“All I can truly say is ‘I am’. All else is inference. But the inference has become a habit.”
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
I found myself in a situation where no truth was available to me and all of my belief systems had been abandoned. I was empty. I neither knew nor believed anything . . . And yet, in this emptiness that I found myself, I discovered that I did still know one thing . . . a speck of knowledge that refused to give up its hold on my being . . . the knowledge that I am. I exist. It seems that by emptying my mind of all ideas of what I might or might not be, I found that there was still one thing that I knew for certain – the only thing – I exist.
This sense of existing was not a thought, a concept or a belief. It was the most intimate thing I knew. This sense of being here now. Not the idea of being here now . . . the sense of it . . . the knowledge that will not disappear as long as there is consciousness.
This felt conscious presence is stripped of all ideas of who, what, where or when. Even as I say “I am here now”, I have no idea who or what is here, or where that ‘here’ might be, or when this ‘now’ is . . . It’s just the immediate sense of it. The ‘I’ that exists may or may not be some kind of entity. ‘I’ may be some absolute, space-like presence or pure awareness. I have no idea what this ‘I’ is. But I’m sure that I am.
If I were to say that I don’t know whether I exist or not, it would show that I’m clinging to some belief about what this ‘I’ is. I only have to strip away all ideas of what I am (or what I’m not) to see that the statement “I don’t exist” simply doesn’t make sense. Who or what is saying that they don’t exist? Clearly something is going on here . . . though I have no idea what that ‘something’ is or where ‘here’ might be.
Of course, it is possible that the awareness in which this sense ‘I am’ appears may depend on a physical body for its existence. But I can’t ever be sure about that. All I know for certain is that I am . . . with or without a physical body. This appearance of conscious presence is beyond doubt. The reality of the physical body is not.