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This Self is That which has been described as Not this,

not this.
It is imperceptible, for It is not perceived; undecaying, for
It never decays; unattached, for It is never attached;
unfettered, for It never feels pain and never suffers injury.
Him who knows this, these two thoughts do not
overcome: For this I did an evil deed and For this I did a
good deed.
He overcomes both. Things done or not done do not
afflict him. (Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad, 4.4.22)

Some important questions that may arise


What is the Self (tman) that the ancient Indian scriptures talk about?
Where and how can It be found? In other words: Who am I?

The fictions that you used to think of as real


In order to answer these questions, or at least to find out whether they can be answered at
all, we first have to make an enquiry into what the Self is not.
The following enumeration, drawn-up almost randomly, is meant to illustrate the practical
and psychological implications of this statement (i.e. Neti, neti), whose aim is to integrate
human consciousness into a larger dimension that transcends all categories of thought.
Therefore: You are not the things you are able to think or believe to be you. So, do not
believe everything you think and do not think everything you believe to be the true. Thinking
is a tool through which one can only deny that which one isnt.

You are not your name, nor are you your physical appearance, nor your mental image, nor
your mind projections about yourself. You are neither your mind nor its functions. You're not
any of the representations of your mind.
You are not your thoughts, feelings, emotions, nor your moods whatsoever. You are no thing
that arises and subsides in this empty space of your consciousness.
You are neither your social nor your biological function. You are neither your physical body
nor its multiple sensory organs and motor functions. You're not a child, you're not young,
you're not old, and youre neither a man nor a woman. You are not your profession; neither
are you the father nor the mother, son, daughter, husband, wife. You're not the friend, the
lover, the enemy, the partner. You are not the relationship with the others, with the
environment, with God. You are neither your religion nor your ideas, nor your faith, nor your
religious beliefs. You're not an ideology, a doctrine whatsoever. You are neither your social
status nor your social and professional accomplishments, nor are you your responsibilities
as a family member. You are neither your reputation nor are you the failures.
You're not one and the same with your ethnicity, race and species where you think you
belong. These memberships, associations and allegiances are temporary, contingent and
conventional.
You are neither your memories nor your experiences, be they pleasant or painful, nor are
you your plans for the future. Neither pleasure nor pain, nor desire, nor dreams, nor despair,
nor fear, nor hope.
No gain, no loss and no retribution can ever affect That who you really are.
You're not any of the comfortable things which you have surrounded with nor your daily
habits, good or bad, you are none of that which is known and familiar. You are neither your
material possessions nor your theoretical knowledge, nor the books you've read, nor your
information, nor the languages that you speak. You are not the professional qualifications
that you have, nor are you the academic status that you have managed to acquire with such
big efforts.
You are no thing, no knowledge, and no characteristic that can ever be acquired,
possessed, learned and understood.
You havent been born on the date printed on your birth certificate nor will you die on the
date that will be printed on your death certificate.
You are neither your physical nor moral strengths, nor weaknesses. You are not one and the
same with your vices and virtues, sins or pious deeds.

All of these are but your vehicles, layers and sheaths.


You do not have any feature that can be expressed otherwise than through metaphors.
Words can only render those transitional forms that are projected within the space of
consciousness.
Whatever you believe or think you are, you're not.
And never will you be.
An ancient reductionist approach
Who are you, then?
An ordinary human identity revolves around the characteristics listed above. One cannot
know oneself unless he/she drops off any sense of identity derived therefrom. When you no
longer identify yourself with these layers, sheaths and clothes, the pure Consciousness that
remains after you have dropped away all forms and concepts that come and go - that pure
Consciousness with no content and shapeless - thats you. But can you think of it? Of
course not. However, these are the implications of the neti, neti epistemological approach
quoted at the beginning of this essay. It doesnt address the rational mind but rather the
intuition.
"Neti, neti" means not this, not this or neither this nor that and represents one of the
great statements of Brihad - Aranyaka Upanishad (c.8th century BCE). It explicitly arrives
to this conclusion: the absolute can only be expressed and experienced by progressively
subtracting all elements pertaining to the relative phenomenal existence. All that remains
after this reductionist and apophatic operation is Atman, which is the same with the Soul,
the Spirit or the Self. Everything else is more or less illusory and ultimately, the whole
universe is just a thought that arises in the Supreme Consciousness of Brahman.
The mind has an enormous and at the same time subtle power to design fictitious realities,
however, the illusory existence is not in fact synonymous with non-existence or non-reality,
it is rather some kind of adjacent, accessory, dependent or relative reality, which varies
according to the level of Self-awareness or Consciousness. So, the ontology of the
Upanishads is entirely epistemological, meaning that Consciousness (cit) is one and the
same with Being (sat) and consequently, the different worlds (gods, humans, animal and
plant lives, mineral substances etc.) acquire their different levels of reality only to the
extent to which they are informed by this transpersonal, universal Consciousness. The
Sanskrit word my was translated as illusion in the western world and this is the common
standard that I use, but a more precise rendering would be non-autonomous reality or
dependent existence. The so-called visible existence is not entirely a creation of the mind,
as it is usually understood, since projecting is not one and the same with creating. The

