Q: Eric, you're saying that the separate ‘me’ we think we are, really isn't doing anything. It just thinks it is.
A: It's a thought. You can think you're Cleopatra or Napoleon, it doesn't change anything, you're not.
Q: We're not. There's no separation.
A: Actually, separation and no separation are concepts in the mind. When you feel the wind caressing your face, what do you feel, you feel your face, or you feel the wind?
Q: Neither, really.
A: Exactly. There is perception. If your dog asks you what you feel, if the dog is a bit stupid, you say, “Of course I feel the wind, sweetie.” If the dog is a better breed, you said, “Of course I feel my cheek.” But if the dog has a metaphysical insight, you can convey to him that actually there is only perception, that in real perception there is nothing perceived and nobody perceiving. The wind and the cheek are just inventions of the mind to express something, to describe something which cannot be described. The mind creates the object and the subject. Object and subject are not an objective realm, they are a way of thinking.
Q: So, the personal self is just in the realm of the mind?
A: Yes. It's a thought. A person is a thought. You walk down the street with a beautiful woman, and there is an exchange and you're feeling, and then you find yourself thinking, “What are we going to do later?” At this very moment, the idea of the person appears. At this very moment, you have cut yourself off from this woman, because the activity of the mind has taken you away from the situation. Where there was no separation, there was only movement, there was only talking. Nobody talked, only talking. You were not trying to impress her, you were not trying to sell yourself, you were not trying anything. You were just flowing with her. And then, at some point the mind comes in and you start thinking, “What are we going to do afterwards? Or can I sell myself, or can I look intelligent?” And so on.
So, the person is just this grabbing movement which takes us away from the real situation, to bring us back to thinking words, where I am there, and she is there, and then what I am going to do with her, and then the whole process of a lifetime project begins. But during the whole time, you're out of reality. Sometimes you go to the opera, and you listen to beautiful music, and then you realize that for the last 25 seconds you were thinking of your wife, thinking of your mistress, thinking of your dog. You were not listening. Again, you come back to listening, which is natural, it’s what happens when you go to a concert.
So, the mind takes us away. And the idea of oneself is just the mind moving. It doesn't mean there is somebody. It’s just a movement of, in a sense, defense of life. But that's fine, this movement is natural, this movement is legitimate. We grow from this movement. The assertion of the person is not a mistake, it is not something to hold in scorn. It just is the way we evolved. Does the child need to think, “I am John, and my father is great, and my country is great, and my race is great”? The child needs to appropriate some identity to survive, because it doesn't know any other way.
Then, later on, the child is no more a child and perhaps he realizes, “Well, my country is great, or not. My father is great, or not. I am John, or not.” He can question. But the way we grow, we first need to appropriate some identity just to survive. You think you're very bright, you think you're very stupid, according to what your parents told you. And you think you're superior or inferior according to blah blah blah. So this is fine, we all have to deal with that. But, at some point, we're not a child anymore, and then we can question this movement. What am I when I stop thinking about myself? What am I when I don't name myself? What am I when I don't pretend a past or a future? What am I now, without thinking?
All these questions will explode the fantasy of being John. A John who will remain John for his social environment. Your wife, your child, your dog, will perhaps always think you're John. And that's okay for them. But if they get touched by grace, one day they challenge themselves. And if they don't it's okay. For the policeman who stops you, you are John, and it's very good for him to need this security. But for yourself at some point, John is just a word.
Q: And all of that is spontaneously arising?
A: Yes, like everything else. Because as we said, there is no doer, so it just happens. Like the trees growing, like the war, like the peace. There is no god deciding this or that. These things happen. And even not, actually. In any case, there's no cause. Cause and effect are very sweet, gross, ignorant way of thinking. It doesn't exist. It makes no sense. Where to begin the cause, where to end the effect? You're talking nonsense, from a metaphysical point of view. It's poetry. Poetry is beautiful. But in poetry we like the rhythm. What it means, we don't care, it doesn’t matter. The rhythm is the beauty. We should listen to the rhythm of life, not to what it says.