Cosmik invited me into this thread. My name is John :)
I have a few questions for you too. I know that we've given you a lot of homework, so no pressure, but please answer my questions when you get a chance.
Sorry for the delay in responding. I've had some family dramas going on. I've also been a little perplexed by the inquiry & don't know where to go from here.
It's best not to try to figure out where the enquiry is going, and to rather just do your best to answer every question from direct experience. The enquiry is aimed at keeping you focussed on direct experiential evidence
, rather than the stories that thought tells about experience. The enquiry is not leading to a "final point", it's just trying to allow you to see how life has always been functioning without an "I" in it.
Just so that you're clear about what we mean by DIRECT experiential evidence, here is something that I've written when guiding other people.
When I say answer only from direct experience I mean that you're not allowed to use thought stories. There is a good reason for this. The reason is because by doing so you might discover that you are not the thinker of thoughts, and if that is true then obviously thought can not be trusted in a search for the truth.
Just so that you clearly understand what I mean, here is an example:
Sit in a chair and close your eyes. Now describe to yourself what you KNOW in the moment, and only what you know. That means look ONLY at true and direct experience, and not any thought stories about the experience.
Do you experience sitting in a chair?
Do you experience sitting?
Do you experience having a body?
An incorrect answer would be. I feel my butt on the chair and hear the sound of birds in the back yard, because you've added the story of a person's butt on a chair, and the story of birds in the back yard, and you haven't even mentioned the running comentary of thought that is also going on all the time.
You have to ignore the thought stories and describe ONLY direct experience.
If you do, you will find that direct experience does not tell you that you are sitting in a chair. Direct experience would be that you would feel pressure on your butt, but without thought (including memory thoughts) telling any story, all you can say is that there is sensation which is interpreted by thought to be coming from your butt. So in actual fact, from direct experiential evidence, and without using thought stories, you can not say that you are sitting on a chair, and you can not even say that you have a butt.
So the correct answer would be that there is just sensation that feels like pressure but can't be located, there's blackness, there are chirping sounds appearing in this blackness, and there are thoughts appearing out of nowhere that are telling a story about the direct experience, and then fading away into nowhere again.
Do you see the major difference between the two versions? One is looking at the thought story about what is being experienced, and the other is just looking at direct experience.
It's this direct experience that you need to stay focused on during this investigation.
What we're getting to here is NOT some kind of intellectual idea or psychological trick. We're talking about REALLY discovering that there REALLY is no "personal I".
I see what you are saying or getting at.. An 'experience' of an actual separate self is an illusion. Its created by the mind in thought but it does not exist 'out there' in the physical world.
Sit quietly with your eyes closed and notice thoughts arising. Is there a "mind" in DIRECT experience, or is there just a stream of thoughts that pop up, and sometimes follow other thoughts, and sometimes embellish other thoughts?
Or... The 'Experience of a separate self' is simply an idea generated by the brain & does not actually exist apart from the person having the experience.
Again check with direct experiential evidence and check whether there is a brain in direct experiential evidence. Is there a brain in direct experiential evidence, or are there just thoughts and ideas about a brain?
Is the "experience of a separate self" generated by a brain, or is it generated by thought?
Its possible to have a taste of this epiphany. But the act of re-creating it doesn't seem to get totally dropped like a hot potato. What prevents a person from continually 're-identifing with the illusion of a separate self? Practice?
You can't practice to become what you already are, and always have been. "Practice" encourages the belief that you need to do something in order to be what you already are, and that is simply not true.
But anyway, we're the ones who ask the questions here Peggy ;)
The answers to these questions will become obvious to you when you see through the personal I.
Forget about any idea of ending unhappiness, or being permanently blissful, and concentrate on whether ANY emotions or feelings are happening TO somebody or something. Thought says that they are, but we're about to check on whether thought can be believed.
Are you the thinker of thoughts? Please sit down quietly, with your eyes closed, and check this with direct experience.
Are you able to choose to only have happy thoughts? Are you able to stop thoughts at will? Are you able to decide what the next thought will be? Or do thoughts just pop up from nowhere?