mind is only a lens which distorts the light of the Self, or of the all-pervasive Consciousness.
Even the so-called ego is not entirely created from scratch by the mind and thereby it is
not purely non-existent, the ego is only the confusion between the intellect or any other
fragment of phenomenal reality and the Self in other words the Self, but the Self as seen
through a distorting lens (i.e. the intellect) Self as the World. These fragments of reality
and mind projections represent the basic stuff out of which the apparent Self, or the Ego, is
made out of. The ego is your identification with fragments of reality, waves emerging on the
surface of the Ocean of Being. As an example: only the ego can state This is my body,
this thought and/or this knowledge is mine, my reputation, I have a headache etc. This
sense o I do or I have is in fact the ego. A correct perception of all phenomena, from the
Upanishadic viewpoint, would be lacking any feeling of possession or any personal
involvement: There is pain in this head instead of Ive got a headache and so on. So,
when making a careful enquiry, you will find that all of your thoughts and emotions, and the
sense of I-ness on top of them, arise in this dimension of time and that they are
impermanent. They are born and they disappear shortly thereafter.
These conclusions that I merely transcribe in the form of a short essay cannot be reached
by a purely theoretical approach, but only by a thorough in-depth, introspective exercise,
which is called enquiry into the nature of the Self (Skr. tma-vicra). Ramana Maharshi, one
of the great Indian saints of the 20th century was the one to bring to the western mainstream
audience the ancient reductionist technique of self-enquiry, even authoring a short treatise
called Self-Enquiry (Vichara-Samgraha). Both the method of Self-Enquiry and the spiritual
magnitude of its proponent reached the western readers in 1934, when Paul Brunton
published his book In Search of Secret India, which recounts the authors meeting with R.
Maharshi in 1931. The technique of self-enquiry is not a metaphysical argumentation, but
an experiential intuitive vision, involving all resources, potentialities and energies of the
human psyche. As an example of the deep spiritual transformation which is envisaged by
this method, I reproduce below the account of Maharishis personal spiritual experience as
quoted by a visitor in 1945. This is how Maharshi, in a vision of death, had experienced that
pure essence of the human being that undergoes neither death nor decay, called Atman,
Self, Soul or Spirit:
In the vision of death, though all the senses were benumbed, the aham
sphurana (Self-awareness) was clearly evident, and so I realized that it
was that awareness that we call "I", and not the body. This Selfawareness never decays. It is unrelated to anything. It is Self-luminous.
Even if this body is burnt, it will not be affected. Hence, I realized on that
very day so clearly that that was "I"
The method described by R. Maharshi follows the Indian tradition, being one essentially
experimental and aiming to drive the awareness of the individual to his inner essence, the
Self (soul, tman), which, paradoxically, is one and the same with that very awareness.

