In Search of Self and Beyond

“Stop acting so small.

You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”

~ Rumi

space

One of the most confusing and debated issues in philosophy, theology, psychology, anthropology, and now in the emerging neurosciences, is the concept of the self. To be succinct, the matter may be condensed into the question, “Who or what am I?”

The purpose of this essay is not to summarize the current state of the investigation, nor to champion any particular position that has already been advocated by far more accomplished minds than mine. Rather, I am here to suggest that most of the confusion around the subject is based on a fundamental misunderstanding — one that relies on the severely limited filters associated with the human vantage point. From the human vantage point, we will never be able to account for that which transcends our assumed humanity, any more than we can hope to view the grand procession of celestial galaxies by using our curled fingers as a telescope.

Essentially, most of us take the uninspected sense of individualized self to be representative of who and what we are — hence the “me” story. The prime misunderstanding generated from that conviction is the belief that we are human beings in a world of other human beings, all vying for survival and prominence. This is an innocent enough assumption, since by incarnating here, we arrive with a kind of amnesia regarding our true nature. The purpose of this amnesia is to create the illusion that we are actually the human animal which we are inhabiting. The ensuing self-sense is not some troublesome critter that needs to be extinguished, but simply a way to navigate the objective human realm.

The illusion of the “person” is necessary in order to grant the incarnational adventure a sense of reality. For the experience to have a real impact, we need to identify with the fictional avatar in the virtual reality game of being human to the extent that we momentarily forget ourselves and believe we are the game character itself. In that regard, all those systems which deny that we are the so-called self are somewhat correct, as long as they are pointing to the fact that we are not truly the body-mind vehicle, the flesh and blood human character.

However, even those systems which claim that we are humans with souls actually have it backward, in the sense that we are much more like spiritual beings who have infused a portion of our light energy (which are then called souls) into humans in order to enjoy the human experience. In doing so, we create a two-in-one opportunity to gather interesting human experiences, by acting as both the Witness and the Do-er (although in reality we are neither). When we return to our purely spiritual state after dropping off the physical body, we expand the knowledge base of our familial “soul group”, of which we are more like cells, with the fresh experiences we gleaned while fused with the human animal.

By investing a percentage of our light energy through a process of focused attention into the human host, we come to identify with the human character for the duration of its lifespan, enjoying the unique sense of self that results from the fusion. Nevertheless, we are not that human self, any more than we are the body-mind organism with which we are identified. At death, the human does not move on — we do. The human returns to the atomic elements, but we eventually re-integrate that percentage of energy previously incarnated with our apparent “higher self”, which manifests as a seemingly immortal being of Light in what appear to be heaven-type worlds, dimensions which vibrate at a much higher frequency than the denser human circumstance.

I say “apparent” because in reality we are not truly this higher self (or Whole Self, to use Natalie Sudman’s terminology) either, although the higher self may seem to be much more like our real and immortal nature than the human illusion, just as the heaven-type worlds seem much more real than our lower density 3-D earthly sojourn. However, regardless of our luminous radiance, we are still very much like characters in a dream, a dream being dreamt by the Source of all the universe, in the same way that humans are like a dream we seem to create when we incarnate that portion of our energy in the human bio-vehicle. Just as the human/soul entity populates its dreams with all sorts of characters at night while asleep, so too do we appear in the Mind of Source.

As “spiritual” beings, we have been infused with a sense of individuality by Source, just so that It can experience itself from every possible angle and thereby enjoy its creation through our various perspectives as co-creators of all manifestation. In order to be able to appreciate Itself, Source manifests the conditions for the appearance of innumerable life forms, which are nevertheless still indivisible shards of Its own Source Energy that temporarily enjoy a sense of separation and individuality. As beings of light and power (Source Energy), we are the vehicles for Source’s play of consciousness, conduits of the creative Play.

In that regard, one could say that what we actually are is Source Itself, pretending to be multiple distinct selves. Consequently, those who claim that we are not even souls at last are also ultimately correct. In any event, Source is not some kind of super entity, Cosmic Self, or Supreme Being (which are mere human concepts), but much more like an ineffable conscious energy field to which no human terms or descriptions can apply, but which includes all creation as manifest aspects and reflections of its own unconditional loving.

Fundamentally, there are no sentient beings in the universe — there is only Source, playing all the roles, wearing every mask, engaged in all the functions, and purely for the joy of the dance. Any sense of separate self which we might clothe ourselves in is merely a temporary dream costume of Source, as is any illusion of substantial and enduring personhood. Here, the mystics’ claim that “there is only God” is actually the literal truth, or as Alan Watts said: “You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.” 

When even the illusion of being an independent and exclusive higher light being self finally drops away, we recognize that our highest conceptions of liberation and Nirvana were simply crude representations of the realization of our inherent selflessness. We have never been other than Source Itself — there was never anything to acquire or become that was not already true of us. We are the whole thing, and simultaneously no-thing.

