‘Anything You THINK You Are–You Are NOT’

“Anything you think you are–you are NOT.” So writes Stephen Wolinksy, an expositor of the teachings of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, a twentieth-century Indian guru in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta, in his short book The Beginner’s Guide to Quantum Psychology.

Consider what Wolinksy is saying. If you think you are X, regardless of what X is, you’re not X. Because you’re not X, he goes on, discard it. Then repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

While Advaita refers to the view that you are ultimately this one substance, Vedanta points to the path of neti neti (“not this, not this”).

“Without,” Wolinksy asks, “using your thoughts, emotions, memories, sensations, associations, perceptions, attention, or intention,” what are you? This is the question.

So, it’s not just that whatever you think you are you are NOT because, if Wolinsky is right, you CANNOT be that. It’s also that whatever you sense, feel, image, or perceive yourself to be–all these too you are NOT.

Therefore, you are not anything that the finite mind or body can intuit, perceive, or conceive of. Anything you conceive of–you’re NOT that. Anything you feel–you’re not that. Anything you sense or perceive–you’re NOT that either.


From the ‘standpoint’ of ultimate reality, which is also the standpoint of who you really are, you’re neither a doer nor a non-doer. Therefore, any morning thoughts about what you need to get done–they exist as thoughts, but they are NOT YOU. Moreover, you’re neither young nor old; neither male nor female; neither beautiful nor ugly; neither this race nor that one; neither wealthy nor poor; neither this sexuality nor that one; neither from this place nor that one; neither successful nor unsuccessful; neither married nor unmarried; neither son nor daughter; and so on. You’re NOT any of these things, really.

“Anything you think you are–you are NOT.” But you’ve lived your life according to what you’ve thought–and felt–you were. You’ve, therefore, spirited away the question. Yet if this whole thing is an ongoing mistake and if, yes, you are NOT any of this, then who, really, are you?