Are you or are you not the body?

This follows on from my previous post.

It is an observable fact that our direct experience alone does not provide us with sufficient evidence to say whether or not objects in the world arise solely from consciousness (ie. philosophical idealism), or whether consciousness is a product of the material word (eg. the human brain) which in turn perceives an image of that material world (ie. philosophical realism).


Not that these are the only two possibilities – there other theories that could also account for our present experience, and perhaps other explanations that our limited human minds are incapable of understanding – but for the purposes of this article we will not go into this.

The point is, from our direct experience alone, we do not know if what we call the body is solely an image that arises in our consciousness, or if that image is a representation of a real body somewhere outside our consciousness which in turn gives rise to consciousness.

To be continued here: Why does understanding the body matter?

Is everything really consciousness?

consciousness buddha.jpg

Lots of spiritual teachers and teachings seem to be saying all there is is consciousness. But is this really true? And even if it was true, would we be able to know this as being true?

From the point of view of experience

Firstly, from the point of view of our experience, yes, everything is consciousness. Whatever you look at, smell, see, touch, feel, think or imagine, etc, appears within your consciousness or awareness. And all these things appear as modulations of that consciousness, so in effect, our entire experience is nothing but consciousness.

Also we cannot directly know or experience anything or go anywhere that is not within our consciousness. If we did then we would, by definition, be conscious of it, and so our experience of it would be consciousness.

Everywhere we go, no matter what we experience, consciousness is, it is always present, effortlessly shining.

So, there we have it. Everything is consciousness. Right? Well…

From the point of view of reality

Just because everything you experience is consciousness, doesn’t mean that everything is consciousness. You see, in one way this is just a play on words. In the way we are using the words, experience and consciousness are synonyms. You cannot have experience without consciousness. If you are conscious you are experiencing. Think about it. Can you have one without the other? So of course, in terms of experience everything is consciousness. But it’s a bit like saying in terms of vision everything is seeing.

You don’t have to be a genius to realise there may be things going on that we are not conscious of, and perhaps we will never be conscious of. From what we know of the universe (via our consciousness!) we know it is vast and complex. Of course all this vastness could be just all happening within our consciousness only, but we don’t know that for sure. It is easily foreseeable that there may exist something beyond our consciousness, something we can never sense (be conscious of) or understand.

From the point of reality, we do not know if all there is is consciousness, and to say that everything is consciousness is going too far. We can only say everything is consciousness in terms of our own experience, but not in terms of reality. If you think that everything is consciousness (and by implication that nothing exists outside of consciouness), I would say that is a belief. Ask yourself, do you know that for sure? How can you know that for sure?

Why is this important?

Does this actually matter? If all we experience is consciousness, then does it matter? If there is something beyond consciousness but we are not aware of it, who cares, right? Well, to me at least, it does matter. If you are interested in what’s true it does matter. If you are a spiritual seeker trying to figure this all out and it doesn’t make any sense, then it does matter. If you are interested in seeing through all false beliefs and discovering a genuine freedom, then yes, it does matter. And if you are interested in science and reducing human suffering through technology based on scientific discoveries, then yes, it does matter.

False beliefs breed suffering as they inevitability conflict with what is true, and false beliefs impede genuine philosophical, ethical and scientific inquiry. Beliefs like this affect how we approach and respond to life and how we treat each other. It affects the philosophical basis upon which scientific progress is made, and so it can affect the technologies we develop and how we develop them. The overall result of clinging to false beliefs is to the detriment of us as individuals and our society at large.

Does that mean that not everything is consciousness?

So, back to consciousness. Does that mean that not everything is consciousness? No! Perhaps everything is consciousness! Perhaps it isn’t. The point is that we do not know. Everything may or may not be consciousness. We don’t know. It’s actually a scientific question and we currently don’t have the evidence either way. It may be impossible to know, as how would you know that there is nothing beyond consciousness?

The point is we should be honest, with ourselves and each other, and not cling to beliefs unnecessarily and unknowingly. Whilst beliefs can be used to make us feel better and give us strength during hard times, clinging to them and thinking they are definately true and that we are definately right causes more suffering in the long term, both for us and often for those around us.

