I is the conceptual covering of the body. It's like a skin. But a conceptual skin. Just as the physical skin covers and protects the body, just so the ego is a conceptual skin that protects the body as well as the mental concept of "I."
The I skin develops at around age two or three when the mind begins conceptual thought and separates the body from everything else that surrounds it. The first "I" thought is "I am." This is the primary thought upon which the ego creates itself.
With the ego and it's function of self preservation comes psychological suffering. With the concept of the "I am the body," comes fear. With fear comes the division of the world into good and bad, right and wrong, love and hate.
Because the conceptual skin is created at such a young age, the conceptual I becomes an assumption that is so primary, so taken for granted, that it is almost impossible to see. It is not that it is so subtle that makes it difficult to see, but that it is such a primary assumption.
If you ever studied Geometry and proving therums, you can get a taste of the conceptual skin. Like logic, you can build an entire house of cards on a false assumption. The logic post the initial error can be flawless, perfect in its rationalizations. But, unless one questions the initial assumption, the house of cards seems well built.
This is why Ramana Marharshi, Nisargadatta, and others, continually referred back to the basic question of "Who am I." They knew full well that they could spend years arguing with seekers if the basic assumption was not examined. It's like arguing theology. If theology contained the truth, how could there be five thousand paths, and no abatement of suffering.
The basic conceptual "I" that is the base assumption, makes all questions after this unconscious assumption, a theological maze in which the seeker will never find relief. The guru, the realizer, the knower of Self, is the one who always points back to the original error, the conceptual I -- the conceptual skin that prevents true knowing.
For this reason, without great erudition, the Knower can respond to any and all questions. This wisdom seems all powerful, all knowing, but this wisdom is simple, it doesn't have to fight with all the post assumption bullshit. It recognizes instantly that the question is based on the false "I" assumption.
This body/mind is aware that it exists. It has its preferences, likes and dislikes. But, it does not suffer like it used to. Physical pain is accepted. Mental suffering always asks the question, "Who is suffering?" With this question, the conceptual skin is seen, and there is relaxation.
The body exists. Yes, the delivery has been received. But, the conceptual "I" is a result of the body, a mental construct that is not permanent, not substantial. It can be seen as an ephemeral, changing, ghostlike, person. The personality is here, but this delivery is a shimmering hologram, and the hologram can be seen through.
While the personality, the consciousness of a particular individual can have a level of consciousness, the true Self, the Source, is prior to consciousness, has no levels, and cannot be described. You are that. Who you think you are is an eminence, an emergence, like a flower. Enjoy the blooming, but you are the Source of the bloom, not the bloom itself.
Maury Lee 5/31/2008