[p94 of 161 MwB]
At the beginning of the 4th tetrad Buddhadasa said the above. In the quote he is describing the 3 characteristics of Buddhism – anicca (impermanence), dukkha (suffering) and anatta (no-self), that lead to sunnata and tathata. “When impermanence is truly seen”, it will also have the characteristics of dukkha and anatta. In this chapter of the companion I wish to look at the understanding of anatta.
Elsewhere Buddhadasa talks of “removing I and mine from the 5 khandhas” – the khandhas being kaya (body), vedana (feelings), sanna (memory and perception), sankhara (mental actions) and vinnana (consciousness). Using this I want to examine anatta as the removal of I from the 5 khandhas.
I wish to develop an appropriate consciousness of the first 4 khandhas.
This is an additional step that I introduce at the end of the first tetrad. So far in this tetrad the student will have developed some sati through mindfulness with breathing, and what I have called the kaya-conditioner to bring calm to the body and breath - please see Course Outline and Notes. They have also worked on the 4 Dhamma comrades through the 5 Lay Precepts. I wish to use this kaya-conditioner to develop an understanding of kaya-vinnana.
Removing I and mine from kaya means having no attachment to body, try telling that to the older people on the path . I view this as kaya telling “me” what it needs to take care of itself – to be healthy. There are 3 components for the health of kaya – kaya-vinnana:-
Healthy eating:- Because of the toxic content in manufactured food, wisest indicators for a healthy diet are that we begin with macrobiotics, and therefore vegan macrobiotics because of the first precept (Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures). But there is a usual human requirement of vitamin B12 so eating fish once a week can provide for that.
However individual kayas are different so we need to make active decision-making in the choice of foods and drinks, choice of vitamins, and choice of healthy supplements. Kaya-vinnana is this decision-making. Based on this vegan marobiotics plus fish diet, food and drink appropriate to our own body need to be investigated so that we know what we can eat without causing health problems. Once you know your optimum food requirements you eat that way – sampajanna.
This investigation is far easier for the young as young kayas can survive well without optimal requirements, but this is not kaya-vinnana. As we get older the body does not have that youthful vitality, and its aging vulnerability then requires more attention. Macrobiotics talks of yin-yang balance with our food and drink, and as we get older acupuncture - a yin-yang health system - recommends eating some meat. In this inhumane world meat-eating creates dilemmas with regards to compassion and the first precept, because of the intense cruelty with which the food industry processes animal products; it is not just cruelty but the nutritional value of such meat lessens. Young principled people are intolerantly demanding vegan eating even with regards to the small amount of fish, but kaya-vinnana asks us to see beyond this and recognise the importance of the true indicator - what our own body needs for optimal health.
Whilst traditionally some meat-eating was recognised as part of the natural order, nowadays because of the inhumane practices of the profit-makers aversion pressures us away from this. However appropriate food and drink for the wise needs to go beyond the emotional in determining their optimal health intake. There is only one measure, and that is sampajanna. Wisdom especially for the young can be governed almost totally by compassion and the first precept - depending on B12, but with the natural aging of the body sampajanna changes and trial and error is how the body decides. Wise decision-making is based on how kaya responds to food and drink - that is kaya-vinnana it is personal - sampajanna.
Much of this will have been considered as part of the development of the 4 Dhamma comrades in the work we did on the 5 lay precepts - panna and sampajanna of the first precept. So here we will only be consolidating that understanding but in terms of anatta - there is no self just kaya-vinnana.
Cardiac Exercise:- Bodies need exercise to maintain health so we must make time for exercise. For many young people encouraged by the education system, such cardiac exercise involved sport. A sport-fit body is excessive, what is needed again is optimal and such optimality naturally changes with age. But the need for optimal cardiac exercise is ever-present, that is kaya-vinnana. Decide and do it – sampajanna.
Energetic Exercise:- Bodies need the energy to be flowing optimally. It is possible that yoga opens up the channels to enable such flow, I am not sure. Pranayama provides breathing exercises that facilitate energetic movement above and beyond the kaya-conditioner. Chi Gung exercise such as Chilel gives a routine of 15 minutes a day that provides our energetic needs, a daily TaiChi form would be better. Decide on your optimal energy strategy, and put it into practice – sampajanna.
In the first tetrad of anapanasati-bhavana meditation your flesh-body is kaya-conditioned by the breath-body, and in daily life you have given the body sufficient attention so that it can take care of itself thus optimising sickness. That is kaya-vinnana – there is no I or mine, just the Dhamma comrades of panna and sampajanna.
