23 December 2011


Robert Adams and Ramana both said follow the I thought. Nisargadatta said focus on and love the ‘I Am’ sensation, the sense of existence.

“Part” of what is revealed is that there is no inner entity, no inner object, no apparent nucleus towards which the I-thought points.

I think in most of us there is a feeling, and the unquestioned understanding, that, there is some nucleus, the personal self, an ego to which the I-thought points, such that when we practice self inquiry, looking at or for the I-thought, and we finally understand there is on entity anywhere to which the I thought points, the entire conceptual system collapses.

That is, there is an unstated assumption that there is an inner I, and opposing that on the other side of the skin is an ‘outer’ world.  When it is seen that the word “I” does not point to anything, the old dichotomy between inner and outer collapses, and we see that the objects we think exist are actually the result of concepts applied to the external world, such as the word ‘chair’ which is superimposed by the mind on raw experience.  With this discovery we understand that the external world in its entirety, is constructed from a mental map of tens of thousands of concepts, some strictly personal, and many which are commonly held by society and culture.

I really don’t want to get into the depths of discussion about how this occurs, as it’s explained in-depth in my awakening experiences, at wearesentience.com.  It is commonly held now in Advaita circles that the experience reveals that the mind/ego is no more than a collection of thoughts that come and go rather arbitrarily.  But in fact this is not true.

In fact, each individual is rather unique, and the way they arrange concepts and behaviors, and the way they see the world is fairly unique to that individual despite many shared commonalities.  Everyone in our culture knows what a chair or an automobile is, while an Australian bushmen of two centuries ago may not have had that concept at all.  but let’s take a look more closely at the whole notion of ego, mind, and I. 

Why do the Neo-Advaitins assume that just because the word “I” does not point to anything, that the ego does not exist?  Who said that the ego or self would have some form or an objective nucleus such that by looking into one’s subjectivity, it could be found as some sort of ‘object’? 

What if the ego is not an entity, but a "collection" of learned responses, learned patterns of perception and interpretation, and adaptational psychic processes by which we function in the world, combined through developmental patterns into a functioning human being? 

When we use the word ‘ego,’ are we not talking about complex behaviors, thinking and interpreting of external events, the ability to focus on external and internal phenomena, the ability to relate to another person, the ability to relate to others in a group and to persist in adaptive efforts to accomplish some goal, also the entity or process by which languages are learned as well as subjects such as physics and economics?  Doesn’t the word ‘ego’ really point to a huge collection of behaviors, talents, mental functions and ways of perceiving the world?  

In fact, the word ego, is the English translation of Freud’s phrase, “Das Ich,” meaning the I, or the I-sense.  However, for him ego was the reality principal, only part of which was the I-sense; it arbitrated between the primitive demands of the unconscious, the Id, and the reality of the world.  For Freud, most everything in our lives was unconscious or preconscious, meaning we could access it if we tried for a moment, and not conscious, "In the now."

The ego free floated depending on the circumstance, from conscious to preconscious, to the unconscious, trying to please the Id’s impulses by satisfying them as much as possible given the realities of the world, and also the ego used “defenses” to hide impulses or to deny, repress or transmute conflicts and pain. We refer to these defenses all the time, saying someone is "projecting" onto others, or denying or repressing emotions or seeing clearly what is a fact in an effort to "save" our point of view, or prevent pain entering our awareness.

On top of this we have the personality, the complex of beliefs, weaknesses, strengths, and habitual responses and inclinations that we present to others in day to day interactions, which really are mostly unconscious of, because the personality is us.  We really don't reflect on our interaction style or deeply ingrained "truths" unless challenged by a wife or lover, boss at a job, or work demands.  Under stress, or in psychoanalysis or insight psychotherapy, we may begin to look at our personality traits if they are causing failure (such as always falling in love with the same type persons that always lead to relationship failure), or other kinds of pain.

On top of this developed the superego, or morality, which at first is quite rigid, and then becomes more flexible as we become adults.

That is, Freud of 100 years ago conceived of a far more complex sense of I, or ego, than Buddhists or mystics of the East.  Freud’s ego encompassed vast amounts of behaviors, and complexities of personality not dreamt of by Eastern mystics.

Now let us assume there is reality in Freud’s model of the personality and ego.

