So we have been told that “I” am not what you think I am, and also not what I think I am. Who is in fact, the “I”, an “I?
“I” began to observe in my journey lately, how truthful the statement (can’t really recall who made that statement though) is that everything that happens is perfectly fine, until “I” come into the picture; more so when there is something that “I” want or “I” don’t want.
The other day, my little one came crying to me saying, “Mommi, A doesn’t want to follow me up the slide. She doesn’t want to be my friend anymore.” As I held her in my arms and asked her if A really did say that, she shook her head. I smiled, as if recognizing already that she was indeed in delusion. Since A did not say that, what made her so sure that A didn’t want to be her friend? I asked her again, what was it that she wanted more – to play on the slide, or to play with A? And she blurted, “I want to play on the slide and I want A to play with me.” Such is the nature of greed, one is never enough. It has to be filled with conditions – play with slide, and with A. As A came running to me later (as I was babysitting her), she mentioned that she met her friend at the same play place and was so excited about it! So I saw 2 “I”s there – one in delusion that A doesn’t want to be her friend because A doesn’t want to play slide with her and the other, forgetting my little one’s presence because she was overexcited when she saw a familiar friend.
Actually, nothing has happened. But this is a clear case of stories conjured in the mind, especially so in my little one’s case. If she had truly just wanted to play slide, it would have been fine to play on her own; and if she had really wanted to play with A, it wouldn’t have matter what other stuffs that A wanted to play and she would have enjoyed herself playing with her; perhaps, even getting to know a new friend. And here, she was suffering because of “I” want because she thinks that she is actually capable of dictating what she wants.
And when I don’t get what “I” want, “I” get hurt because of the perception or rather meanings put into a situation that doesn’t seem to go my way according to what “I” want – and then “I” make a conclusion, that person whom I had wished to play with me doesn’t want to be my friend. This conjures yet another meaning that “I” am unloved and unworthy – hence the tears.
Check deeply within, then we will know how untrue that statement is. However, it is a space or a state only to be realized and not mimicked to “make” me feel good or powerful, for until I fully realize the truth, I will continuously be affected by what happens in the outer reality. In truth, nothing had happened. A bumped into her friend and got excited! That was all, but my little one fell ‘asleep’ and felt hurt, hence the drama.
And later, when it was time for both their art class which they had planned to attend together, my little one went to tell A that it was time for class and quickly held A’s hand so tightly as if afraid that A would not follow her to class. As much as this is shown in a child, it is so typical of every of our unquestioned behavior or action. Isn’t it so, when we feel that it doesn’t belong to us, yet we want it, we tend to hang on to it even more tightly as if the minute we let go, it’d slip off our fingers and that we’d lose it forever?
So who is this “I” and what did the Buddha really mean when he said non-self? Was it to become so selfless that we totally deprive ourselves, our needs? Or was there an underlying meaning that we have not yet come to realize? In the initial journey of self-inquiry, or rather spirituality if you prefer, we start to realize indeed that who others thought we were, or who we think we were are not entirely true. And yet, there are some qualities of who we are. Still, in that space of who we are, we don’t really exist except marvel at what comes up in our experience. Non-self is not that there is no “I”, but the “I” in its true context has been very much misguided and misunderstood. And yet, to come to that space, would mean that we would have to acknowledge what is real to us at that point in time, only to realize that it is in fact unreal, for the ‘truth’ to arise. Even then, the ‘truth’ that arises at that point in time, may only means the opposite of what we had thought we were, and that too, is not entirely correct.
So who is “I”?
The truth is, it is not that there is no “I”; but the “I” is not what we think it is. “I” is truly, just an expression and nothing more than that.