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Understanding “No-self” - Excerpt from The Way of Freedom

I don’t understand the concept no-self. I seem to be identified with self and I don’t want to be.

Okay. First, we have to find out what the self is to see if there’s no-self. What is self?

The body-mind?

Well, if the body-mind is self, how are you going to live and have no-self? That would not be possible because the body-mind is always going to be here until you die. So, the body-mind, in and of itself, cannot be the self that causes bondage. The body-mind is an object appearing to you which you refer to as self in the world, “I’m Sal, this body-mind.”

There’s nothing wrong with that. Saying, “I am Sal, this body-mind,” doesn’t cause suffering, in and of itself. It’s just a simple and practical reference in the world of form and a way of speaking and relating with others. The self that causes bondage and suffering is the belief that I am limited exclusively to this body-mind and because of that the story of this body-mind is truly who I am—the Sal with all the past regrets, losses, traumas, etc., and the Sal with all the future hopes, fears, and desires. This self is assumed to be true, and therefore, causes suffering.

Let’s be on holiday, now.

Holiday

There’s only now, right?

In truth, be honest,
the only thing that actually is
is this, here and now.

In truth, is there a past? Or a future?

Where’s that story of self?

You have to go into the mind,
into the past and future,
into the story, which is not true.

Is that story of your past actually true, now?

Is it actual, now?

Are the stories of future hopes and fears actually true, now?

Do they actually exist, now?

What is true then?

What’s true is this, now—this knowing.

I am, now.

That’s the only thing that’s actual.

The only thing that’ actually is, is this, now.

So, is there a self?

No.

Self needs time to exist. In no time, there’s no self. Yes, of course, there are feelings in this body-mind, and that feels like “me,” here and now. But again, that in and of itself does not cause suffering. What causes suffering is the belief in the time-based self. However, that self does not exist. There is no actual self.

This work is about knowing what’s true—past and future are not actual. The more you’re convinced of that, the less you suffer. Conversely, the more you believe in your story of the past and your future projections, the more you suffer. What happens if you don’t believe that at all? They can’t cause you to suffer any longer, can they? I want you to hear that, really clearly. If you don’t believe that past stories and projected futures are true, then they’re impotent. Even if stories occasionally appear, as a habit of mind, they have no power to make you suffer.

Belief is what causes suffering. Belief is what creates your world; the whole world, actually. Your past and future world is belief, and with it all the suffering it entails. Don’t believe any of those stories. Know what’s true—there’s only this, here and now. That’s the only thing we can say truthfully.

Just keep knowing that. Keep having holidays and seeing what’s true—there is no self. You know the self story is a lie and it can’t fool you anymore. It’s like when a child is in bed screaming because they think they see a ghost. You go in their room and turn on the light and they see there’s no ghost. Then, they’re no longer scared. It’s exactly like that. We turn on the light—a holiday is the light. It’s turning on the light of truth. This is the light, and it outshines all illusion.

Darkness is the belief in past and future; that’s ignorance. You turn on the light and have a holiday and no longer can you be scared of the past and future. That ghost is not real. There’s enough in life happening in each present moment that can be unpleasant. There are going to be things that are unpleasant, and there are going to be things that are pleasant. We don’t need to go back in time or into the future. Leave that alone. We don’t need to predict pleasantness in the future or rehash unpleasantness from the past. Life will provide all of it in the moment, now.

 

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