Contents of Consciousness
Before looking at the other khandha-vinnanas I want to talk about the contents of consciousness – a concept I first heard from Krishnamurti, and again I want to discuss what happens in education to explain. When we go to secondary school and higher we are often taught facts and skills, for exams we revise in order to learn facts and reproduce skills during those exams. Whilst this satisfies those who control education (in Matriellez I call the controllers the corporate paradigm or in the Manual the 1%-satrapy), it does not satisfy educationalists who call for insight, creativity and other qualities. But neither educationalists nor the teachers are in control of what they deliver, the exam system and the wider interests it serves ensures the curriculum and what is required for that curriculum.
I will describe this as secondary level and above filling consciousness with contents instead of delivering a path of compassion, insight and creativity. From this you can begin to get a feel of what those contents might be. As a pathtivist we need to use those contents in daily life but what is not wanted is for our consciousness to be continually occupied with contents when we are trying to develop the 4 Dhamma comrades, 4 Brahma-Viharas and 7 Bojjhangas. Consciousness (as vinnana) needs to be freed up from being occupied with contents, and when it is freed it can work on mental development – bhavana.
When we looked at kaya-vinnana a certain level of consciousness was required so that the kaya can function optimally. So we used a minimal level of consciousness so that the kaya can function. It is this principle I propose to use with the rest of the khandha-vinnanas – the minimal level of vinnana required for the khandha to function optimally. What we cannot have is consciousness being filled with content whether that content is vedana, sanna or sankhara, consciousness is not to be filled with any content.
How can we not have contents of consciousness, don’t we need to know facts or skills? And the answer to that is yes and no, or better – an optimal level. Do we need to know all the facts we learnt at school? Quite obviously not as they are not required in daily life. Do we need to know all the facts we learned at uni? Same answer. If we ask the same question of skills, we get the same answer. In jobs we develop qualities as discussed in ZAMM, perhaps based on facts and skills learnt in education, but more we develop a sense of wisdom of what is required for the job. When we are considering the path we are not interested in facts and skills although we might begin with the facts of the 4 Noble Truths or meditations skills. But we take those facts and skills and change them into the Dhamma comrades through our practice. Apart from the khandha-vinnanas our consciousness is not filled with content but is used for mindfulness wisdom etc.
So when we look at the remaining khandhas and the consciousness required for them, we will not be looking at holding content but at minimising content for optimal function of the khandha.
It is perfectly natural to feel but we don’t want those feelings out of control pulling us all over the place. This is described by Buddhadasa as:-
Through MwB we develop a “vedana-conditioner”. This takes us through some intense feelings, and through the meditation we have some control of these feelings that eventually lead to a state of coolness. If we can achieve this coolness, then in daily life when a feeling arises we can hopefully let it go. If it persists and we feel a stronger reaction then we use mindfulness and panna to ensure that those reactions do not lead to actions with consequences.
We do not want to internalise feelings such as anger and remember patterns of behaviour that can trigger such feelings. So as part our vedana-vinnana we examine such feelings and let them go. Together with sanna-vinnana there are no emotional patterns that can be triggered – no emotional contents of consciousness. In this way when at the point of sense-contact when a feeling arises we can let it go, and if the feeling strengthens into a reaction we can use mindfulness and wisdom to act wisely.
In the second tetrad of anapanasati-bhavana meditation you go through the vedana-conditioner. As a result of this citta is not conditioned by the vedana so that in daily life we are not mastered by the vedana. That is vedana-vinnana – there is no I or mine, just the Dhamma comrades of panna and sampajanna.
Developing sanna-vinnana (memory)
Now we are looking into sanna-vinnana. Sanna is known as memories and perceptions, and I will treat these in separate sections. We don’t wish to hold onto memories as memories can give us problems, yet we do need to be able to remember. It is this ability to remember that is sanna-vinnana but for that ability to work our memories need to be free to be accessed. And that is often not the case.
As we experience life there is much suffering, suffering in love, suffering in family, suffering in work, and even suffering as we struggle with the path. As is clearly stated in the 4NT suffering arises but unfortunately we cling to that suffering. And that suffering can be stored as memories.
But sometimes that suffering is so powerful that we need to avoid contact with the memories so we fragment ourselves in order not to have to access the pain. We can create shadows in this way, fragments of ourselves that we cut off. But as we develop through MwB these fragments become accessed. If you are involved with an individualised meditation methodology such as Zandtaomed, then your elder can guide you through the process of integrating these fragments. And if the elder can’t help with the integration, then they can know to refer you to an appropriate professional.
