For as long as I can remember, I seem to have been interested in ideas, thoughts, knowledge, perception, meta-cognition.

Why? No one knows is a valid answer. There is another answer, which explains why things happen the way they do. We will come to that.

In the mean time, I wanted to relate this one very unusual incident. And before I do, please understand I grew up totally agnostic, and never really bothered with the whole institution of religion thing… I always claimed that I had a direct connection to God, and I needed no one in the middle to broker my relationship with him. But this was entirely intellectual, I really had no idea what I meant by that. Still, being an engineer, of an open mind, and having grown up in India, I did go on occasion…

This one time was different. I remember having had really vivid experiences in certain temples, very moving, very fundamentally altering moments, what may be called intensely out of body experiences. This time was a big one.

Most of the times we dismiss these as “a religious experience, whoa”, and move on. Whatever that means. You know what I mean, everyone has experienced something like this. Some spiritual mumbo-jumbo.

Again, being an engineer, that just didn’t fly. When it happened to me that this time, it shook my very foundations of perception, and everything just stopped: what the heck was that?! What the thoughts that came, and the experience itself, these are not the important bits. The question that awoke inside me was: what the heck is any experience at all?

If something like walking into a temple, or smoking weed, or dreaming even, causes one to perceive this reality very differently, or even completely replace this reality for another dream world, which felt exactly as real as this one, then what the heck was not “unreal” but actually “real”? And what on earth is reality, itself? What makes one thing real, and another thing “not real”?

This may sound repetitive, but there are two types of questions one has about this type of stuff, what is reality, who am I, etc. The first type of questioning is typically characterized by the idea that this is a philosophical topic with no real “answer”. The second has nothing to do with any other idea at all, just the one in question – what the heck is this experience, in actuality, in this moment, what the heck is it?!

This second type of questioning comes from just a basic wanting to know. It is not already colored by ideas of what the answer might be, or how the question ought to be dismissed as quickly as possible, in order to get back to “real” life. Intense Catch-22.