It should be noted that although the Indian mind can feel perfectly comfortable in the area of
pure metaphysical speculation, yet achieving those great truths discovered by generations
of rishis within the innermost space of the human psyche is a dominant feature of Indian
spirituality. The Self-knowledge, in the sense of transcending any conditioned reality, which
is synonymous with the realization of the Unconditioned that is actually beyond the
individual, is the ultimate goal of any philosophical school and of any religious endeavor in
India.
Although the Self, like God him-(or it-)self, defies any attempt of conceptualization, we can
still say, in a pretty relative and conventionalist manner, that the Self is that which never dies
in the human being, that the Self is in fact the very human being, or, even more appropriate,
the being component of the human being. Other synonymous concepts are in use in the
western world: soul, spirit, consciousness, super-conscious, trans-conscious, transpersonal,
overself, oversoul. Author and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, for instance, who confessed
that his teaching is a coming together of the teachings of R. Maharshi and J. Krishnamurti,
calls the same essence (as synonymous terms) sacredness, spaciousness, being, one life,
awareness, peace, stillness, formless, source, energy. So, its the same ancient
Upanishadic truth expressed in different words, all of which are, of course, metaphors.
Since the Self is by its very essence undefinable, the Upanishads often make effective use
of negation, in order to deduct, first of all, that what the Self is not. The ancient Vedntic
method promoted by R. Maharshi, the Self-enquiry, resorts to a reductionist process: the
Self is "found" by preliminarily and gradually denying whatever the Self is not, starting with
ones physical body and the automatic stream of thinking.
R. Maharshis own words as quoted in P. Bruntons book convey the essence of his
teachings:
Trace thought to its place of origin, watch for the real self to
reveal itself, and then your thoughts will die down of their own
accord.
Freedom of thought from an Indian perspective
Form an Indian perspective, freedom as a socio-political goal only reenacts on a visible
level the actual and deep truth of the spiritual freedom or moks a. To a western reader of
Indias philosophies, it is this astonishing discrepancy between our freedom of thought and
Indias freedom from thought that can make one reconsider almost entirely ones life
perspective. The bondage has no social sources - it is identical with psychological
conditioning, having as primordial cause the nescience, avidy. As a consequence, the
inner experience of release is synonymous with experiencing on an individual and very
concrete level the deconditioning of the mind, which is always seen as the device or vehicle
of spiritual transformation.

The trouble with the so-called ordinary thought processes is that the thinker is thought by
his/her thoughts and he/she is not a thinker, in fact, because the fluctuating attention
running incessantly from past to future and from thought to thought recreates again and
again ones identity around each impermanent fragment of reality, to the extent to which the
thinker can no longer be perceived as an active handler of mental processes, but a
passive victim, a divided consciousness who dries out by repeatedly taking up the transient
form of thoughts and virtually incarnating in thoughts. Very often, the mind is entirely
trapped in thoughts, which can become energy leeches and ultimately, in pathological
cases, mind-killers. This is how the normal thinking operates. So, there is no freedom of
thought in our daily lives and no social uprising or reform can bring it about.
Real freedom cannot be found unless we can manage somehow to recognize, and to abide
in, that state of freedom that pre-exist all thoughts and remains ever unaffected by them.
And yet, people nurture this illusion they can think freely. This is a core statement in any
bill of rights and in every constitution: freedom of thought. But in fact, no constitution can
bring about or protect this freedom of thought, because people do not think, they are only
being thought by their own thoughts. Freedom from thought would have to be obtained
before achieving freedom of thought. Usually, the individual is driven by his/her
unconscious mind patterns and imprints that emerge into the manifested, apparently
conscious mind, in the shape of these unstoppable thoughts. Furthermore, these
unconsciously-born thoughts determine peoples unconscious behaviors. They may seem
conscious, from a psychological point of view, however, the way one acts is conditioned by
billions of past conditioning imprints. There can be no freedom, unless some form of release
supersedes the mind conditioning. Realizing the Unconditioned or de-programming the
mind is the main goal of any of Indias philosophies and religions, for thousands of years.
The search for freedom of thought is a spiritual quest, not a political agenda. And its also a
heroic adventure, because the old egoic self has to be sacrificed. It has to die in order to
release the sacred light from inside, which is called the Self of Indian philosophy and
religion, tman. Without freedom of thought there is no freedom at all, this is a universal
truth, but the real freedom of thought means that you are able to think whenever and
whatever it is truly beneficial, as it were, the real freedom of thought cannot be gained prior
to obtaining the freedom from thought. Usual thoughts arise automatically and
unconsciously and they are very often repetitive, unproductive or even toxic overflowing
reverberations of your mind.

Thresholds of Awareness
A well-known mantra in Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad defines the essence of this teaching:
Lead me from the unreal to the real.

From darkness lead me to light.


