You do not exist

You do not exist.

You think you think your thoughts. You don’t think your thoughts; there is thinking. There is no you or your. It is not your life; there is just life. You don’t have feelings; there are just feelings. You don’t breathe; there is just breathing.

You did not exist before life. Life was not given to you. It’s not as if you existed, and someone came and gave you a body to call yours, and gave you a mind to call yours. There never was a you.

If you don’t exist, how did you come to be?

When the body was born there was no you. You were consciousness as an infant. There was seeing and hearing and learning and playing.

People fed you lies. They fed you names and labels. Thoughts recursively became your thoughts. You are a creation of the mind.

The mind is not your mind. Who’s is it? No one’s!

The idea of you was created in your mind. Then the you acquired beliefs and ideas and conditioning and this sealed in the delusion of you.

This is the core delusion which every spiritual tradition talks about.

Tolle, with astonishing clarity and simplicity of language, has bypassed all the freaky mysticism and burdensome reverence of spirituality, and this is why he has been able to reach so many of us. He told us what it means to be unconscious. It’s the ego and pain-body and all the problems they cause. And he told us there was such a thing as enlightenment and it is accessible to all equally. And he told us what it means to be enlightened. It’s presence and acceptance and peace and connection with natural being.

liberation from self
Creative Commons License photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker

But Enlightenment fell on Tolle’s head, accidentally, and so he’s not very good at explaining how to get there.

We go through practices–of spirituality and meditation and awareness and release and acceptance and gratitude and karma and heaven and hell and presence and all the rest of it, and we learn and memorize and practice, for decades, even lifetimes, and yet, enlightenment is a rare event.

Why is this?

Maybe enlightenment is very tricky and therefore rare.

Or perhaps this is just another myth, perpetrated by diabolical egos which have a great investment in long practices, and by our fear of awakening, and by unexamined assumptions.

The delusion of the self is what Buddhas and the ancient Indian scriptures and the enlightened talk about. When you throw out all the fancy wrapping paper and the ribbons and bows, this is what enlightenment comes down to.

The emptiness or fullness or oneness which the enlightened speak of is just reality itself, right here and now, without the delusion of self.

You are not outside the fullness of this present moment looking in and living your life. There is just the fullness of the present moment. There is just life. Of course, the delusion itself is very much a part of the fullness of life. It’s a beautiful integral of life, like the method actor who has forgotten he is acting.

I literally do not exist. I am literally an imagination.

What I’m doing these days is looking very directly at this lie. I now know rationally it’s a lie. I now know rationally that I literally do not exist. But the recognition has not yet popped.

And I am wondering why I did not directly go to this delusion right away. Why did I spend four years dancing around this?

This is the power of the delusion. It captures your attention even when you know it does. And of course, well-meaning spiritual aspirants are not of much help. They help promote the myth that awakening requires an investment in practice and spiritual concepts and spiritual advancement.

Let’s leave behind what we think we know.

“I” is the core delusion on which every other human foible hangs. Let’s tackle that first. Not as a theoretical possibility, but actually look at it. Let’s stop being students, and do this. Actually do this.

And how do you do an inquiry like this one?

You look at it as if it were true and hit it from various angles. You don’t exist is literally true. So you can’t break it or crumble it or corrupt it. You sit and look. Pretty soon you find yourself looking all the time.

It’s not a meditation. You don’t try to calm yourself or reach for a spiritual or peaceful state. You look at “I don’t exist.”

Look at your life through the view that you don’t exist. Is it true that you literally do not exist? Is it true that you are not experiencing life. There is just the experience of life. That you did not exist before you were born, and life was not given to you after you were born. It is not your life because life was not given to you after birth. There is just life. You are an imagination, supported by thoughts. They are not your thoughts. They are thoughts. There is no you who is registering this moment; there is just registering of this moment.

I do this for ten minutes at a time. I walk or pace around when I get into this.

Everyone’s experience at this will be different. If it brings up agitation and anger, or peace and quiet, remember that the you which feels this anger or quiet does not exist. There is just anger or there is just calm. If you feel that you don’t quite know what you’re doing, or that you’re missing some secret, remember that the you which feels this insecurity does not exist.  There is just insecurity. If you understand this rationally, remember that the you which claims understanding does not exist. There is only understanding.

