Understanding Me, Understanding You: An enquiry into being human

Understanding Me, Understanding You: An enquiry into being human

by Krishna Manoj


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780995683303
Publisher: Cleartree Press
Publication date: 07/22/2017
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Manoj Krishna trained as a doctor in Pune, India before coming to the UK to pursue a career as a spine surgeon. He left that career to write this book and launch the Human Enquiry Project. He lives in Yorkshire, England.
He has had a deep interest in understanding how the human mind functions all through his life. He has facilitated dialogue groups where people would gather to enquire into the mind we all share. He feels passionately that we all need to be educated not only to understand the world around us, but also our inner spaces and how our minds work. He thinks each person is capable of this richness of understanding, and it can result in change without effort.

Read an Excerpt



The Benefits and Art of Enquiry

As I said in the beginning of the book, we are drawn to this process of enquiry, or asking questions of life, for different reasons. The most common reason is when we are faced with a problem, or a sense of emptiness, which we feel unable to resolve. Psychological pain pushes us to ask, "Why?" and look for a solution. I would argue that it is better to begin the enquiry into what it means to be a human being before pain damages the mind and the body. There are others who have a naturally enquiring mind and wonder about the meaning and purpose of life – 'What is it all about?'

Most of us aspire to live a happy life, free of conflict, with joy, sensitive to the wonder of the world, and in harmony with the people we live with, but if we look at our own lives or of those around us, we see that this aspiration is not so easy to achieve. Why is it that as we get older we seem to lose all our sense of wonder and curiosity that we had as children? These questions and similar ones can be explored through the process of enquiry.

In this chapter we will explore:

• Are human beings different or fundamentally the same?

• The tale of two computers: our operating system

• In what way is this 'operating system' hidden from us?

• 'Self-awareness' vs 'awareness of the self'

• The benefits of enquiry

• How do we begin to explore ourselves?

Are human beings different or fundamentally the same?

The short answer is that we are different in many ways, but similar in more ways than we realise. From the day we are born, we are taught that we are one of a kind. We have a unique name and we look different. The structure of our language is such that one of the first words we learn is 'I' and we use it so often, in every sentence, that it reinforces our sense of uniqueness. In addition, we are addressed by our name all the time and this adds to our sense of being an individual. We look around us and none of the seven billion people on the planet look the same. So, our sense of uniqueness is reinforced by our looks, our language, the way we are addressed and our culture, which celebrates and praises our uniqueness and achievement.

Yet human beings also have much in common. We are all born and we all die one day. We experience the same spectrum of emotions: fear, loneliness, ambition, jealousy, anger, love, and happiness. We want more tomorrow than we have today. We have many desires, we search for pleasure, and experience sadness. We all react to a situation based on our accumulated past experience. We experience loneliness or restlessness and try to escape from it. Most of the time we are not aware of this loneliness as it is covered up by our constant activity. We have a very capable brain and it invents endless opportunities of escape from our emptiness through pleasure, stimulation and sensation. We develop patterns of reaction and behaviour which repeat themselves throughout our life. We want to be recognised and loved. Our brains compare what we have and who we are with the world around us. We share a hidden self-interest, operating in the background. Therefore psychologically, we are very similar.

Biologically we have even more in common. The difference in our genetic make-up is less than 0.1%. In other words we are 99.9% similar to each other. The difference between our DNA and that of other animals is also very small. We are 96–98% the same as chimpanzees, for example.

The tale of two computers: our operating system

A good analogy to help understand the things that are common to all human beings is to consider the analogy of two computers. The content of the hard drive in those computers, where data is stored, will be different in each of them. Assume, for the sake of this example, that they are running the same operating system in the background, e.g.: Windows. The operating system is the interface between the person and the data storage on the hard drive. This operating system is not visible and acts in the background.

Human beings are similar. Our brains have recorded different experiences in our memory banks. We identify with those memories and experiences and therefore think we are different from each other. But we do not see that our thought processes work in patterns that are common to all human beings. Examples of this would include the constant process of comparison, our sense of emptiness, our need for love, our desires, our fears, our anxieties, and our loneliness. The way thought operates, or our 'operating system', is hidden from us, and is the same in all human beings.

In what way is this 'operating system' hidden from us?

Take for example the process of comparison. We compare what we perceive with our senses, with what is already in our memory. This happens automatically and we are usually not aware that we are doing this. We do see the effects of it, but not the thinking process behind it. If we see someone doing something we would not do, we are critical. If we see a new phone, we compare it with the one we have, and that may give rise to a desire to own it. If someone else we know is doing better than us, we may feel jealous. We may be critical of our children if they do not do as well in their exams as their peers. We do not see that the process of comparison lies behind all these different events.

In the understanding of this shared 'operating system', lie deep riches. We will discover that this operating system is nothing more than patterns of thought and the way they work within us. Our thinking is complex and swift moving, so it requires careful observation to understand how our mind actually works.

