One of the ways that the Buddha spoke about stream entry—the irreversible breakthrough to realization of the Dhamma—was as a “change of lineage.” The phrase relates to the idea that “I am a personality; this is me, this is mine, this is what I am.” This belief is called sakkayaditthi, or “personality view.” And as long as “I am the body,” then of course Pat Horner and Tom Horner are my parents.
But if the body is not-self, and perceptions are not-self, feelings are not-self, the personality is not-self, what does that say about Mr. and Mrs. Horner? What does that mean? If this body is not-self, then the lineage of the body can’t be the whole story.
This is a subtle point of Dhamma and it’s easy to grasp it in the wrong way, as I most painfully did when I was a young novice in Thailand. I can’t believe I really did this, but I recall that, in a letter I sent to my mother from Thailand in ‘78, I actually wrote, “You know, in truth, you’re not really my mother.” Something in me doesn’t want to remember having done that, but I have a sinking feeling that I did.
Anyway, we exchanged a number of rather tense letters in those days, when I was “full of the light” in Thailand, but this one certainly represented the nadir. In retrospect it was pretty awful and very embarrassing.
When my mother received this particular inspired declaration, she pointed out that she definitely was my mother since certainly nobody else was. She wrote, “I care about you because you are my son, not because you are a Buddhist monk—compris? ”
This reflection by Ajahn Amaro is from the book, Who Will Feed the Mice, (pdf) pp. 30-31.