Reply to a question on the thought for the day 19th July – regarding the ‘self’

The thought for the day for the 19th July was:

“Dismiss the error of the self, and do not cling to possessions which are transient, but perform deeds that are good, for deeds are enduring, and in deeds your karma continues. Since then, O brethren, there is no self, there cannot be any afterlife of a self. Therefore abandon all thought of self. You are not alone, so self is a contradiction. But since there are deeds, and since deeds continue, be careful with your deeds.”

T Jones asked

If there is not self…how is there “your” deeds?


This is a good question, and it’s one that many people rightly wonder about. If it makes (some) people think enough to ask what it means, then it is a good thing. Let’s take a look at the text of the post again, and see if we can learn something from it. That’s the intent of these thoughts for the day ,“ to encourage people to think and ask worthwhile questions, for to think is to be alive and to know it.

Dismiss the error of the self, and do not cling to possessions which are transient, but perform deeds that are good, for deeds are enduring, and in deeds your karma continues. Since then, O brethren, there is no self, there cannot be any afterlife of a self. Therefore abandon all thought of self. You are not alone, so self is a contradiction. But since there are deeds, and since deeds continue, be careful with your deeds.”

There is the true self, the living being or animal that carries the information of your genetics around within you, the characteristics of your forefathers that manifest themselves in you as a person: a living being. Even so, ‘you’ are not just the ‘you’ of today, but the cumulative mental and physical embodiment of all those who came before you, plus your own individual experiences. You would simply not have come into existence without them, and they, in the form of genetically transmitted information, live on in you, as a living being that you consider to be the ‘me’ the ‘I’ or the ‘self’. You exist because of them and they continue to exist because of you. This is the true self, with all the aspects of your being within your mind and body, regardless of whether you are consciously aware of them or not. Very few ever consider what they are in reality, as we are encouraged to ignore what we are in fact, in exchange for notions of what we are taught to consider ourselves to be; mostly ideas that feed the idea of the image of the false self, which is in effect the ego exerting itself on the world about it.

Therefore, though widely denied by many, this is indisputable fact, and not a belief. You therefore do not come from some deity in the sky who pops you into existence like some form of magical popcorn, but you are in fact the everlasting life of all those individual beings that existed before you. This is what the first of the Seven Responsibilities of Man reminds us of:

You shall hold responsibility to yourself firstly, for to do less is foolish, as all things start from their root, and all that you are and all that you might achieve comes from the root of your being.

Have you every wondered where you actually came from? The root of your being is your spirit, the energy or life that lives within you as a living being, which is also the continuance of the lives of those who lived before you. If you destroy that life that is in you, you are effectively harming the life-force that you inherited from your ancestors, and therefore their and your collective life cannot continue into the future.

This is what happens when animals become extinct, but man does not like the idea that he is essentially an animal, and, despite his capacity to reason, and because of his animal nature ego, which wishes to dominate and have power over all, he selectively ignores his factual reality in favour of his self-centred and base need for self-assurance, as he wants to live in ‘the dream’ for all eternity, regardless of the illusory nature of his fantasy.

Only his somewhat small capacity for reason and logic might rebalance his outlook, but when self-pleasing ideas and images such as as that of being immortal for all eternity are promoted, fashionable, and enhanced by fear of loss of self-image, then he always fails to rise up to his greatest positive potential, which is that of a great force for good to not only himself but the whole world around him, upon which he himself depends for his continued existence. However, for as long as he ignores his reality, he walks in darkness and ignorance, and knows no better, because he chooses to do so, even if it could easily be seen that such behaviour can only give rise to inevitably negative outcomes in the future, of which both he and others will be part.

This is where the question arises of a sense of ‘self’ only, as you are not simply a self-generated being that came into existence of your own will, but, as explained previously, by the will and co-operation of others, even if you don’t realise it, and even if they didn’t quite realise it. The effect is that you, as a being, exist, because of the will and actions of others. The erroneous sense of self-only existence, is what the error of the self means, as it is an error created by the sense of self only. That self creates the error of what the self is, because of its limited and egocentric viewpoint, which exists within limited horizons and lack of knowledge and experience. To know something you have to learn about it, and as learning is a process of accumulation of knowledge through experience, you will inevitably make mistakes, but we know and recognise that we all make mistakes, but we also expect that we should and must learn from our mistakes so that we avoid repeating them in the future. As we sow, so do we reap etc.

