Thursday, 7 July 2011

Thought, Stories and The Stories of Self

Ciaran recently blogged that he has a new Demon Theory that explains the selfishness of humanity - his no-self dogma wasn't quite working, as his 'team' and others (not himself you'll notice) were still acting like assholes even after liberation.
Ciaran deletes my comments on his blog, so maybe someone from his team can share the following with him as it should clarify his (and their) mistake.

"It's an ECOSYSTEM. An ecosystem of competing thought. And thoughts vie against each other for dominance, and see other thoughts - regardless of their truth value - as just that, other thoughts."

Ciaran is misundestanding what thought is.
It isn't alive at all.
It's just that the feedback mechanism in us humans is so subtle, that it's not always easy to spot.
This is probably why monks put a great deal of emphasis on purification and simple living, to allow a certain level of sensitivity to arise.

Thought in humans is much the same as in computers.
It's all data based.
Language, images, memory.

The difference between humans and computers is that humans have sensations as well as thought. And thought feeds back into sensations.

We see this all the time.

Just think about a pleasant experience, and a pleasant feeling arises.
Think about something unpleasant, and an unpleasant feeling arises.
Think about yourself, and a sense of self arises.

This feedback loop is how the sense of self and the whole delusion of self arises.

Thoughts can create a story.
When we see that it's just a story, there's no confusion.
It's when we lose track of the fact that it's a story that the confusion begins.

Every time we watch a film or drama and start getting emotionally involved, that's a sign that we've lost track of the fact that it's just a fiction, just a story.

Have you ever found yourself speaking or even shouting at the TV during a film or drama?
That's you getting caught up in the story and forgetting that it's a story.
Have you ever been scared whilst watching a horror movie?
Enough said.

The story of oneself is the most mistaken story in humanity.
It's only a story, but we take it for reality.
Then taking it for reality, the feedback mechanism of thought and feeling builds layer upon layer of experience which 'proves' that the story is real.

Virtually every person I have met, either in person, or over the internet, believes in their story.
Their life choices are based on this story.
Some people get a sense that it's all a story, so they work hard at making it a better story - this is most clearly demonstrated by the 'positive thinkers'.
And of course, a positive story, one where we look for a 'good' reason in everything, or imagine a better future, will feel more enjoyable than a negative one.

But it's not immune to the vagaries of life, so all but the extremely single minded manage to see good in everything that happens to them.

But they haven't realised that the self - the central character - is also a story.

Stories are very useful - we rightly use them all the time.
When I imagine going into town to buy some food, that's a story.
If on the way I get involved in something else, then I may not buy food at all, I may do something else altogether.

The story of shopping was just that, and many stories don't get lived into reality.
If I later say, "Oh I shouldn't have got caught up with Jack, I should have gone shopping", that's just another story and it's a story that isn't true.

When I believe a story that isn't true it can create negative emotions like frustration or discontent. It can generate additional false stories like "Oh I'm such a flake", or "I'm unreliable" etc. etc.
And it's these accumulated stories about 'myself' that create the illusion of there being a permanent self.

Unfortunately, the very first stories of myself were recorded at a very young age.
As very young children we are fed stories about us by people who didn't realise the implications.

We were too young to realise the difference between stories and reality.
We also grew up surrounded by people who didn't recognise the difference between stories and reality.

So by the time we were just a few years old, the story of self (among many others, like God, religion, soul, racism, and many other prejudices) was already established.
It's such an established story, that it colours every new experience and files them away with the tag 'self' attached to them.

So when we review our memories, It's like, I do change, and my stories change, but underneath them all is the real me.

The best example that illustrates the falseness of this claim is when people suffer amnesia.
They literally cannot remember the story of who they are.

It's just like the computer - if you damage the hard-drive, the data just can't be retrieved.

And in both examples, sometimes the data can be retrieved and the memory becomes utilised again.

So I hope you can see what I'm pointing to here.

My conclusion would basically be that stories only become problematic when we stop seeing that they're stories.

The most problematic being stories of self.

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