Unfortunately, I come to this like the proverbial full cup of tea. I have to put aside what I think I know to make room for this. And yes, the “I” which is full of pre-conceived notions does not actually exist…

245 thoughts on “You do not exist

  1. Girish

    Hi Bill and Kaushik:
    I feel very fortunate when people take time to write. Thanks.
    For a long time i went through life thinking that I need to know and understand the mechanics of how things work and formulate steps 1, 2, 3 … to nirvana or blissful state. Intellectual approach has not worked for me.

    When circumstances, whether favorable or against me pile up there seems to be nothing that I could do. Events in our lives do happen and i found that I was always in reaction, just barely managing to keep up. It seemed like i was not the cause but the effect. So i tried to be the cause of things, by being in action, proactively. Tried to be positive all the time. It was difficult for me to be this way. i had limited success until one day I felt exhausted and i gave up. I decided to let it be.
    Fortunately that gave me a lot of relief. It put me in my natural state of being. The positivity did not work because it felt like I was putting a blanket over me and hiding from the reality. I don’t think i have the personality to be positive all the time. My successes came in spurts only.

    Letting it be seems to be the way. So Bill you are right that “resistance is futile.” What must a life without resistance feel like? I don’t know, but i hope some of you who have worked on this for a while share and help me understand. Is it possible to have a life with out resistance? What would it mean? To me it is allowing and accepting everything that happens in life. Then looking at each event, incident or thought and then acting on it. However there is still fear and negativity when circumstances are not in my favor. It is possible that this is how it is supposed to be because i am a human, imperfect and born with some inherent fears (instinctually)? So, a life without acceptance must also include that I accept my human imperfections and do my best. Fortunately i have this inner drive to be better and keep looking because we humans are naturally curious. This too has to be accepted and let be.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share. It helps me a lot.

  2. Bill Cass

    Yes resistance is futile yet knowing it and living it are different things. I figure that we will always resist in some way. Without resistance we wouldn’t be here learning the hard way.
    I see the beauty of life is struggle / succeed / repeat. Great things are accomplished this way. Life is short but provides opportunity to grow. Bill

    P.S. Don’t let the opportunity to screw up pass you by :-))

    1. Villi

      Good article. It very liberating to see that there is no I. This struck “me” a few days ago. Its hard to describe but there is just writing happening for instance now. There is no control. The body/mind just do what they do. Also I’ve been for about 6 years trying to allow everything. Which works from time to time. Now I just go with what the body/mind is doing. And can see that everything is just happening automatically.

      Thanks again.

  3. Elle

    I have contemplated this. It’s as though intellectual I know that I am not my body or the thoughts I have come to collect about myself but actually “waking up” to this truth seems to be the challenge…

    1. Kaushik Post author

      What I try to do here is present my experience as authentically as possible.

      I no longer recommend this technique. It’s something that I tried and took to its full conclusion. And then realized it doesn’t go anywhere.

      Today, I know why. As long as we have this murky, low-level sense of unrightness in us, it really doesn’t matter what practices we embark on or what knowledge we gain. It’s all infused by this basic fear of life, so nothing can be certain.

      I’ve thought about deleting some articles here now but would also mean deleting the many wonderful comments.

      Today I know that whatever isn’t about directly getting rid of this basic fear of life, is irrelevant at best, and an obstacle at worst.


      1. El.Mo

        When I first read your reply, I didn’t understand what you meant but now I do. I recently read a comment that helped me to understand why, it said something along the lines of how un-beneficial it is to try and not own your thoughts, it creates a victim in a way. Realizing that thoughts arise out of your conditioning’s and past beliefs is far more liberating and actual…. I heard Jed Mckenna is a good place for this, I will try there….

        1. Kaushik Post author

          Yes, Jed Mckenna is clear. I learned a number of things from him, that there is really only one problem to recognize and solve, and that practices and spirituality and compassion and platitudes are irrelevant. You rely on you.