In seeing through any notional construct and identification with some ephemeral individual self (whether sacred or mundane), it might seem that this is as far as we can go — to recognize that we are in reality simply dream figures in the Mind of Source — but we need not stop here. If we consider the intrinsic logic of the manifesting hierarchy of self/Self Realization — ascending from human creation to spiritual being and then to the Source of the whole manifest and un-manifest totality — we can also intuit that Source Itself may be more like a cell within an even vaster body, one far beyond our comprehension, with thought-universes more numerous than grains of sand on a beach.

Furthermore, there might very likely be no limit nor circumference which could somehow account for, define, and contain it all, no true and final self-existent Absolute behind conditional appearances, but simply a dependently arising thought within another thought, ad infinitum. Moreover, there has never been a “big bang” where it all began, no actual beginning nor end to this Play, no origination and therefore no destruction, no place to plant a flag and claim some surety, no Big Mind or Self where the “buck stops”, but more like a dream within a larger dream within an even larger, more exquisitely confounding dream, and so forth beyond any progressively sublime conception — human or divine. It is all open-ended, free and unknown, and that is the elegant glory of it — its sheer magnificent Mystery!

Once you understand non-self, then the burden of life is gone. You’ll be at peace with the world. When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness and we can truly be happy. Learn to let go without struggle, simply let go, to be just as you are – no holding on, no attachment, free.

 ~Ajahn Chah

BeyondSelf

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About Bob OHearn

My name is Bob O'Hearn, and I live with my Beloved Mate, Mazie, and our lazy dog, Amos, in a lovely little mountain town called Paradise, situated on the ridge of the Little Grand Canyon, in the Northern California Sierra Nevadas. I have 6 sites you may enjoy: Photo Gallery: http://www.pbase.com/1heart Essays on the Conscious Process: http://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/ Poetry and Prosetry: http://feelingtoinfinity.wordpress.com/ Transliterations: http://freetransliterations1.blogspot.com/ Love Poems and Duets with Mazie: http://lovesight.wordpress.com/ Autobiographical Fragments, Stories, and Fables: http://travelsindreamland.wordpress.com/ Thank You!
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19 Responses to In Search of Self and Beyond

  1. Rubye Jack says:

    I agree with you that it is all a mystery, but more than that we don’t have the words to talk about it even if we did have some realization of what it is. However, it seems to be our nature to keep trying to figure it all out even though it is a fruitless endeavor. Ah well…

    • Bob OHearn says:

      Hi Rubye,

      Yes, the masters say that those who know don’t speak, but then go on and write endless commentaries on various issues. It seems that humans just love to communicate their thoughts to the tribe, and occasionally some thought might just spark a kind of awakening, or at least serve to expand another’s horizons, so it’s all good.

      Buddha said it pretty well in the Lankavatara Sutra: “So with the teachings in all the sutras: They are intended for the consideration and guidance of the discriminating minds of all people, but they are not the Truth itself, which can only be self-realized within one’s deepest consciousness. Mahamati, you and all the Bodhisattvas must seek for this inner self-realization of Noble Wisdom, and not be captivated by word-teaching.”

      Blessings!

  2. SO VERY TRUE……Enlightening …

  3. marcel says:

    “fuck it” he added :D

    I’ve often been between the extremes of detachment and dispassion from “spiritual practise/self-inquiry” and the detachment and dispassion from “wordly acitivities”. Months of reflection can turn into months of “fuck it” lets eat, smoke and hang in front of the tv 24/7. It turns out that all of it is based on an imagined character. Only activity which never was a “volitional choice” was playing, you know like those dolphins and the rings, whether “fuck it” on the couch or imagining to be something holy, give me a balloon and I turn into a kid.

    • Bob OHearn says:

      [in Just-]

      By E. E. Cummings

      in Just-

      spring when the world is mud-

      luscious the little

      lame balloonman

      whistles far and wee

      and eddieandbill come

      running from marbles and

      piracies and it’s

      spring

      when the world is puddle-wonderful

      the queer

      old balloonman whistles

      far and wee

      and bettyandisbel come dancing

      from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

      it’s

      spring

      and

      the

      goat-footed

      balloonMan whistles

      far

      and

      wee

  4. marcel says:

    Self inside self,
    you are nothing but me.

    Self inside self,
    I am only You.

    What we are together
    will never die.

    The why and how of this?

    What does it matter?
    ~Lalla

  5. marcel says:

    I have it in my images folder from your gallery, our talk reminded me of it, though what I thought about it a year ago has no value anymore. So I found a pdf file with several ones… mesmerizing!

    http://www.poemhunter.com/i/ebooks/pdf/lalleshwari_2012_7.pdf

  6. marcel says:

    Wonderful thank you, these poems are amazing!
    “You leave, so that we two
    can do One Dance”

  7. Rod Lloyd says:

    Thank you, Bob. I wandered along the path of Kashmir Shaivism for a bit. Learnt a lot about the Shive of Awareness that we are, sort of. Like the way you express. I feel a sort of amalgam of Hindu/Buddhist seeings. This “Self/self’, is from one viewpoint, and not from another, it seems to me. Nothing definite finally in this “floating world”. This is also helpful to me as I explore the other theme elsewhere, on reincarnation ideas. Many thanks.

