'Transcending the Self' - Which?
It seems to be evident that we must conceive (a) an absolute-Self, which is the Absolute, which is one with the cosmic Essence, universal Mind (to bring together most of the usual terms), the noumenal Self which may be conceived as the personal aspect of the Absolute.
(b) Then a relative, or conditioned, Self - which is the manifested Self, the phenomenal Self, the 'individual', the incarnate Self, with its limited consciousness, its hereditary body and its psyche or mind, and which is part of all the phenomenal manifestations of the Absolute, of Reality. It is our centre, our nucleus round which 'we' (all the elements which our false perspective sees as one) are grouped.
(c) Finally there are the artificial 'me's', fictitious, products without substance, of our mental activities, imaginary things, complexes, without permanence, changing, mechanical, living on psychic tensions, with which we falsely identify ourselves, and which dominate us by means of the affirmations and negations that they require of us and that we spend our whole lives in providing for.
It is these last that we have to transcend, that are the basis of our suffering.
Once we have eliminated these false 'me's', these illusory 'selves', these mirages in which we see, feel, think, live, the way will be open towards our full evolution. As long as we remain subject to the illusion of their reality, identified with them, we cannot evolve. The saint himself, by disciplining these 'me's', by rendering them positive instead of negative, cannot evolve. Only the Sage, who has understood, who eliminates them by understanding that they do not really exist, can come to obtain a glimpse of his veritable nature and, ultimately, become himself.
Note - When someone speaks to us of the 'me', the 'ego', the 'self', of the 'personality', the 'individual', the 'being', with capital letters or lower case, it is often difficult to know what is in question; it may be (a), (b), or (c), or a mixture of the three - nearly always a mixture of (b) and of (c).
Nevertheless (a) alone is real, (b) alone is relative, (c) alone is fictitious or illusory. It matters little which word is chosen provided it be specified or implied that it is a question of the 'me', 'I', 'self', 'personality', 'ego', 'being' - that is absolute, relative (conditioned), or fictitious. Otherwise never can the word itself suffice.
At the same time it is not a question of three different things, nor of three degrees of one and the same thing - for there are no 'things'. The relative-self represents a manifestation on the plane of phenomena of the Absolute-Self (the Self of all things) - of the Absolute manifesting, or perceived, as self, whereas the fictitious 'me's are transient mirages manufactured by the apparatus which is a part of the relative self.
Ultimately they are concepts rendered necessary in order that we may understand something; and it would be an error to suppose that any one of them really exists.
The Illusion of Continuous Individuality
The fact that everything is renewed every moment constitutes the mechanism of the change that may be observed. It represents the reality behind the apparent impermanence of all things.
Memory alone seems to justify our idea of continuity, our impression of being the same individual from our birth until our death rather than a series of innumerable individuals, each resembling the other but each one different, in the end giving the impression of gradual change; so that this faculty of memory would seem to be the least illusory element in our 'self' We can claim that alone as being truly ourselves. Our notion of continuity has no other basis.
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The Saint is a man who disciplines his ego. The Sage is a man who rids himself of his ego.
The Saint retains the illusion of a 'me' and lives inside his mirage. The Sage walks through this mirage and finds that there was no 'me' in reality.
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Matter is probably a function and is not a thing-in-itself. We are in error in regarding substance as a real thing: it is probably a density of cosmic energy.
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Walking Through the Mirage
When the artificial 'I' is left behind, the real 'I' that remains perceives directly instead of through the refracting and muddy waters of the false 'I'. The 'scent of the wild laurel', the 'cypress tree in the courtyard', the cup of tea, the 'when I'm hungry I eat, when I'm thirsty I drink, when I'm tired I lie down', the 'nothing is hidden from you', of the Zen Masters are the straight-seeing. It is the water freed from the ice that held it frozen. But it is only looking straight out of your eyes, it is nothing far off, mysterious, out of touch, imperceptible at present: it is what is there now.
It is We-as-we-are, with our smoked glasses put aside.
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There can be no attainment in Realisation, because an I is necessary in order to attain.
Realisation being the realisation that there is no I - there is no I to attain and nothing can have been attained.
But is not an I necessary in order to realise that there is no I? How then can there be Realisation?
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Memory may be regarded as the cement of the ego.
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