The nature of the separate self, duality
Some of what I am posting here might already have been posted one way or another before... but just like to write down some notes about the nature of what we call Â‘selfÂ’.
Self is merely a mental construct...it is the belief that there is this central entity that is thinking, doing, experiencing and watching things. The belief in the self as the central agent, thinker, doer, experiencer, watcher, existing separately from existing objects (Â‘thingsÂ’ being done, thought, witnessed) etc.
For all unenlightened beings, there is the belief in the story of 'me' and that i am my body, and my mind and my story, which also comes with the fear and the protection of the self-image and self's 'possessions'.. and which craving for more possessions arise... forming greed, hatred, ignorance, and all the countless sufferings.
Why is that so? As stated earlier it is the fundamental flaw of seeing a subject-object duality. we see entities separate from ourselves, and from this comes the whole Â‘outward movementÂ’ -- we try to seek outside or even into the future in an attempt to grasp and obtain things (called craving), or we push it away and distance from our Â‘selfÂ’ (aversion/hatred), or we tune them out all perhaps due to boredom and unpleasantness (ignorance), or we grow fear, etc.. while trying to protect, sustain and satisfy our false identity. All these are due to duality and the sense of self -- there is always a self and object-other-than-self relation, and because of the power of our karmic propensities we are blinded to see this as real, and this causes sufferings and samsara.
And when we drop our belief and simply SEE what is arising, what is it that we always called Â‘SelfÂ’, we can realise that it really is just a process of 5 skhandas (form, feelings, perception, volition, consciousness) Â– and it is perfectly luminous and empty, an expression of our Buddha Nature. Therefore we canÂ’t seek Buddha Nature apart from manifestation Â– as my Taiwanese teacher recalled a statement by my Master and said, as he himself has observed... many teachers out there teaches the dharma wrongly as they describe Emptiness as some sort of formlessness, and think that phenomena and manifestation are to be avoided while emptiness is to be sought or attained Â– but in reality, a real practitioner is to SEE the EMPTINESS within all PHENOMENA, and we cannot realise Emptiness APART from phenomena!
As Nagarjuna said, "That which, taken as causal or dependent, is the process of being born and passing on, is, taken noncausally and beyond all dependence, declared to be nirvana." And as David Loy said so nicely in The Difference between Samsara and Nirvana
: There is only one reality -- this world, right here -- but this world may be experienced in two different ways. Samsara is the "relative" world as usually experienced, in which "I" dualistically perceive "it" as a collection of objects which interact causally in space and time. Nirvana is the world as it is in itself, nondualistic in that it incorporates both subject and object into a whole which, Madhyamika insists, cannot be characterized (Chandrakirti: "Nirvana or Reality is that which is absolved of all thought-construction" ), but which Yogacara nevertheless sometimes calls "Mind" or "Buddhanature" and so forth.
Let's get back to topic. The 5 skhandas (which are the aggregation of the apparent 'self') are just passing clouds happening in the light of awareness that simply shines like the sun, and no self can be found, what really exist is self1, self2, self3, self4, self5, etc made up of our karmic and mental factors. Each moment is spontaneous and complete, and passes as it arises, never staying a moment, never leaving a trace. They arise like everchanging patterns of weather -- there is no entity called 'weather' that you can point to -- it is merely a concept! No fixed existing thing called "Weather" can be found or located, the word simply points to an everchanging process of conditionings -- just like the 'self'.
And there is NO subject-object duality, for the observer is the observed, the doer is the being done, the thinker is the thought.
This seeming fixed and separate self is simply a series of discrete, disjoint, completely brief YET complete/whole and spontaneous conditioned arising.
But when we review our past doings, and then due to our karmic and habitual momentum, we chain them up with the sense of a continuous agent behind them -- a 'doer', a 'thinker', an 'observer', a self. But can it ever be found? Or is it merely a belief and a thought due to recalling, referencing and chaining? Moment to moment simply arise and happen, no self is doing them. Airplane pass by, you heard it, but it is not 'you' who heard it, the airplane and the hearing happens by itself effortlessly whether or not you want to hear it. No 'you' has control over the hearing and the airplane passing, though you might think otherwise. It simply has no role in it, because it's in reality it is illusory.
Can we see that surprisingly the 'self' thought arises ONLY after a deed is done, or something is seen or experienced, and then we when we recall them we think that there is this something called 'ME', this 'SELF', that has done it, has watched it. But during the act of doing, the watching, the thought that there was a 'self' wasn't there, was it? So can we see that it is merely a concept that has no substantial reality and only occurs due to the poverty of our analytical mind and tries to chain up and attribute everything to a false agent (self)?
Can we see that the solid sense of an observer, doer, thinker, experiencer, any sense of a fixed agent and self behind our doings, thinkings, and experiencing, is simply an illusion? That in reality the observer is the observed -- this so called self, observer, doer is merely made up of a series of disjoint, brief yet complete arising of our karmic and mental factors called 'rebirth'. No fixed self can ever be found or located! It is empty. Moment to moment 5 skhandas arise due to conditions, including our moment to moment of thoughts that are really no different from our heart beat -- they simply happen without a doer or thinker.
Can we see that the idea of a self is simply a mental construct, being a self-imposed boundary and yet due to the power of our karmic propensities to blind, the mind believes it to be as ultimately real. It is the belief in the solidity, concreteness, graspable-ness of the self and the world, the mind that sees what is empty as 'entities' with inherent existence.. due to the lack of insight into its self-liberating and empty nature.
Do you notice that when we drop that (the mental construct of the Â‘selfÂ’) and simply rest in the wonder of presence... there is an expansion...a spacious and all pervading quality, because boundaries simply drop away. This presence is life spontaneous playing out itself, the whole universe spontaneously arising by itself with no one at the center living the life... it is life without a center. In this presence seeing sees, but the central entity, 'me', 'the watcher' is absent... hearing simply hears and there is no hearer... hands are typing, no one is doing it.. the whole universe is one whole process. Deeds are done but there is no doer... thinking happens, but there is no thinker. Thoughts are too seen to be simply clouds passing in the sky... mere appearance, dream-like and empty. They are not 'me' and there is no 'thinker'... they are also simply a dharma of conditioned arising not unlike our heart beat, self arising and self liberating. Each moment of thought (Which includes all our 6 senses in function) is transient yet complete... thus being no movement. Does anyone knows why is it that when we drop the observer/center and simply experience Â‘asÂ’ everything, we can walk without the sense of walking... move without movement?
The 3 dharma seals or the 4 seals must be witnessed in a single moment and not by theory, in order that we gain insight into the essence of buddha's teachings. We must know that the whole of buddha's teachings takes place in THIS moment. Are we witnessing it now or are we lost in believing in our illusory mental constructs of our self and the world? And that is the practise the Buddha told us -- to observe moment to moment reality and derive intuitive insight from there.
I'll be posting some articles that I find quite helpful, may all be benefitted from it.