It Is What I Am
When I was a child, I used to think, when in bed before going to sleep: “how is it possible that the universe has come into existence? If something exists, something else is the originating cause.” Going backwards, I always arrived (and I still arrive now) at a conclusion: “Something exists forever. But this is impossible to my logic… so nothing exists.” Many times I felt, just for an instant, a sudden vacuum when concluding that nothing exists. But then I noticed that I was there, thinking and conscious, so I existed!!!! My logic says that nothing exists and never existed, but I am here writing this.
This contradiction has opened my mind to any possibility. If I cannot understand how is it possible that anything exists, then anything can be possible, and the Truth (the reality) can be anything. When I found out years later about Young’s double slit experiment and other paradoxes in quantum physics, I was not surprised at all. In fact, all phenomena are simple details, what matters is the substance that is behind them.
My question: non-dual teachings resonate with what I just related. Even the nothingness that is totality at the same time sounds like the paradox of something uncaused. Do you, in your consistent openness and enlightenment, “understand” (or whatever word you use) this paradox? Is it possible to penetrate this mystery?
Thanks and kind regards,
Thank you for your beautiful question which goes to the very heart of the matter.
You say, “When I was a child, I used to think, when in bed before going to sleep, ‘how is it possible that the universe has come into existence?'”
Let us look first of all at this ‘universe’ that is considered to have come into existence. The ‘universe’ is normally considered to be an infinitely vast whole which we, as separate perceiving entities, perceive partially and intermittently.
This ‘universe’ is considered to have existed before any of these apparently perceiving entities were present to perceive it. That is, it is considered to have existed before perception was possible and even when so called perceiving entities had appeared in this universe it is still considered to exist when it is not being perceived.
In fact this ‘universe’ is considered to have given birth, at a certain stage of its evolution, to the Consciousness with which it is known or perceived. However, it is believed to have existed prior to the birth of this Consciousness. In other words the ‘universe’ is considered to exist prior to and independently of Consciousness.
However, this universe that is conceived to have existed prior to Consciousness, has never been experienced. Perceptions are experienced and subsequently thought strings together in imagination an infinite number of such perceptions and creates out of them ‘the universe.’ However, such a ‘universe’ exists only in imagination. It is a presumption.
Now let us look first of all at the validity of this fundamental presumption. What evidence is there for such a universe? Has it ever been experienced? Could it ever be experienced?
If we agree to begin with that experience must be the test of reality, then every presumption or thought model must be subjected to the scrutiny of experience in order to be validated.
So, has anyone ever experienced the universe as it is conceived? We can bring this investigation much closer by taking any simple object such as the table in our room and ask the same questions about it:
There is a perception of the table. If there are several people in the room, there will be several perceptions of the table. From these perceptions we build a model of a ‘whole table,’ ‘the thing in itself’ that is considered to be the sum total of all possible perceptions, that exists independently of its being perceived and cannot by definition ever be perceived in its imagined totality.
Has anyone ever experienced such a table? Have you ever experienced such a table? Could you? Could anyone?
The answer is obviously ‘No.’ It is fundamental to see the truth of this simple and startling fact of experience: no one has ever or could ever experience an object, an other, a world, a universe as it is normally considered to exist or conceived to be.
The universe as such is imagined. This is not a proof that such a universe does not exist, but it is a proof that there is no evidence that it does.
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So, it does not make sense to ask questions about a universe that we have never experienced. It is like asking questions about a pink elephant.
Having said that, asking questions about what we SEEM to experience is good because if we pursue them thoroughly, they lead us to what we IS experienced.
So let us now come closer to the truth of our experience:
Imagine an everyday occurrence such as walking into your kitchen, making a cup of tea and leaving again.
Our normal view is that we, as an entity located in and as the body, enter the kitchen which was there prior to our entering it, unexperienced so to speak. When we leave the kitchen, we imagine that it remains as it was prior to our entering it, that is, unexperienced.
Let us look more closely: the kitchen neither conceives nor perceives itself to be ‘a kitchen.’ Both conceiving and perceiving are faculties of the mind.
Therefore in the absence of mind, the kitchen cannot exist either as a concept or a percept.
