Consider an abstract conversation between Suresh and Ramesh.
Suresh: Mr. Ramesh, what do you do?
Ramesh: I am a project manager at Infosys.
Suresh: That’s great! So tell me Mr. Ramesh, what did you want to be when you were a kid?
Ramesh: I wanted to be a pilot!
Suresh: Nice! And perhaps something happened along the way and you landed up choosing to be a PM at Infosys instead. Actually, as a kid when I watched Aakasmika, I wanted to grow up and become annavaru!.
Suresh: Mr. Ramesh, I am going to ask you a a few rather funny questions. There is nothing to get out of these questions – but something to get out of actually participating in the inquiry of the answer that comes for the questions. Ready?
Suresh: You have a body right?
Suresh: What all does your body have?
Ramesh: Hands, legs, eyes, lungs, stomach etc…
Suresh: Brain? I am sure you have brains, because otherwise you wouldnt be in Infosys being a PM!
Ramesh: Yes, I do have a brain.
Suresh: Good to know that you are aware of having a brian. Now, what all does your body need?
Ramesh: Food, sleep, shelter, sex
Suresh: Good. The body needs all of these to survive. Now, I am sure you give yourself all of these right? Food, sleep, shelter, sex?
Suresh: Now here is the funny question that I was intending to ask you.. Does your body care if you are a Project Manager at Infosys?
Ramesh: Hmmmmmm.. no
Suresh: Does your body care if you were a Pilot?
Suresh: Who cares?
Ramesh: I do!
Suresh: So you agree that your body and the ‘I’ are two separate things?
Suresh: Thats great. You did wonderful. Thanks very much.
I think if any one of us did this inquiry on ourselves, we would figure out the exact same thing – my body and I are two separate entities. Let’s put this insight into a technical statement, so that we have a postulate of sorts to go ahead. My body and I are two separate beings.
The Samkhya school of thought in Hindu Philosophy first came up with this insight in language. Samkhya classified all objects/entites into two categories: Purusha and Prakriti. Prakriti accounts for matter and forces in the world. Purusha accounts for consciousness. Prakriti is considered to be the first principle of the universe. In other words Prakriti is the tattva of the universe, but it un-conscious. Purusha is the Transcendental Self or Pure Consciousness. It is absolute, independent, free, imperceptible, unknowable, above any experience (as in it cannot be touched, felt or heard) and beyond any words or explanation. It remains pure, “non attributive consciousness ”. Purusha is neither produced nor does it produce.
If we try to capture the above concepts in logic – we can say Prakriti is concrete and Purusha is abstract. Purusha is consciousness and consciousness is always about something. Consciousness by itself doesn’t exist in the realm of matter-force or Prakriti.
Very recently in the twentieth century, there was a philosopher called Jean Paul Sartre. He is hailed as one of the front-runners of existentialism philosophy. In his book “Being and Nothingness”, Sartre talks about ‘being-in-itself’ and ‘being-for-itself’ as modes of being. Being-in-itself is roughly Prakriti. It is the un-intelligent and un-conscious being. It accounts for matter and forces. For example a rock is a rock, and it is not conscious of it being a rock. Such a being (of the rock) is called the being-in-itself of the rock.
We cannot use the being-in-itself to fully describe the being of a human-being. The being of a human-being is not being-in-itself. Because if it were, then human-beings would not be conscious of being human-beings. To account for this, Sartre states that the being of a human-being is the being-in-itself of the human-body (which includes the brain) plus the being-for-itself of man/woman, which projects what the human-being is all about. Put in other words, the being-for-itself adds meaning to what the human-being is going to be all about. Roughly, being-for-itself is similar to Purusha.
Because the being-for-itself or purusha lacks a pre-determined essence, it dives into (or more accurately consumes) the being-in-itself and tries to create itself as a real thing. This actually leads to one of the most interesting aspects of human existence: bad-faith, as Sartre calls it.
Bad-faith is a lie such that the being creating the lie and the being that is lied to are one and the same. The very structure of a lie is such that the being creating the lie has in its possession the full and complete truth. It is only then that it can create the lie for another being. But bad-faith is a very powerful lie such that the lie is created and believed by the being that has in its possession the full truth. The being-for-itself is fully aware of the fact that it is not a being-in-itself, yet it digs so well into the being-in-itself that it seems to have an existence of its own. That goes to say that being-for-itself is a lie! For example a university professor is not being a university professor, just as much as a rock is being a rock. Get it?
When we think of it: all human creations are a lie! Nationality, religion, status, position, jobs, profession, education, ownership – everything is a lie!
Being-for-itself is conscious of itself such that it is aware that it is not a being-in-itself. But to counter its lack of essence – it digs into the being-in-itself and identifies with it. Purusha is aware that it is not Prakriti. Strictly speaking the being-for-itself – DOESN’T EXIST! It is not grounded in the realm of matter-force or prakriti.
Being-for-itself can never be touched or experienced or produced or broken. But the irony is that, the being-for-itself creates what a man is all about. Considering that the being-for-itself doesn’t exist, we can say that it came from nothing and it will go into nothing. Being-for-itself is created out of nothingness, and so are all the outcomes or by-products of the being-for-itself.
The “I” that we keep refering to is an outcome of (or perhaps fully) the being-for-itself. That ‘I’ doesn’t exist in-itself! Get it? That ‘I’ came from nothingness; and will eventually go into nothingness. That ‘I’ lacks any form of concrete foundation. Put in otherwords – ‘I’ am nothing.
This inquiry and the insight thereof should actually leave you free. I am nothing, basically means that everything about the ‘I’ doesn’t exist in the realm of matter-force; and hence it can be created as one sees fit. ‘I’ and everything about it is not a being-in-itself just as much as a rock is a rock. I came out of absolutely nothing. I CAN BE RECREATED OUT OF ABSOLUTE NOTHING.