Dealing with the shadow, integrating the fragments can be a significant time for the pathtivist. During our upbringing it is also likely, unless we are extremely lucky with our parents, to become necessary to fragment who we are because that aspect of ourselves is not wanted by our parents. This fragment can also be activated during the learning of meditation. An elder can often cope with this or direct you to an appropriate professional. One way of coming to terms with these fragments is to recognise our inner parents. It is an understood natural law that we choose our parents and that in the first five years we take our characteristics from our parents. These fragments can also be aspects of our parents that we don’t want to be. A useful meditation exercise is to write down what we remember our parents’ characteristics as being. Then we match our own characteristics with our remembered inner parents. What is matched we can investigate as possible fragments.
I have discussed this in Ch10 of the Manual. But I should also point to a teacher who greatly helped me understand shadow, fragments and inner parents – Teal Swan; listen to her many videos on this integration work especially with regards to emotions and memories (vedana and sanna).
There is a final technique that can help remove fragments and that is Thay's technique of "Listening to the Wounded Child". He has discussed this in his book "Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child". For complete integration this is an important additional step after reconciling the inner parents. But I have concerns with regards to this technique and have devoted a chapter to this technique.
By the end of this integration work on shadows and fragments that happens naturally during MwB, sanna is not filled with contents as shadows and fragments that can haunt us if they are not integrated. Once integrated then the memory can be accessed with minimal vinnana because the memory is not filled with contents or attachments that prevent access.
Developing sanna-vinnana (perceptions)
At present we are seeing huge problems in the world with attachments to perceptions. In our political systems we are seeing a complete inability to communicate and unite because we are divided behind views. Clinging to views is known as ditthupadana. What is more heinous than this problem of clinging to views is that this clinging is being financed in order to create division by the 1%-satrapy. As a result behind the scenes they can increase their profits whilst on the surface our attention is grabbed by this conflict of views.
We appear to be happily entrenching ourselves in these views. Because I am a compassionate man I have a tendency to attach to liberalism because they are ostensibly concerned with caring for all. But you don’t care for all by not listening, by not recognising the concerns of those who you don’t agree with. We live in nature – all of us, we have to find a way of harmony, a way of compassion. This does not mean telling all that they must do as we say because we are right and righteous.
In this chapter I have discussed kaya-vinnana in which I have accepted eating meat if it is required for health. There is the ditthupadana of veganism, and some vegans are demanding that all people should be vegan because of the harm done to animals in the preparation of meat and dairy products. People in farming countries have worked humanely with animals as free range (not in factory farms), and then killed them for necessary food. How can we allow such inhumanity to continue? Yet at the same time how can we insult those whose medical advice says we need to eat meat. Established medical systems such as acupuncture have recognised especially as we age that meat can be beneficial. So the young can make demands whilst the old suffer because the young listen only to their compassion for animals. The Buddha gave us this precept “1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami - I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.” Note the word “refrain”, it is up to you with your own mindfulness and wisdom to act in a way that you are personally comfortable with in not destroying living creatures.
So for sanna-vinnana on perceptions we do not fill our consciousness with views or perceptions that shape our consciousness. In other words our minds need to be free to evaluate. This is an important but complex process because our consciousnesses have been filled with content from the day we were born; this is part of the process of conditioning that we all go through. I have discussed conditioning throughout the Treatise and Manual, but it could be considered as filling consciousness with contents – with agreements.
To develop sanna-vinnana we let go of all the agreements we have made through conditioning. This is an all-pervasive process and is carried with deep enquiry. Consider our upbringing in the broadest sense. It will include agreements we made with our family, religion and culture. There is no need to agree to anything just rely on what arises in meditation – 4 Dhamma comrades, 4 Brahma-Viharas and 7 Bojjhangas. Throughout my life I have been aware of the indoctrination in the media of the 1%-satrapy often sponsored by government. This ongoing lying has come to haunt the people propounding these restrictions on truth as it has started to be used by the ignorant as the taunt "fake news". With sanna-vinnana we do not accept anything that we cannot know as truth through the Dhamma comrades, there is no fake news - only mindfulness, compassion etc.
We do need a level of perception to survive in society. Compassion and morality (sila-consciousness) arise through meditation, and whilst that ought to be sufficient to govern our behaviour we need to be aware of the law in case law conflicts with compassion and morality. Whilst compassion and morality ought to be sufficient, maybe pragmatic compromise is necessary.
