10 September 2009

Questions from a reader:

1. Does the feeling that is called the feeling of I-am-ness always include a sense of separate selfhood? There seems to be an intimate sense or feeling of presence (or being) that does not however present itself in the shape of an I. I'm not talking about anything advanced-about transcending the "I" or reaching the ultimate subject or anything. I am talking about an immediate, pre-reflective feeling of being. When I reflect on this feeling I can note that it is graspable as mine but the lived experience is not one in which the being of which I am aware is grasped as mine. Now I think there is such a feeling. Does it count as an instance of the feeling of I-am-ness? One reason for thinking that it should count is that the beingness of which I am aware seems (on reflection) to be "mine" One reason for thinking it should not count is that the feeling does not include a pronounced consciousness of separateness. What do you think?

2. You say of Michael Langford's "awareness watching awareness" that it is shikantasa not vichara. Okay, I agree that what he is talking about is shikantasa. But If the self = awareness, why isn't awareness watching awareness a kind of self-awareness, and hence a form of self-inquiry? Perhaps your point is that bare awareness of awareness does not contain the thought "I". That would explain, why on your view, shikantasa's no good for "killing the self." Is this how you are conceiving of awareness watching awareness?

3. One might conclude from (2) that the I-am-feeling requires something like the word 'I'. But Nisargadatta makes a big deal of the wordless I am. His suggestion seems to be that this I am is somehow more "primordial" than the I am that takes the form of mentally voicing the words "I ... am." Is the wordless "I am" different from the wordless "presence" that is not yet the I-am I was talking about in (1)?

4. I take it that: the feeling I am ? the felt experience of the lived body. A potentially confusing thing here is that the felt experience of the body seems to be an experience of being and indeed to disclose my being (= my being as embodied). This might be a reason for describing the felt experience of the body as a form of I-am-ness. Perhaps the sense of my being as embodied is illusory (since the real I is not embodied), but the description seem phenomenologically accurate. There is a lived awareness of embodiment-a kind of bodily consciousness-is there not? Doesn't this consciousness come with a sense of "mineness"? You say: "[m]ost 'I am', subjective first person "feelings" will actually be associated with some form of body identification" - under the rubric of "false selves [that] will deceive all but most diligent." This suggests you think that there is a bodily I am that is distinct from the Advaita-preferred, distinct from the I-am-the-body-idea, I am. Is this your view?

Follow up thought: I had thought of mindfulness of the body (from Zen) as a "good" thing. I suppose that mindfulness of the body ? I-am-body-idea. You can be mindful of the body without identifying with it, can't you? Yet Nisargadatta advocates thinking constantly that I am not the body. This seems contrary to the spirit of cultivating mindfulness of embodiment. Does Advaita say that mindfulness of the body is incompatible with the desired I - consciousness?

5. I can become aware of that which asks Who am I? ("personal" report). Is this "awareness of the witness"? There are places where Nisargadatta associates awareness of the witness with I-am-ness. But this sense (of I-am-ness) seems to be very different from the sense of I-am-ness associated with wanting to be. It doesn't seem connected with a wish to continue existing. It doesn't seem to involve a sense of a separate identity. It may involve distinctness from what is witnessed, but there is no sense of difference from others. Other people don't seem to figure in this form of I-consciousness at all. Is there a witness I am that is different from a personal I am?

All this stuff is tremendously difficult to describe. So I'm not sure that I'm getting the phenomenology accurately. I may be making things more complicated than they need be (occupational hazard). But I've given it my best shot.

Thanks much.


My Reply:

The mind is quite self-disabling isn't it?

Most people avoid real self-inquiry by arguing about terms and
concepts used by one teacher versus another and get lost into trying to
discover how ultimately they agree, or that one guru was full of
crap while th other is the real thing.

Here you are using discrimination to effectively halt practice by
focusing on imaginary distinctions in experience.

It doesn't matter what Nisargadatta said or Ramana said about
practice. They really only, in the end, wanted an ending to concepts
by focusing on practice. But you focus on practice and find the conceptual
imaginary distinctions others find in the theories.

First principal:

All experiences are illusion including the sense of I, the word I, the
concept I, the sense of amness, and the waking and dreaming
experiences as a whole.

Self inquiry is not to find which aspect of the experience is real, or
belongs to Nisargadatta, but to see it is all unreal.

Just watch the I Am sense, sometimes associated with the body,
sometimes not. It changes with observation.

Just listen to Nisargadatta's pointers, but don't obsess over apparent

You want ultimately to submerge in consciousness only in order to find out
consciousness is as much illusion as concept.

Nisragdatta had his experiences which he formulated into an ideology,
which he then asks everyone to abandon. Ditto Ramana and Robert. A lot of what they say is just entertainment. The essence is practice.

Don't depend on them. You invesitigate yourself by inner observation
in the best way you know how to find your core.

Don't be distracted by techniques or experiences. They are for you to
borrow, improve upon or ignore.

Just grasp your sense of self however or whereever you find it and
hang on, or sit doing absolutely nothing, and various samadhi's will
come to you.

As Seung Sahn said over and over, you must become completely stupid.
Real hard advice for people used to using their minds. Robert spent 90% of
Satsang providing emotional entertainment, but always ended in talking about self-inquiry's visisitudes, and in the end, silence when all is empty.

You know emptiness from Zazen, but here there is the emptiness as the personal self is lost. That loss is different and more "personal" as you feel it to be YOUR emptiness rather than just a state of emptiness, as in Samadhi, that comes and goes.

As Robert said, "You become totally useless." That is why I like his "Good for Nothing Man" talk best.

It is somewhere on the itisnotreal website and ceratinly in his Collected Works.


  1. "the good for nothing man"


  2. A strange feeling I've had nagging in the back of my head for a while: what happens to loneliness?
    Is loneliness just a part of the ego-delusion? When the realization comes - that there is only one (and then none) - is there not some sense of loneliness somewhere?

    I realize this may very well be a very stupid question, but I have to get it out of my head.

  3. No, it is not a stupid question.

    With realization comes perfect completeness and happiness, which though oft times is challenged by environmental events.

    Robert used to say life on earth is the lowest hell, and it does become bothersome and can produce anger, etc., but basically, one feels happy.

    No loneliness. That is you speaking now from a human perspective.

  4. Thank you.

    Even though I sort of understand what you're getting at, I must ask: Why is there no lonelienss?

    I realize the contexts of normal and "enlightened" life greatly differ, and that the ego-self is dissolved. But, is it only the ego that creates the emotion of loneliness?
    The reason I'm asking is because I can't (of course..) wrap my head around how it would feel to know that "I" am but one being expeienceing itself subjectively.

  5. Why SHOULD there be loneliness? I can give the usual answer this is an ego feeling, etc., but this will not end your loneliness.

    The key is to stop asking questions about the so-called enlightened state and instead find out who you are. Just the practice of self-inquiry, self-abidance, brings (usually) peace which deepens over time.

    You are letting your mind screw with you and delay your own practice.

  6. Heh, I guess you're right - thanks.

    Glad I found this blog; it's good that itisnotreal.com is "still alive"!