If the ego is really a collection of “processes” rather than a single entity, either an I-thought, or an inner psychic form which we can view by looking into our subjectivity, then of course self-inquiry or the recent “Direct Pointing” method will always find nothing.

Does anyone in their right mind think that we could look within our subjectivity and find our personality? Can we find our personality as an entity? Is not our personality much of what we call the ‘ego’? 

Can we look within ourselves and find our ability to do mathematics, or rather do we just do mathematics by “becoming” a certain  part of the complex structures of our self as a human being?  That is, I don’t look inside and find a mathematics nodule in my subjectivity, a mathematics entity, I just get into a certain frame of mind which I can’t see math symbols and transformations, I become it, and then I can do mathematics.  But there certainly is no entity like a mathematics learning center, or physics learning core entity, or an observable ego sub-core entity that controls all of our human interaction skills. 

Is not all of this part of what we call the ego?  Doesn’t the word ‘ego’ really refer to dozens of invisible processes, patterns and skills, and all of our personality as it relates to the rest of the world?

How can we possibly believe we can look inside of ourselves and find a pattern of how we relate to other people? Instead, in a real-life situation with another person, don't we try to intuitively feel our own emotions in response to the interaction, and cues in the other person’s behavior and body language that reveal to us what he or she is thinking and feeling?

Is it not obvious that most of this "stuff" is invisible to just introspection, watching our thoughts and emotions arise and pass away?

If we consider Freud’s model and the psychoanalytic models that have flowed from his concepts, staying in the now really only accesses the conscious mind and preconscious, but mechanisms of the ego, constructed by the ego, prevent that same ego, the I, the investigator, from ever discovering the deeply buried stuff, the earliest pains, frustrations, injuries, and vasanas, which are only brought to light when they slip through the ego defenses, such as in dream or free association.

In other words, the ego spends an enormous amount of energy and time hiding stuff working in the unconscious and preconscious areas. How then can we expect the ego, that directs all search and seeking efforts, to uncover that which it wants to conceal from the light of awareness?

Therefore staying in the now, the present, in awareness, can really not take us that far as a method of liberation.  The ego is not going to find that which it deliberately conceals from consciousness. External forces are usually needed, such as a guru, psychotherapist, or challenging external circumstances, such as a life crisis, death of someone close, divorce, etc..

Yes, seeing that there is no I-Center certainly can begin an astounding transformation as the conceptual system begins to collapse and we begin to see the world differently, without concepts, and as Seung Shan might say, with a mind as stupid as a rock, without its constant chatter and interpretations.  

The world seems fresh and brilliant, and vivid, our responses immediate and not mediated by thought.  Then we become One, I versus the world disappears, and there is just one experience, unity consciousness, with no time lapse between something that happens ‘outside’ and our (inside) responses.

But the lack of an I-entity certainly does not mean that we do not have behaviors, abilities, a personality, skills and a body available to us, as well as seeing ourselves as in relationship to a world and to another.

When we say the sentence, “I had rice for dinner yesterday,” we are not talking about some nonexistent I-entity that we can see through introspection; we are stating that in our memory we know that yesterday “I” ate a certain meal, this body-mind had rice and other food to eat.  We are not saying there was an I entity in us, like the soul, that ate rice, we are saying the collective of our body, all its processes, our mind, the personality that is us, our behaviors, all our abilities, for a moment yesterday, sat down and ate food.

As Ramesh Balsekar stated, we are a body/mind mechanism, or entity, not just an I-thought or I sense, although they are part of it.  It is this totality that falls in love, marries and has children, gets up at 7:00 am and goes to work, and struggles all day to meet deadlines, then comes home to pay bills and watch television.  It is not an I-thought, or I-object that does all of this.

Now we can say that the world is an illusion because we found no entity to which the I-thought pointed to; therefore there was no dichotomy between the inner and the outer, and see that all of us impose patterns of order, of thought and concept onto the external world that we’ve learned to survive, but that does not remove our experience of an every-changing presence or substance, which may no longer have a interpretive map of thought, but certainly exists in the sense that there is always some appearance or another in front of us. 

Robert Adams referred to this appearance as illusion because none of it was permanent and is dependent upon us, our sentience, our ability to experience the world in its existence.  The world does not exist apart from our experiencing the world.

So what is the difference in between and awakened man, a totally liberated man, and an ordinary man?

I am saying this issue is so complex, so varied, that merely seeing that the I-thought itself is not permanent, or that it points to nothing, really is the barest of beginnings of awakening.  There is so much more to do.