There needs to be contents of consciousness for our jobs, however we earn our money to survive. Again this is a compromise of sanna-vinnana.
Are there aspects of family that we need to accept? As the path develops we might also be in a family. Our family duties might restrict the development of the path, however we deal with this restriction is a content that we need to maintain.
Culture is conditioning eg nationalism. National boundaries are a human restriction on nature, accepting nationalism is a perception. Accepting a political doctrine is either an agreed perception or an aversion, either way it is a content. Action results from compassion not a set of rules from someone else.
Religion has different aspects, and these need to be evaluated. Belief in a religious code is a content, compassion wisdom and morality are used to decide action. A belief in God is a content because belief is a thought or a perception, if you have met God in some way that is different – it is not then belief but an experience and is therefore not a content; such a meeting with God is more than possible. I can say that is true of the Christian God, I don’t know enough of Islam to say it is true of Allah but it might relate to the Sufi process of remembering God. If we have actively evaluated a religion through compassion wisdom and morality then that is your choice, if it is received from society or family in any way then it is a content – conditioning; this is a deeply-tolerant acceptance of all religions and the choice the religious make. This goes for Buddhism as with any other religion, what Zandtaomed accepts from Buddhism is not received but has been evaluated. This is the process the Buddha describes in the Kalama sutta.
There is a content that Zandtaomed need acceptance of, and that is nature – Dhamma-jati:-
The law of nature that is also required is paticcasamuppada:-
(1). With ignorance as a condition, mental concocting arises;
(2). With mental concocting as a condition, consciousness arises;
(3). With consciousness as a condition, mentality/materiality arises;
(4). With mentality/materiality as a condition, the six sense bases arise;
(5). With the six sense bases as a condition, contact arises;
(6). With contact as a condition, feeling arises;
(7). With feeling as a condition, craving arises;
(8). With craving as a condition, attachment arises;
(9). With attachment as a condition, becoming arises;
(10). With becoming as a condition, birth arises;
(11). With birth as a condition, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and tribulation arise. Thus the mass of suffering arises.
This is the law of nature that is the law of cause and effect that is obeyed throughout nature. Given the compromise provisos of law, job and family the sanna-vinnana of perception is only Dhamma-jati and paticcasamuppada. For pathtivism there is the path and the law of cause and effect, these two sentences are tautological. That is the sanna-vinnana of perception.
In the third tetrad of anapanasati-bhavana meditation we liberate the mind through detachment and non-attachment. As a result of this sanna is not conditioned by the ego so that in daily life we are not attached to memories and perceptions. That is sanna-vinnana – there is no I or mine, just the Dhamma comrades of panna and sampajanna.
The khandha sankhara means mental operations, but in terms of attachment it is more problematic as the intellectual or academic ego. The intellectual ego arises out of our educational system that focusses so much on academic success or failure. This creates two egos, the ego of attraction or arrogance and the ego of aversion or failure.
But none of this is the actual khandha sankhara, and to get rid of this academic ego we need to understand the components of knowledge gained through academia. Academia keeps this understanding confused because by breaking it down we break down the academic ego that makes it up. Let’s start with facts. Knowledge requires a factual basis but historically what those facts are has generally been accepted. In the last few years the Koch brothers amongst others have financed the questioning of science through climate denial. Their investment had one objective – create sufficient doubt that climate dangers were caused by the oil industry, and their objective has been successful to the detriment of humanity. Because of this success other science has been questioned further creating instability leading to greater profits by the removal of regulations. To promote the resource-exploitation agendas of the 1%, further doubt has been cast on facts. Differing political views have now begun to question facts to such an extent that facts which were once objective are now subjective being bought by investment. Such lack of confidence in facts has benefitted the 1% with its desire to end regulation, but unfortunately at the same time there has been investment in political division so that what is factual has actually become a question of belief. So whilst a few benefit financially with this strategy humanity as a whole suffers as it knowledge-base and traditional learning are questioned for non-scientific reasons.
But it is clear, a fact is a fact. If it is not clear it is a view. If facts are needed as a part of knowledge they can be stored in the memory of sanna or stored in computers. Scientific experiment verifies facts, and scientific method is rigorous so such facts are not questioned. Political interests, such as Koch industry, try to cast doubt on rigorous science but there is no doubt in science. Because of the power of investment this science is questioned for profit reasons but with mindfulness we see through that and know that facts are verified by scientific method. There is a method of complete enquiry in science known as scientific scepticism. If genuine scientific scepticism questions a fact, then that fact becomes a view under proper scientific review.
