Thanks in no small part to a wonderful dhamma talk recently given by Bhante Sankichcha of the Great Lakes Buddhist Vihara, I finally feel as though I have an understanding of anatta (no self).
Strangely, as much as I’ve studied and meditated on this reality, I have not been able to truly grasp this in an understandable way.
His dhamma talk was about how we are what we think, or more clearly, we are what we think, feel, see or hear. The sweetness and innocence of a newborn baby makes us feel as if we are a newborn ourself. An angry look or words from another person, and we feel we are angry too. Someone cries from deep sadness or loss, and we too begin to cry. Moment by moment, our mind changes to whatever is effecting our senses. It is not even possible to cling to any of these, as each moment these external influences change us.
And in understanding this, I finally see that we cannot attach to any one of those as the self. We are constantly changing every moment, so how can we say that this thought or that thought is “me”? Ridiculous right? Well, I think so.
But you might ask what is the benefit to understanding no-self (anatta). And I can only tell you that I see it as liberation. Escape from the confines of a small mind which thinks that the entire universe is created and existing in mental formations that this mind creates. This World changes each moment, as does each and every being. To form any judgements or conclusions about any other is to lack awareness of not only reality and impermanence (anicca), but also ignorance of dependent origination.
Please know that I do not write this with any authority or implied superiority of wisdom. This is merely my sharing of small insights I feel I may have gained through my own experience and examination. And more than ever, I realize how I am changing moment by moment. This thought arises now, and passes just as quickly. I hold fast to no thought or emotion as I see that only to be a cause of further suffering and dissatisfaction (dukkha). And I see that it was only by being open and present in that moment of dhamma talk, that this moment arose. The next moment has unlimited space to rise and fall, without judgement or expectation.
I simply remain grateful for this life and this experience. To love and be loved, to have Family and friends, Noble teachers, and kalyana mitta (spiritual friends).
How wonderful this life is to allow us a fresh opportunity with each new breath. Each day a new beginning.
May you each be well, happy and peaceful.