Conditioned existence is an absolute limitation. We might think that it is a limited version of reality but that it is at least still some kind of a version but this isn’t the case. It’s actually something completely different, completely unconnected. As well as being an absolute limitation conditioned existence is also a trap because when we are in it can’t understand how they could be possibly be anything else. Conditioned existence is an absolute limitation and yet this absolutely limited state of being is now all we have got, and not only that but it is the only thing we can believe in. We have no capacity to acknowledge or recognize anything else.
What is it mean to say that ‘conditioned existence is an absolute limitation’, though? We can say it easily enough; we may even understand it – in a purely intellectual sort of a way – but what are we actually saying here? The problem is that unless we know what it means to be not limited then we can’t know what being ‘limited’ means either. Clearly we can’t. Otherwise, all we have got are our limited ideas of what it means to be ‘limited’, which is the same thing as ‘the machine’s simulation of what unsimulated reality might look like’. The thinking mind is guessing at what lies beyond it, but getting no further than itself for all its feverish guessing.
We can go a certain distance towards saying something about what this ‘limited’ modality of being is like, what it means to be living life in this extraordinarily limited way, however. We can for example say that conditioned existence is like a simulation that simulates everything, a simulation which simulates reality itself, but which is itself nothing. This is such an incredible thing – the simulation pretends to be so much and yet it is so very little. How – we might say wonder – is such a thing even possible?Why is it possible? How can something that doesn’t exist pretend to be everything, and get away with it?
And yet this is not only possible, it happens all the time! It happens on a routine basis – as far as we are concerned, it never doesn’t happen. It never doesn’t happen to us because we are always stuck to the thinking mind and its ideas; chief amongst them being its idea about who we are, its idea concerning our ‘identity’. This is a curious thing right here – there is no such thing as ‘identity’ anywhere and yet the simulation invents it – the simulation invents it and, what’s more, it makes it seem like an essential ingredient in the mix.We can no longer see beyond it. The simulation is actually based on identity, just as a game is based on ‘the player of the game’. The simulation needs the one who is to believe that the simulation is real just as a game needs the one who is to play it, the one who is to ‘take it seriously’ but this ‘identity’, this ‘player of the game’, is nothing more than a made-up thing. It’s a construct of the system, and the system itself isn’t real.
So as soon as we start taking this identity seriously we get caught up in the conditioned form or analogue of existence, and we most certainly do take it seriously. Identity is conditioned existence and conditioned existence is identity. The suggestion that identity is merely an invention, a fiction, and that it isn’t to be found anywhere in the real world no matter how hard we look, doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense to us. It can’t make sense to us because ‘identity’ is the most fundamental fact of existence there is as far as we’re concerned. It is ‘the most basic fact of existence’ there is when we are operating within conditioned reality but the qualification here – as always – is that conditioned reality isn’t actually real.
What do we imagine that ‘identity’ or ‘self’ is, however? What are our reflections on it? What does it look like, what is its essential nature? The point here however is that we don’t reflect on identity, and the question of what its essential nature might be. Identity is a baton which we are handed in a relay race and the point is to immediately run with it rather than stopping to question its ontological nature.The nature of this thing called ‘identity’ is that believing in it precludes any questioning of it and this is of course the case with all beliefs! A belief is a belief because we never reflect upon it, because we never reflect upon what it is that we believe, and an identity is an identity because we never reflect on what ‘having an identity’ actually means!
‘Having a belief’ and ‘being subsumed by this mind-created simulation of reality’ are very much the same sort of thing in this regard. A belief is no good without someone to believe in it just as a simulation is no good without having someone to perceive it as being real. We are generally very proud of our beliefs. ‘I believe…’ I say, as if this actually means something. Our belief isn’t really in the set of ideas we say we believe in however, what we really believe in is ‘the one who has the beliefs’! My ideas are me, after all – they are certainly not anything else. I project them onto reality but that doesn’t mean that they belong there. When I say that I am proud of my belief what I mean is that I am proud of me – I mean that I am proud of my identity. Reality itself has no need of any believer however. Why would it? Why would reality need anyone to believe in it, after all? Only the unreal needs someone to believe in it, someone to validate it.
A system of belief is never content to occupy only part of the space that is available. It’s not as if we can have a rigid belief about one portion of life and yet at the same time remain perfectly open-minded about all the other portions! We can’t have a mind that is closed and open at the same time; if I have a belief then I have a belief about everything and if I am open-minded then I don’t have any belief about anything. Belief systems always want to explain everything – they are greedy that way. Their greed is absolute. If they didn’t explain everything then what they didn’t explain would be a threat to them! A ‘belief’ is just like a ‘simulation’ therefore – even the simulation isn’t anything it attempts to be everything and even though a belief isn’t true it nevertheless attempts to explain the whole world…
Conditioned existence is thus a world that has nothing at all in it. It is infinitely impoverished. When I try to spell out my belief system to you it may sound as if it has lots of different terms in it, but it doesn’t. It’s all just ‘the belief system’, just as everything in a theory is ‘only just the theory’. Everything in the belief system is just the same as everything else in it – it has all got exactly the same flavour to it, and it’s a very bland flavour indeed. Theory is always grey, as Goethe says. When we are attempting to live our lives in the mind-created simulation of reality it may seem that there are lots of different choices in it, it may seem as if there are lots of different possibilities there, but they aren’t – it’s all the same thing, it’s all just ‘the simulation’. There is absolutely no diversity there, none at all. The other way of putting this is to say that everything I experience as all just ‘me’; after all, it’s all just my ideas, my thoughts, my assumptions, my presuppositions reflected back at me. Everything I experience is just ‘me’ reflected faithfully back at me at every turn, and that ‘me’ wasn’t ever a real thing in the first place…