Beyond Self-Concern

Ajahn Amaro

Beyond Self-Concern

You think, ‘This is a rip-off! I’ve been struggling away for five or six years with fear and lust and so on, and now I get to the free space – here we are out in the open – and it’s a desert. This is not right!’

But then, what you realize is that this is not what the Buddha was pointing to as the goal of the holy life, because even though one can’t see any outstanding objects causing obstruction or defilement, what is there is you , or in this case, me.

There is the sense of I – someone here experiencing – there’s a person. This sense of identity, even though it is not outstanding, leaping out making itself vivid, is a constant presence.

The ego is a psychological structure that is there like a wall around us, like a prison. And because we are so caught up with life in the prison, we don’t notice that we are actually hemmed in.

It is only when everything has cooled down and one has a chance to look around and take in the surroundings that one has a chance to feel the sense of limitation, barrenness; there’s a boredom. It’s just BLEAAGGHH!

…One then sees that there is a level of understanding, of being, which is beyond that which is tied up with self and other. No matter how high, refined and pure our aspiration might be, unless we go beyond that sense of self-identity and division in that respect, then there will always be that feeling of incompleteness; the desert experience will creep in.

So, if we pass through that grand-hearted attitude of mind, then we realize that which pertains to the wisdom of ultimate understanding, of Ultimate Reality, that which is called the Vajra teachings. Vajra means diamond or thunderbolt, indestructible, supremely powerful, the adamantine Truth. This is the understanding of selflessness.

When the attention is put onto the feeling of ‘I,’ one uses the practice to illuminate the assumptions we make about our identity.

We have to turn the mind around from external objects, to shine it back upon the assumptions that we make about the ‘subject.’

When the mind is calm and settled, it’s very helpful to start inquiring, ‘Who is the person that is the centre of all of this?’ ‘Who is it that is meditating?’ ‘Who is it that’s knowing this?’ ‘Who is the one who knows?’ ‘What knows thought and feeling?’

It’s when we look and challenge the assumptions about there being a discreet entity here, then suddenly the prison walls collapse.

These reflections by Ajahn Amaro are excerpted from the talk, The Lesser, The Greater, The Diamond & The Way, (pdf) pp. 11, 12.