'Self-awareness' vs 'awareness of the self'

When people talk about 'self-awareness' they are usually referring to studying the contents of their memory. They are referring to studying themselves. This often leads to analysis of cause and effect. We are unhappy today because we were neglected in childhood. Or, we are aggressive because we experienced violence and a lack of love as children. Or, we are sad because someone has left us. This analysis leads to more thoughts, opinions and conclusions being added to the same memory bank.

It is 'my' sorrow, 'my' fear, and 'my' unhappiness. This leads to one thought, triggering another thought, and in turn a cacophony of thoughts, and may lead to confusion. It does not insulate us from sorrow in the future, or help us see the patterns of thinking that caused the sorrow in the first place. Thinking about a psychological problem rarely leads to illumination or its solution.

In 'self-awareness' the various hidden structures or patterns of thought continue unchanged. Our self-interest still operates in the background, as does the process of comparison and our need for recognition, power, stimulation and pleasure. Our patterns of thinking and behaviour, and our reactions continue as they were.

In contrast, 'awareness of the self' could be described as the study of the operating system that all human beings share. It is not an exclusive process, and not related only to the 'me'. We may begin by focusing on the causes of our own fears (being alone, dying, having no money) but continue on from there to study the mechanism of fear itself, which all human beings share. Rather than restricting ourselves to the causes of our own sorrow we could explore the basis of sorrow itself. This fear and sorrow is common to all human beings, though the particular things that make us afraid and unhappy will be unique to us. This is a vital difference. Our enquiry moves beyond our own causes of sorrow, to the universal feeling of sorrow itself and the mechanisms behind it.

The benefits of enquiry

Let us consider two examples of the benefits of enquiry. Our enquiry may lead to the realisation that we are all influenced by our accumulated past experiences and we react to each situation based on that past. We may also see that we are usually unaware of this link between our past, our thinking and our actions. Even if we are, our reactions are so quick that we cannot help responding in a particular way. Understanding that others do the same could allow us to view them with compassion, because we would realise that they, like us, are acting from their conditioning. One cannot deny the past or simply wish it away or suppress it, but an awareness of how it affects our present, from moment to moment, gives rise to an intelligence that can break that link between our past experiences and our present thinking and action. This allows us to live in the present and respond freshly to life.

Another example of the potential benefit of enquiry is in the study of belief, which we will explore more fully later. A study into the nature of belief leads us to realise that it is a collection of thoughts that we assume to be true, but for which there is no factual basis. If it is a fact, we would not need to believe in it. That is why it is possible for one person to believe one thing, and a second person to believe another different thing. Some people believe there is an omnipotent God, whereas others do not. No one will argue that the earth does not revolve around the sun. That is a proven fact. We will see that attachment to our beliefs can divide people, communities and nations, and is behind much of the violence between human beings, throughout history. If we go further, we realise that behind the need to believe, which we all share, lies a sense of insecurity, uncertainty and emptiness. Belief helps to cover-up these feelings. The study of belief may bring us to the realisation that it is our insecurity that needs to be addressed and if we can do that, it may be possible to live without an attachment to any belief at all. Ultimately this could lead to an end to all conflicts between people with different beliefs.

The beauty of this approach – of enquiring into the human condition – is that all one needs to do is observe things as they are, as they unfold in us. This illuminates rather than adds to our confusion and it brings humanity together because we are all exploring the same thing. It requires energy, but no effort to change. There is no authority telling us what to do or how to live. It creates no conflict, but rather can result in the ending of all conflict. It does not require us to belong to any group or follow any one religion. It eliminates the risk of being exploited by leaders who are motivated by self-interest and it is based on the fact of who we are as human beings.

How do we begin to explore ourselves?

How do we look at ourselves? Some people (my mother for one), really struggle to understand what it involves and how to begin. If we are in a conversation we could notice how poorly others listen, cutting people off before they have completed a sentence. That is awareness. Noticing the same process in oneself is self-awareness. Realising that all human beings are the same and have a strong need to express themselves because it strengthens the 'Me', is awareness of the self.

Asking the right question is the key to uncovering the facts, not according to some authority, but as they reveal themselves in us. As we begin to ask these questions we will begin to form opinions and react to what we find. If we can observe that, and keep enquiring, a rich understanding awaits.

When we ask a question, the first answers come from our memory. These will be our opinions or conclusions on the subject, e.g. 'It is only human to be jealous'. But, can we look at the fact of jealousy and learn to differentiate that from our opinion about it? Forming opinions about the facts makes the facts recede into the background and our mind becomes full of our opinions and reactions. If we just accept the facts as they emerge and watch them, a beautiful thing happens. Without any effort, intelligence begins to operate and we begin to change in a way that is effortless and lasting.

