Sutta Study Discussion Theme 1-­2-­16

From Craving to Liberation, From Grasping to Emptiness: Excursions into the Thought­World of the Pali Discourses by Bhikkhu Analayo, Chapter 8, Personality View, pages 85-­92

Sections to be read outloud:
Beginning of 8.1 on page 85 through the first two paragraphs on page 87
Top of page 90, first two paragraphs
Bottom of page 91 to end of chapter

Discussion Theme:
This month let’s take the opportunity to notice personality view arising out of a clinging
to the five aggregates -­ the activity of the body and mind. This clinging provides a sense
of location or center for the presumed self that is constant and apart from the unfolding
conditions of experience. When the mind is clinging, there is a feedback loop works like
this: the ongoing cognitive work of establishing and maintaining the appearance of a
fixed self, seemingly apart from the flow of experience being known, is a cause for
stress to arise. Experiencing this stress reconfirms the sense of a permanent self, “Of
course I exist, I am the one who is tight right now!”

The mind has developed a capacity to think, to create stories with language that provide
conceptual meaning. Unfortunately, the mind also has the capacity to be seduced and
confused by these meaningful stories ­ to take them to be more than what they actually
are. It seems that this capacity to think arose out of a natural built in tendency to
survive, to continue on. We have developed the habit of conceptualizing our situation as
a strategy of reducing the stress of survival. We predict, map out, and remember the
terrain of our life situations all as a construction in our mind. The glue that most often
holds these stories together is the concept of a permanent self or me. This month, let’s
explore if this conceptual meaning making can function without this inaccurate unifying
theme of a separate self. In other words, can the cognitive processes participate
harmoniously in the unfolding of life without a stressful fixation on a storyline revolving
around I, me, or mine?

Gil Fronsdal writes that Buddhism is less about what the meaning of life is, and more
about the mind’s constructed need for meaning. Once a concept of self has been
inserted into the storyline, then the thinking process becomes dependent on telling
stories in terms of what life means to this imagined self. This is both stressful and
doesn’t lead anywhere wholesome for oneself and others.

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