“I” as Relationship

In a previous post, Enlightened Consciousness, I explained the 5th, supreme enlightenment is to realize self as a consequence of relationship. Some friends requested I write some more about this…


You may feel it is shocking to say that we must define X by Y, but if you think about it for a few minutes you will realize it is very, very normal.

How do we define anything?

Well, we define things by their relationship to other things.

If I say something is “1 mile past the tree” – what if the tree did not exist? How would I define it then? If I say it is at “39°N20’24” x 120°E01’33” – what if the equator and a meridian did not exist? If nothing else existed, an entity could not be described by any position at all.

Sometimes we define the speed, or direction of something’s movement. How do we do that? Saying something is “moving” only makes sense if there is something else that is standing still, or moving at a different speed or in a different direction. If nothing else existed, an object could not move.

If I say something changes, that can only be in relation to something that has not changed, or has changed differently. If nothing else existed, an object could not change.

When physicists began to get precise about to measuring subatomic particles, they found they couldn’t measure any of them, except in relationship to other particles they were “intrinsically entangled” with.

Now let’s turn the conversation to “self.” How will we define “self”? What is “I”?

Usually we say “I am a boy.” Or “I am a fan of bluejeans.” . We define “I” in relation to the things connected to it: size, shape, color, family, property, preferences, wealths, skills, conceptions, beliefs and so on.

This is very useful, but it gets very tiring. It seems to drain the power of “I” and leeching it into “non-I” objects.

Philosophers called advaita-vādīs say that to define “I” we should erase all these things. Erase everything – the self is what remains.

This is true and profound. However, what remains?

Nothing but a potential self.

Well, that is better than being drained, but it still seems a little less than fully blossomed. (BTW, this is the 1st Degree of Englightenment, described in the post, Enlightened Consciousness)

Vedic Philosophers say that our mistake is not in defining “I” in relationship to other things. They say the mistake is in our perception of “other things.” When we invest “I” into “non-I” objects, we exhaust ourselves. The mistake is not the investment. The mistake is in our understanding of objects!

We believe that objects are “non-I” – this is ignorance. If we perceive all objects as manifestations of the “super-I” (paramātmā), then we can define ourselves concretely and divinely.

The 5th and supreme enlightenment comes when the “I” finds Paramātmā to define its size, shape, color, family, preperty, preferences, wealths, skills, conceptions, believes, etc.

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