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I have heard a lot of remarks claiming that the "I" is the universe. I understand that we are all part of the universe. But how AM I the universe?

Some take it even further and claim that the "I" is what creates stars and it is the driving force in the universe.

How do people come to that conclusion? How is the "I" the universe and not just a part of it?

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    I made some edits hopefully to clarify the question. You may roll these back or continue editing. You can see the versions by clicking on the "edited" link above. One thing you might add is reference to people who have said that the "I" is the universe. If would provide context for someone to give an answer. Welcome! Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 13:38
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    See Solipsism : only my mind exists and he world and other minds do not exist. Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 13:56
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    @MauroALLEGRANZA's is closest to my own overly simple answer: everything you know about the universe exists in your mind (by definition of "your mind"). Therefore, there is a universe in your mind. The question: how do you know that the universe in your mind exists outside your mind? It might not. Your eyes, ears, etc, ultimately report to your mind, and it's possible they don't even exist (your mind just has the illusion of sight, sound, etc). You may be the entire universe.
    – user935
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 20:27
  • They're egotistical? "We are the world."
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 13:07

7 Answers 7

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This is the general position of Indian metaphysics where they posit a relationship of atman (personal consciousness) and Brahman (cosmos consciousness). I don't know a great deal about it but it's unlikely to an exact equivalence between personal consciousness and cosmic consciousness.

It has been reported that some psychedelic drugs can give an immediate experience of such. So you could try this, or better have a look at the reports and testimony of people who have.

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  • Dance is a non-drug practice that works. There are several other forms of 'meditation' to try.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 21:38
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    @Mozibur Ullah: Those psychedelic drugs can't produce spontaneous words of wisdom. Nor can they influence others spiritually. Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 0:57
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    They can't quench nobody's thirst for knowledge. Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 1:20
  • In short, their trance state is not due to the realisation of truth, but due to the effect of the drug in their body. Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 4:15
  • @SonOfThought: No, they are experiential. You would need a talent for writing and psychedelic drugs certainly don't give you that. Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 11:58
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The premise you describe relies on the notion that any idea of separation between the “I” and the rest of the world is an illusion.

It’s a hard notion to grasp. We separate and categorize things by nature, but nature itself is holistic and inseparable.

Imagine folding a piece of paper in half and giving consciousness to each side. Say one side is you and the other is me, and we both consider ourselves separate.

While that may be true on a personal level, the fact remains we are still one inseparable piece of paper, and we would both be right by claiming we are the paper.

This is the idea behind saying “I” is the universe - we are all expressions, sides or facets of universe, but never separate from universe. The separation is in your mind and it is just an illusion, like the two halves of the paper above.

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  • Imagine dividing a brain in half and giving consciousness to each side... It's been done. We all contain multiple awarenesses all the time.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 13:31
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Zen Master Seung Sahn used his own idiosyncratic language that relates to this:

"Why do we bow? We are not bowing to Buddha, we are bowing to ourselves. Small I is bowing to Big I. Then Small I disappears and becomes Big I This is true bowing."

God can be described as the transcendental subjective, which is importantly different from imagining a purely objective world. In Eastern thought generally this is a natural framing, as mind is accepted as having primacy, all knowledge of the physical world beginning in subjective experiences/consciousnesses.

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When a person realizes that (his/her) personal consciousness and the cosmic consciousness are the same, he/she realizes that "I am the Infinite Reality" or "I am the Ultimate". He/she cannot see anything other than Himself. It is 'something' without any parts. It is eternal, unchanging, present at all times, immutable, undivided and infinite. By that statement if you mean the changing universe as you see now, you can't say that ultimately...for it is unchanging.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aham_Brahmasmi

Since this is the truth, when you realize the truth you realize that this was the Truth even before you realize it. So, before you realize the Truth you can say "I am the ultimate". And it must be so. But since you are unaware of "I", even you know that 'that statement' is only a sheer folly. Then what about others?

I believe, that statement is not to be shouted out for gaining something. It is to be experienced/realized it as your SELF.

When you experience this, you realize who others and other things are. And it will be 'a knew knowledge' to you. One cannot even call it a knowledge like other knowledges because it is actually your true nature. And that "I" is what creates stars and the driving force in the universe. In other words, the thing that pervades and supports this entire creation.

I understand that we are all part of the universe. But how AM I the universe?

Since the person 'sees' the same soul everywhere, he sees nothing to use a plural form.

You may read this answer in the link and think whether what is within ('Gataakaasha' or pot space) is a part or the same thing.

http://advaita-forum.org/smb/index.php?topic=241.0

How do people come to that conclusion?

All people can't come to that conclusion in their present life.

