Notes from “Essentials of Mahamudra” by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche.
When disturbing thoughts or feelings come upon us, such as anger, it’s just too hard to use will alone to contain them. Just saying, “I wont get mad like this again,” isn’t going to work. It never works. That thought, while well intentioned, exists in a different state of mind than the future you that will once again be upset.
Unless one has matured their mindfulness, the moment by moment changes in their feelings and thoughts will go unnoticed. Each aggression slowly builds upon another, until a tipping point is reached and the anger explodes.
Similarly desire can overtake the best of us. We may think we’re “beyond it now,” only to find a new temptation, addiction or vice. That feeling of “I need this,” can often refer to having something someone else has – envy.
Pride also consumes by thinking that you will not be like this other person. The nature of duality always means there is someone greater and someone lessor. There is never such a thing as “separate but equal.” Separation always necessitates favoritism and revulsion. One thing is seen as greater than another. It’s the nature of duality.
The Common Self
Each of these (and other) disturbing emotions is centered upon the idea of self. “I need this,” or “I hate this,” or “This makes ME angry.”
By analytical reasoning, or by the use of meditation, we can discover that the “self” doesn’t exist at all.
In Buddhism, the idea of self is comprised of 5 skandas or heaps. With contemplation, there really is no central self. The body is made up of sense organs, but each on its own isn’t the self. The assets together do not really make a “self,” (if one is removed, we still think we have a self.)
Contemplation on this can lead one to agree that either there is no self, or the “self,” is beyond the confines of a finite body existence.
Consider also the shifting nature of self. “My car,” is a simple extension of self, to include a car. “My country,” is a sense of self of nationalism.
“I’m in my head…” is the self identified with the brain or mind. “I’m the body,” or “I’m in my heart center,” are also examples of a different localized idea of self.
If the concept of “self” can transition and shift from parts of human body, to externalized phenomena, is there really a self there at all?
Consider a situation in which you just purchased your very own, brand new car. You love it. One day you go to the market and notice another car with a scratch along the side. You might think nothing of it, or you might think, “too bad they got their car scratched.”
What happens when the same scratch appears on your car? “Someone scratched my car!” Not only has the sense of self popped up, but it appeared with an emotion.
By understanding the the ideas of “no self,” shifting nature of the self and false identification, we can form a meditation on these principals.
Doing so, will guide us through the passage of “no self,” and on the other side we’ll find a sense of peace. At first there might be fear. But in reality there is no “self” to be afraid.
Even if you do cling to self, there is still the idea of a larger self. A self that extends far beyond the limited scope existence of a body self.