A comment left some days ago made me explore in what ways there is an absence of I in awakening.
One, and the most obvious one, is that there is an absence of I in content.
When we look of content of awareness, we find sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations and thoughts. This human self and its surroundings is arising.
And we often take a portion of this content as who we are. I am this human being, or maybe even really some portions of this human being, the ones that correspond with an identity I have made for myself. I am this human being, and I am also smart more than stupid, nice more than obnoxious, right more than wrong, and so on.
In our own experience, there is an I in this content, placed on parts of this human self.
But at some point, we start to realize that all of this has really an inherent absence of I.
And we can discover that in maybe three general ways.
One way is to find ourselves as seeing itself, as pure awareness, the witness. I am the seeing and the seen is released from having an I in it. This can happen in meditation, as a result of yoga or shaktipat, or spontaneously… We find ourselves absorbed into pure seeing, realizing that the world of form is inherently absent of an I.
Another is to find ourselves as headless, as Big Mind, as awake emptiness and form, and again realize that there is no I in any parts of all of this. Anything arising is one field of seeing-seen, form as no other than awake emptiness itself, and this field has no center of an “I”. If there is an “I” here at all, it is equally distributed throughout the field.
And a third, closely related to the two other, is to inquire into the world of form itself. I notice sounds, sights, smells, tastes, sensations and thoughts all come and go, live their own life. Can I be any of these? I do not seem to come and go. Following this leads us into finding ourselves as seeing itself, and then as Big Mind.
This form of inquiry also helps us see more clearly how a sense of an I within this is created. How thoughts are taken as offering absolute truths, are associated with particular sensations, and together serve as an anchor for a sense of a separate I. When this is seen, and especially as there is more familiarity with this territory, the gestalt falls apart into its components. Where there used to be a definite sense of I, there are just thoughts and sensations arising in space.
If there is no I in the content of awareness, is there an I anywhere?
Well, for a while it may appear as if there is an I in awareness itself, as opposed to in content. I am seeing, not the seen. But then that falls away as well.
The content of awareness is not different from awareness itself. It is all awake emptiness and form, with form as no other than awake emptiness itself. There is just a field of awake emptiness and form, absent of a separate I in any of its parts. Just a field of seeing-seen, and even saying that gives an appearance of a split that is not there.
The field is absent of a separate I in any of its parts. If there is an I anywhere, it is the one I which is everywhere and nowhere in particular. The one I distributed equally throughout the field. The I without an Other.