Along with your genetics you have your experiences, caused by the contact through your senses as you encounter the world around you. Your senses, which operate through and are given importance in the mind itself, are the things you feel, see, touch and so on. These experiences create impressions on the mind as you live, causing you to either do or not do things according to your lights. How you understand or fail to understand what these impressions are in reality, in accordance with your capacity to reason, or not, will determine your attitude towards things in the future, thus shaping the direction of your personal karma, which is basically your destiny as determined by your actions, which comes from your attitude towards yourself and the external world outside of the self. If you don’t get to understand how you work, then you can never truly understand the things outside the self, and will end up in a state of confusion and contradictory ideas, thus ensuring damage to the true self, and therefore, by consequence, the wider world around you.

Once we recognise this, in order to be able to exist in some form of ordered and informed state in the world, we need to understand what we are, and more importantly what we are not. Beliefs are mental impressions that are given importance by the mind as to how things appear to be, and which reinforce the idea that what the ego thinks is real. However, in its limited capacity, its sense of reality it is only operating on what we ourselves are telling ourselves is real. Belief is based on imagination, and once imagination is reinforced by emotion, then the outcome is the creation of misleading imagery. Therefore, such ideas are ego-derived, as they satisfy an self-centred need to be ‘right’, regardless of the content of the impression. This is called subjective thinking, as the reference point for interpretation of our impressions is only taken from the introverted view of what the ego-self considers it to be. This is how children think, as they have limited experience and no real capacity to reason, so they mostly imagine that the world revolves around them, and if the individual does not learn to reason their way out of such limited thinking in later life, then it will carry forward those childish impressions into adulthood, with all the negative consequences that go along with such behaviours. I’m sure you’ve met people like this.

You also continue to exist because of the co-operation and assistance of others who live in the world with you, as you do not exist alone, but depend on others to provide you with what you need to survive, and visa versa.

Because we may happen to live in a part of the world where so many resources are readily available to us, we can easily imagine and don’t think about all the things that are provided by others, such as the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the medical facilities that can often prevent us from dying. Even if we choose to ignore these facts, it does not remove the reality that we do in fact not only exist as a self-contained being in its own limited state of existence. We are encouraged to love the idea of being ‘independent’, as it gives a sense of power, no matter how delusional it may be, but the need for power is a weakness derived from an inherent sense of powerlessness or inadequacy. We only want what we don’t have, so the artificial or ego-gratifying need for power over others is rooted in a deep sense of inadequacy, which in turn derives from a lack of awareness that the ego-being we are feeding is merely an image in itself. In other words, it generates a false sense of control that is derived from the erroneous thinking of the self and what it imagines is real without reference to external or objective realities.

The ego, which is basically animal instinct trying to exert itself, is the “I am” or “I do” that drives the sense of self, creates all sorts of imaginary structures that appear to give the ego a sense of self-importance, mostly with harmful effect, as such an image, being imagined only, is weak, and cannot sustain itself in reality. This is why we become upset or disappointed when reality doesn’t live up to our fantasies. Being upset is an emotional reaction to encountering things we find unpleasant. It can give a sense of seemingly taking back control of the situation, even if the opposite is true, and it has little or no reason behind it, but it gives instant gratification to the false sense of self, which is unreasoned. If the individual learns that there is profit in it, they may become habitually attached to the practice of becoming upset on demand. Again, you may well have experience of this.

The more we self-obsess, the more self-conscious we become, the more the imagination creates images to satisfy the need to reassurance, and as the imagination is triggered by unreasoned emotion, it creates and sorts of unreasoned and self-serving images that feeds the obsession, and around and around we go, down the rabbit hole and into a maze of dark tunnels from which there is no chance of escape. The more the ego grows in its sense of self importance, the more the whole mind becomes disturbed and unable to function according to reality, feeding on its own circular and blind following of the dreams and illusion that derived from the initial need to attach importance to the self in the first place. We then become lost to our own true reality, with all its obviously negative consequences.

