Every spiritual inquiry begins with this question, “If I am not the mind and not the body, then what am I, and what’s going on?” This fundamental existential question is the beginning of all spiritual seeking. Every question related to life and living eventually boils down to this question.
But there is another question that precedes this one. WHO WANTS TO KNOW?
The traditional Vedantic texts apparently use “I am not the body; I am not the mind” or Neti-Neti (not-this-not-this) as affirmations to arrive at the source of pure consciousness, which is our true nature. The philosophy behind it is that we create suffering for ourselves by identifying with the limited mind-body organism.
Every identification, like gender, profession, diet choices, religious and other beliefs, etc., stems from identification with the body. These identifications give rise to the illusion of “me,” which believes itself to the real, and hence, everything that the individual does is to strengthen the sense of this personal identification.
Therefore, this identification with “me” (or what is known as the ego-mind) becomes our greatest suffering because it believes itself to be the doer of all actions. It continually reinforces the idea that we are individuals living in the world of names and forms as separate entities.
Identified with the sense of separation, our actions are purely self-motivated. They become geared towards serving the ego by competing rather than creating peace and harmony through collaboration.
Individual existence is a painful one. Why? Because we know that the time is ticking and one day, the body will disintegrate. Therefore for “me,” the fear of death is the primal fear. The me-mind cannot sustain itself without the body. Our body is the gross expression of the subtle energy that appears as the mind. So, in essence, they are one and the same.
The ego-mind, identified with an outcome and taking ownership of its actions, creates pride and arrogance when it achieves the desired outcome; and creates guilt and remorse when it fails. Both of these create suffering in horizontal time as stories of individual success and failures.
You must have heard people boast of their past achievements, “I was so and so,” “had so much wealth,” “my ancestors were royalties,” and so on. Some cling to an imaginary future, “one day, I will achieve success. Then I will be happy.” In this movement between the past and the future, what gets missed is the joy of the present moment.
There is neither the past nor the future. They exist only in the individual as memory impressions. The future is a movement of the past only. In this moment or now, there is neither but only the presence or “being.”
Therefore, identifications, by themselves, have no independent reality outside the individual’s consciousness. We don’t need a mathematical formula to prove this. You can verify it right now at this moment.
Desire For Continuity
Identified with the limited mind-body organism, we desire permanency and continuity. That is why we have invented rebirth. It gives a false sense of security to the fearful mind. That there is something to look forward to after death – hell or heaven – both of these keep the ego-mind alive.
Religious organizations have invented hierarchies of heavens and hells to claim authority and righteousness. It is used to indoctrinate unsuspecting gullible minds into dogmas to exercise control over them. Therefore, such conditioned minds remain trapped between the desire for the heavens and aversion for the deepest hells.
Some think of creating indifference as a solution to escape the pain of attraction and aversion, but even that is a diversion of the ego-mind from the reality of the present moment. In fact, indifference can be more painful as it usually leads to emotional suppression. There has to be “someone” here to be indifferent. Do you see the paradox?
They assert that they know what actions are heaven worthy and what sins will lead us to hell. The written word of the scriptures is held as the highest and unquestionable authority. The Gurus and priests are declared infallible. They have instructions on everything, ranging from world economic problems to how you should drink water.
Recently, we have seen the emergence of a new-age spiritual movement that talks about unconditional love and light. And how you can manipulate the universe to manifest money and happiness for yourself. How you can energetically align your chakras to serve your personal desires.
The idea behind all these movements is to liberate the individual. However, individual liberation is an oxymoron. The individual identified with a sense of separate existence as name and form cannot be liberated. It is the nature of the mind to create divisions, which bring about conflicts.
The mind creates the idea of liberating the individual from the unending sorrows of life. So it creates two images: one of an individual that is suffering now and wants liberation as a solution, and another future image of a perfect human being without suffering, resting in eternal bliss. And if it can’t achieve liberation in this life, then there’s an afterlife. And thereafter, the chase for liberation begins.
The problem with repeating “not the mind, not the body” as an affirmation is that it still sustains the “I-thought” as “I am not.” Ramana Maharshi was critical of using affirmations to negate. Earlier, the identification was with “I am mind and body,” and afterward, a new identification forms as “I am not the mind and body.”
Our minds can be very tricky. There was a householder who left his wife after they had a troubled relationship for many years. He joined a monastic order renouncing all worldly life. Over time, people began revering him as a great Sage who exemplified courage and sacrifice for the greater good of humanity.
People would queue every morning to take his blessing. At last, he proclaimed that he was now a free man in complete control of his mind and senses. One day, he received the news that his long-forgotten wife had passed away in the city. And he said, “finally, she got what she deserved. Good riddance.”
Do you see how our minds can be so delusional? He left his wife physically, but even after all that time separated from her, he could not get rid of the poison he had for her in his mind. How can such a mind be free? All this while he held on to her and kept doing so even after she passed away.
Is Freedom of The Mind Possible?
Is there a possibility of ending the suffering of the thinking mind? Yes, there is a possibility, but “you,” the individual, is not in control of that. It will not happen by “your doing” anything but simply “being” the witness to what happens. I don’t know of any practice, method, or technique that can dissolve the sense of personal identification.
The witnessing itself exposes the ego-mind, which surrenders after knowing its illusory nature. It “sees” things for what they are rather than how they should or should not be, independent of the filtered perception of the individual. For most of our lives, we remain preoccupied with changing the course of life according to the personal understanding of it.
Surrender suspends the movement of the mind and brings forth the awareness of stillness which manifests as peace and harmony in daily living, irrespective of what’s happening externally. It does not imply that we never experience pain and suffering. The thing is that it’s horizontal propagation in time as suffering is cut-short.
The objective is not to get rid of the identifications but to witness them in the light of a non-judgment and non-discriminating awareness, which sees them for what they are. Life as we know is impossible without identifications. Therefore, we need them for interpersonal interactions.
I am not my identifications. They are there in consciousness to allow the experience of living. I am pure consciousness. I am not concerned with what dissolves and what remains. I simply watch and allow the consciousness to bring forth the reality. Just like a mother putting her child to sleep becomes one with her, I let the consciousness put my ego-mind to sleep to become “one” with it.
When the identifications dissolve, the pleasure experienced in the moment is fully experienced without the mind giving rise to pride, and similarly, the pain experienced in the moment is also fully experienced without giving rise to guilt. To conclude, mind and body are apparent happenings in consciousness. They have no existence outside consciousness.
The body is the consciousness experiencing itself as a dense reality, and the same consciousness experiences the mind as a subtle reality. It is the substratum behind all realities that cannot be grasped by the individual but can only be realized in its absence.
The above article is a sample from my latest book – The End of “Me & My Story.” You can get it here on Amazon.