Acupuncture is a branch of medical science with scientific evidence that has been verified for centuries. However BigPharma cannot profit from acupuncture so they invest in bogus scepticism. I have seen supposed scientists dismiss the evidence for acupuncture because that evidence comes from Chinese scientists and they are biased in favour of acupuncture. This is simply bogus criticism playing to racism, scientific method is scientific method no matter what the nationality of the scientist.
When we are considering knowledge we have to see through these financial manipulations, and understand that facts are indisputable – sanna-memory – and observations that are being legitimately questioned are views – sanna-perception. Using known facts we can derive through processes of logic different facts that become known because of the legitimacy of the known facts and the logical process. This logical process is a sankhara. If logic is used to develop a view the new view is still a view because the starting point was a view. Sankhara does not bring truth, it only develops the sanna as either a new fact or a new view.
Science is often considered to be developed from axioms. Axioms are unverifiable as truth but are considered inherently obvious as truth. Maths makes axioms clear. 1+1=2 is a clear and obvious fact, and using logic to develop arithmetic from this axiom leaves arithmetic as clear and obvious facts. There is no dispute in the knowledge of this process except for the vested interests wishing to create doubt so they can profit.
So we have science that is based on sanna (facts and views) and sankhara. Whilst there has recently been much doubt created around sanna and sankhara for profit motives, scientifically there is no doubt both as to the veracity and the roles of sanna and sankhara.
But even without financial interference the next steps in understanding knowledge are difficult. And it is the obfuscation of the boundaries of these steps which give rise to the bloated intellectual ego. This is because academia does not distinguish between wisdom or insight and intellect or logic and reason. Because of this academic confusion science does not necessarily recognise the boundaries between wisdom and reason; this is discussed at length in ZAMM using Pirsig’s vehicle of Church of Reason.
Now wisdom or insight are effectively new axioms, wisdom and insight are the axioms that logic and reason can develop. If mindfulness keeps clear the distinction between axiom and logic there is no confusion. Vipassana means the insight method of meditation, anapanasati bhavana is a type of vipassana. Through meditation insights arise which can then be developed through logic or reason into new understanding based on the insights. It is the strength of the insight that is the strength of the understanding, not the rational process that worked on the insight. Sankhara has no wisdom or intelligence, it is simply a tool of logic and reason (more often than not now through the computer) – it is only intellect. When seen in this way why does one have an intellectual ego just for using a bit of logic that can be programmed?
To recap there are axioms, facts and views – all parts of sanna. Sankhara develops these axioms, facts and views into new facts (a developed axiom is simply a new fact 3+4=7 from 1+1=2) and views. Wisdom and insight are Dhamma comrades – Eureka moments maybe, they do not come from the khandhas but the Dhamma. When our education process allows ego to form around intellect, it is making sankhara far more than it actually is – an arrogant bloated ego. What really matters in this academic process is not sanna or sankhara but wisdom and insight which come from the Dhamma.
When we consider knowledge the process of logic and reasoning has an important place in taking wisdom (insight) or facts (axioms, facts and views) and developing new facts or views from this – original wisdom together with logic does not make new wisdom but new facts based on the original wisdom. Sankhara has an important but discrete role to play – knowing this is sankhara-vinnana.
In the fourth tetrad of anapanasati-bhavana meditation there is a focus on anicca (impermanance)finally quenching attachment and dukkha. There is a complete emphasis on the path of nature recognising that it is the path and not mental operations that gives direction; we throw back I. As a result of this we live our lives by following the path - not attached to sankhara. The 4th tetrad focuses on the path which includes sankhara-vinnana – there is no I or mine, just the path with Dhamma comrades of panna and sampajanna.
Zandtaomed recognises that there is much to learn from indigenous traditions, and part of this tradition is the medicine wheel:-
The 4 tetrads of anapanasati-bhavana could be considered the medicine wheel of meditation.
We could envisage consciousness (vinnana) as an awareness resource to be optimised. Mindfulness can give attention (vinnana) to the other 4 khandhas – kaya (body), vedana (feelings), sanna (memory/perceptions) or sankhara (mental operations), or keep attention on the path eg the 4 Dhamma comrades, 4 Brahma-Viharas or 7 Bojjhangas.
