What Can We Be Certain Of?In exploring our direct experience, I often wonder how much we can trust it.
I have been following your replies and have found them very helpful. Thanks a lot for your time.
In exploring our direct experience, I often wonder how much we can trust it. When one sees a mirage in a desert, if not aware of such a phenomenon, one would consider it to be real. Similarly, are we not limited by the human senses and consciousness in our discovery of truth? I know that is all we have, but wonder to what extent we can use it, and can we entirely base our conclusions on it. I’d love to hear your comments on this.
Prashant: In exploring our direct experience, I often wonder how much we can
trust it. When one sees a mirage in a desert, if not aware of such a phenomenon, one would consider it to be real. Similarly, are we not limited by the human senses and consciousness in our discovery of truth? I know that is all we have, but wonder to what extent we can use it, and can we entirely base our conclusions on it. I’d love to hear your comments on this.
Rupert: You are quite right to suggest that nothing that appears within the mind, the body or the world can be completely trusted or relied upon.
The short answer is: Only Consciousness/Being is certain.
However, it is helpful to understand clearly why this is so, by going through the process from which we derive this understanding, because such an understanding would prevent us from ever putting our trust in the wrong place again. Hence the elaboration below. However, it is only intended for those amongst us who enjoy the more rigorous, investigative aspects of the process.
You give the example of the mirage in the dessert. Another example is the dream state. During a dream, our experience seems to have the same reality as that of our waking state. However, upon waking we discover that its apparent reality was illusory.
How then, as you imply, do we know that the current experience of the mind, body and world, are not also illusory? We don’t!
So what then can we be absolutely certain of?
In order to answer this question we have to first understand what it is that qualifies an experience as being illusory. How do we know that the water in the dessert or the buildings in the dream are not real? It is the fact that when we go towards these objects or experiences and try to find them or touch them, they are not there. They have disappeared. The substance out of which we thought they were made is not present.
If disappearance is the criteria by which we qualify something as being unreal, then presence without disappearance must be the criteria by which we qualify something as being real.
Whatever it is that is truly present and therefore real, in any experience, cannot disappear, because that into which it would disappear would be more real that it. Everything that appears and disappears must have a background or a support on which to appear. For instance, the screen doesn’t disappear when the image disappears and in that sense it is more real than the image.
Likewise, whatever it is that is real in every experience cannot change….in the sense that water is ‘more real’ than its changing forms of ice or steam.
Likewise, whatever is real in any experience cannot appear or be born because that from which it appeared or was born would be more real that it, in the sense that gold is ‘more real’ than an ornament.
Similarly, whatever is real in our experience must know or illumine itself, for if it was known or illumined by something other than itself, that ‘something’ (which knows it) would be more real than it.
Nevertheless, even if the experiences of the mirage or the dream buildings turn out to be illusions, there is an element of reality to our experience of them. There is ‘experience,’ there is ‘something,’ even if we are not sure what this ‘something’ is.
What then is this undeniable ‘experiencing’ or ‘something?’ What is it that is truly present in every experience?
Whatever is truly real and present in our experience must be without appearance or disappearance; it must be changeless - that is, it must be ever-present - and it must know itself.
So we can now simplify our question and ask, is there anything in our experience that is ever-present, changeless and knowing?
And the answer of course, is yes, Knowing Presence, Consciousness or, more simply, ‘I.’ Your Self is the reality that runs unchanging throughout all experience.
Only this ever-present, changeless and knowing ‘I’ can be absolutely trust worthy. An intermittent object cannot, by definition, be worthy of absolute trust, because on what would we place our trust when it was absent? Hold onto that ‘I’ alone.
However, what could hold onto that? Obviously an intermittent object, such as a personal entity, cannot hold onto the ever-present reality of our experience. So, an apparent person cannot hold onto Knowing Presence.
Knowing Presence alone can hold onto itself. It is the only ‘thing’ that is present ‘there’ throughout its own Ever-Presence. However, it is already itself, so there is no need for it to make an effort to hold onto itself. It cannot loose itself. It cannot ‘not be’ itself.
Therefore in order to know that element of our experience that is worthy of trust, all that is needed is to abide as the Knowing Presence that we always already are. That is the only certainty, the true security.
This simple Knowing of our own Being is the irreducible reality of our experience. It is the experience that we commonly know as Happiness.