Sunday, February 28, 2010

No Self

The wisdom traditions often point to the experience or state of "no self." But what does this mean? And why do we want to have this experience?

From what I can tell, no self is simply the state of unadorned awareness, what Peter Fenner calls "unconditioned" awareness. When we are in this state, we can look for an identity, but there is none to be found. We can look for good and bad, hot and cold, but these distinctions do not exist in any kind of meaningful way.

Peter's Radiant Mind course and book point to this state and allow people to experience it directly. Genpo Roshi's Big Mind process also comes to mind. And most of the wisdom traditions, in one way or another, point to some kind of pure awareness, without thought or ego, as the pinnacle of the spiritual journey.

As for the second question, why, I have two thoughts. First is that Peter talks of "healing presence" or "healing awareness." And what he means, I think, is that in the state of unconditioned awareness there is no suffering, because there is no one to suffer.

All suffering, in other words, is caused by the self. Suffering is nothing more than the thought that things should be different.

This is a difficult thing for thoughts to accept.

But the second thought is potentially even more devastating. And that is that whenever we ask "why," we instinctively create a story, and that the story is not the reality. There is no why. And when we look for one, we only get further from the experience of awareness, not closer to it.


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