Monday, 5 December 2016

Introspection - 1 : Experiencing the Self


We will attempt here to gain a direct experience of the Self. It takes only a few minutes. It will answer the questions such as – who am I or what am I or what is this whole existence. The knowing is instantaneous but when the mind comes back, it finds it hard to accept it, at least in case of some people. The reason can be presence of beliefs, beliefs such as it cannot be so simple. And doubts like – its all fine, but …. (insert a question based on some random belief).


Just an open, sharp, peaceful and intelligent mind. Absence of distractions, at least for a few minutes. Brutal honesty. Deactivation of beliefs, if any, at least for a while. Avoid making anything up, assumptions, hypotheses, guesses and all. It has to be very direct and self-evident.

Read the last article on The Art of Introspection for details on how to do it without getting lost or confused. Your gains will totally depend on these prerequisites, else its all just gibberish.

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Ask it

Knowing the Self is very easy. Just ask – what is here and now? 

Mentally note what you experience or “see”.

If you are not very relaxed, and your mind is busy recognizing and classifying stuff with a live commentary running in your head, you may notice various objects that surround you, such as furniture, stuff, room, trees or people, as the attention jumps from one thing to the other. This is the ordinary state of the mind. We need a relaxed mind, with full attention on the question and nothing else.

"Zoom out" more in your awareness, include more things. You may now notice your body and its sensations, sounds etc. Include them in your knowing. Zoom out more. Now you may notice some thoughts, memories, some internal chatter, some minute actions such as eyes looking here and there and random shifts of attention. Include them all, without focusing on anything in particular. Be aware of everything without trying to name them or thinking about any of them. Disregard everything in particular. This will put the mind in somewhat relaxed state. Include the now relaxed mind also in your field of view of awareness. What remains is just an experience of being here and now. You have arrived at a state of “isness”, in other words, just existence in essence [1].

Next, ask – how is isness known?

You will find that the mind rushes to memory or thoughts to answer it. But the answer is not there, there are just more thoughts and memories. Include them also in isness. Back to a neutral awareness of everything. You will find that even the question itself is a happening in isness. The experience of something-ness remains even when there is no reliance on memory or thoughts or external objects. It is a pure and direct experience. Next, deny it. See if it all goes away. You will find that even the act of denying gets included in “what is here and now”.

The above question naturally leads to thoughts such as – I know it since I see it, or I’m aware of everything now and here. Or one can say – obviously, it is self-evident and clear that there is an experience.

This will naturally lead to a question – what is it exactly that is experiencing it all? What is this thing “I” the mind is talking about? 

You may find that there is a subtle “shift” of attention and a knowing of experiencer happens. Shift from the object to subject. The knowing of "I'am here", an aliveness. The identity also shifts to the experiencer and the “I” is now this very experiencer. You will note that nothing really changes, except the perspective. The isness is as before. You will also find that there is no need to perceive via senses or think in order to experience the experiencer directly. It is a very pure experience.


Now its time to analyse it and codify it into definite language. Firstly, you have found that there is something, there is not nothingness, and that something is made known via an event namely, an experience. That’s the bare minimum one can say about the all-inclusive knowing of isness. You can be very certain of it. If you deny it, then who or what is denying it? There must be something even to deny and claim that there is nothingness. So the knowledge of nothingness is an impossibility. An experience is a necessity. When we include all contents in an experience, without dividing them up, we can name it as Presence.

Presence is self-evident and is undeniable. Its a certainty. The “certainty” is also an experience, a knowing. What exactly is certain of this certainty? Or in other words - what is having an experience? You will find that this is an unnecessary question. The experience is. There is no necessity to invoke anything else. If you assume an entity that is having an experience, the experience remains as it is and when you remove that entity, it makes no difference, the isness is still there. When the Presence is stripped off of all contents, you will find that it is empty, it has nothing in it, but it is not nothingness, because one cannot get rid of experience of it. A better word for it is Emptiness [2].