From death lead me to immortality. (1,3,28)
Ones salvation, in Indias principal philosophies and religions, resides in simply knowing
ones true Self, ones innermost nature. The conclusion that was reached by ancient India is
that there is a consciousness that transcends all thoughts and forms and all minds and in
the absence of which there is no mind, no thought, no name, no form. In India, this
consciousness pre-exists thought, mind, matter and energy and at the same time, sustains
them all. There is no own light in the human brains or in the human mind. The light of the
brains or the minds reflexivity is the same with the light of the moon, which only reflects the
light of the sun. So, the brain is the vehicle for the mind, which in turn is only a tiny reflection
of the absolute consciousness in this space-time dimension. This view was clearly pointed
out in the classical yoga system of Patajali:
The mind is not self-illuminating, as it can [also] be perceived
[in its own right] as an object of knowledge. (Patajali, YogaStra, 4,19)
This is why the space between two consecutive thoughts is sometimes indicated as one of
the gateways unto ones inner eternal dimension.
You derive your sense of identity from your thoughts. This is the disease, i.e. the rootproblem to be solved by any Indian philosophical system. Disease means in fact normal
human condition. In most cases, a metaphysical system or a religious path is purposefully
designed as some kind of cure or therapy for the universal illness of ignorance (avidy),
which is the main cause of all human misery (duh kha). The Buddha himself taught his
method as some kind of therapy. The following stra is ascribed to him: I teach one thing
and one thing only: suffering and the end of suffering, which is very consistent with his
teachings, even though his authorship of this aphorism is under debate.
The self-enquiry therapy begins by questioning the solidity and the absolute reality of
thought. Whenever the mind gets involuntary dragged into this stream of thoughts,
constantly generating anxiety and unhappiness, this automatic flow is blocked by
introversion, by repeatedly turning the mind inwardly, into its own source, using such
queries as: "To whom does this thought, this care, this problem occur?" In other words: who
is that witness (Skr. saks in), who is that still awareness that is able to experience the
turmoil?
Gradually, one becomes able to see that every thought has an ephemeral life - that is, a
second-hand existence, and the mind itself is "colored" by this incessant flow of thoughts
that come and go and bring about a false sense of "I"-ness, which is the source of human
suffering of all kinds (from the simplest, short-lived missing the bus dissatisfaction to the
extreme tragedies).

Thoughts come and go like tiny clouds on the sky. The trouble with ordinary thinking is that
it automatically leads you into believing that clouds are very solid and very durable, that
they are long lasting structures. But they are not. They are only appearances.
We can look upon this spiritual evolutionary process underwent by human consciousness
getting the witness perspective as a series of ever ascending, spiraling thresholds of
awareness. From the impersonal IT perception of things, going on through the personal
YOU perspective, the human consciousness undergoes an in-depth metamorphosis and
finally arrives to a THOU perception of reality, wherefrom it can open up to the
transpersonal sacredness of each being and each thing. Each threshold is true and
necessary in its own right and its system of references (even the level of consciousness
that makes you believe that you are a physical body) provided that every superior stage
incorporates harmoniously and creatively the previous one. So, the higher you climb on this
spiritual spiraling stair-case, your vision will always integrate the lower levels, making you
capable of empathy or compassion as you carry within you the deep and thorough
understanding of the previous steps. This integrating witnessing perspective makes you
able to teach the spiritual path to others, as you become able to understand each system of
references, each degree of reality and each corresponding stage of self-awareness.
This transformation of consciousness begins at the lowest level, when one sees him/herself
as identical with the thought processes and mental images, as this false identification leads
to stress, anxiety or even terrible suffering. The suffering is the ignition or the triggering
event in any spiritual awakening and this is why in India ignorance and suffering dont have
the usual malefic connotation of the sin of the Christianity. The suffering has no evil person
or event in the background. The current human condition is not the result of any primeval
sin or fall, but of the primeval ignorance, which is a very metaphysical and psychological
approach. In Eastern terms, you are not capable of becoming aware of yourself because
you are permanently dragged away by your noisy thoughts, which cloud your real self to
the extent to which you perceive yourself as being in fact, your mind-created image of
yourself.
So, this is when one crosses the first threshold of awareness, the jumping-off point: when
one can step out of ones stream of thinking and becomes able to see ones own thoughts
and body, as a witness, observer or a dispassionate watcher. When you find out that your
thinking and your body are not who you truly are, your hidden spiritual light is ready to
emerge and the transformation of your consciousness is unstoppable. By continuously
returning the mind unto its own source, this avalanche of thoughts subsides and finally
disappears, coming back again only when the thoughts are really useful, when they are
summoned, so to speak.
In the front of the first threshold of awareness, you are able to be aware that a thought was
a mere thought only after the thought has passed away. Its only the beginning, but its a
realization of the uttermost importance. This first step can be called anamnestic awareness.
In the next step, which I call synchronic awareness, you are able to recognize the thought

