After a great deal of self-inquiry, reflection, and meditation, I’ve realized the Self. For the first time ever, I feel satisfied with my own thoughts and beliefs as to what I am and it’s brought incredible peace. I owe it all to Ramana Maharshi. I had searched for this using physics, philosophy, religion, neuroscience, psychology, and many other disciplines, but everything I was getting only confused me more. But Maharshi’s method of Self-Inquiry led me to a direct experience of the unmanifest ‘I AM’ within myself at the root of everything I experience, the source.
This life has felt like a giant mind-game, filled with confusion, and all of this confusion ultimately is rooted in wrong identification with things I am not.
Take wrongful identification with the body. Before I really sat and reflected on all of this, I used to believe I was the originator of my actions. I chose to stand up, I chose to sit down, I chose to say the words coming out of my mouth, and so on. But then when I studied physics, I really began to wonder. I would lift my arm, or squeeze my hand into a fist, or stand up using my legs, and it felt as if “I” was responsible, but who was this “I”? It didn’t reside in my “normal” conscious mind. Think of all the electrical pulses throughout all the nerves required to contract the muscles, the flow of ions down all the nerve channels, and all the rest of it. Did I set all of that into motion? No, the conscious “I” in my head most certainly did not. It would speak as if it did, saying, “Oh, ‘I’ did that!”, but wait a minute! It doesn’t even know how all the biology works, much less did it direct each and every atom and electron to perform that movement. There’s no way this ‘I’ in my conscious attention did that. So who or what did? And why does it feel as if “I” was responsible for the movement, even though the entirety of my conscious attention and mind were clearly inadequate for such a task? It was a true mystery for me for a long time.
Really sit down and think about this problem. You’re going to lift your right arm and wave hello to your friend across the room. Think about everything that needed to happen. According to physics, every Planck time there is a new “frame” of reality. Every 5*10^(-44) seconds a new frame needs to be generated, containing all the new positions of every atomic nucleus, every electron, all the photons creating the electric and magnetic fields, the exact curvatures of space-time due to energy and mass, and all the rest of it. Think of all the frames required to move your arm! It’s a number so large we don’t even have words for it, and within each frame you’re going to have to give positions and velocities to all the particles, which are also so numerous we don’t have words for it either. Who did all that? Yet, we do it effortlessly. But how? And why do we feel as if we are doing it?
If that’s not complicated enough, let’s talk about this idea of “choosing” to lift your arm. Within your consciousness, can you recall any moment when a a giant catalog was presented to you, containing all the different arm motions and gestures available in the vast infinite of what’s possible? Did you browse through it, and then pick and choose the flow of movements, one Planck time to the next? That’s what free will as respect to bodily movements would entail. I can only speak for me, but my consciousness was never presented with this catalog. However, according to quantum physics, such a catalog of infinite possibilities does indeed exist and something is choosing these events to take place. Something, but what? And why in the world do “I” feel responsible for it?
The same could be said for internal states of consciousness, such as thought and emotion. At any point you can remember, were you ever presented with a catalog of thought processes and emotional states which you arbitrarily could assign to each and every moment? I never did. Both thoughts and emotions come and go on their own. So why do we feel they’re “our” thoughts and “our” emotions?
So here’s the million dollar question. Why are we associating with what these physical bodies are doing, what they’re thinking about, or the various emotional states we humans experience? Why say “this is me” when you’re not choosing or in control of any of it? Why is there this feeling that somehow you’re doing all this, yet whenever you sit and reflect on it all, there doesn’t seem to be any way that that is the case?
Brace yourselves, this is going to be a deep revelation! The answer is that the real you IS doing it all, but the real you is NOT the body, is NOT the thoughts bouncing around in your head, and is NOT your emotions. The real you is something unmanifest, formless, shapeless, yet within this real Self is your body, and all other possible bodies, your thoughts and all possible thoughts, and your emotions along with all possible emotions. This reality of me being “Jason” and you being Joe Smith is a projection from this real Self, which we all share, the eternal, unchanging, I AM. You can call this God, the Source, the Alpha and Omega, whatever. We are all aspects of that, which is the only thing that’s real. We’re all characters in the mind of God, all being played by God. It’s like when Carl Sagan said we are the universe looking back at itself. But the universe isn’t a machine! It’s all God, and God places veils on His own consciousness, creates characters, and looks back at Himself through all these vantage points and characters. There are all these infinite stages and infinite dramas unfolding!
That’s why you feel that you’re lifting your arm. You’re God! You chose the experience. You created the character and now you’re experiencing it. But you needed to hide this fact in order for it to be truly immersive, so you placed a veil over your fullness, and you’re temporarily experiencing this character, which has this finite illusory mind. But the character has no power. So the character reflects on what’s happening and it’s like, I don’t make the waves, I don’t make the sun shine, I don’t make my body move, I don’t control my thoughts, etc. BUT, who is this “I” speaking within the character’s mind? That’s the false “I”, thoughts which themselves were written into the screenplay. This is the very false “I” a neuroscientist will tell you about. Of course it’s not real, of course it doesn’t really make the body move, etc. Yet that’s not to say there isn’t a real “I” within! The problem is when this real “I”, existing within each and every one of us, is wrongly associated with things that it is not! That’s when life goes from a movie to enjoy, to all kinds of fear and misery.
This real “I” is not the body and it is not the mind, yet these things are projecting out of it. You are projector with all the possible film reels and also the screen which this life movie is being projected on, but you are NOT ultimately the characters or the settings within the movie. I’m not Jason, and you’re not Bob, or Steve, or Sarah. You’re the I AM which is WATCHING the movie that YOU WROTE! Claiming you are your body or mind is like claiming the author of a novel is his characters and those characters thoughts/feelings. Not quite. They came out of the author, but they’re not the same. This wrongful identification is the most significant cause of our suffering in this life.
So yes, you did choose to lift your arm. Jason didn’t do it, as he’s just a character, but the real me, which is right there experiencing the character first hand, this real I did. That’s why I experience that subjective ownership. I did choose to have that emotional experience at that time. I did choose these thoughts. But, and this is a big but, I did so when I was writing this movie! As for right now, I am in a state of highly focused attention, very closely “zoomed in” on this character I created, just watching a very immersive virtual reality movie.
You may say, bah, how do you know this to be true? I’ll tell you — by DIRECT EXPERIENCE. Anyone can experience it. For example, if you’ll do Maharshi’s method of Self-Enquiry, you will find the unchanging, eternal I AM right within your direct experience. Every time you hear your mind say, “I did this…” or “I am hungry”, or “I want to go outside…”, just then ask yourself, “Who is the ‘I’ who is hungry? Who is the ‘I’ who wants to go outside”, and trace it back. You’ll eventually end up at this eternal, unchanging ‘I AM’ which will be with you always. At every moment of your life’s movie.
People will say, “You cannot know if God exists.” No no no. It’s the only thing you can actually know exists! Everything else you’ll always be unsure about. But the fact of this I AM, directly within your consciousness cannot be denied. God’s right there. It’s you!
As for direct perception that all of this is a movie, that’s more challenging, but it is possible to hop out of the movie. How? There are various means, but a primary one is through meditation. The movie plays by you focusing your attention on the characters and settings which appear outside of you. What you have to do is learn how to pull the searchlights of the senses back inward, and then focus back on the I AM. The movie stops playing and you perceive this infinite self! With enough focus of attention back inward, you return to your real self, the Infinite!
What’s most interesting about all of this is that it can all be directly experienced, both your real Self identity, and with enough meditating and focus, you can even hop out of the movie entirely.