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Chapter 4: The Unknowable Self

God is not indubitable. He can be doubted, rejected. The whole hypothesis can be said to be false. There is no proof that can help. So Descartes goes on discussing, inquiring, and he says that unless he comes to a point, to something in existence that is indubitable. Not that it can be proved - no. Rather, it cannot be doubted. And ultimately he comes to the self and says that the self is a greater reality than God. It is, because the self cannot be doubted. Can you doubt it? Even to doubt it you will have to have it.

For example, if you are in the house and someone comes and asks whether you are in the house or not and you say, “I am not,” the very fact that you say “I am not” will prove that you are there. You cannot deny yourself. The very fact that you say, “I am not” shows that you are there. The denial becomes the proof. There is no need not to affirm it; even denial becomes the proof. When even denial is a proof, the fact is indubitable. How can you doubt it?

You cannot say, “I do not know whether I am or not” - or can you? Even to be in such confusion, you need to be there. How can there be confusion without you? You cannot say, “I don’t believe that I am,” because even not to believe, someone is needed to be there. There is no way to deny that you exist, that the I exists.

This self is the only indubitable fact in the world; everything else has been doubted. There have been skeptics who have doubted everything, even ordinary things of which you cannot conceive how they can be doubted. You are here, but the English philosopher Berkeley says, “I cannot believe that you are here. You may be just a dream. And there is no way to prove that you are not a dream, because when I dream, I dream of people such as you.” And this is one of the essential qualities of a dream: in a dream the dream appears real.

So if you are appearing real, Berkeley says that does not prove anything, because in every dream the dream appears real. Can you doubt while you are dreaming? You cannot: the dream appears real. Even a very absurd dream appears real. It is just illogical, irrelevant, but still it appears real while it is there. So Berkeley says that there is no way to prove whether you are real or not. You can be doubted, everything can be doubted.

One of the greatest Indian mystics, Nagarjuna, has doubted everything - everything! He says nothing is real because everything can be doubted. But there is only one point which he goes on avoiding: he never talks about the self because then his whole edifice, his whole philosophy, would fall down - because that cannot be doubted. It can be asked of Nagarjuna, “Okay. The whole world is illusory and everything can be doubted, but who is this doubter? Do you doubt it - this doubter who denies the whole world?” The self is indubitable because it is self-evident. No proof is needed, no argument is needed. It is self-evident.

Mahavira denied God: he said there is no God. But he couldn’t say there is no self. Then the very self became divine for him. He said, “Only the self is God.” And that is true: in you, the self is the nearest thing to divine existence. That is why it cannot be doubted. It is self-evident, self-revealing, self-enlightening.

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