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Chapter 21: Three Looking Techniques

Because of this logical difficulty, Charvak - the expounder of one of the most logical philosophical systems in the world - says that you cannot know the self; there is no self-knowledge. And because there is no self-knowledge, how can you say that there is a elf? Whatsoever you know is not the self. The knower is the self, not the known, so you cannot say logically that “I have known my self.” That is absurd, illogical. How can you know your self? Then who will be the knower and who will be the known? Knowledge means a dichotomy, a division between object and subject, the knower and the known.

So Charvak says that all those who say they have known the self are talking nonsense. Self-knowledge is impossible because the self is irreducibly the knower. It cannot be converted into the known.

Then Charvak says that if you cannot know the self, how can you say that there is self? Those like Charvak, who do not believe in the presence of a self, are called anatmavadin. They say no self is; they say there is no self - that which cannot be known is not. And they are right logically. If logic is all, they are right. But this is the mystery of life, that logic is only the beginning - not the end. A moment comes when logic ends, but you do not end. A moment comes when logic is finished, but you are still there. Life is illogical. That is why it is difficult to comprehend, to conceive of what is meant when it is said that only the witness remains.

For example, if there is a lamp in this room, you see many objects around you. When the lamp is turned off, there is darkness and nothing can be seen. When the lamp is put on, there is light and you can see everything in the room. But have you ever observed what is happening? If there are no objects, will you be able to see the lamp and its light? You will not be able to see its light, because to be seen the light must reflect something. It must strike an object. The rays must go to an object and then be reflected, then they will reach to your eyes. So first you see objects, then you infer that light is there. When you burn a lamp or a candle, you never see the light first. First you see the objects, and because of the objects you come to know about the light.

Scientists say that if there are no objects then light cannot be seen. Look at the sky: it looks blue but it is not blue, it is filled with cosmic rays. It looks blue because there are no objects. Those rays cannot reflect and come to your eyes. If you go into space and there are no objects, then there will be darkness. Of course, rays will be passing just by your side, but there will be darkness. To know the light some objects have to be there.

Charvak says that if you enter within and come to the point where only the witness has remained and there is nothing to be witnessed, how can you know about it? Some object must be there to be witnessed; only then can you know the witnessing. Logically, scientifically, it is right. But existentially it is not right.

Those who really move inside come to a point where there is no object left but just the consciousness of being. You are, but nothing is there to be seen - only the seer. only the seer! There is simple subjectivity without any object around it. The moment you come to this point, you have entered your ultimate goal of being. You can call it the alpha - the beginning, or you can call it the omega - the end. It is both, alpha and omega. This is called “self-knowledge.”

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