All the hidden wrinkles, the angers, hurts, humiliations, fears, and hatreds remain.  There is no King I to be killed. Instead we are afloat in a river of inner and outer happenings always impermanent and changing, where “shit” is always floating to the top.

The real meaning of the no-I experience is to introduce us to space, emptiness, the ground state of consciousness, and by living in that, to better deal with the flotsam that surfaces in life.

Another issue that often arises for the neo advaitins, is that they learned from Sailor Bob or someone else that there is no separate I, or separate self.  

What they mean by this is unclear.  Do they mean there is only One experience, and no world/me separation of any sort?

What does this mean experientially?  What is their experience?  Does it mean that their intelligence or perceiving is spread equally throughout all their experienced world?  There is no inner versus outer, no me versus you, no world versus Ed, John, or Ann?  Is this what they really mean?

If this is the case, how do they manage to escape being killed by an imaginary car at an intersection, or escape a gun wielding psychopath?  If they are not separate from me, and there is only one, what am I protecting when I run, or look both ways for oncoming traffic?  If there is nothing but me, how do I function in the world?  In fact, don't all of the neo advaitins proclaim no separate sense of self?  if nothing is separate, why do they act as if a car speeding towards them is a danger and jump out of the way?  If there is no separate entity, why would there be any fear of death or injury?

It is, of course, because we know we are a separate mind/body entity that needs to hold onto that belief to survive.


  1. Are those numberless body-minds not like different and unique glasses for conciousness to look into the world ? All body-minds are part of the universal flow and change constantly as the world changes ?

  2. Very insightful article, Ed. Does it explain why non duality therapy has emerged on the scene? And that a growing number of therapists have employed meditation in their practice?(in reference to your closing comment abut the "flotsam that surfaces in life"?).


  3. oh my god edji, this is huge.
    you said it, you found it.
    the pointing out instructions of the neo-advaitins is the shallowest of experiences.
    they directly or indirectly imply that that's all that's required.
    like you said, congratulations! you're done, here's your certificate.

    i love, love, love how you point to this being a life work. therapy, a guru, all the relationships, failings, pains to slowly, slowly, 'work out' our own liberation.

    beautiful, thank you.

  4. edji, i must be crazy but i find all systems to be identical these days. advaita, christianity, chanting, therapy... at their core, there is, to me, total agreement.

    i've been in therapy a couple times and found it very, very positive. dealing with anger and anxiety issues. if i was rich i'd get a couple 300 dollar an hour therapists to see twice a week. i'm not kidding. it's big work. it takes courage to go Into the mud.

    like your last paragraph, to me, the therapist creates a 'space' that you can bring all your stuff up into.

    it's just like catholic confession. again, i'm talking about it's purest form, not some perverted priest getting off on all the juicy confessions, hahaha.

    in it's purest form, confession is, again, bringing your inner crap, demons into the light of space.

    when it hits the light, it changes.

    krishnamurti was big on only having to see something and it changed by our very attention.

    but all this is OUR work. like you say, not just seeing there's no 'i' for two seconds and giving up the whole work, thinking you're done.

    that's the beginning and then the real manual labor begins of reaching down and exposing all the many, complex 'issues' to the Light.

  5. What I am experiencing is that we are one, inseparable and interconnected... a matrix of light, weaving each strand into a masterpiece so large and so complex that the physical "eye/I/mind" cannot possibly comprehend.

  6. I've often been confused as to how seeing that there is no I-thought, entity, center...would automatically result in the collapse or the destruction of the complex mechanism that we call the 'ego'.

    Does not this complex mechanism or ego continue to perceive, interpret, act, react, without that center I?

    It seems to me that what we call the human being is a bundle of finite, ever changing, fluid processes and the seeing that it does not have a 'center' does not add to it or take away from it in any way.

    Let me also be honest and say that this seeing has not happened in any sort of mind blowing way with me...YET.

    Another wonderful piece of writing.

    Thanks Ed.


  7. Kathy, but is there not an intuition also that you are beyond it all, beyond the oneness and manifestation?

  8. How very strange that the I-thought is itself just another judgment, I guess it's the minds way of making a 'thing' out of a process. Experiencing the I-feeling is next. I feel both trepidation and excitement at the same time. I need you Edji.


  9. ego (after Freud)