If we still think of ourselves as separate individuals looking for a ‘way’ to liberation – putting an end to all psychological suffering and discovering lasting peace and happiness – one of the quickest and most direct is through self-inquiry – asking ourselves questions like who am I, what am I, and where am I? That is, if we are willing to entertain the possibility that who we are is not what we think, can’t be named, and can’t be found.
If we think we know who we are, that’s not it.
If we think we know what we are, that’s not it.
If we think we know where we are, that’s not it.
But that’s no fun. We have to start somewhere to walk the pathless path. Thinking is limited, and who, what, and where we are is without limits. But we can use thinking to take us to the point where all sense of a separate self dissolves back into its source just like a cloud dissolves back into the sky.
Let’s start with this: our real identity exists prior to, during, and after all thoughts, sensations, and perceptions arise, linger, and disappear.
All thoughts and mental images come and go. All of our feelings and sensations arise and pass away. Our perceptions are constantly changing. Anything that is temporary, constantly changing, can’t be considered real, so in the truest sense we cannot be any of these things
If we are not a thought, feeling, sensation, or perception, we must be that which is aware of them. What else could we be? Do we exist prior to the arising of any of these temporary qualities of the body-mind-world? Of course. How else would we know when they appeared? And when any of them disappear, do we disappear along with them? No. Whatever we are is always ready to receive the next thought, sensation, etc. So we rightly conclude that our essential being is ever-present and aware, or an aware presence.
If we are ever-present awareness, where are we? Do we have a location in time in space?
Is awareness ever not present? No. It doesn’t come and go. There is never a time when we can say, ‘I am not present and aware,’ so it is not bound by time and therefore is eternal. Does awareness have any edge or boundary, where it comes to an end and something else begins? No. We can’t find any evidence that we, awareness, end and something else begins. We would obviously have to be present to make any such statement, which would negate itself. We are beyond space and therefore infinite.
If something is infinite and eternal, where is there room for two? There isn’t. And if we are not two, there can be no separation or division between subject and object, self and other, anyone or anything. As Sailor Bob Adamson is fond of saying, we are one without a second. We may have heard this many times before, but this is not just some poetic concept or sophisticated scientific theorem. This is our actual, unfiltered experience.
We, awareness, are prior to all thoughts, including the concepts of time and space. We are prior to feelings and sensations, prior to all perceptions. Yet we contain all thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and perceive all that occurs within the limited world of time and space. And finally, we are no thing that can be spoken of. We are just THIS – the stillness and silence, the empty fullness from which all manifestations of the world arise, are made of, and known by.
And THIS is liberation.