Today I’m going to talk about how the self-illusion developed and how to see through it.
Did you already try to realize that there is no ‘ME’ but it stills feel like it? Maybe you wonder how it is possible to do that. Do you just have to wait for the right moment that it happens and can’t do anything?
Well, you can do quite something to make it happen. You can’t force it, but you can do a lot to make it happen.
In this video, you’ll find out how the self-illusion developed and how it can be dissolved again.
How the Self-Illusion Developed
So, before I start, I will explain why the self is there to start with. Why did you not stay in the awakened state that was there when you were born, but developed all these assumptions that are now in the way of experiencing the awakened state?
Let’s see how the self developed. The self is actually not just one thing. It’s no-thing at all to start with, but it’s not just one layer that hides the truth. Instead, there are actually ten layers. In Buddhism, they are called fetters.
The Start of The Fettering Process: Ignoring the Facts
We were born unfettered but had strong tendencies that started the fettering process. When you walk through the fetters, you’ll experience this amazing process.
So how does it all start? First, there is no ‘me’. When a child is newly born, it doesn’t experience ‘me’.
It finds out very quickly that sometimes it feels good and sometimes it doesn’t, and you know what a baby does when it doesn’t feel good. It cries and wants to get some help to feel good again. And this is something we come with. We want to feel good and not uncomfortable, not hungry, not alone. We need to feel good. That’s how we are built and that’s normal.
In order for something to make us reliably feel good, it also needs to have substance, to be a “thing” that has “thingness” to it so it can be there permanently.
But – the fact is that there is not such a thing as “thingness,” there’s no substance and no permanence, nothing reliable, and no way to always feel good.
And this is the moment when the fettering process starts. We can’t take no for an answer. The facts are simply ignored. The first fetter is in place: Ignorance. It’s the last fetter you’ll see through on the path to awakening.
The Search for the Impossible
And then an incredible restlessness sets in, and this restlessness gave the fetter its name. It’s so strong! I always compare it to the tides. It’s a totally impersonal force looking for something to hold onto, to stand on, and to find something that promises to make you feel good, always and reliably. And there is nothing. Nothing,
In the end, out of desperation, something is simply created.
The Self Developed
Since nothing substantial or permanent can be found that promises to guarantee wellbeing all the time, it is made-up. The subtle sense of ‘I am’ or ‘I exist’ is assumed.
The budding self is a very subtle sense of me. It’s not tangible, like when you start out and think, ‘I think I look through my eyes.’ It’s not like that. This sense is very subtle, it doesn’t have sensations. For some people, it’s like a very familiar feeling. That isn’t really a feeling but kind of a background sense of ‘me’.
For me, it was a taste. I’d known since I was six or seven, it was my safe haven. When I wanted some quiet time for myself in a big family, I withdrew there. I just always knew that’s my home, that’s me. For others, it’s like a castle. It’s different from person to person how people experience their sense of self. It can be like a smell, or wisp of a cloud. It’s very subtle, and it would just dissolve again if it wouldn’t be fortified, and so new layers are added to it, to support this budding sense of self.
The Support Structure of the Subtle Sense of ‘I exist’
First, it is assumed that this sense of ‘I am’ or ‘I exist’ has the faculty of perception. If you’re a Buddhist and familiar with historical teachings, this means you probably know that the Arupa-Jhanas, the formulas meditative absorptions, show this process. It starts with neither perception nor not perception, then perception is assumed, then a limited consciousness, and then space and time.
Now the world is created. Appearances seem to exist outside of us in space and time. Assumably, things are substantial and permanent.
Then the desire for form sets in.
The forms are created by assuming a subject, which is in the center of the perspective. You know that in paintings there’s always a center from where a painted scene is seen. The assumption of a subject is very similar. It feels like, ‘I’m standing in the middle, everything else is happening around me.’
With assuming a subject, borders appear. They separate us from what is experienced and also create clear borders between all other objects.
An object in this context is anything that can be discerned, everything you can see, hear, feel, thoughts, touch sensations, taste, and smell.
Desire and Aversion
Now that you’re surrounded by all these different objects, wanting sets in. I want this because it makes me feel good and I don’t want that because it doesn’t feel good. The whole drive is to feel better, or less bad if it’s not possible to feel good. Yet another layer of the self-illusion developed.
Desire and aversion are traditionally called desire and ill will. They are very strong. It takes quite a while to dissolve them on the path to awakening.
Clinging to rites and rituals
As you certainly know already, always getting what you want doesn’t really work. Sometimes, a wish is fulfilled, at other times, you have to stick with what’s available. But we humans want what we want!
And so the next assumption comes into place. We believe in gods or other otherworldly beings who can help us when we pray to them. Rituals are created in the hope for some stronger support of our wants.
And since that doesn’t work either, it’s still not possible to always get what we want, doubt sets in.
And in the end, again out of desperation, the self-illusion is created. It feels like I’m looking out of my eyes. I’m hearing. I’m feeling the touch. I’m thinking. I can decide which thoughts to think. I can choose what to do. I can pick options. I’m in control. I can make sure I always feel good.
That’s how the self-illusion developed.
And, as you surely know, this doesn’t work either, you still don’t feel good all the time. You can’t choose what to feel. You can’t control your thoughts.
The Way Out of the Self-Illusion
Once you’ve had enough of that, you’ll probably come across some way of getting out of this again, a spiritual path that shows the way out.
You can dissolve all these assumptions again, they’re only ideas about what is there. It’s not that these things are truly there. They’re just fixed ideas. We think something is there that isn’t, just like Santa.
Were you told as a child that Santa brings the gifts for Christmas? How was it when you found out that he doesn’t bring the gifts? Did Santa get killed or disappear? Of course not. He never existed in the first place. The same is true for all these assumptions.
Do You Yearn to No Longer Experience the Self?
Would you like to dissolve the self-illusion and find peace and ease in your life? On Sept. 8th, a new course for the inquiry into the self-illusion starts.