If we look at what Buddhism would answer to the
question Who am I? We arrive at the theory of Atta or self or ego.
Until recently people from the West believed Buddhism was a very
nillhist religion because it believed that self and ego were illusory,
that they had no substance. If you have read the sections on Jung and
Carl Rogers you will notice that they both also believe we build up a
self which is not really who we are. Carl Jung calls what we normally
believe to be ourselves ego and Carl Rogers calls our perceived sense
of ourselves, or at least part of ourselves "false self concept". It
should be a bit easier to understand the Buddhist idea of self now we
have got used to these ideas within our own culture.
True Self or True to Yourself
I spent a
couple of years living in a Buddhist community. I can remember being
told not to try and look for a "true self" because the only self I
would find would be ego. Rather I should try to be "true to myself".
When we try to have a "true self" the only thing we are going to find
is a rigid fixed self, incapable of change, whereas as human's we have
the potential to change for good or ill throughout our lives. It is as
if, in the West, we have somehow got the idea of personality wrong, and
given that this will have a direct result on how we treat people this
is a serious mistake.
In order to have a "rigid fixed self" the feeling side of ourselves,
our heart, must not be operating. If we have a "rigid fixed self" we
are not capable of change. We cannot grow.
In order to grow and change
and experience ourselves we need to let go of this idea that we have a
"self" that defines us. We are a living, breathing being who has the
potential to grow and change throughout our lives. We need to learn to
let go of things, not try and hold onto "this is me" but rather allow
who you are to be. This is particularly true when we come to feelings.
A great deal of our conditioning tells us we ought to have certain
feelings and ought not to have others. Possibly because of this we tend
to have a degree of tension over some feelings and they feel
unconfortable. But one thing that definately is genuine is our genuine
feelings. We need to come to trust our feelings and we need to learn to
let go of them, to allow them to follow their own flow. If we try to
hold on to a feeling, we lose it, it becomes false. If we learn through
meditation, counselling, focusing or any other method, to be in touch with and trust our feelings, we will discover we are not a rigid fixed self.