          Also, check out John Sherman (

  4. drxminus1

    But down here,
    I’m so alone with my fear,
    With everything that I hear.
    And every single door, that I’ve walked through
    Brings me back, back here again,
    I’ve got to find my own way.

    Genesis “Chamber of 32 Doors”

  5. icam108

    You are trying to attain liberation through recognizing the impersonal Divine Self (Jnana-yoga). This is the hard way. Many problems will arise on this path to liberation. The easiest and fastest way to freedom is through Bhakti-yoga, devotional service to the personal form of God, Lord Krishna. Chant the Maha Mantra, The Hare Krishna Mantra (Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare), and you will find it is a happy, easy way to Self Realization.

  6. DaveHo

    Through the concept of karma without a doer…the life of the human comes (At its very source that includes every aspects of feelings, emotion, volition or cognitive faulty; to experience the reality of ….”There is Dukkha”. The acceptance of Dukkha, coupled with the ‘longing’ to be free; means more Dukkha because the very longing itself is the volition to seek out continuity of existence or Non-existence depending on the context of dukkha . In realizing the law of change or impermanence or all compound things arises or cease upon conditions; the recognition of the possibilities of liberation from the longing is possible. The noble part of the spiritual journey is having seen this potential of liberation, the individuality (ego) is dissolved and the free being expresses through moderate perspectives, constructive thinking, appropriate speech, proper conduct, justified living, efficient progress,objective mindfulness and directed focus.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Dave,

      What you say makes sense. Very insightful

      Everyone creates his or her own path to awakening. I cannot say what is effective for someone else, there have been many occassions when I did not understand or was against something and later came to see it as truth. You have developed a certain framework through which you see reality, as have I, and these frameworks can be helpful in conceptually understanding our existence, but in my experience they can also be obstacles. I have a certain framework and beliefs and concepts, and I try to hold these loosely.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Yes, sure, if that points to something real for you, that’s good. But to others, it’s a very conceptual pointer and it can be easily misinterpreted.

      1. Anoop Alex

        Itt just seems to me that everything, specifically upto human self self consciousness came from the void after the void was filled by an awareness which some call God. Here is one conceptual evolution of God that came to me:
        The void = nothing
        void + awareness = something
        something + nothing = duality/ opposites
        me(formless) + opposites = nonliving material world
        nonliving + opposites = single celled life
        awareness of many single celled = multicelled life
        multicelled life + opposites = sexual life
        awareness+sexual life+material world=conscious life
        awareness+conscious life=self aware life(humans)

          1. Anoop Alex

            Thanks Kaushik. I am sort of at a crossroads and wondering if you can give any advice. After reading part of Anam Thubten book No Self No Problems, I found he says the path to enlightenment is thru letting go of all attachements. I am wondering how this is achieved. Here is my journal entry today. Let me know if you have any advice for someone thinking these thoughts:

            Not sure what would invovle in letting go of all attachments. Would it involve stopping meditation as well? For how long also? Can I truly let go of everything? I tell myself I have let go of the need for enlightenment but have I truly? Wouldnt it mean just living life as it is with no thoughts about what I want to become in the future? I live a pretty boring life. I try to spice it up with movies, reading and my spiritual search. Can I give up my attachment to those things with no fixed deadline and just watch where my life takes me with no preconcieved notion of where I should be at some point in the future? What if I am just condemning myself to a boring life? This is the step I am afraid to take. Truly letting go. Not sure I can do this…..

            1. Kaushik Post author

              Hi Anoop,

              I haven’t read Anam Thubten.

              Here’s what I suggest. We don’t know what enlightenment is. We don’t even know if there is such an event. I realize many people claim to be enlightened, and that’s fine, but I say for those of us who are trying to get there, let’s not worry about enlightenment which we don’t know and which people cannot adequately describe, and let’s just think about awakening.

              Awakening is the process of getting mental clarity. Letting go of attachments is certainly a good step towards mental clarity.

              Let’s understand what “attachment” means. Conventionally we think it means attachment to people and external things. So often, letting go of attachment to many people means to stop loving, to stop caring, to isolate, to renounce what we enjoy, and so on.

