Dear Cem, we both came to the same point during our conversations “What Happened Happened Before!” in issue three and “Wisdom and Illusion” in issue seven. If possible, I would like to probe deeper into the topic of “Do we really exist?” Some people will already know the answer, and others will understand when the time comes, but let’s have a written conversation about the issue. So, do we really exist? Or do we merely assume that we exist?
Dear Hasan, this question is so complicated that I can’t give a complete answer, even with a lengthy monologue. The complexity of it is because of two reasons, or two realities. First of all, as you know, I spend most of my time training students, and some of them stand at the threshold, waiting to join the students “inside” who are with us in both life and death. These students attend my sessions for twelve hours every week and meditate for at least a month and a half every year (at least 8–10 hours a day) seeking answers to such questions. So, if I could answer that question here, I would be happy because my students would not need to make these efforts. Secondly, the experience itself and the one who experiences it are not the same. This is one of the basic concepts that we should understand when answering this question. For example, the olive tree itself and the olive tree when I look at it are different things, because I already have impressions about the tree. That’s why it’s impossible to find answers to such questions without personal experiences. The answers for these questions are highly paradoxical and require my inexistence from the outset. To know whether I exist or not, I should first disappear. By this, I mean I should remove myself from the picture. To see the olive tree as it is, I first need to rid myself of my impressions about it. I should delete my existence, or in other words, I should get myself “out.” I can then see the olive tree as it is after deleting my impressions about it. However, this is easier said than done, and succeeding at it requires a certain training process.
If the objective reality and my mind’s interpretation about it were the same, thinking about water would be enough to satisfy my thirst, but this is not the case. That means water in the objective reality is different to my interpretation of it. One of them is real, and the other is an impression. The same thing applies to “me.” “I” in reality is different to the image in my mind. So, instead of giving a direct answer and confusing you, I will try to explain and confuse you that way: We neither exist or not exist; we both exist and not exist.
Finding the right answer for such questions isn’t easy, is it? The “I” concept here grabbed my attention. Who is this “I” that exists while not existing? Is it like the outer “I” in Yunus Emre’s poem There is an I within me, deep and deeper than I? Or is it like the inner “I”? Or is it like the observer in quantum physics where the process changes when the observer is involved.
The question of “I” is as difficult as answering whether we exist or not, Hasan. We perceive reality as a perception in our minds that we shaped with the help of our senses. If I can smell and taste an apple, if I can hear the sound when I bite it, if I can touch it, and if I can create a conceptual understanding of it, then I say that the apple exists. This is classical “Cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am) logic. So, if I perceive myself through my senses and create an “I” concept of myself, then I think I exist. I think that my body and my thoughts are “me.” This is a fine belief, but there is a problem with it: These senses that I call “I” disappear, and so do my relevant thoughts.
Death inevitably kills my senses, thoughts, and perceptions. So, I know this perception of “I” will disappear, and this frightens me. To cope with this fear, I create the concept of the spirit and seek refuge in this belief. However, I never judged at the beginning if this body and those thoughts were really “me.” The reason for this is quite simple: Reality is not real. Reality is what we decide to experience. Yellow is yellow because we decided on that color, and I am what I am because I decided to be that. In this context, there is no real “me.” Do you know that even today, some tribes in Papua New Guinea do not know what an airplane is? If you showed them an airplane, they would not even see it because they are unaware of such a concept. There was a very interesting experiment conducted by Dr. Cleve Backster, and the CIA began to use hypnosis and lie detectors as a result. In the experiment, he hypnotizes a man and tells him not to see him when he comes round. When he does come round, Dr. Backster lights a cigar. The man panics because he only sees a lit match and a smoking cigar. In another experiment, another man was hypnotized and told not to see his daughter when he wakes up. When he wakes up, he cannot see his daughter, but he can see something. Do you know what? It was the clock behind his daughter!
As you see, Hasan, reality is not what we see; it is what we are conditioned to see and what we aspire to see. Just like our ego and the “I.” So, the more the “I” concept is endorsed by people, the more we believe that the “I” exists. This is why we strive for recognition and try to promote ourselves to others, because we all want to be important. What we call “I” is only a thought or belief in the mind, and we spend a great deal of energy protecting this image. When the readers read this, they will only use 5% of their mental energy to understand what we are talking about, while the remaining 95% will be used to think about “I.” People want to protect this image during sleep, sex, bathing, and even during meditation. Having an “I” requires a round-the-clock effort. I feel I should both protect the existing image of myself while also strengthening it. If this image becomes damaged, I feel unhappy and afraid, but if it is strong, I feel happier. What I call “I” is only an image, dear Hasan, so my biggest problem is that I still think I am Cem Şen.
