Who you think you are and who you feel you are is not who you truly are, it is an illusion created by the brain.
You are not thinking itself (in other words, you are not what you think). Thinking is separate from you otherwise you could not listen to the thoughts. Also most of “your” thought are not even yours as you have not created them. Just sit in silence for a couple of minutes not creating any thought and you will find all kinds of thoughts still happening.
You are also not who you feel you are because feeling is separate from you otherwise you could not feel. Feelings are happening outside of you and you are sensing them. How can you feel pain if you are it?
You are also not the body, you have a body. When you are dreaming you are completely unaware of the physical body, yet you still are.
You are also not the sum of all your experiences and learnings. These are all things you do and have done, hence are all exterior from you. You can say I made it my own but anything you learn or experience you can also loose like in Alzheimer. But you still are, with or without memory. You can also say I am not the same without my experiences or past learnings. Well things like ‘I am a father or mother’ or ‘I am a scholar’ or ‘I am a good tennis player’ etc. are all descriptions of what you do or what has happened to you – not who you are. The ‘I am’ is you and the next thing is what you do or what has happened to you – ‘I am eating’ – ‘I am a woman’ – ‘I am not the same’.
You are also not the brain because when the brain dies, structurally everything remains the same. The only difference is that the neurons are not communicating with each other anymore – no more electrical activity and no more synapsis. But structurally everything remains the same.
So are you the electrical activity in the brain?
Well most of the electrical activity taking place inside the brain you are completely unaware of. For example:
The cerebrum, the large, outer part of the brain, controls reading, thinking, learning, speech, emotions and planned muscle movements like walking. It also controls vision, hearing and other senses. Again all things you can do or abilities you have but not who you are. You are completely unaware of why you understand a language or how movement happens – it all takes place automatically. You are not the automatic understanding of the English language.
The cerebellum, in the back of the brain, controls balance, coordination and fine muscle control (e.g., walking). It also functions to maintain posture and equilibrium and in 2017 scientists have found a connection with the reward response in the cerebellum as well but the whole cerebellum does not posses awareness. Again body balance and movement (and even the award response) are things that are happening to you automatically. It is not who you are. You can say it defines me but then you are identifying your body with who you are as the body is influenced not you.
The brain stem, at the bottom of the brain, connects the cerebrum with the spinal cord. It includes the midbrain, the pons, and the medulla. It controls fundamental body functions such as breathing, eye movements, blood pressure, heartbeat, and swallowing. Again it is not you that is doing this but the brain.
But it also means many things that you think you are causing or doing is not you but the brain. Most people belief they have a free will, but studying Akinetic mutism (patients tending neither to move nor speak) and Alien hand syndrome (AHS – a condition in which a person experiences their limbs acting seemingly on their own, without control over the actions) a team of medical examiners from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical center found that this is all coordinated in the Precuneus and Cortex cingularis anterior area of the brain and that free will is but a feeling or idea without ground. The brain decides, not the mind nor you.
So are you the mind?
Well is there a mind without thought? It depends on how you want to define the mind, but generally the mind is defined as the collection of thoughts and memories one has. You have a mind because you have thought and memories. You are not thought or memories. Think about the expression “I have lost my mind” and you see the whole thing is exterior from who you are.
So what about awareness, are you awareness ?
Awareness comes into existence when the brain is turned on, similar to turning on a computer and the operating system comes alive. When somebody is in deep general anesthesia (medically induced coma) the brain is almost off and when the anesthesia wears off, it is like turning on the computer. Also awareness can change depending on what parts of the brain are turned on and how much (with the exception of the cerebellum – no awareness). These different levels of awareness can be easily observed in deep sleep versus the awake state and the different states of altered awareness due to drugs.
It would seem that when the brain is turned off, awareness is gone, so you are no more – hence you are a product of the brain. But lets look at this more carefully…
Awareness is the ability to perceive and experience. Without perceptions (including the perception of time and thought – or what I belief time is a thought) there is no such thing as awareness – similar to deep general anesthesia. Do not just read this sentence but proof it for yourself. If you are outside this universe, nothing to see or hear, are you aware? Yes you are because you can think. But if thinking is just another perception and that also disappears are you aware? Not anymore but you still are. To go a step deeper, what happens if you remove time as a perception ?
So when you turn off the computer, you actually turn off the ability to perceive – but do you turn off the you as well ?
You are aware of something, you are not awareness itself. If there is nothing to be aware of, it is a dead end to prove if you still exist or not, as there is no way to reflect an answer, so another approach has to be taken.
Are you consciousness itself ?
Consciousness is the state or quality of awareness or of being aware of an external object or something within oneself.
( It has been defined variously in terms of sentience, awareness, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood or soul, the fact that there is something “that it is like” to “have” or “be” it, and the executive control system of the mind. )
Being aware of external objects has nothing to do with who you are. External objects do not define you.