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  • This is the most important answer on the site that I have seen so far.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 13:10
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    @ScottRowe: When a person who realised this truth says that he is the universe laymen believe that that only man is the universe. But the wise try to realise this truth in himself. But those who strive earnestly to realise it are very rare. Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 15:04
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    holy-bhagavad-gita.org/chapter/7/verse/3 Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 15:06
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    No. The Bhagavad Gita says that also. speakingtree.in/article/the-four-types Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 15:37
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    @Rusi-packing-up Definitely a classic. I tried telling a group of people that I didn't have a head, and they looked at me like I had two! It made the problem worse :-)
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 17:34
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When you're dreaming, you create your own abstract thinking of how the universe works. I've had dreams where what I was doing right then was part of an entirely different generality of how things tend to go. Theoretically, that could have been the way the universe works. If you accept Zermalo-Fraenkel set theory, it follows that some of the objects you can claim to refer to when using it are real. I guess some people are actually thinking in it and feeling like they're real. I'm not sure the things they claim to be conceiving of are real. Maybe New Foundations which contradicts it is true. Maybe some people are just doing abstract thinking in it feeling like it's real. If neither of them are actually true, then really, they're just doing abstract thinking in them and their brain doing that abstract thinking is just a formal system. The person thinking in New Foundations might claim that they're thinking represents something real. If that is so, then it means abstract thinking in Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory is not the only possible abstract thinking people can do. So those thinking in Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory aren't conceiving of the one and only possible abstract thinking. So we could say that the brains of those doing abstract thinking in Zermelo-Fraenkel are a formal system. The people thinking in Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory could say the same back about those thinking in New Foundations. That explains why it made sense when in Coraline, Wybia said to Coraline, "I think I heard somebody calling me, Jonesy." The video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue0qAm5HVmU was trying to teach people how to find the positive in things. I'm not sure if young people would see this specific thing but I saw that way of thinking in what Wybie said to Coraline. Of course, young people who don't see it are doing abstract thinking that I claim to be conceiving of an object that doesn't exist.

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    "Who, by thinking, can add one inch to his height?" - Jesus
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 13:28
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    @ScottRowe: One who thinks of stilts..?
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 17:06
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As people transcend into the mythological, let's just briefly state the obvious:

You are, to yourself, the ultimate observer of everything. Without yourself, you, would have no idea that there even is a universe. So the absence of your consciousness is somewhat (functionally) equivalent to the non-existence of the universe itself... that is at least to you. And for practical effects your death would have the same consequences as if the entire universe seizes to exist.

Your perception, interpretation and biases shape the very nature of how you conceptualize reality and the universe as a whole. So in a sense you actually create this universe that you are perceiving. Like you don't make stones out of nothing but you create how it looks like to you, what it feels like, how you feel about it and so on. And you even create what you don't see about it by making assumptions about that which can feel as real as real objects.

And you can actually perceive how changes to your mood can result in a changed perception of the world how a changed skill set can make you perceive the world "with different eyes". So the idea that the "I" and the universe are connected is not that far fetched.

Now does this correlation mean causation? Is there object permanence and does the universe exist even if we don't observe it (anymore)? Is it more about our own universe than about the "real universe"?

From what we know very likely, but given we wouldn't know all of that, then it would be pretty intuitive to assume such a connection.

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  • If everyone knew this, it would be a very different world.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 13:26
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This is the viewpoint of much of Eastern philosophy, and of The Perennial Philosophy in the West.

The starting point is idealism -- that thought is the basis for reality. This can be inferred from observation and reasoning -- we know we have thoughts, we only infer the existence of a physical world around us. Thought is primary in our epistemology, and it is reasonable to infer its primacy in ontology too.

Then one follows this idealist presupposition, with observational data from mysticism -- most eastern mystics report experiencing a "Mind at Large" or the equivalent in non-Perennial Philosophy language. IE the universe is inhabited by a massive thought, and our physical world is an emanation of that thought.

These mystics also report that they experience the release from "maya" -- the delusion of separation. Maya has different specific meanings in different eastern traditions, but a common theme among them, is that our SELF is not in realty any different from the Self of the universe.

Hence "I" am the universe.

Most western philosophy does not accept the starting premises used in this reasoning path. It is the nature of philosophy, that we can't actually prove, or validate, our starting premises and epistemological methodologies -- other than by pointing to the utility of the resulting philosophical product. That is why different branches of philosophy are all over the map on all sorts of questions.

When one cannot reach agreement on starting assumptions, and basic metrics of validity, one will have difficulty arriving at any consensus. That is why it is difficult to say whether any viewpoint in philosophy is actually correct or wrong.

An alternative approach to take, rather than right/wrong, is to accept that there are plural interesting and useful approaches to philosophy. Try to understand how different philosophic schools operate, and try to understand the value that each offers for particular types of problems.

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  • All that you are saying about Philosophy is correct as far as I know. However, (and it's a big however) the experience of unity is not really a thought process, and cannot be arrived at by reason. No sensible person can agree rationally to statements like "I am the world", and the response will be swift. My rebuttal is to quote Rumi: "Anyone who is calm and sensible is insane." A more Western view is the poem inside the cover of Julia Cameron's book, Jerusalem is Walking in This World. A book would be Cheryl Abram's Firing God. These move toward oneness instead of plurality.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 21:33

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