I don’t know why, but this reminds me of my android smartphone. It shows how full the battery is and how much energy each application is using. For example, the screen uses more energy than the other components. The more beautiful your screen looks, the sooner your battery will run out. As a result, you need to recharge your phone more often because you run out of energy that is also needed for calling people and using other functions. I think we also spend considerable energy on our “screens.” So, who and what are we? Why do we exist? Where will we go when we die? Now you will tell me that I am asking you for an answer to the question that humanity has been asking throughout history, a one-page answer for all the questions that religions were created to answer. But still, I ask you to answer. Start now!
Let me try to answer your question with some quotes. If you read the texts of Bodhidharma, who became a Buddha (one who reaches the final level of enlightenment) , you will realize that there are two concepts in these texts: the real body and the illusionary body. To explain this further, he said that we dream every night and think that the body in the dream is our real body. Sometimes we have ten dreams in a night, so we assume we experience ten different bodies. However, we only have one body, and it is sleeping. Similarly, we have illusionary bodies that experience different lives, but we only have one body in reality. This body does not have a form. We have a body and “exist” through many lives because we insist on existing as a result of our ignorance. All nondualistic teachings say the only reason why people exist is their insistence on it. Moreover, not insisting on existence does not mean we disappear; this is para-nirvana, which is the highest level of enlightenment and is beyond existence. Many people ask, “Where do we go when we die?” However, this question is based on an illusion that tells us there are two opposite states: life and death. However, this is not an opposition but rather continuity. When our bodies give up, we enter one of 31 dimensions depending on our level of consciousness. We, as humans, are in the fourth dimension. Enlightened beings and Buddhas can reach past the 31st dimension.
So, is the real purpose of our lives to rise to these upper levels? You know, most spirituals say that everything is for the sake of evolution, but I don’t think so. This is also an illusion, isn’t it? When you abandon your efforts to exist, you escape the 31 levels. Of course, this is not easy to do. For instance, if someone buys a gun and wants to shoot you, you do not say, “I abandon my existence” or “I wonder if I can see beyond the 31st dimension, and by the way, why 31?” Our purpose at such moments is to survive, so why do we try to save our existence?
Of course, it’s because we think we exist. We think we are just bodies that will die, and this death is an ending. We are never ready to leave our loved, and even hated, ones. Because of all these illusions, we feel fear when we see a man with a gun before us. We build armies to protect us, we arm ourselves, and we invent medicines, all because of this fear. We do everything we can to prevent, or at least postpone, death. Being afraid within the illusions is normal. Even those who can pass through the first three levels of being a Buddha can feel anxious.
There is no evolution in life, and one can fall back from each level because progress is not inevitable. Of course, people can believe in evolution if it helps them to get rid of their anxiety. While we aim to reach higher dimensions, we cannot even achieve wisdom within this life. Some people are wise in their youth, but become captivated by their fears and addictions when they get older. This means evolution is not always an upward process. However, if you are still on the belief level, I cannot force you to believe otherwise.
What we can call evolution is only real for those who have experienced that there is no life or death and can perceive what the mind is within this continuity. This first level of enlightenment is called “being in the flow.”
Anyone that reaches the first level of enlightenment will not fall down anymore, and evolution is inevitable for him or her. Buddha says that a man will be evolved if he can become a Buddha in seven lifetimes. Our target is not reaching a higher level—evolution is nothing to do with that. Reaching new levels is miraculous but again illusive. According to the enlightened creatures, in the fourth dimension, humans are managed by Mara, who exists in the 11th dimension and is also in an illusion. The creatures in that dimension have extra power and think they are Gods that can manage reality. Like Mara, they want to experience things they cannot experience themselves, so they use humanity. By the way, I should remind you to see these dimensions as the states of consciousness. The most advantageous of the lower eleven dimensions is humanity’s dimension, which is managed via neural senses. While the sixth dimension is the dimension of the gods, it is not as advantageous as the human dimension because there are no problems there, but there is also no effort for awakening. So, for millions of years, we experience many desires because of good karma, but after we inevitably die, we are reborn at the animal dimension. This is because a life spent in desires draws our consciousness to the animal dimension. In other words, evolution is nothing to do with the dimensions, but rather with consciousness. Besides, the dimensions are also created by consciousness.
This is very valuable information. For example, what did you mean when you said Mara from the 11th dimension rules the fourth dimension? You know the theory where the universe is a digital universe and we are some kind of software routines within that universe. In that case, is Mara the system administrator or the one who plays the game? I find this really interesting. We sometimes think we live within “The Sims,” but who is playing it? Is it Mara? So, within this context, is she the God mentioned in the monotheist religions? These questions come to mind after reading your words. Perhaps this is another illusion—who knows?
