68/365 You Are Not Your Self

 

68. Random Wikipedia Article: Go to Wikipedia and click on Random Article. Write about whatever the page you get.

Upon clicking on the random article link I was directed to the following entry: Vajira: “Vajira was a Buddhist nun mentioned in the Samyutta Nikaya (I.134-55). She was confronted by Mara while meditating and asked about the origin and creator of her “Being”, i.e., her soul. She responded by comparing one’s “Being” to a chariot, showing that it had no permanent existence but was made up of constituent parts.”

Of course, after reading this I had to figure out what the Samyutta Nikaya was, and after some more wikipedia researching I found out that it is a scripture used in buddhism. Vajira’s story is used in the scripture to illustrate the buddhist belief that there is no self. The wikipedia article goes on further to include the actual passage that the overview refers t0:

“Then Mara the Evil One, desiring to arouse fear, trepidation, and terror in the bhikkhuni Vajira, desiring to make her fall away from concentration, approached her and addressed her in verse:
34. “By whom has this being been created? Where is the maker of the being? Where has the being arisen? Where does the being cease?”

Then it occurred to the bhikkhuni Vajira: “Now who is this that recited the verse — a human being or a non-human being?” Then it occurred to her: “This is Mara the Evil One, who has recited the verse desiring to arouse fear, trepidation, and terror in me, desiring to make me fall away from concentration.”

Then the bhikkhuni Vajira, having understood, “This is Mara the Evil One,” replied to him in verses: 35. “Why now do you assume ‘a being’? Mara, have you grasped a view? This is a heap of sheer constructions: Here no being is found.

36. Just as, with an assemblage of parts, The word ‘chariot’ is used, So, when the aggregates are present, There’s the convention ‘a being.’

37. It’s only suffering that comes to be, Suffering that stands and falls away. Nothing but suffering comes to be, Nothing but suffering ceases.”

Then Mara the Evil One, realizing, “The bhikkhuni Vajira knows me,” sad and disappointed, disappeared right there.”

I took a philosophies & great religious texts class my sophomore year of college and over the course of the semester we studied the important works for buddhism, hinduism, islam, and probably a few more. I think the most important thing when taking a class like that or attempting to seek understanding in other beliefs is that you check your own assumptions at the door. You have grown up with your own experience or worldview, and that’s fine but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something valuable in other works. These are the things I have to remind myself when I read a scripture that what I know to be as my sense of self, is nothing but an illusion in buddhism.

I remember briefly discussing the concept of impermanence and having no-self but after reading this article I felt like I had a better idea of what it meant. The author stresses that what we’ve been taught as “self” in classrooms differs from what this reading is trying to tell us. The self is how we organize our experiences, and is a process of processing the daily moments that occur in our lives. This process, over time, has become known as this fixed identity instead of a fluid cognitive function.

There is this stereotype in western culture of, the journey of finding yourself. It’s typically seen in films where the protagonist travels across the country or finds a long lost relative, as if these are the keys to finding this fixed, permanent state. “This is a heap of sheer constructions: here no being is found.” What Vajira is trying to tell Mara is that the belief of a self brings more trouble and unhappiness. There is all this pressure to find yourself, to find what makes you who are. It’s the thing that is supposed to remain the same over all of these years.

What if buddhism has a point? What if this belief of a self is just a load of crap? I believe that there are things unique to people, and that the psychological self is an important function but I think there is something to the idea of everything else being an illusion. There is all this pressure to find yourself, but if you let that go maybe you could actually just be yourself. You could learn to let things flow in and out of your life and not compare your self to any image or anyone else’s image.


Day Sixty-Eight

photo credit: Borobudur, Indonesia via photopin (license)

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2 Replies to “68/365 You Are Not Your Self”

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