So, when it is neither conceived or perceived, in what form could it exist? To exist it must have a form. However in the absence of mind, that ‘form’ cannot be a perception, that is, it cannot be a sight, a sound, a smell, a sensation or a taste.
In other words, conception and perception are faculties or qualities of mind. They are not faculties of the kitchen. It is the mind that conceives of a ‘kitchen’ and gives ‘it’ its name and it is the mind that perceives and gives ‘it’ its form.
Now what is this ‘it’ independent of the mind? What are its qualities?
We have no doubt that when the ‘kitchen’ is experienced, there is SOMETHING present. There is experience. In other words, whatever the ‘kitchen’ actually IS in its own right, divested of those qualities of name and form that the mind superimpose upon ‘it,’ is present. Whatever that is, it has no objective qualities, because all objective qualities are supplied by mind. In other words, whatever ‘it’ is, is both non-objective and present. That is, we can be sure that BEING is present in the experience of the ‘kitchen.’
The experience of the ‘kitchen’ is also, by definition, known, and as all knowing takes place in Consciousness, we can also be sure that Consciousness is present in the experience of the ‘kitchen.’
Thus we have arrived at the simple conclusion, drawn from our own experience, that Being and Consciousness are present in the experience of the ‘thing in itself,’ whether that thing is a kitchen, a table or a universe.
We can also go further and observe from experience that the experience of the ‘kitchen,’ and indeed all experience, is always only one experience, not two, and can therefore conclude that Being and Consciousness are one and the same.
In other words, what IT IS is made fundamentally out of Being/Consciousness.
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Now let us keep going.
This Being/Consciousness does not, in our experience, ‘come into existence.’ Nobody has ever or could ever experience the appearance of Being/Consciousness because Being/Consciousness would have to be ‘there’ present to witness and therefore claim such an appearance.
Moreover, if we look now at the ‘me’ that walks into the kitchen’ we can explore it in exactly the same way that we previously explored the ‘kitchen.’ And if we do so we arrive at the same startling conclusion. That is, all the apparently objective qualities that we attribute to this ‘me’ are supplied by mind. They are not inherent in ‘me.’ The body does not know it is a body, let alone a ‘me.’ Only the mind says so.
In other words, if we divest ‘me’ of those qualities that are supplied by mind, that is, thinking, sensing and perceiving, we are left with the same experience of Being/Consciousness.
In other words, what I AM is made fundamentally out of Being/Consciousness.
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In other words we have arrived at the fundamental equation of experience that IT (the body, object, world, universe or other) IS WHAT I AM.
Now Being/Consciousness is in our experience, which means in its own experience, ever-present. It cannot nor could it ever know its own absence.
So the fundamental substance of the body, object, world, universe or other is Being/Consciousness and the particular qualities that seem to differentiate different objects, bodies, worlds etc from one another are supplied by mind.
However, in the absence of mind, there is no time or space, both of which turn out on investigation to be concepts.
Therefore the body, object, world, universe or other cannot be said to have come INTO existence. From where would they have come? And at what time?
Rather we have seen from experience that the substance of the universe etc. is Being/Consciousness which is ever-present. And all apparent qualities of mind arise within this Being/Consciousness. There is nowhere outside of this Being/Consciousness from which they could have come. And the substance out of which this mind is made can only be the substance of Being/Consciousness, just as ice forming in water can only be made of whatever ingredients that are present in the water.
The only thing that is present in Being/Consciousness is Being/Consciousness. Therefore it is this very Being/Consciousness that takes the shape of the mind and from here appears as the multiplicity and diversity of bodies, people, objects, worlds, universes, particles, others etc.
However in order for this apparent multiplicity and diversity to seem real the homogeneous, singular oneness of its real substance (Being/Consciousness) must be overlooked or forgotten.
In other words, the true nature of Being/Consciousness must be forgotten, denied, veiled or imagined non-existent, for objects, the world and others etc. to appear to come into existence.
In short the universe comes into existence (that is, it seems to take on its own separate reality) at the very moment that our true nature of Being/Consciousness is forgotten. And how is Being/Consciousness forgotten if it is ever-present and there is nothing in its experience besides itself?