              That’s not what it means.

              Always keep in mind that the point of awakening is to enjoy life more deeply and more fully.

              Giving up attachment means letting go of internal attachments to ego, ideas, beliefs, thoughts, emotions and so on. It doesn’t even mean giving up any of these things; this mental activity never goes away as far as I can tell. It means giving up the false identification we have developed to mental activity.

              In my experience, mental attachments are let go of naturally with certain practices. For example the release technnique or the simple technique of continually observing thoughts as a witness, or the technique of bringing attention to the sense-of-I-am (, all of these in my experience help us see what mental activity really is and helps in letting go of attachment to mental constructs.

              I hope that helps.


              1. Anoop Alex

                Thanks for the extremely quick replay Kaushik. In fact, just before I received it, I had decided to stop my spiritual search. Also, to stop reading all spiritual books in hope of find the path to awakening. So you are suggesting I just live my life mindfully? I have done this for a full day before but didnt do it again because I felt some tension in the mind.

                1. Kaushik Post author

                  Hehe, you will not give up your spiritual search so easily.

                  I suggest techniques more than anything else. I don’t suggest practices and ashrams and lifestyle changes and so on. I think these might happen as the mind clears. You might decide at some point for example that you want to simplify your life–that’s fine. Don’t try to be spiritual. You already are. Spiritual books and listening to other people’s experiences can be helpful in some ways. Someone may describe a technique to you which you might want to try. Also, sometimes books can give you a conceptual understanding and words to something which you already knew but were not able to articulate. Also, sometimes, when you’re feeling tired and don’t want to do a technique or you’re simply feeling frustrated, books are sort of an easy way to continue.

                  But the main thing I suggest are techniques. These help clear the mind. You need the strong intention to see clearly. And try techniques which make sense to you. That’s all. Everything else will happen.

                  Try any of these. Most of these can be done anywhere at anytime:

                  1. Bring attention to the sense of I am. See Welcome to Just One Look for more information.
                  2. Release emotions. (helps with letting go of harsh emotions which can come up as the mind clears itself). Here’s one effective technique: How to Release Big and Small Emotions (Release).
                  3. Effortless awareness. Start with observing thoughts. Observe your thoughts, as a witness, without participating in the thought-story, without trying to stop or control the content of thoughts. As you observe, thoughts will slow down and become distinct. Observe the space between thoughts.
                  4. Learn more about meditation and awakening. I have a recommended list here: Recommended | beyond karma .
                  5. When ready, try a sit-down kind of meditation. There are many resources. Don’t pay to learn. Try Vipassana Meditation, Learn Buddhist meditation, and so on.

                  1. Anoop Alex

                    I will take your suggestions to heart Kaushik. I currently do meditation lying down for 1 hour. Usually it involved a lot of mental chatter and repeating thoughts and wondering about how long it would be before my timer rang. For the past week however it has been interesting without that. Thoughts still bubble up but not as many as before and non-repetitive. It is mostly a silent but aware mind. Also interesting when I keep my eyes open objects in my view disappear. Like a wall lamp will become just a wall. Or a black box attached to the wall just becomes the white wall.

        1. Rodrigo Gallinari

          Hi Anoop, how do you came to the conclusion that void + something created bla bla?
          What is your EVIDENCE of it? Or is it just a great belief that you have?
          I can say the same thing here

          To me, somethingness + essence = created all forms

          and who is to say I’m wrong?
          I have no evidence as much as you.

          So I can be 100% right.

          1. Anoop Alex

            I cannot explain why something came out of nothing. My post was meant to show the potential evolution of a spiritual being as our material reality since after that point.
            Maybe the First Cause is a natural flow from the void. But that is what I believe based on speculation. There is no scientific evidence for that and somehow I doubt there ever will be with the current model of science.

  7. Nonsense

    “When the body was born there was no you”
    Yes, there was a you.

    “You were consciousness as an infant”
    no, You were you, and conscious/aware of

    “There was seeing, and hearing and learning and playing.
    No, there wasn’t seeing. There was YOU seeing.
    No, there wasn’t hearing. There was YOU hearing.
    No, there wasn’t playing. There was YOU playing.

