Email from A.
I got stuck today in inquiry when I realized that you can't really prove something does not exist just by not finding it. I do continue to "not find myself", and am clearer on where the attachment to believing I am this body or my thoughts are, normally turning up as tensions in the body, but I got intellectually stuck with the above.
Just because I can't find blue cows doesn't prove they don't exist, (likewise unicorns ...). I know it's unlikely but there is always doubt) and likewise my "soul'"or whatever. So intellectually I'm not clear on how "Neti-Neti'" can lead to a rock solid realization, although I carry on because it does seem to open more and more "space".
Your question is an interesting one, in many aspects. First, no one ever asked it (at least in this precise form), so I have had no chance to explore it; and clearly, yes you are right: there is a loophole in the process.
This might also give some insight about why this tool of "Neti-Neti” (which seems to have come to a conclusion in my story) doesn’t always help to stop in other stories...
Why should you use so much self-enquiry in this quest? My first lazy answer is to "die out of exhaustion”; which is true, but partly only.
More precisely, I would use here a metaphor.
If some alien civilisation would come to our planet and - amongst other tasks - would start studying what is called "a beach”, they would start collecting samples of sand and looking at them with a microscope. They would note down that each grain is different and constituted of several defined elements like silicate, granite, etc …
They would try with a few more samples, or even buckets of sand. And at some point, they would conclude that a beach is made of an incredibly complex assemblage of grains of sand, made of defined elements.
Now would they really need to look at ALL grains of ALL beaches in the world to come to their final conclusion?
In the same way, we seekers look at the pattern that defines "me", which seems to be made of sensory perceptions, emotions, thoughts, and conclude that each time we look through the microscope of self-enquiry we see nothing that qualifies as a "me". And we go on trying again and again, with different "samples".
Do we need to go on forever to wake up to the obviousness that all results of each observation are/will be all the same?
Do we need to explore "all sand of all beaches" of our lives?
Could we not consent to the evidence at some point and realise that a "me” is not to be found there at all?
This evidence would translate as this: there is no "me" in this space/time world, made of perceptions/emotions/thoughts.
It might then dawn upon you that this indubitable experience of "I" cannot be equated to a "me" located somewhere in space/time.
Then, as Nisargadatta Maharaj suggests, the next step might be to firmly stick to this "I" and stay at its root …