Understanding that all things arise in dependence upon a vast array of causes and conditions is an insight that will undoubtedly overcome the mistaken consciousness which grasps things as existing independently.
But for it to truly be effective, I need to clearly identify the grasping at inherent existence.
The object to which I pay the most undivided attention, day in and day out, is myself. Today I will try to catch this subtle mental habit of conceiving independent, objective existence by asking myself, “How do I appear to exist?”
While I brush my teeth, how do “I” appear to my mind? What is this sense of “I” as some controller making decisions independently of my body and mind?
While I get lost in day dream, pouring passions out to imaginary friends, what is the feeling of “I” who thinks? What is the sense that there’s an “I” in here somewhere, producing these thoughts, yet that isn’t quite exactly my mind or thoughts themselves?
When someone calls my name, and that little hand goes up inside: “Here I am!!” How does that notion that I am here feel? In my own inner awareness, how do “I” appear to myself?
This presumption of a truly existing self is so ingrained that I never even stop to ask if it’s correct!
It’s such a subtle habit that even attempting to identify it runs completely counter to my entire perception of the world. It’s a challenge to the very sense of who I am!
But there are times when it is gently resting and other times when it’s not at all passive. I’ll watch when I feel outrage at the words coming from TV. I’ll watch when lustful craving bears its fangs. I’ll watch when haughty self-righteous pride takes me on a lofty ride.
At those moments, when my mind is involved with destructive emotions, my grasping at my self is really much more clear. Why is this? Because those harmful states can only arise with an over-exaggeration of the “I” as their basis.
This will be some real exercise, and I can already tell there will be resistance.
So ever so slyly, I’ll install a little hidden camera of introspective awareness. I’ll just be attentive and calmly notice the grasping at self. What is its quality? What is its character? What does it feel like to grasp myself as though I existed as an independent entity?
Today I will investigate in this manner. With curiosity and skepticism, I will work to identify that object that is grasped by ignorance. I’ll do this in order to develop the wisdom that understands that I am not truly, independently existent.
Since I depend on causes and conditions, and my body and mind, I am empty of inherent, self-existence. With that wisdom, I will have no more obstacle to concerning myself single-pointedly with contributing to the welfare of others.