What is the one thing you can know with absolute certainty?

It is that conscious experience seems to be happening. It may be impossible to know with certainty exactly what is actually going on — the world itself may be an illusion — but the seemingness of it cannot be meaningfully doubted. If you try and doubt it, you will quickly discover that the conscious experience of doubt seems to be happening.

Pick any sound. You may be mistaken about what it really is or what’s causing it, but its seemingness cannot be doubted. Listen.

Pick any texture you’re feeling. Its seemingness is also certain in the moment you feel it. Whatever it is, there it still is.

There are endless forms this seemingness can take. Taken together, they form what you call “the world.” In one sense, these manifestations are all different. A sound is not a texture is not a color.

But there’s also something that all these forms have in common. Their essence is identical: they have the quality of being experienced, of seemingness. Stop and see if you can intuit a sense in which they are literally made of the one and only thing that cannot be doubted.

The mind cannot grasp this seemingness. Everything you think of as the mind — thoughts, emotions, memories, personality — is made of it, just like sounds and textures are. Just as a character on a movie screen cannot grab the light from which he is made, your thoughts will never grasp what’s being pointed at. They will quite naturally conclude that there’s nothing to see here.

On the other hand, with patience, the light can wake up to itself. As it does so, it discovers that there’s nobody else there, no separate self who could wake up to it. Only it, after all, has the property of awakeness, of liveness.

Why are we so captivated by questions about the origin of life? It’s because at some point we noticed that we were alive, and that there’s something impossibly marvelous, magical, miraculous about it. We then used our microscopes and math and discovered that we were wrong: there’s no miracle; the universe is actually just made of fundamentally dead stuff.

After all, if this marvelous, magical, miraculous thing called life were real, our army of thoughts and microscopes would have found it by now.


So close you can’t see it
So deep you can’t fathom it
So simple you can’t believe it
So good you can’t accept it
— Tibetan Saying
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