When the text says, “Dismiss the error of the self…” it is saying that you must get rid of the self-created illusion that the whole world begins and ends with you, as the sense of self only causes an obsession of what the self itself generates from introverted interpretations of what we have experienced to date. Most unhappiness comes from a sense of trying to protect the false self. This false self, the thing that is an illusion that is created from unconscious fears and anxieties that derive from a need for security and control, is imaginary. Focusing emphasis on the self causes obsessive, and therefore destructive, patterns of behaviour, as this interpretation of things is only done by reference to our own limited notion of selfhood. In other words, we only see what we want to see, and ignore the bigger picture, which is that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, and not alone in self-created imagination.

This self-obsessed kind of thinking can and does drive some people into all sorts of neuroses, psychoses, and even to schizophrenia, which is the total loss of connection to reality. It can and does lead people into creating all sorts of imaginary and neurotic illnesses (illnesses derived from self-obsession or love of self). It can also result in their application of importance to things outside themselves that give them a greater sense of self-importance, such as thinking that the sun shining through the clouds indicates that a god-being or power is shining its light on them, which of course is pure imagination, as it has to happen sometime and it’s just coincidence that it happened to be seen by them. If they were not there to see it happen, it would happen anyway, so the idea of it being something to do with the self is an delusion.

The list of negative outcomes of such egocentric thinking is endless, and can even result in counties going to war with each other over an imaginary insult to their sense of self-importance, and as all self-importances is illusory, it always fails, as we can see in the many collapses of regimes all around the world today, with all its senseless loss of life and resulting destruction. Even though deep down many of us know this at some level, the human race continues in its mindless march into doing harm, and often into complete destruction and stupidity. That is the burden that comes with not learning from not only our own individual experiences, but from the experiences of others who paid dearly from engaging in similar behaviour in the past. Then again, we can choose to think that we are somehow special, somehow untouchable by the consequences of ignoring what we ought to know better of, but we are taught to accept belief over reality, and as beliefs promise things that feed the sense of self, then we tend as a species to gallop headlong over the cliffs of unreason every time. And man shall know no reason.

If you stop, think and consider, we might just see that all of these things derive from a self-centred sense of self-importance, which is a false and circular sense of importance, but for a long as that illusion persists, then the stupidity and destruction will continue, even if it is the destruction of our actual and true beings, or even that of a whole civilisation.

The more illusory something is, the more we feel the need to defend it, as our egos won’t allow us to admit that we are being foolish in defending something so false. It’s like the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, where the whole population felt the need to convince themselves that the king was arrayed in splendour, whilst he was in fact naked. As long as the illusion was given force by fear and belief, then it had an artificial life of its own through the delusion of the populace at large, none of whom wanted to be the one to say what the reality was. In this negative way we contribute to the larger, or wider, karma of mankind, as it could not persist in its direction without the collective contribution from each individual that feeds into it, like many small streams flowing into a single river.

What it is also saying is that although this artificial sense of self is imaginary, and cannot be transmitted into some from of eternal being that will live on after you die, as it is an image only, your actions and the consequences for your actions do live on in the effects they have on the world around you. The ‘you’ of today, through your children, or through the part of you that exists within other members of your family, and in the wider family of mankind, going forward into the future, will reap the harvest of what you create today by way of your actions, or equally importantly, your inactions, as your thoughts drive your actions and deeds. Those deeds done today will invariably catch up with the ‘you’ in the future, even if that ‘you’ is part of someone else, who, just like you are today, is a combination of thousands of beings who lived before.

As and example of this, we today are paying the price from the stupidity and negative actions of those who either did or did not do certain things in the past, so therefore the current and future generations will undoubtedly pay the price or reap the benefits of what we do today. It’s a matter of cause and effect, and is undeniable, though many may well ignore it. Ignorance, the act of wilful ignoring, is perpetuated and encouraged by systems of belief that preach the idea that what we imagine is all, despite evidence to the contrary, as we can see the negative impact of such thinking all around us.

This is what the writing is saying when it refers to “the error of the self”, as the notion of self, as an imaginary power in its own right, is erroneous, as we do not in fact exist alone, and our imaginary sense of being alone is non-existent, so therefore it cannot ‘live’ on in some other life, but your actions do continue to have effect, like a stone thrown into a pond.

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