That Thou Art

The Blog of Empirical Non-Dualism

Eternal Self vs Momentary Self

April 9, 2022

In our clay-pot argument we concluded that the clay-pot is actually the clay and not the pot. But what if you were to insist otherwise?

What if you were to insist that you are this body/mind and not the fundamental entity that underlies all reality. That would cause a bit of a problem. What exactly are you?

Let's get one thing addressed first, the possibility of non-self, or rather the absence of the self. Can you ask the question "who am I"? If that's yes then there must be something that can give rise to the thoughts that goes behind asking the question. If everything you see and know were to be non-existent and nothing but an illusion, then there must be something which is experiencing this illusion. Otherwise how can illusion exist if there is nothing to experience it?

Now, how can you tell yourself apart from the person next to you? You could say the sense of identity. You identify as yourself and not the person next to you. So for you to remain as yourself your identity has to remain unchanged for a meaningful amount of time. If your identity were to change you wouldn't be you anymore and become someone else. Thus for you to remain as you for any sensible amount of time, you must identify as something that doesn't change from one moment to another.

You can't be identical with the body because it is quite possible to lose part of the body and that's not the end of yourself. Besides the body changes all the time. Cells are borne and die constantly. So if you were to be the body you wouldn't last very long and there would be a new you at every moment.

Same goes for the mind as well. The mind-body problem is one of the most hotly debated topic, but there is little reason to believe that the mind is anything separate from the body. The mind can just be patterns generated by the neurons in the brain and it would make perfect sense in the context of non-dualism. The mind is also in constant change and hence you can't be identical to the mind.

Thus we are left with but these choices

  1. You are identical to the body/mind. In that case your existence is momentary.
  2. You are contained within body/mind. But even then you are just some patterns generated by the neurons. But then too, the patterns undergo constant change and your existence is like that of a wave rising and falling in an ocean. This too is a momentary self as you, being the patterns, are created and destroyed every moment.
  3. You are that which contains the body/mind. But even if you take this all the way, even the entire universe, you'll find constant change. So is there no other choice but to accept the momentary nature of the self?

There is one entity which we found to be eternal, the block universe. Both space and time is contained within it. Everything that was, is or will be is contained in this block universe. What we experience as present is nothing but a momentary slice through the block.

So if we accept that for us to have any meaningful identity we need to have an existence beyond a mere momentary one, we are left with a single choice, accepting the block universe as our identity.

That thou art. You are not an insignificant dust floating in the ocean of cosmos, you are the cosmos.

Email: [email protected]

Copyright © 2022 Agnibho Mondal