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June 01, 2008

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If we start with an unexamined belief that "I" is a substantial thing, then questions of an afterlife arise (i.e., we may question whether or not this "I" continues to exist when the body dies).

But if we start by examining the "I" itself, it becomes clear that we don't know what it is. So the "afterlife" questions become moot.

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

Stuart,
I understand what you are saying here. But my lived experience ranges so greatly from incredibly scared to elated to quiet to noisy to whatever. "I" would like to find contentment, and "I" also see somehow that contentment most likely comes from letting go..."I" am standing on the diving board looking down at the cold water below. I am getting the message that diving in is the only solution, but I also know it will kill me. How to get the guts?

Edward:
I, too, found your sentence:
"I have found that my life is none of my business"
acted as a jolt into my usual everyday perception/awareness.
Thanks, Edward.
Elizabeth W

Thanks for the kudos, Adam, Brian, Elizabeth.

As my children got older, I started wondering about whose karma we were working on while our family made family-type choices: does my wife need to be ill, or is this a lesson for one of the boys? Who among us needs to move to a new house? Is the school trouble my burden, or theirs?

Then I realized how narrow-minded such a point of view is. All of the people that I interact with, you interact with - there is no separation of karma, or dharma; no injustice and also no illness. Like the snake said to the buddha, "It's only suffering if it hurts."

I know how to be sad, and when someone close to me dies, I grieve, but that is not suffering.

So maybe investing in an afterlife is being already dead, and simultaneously trying to kill one's fellows. And that would be suffering.

two thoughts:

first, I was at the gym just now and thought to myself that now would be a good time to send Brian kudos as well. Edward's comment seems to have interested a bunch of people, and at the gym I suddenly understood the uniqueness of this occurrence. It seems to me that blogging like this presents opportunities for this type of insight to occur and be shared. This type of personal sharing combined with clarity of expression doesn't always happen in conversations, which tend to be a little messier, nor in books, which are more formal. So thanks Brian for your insights and for keeping this blog. I think its highly valuable.

My second thought is about Edward's comment, because it reminded me of something I just read in a book by Pema Chodron called "the Places that Scare You." She talks of egolessness as a truth, not something to attain, which is akin to saying, "my life is none of my business." The change that takes place is getting comfortable with the reality of egolessness, rather than "conquering the ego." I think this slight twist in understanding actually has profound ramifications. I think the non-dualists on this site who claim that "spiritual practices" only reinforce the ego, are looking at these practices as the ego trying to conquer itself, which is just another identity for the ego to latch onto (i.e. the meditating human seeking peace). But in light of this twist, what if the meditating human sits with the hypothesis that the ego might truly be illusory and wants to find out what else is there. I hope I have been clear. This for me is an important point, and I think basically what I was trying to figure out in so many of my exchanges with tAo and Tuscon.

Adam wrote, "I am getting the message that diving in is the only solution, but I also know it will kill me. How to get the guts?"

In taking up "What am I?", one style is to cultivate the guts of a warrior. Like we're going into battle to kill this "I." Maybe when I was younger, that type of perspective was more appealing; maybe it was necessary to get me off my ass (i.e., onto my ass) to put real effort into the question.

Now I'm middle aged, and decades of living in California has made me more mellow. And thankfully, I've found a Zen master who's an old hippie, and thus into more gentle metaphors.

So now, I don't look at self-inquiry as a battle requiring guts. It's more like an exploration, requiring curiosity, wondering, completely open-minded examination of this very moment. Simply bringing up the question -- what is this "I"? -- and then letting the big Don't Know appear.

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

Hi Stuart,
Nice response, thanks.

Stuart wrote: "If we start with an unexamined belief that "I" is a substantial thing, then questions of an afterlife arise (i.e., we may question whether or not this "I" continues to exist when the body dies).

But if we start by examining the "I" itself, it becomes clear that we don't know what it is. So the "afterlife" questions become moot."

This is one of the most profound things I've read by a commentator on this blog.

I've wanted to express this myself for years, but would likely have taken pages & pages & pages to express what has been encapsulated here in a few lines. (though perhaps it's inherent profundity is lost on some because of it's shortened simplicity?)

Excellent!

Dude, these thoughts are all well and good while you are still well on the safe side of death, but, believe me, when your time comes, you are going to be praying to something.

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