for what it is as it shows up. In the following stage, which can be called anticipatory
awareness, you will be able to foresee the thought that is about to emerge and you become
an observer, a non-attached witness. And also you can recognize a toxic or negative
thought for what it is even before it arises, and become able to stop it beforehand. By
constantly cultivating such a progressive witnessing perspective one can arrive to a unified
field of consciousness, which is a concept that I obviously borrowed from physics. In this
step, ones all-pervasive consciousness becomes one and the same with the Totality, with
the Whole or with the One. So, the separation process of the witness-consciousness, which
becomes aware of itself as a no-thought, no-thing, no-object etc., ends up as a unifying
force which integrates everything, including ones own body and mind processes. In this
stage you are not a particular thought or a particular thing or a state of mind, but the
Wholeness in which all things and thoughts arise and pass away. You can then act from the
perspective of an unconditioned consciousness, undisturbed by that which is happening in
this time-space dimension, which is only its surface and from that still point that is the hub
of the whirling existence, where the motion (i.e. time) and the motionless (i.e. eternity) coexist. Things done or not done do not afflict him means that for those to whom the selfawareness has stabilized, the space-time dimension, the visible word, is perceived only as
the manifestation of the invisible, unchanging Self, which remains ever unaffected by what
happens at its surface.
The illusion (my) has two main powers (akti): the first power of my is the obscuring
and concealing power (varan a), which blocks the auto-reflexivity of consciousness
whereas the second power is the projecting power (vikps epa) which replaces the selfawareness with the mental images of the universe and the forms of transient states of mind
or thoughts. By reflecting itself in this tiny pond, the absolute consciousness obscures
itself. This is the so-called obscuring, clouding, veiling or covering (lit. varan a) power
of my, which prevents you from being aware of your own awareness, followed by the
projecting power of my, which leads you into perceiving yourself as a mental image, a
thought, a transitory state of consciousness, a physical body, a social identity and so forth
(as listed at the beginning of this post). In order to reveal yourself, your real Self, you will
have to reverse the whole process. The veil that clouds the awareness of ones real self and
replaces it with the mental projections is called superimposition (adhysa). The spiritual
technique of self-enquiry aims to reversing the superimposition by deconstructing and
removing (apavda) the inconsistent pseudo-reality created by thought.
When the Consciousness objectifies itself as a visible form, or, in other words, when the
consciousness experiences itself as a temporal reality, only then can It be conceptualized.
When the One Consciousness reveals itself as an object or a thought, it paradoxically and
simultaneously obscures itself. This is why it is so hard to see beyond the world of dancing
and playing forms (Skr. rpa) and concepts (Skr. nama), the underlying reality. However,
the objectified, the manifested or the visible aspect of reality, as a whole, in other words, this
dance of my represents, for India, just a symbolic representation of the absolute Being or