The answer is that is it never truly forgotten. However it SEEMS to be. It seems to forget or veil itself by taking the shape of mind and then, that apparent mind identifies the ‘I’ that is inherent in the Being/Consciousness with one little part of the totality, that is with a body.
In other words, Consciousness, as it were, forgets itself, forgets the Knowing of its own Being and rises instead as the dualising mind, in the form of the ‘I’ entity. At this moment, ‘everything-I-am-not’ springs into apparent existence as the universe, objects, others or world.
However, the ‘I’ entity and the universe, objects, others and world etc. are nothing but this very Being/Consciousness taking the shape of name (thinking) and form (perceiving) and seeming to be something other than itself.
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So to go back to the example of walking into the kitchen…. nobody walks into a kitchen in time and space….
There is Being/Consciousness. It is this Being/Consciousness that takes the shape of a sensation called the body which a subsequent thought identifies as ‘I.’
This Being/Consciousness takes the shape of the body, then the walls, then the floor, then the kitchen, then the kettle, then the water, then the tea…..on and on. And woven into this constantly seeming morphing of Being/Consciousness is a train of thought that conceptualises all this experience as ‘me’ a body, walking into a kitchen, that was always here, and makes a cup of tea in a kettle that exists along with everything else independent of its being known……
But in fact there is just Being/Consciousness, that is, just ‘I,’ always in the same place which is a placeless place, always at the same timeless nowness, taking the shape of sensing, perceiving and thinking…..always only being itself, never giving birth to anything other than itself….giving its own substance to every appearance.
‘I’ body-ing, ‘I’ wall-ing, ‘I’ floor-ing, ‘I’ kitchen-ing, ‘I’ kettle-ing, ‘I’ water-ing, ‘I’ tea-ing, ‘I’ etc-ing, etc-ing, etc-ing…..
So it is not that the universe, objects, others, the world etc is not real. Every experience is real but its reality is that of Being/Consciousness. In other words IT IS WHAT I AM.
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You say, “Something exists forever. But this is impossible to my logic… so nothing exists.”
Don’t start from logic, start from experience. You are right that nothing objective, that is, no thought, sensation or perception, has lasted forever in your experience.
Nor have you or anyone ever experienced the vast expanse of time that is conceptualised as ‘forever.’ However, you have and do continually experience your own Being. In fact you have never experienced its absence, nor could you.
It is your experience that you, Being/Consciousness, are ever-present. That is, its own Ever-presence is its own intimate experience.
However, in order to interpret its own Ever-presence as the existence of an independent universe existing ‘for ever’ in time, Being/Consciousness has first to seem to forget itself. It does this, as I said before by taking the shape of dualising mind.
With the arising of dualising mind, the Ever-Presence of Being/Consciousness seems to be veiled and is replaced by the idea and apparent experience of a separately existing universe that lasts ‘forever.’
In other words the Ever-presence of Being/Consciousess is appropriated by mind and conferred upon an imaginary universe that is considered, as a result, to last ‘forever’ in time.
However, it only seems to be veiled from the point of view of the dualising mind. It is never truly veiled from itself. There is nothing in its own experience, apart from itself, with which it could make a veil in order to screen itself from itself. Such a veil would be made only out of itself.
So yes, ‘nothing (no thing) exists’ if by a ‘thing’ we mean something existing in its own right in time and space. However, the substance of all apparent things, does not exist, but rather IS eternally, that is, not ‘forever’ in time, but always now.
This is what Parmenides meant when he said, “That which is never ceases to be. That which is not never comes into existence.”
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You say, “Many times I felt, just for an instant, a sudden vacuum when concluding that nothing exists. But then I noticed that I was there, thinking and conscious, so I existed!!!!”
Yes, when we have been invested for decades in the apparent reality of the separate self and the separate, distant, outside world it can be a tremendous shock to understand that its SEEMING reality is made only of mind and lasts only as long as the current thought, image, sensation or perception lasts, that is, for a moment. However, its REAL reality is made of Being/Consciousness and is the substantial, homogeneous, ever-present reality of our experience.
