Who you are isn’t you. When you look into it clearly enough, and ‘dispassionately’ enough, this is what you will always find out – you will find out that ‘who you are isn’t you’.
We almost never do look into the matter closely enough of course – our attention is always ‘on the outside’, where we think all the action is, and as for being ‘dispassionate’ goes, we are very rarely this. We are – on the contrary – very strongly predisposed to want to find that we are ‘who we think we are’ and – this being the case – there’s nothing that’s ever going to change our minds on this score. If this is unconsciously what we want to find out, then it’s what we will find out. The universe always reflects our biases, after all, and the bias to find out that ‘we are you we think we are’ has got to be the strongest psychological bias going!
The universe is like a mirror, in other words. We might even go so far as to say that the universe is a mirror. ‘With our thoughts we make the world,’ the Buddha says. This isn’t a doctrine of solipsism though, however much it might sound like it. It isn’t a doctrine of solipsism because it is also true that there is no such thing as ‘myself’, or ‘the world that I make with my thinking’. This therefore takes the wind out of the sails of any would-be solipsist – it’s not that ‘I alone exist’, but rather that this whole business of ‘the world faithfully reflecting my cognitive biases’ never actually happens because I was never there in the first place.
More simply put, we could just say that the world is ‘a show’. It’s all ‘a show’, it’s all a ‘phantasmagorical display’ – including this perception that we have of ourselves. Not seeing that the show is only a show is our ‘primary blindness’, our ‘primary delusion’. Instead of seeing ourselves as being also part of the show – just like everything else is – we take ourselves totally for granted and this unconscious act of ‘taking the existence of the self totally for granted’ creates an illusionary basis from which to operate from, an illusionary basis from which we can ‘conduct all our affairs’. Taking the existence of the self totally for granted creates duality.
It is possible to ‘identify with the show’ therefore, and thereby concretise what was never concrete. The show is nothing concrete after all, it’s only a show! Saying that the world is ‘a show’ is just another way of saying that it is entirely provisional, entirely arbitrary. It doesn’t have to be that way at all – we make it be that way by the choices we make in how to look at it, we make it be that way with our ‘cognitive biases’. We make it ‘be that way’ with our thinking, as the Buddha has said. When we see any sort of certainty at all in the world, we see it because of the particular way we have ‘slanted our thinking’, or ‘constricted our viewpoint’. We ask ‘closed questions’ of the world so as to force it to come up with ‘definite answers’ and we never ever see ourselves doing this.
If we wanted to know if we were projecting our own fixed categories, our own ‘closed system of meaning’ on the world or not, then all we would have to do is take a moment to notice whether the type of world that we seem to be living in is the type of world that is made up of ‘knowable things’, if the type of world we seem to be living in is one that we appear to be able to make ‘definite statements’ about. If there is any sort of ‘matter of fact’ concreteness about the world then one thing that we can take from this – actually, the only thing we can take from this – is the clarity that this concreteness comes from us and not from anywhere else. We created it.
The other way of putting this is to say that if the world seems ‘boring, dull and lifeless’ to us then it’s not anyone else’s fault but our own! It’s our own labelling process that’s doing this. We are not relating to reality at all but only to our ‘thoughts about reality’ and that is another matter entirely. When we relate not to reality but only to our thoughts about reality then this is a ‘closed loop of logic’, this is a ‘closed system’, and it is only in a closed system that we can find certainty. Very clearly it is only in a closed system we can find certainty – certainty by its very nature is a ‘closed’ sort of thing! There can hardly be such a thing as ‘open-ended certainty’, after all. In an open system there are no ‘final meanings’ and this is why we can say that it is ‘open’. In an open system there is no certainty – the only way that certainty can come about is if we impose our own closed framework on what we see.
This brings us back to what we started off by saying – when we look into ‘the show’ closely enough – and dispassionately enough (i.e. with no bias in our looking) then we don’t find any of the things that we might have expected to find there. We don’t find anything of the precious certainty that we might have expected to find there. We don’t find anything knowable or quantifiable (or verifiable) there. And above all, we don’t find ourselves there! We can find ourselves in the show if we want to (we can find anything at all in the show if we look at in the right way so as to produce it) but there is no necessity to do so. We are free either to find ourselves there or not find ourselves there, but when we do find ourselves this is purely because of our unconscious bias towards doing so! If it’s the truth that you are interested in however– rather than the automatic and entirely spurious confirmation of your unconscious biases in the matter – then you won’t find yourself there. You won’t find yourself there because you’re not really there to find! You won’t find yourself there because – essentially – you’re not really you….