Can the teaching ‘everything is consciousness’ be useful?

Ironically, yes. Even though ultimately we don’t know, the teaching that everything is consciousness can still be useful. How so? Well the teachings aim to undermine the belief in a separate self, or the notion of being an independent doer-entity, and in that regard this philosophical idealism of everything being consciousness can be useful. The idea is that the teaching is an antidote to a fixed belief. More on how that works here.  The key is that once the job of the conceptual teaching is done, we don’t cling to this new concept which simply becomes a new problem and a new way of perpetuating the ego.

The consciousness teachings or awareness teachings, as I call them, can also point to a still-point in our experience that is always present, at least whilst we are awake. It is that which never changes and is always ever-present, un-touched and ever-aware. Recognising this aspect of our being can be very liberating and can give us the emotional security to open up to our thoughts and feelings, and allow our emotional-spiritual hearts to open, and can allow us to feel happier and whole.

What about Freedom?

So if we don’t know whether or not everything is consciousness, what do we do now? A part of Freedom, which is already here, is that everything is allowed. It’s ok to not know. That’s ok. There are lots of things we do not know, many things we will never know, and probably many things that are impossible for us to know. Freedom doesn’t mind. It’s just the way things are.

Direct ‘perception’


The mind cannot get this,
Just as it cannot deduce the existence of a tree.

The tree is perceived directly,
This is perceived directly.
Whatever is perceived is this.

Perception is just an idea,
That implies the existence of a perceiver,
A perceiver with some physiological apparatus.

There is no experience of perception,
Only an inference,
An inference based on the idea of a perceiver,
For which there is no direct evidence.

There is only this,
Just this.

Perception is just another name
For our experience of life,
ie. this

Is without conceptual overlay.

It adorns itself,
creating its own beauty.

Unadorned by concepts,
But including concepts as they rise and fall:
– No thinker can be found.

Forget words, definitions, theories and beliefs:
– They are all useless here;
Just more conceptual overlay:
– It could all be entirely mistaken.

Sufi mystic Abol-Hasan speaks

soul and loaf bread

Here are some gems from Sheikh Abol-Hasan, a Sufi mystic from the 11th century AD. His words continue to astound me. I have followed each quote with my commentary in italics and hope this does not detract from the quotes themselves.

One may speak of those absent,
but one who is Ever Present,
one can say nothing of
Sheikh Abol-Hasan, saying 92

How can we speak of Him? How can we talk of Him? All talk of Him is fanciful, all the more so if we take our descriptions and theories about Him seriously. Continue reading

Absorption in the Treasury of Light by Zen master Ejo


So I’ve been reading ‘Absorption in the Treasury of Light’ by Ejo (1198-1290) and to put it simply, it has blown my mind. The way Ejo expresses both the so-called ‘path’ and ‘state’ of realisation is astounding. I love how he speaks from his direct experience but also draws from scripture. His interspersed scriptural excepts sometimes seem to contradict each other, but the way he juxtaposes them, and in the context of his writing…well the combination results in a potent pointer to the Ultimate. Continue reading

Everything is impersonal

moon in space

A person is an expression of the universe:
what we call ‘the personal’ is actually a specific/particular way in which ‘the impersonal’ is functioning.


the personal is actually impersonal.


there is nothing personal.

Which means:
everything is impersonal.


There is no person.

What is this?

Alan Watts: You and the universe are one

centaurus A

“It’s not true that you came into this world. You came out of it, in the same way a flower comes out of a plant or a fruit comes out of a tree. An apple tree apples, the solar system peoples…You are a function of this total galaxy”
Alan Watts

Continue reading

Beyond self-realisation

face illusion flower
There is nobody here

No sadhanas are required
No sadhana (spiritual practice) can lead to self realisation. No map can take you to where you already are, and no practice can transform you into that which you always have been.

All sadhanas such as meditation, mindfulness, mantra, puja, selfless service and devotion – all sadhanas are for the illusory individual. They are an extension of greed/egotism. It is this web of illusion, all hinged upon the idea of being a person with a body and mind, that prevents the obvious from being ‘seen’. Continue reading