Whatever the image of yourself,
it’s a mask and it’s hiding
– Adyashanti, My Secret is Silence
Whatever image we have of ourselves, it’s a mask. It’s imagined in the sense that our image of ourselves is made up of mental images and words associated with sensations. The sensations lends a sense of solidity and reality to the imaginations, and the imagination lends a sense of meaning to the sensations. It’s a mask since it’s not what we really are.
And it’s hiding emptiness. What we really are is this awareness (or consciousness) that our whole experience is happening within and as. Our experience is awareness (consciousness) itself.
What we are is empty of solidity and materiality. Any sense of solidity or materiality is created by the mind through associating stories with sensations which makes the stories appear solid.
It’s also empty of any identities or stories that are real in any final or absolute sense. What they point to are only real in a very limited and conventional sense.
There is a lot more to say about this. For instance, sensations appear solid and substantial only because the mind has stories about them which makes them appear solid and substantial. And these stories about the substantiality of sensations appear real and solid because these too are associated with certain sensations.
When it comes to the emptiness of identities and stories about ourselves, it’s similar. These too appear solid and real to the mind only because they are associated with sensations. Without sensations lending them a sense of solidity and substance, they would just be recognized as imaginaitons. They may be helpful in a limited and practical sense, helping us to orient and function in the world. But they don’t have meaning or substance beyond that.
This may seem quite naive and simplistic. I realize that. But it’s possible and within the grasp of most people to investigate this for themselves. Working with a faciliator of the Living Inquries, or learning how to apply the Living Inquries for ourselves (or the Buddhist inquiries the LIs are based on), is one way. It usually doesn’t take that much to see this for ourselves, although it does take more work before it is more present in our experience in daily life.