It is as if all the ground has been pulled from under our feet. We grasp for something solid to hold on to, something known. But we find nothing objective. It feels like a vacuum.
However, we do not find nothing. We find our Self, Being/Consciousness, the Isness of things and the Amness of self, the only true security, our real home.
However, you do not exist. You ARE. To exist means to ‘stand out from.’ You do not stand out as an object from anything. You are existence itself from which all apparent things that seem to exist are made.
It is your Being that gives seeming existence to all apparent objects.
Nothing exists in its own right but Presence IS, and is the ever-present substance of all seeming things.
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This goes to the very heart of the matter. Normally we think that the existence or being of a thing and the knowing of that thing are two, are separate.
But they are not. To know a thing is to be that thing. That is Consciousness’ mode of knowing a thing: to be that thing.
It is only the mind that separates Being and Knowing or Being and Consciousness into two different things. In reality there is no such separation between the two. In fact they are not two.
The only way to know another is be that other. The only way to know an object is be that object. The only way to know the kitchen is be the kitchen. The only way to know the world is be the world.
It is ‘I,’ Being/ Consciousness, that takes the shape of the thinking, imagining, sensing and perceiving. It is ‘I,’ Being/Consciousness, that takes the shape of a thought that identifies myself with a particular sensation called the body and in doing so imagines another substance that is not myself, called matter, out of which everything that is seemingly not myself, that is, the world, is made.
Consciousness creates the apparent world, object or other, by taking the shape of the dualising mind and thereby SEEMINGLY forgetting its own Self.
And conversely as Consciousness remembers or recognises its Self the apparently separate world, object, self or other dissolves.
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You say, “My logic says that nothing exists and never existed, but I am here writing this…” You are right ‘nothing exists and never existed’ but you are not here writing this or reading this. YOU, Being/Consciousness, ARE. You remain eternally unchanging yourself, knowing and being only yourself, never becoming anything other, such as a thing, object, self or world, but taking the shape of that which SEEMS to be a thing, object, self or world.
You say, “This contradiction has opened my mind to any possibility.”
Yes, why not? Just as all possible words are contained within the twenty-six letters of the alphabet, so all possibilities are contained within Being/Consciousness. But they are not contained within it like chocolates in a box. Rather there is only one homogeneous substance which, having no shape, has the capacity to take all possible shapes, but never at any time becomes anything other than itself.
You say, “In fact, all phenomena are simple details, what matters is the substance that is behind them.”
Yes, but the substance of all phenomena is not just behind all appearances. It is in the foreground as well. There is only that. There is only one homogeneous substance, always itself, always in the same place, that is, in itself, being only itself, knowing only itself, loving only itself.
You say, “Non-dual teachings resonate with what I just related. Even the nothingness that is totality at the same time sounds like the paradox of something uncaused.”
Yes, Being/Consciousness is uncaused. There is nothing else present which could be its cause and nothing else present which it causes.
A cause requires at least two things: a cause and an effect. It also requires time. We find neither in experience. Multiplicity and time only come into apparent existence when the reality of our experience is forgotten.
You ask, “Do you, in your consistent openness and enlightenment, “understand” (or whatever word you use) this paradox? Is it possible to penetrate this mystery?”
It is not possible to penetrate this mystery with the mind because the mind is simply the current thought or image. The current thought or image knows nothing. It is known.
Nor does the mind understand. All understanding takes place beyond the mind. The mind is simply the formulation of the understanding. It is not the understanding itself.
Understanding is always the non-objective experience of the Knowing of Being.
So the mystery can never be understood by the mind. However, you ARE the mystery. It is too close to you to be known or penetrated.
It is a mystery only for the mind. For itself it is not a mystery. If it were a mystery it would be somehow unknown or unexperienced. In which case whatever is being experienced, for instance, the kitchen, the taste of tea or these words, would be something other than the mystery. But what would they be made of? There is nothing other than Being/Consciousness out of which they could be made.
There is the Knowing of Being.
When the dualising mind rises to apparently split this Knowingofbeing into two apparent things, the experience is known as unhappiness. When the dualising mind subsides and Knowing tastes again its own Being, the experience is known as love, happiness, peace, beauty or understanding.
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