To Know What you Are, Find What you Are Not
Your way of describing the universe as consisting of matter,
mind and spirit is one of
many. There are other patterns to which the universe is
expected to conform, and one is at a
to know which pattern is true and which is not. One ends in
suspecting that all patterns are only
and that no pattern can contain reality. According to you,
reality consists of three expanses:
expanse of matter-energy (mahadakash), the expanse of
consciousness (chidakash) and of
spirit (paramakash). The first is something that has both
movement and inertia. That we
We also know that we perceive -- we are conscious and also
aware of being conscious.
we have two: matter-energy and consciousness. Matter seems to
be in space while energy is
in time, being connected with change and measured by the rate
of change. Consciousness
to be somehow here and now, in a single point of time and
space. But you seem to suggest
consciousness too is universal -- which makes it timeless,
spaceless and impersonal. I can
understand that there is no contradiction between the timeless
and spaceless and the
and now, but impersonal consciousness I cannot fathom. To me
consciousness is always
centred, individualised, a person. You seem to say that there
can be perceiving without a
knowing without a knower, loving without a lover, acting
without an actor. I feel that the
of knowing, knower and known can be seen in every movement of
life. Consciousness implies
conscious being, an object of consciousness and the fact of
being conscious. That which is
I call a person. A person lives in the world, is a part of it,
affects it and is affected by it.
Why don't you enquire how real are the world and the person?
Oh, no! I need not enquire. Enough if the person is not less
real than the world in which the
Then what is the question?
Are persons real, and universals conceptual, or are universals
real and persons imaginary?
Neither are real.
Surely, I am real enough to merit your reply and I am a
Not when asleep.
Submergence is not absence. Even though asleep, I am.
To be a person you must be self-conscious. Are you so always?
Not when I sleep, of course, nor when I am in a swoon, or
During your waking hours are you continually self-conscious?
No, Sometimes I am absent-minded, or just absorbed.
Are you a person during the gaps in self-consciousness?
Of course I am the same person throughout. I remember myself
as I was yesterday and yester
-- definitely, I am the same person.
So, to be a person, you need memory?
And without memory, what are you?
Incomplete memory entails incomplete personality. Without
memory I cannot exist as a person.
Surely you can exist without memory. You do so -- in sleep.
Only in the sense of remaining alive. Not as a person.
Since you admit that as a person you have only intermittent
existence, can you tell me what are
in the intervals in between experiencing yourself as a person?
I am, but not as a person. Since I am not conscious of myself
in the intervals, I can only say
I exist, but not as a person.
Shall we call it impersonal existence?
I would call it rather unconscious existence; I am, but I do
not know that I am.
You have said just now: 'I am, but I do not know that I am'.
Could you possibly say it about your
in an unconscious state?
No, I could not.
You can only describe it in the past tense: 'I did not know. I
was unconscious', in the sense of
Having been unconscious, how could I remember and what?
Were you really unconscious, or you just do not remember?
How am I to make out?
Consider. Do you remember every second of yesterday?
Of course, not.
Were you then unconscious?
Of course, not.
So, you are conscious and yet you do not remember?
Maybe you were conscious in sleep and just do not remember.
No, I was not conscious. I was asleep. I did not behave like a
Again, how do you know?
I was told so by those who saw me asleep.
All they can testify to is that they saw you lying quietly
with closed eyes and breathing regularly.
could not make out whether you were conscious or not. Your
only proof is your own memory.
very uncertain proof it is!
Yes, I admit that on my own terms I am a person only during my
waking hours. What I am in
I do not know.
At least you know that you do not know! Since you pretend not
to be conscious in the intervals
the waking hours, leave the intervals alone. Let us consider
the waking hours only.
I am the same person in my dreams.
Agreed. Let us consider them together waking and dreaming. The
difference is merely in
Were your dreams consistently continuous, bringing back night
after night the same
and the same people, you would be at a loss to know which is
the waking and which
the dream. Henceforward, when we talk of the waking state, we
shall include the dream state too.
Agreed. I am a person in a conscious relation with a world.
Are the world and the conscious relation with it essential to
your being a person?
Even immersed in a cave, I remain a person.
It implies a body and a cave. And a world in which they can
Yes. I can see. The world and the consciousness of the world
are essential to my existence as
This makes the person a part and parcel of the world, or vice
versa. The two are one.
Consciousness stands alone. The person and the world appear in
You said: appear. Could you add: disappear?
No, I cannot. I can only be aware of my and my world's
appearance. As a person, I cannot say:
world is not'. Without a world I would not be there to say it.
Because there is a world, I am there
say: 'there is a world'.
Maybe it is the other way round. Because of you, there is a
To me such statement appears meaningless.
Its meaninglessness may disappear on investigation.
Where do we begin?
All I know is that whatever depends, is not real. The real is
truly independent. Since the
of the person depends on the existence of the world and it is
circumscribed and defined
the world, it cannot be real.
It cannot be a dream, surely.
Even a dream has existence, when it is cognised and enjoyed,
or endured. Whatever you think
feel has being. But it may not be what you take it to be. What
you think to be a person may be
I am what I know myself to be.
You cannot possibly say that you are what you think yourself
to be! Your ideas about yourself
from day to day and from moment to moment. Your self-image is
the most changeful thing
have. It is utterly vulnerable, at the mercy of a passer by. A
bereavement, the loss of a job, an
and your image of yourself, which you call your person,
changes deeply. To know what you
you must first investigate and know what you are not. And to
know what you are not you must
yourself carefully, rejecting all that does not necessarily go
with the basic fact: 'I am'. The
I am born at a given place, at a given time, from my parents
and now I am so-and-so, living
married to, father of, employed by, and so on, are not
inherent in the sense 'I am'. Our usual
is of 'I am this'. Separate consistently and perseveringly the
'I am' from 'this' or 'that', and try
feel what it means to be, just to be, without being 'this' or
'that'. All our habits go against it and the
of fighting them is long and hard sometimes, but clear
understanding helps a lot. The clearer
understand that on the level of the mind you can be described
in negative terms only, the
you will come to the end of your search and realise your