Emptiness cannot be many "emptinesses", only a thing can be many things. When you asked - what is having an experience?, you are demanding an answer in terms of something else, you just created a second entity. This entity is our now familiar Self. So the Self is having an experience, or is a receiver of experiences. If you look closely, the Presence never divides into two.You will find that the experiencer appears because the question demands it, otherwise the Presence is Self itself. As soon as you ask that question, it simply shifts from being an experience to being an experiencer. Try it again.

So the oneness never becomes two, it merely generates an illusion of two in response to the question of what is experiencing that Emptiness. The Self is the Presence experiencing itself. In other words, the Presence makes itself known in the form of the Self. It remains one, as an Emptiness it has no other options. This state can be also termed as Pure Consciousness, consciousness being conscious of itself [3].


So one can conclude - only one thing exists, the Presence. It experiences itself as Self. When you keep in mind the definitions of both these terms, this is self-evident and undeniable.

Why is there an experience of many? This is also self-evident, there are many things, many contents, objects, mental or physical, events, changes and what not. If its one, why can we see it as many when we narrow down the attention? The answer is that the mind creates the divisions where there are none. Remove the mind from the scene and its all Oneness.

The mind can be stopped as it is merely a collection of processes. These processes produce an experience of diversity, and when the mental activity ceases, the diversity disappears and we arrive at the isness, unity or Union [4].

How to stop the mind? The above introspection describes it. When the attention is not focused on any single object or thought, or when it is not wound up in a stream of actions or thoughts, it is relaxed and one becomes aware of everything in a neutral way. It never stops completely, and that is desirable, else you will fall asleep. Just relax it enough so that the usual recognition, cognition, recall and imagination etc. stops. It is necessary to keep the question in the background. If you relax it too much, you will lose the question and intent of the introspection and can slip into trance-like state, useless for our purpose (but great for relaxation).

It all took a few minutes, it was so easy and obvious. There are other tricks to arrive at the same knowing, and some oddly need twenty years of hardships, living in a cave, or spending your whole life as a monk in Himalayas. Probably such hardships are just preparations or a part of cultivation. I never did that and hence I really have no idea if that would bring some kind of "superior" knowing, or if it produces more certainty. But if you try to find any uncertainty in what you just experienced, you won't find any. It is very direct and solid. Try it again with your own variations and twists, try falsifying it all. Seekers have done that since thousands of years, it still stands. But no harm in trying and “seeing it with your own eyes”. This kick starts your journey into the universe of Self Enquiry, and we will do more introspections, because there will be a thousand questions now.


[1] Or Tathata in Buddhism. An experience of “suchness”, devoid of the mental activity of dividing and naming everything. See:

[2] Or Shunyata in Buddhism. Sanskrit name for it (I guess) would be Parabrahman, and the manifested one is Brahman, i.e. with all those contents. Also known as Nirgun and Sagun Brahman – Presence without and with qualities. Names don’t matter, experience of it does. Dwelling in the awareness of Parabrahman is the state of Nirvikalp Samadhi, which naturally happens in deep sleep state everyday (or night). Dwelling in manifested Presence is Savikalp Samadhi, which happens when the Mind is at rest in waking state. If you have done the above introspection successfully, you experienced all of them except maybe Nirvikalp state. The whole circus of spiritual practices is to have these experiences and to see it all directly. It takes no time to do that, what takes time is the ability to stay there and incorporate it into one’s life. Once that is done, unlimited freedom follows.

[3] Sanskrit name would be Paramatman and for the consciousness with contents, its Atman. You have now directly experienced the old and famous formula of Atman = Brahman. Now it should be clear why Buddha thinks that there is no Self (the teaching of Anatman). Its not really there as a necessity, but exists as just another form of Presence. Our human experience or human life or incarnation as a human in a body is our only chance to know it directly (as far as I know).

[4] The classic state of Yoga or union as defined by Patanjali (Yogasutra 1.2) and others. All you need to do is stop the relentless activity of the mind. If you like in depth and long winded stuff, check it out here.
PS: The article on Cessation of Mind goes deeper into it.

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