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.
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.