Over the pst few weeks (months, actually), I’ve been analyzing my life, where I am, what I’m doing and how I got here. Yes, it’s a common thing to do, especially when you face a health scare, AND my approach has been a bit more introspective.
In my case, I’ve been seeking the origins of my thoughts, ideas, phrases, etc. My search began after listening to a talk by Dzongar Jamyang Khentsye on self/no-self and the whole idea of Anatman or non-self. The heart of buddhist teachings touches on this one point: that what we know as “self” is not at all a self. It is a construction of who we think we are….an ego-formed shield that is a kind of protection of that very fragile ego…the goal, then is to destroy ego and reveal the awareness that resides within our own minds…the buddha nature.
All of that philosophical talk leads me to right here: finding the sources of my thoughts. I started with phrases; those phrases I say day in and day out. When I really started thinking about some of the stock phrases I used, I was so surprised at some of where those came from; of course my family, aunts, uncles, parents say or said things that I incorporated into my language….like that the burners on a stove we call the “eye” of the stove as in “turn off the eye.” Other phrases are equally mundane; I took a whole group of phrases from Monty Python’s Flying Circus and incorporated them into who I was.
The point of all this wondering was to test the idea that we are constructed of layers of self, formed and manufactured by our egos to define who we are. Once I looked into the language of who I was, I found that I was actually a collection of words and phrases assembled over time to form a kind of identity.
As I have listened and read texts from various teachers, I kept hearing that the very language that helps shape our identity is formed and does not, in fact, make who we are…our essence, it is said, is pure, buddha nature. In the Uttaratantra Shastra, Arya Maitreya said,
“Honey is surrounded by a swarm of insects. A skillful person in search of honey employs, upon seeing this, suitable means to fully separate the honey from the host of bees.” (33)
The bees are the thoughts and emotions, the words and phrases, the construct of ego. The honey is the buddha nature, the true nature of who we are, stripped of the trappings of ego and thoughts, the sweet interior that rests inside all of us.
That honey inside is the awareness of all things, the source of compassion, love, and kindness. The awareness that we are all suffering, struggling, feeling bereft of hope and lost in a sea of anguish and delusion.
In one small way, my search has revealed a kind fo truth; that who I think I am is just a collection of words and phrases built up over time. Recognizing this truth, I can let go of attachment to those things and really start to see the true nature that exists.