Your Self

by Dennis Bradford

in intellectual well-being

Is anything more important than your self?

If so, isn’t that because you identify with it (as a mother might identify with her child)?

Is your self or ego/I what you identify with?  What, exactly, is that?

In The Heart of Understanding and other places, Thich Nhat Hanh argues that a sheet of paper “inter-is” with what is essential for it to exist such as clouds, rain, trees, sunshine, logger, earth, minerals in the soil, heat, time, and space.  A sheet of paper is made up of “non-paper elements.” This is an explanation of the Buddha’s teaching that you and I are empty of separate substrata.  Your self is made up of non-self parts.

Of course, you have an everyday ego/I, which is a principle for distinguishing you from other entities.  It is neither nothing nor everything. What is this ego/I that is in between nothing and everything?

The Buddha’s view is that it is a cluster (aggregate, congeries) of qualities, namely, the qualities of having a physical body, consciousness, perceptions, feelings, and dispositions to act.  His chief point is that it is false that there is a separate substratum in which these qualities inhere. You are empty of that.

If it is not some mysterious hidden entity that holds your qualities, what it is?

Try this: It is your story.  Actually, it is a combination of many stories, a set of multiple narratives.  Your ego/I is the stories you identify with, the biography of your life situation.

Compare Gary Snyder:  “The world is made of stories.”  [See David R. Loy’s stimulating The World Is Made Of Stories.] Why?  It’s because concepts, principles of classification, are always (at least implicitly) embedded in stories.

So we use stories to understand the world. We don’t understand the world as it is; rather, we understand it using our stories.

Similarly, examining ourselves means evaluating the stories we value. We make ourselves by telling, and living, stories.

What happens if you let go of all your stories?  Since your ego/I is your stories, you would have no ego/I.  You would be empty of it.  There’s nothing to be said about it since to say anything about it would be to give it a role in a story!  [Compare The World Is Make Of Stories, p. 36.]

This is one way to understand spiritual awakening.  Why is it important to let go of all your stories, to let go of attachment to your ego/I?  To break that identification is to realize that you are not your ego/I.

What, then, are you?  Who are you?

You are nothing short of Being itself.  You are the original Oneness.

Have you ever thought anything like “I hate myself” or “I love my life” or “I think my life is going well”?  The “I” may denote your True Self, whereas the ego/I that is subject to evaluation, which is made of stories, is not really you.  It’s only a person (from “persona” which is Greek for “mask”), a particular set of stories. In other words, you are beyond all stories.

Since you have the freedom to change your stories or your role in stories at any time, you must be more than those stories!

Therefore, your self is your stories and it is false that your Self is your stories.  Your ego/I is a set of stories, but your True Self is the story maker.

This entails that you are beyond all understanding (conceptualization).

This also entails that you are infinitely valuable.

What is this True Self?  What is it like?  Again, it is impossible to fixate it, to conceptualize it.

This explains why it is critical to distinguish Thought from No-Thought (Awareness, Presence).

Always to be enslaved by Thought is to miss the best part of your own story.

 

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