“Whatever knowledge we may obtain about anything other than ourself is indirect and therefore open to doubt. The only knowledge that is direct is the knowledge or consciousness that we have of ourself as ‘I am’, and hence it alone can be certain and free of all doubt.
Before we know anything else, we first know our own existence as ‘I am’. This knowledge or consciousness of ourself is our primary and essential form of knowledge. Without knowing ‘I am’ we could not know anything else. Our consciousness ‘I am’ can stand alone without any other knowledge, as we experience daily in deep sleep, but no other knowledge can stand without this consciousness ‘I am’.
. . . . . .
Only when we attain true knowledge of our consciousness ‘I am’ will we be in a position to judge the truth and validity of all our other knowledge. Thus the belief that objective research can lead to true knowledge – a belief that is implicit in and central to the philosophy upon which all modern science is based – is philosophically unsound, and is based more upon wishful thinking than upon any deep or honest philosophical analysis.
All objective knowledge is known by us indirectly through the imperfect media of our mind and five senses, whereas consciousness is known by us directly as our own self. Therefore, if we seek true, clear and immediate knowledge, rather than attempting to elaborate our knowledge of objective phenomena by turning our attention outwards through our mind and five senses, we should attempt to refine our knowledge of consciousness by directing our attention selfwards, towards the essential consciousness that we always experience directly as ‘I am'”
From Happiness and the Art of Being, Michael James, Trafford.
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In another thread, I mentioned Nisargadatta and his recommendation of meditating on this ‘I am’. He goes on to say that this ‘I am’ is also illusory. Of course, each person must contemplate this and find out the truth of it.
Here is a quote from Dogen Zenji’s ‘Genjokoan’, one of the fascicles of his ‘Shobogenzo’, which is a classic of Zen teaching. It also illustrates the transcendance of ‘I am’.
To learn the Buddha Way is to learn one’s self. To learn one’s self is to
forget one’s self. To forget one’s self is to be confirmed by all dharmas. To be
confirmed by all dharmas is to cast off one’s body and mind and the bodies and
minds of others as well. All trace of enlightenment disappears, and this traceless
enlightenment continues on without end.