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       Buddhism and Self

          Thousand-Armed Chenresig  

         Thousand-Armed Chenresig

 6 Precepts of Tilopa -No Thought - No Reflection -No Analysis -No Cultivation -No Intention -Let it settle itself


    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.

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