On the path of knowledge, we use mind as a tool to become free. You will notice that it is very simple, quick and straightforward. Everyone of us has this potential to be absolutely free.


  1. Very well explained, thank you.

  2. Mind blowing article Tarun. You should probably publish a book about this. I assumed some questions to ask you but then you answered it already later in the article. This is probably best way to explain these things in questions-answer manner.

    1. I'm happy to know that.
      Yes, a book (including many articles in one) is probably a good idea.