What does it mean when we say there is “no separate self”?
Obviously, there is a human self here. A human being walking around talking, thinking, feeling and so on. That doesn’t change. (At least not until we die.)
Our surface identity may be with or as this human self with its labels and roles in the world. That identity is accurate and helpful. But it’s not our final or fundamental identity.
Our more fundamental identity is as what this human self, and any experience, happens within or as. Some call it awakeness or consciousness since that’s what it can be experienced as.
Since this is what all our experience happens within and as – including this human self, others, and the world as we experience it – there is a sense of oneness here. It all happens within and as what we are. And that’s how it is for others as well, whether they notice or not.
And since there is oneness, we can call it love. What we are, and what everything is, is love. It’s not necessarily a felt love, in a conventional sense, although that could happen. It’s more the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. It’s the love that’s reflected in views and actions because it’s all one.
Also, since there is oneness, we can call it bliss. Although I hesitate a bit to use that word. Again, it’s not bliss in a conventional sense, although that can happen too. It’s a quiet bliss inherent in existence. It’s the quiet bliss that comes from all as one, all as consciousness, all as love. It’s a quiet bliss underlying any of our usual varied human experiences and states.
And although we can say that all is consciousness, or love, or even this quiet bliss, that’s not quite accurate either. All of this happens within and as what we are. Some call this void, or even the Godhead (Christian mystics). But words don’t quite reach it.
So, in a sense, it’s not very mystical or magical. It’s quite simple, direct, and here and now. And yet, it can be difficult to notice. The mind is trained to focus on its own content – thoughts and sensory experiences – so it easily misses what it all happens within and as.
That’s one of the tricks life uses to be able to temporarily experience itself as an apparently separate being, and not just one but many of them…! That’s part of the play of existence. That’s the infinite experiencing itself as finite. That’s existence exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in a myriad of different ways. That’s lila as some call it.
There has to be a ripeness to notice it, whether it’s subtle or a spiritual opening or awakening. And when there is interest, that usually reflect a ripeness.
Note: When I say “obviously there is a human self here”, that’s meant to show that our human self continues much as before when what I write about here is noticed. Our lives don’t neccesarily change that much. It’s more the context we are consciously aware of that changes. We could also say that what we call this human self also happens within and as what we are, and doesn’t exist as anything separate or inherently substantial. (Although in a conventional sense, we could say it is both separate and substantial, and that’s true as well.)