Paul Maloney, roshi discusses the image of self we cultivate and cling to and how it relates to the Buddha’s teachings on impermanence and interconnectedness.
The Second Mark of Existence – Anattā
The Buddha tells us,
“When you develop the perception of impermanence, then the conceit
of ‘I AM’ will be abandoned.”
The conceit “I am” (asmi māna) is found in the sense we have of something behind awareness itself but, can’t pin it down. This “I am,” that hides behind experience affects us strongly, because it is what any given experience points towards, it is what experience is for. Our “Identity,” our sense of self, is largely constructed by narrative, a story that informs us as to who and what we are, and our relationship to the world in which we find our self. At the bottom of our narrative project lies what the Buddha calls māna, “conceit,” the sense of measurement, separation and therefore comparison. Māna is a conceit, in the sense that it is a fanciful notion, a delusion arising from ignorance. In the Buddha’s understanding of the way to awakening, māna is the last fetter to vanish, the final barrier to full awakening. So, it is not to be taken lightly.