POSTCARD # 491: Bangkok: The Buddhist no-self (anatta) is mentioned many times in these posts, which indicates the special place it has in Theravadin Buddhism, but there is also a place for the self or selves; the ‘costumes’ we wear when we speak, discuss, and converse with others. This is of course, how we live our lives, we think of ‘ourself’ as our ‘self,’ and others as the ‘selves’ we may know or those we meet incidentally who just slot into place as individuals we speak with in the course of a day. The way we communicate can be thought of as story-telling… we are all narrators. In conversation we tell others our stories and we listen to the stories told to us by another speaker. Spoken dialogue is usually completely unrehearsed stories that just come tumbling out in a spontaneous leap of words, intuitively arranging themselves as they fall into place. Maybe with a return at the end, to indicate an opening where another speaker can join the conversation.
The television/video screen enters our world with words spoken by professional speakers or actors, along with studio-created images and the whole production is presented as a story supported by enhanced colour and artful lighting. TV News is a more ‘live’ telling of a story about (international) events. The storyline is edited to suit unseen sponsors and others’ requirements. We’re all just seeing ‘the seeing of it’ with stories built upon stories, swirling around events that actually took place. Adverts between programs are stories sliced up into key words and images and Mind puts it together, creates the story of ‘me’ reading all this, me going forward, and ‘me’ as someone just arriving in present time. Who’s that mirrored in the glass wall? This could be a story about me.
In the mind, I believe I am the story and the story is everywhere in my social environment, excerpts of it overheard in the places I visit and the friends I share my time with. We’re always only part the way through whatever story it is before another starts up. Unknowingly we follow up on incomplete stories, searching for an ending – a satisfactory ending. Looking through beginnings, middles and ends of stories that are not satisfactory, but there is no satisfactory ending, in reality… and so, in the mind, we invent endings to make them satisfactory. We tell others stories about ourselves., in so doing, we also tell them to ourselves, assuming there is a self to tell something to, a someone else serving as an audience who is oneself or one’s self.
The Buddhist cognitive sense is the sixth sense, the sense that knows the other five senses and knows itself as the ‘self’ until attachment to that self-aspect is seen through. There is no permanent enduring self, only fleeting selves that arise when thought of, then disappear as soon as they are forgotten.
This post was influenced by a book by David Loy, ‘The World is Made of Stories’
‘No identification can be secure in an impermanent world where all phenomena arise and disappear according to conditions. Liberation occurs when I wake up to the “emptiness” of my true nature. In terms of stories, without realizing the no-thing-ness that transcends all the sedimented roles in “my” stories, I remain stuck in those narratives and their consequences for good and ill.’