Let’s consider how consciousness is used by looking at smell. All around us there are smells all the time, but we are not aware of all these smells because it is not necessary. Maybe we are eating, there is the smell of the food and consciousness arises so that we are aware of the aroma (nice smell). Many people detect fires by the smell of smoke, there is a conscious attention on the smell of smoke and we are aware of the fire. This is mindfulness sending consciousness to the smell so that we become aware. We are not aware of all sensual experience around us because mindfulness does not send consciousness to be aware. Mindfulness is governed by wisdom as to when it is necessary for consciousness to arise. All of this happens naturally as a function in this case of kaya – smell.
Mindfulness uses attention optimally so if our mindfulness is fully developed then we can know that the four vinnanas described in this chapter will happen naturally – optimally. However our egos are always demanding attention, that is the nature of ego – to require attention – awareness. So if there are egos then the attention of mindfulness is taken away from the path (the Dhamma comrades etc.) and is grabbed by the egos. So it is in our best interest to keep our attention on the path and avoid diffusing our attention on ego.
To keep our attention on the path we need to get rid of the egos so we have to understand how ego arises. They arise through conditioning, both natural and social. When we are born it is natural for us not to be aware. Through instinct we survive and slowly learn how to use the 5 khandhas. We are not aware that we are learning how to use the 5 khandhas, we are just learning. In an ideal world our education would be learning mindfulness so that we could give optimal attention to the khandhas and maintain our attention on the path. But that is not the world we live in. So we are educated to give our attention in other ways – conditioning. When we learn mindfulness we learn to change the way we give attention. Our attention becomes focussed on the path and not on what conditioned egos choose.
If we accept that this is what is happening then we will want to recognise what are the egos so that we do not give attention to them. This is what is known as letting go of egos. Once we recognise what is ego then mindfulness wants to let go and not waste attention keeping attention focussed on the path.
This is why the path is about going beyond conditioning because mindfulness wants to keep attention on the path. Even if we were consciously able to let go of egos of our youthful conditioning (upbringing), there is still the ongoing conditioning of daily life that tries to build up egos continuously. The need for mindfulness is constant, awareness of the need to follow the path is constant.
Mindfulness does not want to waste vinnana on ego, this is the process of optimisation of vinnana that has been described. The path shows us what is ego, if it is not authentically following the path then it is ego. We need the 4 other khandhas to function as human beings but following the path is our purpose. Mindfulness of the path means we do not waste consciousness on ego. Being aware of what our khandha-vinnanas are – the optimal consciousness to enable the khandha to function – means that consciousness is freed to follow our path – be mindful of the path.
Mindfulness is used to keep attention on the path, and because attention is not being given to egos we are following the path. In this description there is consciousness on the path of Dhammas and consciousness of the 4 khandhas. That is all that is needed. Where is self? There is no self – anatta. By understanding that there is consciousness of the path and the other 4 khandhas, there is no need for I. If there is I that is attached to the other 4 khandhas as I or as ego then consciousness is taken away from the path. So when Buddhadasa says “removing I and mine from the 5 khandhas” he is talking of anatta, of consciousness of the path and optimised consciousness of the other 4 khandhas.
There is no need for I because consciousness of the path - of the Dhamma and the 4 khandhas is sufficient. If these are sufficient why is there an I in the first place? As usual the answer is conditioning from birth, and it comes from the survival instinct. With the conditioning patterns of behaviour create ego through being given attention, if these patterns are repeated then the repeated ego become characteristics, recognisable patterns of self. For social convenience this self is given attention, and so self is built up.
The problem with self is the same as the problem with egos, it takes conscious attention away from the path. And of course as with the egos that make it up the self tries to survive by continually asking for attention through its behaviour. It is then taking attention away from the path. As we reach adulthood the instinct for survival disappears but the self does not. Because of continuing social conditioning the characteristics of the self are continually reinforced so that we don’t even recognise that the self is a collection of unnecessary egos taking attention away from the path. But once we see that giving attention to egos is taking conscious attention away from the path, then we start a process of detachment – letting go of ego. Once we recognise there is no self necessary, and that we are either path or the 5 khandhas then we detach from the self – let it go. Recognising that ego is formed from ongoing conditioning then we learn not to attach to egos in the first place. Then mindfulness gives attention to the path.
As Buddhadasa says “removing I and mine from the 5 khandhas” leads to recognition of one of the 3 characteristics of Buddhism, anatta, enabling freedom from attachment – liberation, and then living the Dhamma. The pathtivist follows the path.
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