Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Creating Identity

Tricycle's Daily Dharma has this about "Creating Identity."
When the Buddha confronted the question of identity on the night of his enlightenment, he came to the radical discovery that we do not exist as separate beings. He saw into the human tendency to identify with a limited sense of existence and discovered that this belief in an individual small self is a root illusion that causes suffering and removes us from the freedom and mystery of life. He described this as interdependent arising, the cyclical process of consciousness creating identity by entering form, responding to contact of the senses, then attaching to certain forms, feelings, desires, images, and actions to create a sense of self.

In teaching, the Buddha never spoke of humans as persons existing in some fixed or static way. Instead, he described us as a collection of five changing processes: the processes of the physical body, of feelings, of perceptions, of responses, and of the flow of consciousness that experiences them all.

Our sense of self arises whenever we grasp at or identify with these patterns. The process of identification, of selecting patterns to call "I," "me," "myself," is subtle and usually hidden from our awareness. [Paragraph breaks added.]

-Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart
from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book
This is an interesting extract since it lays out two ways of looking at self. The first, which it dismisses as "grasping," consists of identifying with the patterns and processes which are ourselves. The second way, the five processes, are exactly those processes. They are just as real and just as valid as a way of understanding self.

To dismiss the notion of us as entities by referring to it as grasping at or identifying with patterns or processes is just as misleading as presuming that we consist of static components.

We consist of processes rather than things. But processes are just as real as things and qualify as entities just as well.

No comments: