We humans currently live from the reality that we’re separate selves with separate identities. What I saw two years ago while driving my truck is that this “self” does not exist.
What I discovered is that this separate identity, this self, only exists in language. Since we’re always talking to ourselves, languaging to ourselves in our thinking, we perpetuate an illusion that this self is real—so real that we never even question it.
Language is just an abstraction of what’s so, not the reality. Let’s consider the town of Cambridge, Massachusetts. We all know where Cambridge is, but if we were to dig into the ground looking for it, we would never find anything that identifies itself as Cambridge. Cambridge exists only in the domain of language. The sign that says “Entering Cambridge,” is another form of language, a written form of language.
The other important aspect of language is that it is a tool for distinguishing one thing from another. So when we say “Cambridge”, we automatically create every thing else as being “not Cambridge”. Language is a tool of separation and distinction. By assigning a word to something, we are separating that thing from everything else.
In this same way our identity, the very person that I think I am, that you think you are, is a linguistic concept that exists only within language. Just like there is no Cambridge outside of language, there is no “self” outside of language. Because the “self” exists only in language, it is just an abstract thought. It is not reality.
Furthermore, when I say “myself,” I create everything else in the universe as being “not myself.” This is just like when we name Cambridge we make it different from everything that is not Cambridge. This creates and maintains an inherent belief that we are separate from the universe. This illusion of separation, created by the linguistic concept of the self, is the source of all human suffering.
We go through life attempting to take care of and satisfy this linguistically manufactured self, not realizing that it can never be satisfied or experience being complete. The self can never be whole and at peace with its environment, relationships, circumstances, and so on, because its very existence is a product of separation. Even if we say that “I” am one with “you”, it is virtually impossible to experience or know this first hand when all of our existence is grounded in an identity that is separate.
In this same way, we spend our life as seekers, striving for an end to the separation. We maintain this belief that there is something that will make us feel that we’ve finally arrived, that we’re whole and complete, that nothing is missing. Many spiritual seekers call this state enlightenment.
Enlightenment is only an idea based upon the false notion that the self is separate from the universe. It is just another linguistically created concept. Using this word, we can say that some people are enlightened, which immediately makes all others not enlightened. Both ideas exist only in the domain of language.
Nobody is enlightened, and nobody is not enlightened. Most of us have the perception that we are separate from the universe, but this perception only exists in our thinking, in our belief in our “selves.” A few people realize that they are not separate from the universe, and live from that place. The only difference with these people is in their thinking, their perception. They have dropped the belief in their selves. The reality is that no one is separate from the universe.
There is nothing to do, nothing to change. There is no place to get to, no salvation in the future, no final relief or sense of completion in what we call enlightenment. We all are already there. We already have everything we could ever want. The cosmic joke is that who we think we are, our belief in the self, is the only thing that prevents us from experiencing complete fulfillment right now!