Being aware of something within oneself is a perception and is not who you are and does not define you. Anything within you is not you.
The executive control system of the mind is the brain, not you.
The ability to experience or to feel – sentience – a sense of selfhood – sense of beingness. This is getting closer to the answer but not yet. The ability to experience or to feel is a brain ability. Without a nervous system or brain activity the ability is gone. Beingness is a feeling and you are not a feeling. Sentience is even closer to the answer but sentience is a doingness in the brain and you are not doingness. In deep meditation seeing becomes being and there is no sentience or recognizing what you see.
But awareness, consciousness and sentience cannot happen without you.
So this You that can be aware, is conscious of the world and that can sense things, is that also a brain product?
Several Neurobiology experiments have discovered that one side of the brain wasn’t aware of what the other side was seeing when the corpus callosum was damaged (a bundle of fibers connecting the left and right hemispheres of the brain). The right eye that is partially connected to the left and right brain hemisphere cannot see images, but conceptually understands them and can talk about them. The left eye really sees the images but cannot conceptually talk about them.
In an experiment, patients could describe only images that reached the left side of the brain, because the ability to speak is located on that side. However, they seemed unaware of images that reached only the right side of the brain. Yet if they were asked to use their left hand (controlled by the right side of the brain) to indicate the image that had just been shown to the right side of the brain, they could do so. So on an unconscious level they had access to information that reached the right side. The left side of the brain then made up a story combining the information from both sides of the brain. The story was logical to the patients but completely incomprehensible to their surroundings.
When the right side of the brain registered a written instruction to stand up and walk away, a patient obeyed. When asked why he did so, he didn’t say, “You just asked me to,” because he hadn’t consciously registered the instruction. So he made up a reason to explain his behavior: “I’m just going to get some hot chocolate.”
In other words if you separate the left and right hemisphere of the brain, you separate consciousness (sentience) into 2 parts.
Similar to hypnotism where a hidden command makes a person jump up from his seat when a trigger word is mentioned. The person is not aware of why he reacts. But reacting is not who you are, listening is not who you are, writing or reading is not who you are and doingness is not who you are.
But who you are can be turned off and on like a computer. In deep general anesthesia or in deep sleep the you is no more or so it seems. So is it awareness / consciousness or is it you that is turned off ?
When really close to deep sleep (or just coming out of general anesthesia or under the influence of heavy drugs) you are still aware of inputs from the outside world or dreams but the awareness is minimal. So the question here is, are you less there or are the signals less.
From brain scans it would seem that there is less activity (going into delta brain waves and below) and surely less awareness. But who you are cannot be proven nor refuted in this manner. If the brain does not produce signals in the form of time / perceptions / thought there is no way to know if there is still a you or not. So this approach leads to a dead end as well.
Are you just a software program in the brains ?
So does the brain create a ‘digital you’ alongside the perceptions that make up awareness ? In other words is the you just an illusion created by a software program running in the brains?
Another way of asking this question is: can a software program really ‘see’ ?
Anyone who knows a bit about programming knows this is impossible to program. A program can only compute, compare data to other data but actually sensing stuff it cannot. But can we actually sense stuff or is it also an illusion that we do ? Keep in mind that we are not really seeing but actually receiving a digital code from the eyes and other sense organs that flow into our brains.
To get these answers we have to turn to quantum physics to see what perceiving / measuring really is.
In quantum physics it has been irrefutably shown that the observer collapses the wave function, which basically means without an observer, nothing exists and when an observation happens a pure methematical wave collapses into form. A software program first of all cannot really observe and second surely cannot collapse a wave function that would make the world appear out of nothing as it is. Yet we do…
But where does observation or measurement take place? It are the brain cells that measure, not you – or is it ? The eyes rods and cones measure, not you. But you can say the rods and cones in the eye do not see. So where does “seeing” take place? Well is there seeing in the first place as there is only digital code? In other words, are you seeing the digital code or are you seeing the world? Truth is that you cannot see the world (because there are only digital signals running through neurons and not the image itself) AND you cannot “see” digital code because it has no meaning.
So it would seem that somewhere in the brain a translation of the world is happening with the idea (software program) of a separate you seeing it.
But how can a brain (software) translation or code “see” and this seeing also makes the outside world real?
What about if there is no real outside world? Seeing is being – perceiving is the world – no separation, no individual self – all is one, all is empty yet all is.
In other words…
You are light itself.
You are not the source of light, you are not identified as light, you are not a light being, you do not emit light, you do not perceive light – no, you are light itself. Even the separate perceptions melt into light where hearing, seeing, smelling etc. all become one – something beyond synesthesia.
All that is perceived is a reflection of you.
You are not inside nor outside this universe and you do not have a location in it. You are not part of time, you are not subjected to birth nor death. You cannot be influenced by anything in the universe yet you are the universe itself as without you there is no observation making the universe possible and you are time and thought itself.