It comes as a shock to us when we hear the Buddhist teaching of non-self. How can we deal with that? And what does it mean?
On YouTube, as part of his answer to the question “What is the Essence of Buddhism?”, Lama Jampa Thaye explains that it is the false notion of self that leads us into frustration, disappointment and suffering. Whereas if we learn to abandon this false belief we can awaken to our natural state and thus gain freedom from suffering.
Since the habitual belief in a self and our apparent need for one are so strong, we need to gain conviction that the notion of 'self' is indeed a fiction. Such conviction will not be gained simply by hearing someone say there is no self. A more effective way, one that has been taught by Buddhist masters for centuries, is to actually search for the existence of a self, using the power of reasoning.
In Bristol on Saturday 21st January, teaching from his book, “Rain of Clarity”, Lama Jampa carefully walked students through the classical Buddhist method of applying such reasoning. We will then be able to apply this in our own study and practice of the Path, and hence in our own experience.
What do we mean by self? We first need to be clear about what it is we are looking for. As Lama Jampa explained, a self is something or someone that is independent, autonomous and permanent. With this in mind we can then examine our experience to find out if such an independent, autonomous and permanent entity can be found anywhere within it.
The search takes us into our body and mind, to see if the self exists within them or outside them. Investigating the five aggregates of classical Buddhist psychology that make up all possible physical and mental experience, Lama Jampa showed that no such self can be found to exist.
It is crucial for us to learn from the teacher how to use analytical tools such as these, as it helps us move a step closer to the liberating understanding we seek. This was felt in a short period of meditation when we sat together on Saturday having heard the teaching.