where is self? the meaning of ‘anata’ or non-self

a flimsy house of cards in black and white (represents fragility of constructed imaged of self)

All emotion, whether insecurity, guilt, regret, anger, or anything at all, is only coming from the mind always making Self. 

Whatever hurts is whatever hurts “Me.” Whatever is fearful is whatever is a danger to Me. Whatever guilt or regret arises belongs to the attachment to MY actions, and the belief that these actions represent ME. 

Where is self? What is “I” – I am – I am what?

I could introduce myself: I am (for example),  a vegetarian, a vegan, animal lover, responsible for, mother, daughter, sister, a woman, a good writer, a good cook, a bad mechanic, patient, kind, friendly, happy, anxious, – I like this and dislike that; this is my favourite food, that is my least favourite thing in the world.

That’s supposed to represent ‘Me.” That’s “who I am.”

This idea of Me, Myself, I am  – is fixed. I am is something permanent and stable, not changing. If It were not fixed, how could I say things like “This is my favourite type of beer.” “I am a jealous person.” “I am an insecure person”?

If I have acted like that in the past, it is because I am like that. If I have thought like that in the past, it is because I am like that. I identify MYSELF with everything I’ve done, everything I’ve said, everything I think, every idea I have.

What are they, all of these things? Nothing but an idea, nothing but a memory. And can this idea, this memory, be trusted? Is it reality?

To see just how untrustworthy the memory is, you can watch, when you eat, for example, yoghurt, in between each swallow, each spoonful, do you remember the taste of yoghurt, really? Do you know the taste of yoghurt? Does this idea that you have, this memory that you have, “Yoghurt,” is it the same as the reality of the tongue touches yoghurt? Is it even close? Does it have anything to do with what yoghurt is, really?

When you see that even this simple, basic memory is not close to reality, this basic idea is a total nonsense, then what about all the ideas and images you have built up about Who I Am, what I have done, what I will do, what I am like? 

As much as you don’t know really the taste of the thing you think you know as “yoghurt,” you do not know the reality of what you call “Me, I, Myself.” 

Does ‘I am’ exist in the present?

When you watch in meditation, you see how the mind changes, moment by moment, millisecond by millisecond; nothing is fixed, continuous or constant. Everything is changing, changing, changing, faster than you can say the words, faster than you can snap your fingers it is changing.

Millisecond by millisecond, I am not the same emotion, not the same sensation, not the same memory, not the same thought. Millisecond by millisecond, the cells of the body are changing and dying, millisecond by millisecond this body decays and gets old, gets sick and is dying. Any second at all, with one blood vessel burst, one heart attack, everything I am and everything I have ever known, is vanished, ended, finished, over, no more, disappeared. Kaput.

So now – Where is self? Which part?

And what if you were not to let your mind stick to anything as you keep watching – if you stay keeping it present, present, present – new thought, new feeling, new memory – next, next, next – let go, let go, let go – now can you see, where is self? 

In the present, there is nothing for the emotion to stick to, nothing to get hurt, guilt, let’s say – guilt of what? For whom? SO fast all is changing, every moment. Whatever “I” was one moment ago – whatever thought, whatever idea, whatever feeling – that’s gone, past, dead.

You don’t get to hold onto anything, to keep anything, whatsoever, in reality.

The house of cards that we have built

What is quite funny is that we are so worried, so constantly anxious, so fearful; running as fast as we can in circles round our little Self, trying to defend it, protect it, maintain it. It’s as if we already know inside, from the beginning, that it is not real – it is just an image, fake, put-together.

For, if this Self were something real, and something solid, something true and based in reality, why would we be so afraid for it, so protective of it, so careful of it?

A castle of rock, is it afraid of the wind and rain? Is it afraid of stormy weather? Is it afraid of the birds that come to poop on its walls?

It is precisely because this idea of Me, I, Myself, What I Am, is so flimsy, so fake, we constantly have to protect it. If you have a house of cards and want it to stay standing, unlike with a castle of rock, you will have to spend a lot of energy protecting it from wind, rain, stormy weather and anything that can knock it down. 

If you love your house of cards, if the house of cards is all that you have, your love, your dear thing, your home – well, unfortunately you will spend all your life being worried, anxious and afraid, because the nature of this house of cards is that it will sooner or later come toppling down at the slightest touch.

The good meditator is like the one who decides himself, “I’m fed up with this house of cards, I just waste all my life trying to keep it standing, and it’s not even a decent house that will protect me from the weather.”

So he decides, instead of being afraid all his life that it will be knocked down, to knock it down himself. He “dies” to himself.

Now the house of cards is demolished, now the false image of Self is no more – who or what can break it? It is already demolished, already broken to pieces, already lying on the ground.

And now what you will have is the firm solid ground of the reality you have seen, the rock on which you stand, that nobody can ever take away from you, no wind can move, no storm can damage. No more fear, no more anxiety, for what is left to be anxious about?

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