    This is so simple, just ask YOURSELF, who is it playing with the ball now? It is “playing”, playing what? Is MESSI playing but no one is playing? No, IT IS MESSI PLAYING, that’s why Messi differs from other players and he is the best in the world, because MESSI the conscious MESSI, behind the eyes is playing, he is hearing other players, playing with the ball. he is the experiencer.

    Your article is nothing but reverse solipsism, a absurd philosophy of negation of yourself.
    When the real fact is that YOU DO EXIST. You are the observer and experiencer.
    And you can’t do nothing about this truth.
    Deal with it.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Yes, you do exist. That’s elementary.

      This self-inquiry is to dismiss the delusion of you. The you that you think you are does not exist. As Jed Mckenna says, “The you that you think of as you (and that thinks of you as you, and so on) is not you, it’s just the character that the underlying truth of you is dreaming into existence. Enlightenment isn’t in the character, it’s in the underlying truth.”

  8. Julio

    “You do not exist.”
    And who is saying it?

    “You think you think your thoughts”
    And who is thinking? A alien?

    “You don’t think your thoughts; there is thinking”
    And this thinking is me thinking.

    “There is no you or your”
    I’m assuming it, therefore it is mine.

    “It is not your life; there is just life”
    How do you define “life”? what do you mean “there is just life”? What is this substance called “life” where is it located? If you can show me with evidences and define “life”, I would be appreciated.

    “You don’t have feelings”
    Yes, I do. As much as people with PTSD have bad emotions and trauma. They do. That’s why they go for therapies.

    “You don’t breathe”
    MY body do. Just “breathing” means nothing. Breathing is something that my body do for me, for the sake of survivor, It is not “life” doing it, but my body unconsciously doing it for me, even If it is unconsciously, It is MY body. Not yours, You don’t feel what I feel, you are totally and utterly separated from me, as is a rock separated from me.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      You are thinking about this through concepts or “me” and “I.”

      If you’re interested in this self-inquiry, there is (or was) a web site where people who have seen through the delusion will work with you one-on-one to help you through it. I forget the name of the site, but a place to start looking is

  9. JK

    I think It is more like..
    I do exist, I am me. (As you yourself said in other posts)
    HOWEVER, the ‘substance inside me’ could be thought, FOR ME, as my illusion,
    I mean, I can see for myself, I can investigate into me and ignore all substantial contents inside my own ‘me’ (I mean, more like subconscious forms inside my own mind, the unconscious patterns, the memories) which I recognize being ‘myself’ , the substance inside me, the essence..

    When I see directly, by Direct Evidence inside me, I found that these substancies inside me could also be seen as an illusion..(but also could be seen as not illusion by other people, It all depends on how one wanna see it, for some people it is REAL because they want it to be real and they still being what they know they are essentially, internally and externally…
    That’s why many people don’t buy into this not-self doctrine..

    However, I like it…So I can use my own mind to remove it and make ‘me’ blank, I mean, blank myself, into a unborn self, a blank self, more like a pure self.

    So we do exist, we are ourselves. But the contents inside ourselves, you can “remove” by inner hard work and introspection (ONLY IF YOU WANT TO).. and blank yourself. As I did.

    But, I still seeing the self as real as it gets. yes, you do exist. Yes, there is a you.
    Not only that but, If one wants to see as I DID IT, I AM SEEING, I AM HEARING, I AM DOING, works the same way, If people wanna see this way, It is totally OK. For me saying “Hearing happens or I’m hearing” nothing changes, because I know that both are valid, I am seeing and seeing happens to me, Because subjectively I am the one seeing, not other me, or a chair or a tree, It is me, so this play of word is utterly valid. I am seeing.

    So, in conclusion, the truth is the ‘not-self doctrine’, not ‘NON self’.
    You have a self, You do exist. But you can make this self BLANK (If you want)
    But don’t try to blank others, If they don’t want, and don’t try to make YOUR mind, self , experience as the truth for EVERYONE.


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