It's likely that the question most frequently posed in satsang is "Who an I?" or possibly the variation "What am I?" This question isn't asked for the purpose of generating an intellectual response, rather it is intended to initiate a process of discovery of the truth of your most fundamental nature. Who or what have you been since birth? Who or what are you now? and Who or what have you always been?
Imagine a newborn baby's early experiences of the world. It's a world of unfiltered awareness all the information being delivered by the five senses. By unfiltered I mean that the experience isn't being defined by words, labels, concepts, memories, definitions or even the idea that there's a person having the experiences. As a baby you were neither relying on your past nor picturing a future, the baby is simply, and effortlessly wide open to whatever the senses offer. Many of us notice this when we look into the eyes of a newborn and witness simple receptive awareness.
Jiddu Krishnamurti said "Awareness is the silent and choiceless observation of What-Is." He points to awareness prior to thoughts, prior to conditioning, prior to beliefs; awareness without content, simply basic fundamental awareness. And, this awareness is present before any sense of "my" awareness, before any sense of personal self has been developed.
When thinking about the word "awareness" it might be useful to differentiate it from the word attention. Rupert Spira says it thusly: Attention is Awareness plus an object. Relieved of its focus on an object, attention flows back to its source and knows itself as pure Awareness. Can you find anything more fundamental to your sense of self than awareness? Sages and teachers have expanded on that definition in the following quotes.
Awareness is the only truth, the spatio-temporal Universe never exists nor existed, and there is no difference between Awareness and individual True Self. The goal is to recognize Divinity within by realizing that one is not an individual, but awareness itself, which is the source of illusion. Everything is Awareness.
~ Ramana Maharshi
Everything is your awareness, everything is you, everything you see, everything you understand. You are the fabric out of which this universe is made. And it is created in this present. It was not created in the past. Everything is created from moment to moment, always new. Like fireworks, this universe is a celebration and you are the spectator contemplating the eternal Fourth of July of your absolute splendor.
~ Francis Lucille
Awareness is what is awake right now seeing through our eyes, hearing through our ears and feeling through our hearts, before the filter of thinking divides it all into parts called time, space, world, me. Even before concepts of awareness and non-awareness appear.
~ Enza Vita
The purpose of meditation is to awaken in us the skylike nature of mind, and to introduce us to that which we really are, our unchanging pure awareness that underlies the whole of life and death. In the stillness and silence of meditation, we glimpse and return to that deep inner nature that we so long ago lost sight of amid the busyness and distraction of our minds.
~ Sogyal Rinpoche
Stillness is your essential nature. What is stillness? The inner space or awareness in which the words on this page are being perceived and become thoughts. Without that awareness, there would be no perception, no thoughts, no world. You are that awareness, disguised as a person.
~ Eckhart Tolle
Well, I have news for you. Awareness cannot be possessed. Awareness does not belong to a single man or woman. Awareness is not the servant of anybody or anything. Awareness 'belongs' to the Divine Mind, Infinite Consciousness, Reality, God, just as 'yellow' belongs to gold, just as the numerals belong to arithmetic. You are this very Awareness itself. You are not a mortal being who contains an awareness. You are the Divine Awareness, itself!
~ William Samuel
Try to remember the main points:
Birth and death are like going to sleep at night
and waking up in the morning.
When you go to sleep at night, you die,
when you dream, it's like being on the astral plane,
and when you wake up in the morning, it's like being born.
Through those states of consciousness somebody exists,
and that somebody is none other than you.
In other words you are aware of dreaming.
You are aware of sleeping.
You are aware of waking up.
You are aware of dying,
and you are aware of being reborn.
Somebody is watching all this, that's you.
You exist through all those states.
Abide in your existence, not in the states.
Ignore the fake consciousness.
Abide in the reality,
which is called absolute awareness, consciousness.
Abide in that and be free."
~ Robert Adams
Awareness does the observing; thought does the judging.
~ Rupert Spira
Don't talk of different religions. The one reality is everywhere, not just in a Hindu, or a Muslim, or anywhere else! Realize:Your awareness is the truth about God.
There's no one 'being aware', there's only awareness.
Instead of trying to let go, which can end up in a tug of war with your mind, notice that the nature of your own awareness is already and always in a state of complete openness. Awareness is in a state of letting go, whether or not the mind has let go. So just feel and sense your way into the already open quality of awareness. This will give your mind something to let go and relax into.
The perceiver can never be perceived, and what is perceived cannot be the perceiver. It is only the One, cosmic awareness that does the perceiving through all body-mind organisms.
~ Ramesh Balsekar
When you turn toward this supposed entity called I, you will find only silent awareness. Take refuge in that.
Awareness is the silent and choiceless observation of What-Is.
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
We are perceivers, we are awareness; we are not objects; we have no solidity. We are boundless. We forget this and thus we entrap the totality of ourselves in a vicious circle from which we rarely emerge in our lifetime.
~ Don Juan
There is no one on this earth who does anything.
The whole universe is a puppet show.
We're dancing the dance of Shiva.
We think we're something important.
But we're really nothing as we appear.
Your job is to observe to watch, to see what's going on and
not to react to anything that is happening
but to stay separate from the happenings.
To separate yourself from what is happening.
What's happening is happening to the I, to the ego, not to you.
Nothing can ever happen to you.
For your true nature is Brahman, Absolute Reality, Pure Awareness.
Yes you are God whether you like it or not.
~ Robert Adams
My child, because you think you are the body, for a long time you have been bound. Know you are pure Awareness. With this knowledge as your sword cut through your chains. And be happy!
~ Ashtavakra Gita
You think, you become that thought. And consciousness, or the state of pure awareness, is lost.
~ Barry Long
You are primal awareness. Life is only primal awareness. Be knowingly silent as often as you can and you will no longer be a prey to the desire to be this or that. You will discover in the everyday events of life the meaning behind the fulfillment of the whole, for the ego is totally absent.
~ Jean Klein
Many differences separate us on the surface, yes.
But I cannot find a boundary in consciousness
And when you ask me, where does awareness begin and does it end
I have to say, I have to say I've always been
~ Kirtana from her song “I Am”
As soon as the 'seeker' is seen to be
a mere thought arising in Awareness,
he merges into Awareness and the spell of separation is broken.
The seeker doesn't become a Finder.
The 'seeker' ceases becoming
and merges in the absolute Awareness.
Your only asset is the presence of awareness. With it, you are everything, without it, what are you?
~ Wu Hsin
You are the One which is aware of the Awareness of objects and ideas.
You are the One which is even more silent than Awareness.
You are the life which precedes the concept of life.
Your nature is Silence and it is not attainable, it always Is.
Consciousness is pure knowledge. The mind arises out of it and is made up of thoughts. The essence of the mind is only awareness or consciousness. However, when the ego overclouds it, it functions as reasoning, thinking or perceiving. The universal mind, not being limited by the ego, has nothing outside itself and is therefore only aware. This is what the Bible means by ‘I am that I am.’
~ Ramana Maharshi