In response to my “Trusting The Rip Tide” post Trygve wrote about accepting that there is no self makes letting go easier. Intellectually I understand where he’s coming from but experientially I’m not even close. Trygve warns against seeking rational answer because it will result in chasing my own tail but since this blog is about expressing where my current mind is so I can use it to live in my present world I’m going to attempt to catch my tail.
Goenka uses the experience of feeling subtle vibrations rising and passing away throughout the body as evidence that there is no self. Since there is no solid density to identify with there is no reason to be attached to the self. I’ve experience these pleasant subtle sensations throughout the body but that doesn’t convince me that there isn’t a self. As I sweep my hand through a body of water I can feel high frequency, constantly changing fluid passing over my hand. Does this mean the water doesn’t exist? Similarly, I can experience the constantly changing composition of my body but does that mean there is no self? I’m not trying to get into a philosophical debate about anatta or “not-self.” I know there are some clever dialogs where the Buddha explain the truth of not-self but my struggle is trying to apply this in life.
If I really believed anatta at my core I would become a monk. It seems that trying to create any kind of personal life is proof that I believe in self. Spending energy building a career, having a family, making friends, and developing skill would be a waste of time if I didn’t believe in self. By investing in these things I’m investing in mySELF. It might be an attachment but I don’t know how to live without these things.
I have a much easier time with the concept of dissolving my ego. Ego to me means putting myself, my needs, and my desires ahead of everyone else. I’ve experience how greed and arrogance from ego can cause great suffering for individuals and the people around them. Learning to become less attached to myself so I can see the struggles of all of the beings around me is a worthy challenge. As I consider catch a mosquito to release it outside or just squashing it so it doesn’t bite me I learn a lot about the size of my ego and how much work I have to do.
I’m ready to give up my ego and work on appreciating the value of all beings on the planet. I’m not ready to give up my self. I’m sticking with Descartes for now.