Exploring the facts will bring us together. We can use our intelligence to discern the truth behind them; on the other hand, exploring our opinions will not enhance our understanding. It may keep us apart, as we will each have an opinion that comes from our conditioning. The temptation is to either justify what we believe, or create an ideal of, 'Not wanting to be jealous' for example. Both take us away from an exploration of the facts. Sticking with the facts as we explore these questions is not easy at all. See what emerges.



It may seem a strange question to ask, but can 'awareness' and an understanding of the self, solve the many problems the world is facing? Our initial reaction is that it can only solve our own internal problems, if at all. We are only interested in exploring awareness, if it is going to improve our lives in some way. Could it bring both harmony and peace to our lives and solve many of the world's problems at the same time?

We may think the big problems in the world, like the environmental crisis, wars, over-population, drug addiction, relationship breakdown and violence are nothing to do with us. We think there are experts and governments working to solve these problems. But, except for natural disasters, many of the world's problems are linked to the way our minds work. So, if we are to solve them, we need to understand the link between the problems and ourselves. This is not immediately obvious. We will explore the ideas here in more detail throughout the book.

The environmental crisis

The world is facing an environmental crisis caused by an increasing population and increasing consumption. The earth's resources are being depleted, forests are shrinking, wildlife habitats are under threat, greenhouse gas emissions are rising resulting in climate change, poor air quality in cities is causing health problems – the list is endless.

Here are some facts from the Worldwatch Institute:

• Global population will rise to 8.9 billion by 2050.

• The 12% of the world's population that lives in North America and Europe accounts for 60% of global consumption.

• Consumption is rising in India and China and will eventually catch up with the US and Europe.

• 2.8 billion people live in poverty and a billion do not have access to clean water.

Everyone knows that something needs to be done, but nobody knows how to do it. All attempts at controlling greenhouse gas emissions so far have failed. Why? Could the cause and the possible solution to the crisis lie in our consciousness, in the way our minds work?

If we look at ourselves we can see that pleasure is a big driving force in our lives. We are not always aware of this. Pleasure leads to more consumption, both in our need for new experiences, and the enjoyment we get from buying things. We have never questioned why we have this constant thirst for stimulation that pleasure brings. Money buys us pleasure, and that is perhaps one reason we are keen on accumulating as much of it as we can in our lives.

We also have a need for psychological security. We worry about the future and this causes us to accumulate more. It never ends, because psychological insecurity has no end. We always want more than we have. Richer countries have lower birth rates than poorer ones.

It is not possible to impose idealistic solutions on people. History is a testament to that. To tell someone not to drive their car or have more children does not work, without draconian force. The urge for pleasure and security in the human brain is so powerful that it breaks through any rules imposed on it. Without exploring and addressing our need for pleasure and psychological security, we will never solve the environmental crisis.

Being aware of the whole structure of our thinking does bring about a natural intelligence and we may naturally begin to consume less because the thirst for constant pleasure fades away. As our inner insecurity eases, it may result in less need for accumulation and lower birth rates.

To tackle the environmental crisis, we need to begin where the problem originates, in the structure of our thinking process.

Violence and war

There is violence on our streets and between countries, but we think that has nothing to do with us, as individuals. Global military expenditure was $1.7 trillion in 2013, yet 2.8 billion people live in poverty. This is the world our shared human consciousness has created.

According to various estimates more than 200 million people died in the 20th century as a result of wars and oppression. Does this have anything to do with you and me? The patterns of thought that make up our consciousness are the same in you and me, and also in all the people who have been responsible for the 200 million deaths in the last century. That is what unites us.


Excerpted from "Understanding Me, Understanding You"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Manoj Krishna.
Excerpted by permission of ClearTree Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1. Foreword

2. Why Ask Questions of Life?

The Benefits and Art of Enquiry

3. Can awareness help solve our problems?

4. Awareness

How do we begin to look at ourselves?

5. Listening

Mastering the art of listening well

6. Obstacles to enquiry

Avoiding common pitfalls

7. Comparison

Why do we constantly compare ourselves with others?

8. Fear

Is it possible to live a life without fear?

9. Desire

Why does elation end in disappointment?

10. Anger

Could understanding anger reduce the violence in the world?

11. Self-image

Are our images responsible for us being hurt?

12. Belief

Why are we attached to our beliefs?

13. Conditioning

Are we aware how much our past influences our present?

14. Ambition and success

Is there a sting in the tail?

15. Self-interest

Could understanding our self-interest make us more human?

16. Loneliness

Is it possible to not feel lonely?

17. Opinions

How are they formed and how do they affect us?

18. Habits and Addictions

Overcoming our habits and addictions through awareness

19. Happiness

Why is it so elusive?

20. Sorrow

Why do we get hurt?

21. Relationships

The art of harmonious relationships

22. Love

The beauty and challenge of love

23. Death

Can we lose the fear of dying?

24. Identity

Who am I?

25. Humanenquiry.com

A website to accompany this book

26. Letter to a friend

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