the Unmanifested, that vibrates both through this phenomenal existence and as this
phenomenal existence.
This is in fact a vision that will be later developed in a masterpiece: The Bhagavad-Gt, the
gatherer of the core principles of all Hindu thought. The same paradoxical vision is
summarized by H. Zimmer in his marvelous work Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and
Civilization:
Regarded from the viewpoint of the Divine itself (a position
attained in the enlightenment of yoga), the apparently
contradictory aspects of existence creation, duration,
dissolution are one and the same as to origin and meaning and
end. They are the changing phenomenal self-expressions of the
one divine substance or energy of life, which, though revealed in
a threefold way, is finally beyond, and unaffected by, all the
changes that it seems to inflict upon itself. The understanding of
this unity is the goal of Hindu wisdom () Hindu wisdom, Hindu
religion, accepts the doom and forms of death as the dark-tones
of a cosmic symphony, this tremendous music being the
utterance, paradoxically, of the supreme quietude and silence of
the Absolute.
In other words, the relative world of my as a whole is a metaphorical rendering of the
absolute, which is the Self.
The mind itself, as the entire contingent existence is a vibration (Skr. spandita) of the
unmanifested consciousness. The mind is reabsorbed back into the unmanifested
consciousness during deep sleep, coma or death, or during the state of rapture (the mystic
trance, ecstasy or smadhi), in the same way that ripples merge with the ocean whence
they sprang up. The ripples are only apparent and impermanent vibrations of the ocean and
have no distinctive existence apart from the existence of the ocean. From the point of view
of Advaita Vednta, which is the official, so to speak, philosophy of the Hinduism, the ripples
have only an illusory or secondary existence. "What exists in truth is the Self alone. The
world, the individual soul, and God are appearances in it. [R. Maharshi, Who Am I?" (Nan
Yar?)].
This simile of the waves or ripples on the surface of the water is frequent in the school of
Vednta and it is always used in order to illustrate how the my can occur in the mind.
The mind grasps only fragments of reality and believes them to be true. But reality is true
only when perceived as a whole, as the ocean, and false when the fragments, ripple,
waves, i.e. objects or thoughts are perceived as autonomous entities and not recognized
for what they are: vibrations within the unique consciousness.

Thou Art That


After the reality of all this mind-constructed order has been denied, all that remains is the
space of the consciousness canvas on which there are painted all these physical
phenomena and impermanent states of consciousness. This space is synonymous with
Self-awareness, the spirit, the soul, the imperishable essence, Atman. That's you. Tat twam
Asi, as its been said in Chandogya Upanisad, 6,8,7. (Now, that which is the subtle
essencein it all that exists has its Self. That is the True. That is the Self. That thou art,
Svetaketu).
This is the road pointed out by the great sages who authored the Upanishads: from the
supreme reductionist negation ("neti, neti "=neither this nor that) of Brihad - Aranyaka
Upanishad, to the ultimate affirmation ("tat twam asi"=thou art that) in Chandogya
Upanishad, without them being in any way contradictory, since all this road of spiritual
awakening consists of crossings of successive thresholds of awareness and layers of
reality.
All these steps and thresholds reveal, one after another, new and larger dimensions of the
same reality, which, although unchangeable as such, vibrates in different frequencies. Every
new threshold opens you up to a fresh perspective, which encompasses also the
perspectives gained in the previous stages. So, all these thresholds are true and necessary
in their own way and constitute parts of an evolutionary process.
Looked upon as a part, you might appear as identical with any of the entities and
characteristics listed at the beginning of this essay. They all are but mere fragmentary
undulations of the one consciousness that transcends time and space, which is beyond any
name and form but without which, however, there can be no form, no name, no action and
no energy. Therefore you are, ultimately, all these things, too. Only, they are all, together,
entirely, within you, because you are this One Life or Totality that temporarily wears a
human cloth, a human body. All this big Universe stretches in you and Thou Art That. You
are unstirred; you are ever still, although these raging colossal forms of existence unfold
within you.
Ignorance derives from one tendency to identify oneself with one or another particular
component of the phenomenal universe, which generates feelings of alienation, separation
and fragmentation. When you no longer identify yourself with this name, with this form, with
a physical shape, a mental imprint, when you no longer consider yourself as an individual, a
person, you are merged with the totality of existence. This is why, in the non-dualistic view
of the Upanishads, jvtman or the Self (the individual soul) is identical with Brahman, the
totality or the supreme Self (adhytman, paramatman) or God.
When you realize the illusory existence (as separate entities) of names ("nama) , forms
(rpa) and actions (karman), you cease to identify yourself (or your Self) with those