  8. Rod Lloyd says:

    Thanks to Marcel for the links also. Will enjoy.

  9. Bob OHearn says:

    Dharmakaya as the Supreme Source
    Jackson Peterson

    Its possible in our practice we may become too focused on our micro-world, our personal and subjective inner grooming. We are checking up on our “state” and fine tuning endlessly. The macro-world is always left as a vague aspect of our subjective practice in the form of “my” perceptions and “my” sensory experiences. We don’t notice the tight cocoon our limited and focused attention weaves.
    However, life events as well as ESP and synchronicity occurrences can unexpectedly open and widen our perspective from time to time. In Dzogchen and Mahayana Buddhism in general, the Dharmakaya is considered the ultimate Basis or Ground of Being from which all creative potentials arise. But too often this Primordial Basis is described or believed to be an amorphous space of energy potential instead of being the dimension of a Supreme Source or Universal Intelligence. Dzogchen describes this Supreme Source as “Kun Je Gyalpo”: the All-Creating Monarch” also referred to as Samantabhadra: the “All Good One”. Buddhism posits a Buddha Nature that has omniscient wisdom (yeshe), supreme bliss (dewachen)and infinite compassion (thugje). However this quality of spiritual sentience always manifests as individual Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who realize this inner spiritual dynamic. We often miss the all pervasive aspect of the Buddha Nature that manifests as macro-reality (tsal) as well as all “personal” experience (rolpa). It’s all arising from this same Dharmakaya Source and all is empty in essence, clear cognizance, and appearing as energetic formations.
    Since the space-like Dharmakaya has no specific location in space or time, it is equally everywhere, hence the term “all pervasive”. The “all-pervasiveness” is experienced as Clear Light (rigpa gyi o’dsal) Awareness and vast penetrating transparency (zangthal).
    Every movement, every action, every intention, every thought, every form, every energy, every perception, every consciousness is this Buddha Nature in expression of its infinite potentials. (tsal, rolpa, and gyan)
    It is this Dharmakaya (chos sku) Wisdom Intelligence that we call the Absolute (cho nyid). It is its Buddha Nature infused expressions (tsal) that we call the “relative”. The Absolute is manifesting as the relative with no gap or distance between the two.
    Its possible for our relative consciousness (shes pa) to experience itself to be the Absolute in the creative act of manifesting Itself as our personal consciousness (yid). In that moment the Absolute Intelligence and the relative consciousness are known to be “cause” and “effect” within the same moment and location. The Absolute is cause and the relative consciousness is the effect. The wisdom of the Absolute illumines the relative consciousness (nampar shes pa) leaving it (shes pa) devoid of any sense of independent autonomy or existence. For a flash, only the Absolute remains. This is what all mystics call “gnosis”. In Buddhism this experience is when our “individual” and relative consciousness (shes pa) realizes its essence as Dharmakaya Buddha Nature.
    To experience this is to know the Absolute in that flash of gnosis (rigpa). To know the Absolute is to be liberated from the cocoon of self-absorbed micro-consciousness (sem).
    In Dzogchen this flash of the Absolute Dharmakaya Intelligence is called “rigpa”. The more often that rigpa occurs the more the relative consciousness or self-mind (sem) is transformed into its essential nature and each rigpa occurrence leaves the consciousness (shes pa) more infused and replete with the attributes of the Dharmakaya itself as omniscient wisdom, supreme bliss and infinite compassion. This is like brittle ice melting into pure spacious water.
    As this transformative process develops one’s consciousness (shes pa) moves from being “head-centered” to being “heart-centered”. The heart is the space of the Dharmakaya in humans. Our relative consciousness dissolves in its Origin. In its place an always present Buddha is revealed.

  10. Bob OHearn says:

    The seeker is he who is in search of himself. Soon he discovers that his own body he cannot be. Once the conviction: ‘I am not the body’ becomes so well grounded that he can no longer feel, think and act for and on behalf of the body, he will easily discover that he is the universal being, knowing, acting, that in him and through him the entire universe is real, conscious and active. This is the heart of the problem. Either you are body-conscious and a slave of circumstances, or you are the universal consciousness itself — and in full control of every event.

    Yet consciousness, individual or universal, is not my true abode; I am not in it, it is not mine, there is no ‘me’ in it. I am beyond, though it is not easy to explain how one can be neither conscious, nor unconscious, but just beyond. I cannot say that I am in God or I am God; God is the universal light and love, the universal witness: I am beyond the universal even.

    I am what I am, neither with form nor formless, neither conscious nor unconscious. I am outside all these categories.

    You cannot find me by mere denial. I am as well everything, as nothing. Nor both, nor either. These definitions apply to the Lord of the Universe, not to me.

    I am complete and perfect. I am the beingness of being, the knowingness of knowing, the fullness of happiness. You cannot reduce me to emptiness!

    ~Nisargadatta Maharaj

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