The third and final part in the series by Anna Ayse.
Having listed in part one the various referents of “I” and defined reality as that which is and which cannot cease to be, having established in part two that, based on experience, awareness does not depend on the body-mind and is not subject to birth and death, in this final part we continue the investigation into the reality of the self and the disappearance of birth and death.
Taking our stance as the space of awareness and simply observing mind activity as we do in meditation, is a good step in disentangling “I awareness” from identification with its body-mind activity. However, taking our stance as the space of awareness is not enough to fully uproot the identification with the body-mind and to debunk the ingrained belief: “I was born and I am going to die”. And while this belief still persists, the innate peace of the self is only experienced intermittently through the prism of the finite self as the devotee longing for her/his spiritual home. The innate peace of the self is not experience undisturbed as a result of realizing one’s true nature. Most of us are familiar with the position of the one longing for her/his true home. It is however the realization that “I” is not subject to birth and death, that is, the end of the belief in a finite, separate self, the teaching is pointing to as the subject matter of the spiritual path.
To believe that ”I am finite, I am subject to birth and death” and then, from that position, try to accept death is an oxymoron. The only way birth and death can disappear is when the inherited belief in the finite self is challenged, investigated, uprooted and debunked. That’ll effectively finish the psychological fear of death. Overcoming the fear of death and reflecting back to loved ones the unchanging reality of their true self is the greatest gift we can give them. It is not necessary to arrive at full realization of the self. Doubting the belief in the finite self enough to arrive at the open position of “I don’t know” is already a heavy blow to a groundless belief and a solid basis for further investigation.
Beside awareness remaining steady over time and being without a beginning or an end, a further question may be asked: Is it localized, limited in space to this body-mind? In other words, do all 7 billion of us have each our own pocket of awareness separately generated by 7 billion body-minds? Or is there only one, indivisible awareness or Buddha Nature which is the same – not similar – but exactly the same reality of all body-minds, like water is the reality of all waves? Observation of direct experience reveals that awareness cannot be divided up like that, that all body-minds share the same, indivisible awareness, it is the shared being we experience. This means that the self, “I awareness” is not personal, it is universal.
After sufficient investigation, if we are willing to take on board that the self, our true nature, is not “I the body-mind” but is “I awareness”, and if we are willing to take on board the idea that, based on experience, the body-mind is in fact within the space of awareness, that awareness is the reality of the body-mind and not the other way round, that opens up the possibility to end duality in sensory experience of a self on the inside and a world of discrete objects on the outside. The investigative steps for uprooting and debunking the self-world duality in sensory experience is beyond the scope of this writing.
After the belief in the finite self has been debunked by tracing back “I” to its source and realizing that the self is not subject to birth and death, reactive patterns in the body-mind formed by a lifetime belief in the separate self, may still continue to arise. For example, primary fear as a result of trauma at infancy can take long to dissolve. An example of primary fear is terror first thing at waking up, prior to any thought, or terror without clear and present danger. Since these conditionings have been laid down very early, prior to conceptual thinking, they are hard wired into the system and take longer to dissolve completely then thought generated fear. However even deep conditionings will have ceased to obscure the reality of “I” for long, once the underlying belief in the finite self has been investigated and uprooted.