Chapter 3 - YOU
THEN, WHO ARE YOU, essentially, in truth, beyond appearances, beyond change?
First of all, you can only experience your body through your highly limited senses, which are themselves a part of that body. Just as for the chair, your experience of your body is highly limited and colored. The real you cannot be described as tall or small, fat or thin, black or white, pretty or ugly, because those are relative terms depending on your senses, your past experiences, your mood, and so forth. Isn't your body also always changing? So how can it be the true you that is beyond change? Is the true you young or old? Look at your hand: if it were accidentally cut off, would you still be there? Now close your eyes and feel your body from within. You can feel every part of your body; but do you find yourself in any of the parts? While you may feel yourself to be inside your body, does it not actually exist separately from you, outside of you? Can the body think, "I am the body," or are you needed to make a statement like that? If so, how can you be it ?
Neither can the true you be your personality-sorry to say. Is your personality not just as changeable and entirely based on past naming through past experiences? Today you may be a mother or father; but weren't you just a child not that long ago? Do you not feel that you are the same one you were as a child? You may have this or that profession; but isn't that just a temporary role you have learned to play? You may think of yourself as a good (or bad) person; but does that mean you've never done anything bad (or good)? In fact, doesn't your opinion about your own personality change all the time?
Can you fully define yourself through some belief, opinion, religion, or philosophy? Are you a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, an atheist, a socialist, a hedonist, a liberal, an ecologist, a humanist? Valuable though all such belief systems can be, no doubt about that, can you identify yourself with every member of such a group? Does not every one of these belief systems have within it differences in interpretation and application, at present and throughout history, including your own? And did you feel you belonged to one of these groups when you were a baby? Would you live on if you were not a member of this group?
Study all that you think yourself to be today. Is it not all based on past experiences? And how much can you trust those experiences, let alone your memory of them? Whatever you experienced through your senses was only a partial reflection of that which may have truly happened. And how much do you really remember of the little you did experience? Some people are better at this than others, but even those with the best memory cannot give any totally detailed account of their life experiences. How many things do you think happened to you just yesterday, and how many of those do you actually remember? So in what way can that fractional memory of a long series of fractional experiences tell you any truth about who you are? You may have experienced many things in this life, played many roles, that is all.
Of course, you are considered to be the son or daughter of a mother and father. But do you actually have any memory of being born? Did you choose your mother and father or did they choose you? Did they know who would be coming when you came, or were you more like a surprise? Did they get to know you like you got to know them? And how well do you know them or do they know you today? How often do you surprise yourself? Did you choose your own name, or did they choose your name? Did they know you already, when they chose your name? Does your name have any meaning, and how does it relate to who you really are, or have been, or could be? Or is your name just another artificial concept, a combination of sounds you were taught to identify with?
If the past cannot tell you who you are, consider whether the future can. Perhaps you are not yet what you feel yourself to be. But honestly, if you look at the past and all the plans you made for the future, what came of them? How much of what you "are" today came to be by chance? How often did good luck and bad luck change the course of your life? And what did you have to do with that? The truth is, we know nothing about the future at all, because anything can happen, at any time. The future can be imagined, but that's about it.
Pondering such questions, you may reach the conclusion that in essence, you are neither your body nor your name, neither your job nor your position, neither a son nor a daughter, neither a father nor a mother, neither your past nor your future. Are those not just cases of temporarily and functionally mistaken identity? And when you are here, now, reading this book, how different are you from other people reading this book, wherever, whenever?
Then maybe the answer to who you are rests in your thoughts and feelings. But do they not also constantly change, appear, and disappear? Can you witness your thoughts, and if so, how can they be you? Is not whatever you can witness something outside of you, something that cannot be you, whether it is a chair, your body, your personality, your past and future, your feelings and thoughts? Whenever you witness something, what you witness is a thing, an object. This implies that there is someone witnessing; call it the witness, the observer, the subject. As long as there is an object and a subject, whatever is the object cannot be the subject. Do you not think of "your thoughts" and "your ideas," as in "your car" and "your home"? Does that not make your thoughts and ideas into things that are separate from you, not you? Things that you can gain, lose, or get rid off?
To more clearly experience the subject/object relationship in reference to thoughts, try out a simple meditation technique. Sit quietly in a comfortable posture and close your eyes. Try not to think anything, but witness whatever thoughts come. When they come, try not to feed them with more thoughts, just let them come and go as they please. Watch them without thinking about them. Do you now fully recognize that you can witness your thoughts? That they are objects, and you are the subject, the witness? So how can these thoughts be you?
Now try to stop your thoughts, to stop thinking altogether. Unless you already have quite some experience with meditation, the thoughts will still come. Do you not sometimes in life very much wish you could stop thinking this or that, or feeling this or that? Who is wishing that? And if you already know how to stop thinking, then you are also quite aware that when your thoughts are gone, you are still there. Even if you do not know how to stop your thoughts, moments come when you are quite naturally not thinking anything, when there is a tiny pause in your stream of thoughts. The pause may last longer as the result of surprise, or simple tiredness. During those moments, are you not still there? Most drivers have had the experience, on a quiet highway, when for a while thoughts simply go, driven to sleep by the monotony of driving. Who was watching the road and guiding your hands then?
Are you now becoming more aware, as it were, of your witness consciousness? Is the one you that is never changing, and ever around, this witnessing you? Is this the you that is independent of what you experience or think about? Have you now discovered the real you by removing that which cannot really be you?