Tuesday, August 8, 2017

And One More Time: There is NO Separate Self

Recently, I heard an interview with an engaging, modest man named Robert Wright, who has written a book called, Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment. 

One thing I notice when Westerners write books about Buddhism, though, is that they rarely mention the most important aspect of enlightenment, maybe even the only aspect that really matters: one realizes that the separate self doesn't exist.

(I really want to emphasize this because some people imagine that the separate self somehow disappears.
And so they are looking for evidence in behavior in order to decide if a given teacher is enlightened. But the fact is that the idea of a separate self exists in the mind; and once it is seen through, one knows that it never existed in the first place.)

So, as usual, this fundamental fact was ignored in the interview, which, I think, means that Wright doesn't know it.

I decided to look for a review of the book and found a thoughtful one in yesterday's New York Times, by a Antonio Damasio. But the lack of clarity about the lack of a separate self results in this conclusion to his piece:

 "The self appears fragmented, in daily life and in meditative states, but subjectivity does not break down. It never disappears, or we simply would be unable to observe the fragmentation in the first place.

"I would venture that in most meditative states some subjectivity remains, as representative of the biological interests of the individual. As far as I can imagine, the complete disappearance of a subjective view would result in a “view from nowhere.” But whose view would that be, then? And if not ours, how would we come to know let alone seek such a view, such an emptiness? Mindful meditation is no stranger to the world of paradox. Is there anything stranger than discovering the pleasures of not feeling?"

Whose view would it be then, indeed? The emptiness that we actually are is doing the looking (and at the same time IS the objects it is looking at).

Emptiness is form
Form is emptiness
Emptiness is NOTHING BUT form
Form is NOTHING BUT emptiness.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting piece. It is one that is near to me at the moment as it is a recent experience. For almost forty years, I have been traveling the mystic path. There was that moment when I saw the starry flash of light inside of me and I've never been the same. There were dances of luminosity and a broadening of perception that I never thought possible. Not from drugs, but from grace the light came. But, then I began to meet the long trip into the world of the unknown. There have been fights with dragons, beasts, and most of all interactions with heartless humans. Today, I stand ready to cross into what I hope to be a state of Enlightenment. I have watched from the inside what I have always envisioned as my separate self. I could see her go through suffering for me. It was as though she was my soul, though I guess she was my ego. She worried, cried, and feared. A couple of months ago she disappeared! For a time, she was replaced by the image of the High Priestess--like the image in the Major Arcana. Lately, there is no physical image, only flashes of light and twinges of energy.

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