Constantly redefining ourselves


Trying to discover what we really are is the practice of understanding “no-self.” Insisting that there is a self means we cannot let go of attachments — the self is a big attachment!

There also seems to be something that is frequently called “the watcher,” that which seems to be observing all this, and perhaps this is really the “I” in question. Strangely, the watcher cannot be found, can it? It seems to sometimes be our eyes, but sometimes not, sometimes it seems to be images in our head and sometimes something that is separate from them and yet watching the images in our head. Sometimes it seems to be our body, but sometimes it seems to be watching our body. Isn’t it strange how we are so used to this constant redefinition of ourselves that we never stop to question it? Question it! This odd sense of an unfindable watcher to which all of this is happening yet which is seemingly separate from all that is happening, which sometimes seems in control of “us” and yet which sometimes seems at the mercy of reality: what is it really? What is going on here?

One of my teachers once wisely said, “If you are observing it, then it isn’t you by definition!” Notice that the whole of reality seems to be observed. (Source: Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, by Daniel Ingram)

No-self is closely related to emptiness. If all things have no self-nature, then they are empty. Everything is always changing, so it follows that they have no essence, no fundamental permanence. I begin to see that impermanence and emptiness and no-self are like one, or aspects of one another.



4 responses

  1. The concept of no-self and emptiness has always left me feeling cold… as in, alone or without love.

    Personally, and this is a personal pursuit, it is the idea of ‘fullness’ and ‘unity with Source’ that led me to understand and the distinction between true-self or, ‘the watcher’, and that of ego.

    For me, the All-Soul, our Source, is the embodiment of Truth and Truth is love. We are the Source, or I should say we contain the seed of Source, and it is our purpose on earth to expand this perception from within until it is a constant reality. To accomplish this is to become enlightened.

    Everything that exists outside of this loving field of perception…anything that lies outside of the ‘feeling’ of love that is our essence… is illusion, created by ego-self.

    Herein lies the difference between true-self and ego. From true-self perception we ‘watch’ the ego-self play its games – attached to materiality… emotions, and indulging pleasures, as well as fear and doubt. This ‘watcher’ is ‘detached’ from this activity and so guides our perception and hence our reality. The ego is still present, but no longer in control.

    So, one could say this ‘watcher’ or no-self operates from nothingness or is empty, as (I interpreted) you suggest, since from this elevation our body is but a container, while we, our essence, ‘presents’ as pure consciousness – pure consciousness from our present spectrum of awareness seems to be vapor… or empty.

    However, what I sense is that this state of being is pure love and not nothingness. Since it’s hard to qualify or quantify love, once again… the interpretation is unique to each seeker.

    Ego is a low-level teacher, but a teacher nonetheless. It takes us on this earth adventure and is in control until we we learn to ‘watch’ or as it is sometimes stated… learn to ‘see’. Then, in this awakened state, true-self is in control and guides us ‘home’.

    Yes, we rise up and fall down and there are a million states of consciousness we assume along the way. But, in the end, if we reach our goal of nirvana, heaven on earth, enlightenment…these are home – these are all the same state of being.


    There are many meditative, guided imagery techniques within and without the fold of religion, that can help bring the perception of our ‘separated being’ into focus.

    Blessings to all…ss


  2. Again, I come across a reoccuring theme in my life. Thank you. I liked how you phrased it. Happy New Year my internet friend – from the “self” with a small “s” and from the “Self” with the big “S” who is watching the “self” (wink)

  3. @Stream – Thanks for sharing your perspective. I think it is correct to say that ego and the true self are not the same. I have heard Zen teachers also refer to our “small self” and our “large self.” If we can realize our “large self,” we are certainly on the path.