In meeting with people these past 33 years, I have been asked many thousands of questions by seekers of truth from all walks of life. But really the questions can be boiled down to three: Why? as in, “I faced my fear, and it was revealed to be non-existent. Why did it come back again?” How? as in, “How can I stop suffering?” or “How is it that I betray myself?” And finally, Who? That is a question of a different order.
Why is a question made for mental activity. There is nothing wrong with that. Why is where the mind can run the fastest in all directions. When you ask why, you begin to search for answers, and you will find millions of years of accumulated theories, speculations, possibilities, and counter-possibilities. There is the Eastern understanding of why, the Western understanding of why, the atheist understanding of why, the rational, scientific understanding of why, the Gnostic understanding of why, the Christian understanding of why, and so on. And then there is the splintering of all those answers, over and over, into infinity.
The question How? deepens the mind's search so that the very structure of the mind begins to be revealed—its habits, its fixations, its tendencies, and its beliefs. When someone asks me, “How? How can I be free? How can I stop my mind? How do I suffer unnecessarily,” that is an opening into inquiry.
Finally, when you give the mind the question, Who? where can it go with that? How far can it get? This divine question, Who am I? that comes to us from Ramana Maharshi, is the invitation to face yourself directly. When you face the idea of who you are directly, with no story line about what will be gained or lost, you will see there is nobody there. The “I” that you think yourself to be is No Thing. It does not exist except as an evolved, brilliant survival strategy. It is made up.
I am not saying it is “nothing,” because the mind will spin out of control with that— “Oh it’s nothing, that’s nihilistic, that’s horrible, that’s nobody, nothing, dead, blank.” Rather, the mind’s “I” is neither something nor nothing. It is no thing.
You are not your mind. You are what is revealed when who you think you are is realized to be non-existent. The burden of your personal story, the burden of your thoughts about who you are, the burden of your emotions about who you are—all are realized to be nothing.
I'm not denying the experience that they are something. There is no need to deny that. There is also no need to indulge the experience the story generates. The need is simply to meet the experience of “I” and see for yourself what is revealed. In truth, this imagined “I” cannot be faced directly, because when it is, it is revealed to be not there. Not present. Non-existent.
This is unbelievable because it is out of the realm of the mind's experience. It is realizable because it is totally within the realm of your direct experience. This that is revealed in direct meeting, in direct inquiry, is the radiant truth of your being. It is no thing at all, and that no thing is the radiant, endless, immeasurable depth of being. You are the living subject; not the object.
So let us forget the Why’s. They can be fun when you are sitting around a campfire making up ghost stories. They can certainly be instructional, psychologically. But for our purpose, which is the purpose of discovering the truth of who one is, let us forget why one is, or even how one is, and discover who. Then that which is already deeper than can be measured is experienced more deeply yet. It’s not made deeper. It doesn’t become deeper. It experiences itself as the infinite depth of pure being—no-thing at all.
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Gangaji is the author of The Diamond in Your Pocket, Freedom & Resolve: Finding Your True Home in the Universe, You Are That, and Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story.