What do we mean by dropping the idea of “I”? What does it take for us to realize we are not only our intellect, our mind, our senses nor our body, but that we also exist prior to these? And perhaps even more important – what difference does it make whether we realize or not? Why should we even bother spending time pondering thoughts like these?
Let us start by asking ourselves the following question: Are we content with life as we experience it? For most of us the answer will be: Yes, for the most part, with a few exceptions now and then. Either we accept that which we do not like, or we tolerate it for as long as we can. The problem with the latter is that one day we are out of breath, suddenly unable to tolerate that which we seemed to deal with just fine a second ago.
When does our problems arise? If we take a closer look, we might discover that problems arise as soon as “I” is touching he/she/they/it. Without “I” there will be no he/she/they/it. When we am asleep, the concept of “I” appears to be gone. Problems, the way we know them are gone, the same is the world as we know it. Yet, for a dream to be experienced, there has to be an experiencer. The moment we wake up, “I” appears in our consciousness, and along with “I” the world re-appears. Who is this “I”? Where is it located? This “I” being ill, being cold, hungry, tired, angry and feeling insulted. Who speaks, and about whom does it speak? And who notices?
When we try to localize “I”, we will have a hard time finding it. “I am clenching my fist.” Is this really true? The fist is being clenched, but there is no way we can connect the “I” with the action itself. There is something noticing that the fist is being clenched. The same goes with “I am picking up a scent.” Do I know for sure that it is the “I” performing this act? I register a smell, but am I able to prove that there is an “I” there, “doing” it? Is my nose able to pick up a scent all by itself? If so, why is there no scent in my dream?
Perhaps we might look at it like this: We are not the one acting, nor the one liking or disliking. We are not the one feeling threatened, having to defend something, stating an opinion. On the contrary – something is simply noticing that which appears and disappears. If we ponder this for a while, we will come to the conclusion that this has to be true. If not, how would we be able to talk about it? In order to talk about -/ think of something, there has to be a distance. We can not be the observer, and at the same time be that which is being observed. The observer has to be there, earlier than the object being observed.
Does this mean we are the observer? Even this one is observed. I am not my hunger. I am aware of a feeling called hunger. Who is observing that which is stating, “I am aware of a feeling called hunger”?
Eventually what is left is the question “Who am I?”. Before this is established, what is there to say? Our interaction with the world and our fellow man will still take place. Being open for the possibility that things might not be the way we think they are, we might get closer to everything the way it is. In the end there will be no distance. No “I” getting in touch with “that”. In that moment, the world as we know it will disappear.
“There is no such state as seeing the real. Who is to see what? You can only be the real – which you are anyhow. The problem is only mental. Abandon false ideas, that’s all. There is no need of true ideas. There aren’t any.”
– Nisargadatta Maharaj –