For many years -- decades, really -- I believed that the everyday world in which we live was an illusion. Meaning, there was an unseen truly real realm beyond the bounds of ordinary consciousness.
Changeable matter and mind weren't part of this ultimate reality. Only the eternal unchanging soul, our true self, was able to be aware of it.
Now, I understand that I had things completely backward. Such is how science comprehends the world. Also, Buddhism.
As noted in my previous post, the Buddhist notion of "emptiness" is that nothing -- including us, and even emptiness itself -- has an intrinsic unchanging nature.
So while the idea of an unchanging eternal soul is appealing (most people find the prospect of dying and being gone forever extremely bothersome), it is a purely human concept, not reality.
Here's some additional quotes from Guy Newland's "Introduction to Emptiness" which point to the illusion of believing in an unchanging essence that underlies our ever-changing body and mind.
Tsong-kha-pa notes that non-Buddhist philosophies about an eternal and essential self arise when their proponents realize that the essential self really cannot be identical to the flux of mental and physical aggregates.
Reaching the wrong inference, they then teach about the existence of a metaphysical self that is essentially different from the mind and body.
However, their own ordinary and conventionally valid consciousnesses never perceive any essence or intrinsic self that is different from the mind and body. This is simply an imaginary construct.
Instead of assuming that there must be a permanent self and then locating it as an essence distinct from the mind and body, they should realize that since an intrinsically existing self can be found neither as one with nor as different from the mind and body, it simply does not exist.
...A person appears very vividly to have intrinsic nature, just as the reflection of a face may appear very vividly to be a face. If we come upon a reflection of ourselves unexpectedly, in a very clean mirror, we may for a moment be startled. We may feel strongly that we are seeing another person.
While this appearance as a person is completely false, the reflection does exist and does function effectively as what it actually is. It arises, functions, and passes away depending upon conditions.
Likewise, the person is completely devoid of any shred of the intrinsically existent nature that vividly appears to our minds. Such a nature is unfindable because of being utterly nonexistent, just as there is no actual person in the mirror.
On the other hand, just as a reflection does exist as a mere reflection, a person does exist as a mere person. And, as it turns out, that is exactly the kind of person one needs to be in order to make choices, to act and to change, and to bring help to the world.
...The Buddha is not a God issuing the great commandment: Do not grasp. Nor is he a judge who stands ready to condemn those who violate this commandment. Rather, the Buddha is our spiritual physician, giving us healthy advice.
If happiness could be attained by grasping things, there would be no need for Buddhism. All of our needless miseries arise because we continue to grasp after things that are in fact completely ungraspable -- because they have no pith, no innermost core, no fixed essence.
...Because they have no ability to set themselves up and exist on their own, we and the things around us are in flux, changing as conditions change.
With no essential nature, neither our own selves nor the things around us have any inner handle by which we can grab and hold them. We are afraid to face this lack, this emptiness.
Our fear arises from and feeds our grasping, and in this way we build a prison for ourselves, moment by moment. Yet by bravely facing the reality of emptiness, we can let go of our fear, anger, and greed.
We can be free.