Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Introspection - 4 : Identity and Ignorance


We will attempt to experience the illusion of identity and Ego (aka person) directly.


Same as that for introspection - 1.


Establish yourself in the usual tranquil state. Take a look at the names and forms. You can now ask - who is aware of the world or objects or thoughts?

You will notice that there is no “who” initially, there is just awareness of contents. If there are any thoughts, the awareness overshadows those thoughts. Ask it again with a twist, inserting memory or space-time invoking words – who is sitting here and watching? Or who had dinner last night?

And the Mind wakes up and responds this time. There can be recalls of some experiences of coming and sitting or having a dinner at some place etc. Still there is an awareness of those recalls. Now start describing the events and now a doer appears – the “I” or the identity. Note that an “I” appears in the thought which are correlated with a place or event in the near past or somewhat distant past, and it is created only when language kicks in.

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Ask – what is aware of this internal monologue describing events? And you are back into awareness, the Self. The person disappears or you become aware of it as an idea or a concept.

Come back to the state of a person again by relating yourself with events, people or objects etc. and ask – How did it feel when Mr X insulted me? Note the arousal of memories and emotions of anger or hate or fear. Note bodily feelings and change in breathing. This is the Ego, it wakes up in response to a survival threat.

Change the question to – How did it feel when I met my first love? Note the torrent of emotions and memories. Note the desire to meet that person again. This is procreative tendency of Ego in action.

Try some more questions of your own that can invoke a person and later an Ego. Always come back to the Self afterwards by asking what is aware of these mental happenings. Note the complete absence of awareness when in the Ego mode. The Egoic state gives a taste of how an ignorant person lives his life. Compare that with the awakened state as Self. The contrast is telling.

Analysis and conclusions

Whenever there is a need, the Mind creates a container for the experiences and names it as "I". This is the identity, we studied before. Note that the consciousness (Self) is a direct experience but the identity is only a concept, an idea, a creation of the Mind. The Mind presents everything in the context of an identity, the container. It has all the memories, impressions, programs, processes and associations it had created in the past. Time is created, and a separation of I and not-I happens. Egoic processes boot up and start the loop of survival, protection and procreation. Now you are a person, an individual, a separate self. The Self takes a back seat. This is the start of an ordinary human experience [1].

Mind objectifies everything, including the body and the identity. This makes us forget about the Self, and so the ignorance begins. Everything is seen as objects, commonly known as Matter. One can descend down and think of oneself as matter. Note that matter remains a mental concept, the objects are not out there, the separation is a doing of Mind. It is possible to spend a lifetime in such state - the state of forgetfulness. The Change now takes the form of impermanence and the Ego wrestles with it. Suffering is born out of this resistance.


[1] Traditionally – Samsara begins here. A person who is not a seeker goes through an experience of being a pure Self, a witness, to an Ego entangled in the web of samsara every morning in a matter of few minutes. This happens when one slowly wakes up. Initially there is nothing much, then the awareness of mental contents kicks in. After opening the eyes memories of past appear, a personality is formed out of them and very soon plans of tasks to be done today and people to meet flood in, bringing in desires and an Ego. It springs the body into action, the wheel starts spinning.

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