When you perceive things from that perspective, it can transform into a kind of belief, Hasan. Replacing a belief with another one does not make us wiser, so I recommend you perceive these as states of consciousness. For example, according to what we know about Mara, Mara perceives her experiences through us. In other words, through us she experiences the things she cannot herself experience. So, when we wish to see a certain behavior from our lover, child, student, or other loved one, we try to alter their feelings. At that moment, we are like Mara. If I try to control someone’s feelings using all my power, including love, and if I interfere with the free will of others, then I am acting like Mara. Don’t assume Mara is a decadent entity sitting in another dimension and trying to manage us, because this is a simple way of thinking. This has nothing to do with what we call God, but we can say that Mara thinks she is God. We also feel like God at the times we begin manipulating someone or something. We are similar to Mara in this way. Just try to see these dimensions as consciousness, because they are the states of consciousness. You will then easily understand what I mean.
The soul is as real and unreal as the illusionary body. You know, I studied the death concepts of different cults, but the theme was always the same: The soul is never independent of the body. However, there is rebirth. Because I still live in an illusion, I continuously feel myself as a body after death, and I maintain that illusion until my mental energy is completely depleted. If my addictions and fears are so strong, I do not want to leave this form. When I leave that form behind, I can move on to the next level. If I am able to bid goodbye to this world and voluntarily leave life, I have the chance to move on to the next level. So, I do not have to be born in this dimension— I can be born in a better material world or in an immaterial dimension. In fact, I dislike talking about these things, Hasan. Sometimes they can lead to building a belief system, and people can be drawn into another illusion. You begin to perceive life as an infinite cycle with different identities. Words are not sufficient to convey this, so I used the word “perceive.” This is like staying in a room for a while before moving to another one, but you still know the previous room is there. I am an illusion that is dragged from one life to another. I forget everything before I move rooms. I do not remember my past lives until I reach the edge of absolute enlightenment. Occasionally, advanced meditation masters remember their past lives during the seventh or eighth level of meditation. So, I can understand how I am being dragged from one life to another, and I can reach my Higher Self beyond existence and nonexistence when I find a way of awakening from that illusion. Suffering is inevitable until this transformation occurs. It does not matter if I find something to distract or narcotize myself or if I have fun or find some meaningful teachings. To reach the Absolute One, we must leave the bad states of consciousness and bad actions, as Buddha confirmed. We must also leave the good ones. These are two faces of the same coin, and the coin is the illusion. Am I being clear?
Should we isolate ourselves in temples to banish the illusions and meet our higher selves? Should we meditate continuously? Can’t we be a Buddha in our daily lives? And should we necessarily be Buddhas? How does a man with a Buddha consciousness live on earth? Does he always sit under a tree?
Hasan, would you want to sleep again after waking up from a dream? Why should an awakened man return to that illusion? Some rare Buddhas, like Gotama Buddha, return to the illusion because they are caring and want to teach more to people. There is no reason for a Buddha to be here—he is not obliged to be here or there. A Buddha can be everywhere at once or he can move beyond all these things. A Buddha is an immortal. He is free from Karma and Samsara. You can reach very high levels of consciousness during daily life, but it is impossible to reach the Buddha level. On the other hand, being a Buddha is really an advanced level and should not be the target I think. The first aim should be to understand the ignorance behind all suffering, because without it you cannot become a Buddha. Moreover, no one should be forced to wake up. If people are not ready, it can even be harmful. Everything has its own timing, so a call to awaken is only meaningful to those who can hear it, and it can be boring and difficult for others. Awakening is a difficult process.
Let’s return to my original question, because it really confuses me. Why do we exist on Earth? Is there a purpose or a mission? Alternatively, is it us who make up reasons because we feel purposeless? If we do not have any purpose, why are we here? Why do we experience this life?
Hasan, I really cannot give you single-sentence answers to these questions. If I tried, it would lead to more questions. The only answer could be that because of a misunderstanding, we assume that we should exist. Yes, we have missions, and yes, we have destinies. However, when you say, “exist” you only perceive this world, but I understand all dimensions of existence. That’s why I answer your questions while taking all the dimensions of existence into consideration. While we walk through different lives, we have missions and some debts, and these are very important. Consequently, my answer changes according to the level of your question. If your question is at the level of life and death, we can talk about concepts like missions, but if we are talking about becoming enlightened and surviving all dimensions, we need to talk in a different language. So, when we look at the big picture, I can simply state that we are living in an illusion. Everything in that illusion—such as good/bad and beautiful/ugly—is also an illusion. Preferring the good elements is a better choice, but it does release us from the illusion. I should remind you that these are the most challenging discussions of the spiritual world, and they cannot be explained through normal logical methods.
All our actions, whether good or bad, simply bind us to the cycle of birth-death-rebirth. Therefore, no good deed can set us free from the illusion. However, all good deeds help us to reach more advantageous levels of consciousness, and this helps our awakening. It means good actions are fine, but not enough on their own. To be fully awakened, we must learn to give up both the good and the bad. So, choosing the good, the light and the right actions, could be perhaps accepted as the main target of life. All right actions lead to good results, and this helps us realize the truth. The best way forward for every creature is to understand what the truth is and wake up.
Cem, I would really like to thank you for this conversation. You have given us many topics to think about. Thank you very much.
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