Self & No Self

A somewhat cheap shorthand I sometimes use, to remind myself of a transdual view, is that… (a) Any statement has validity to it, and (b) any opposite statement has validity to it.

The question is of course how, and this is the tricky part which requires humility, clarification of our own experience, and study as well.

So we can say that there is a self, and can then look at how there is no self. And we can say that there is no self, and look at how there really is a self.

No self

When we awaken as the Witness, as space & awareness, we find a “ground” outside of the world of form. We see the world of form as a seamless fluid whole, and that this human self does not have any independent or fixed existence. It is just a temporary process in the world of form, a vortex in the stream, a pattern temporarily upheld by the flow of matter and energy from the larger whole of society, ecosystems and the universe. There is no permanent or independent self on the human level.

And as we recognize that even this “I” as the Witness is an abstraction, a belief in the thought “I”, we see that there is really no “I” anywhere. There is everything that is happening in the present, as before, but no “I” located anywhere. There is just what is happening.


At the same time, there is a self.

There is a human self, although not independent of anything or fixed in any way. It is a temporary process, and it is embedded in the seamless whole of the world of form. It is a puppet pulled by a million strings. Its patterns and processes is influenced by an infinity of causes, and it creates an infinity of effects.

And there is also a Self, as they say in some traditions. A Self that is just (all of) what is happening in the present, and not located in any particular part of it. A Self that is beyond and includes all polarities, including those of existence and nonexistence, emptiness and fullness, the absolute and relative, spirit and matter, mind and body, looker and seen, self and other, and so on.

And in a way, there are two of these Selves with a capital S.

One is the really big and inclusive Self in which everything arises. The other is the still big and inclusive self, in which everything arises, but which has a functional relationship with one particular human self. The first Self is functionally focused everywhere and nowhere. The second is functionally focused on a particular human (or any other species) self.

It seems that the regular awakenings is of the second type. We indeed awaken as Big Mind, beyond and including all polarities. Anything that arises is I. As Big Mind, there is no “other”. But still, we are functionally focused on one particular human self. This human self that I was previously exclusively identified with. This is the human self through which information about the world of form comes, and through which I as Big Mind can engage in the world of form. As Big Mind, this self is my temporary vehicle in the world of form.

It may well be that in this awakening, there is still a layer of delusion left. A layer of delusion that allows us to still function through a particular vehicle, to still be engaged in a particular way in the world of form. It may be the veil that allows us to live the life of a Bodhisattva, to the benefit of other beings.

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