No Place but Here, no Time but Now

The question “Where am I?” is probably one of the seven wonders of the intellectual life of mankind. This question is almost always addressed from the outside, beginning from what precedes us and continuing with what follows us. This approach, which starts with presupposing man’s fundamental situated-ness and then tries to elucidate the nature of that situation, has failed to provide a satisfactory answer. There is a presupposition in this approach: it assumes that man is somewhere, inside an enclosure called the world, embedded into a situation that transcends him and extends indefinitely in both space and time.

But let us approach this question from a phenomenological point of view, by simply analyzing our experience of “place” without making assumptions about it: this approach is devoid of assumptions and is accessible to all, and above all arrives at the answer, not in the form of a dogmatic conception but in the form of an astonishing experience of awakening, by realizing that there is no question to begin with, that the question itself had arisen as a result of a flawed perception of reality and a superimposed interpretation.

It starts with a simple observation: I am now perceiving my room from a corner I am sitting at. I perceive the room as an enclosure; I experience it as a space that contains me; even though I experience the objects in my room as a multitude spread out in front of me, as parts within my experience, I do not experience “the being enclosed” as another object in that field. The sense of containment is an essential, and always present, feature of my experience no matter where I am. The objects of sense are there in the field of experience only to give texture to this ever-present background sense of placement or being enclosed; they simply provide a ground for differentiating places in name and form.

I perceive my room as something containing me, a constant perception throughout the entire stream of my experience and present whether or not I make it an explicit theme of attention. This is to say: that which contains me is itself something contained within my experience. Or, something that better expresses the paradox of human existence: I contain that which contains me.

I can extend this particular observation from the corner of my room all the way to the totality of the existing world that appears to surround me: if I can conceive of a totality of existence, then this totality is inevitably encompassed by that conception. If I posit that there is an objective totality outside my conceptions, then this positing itself is still another conception and within the purview of possible experience, whether concrete or abstract.

That I experience myself always in some place, is because experience as such is always experience-of confinement and finitude. The stream of experience that provides this formal structure is itself in no place or time.

There is no place but here, and no time but now. The apparent past and future, the entire history, and the entire cosmos that is seemingly extended in front of us indefinitely, these are all decorative ideas we entertain to make the infinitude of this Living Present more effable and bearable.

In reality, we are contained by nothing but our own conceptions.


14 thoughts on “No Place but Here, no Time but Now

  1. ” I contain that which contains me”, a very powerful statement and my new favorite quote 🙂

    I personally feel this deconditioning of this finitude perception of space can happen with lot of contemplation about the reality. Once you realise it, you cannot ‘unrealise’ it IMHO. But deconditioning the mind from the perception of time (at least in my case) will be very challenging. The illusion of time IMHO is a very powerful one and if I am able to do it, I am possibly only few steps away from knocking the doors of liberation 🙂

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      1. Yes mam, it is ‘in my humble opinion’ as Tomaj mentioned. I have a habit of using this sometimes in online conversations.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Very much agree with you. I think the illusion of time is also strong for those who have realized it too; although it’s impossible to unrealize the truth, but we can momentarily forget it. In my case, even though I was able to follow certain steps for that experience, but doing it again is as challenging as the first time. Time is pretty hard to overcome but definitely possible and I’m certain you’re about there; we can always feel it beforehand.

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  2. The sense of containment is an essential, and always present, feature of my experience no matter where I am.
    This particular blog wraps all maha vakhyas of Vedanta.
    In a way it expresses the intellect or you call it wisdom which cannot be seen or touched but gives raise to all sensation and in highest form absolute sensationless understanding of what you are and only you is there.
    Pranam. Partial seeing is ego but containing the containment is

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    1. In essence only the center of me is absolute/truth/brahman etc.
      Narayana narayana narayana.
      Your originality or my own originality is shining like a crore Sun’s shining together.
      May be many of your followers will end their struggle understanding Ajati.
      Saastaang Pranam.

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  3. Narayana in fact I wanted to ask you a straight question and your blog almost touched it.
    Narayana is there anything to do for this realisation and can anyone be there without realisation. Secondly IMHO ancient tribes living in deep jungles are far more liberated than we in cities and educated civilised society.
    Pranam.

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    1. It seems that anything we say about this realization always ends up paradoxical. It’s a very strange situation. The fact that when you have that realization, you realize you already had it, so really nothing new is happening. But before having that realization we still seek it, basically seeking what we already have; and sometimes it is this obsessive seeking that can keep us from realizing it; but then again, without seeking we won’t realize it either. One famous Sufi mystic once said “the Truth is not found by seeking; but only those who seek can find it.” This captures the paradoxical nature of our relationship with the truth.
      But notice that we have a similar paradoxical relationship with another entity in this world: that is the “I.” Hence the expression, you are the truth, which is both true and false. Now I have confused myself 😉 which is still part of the truth.

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  4. Most sages say that everything is a play of consciousness. As an Indian steeped in this vocabulary, I register such observations easily .

    But it was only after reading this post that I have begun to contemplate it more deeply. Of consciousness as both the annihilator and ground on which the imagined self exists . As the creator of space within which the duality of objects and the illusion of time come into play.

    Even a mere intellectual understanding of these things and the occasional scent of experience is powerful and uplifting. This is where I feel I am, in a sort of nether world, neither here nor there.

    But I surrender to the words of Nisargadatta Maharaj – they are my closest guide, constant companions and the closest reflections of my inner truth.

    You bring them to life with such originality . I am deeply grateful for that

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