Chapter 2: Neti Neti
The first question:
Please, in the question “Who am I?” what does “I” mean? Does it mean the essence of life?
“Who am I?” Is not really a question because it has no answer to it; it is unanswerable. It is a device, not a question. It is used as a mantra. When you constantly inquire inside, “Who am I? Who am I?” you are not waiting for an answer. Your mind will supply many answers; all those answers have to be rejected. Your mind will say, “You are the essence of life. You are the eternal soul. You are divine,” and so on and so forth. All those answers have to be rejected: Neti neti - one has to go on saying, “Neither this nor that.”
When you have denied all the possible answers that the mind can supply and devise, when the question remains absolutely unanswerable, a miracle happens: suddenly the question also disappears. When all the answers have been rejected, the question has no props, no supports inside to stand on any more. It simply flops, it collapses, it disappears.
When the question also has disappeared, then you know. But that knowing is not an answer: it is an existential experience. Nothing can be said about it, or whatever will be said will be wrong. To say anything about it is to falsify it. It is the ultimate mystery, inexpressible, indefinable. No word is adequate enough to describe it. Even the phrase “essence of life” is not adequate; even God is not adequate. Nothing is adequate to express it; its very nature is inexpressible.
But you know. You know exactly the way the seed knows how to grow - not like the professor who knows about chemistry or physics or geography or history, but like the bud, which knows how to open in the early morning sun. Not like the priest who knows about God. About and about he goes, around and around he goes.
Knowledge is beating around the bush: knowing is a direct penetration. But the moment you directly penetrate into existence, you disappear as a separate entity. You are no more. When the knower is no more then the knowing is. And the knowing is not about something - you are that knowing itself.
So I cannot say what “I” means in the question “Who am I?” It means nothing! It is just a device to lead you into the unknown, to lead you into the uncharted, to lead you into that which is not available to the mind. It is a sword to cut the very roots of the mind, so only the silence of no-mind is left. In that silence there is no question, no answer, no knower, no known; but only knowing, only experiencing.