Monday, October 26, 2009
The Selfless Self
The Second Noble Truths points to the primary cause of suffering, misperception, and suggests that because we don't know ourselves clearly we relate to the world with attachment and aversion.
The primary thing we are misperceiving is the self. It is the one thing we are absolutely sure of, that we have a self and that we exist intrinsically or from our own side.
The self essence or instrisic-ness is expressed through three subjective qualities: Permanence; Singularity; Separateness.
Ask yourself these questions:
Are you the same person you were yesterday? And the day before? Did "you" get out of your bed yesterday morning? When you look at a picture of yourself when you were a child, do you feel that that is you? This is the perception of permanence, that we have an intrinsic self that persists over time despite all apparent changes.
Now ask yourself how many selves do you have? How many of "you" are there? This is the perception of singularity, that we are only one person, unified, autonomous and whole.
Now ask yourself if you are a separate entity? Do you exist outside and apart from other living things and people? Are others outside and apart from yourself, while you are inside yourself? This is the perception of separateness, that we exist independent from others and the world around us.
Now stabilize your mind, calm your nervous system and apply deep analysis and penetrative investigation to the self that you hold as intrinsically real, permeant, singular and separate.
There is no part of you that is unchanging. Your body, sensations, perceptions, mental constructs 9thoughts, emotions memories etc.) and consciousness are not static but change. All of the components that make up the so called self are in constant flux, arising, persisting for a short time and transitioning into something else. Modern science has shown us that the molecular building blocks that make us up are in a constant state of change and that no cell in the body exists after a set period of time. Our mind and thoughts change in the same way. Therefore, there is no self that is permanent.
Now how about the fact that you feel there is just one of you? Is there really? Are you the same person to your mother as you are to your father? The same person to your boss as you are to your colleague? The same person yesterday when you won the lottery as you were 10 years ago when you were broke. Even in the same day are you the same person when you are happy as when your are sad? Even in the same moment are you the same person once you received or extended kindness to another person? There are many selves, many face, many people who show up each day looking like you but acting, thinking and feeling different. Which one is the real you? No single one of these selves is the "real" you they are all only the relative appearance of you.
Now examine your sense of independence and separateness. That you feel self contained apart from the world. Again, here, beneath the immediate appearance, lies a deeper reality. A reality that is difficult to perceive with the ordinary eye, but opens to the calm eye of meditative analysis. On a molecular level you are in constant interdependence and exchange with the environment. The air, heat, light and energy you take in comes from outside yourself and has been shared by other living organisms. Biologically, you are the product of your parents and gene pool, connecting you with others in a familial lineage and to a species. Psychologically, there is nothing in your mind that hasn't originated or been shared with another mind. In the grand scheme of thing you are not that different or that separate. You are actually more related and interdependent than you can ever imagine!
Now that you have dissolved the misperception of self, contemplate how much damage, suffering, dissatisfaction, stress and alienation it has caused you, operating under the instinctual programming of your permanence, singularity and independence?
What would life be like if you intuitively experienced your impermanence, multiplicity and interdependence?
This is the selfless self that the Buddha encourages us to experience by deconditioning our misperception, attachment and aversion through trainings in lifestyle, contemplation and insight.
We are free, completely free, not bound by any self imposed limitation, free to learn grow, change, relate and enjoy all things around and within us.