separate and relative aspects of an absolute existence and henceforth the individual
consciousness is reabsorbed in this Totality, in the same way in which the river merges with
the ocean toward which it flows.
This is liberation, moks a.
Beyond being and non-being, where nothingness and wholeness merge
This is the great Indian paradox in which two Upanishadic statements, apparently opposite,
coalesce, a standard coincidence of opposites in the sense that the supreme negation
equals to the supreme affirmation if and insofar they are properly understood, as pointers to
the same reality. The absolute reality reveals itself and obscures itself at the same time, as
every manifested phenomena emerging from the unmanifested underlying reality represents
simultaneously the coverage and the indication of the transcendent source. The veiling
power of my is identical, from another perspective, with the revealing power of my. The
manifested reality is the vehicle that could take us to the unmanifested. In fact, this is a
function of symbols in general and Indian creation myths express the same truth, but on a
larger scale, as pointed out above this whole relative creation is only a symbolic
expression of the Absolute or the dream in the absolute consciousness, which is sometimes
personified by Vishnu, whose dream is this whole visible existence.
So, from the standpoint of the paradoxical and apophatic approach of the Upanishads, the
boundaries between such categories as being and non-being tend to be erased. Neither
this nor that of Brihad Aranyaka Upanisad equals to Thou Art That of Chandogya
Upanishad, since the absolute existence transcends all categories of thought, including
being and non-being. When you say you're nothing, nothingness or no-thing-ness, this
might appear as the way of the Buddha, which is no coincidence at all, because Buddhas
birth some one or two hundred years after Brihad Aranyaka Upanisha is no mere accident.
The nothingness concept is deeply rooted in the apophatic vision of the Upanishads and
this is true with the Buddhas teaching itself. The Buddhas emptiness or nyat is a
way of expressing the same paradoxical merging of being and non-being.
Furthermore, in Buddhist terms, when you say that you're nothing (no-thing), when there is
no subject of the drama of the existence, nor is there any sense of I, moreover, no Self,
no soul, nothing can be lost, nothing can be found, yes, this can be a liberating feeling.
Maybe this annoying question would yet persist: To whom is this feeling liberating, if I am
nowhere to be found, if Im gone to the yonder shore? The answer is that this final question
is irrelevant, so long as the liberating feeling is there. A liberating feeling is the ultimate goal
of any religious experience and not a conceptual truth.
This is the crossroad of two apparently opposite views: Hinduism (The Upanishads,
Bhagavad Gt, Vedanta Stra etc.), which posits a soul or an immortal Self, on one hand
and Buddhism, on the other hand, which asserts that there is no such thing as the Self, but
only an aggregate or composite structure consisting of ever fleeting but nonetheless ever

interconnected thoughts, lacking any inner essence or Self. This means that there are no
entities, there are only processes.
The distinction between the Upanishadic Hinduism that posits an all-integrating immortal
Self and the Self-denying Buddhism is only apparent; they just use different symbols and
metaphors for the same truth. The consciousness within you that rejoices at the idea that
you are no-thing-ness and the feeling just as liberating that says that you are the immortal
Self, is one and the same.
Probably, Im not the only one to owe to Ramana Maharshi this intuitive, paradoxical
understanding of being and non-being, which had been originally stated in the Upanishads,
but which becomes evident after your read the almost obsessive references he made to the
experience of deep sleep since apparently there is neither experiencer nor experience
whatsoever during the state of dreamless sleep. Ramana Maharshi stated again and again
that if you look a little bit closer, there is a memory of the deep sleep. His method, as I said
earlier, was simple: focusing the unified flow of consciousness on the experiencer instead of
the experience. This practice of refocusing on the experiencer leads you to the intuitive
experience of a consciousness beyond and underneath deep sleep, coma, death, being and
non-being, which in Mandukya Upanishad is called turiya, or the fourth [state of
consciousness]. The fourth state of consciousness is the essence, the seed or the
unconditioned-Consciousness manifesting as the Self in the three states of waking, dream
and dreamless sleep. In other words, it takes a consciousness beyond being and non-being
for one to be able to experience even the non-being or, more properly said, to be aware of
the non-being, of the no-experience and no-thought. By pointing out to the thoughtless (and
apparently unconscious) experience of the deep sleep R. Maharshi was trying to
demonstrate that there is a common ground for both being and non-being, reality and
illusion, that its possible to actually experience the non-being, as a detached observer
residing in the background awareness which lies underneath the waking state, the
dreaming and dreamless sleep, coma and even death. I know that his arguments isnt
infallible, but still, it proves, on one hand, that ancient Indias meditation techniques
explored thoroughly the apparently unfathomable depth of the human psyche and that no
conceptual and therefore relative truth can describe what these generations of rishis have
actually discovered in themselves.
As a conclusion, this undefinable Consciousness in which the Buddhist thought that you're
nothing (or no-thing) was projected is the same Consciousness on which the Hindu thought
that you are everything (or every-thing or all things) was projected.
You are this Consciousness.