Thursday, 9 March 2017

Introspection - 9 : There is only one Self

Unity, by Vrindavan Das

Goal: We will try to arrive at a conclusion via direct experience and logic that there can be only one Self. So the Self (consciousness) that you are experiencing right now is identical to the one I'm experiencing.

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Prerequisites: Same as those of other introspections. You do not need strange states of mind at all. (Just a reminder, Consciousness = Self, I use them interchangeably)

Just look !

How many Selves can you see?

Exactly one - that of your own. End of enquiry. Took two seconds. You must have guessed where it is going now. There will be ifs and buts of all sorts. So lets tackle some of them.

How many Selves or "consciousnesses" have you experienced in your entire life?

Just one.

How many Selves or consciousnesses have others experienced?

Again only one. You can ask them, and they too report only one of it.

But all those people and creatures are conscious, they do look conscious and they report a Self of their own. So there must be many of those Selves, many little consciousnesses trapped in trillions of bodies. This is the usual argument your mind will put forth.

Is it possible to experience "someone else's consciousness"?

No.... So now you know "someone else's consciousness" is only a belief, a made up concept.

If everyone were blind (say) and everyone reported and felt air, would the air become many "airs", separate pockets of air attached to their bodies?

Obviously no. There is one air aka atmosphere. This metaphor gives a first glimpse to your mind, of what's going on . But metaphors are fantasies, we need evidence. Self is nothing like air. Drop the metaphor.

What evidence can I get that everyone who reports a Self, has a separate and unique Self?

Clearly there is no evidence. Now you wonder why did you even think like that when there is no evidence for it. That's not very scientific or spiritual at all. You are now at a place of uncertainty, your belief is bared.

There are separate bodies obviously, and there are separate minds, which you can infer from unique behaviour exhibited by all individuals. There is absolutely no hint that the witness which witnesses all these separations is also unique and separate in everyone. What happens is - people, even most intelligent and educated ones, simply assume that since bodies and minds are separate and many, consciousness is also separate, with each person having their own private consciousness. This error is a direct result of the assumption that consciousness is caused by a brain, which is separate for each of us.

Many people confuse consciousness with mind and assume they are one and the same. Mind is an object that happens in consciousness and is witnessed as an object. They are not the same.

Your mind will now shoot you back with your own arrow. What is the evidence that others are reporting about exactly the same Self that I'm reporting about?

What evidence does one need to show that? In what way the unity of Self across all of its expressions can be shown?

You will find that it cannot be done. No evidence can be produced for that also. The mind is trying to objectify the Self so that it can grasp it. If it sees only one object called Self, it can be certain of it. But the subject cannot become object, as soon as it is objectified, it becomes a concept which is being witnessed by the Self, the subject. In other words, the Self is beyond the reach of mind. If Selves are multiple, they are objects, and now mind can say there are many of them. However, the catch is that the Self is not an object, it is the experiencer of all objects. Mind cannot be certain either way.

Now you are at a place where you as a person, a mind can finally say - "I don't know". Very well. That's an improvement actually. Beliefs are dissolved. Ignorance is bared.

Ok but what if I can know what the other person is thinking, or can see what others are seeing. Wouldn't it prove the unity of Self?

No it won't. It would prove the universality of Mind. It simply means that information can be shared across individual minds. Hence one can infer a universal Mind of which individual minds are parts that are attached to bodies. One can still imagine a separate Self for each individual who witnesses the shared percepts.

What if I can witness all the minds simultaneously?

Yes, that's a good idea. But can anyone do that? Isn't it a fantasy? I cannot witness even my mind completely, it is a very-very limited view. Its more likely that the Self is already witnessing all minds. If Self were capable of telling my individual mind what it is witnessing via every other mind, I would lose all sense of individuality, I won't remain and know myself as a separate individual. The thoughts and memories of others would simply appear as my own. My "own" thoughts would be lost in a trillion others.

Does the Self has such capability? It is just a witness and cannot act or do anything, it has no such capability. By definition Self has no qualities or capabilities. It just is, it is isness, which is conscious.

So you can conclude that an additional evidence for unity of the Self is a tricky thing to get. By additional I mean something apart from your direct and self-evident experience that you as the Self is only one, a single instance of Self. But no need to lose hope. Logic comes to rescue.

You can counter question again - What evidence does one need to show the opposite?
If multiplicity of consciousness can be shown, we won't need an evidence to show that it is one and identical for all. Because it cannot be both. All you need to do is show two Selves as one experience. Two instances of consciousness at the same time being witnessed by one witness.

How is it even possible? How will the experience of witnessing two witnesses look like?

As soon as you see two witnesses, those two become merely objects being witnessed by one real witness now. So if the Self is conceptually divided into two, we find that its still one, the one who is looking at two. And the two are not real now, they are merely ideas. Its not possible to break the Self into two. This is by necessity.

Lets use common meaning of the word reality and call the Self as the only reality, because that's what I experience, I do not experience anything except the Self. Now, if we assume two Selves, there would be two independent realities.

Can there be two realities?

You'd be tempted to answer yes. So ask again:

How can you know for sure that there are two realities?

You can only know that when you stand outside of both realities, and experience them together. But now both realities are a part of a bigger reality where you are standing. The reality again reduces to one. So if the Self is reality, it is only one.

Can we experience more than one consciousness?

Lets assume we can, and take only two consciousnesses. Now, how would that experience look like? Try to imagine that, or know that. How would the experience of one consciousness looking at another identical one look like?

As soon as we say - I can experience the other consciousness out there separate from my own, the other consciousness becomes an experience, i.e. loses its status of an experiencer. Its now just an object. You need to experience it as an experiencer, not as an object.

Say you know a trick and now you can experience the other consciousness as an experiencer, but now your own consciousness will become an experience, and thus an object. You again end up as only one experiencer.

Now, lets say you employ one more trick and now you can see both consciousnesses as one experiencer. That was cool, you have so much talent there, but again you end up with only one experiencer. You won't be able to say there are two experiencers, they merge into one. Its not possible to see them separately.

Strictly speaking, we cannot experience any consciousness as separate from our own, including our own consciousness. Why? Because then you can question - what or who is experiencing my own consciousness? And you end up with this impossibility. However, we loosely say that we know we are consciousness, or consciousness is conscious of itself. If you dig into this statement, you will find that it makes little sense, if at all any.


We find that it is very difficult to provide an evidence or logical inference to support the belief that there are many consciousnesses out there, and every individual has his own private consciousness. Our own direct experience shows that there is only one. Others appear in consciousness, others are not seen with a consciousness attached to their heads. Yet the belief of everyone having a separate private consciousness is rampant. It is very strange that people can believe such things.

This belief also leads to another belief that when the body/person dies, his consciousness leaves the body and goes somewhere else. There can be many more derivative beliefs such as consciousness leaves the body during an out of body experience. A direct experience shows that the body is in consciousness, consciousness is not in the body. The above beliefs do not hold at all.

This introspection also shows that the mind has a limited capability to grasp the oneness of the consciousness. What it does is creates divisions, and in the process divides consciousness too. When we see that there are no real divisions, there is no sharp boundary where I end and you start, the illusion of separation breaks down.

This introspection also shows that the consciousness is one but it expresses itself as many. I, as a person, am just an expression of one consciousness, and so are you and everyone and everything. At the core we are all one. This realization has huge implications.

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