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- Present awareness
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Welcome Middletoe. You ask the fundamental question of philosophy...who am “I”. You will find many opinions on that subject with abundant definitions, but very little agreement. What we refer to as “I”, seems to me to be a collection of attachments to memories, objects, feelings etc. which we identify with. Ownership, is a state of mind, which becomes apparent at death, when we consider how much stuff we take with us.
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Let me offer an answer that I have already posted to such a question relating to Descartes' 'Cogito';
"Cogito Ergo Sum!"
"I think, therefore I am!" - Descartes
This saying is exactly true, as it refers to the egoic construct of autonomous existence of a 'self', an 'I', as opposed to a 'you'/'other'.
'Ego' is the same, one and the same, as 'thought'!
Hence 'thought' being where this (egoic) 'self' exists. That is the 'I' to which the quote refers!
No 'thought/ego' = no egoic 'I'!
There can be no 'I' without 'thought'.
Thought, though, does not 'create' the egoic "I", they are one and the same, as perceived!
We don't 'think outside the box', 'thought' IS the box!
The above referenced 'I', or small 's' 'self' cannot exist in a thoughtless state, such as a Zen state where no such distinctions can be perceived.
There only exists 'one', (capital 'S') 'Self!', which is 'Universally all inclusive'. Which does not disappear when 'thought' is no longer perceived!
Ask any successful meditator, or check it out yourself.
It is 'thought' that says, "I am not that!"
"Thou Art That!"
tat tvam asi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tat_Tvam_Asi)