The Purpose of Life, Part 4

Inquiry 4:  Is There Any Proof That The Self Exists?

This then raises my more fundamental query. This ‘Self’ on which reams have been written – what is the proof that such a ’Self’ exists? 

I know that the self is by virtue of the fact that I am.  Simply put, the self is – I am – self-evident.  More to the point, I know the self because I am the self.

“Still,” you might ask, “how do I know that my self is THE self?”

Some suggest that there may be more than one self.  The singularity of awareness, however, can again be verified by yet another meticulous examination of one’s own experience.

Consider yourself minus sensations, emotions, and thoughts.  To do so, these phenomena don’t have to cease to exist.  Simply watch how all such phenomena arise in consciousness, abide for a period of time, and then subside back into consciousness.

Though you tend to identify with the phenomena and say that such are “my sensations,” “my emotions,” and “my thoughts,” the reality is that while these phenomena appear in you, you are beyond their bounds.  In fact, despite the idea that they are mine, and the subsequent physical, emotional, and mental consequences you enjoy or suffer as a result of that identification, you remain ever untouched by these phenomena.

Observe carefully.

Do you appear or disappear with the appearance and disappearance of these phenomena?  Has your existence ever been enhanced, diminished, or otherwise altered or changed by their appearance and disappearance?

Admittedly, the apparent individual entity you take yourself to be seems to enjoy or suffer the consequences of the appearance and disappearance of these phenomena, but the simple, unadulterated, formless, pure awareness in which they – as well as the apparent individual you take yourself to be – appear has not changed one iota.

Moreover, in terms of your interaction with the “outer” world, whether you have met with great “success” and gained or enjoyed any given object of your desire or you have been visited with grave “misfortune” and lost or failed to achieve or acquire any given object of your pursuit, the awareness by which that success or failure, good luck or misfortune, blessing or curse was known has always remained exactly the same.

Now look and see whether you can find any end or perimeter to this awareness.

Sure, the limiting adjuct (i.e. upadhi) of the mind-body-sense complex that constitutes the apparent individual with which pure awareness is identifying has an end or limit to its scope of awareness, but pure awareness itself – you – have no such limit.

As was previously implied, your eternality is verified nightly when you experience deep sleep.  Though the apparent individual is not aware of it due to its own absence, when the mind-body-sense complex with which you are identifying disappears in deep sleep, you experience your own limitless nature.  Were you not, you, by means of the intellect’s function of inference, which is one of several important functions carried out by the mind-body-sense complex of the apparent individual when illumined and thus set into motion by awareness, would not be able to say that you slept soundly.

Limitless, by definition, allows for the existence of nothing outside its “boundarilessness.”  It is a centerless sphere with no perimeter.  It is an unfathomable formlessness.  It is whole, complete, and pure.  If the self is limitless – which we have clearly established it is – then there can be no second self, no other self, no you – from the self’s perspective – as opposed to me.

The self simply is.

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About Ted Schmidt

I was initiated into the yogic path when I received shaktipat from Gurumayi Chidvilasananda in 1989. For the next twenty years, Siddha Yoga served as my fundamental spiritual practice. During this time I avidly studied the non-dual teachings of both Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism as unfolded by the teachers in that tradition. Having grown up in a Christian culture and yet having felt little nourishment from its brand of spiritual belief and practice, I was also curious about what the true teachings underlying that tradition might be. After some investigation, I ran across Kabbalah (i.e. Jewish mysticism) and discovered that its teachings paralleled the non-dual teachings of the Eastern spiritual traditions. I also dabbled in Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism, and the spiritual tradition of a West African tribe called the Dagara. During that time, I became a certified as both a yoga teacher and a QiGong instructor/healer and after a two-year study of Dagara shamanism was initiated as an Elder in that tradition. Though each of these paths offered valuable insights into the nature of reality, I was repeatedly drawn back to my practice of Siddha Yoga. The bottom line after all this searching and seeking and kundalini tweaking, however, was that none of it did the trick. It wasn’t until I met my teacher, James Swartz, and heard the teachings of traditional Vedanta that I finally understood who I am. Vedanta is the only tradition that I have encountered that offers the complete understanding that constitutes self-knowledge (i.e. Brahma satyam jagan-mithya jivo brahmaiva na’parah explained in all its aspects and ramifications). No other tradition that I have encountered offers prakriyas and practices that so effectively remove ignorance and so clearly reveal self-knowledge.

2 thoughts on “The Purpose of Life, Part 4

  1. Hi Ted

    I understand that there is just one Self, a singularity of awareness. That Self is aware of itself from the perspective of this body-mind. All other bodies arise in this perspective. So does the one Self experience reality from multiple perspectives (aneka jiva I think this is called) or from a single perspective (eka jiva).

    If ‘I’ am left to examine my own experience, all others simply arise and disappear in my awareness, which suggests eka jiva vada. If so, then nothing more remains to be understood, or done.

    If not, i.e. if aneka jiva vada, then there might be a purpose in life: to help other body-minds – as one hand would soothe the other hand if it is cut or burned – whether physically or spiritually.


  2. Hi Ted,

    nice that you are back.

    You say: ‘Some suggest that there may be more than one self. The singularity of awareness, however, can again be verified by yet another meticulous examination of one’s own experience’.

    As far as I can see, whatever you say is not yet verifying the singularity of awareness, Self. As you know, subject-object-distinction only takes you up to the witnessing consciousness (i.e. the ultimate subject). It does not prove that the ultimate subject essentially is one and the same as the apparent objects.

    It is possible to find strong indications for jiva, jagat and ishvara being one and the same. But I do not think that it is possible to prove it, be it logically and/or by examining one’s experience.

    Yes, you will not find an end or perimeter to the awareness that you are. But you cannot claim that there is no reference point – which disproves singularity. There undeniably is someone seeking an end and finding that there is none.

    Even the example of deep sleep is no steadfast proof for consciousness being one. What we consider deep sleep to be in hindsight could also be our imagination or projection. I, at least, cannot refute that possibility.

    What I like to point out is that even though self-examination and logic are great tools, they, by themselves – without trustworthy testimony and guidance – will not lead to Self-realization.

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