below is an excerpt from Dharma talk given at the Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship Aril 21st 2019

 

I want to start from the account of the Buddha’s retelling of what happened on during the night just before his awakening experience.   From the MahaSaccaka Sutta and for me this has become the practical understanding of non-self for my everyday life.

 

“When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of recollecting my past lives. I recollected my manifold past lives, i.e., one birth, two…five, ten…fifty, a hundred, a thousand,,,

 

 ‘There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.’ Thus I remembered my manifold past lives in their modes & details.” — 

So I want us for a second to imagine this - we are going into the imaginal capacity of the mind to help us understand an important truth about identity.  Let’s say you could remember all the people and beings that you have been. You could remember not just who you are but you could remember being Maria Delgado, mother of 4, daughter of 8 who lived at this place and how you loved the sunrise in the morning and you were Maria who loved these things and was afraid of this or that who loved Max who died because of the war, what war?

 They all start to bleed together all the wars you know, many you were the victim and in just as many you were the perpetrator - in this reimagining you see yourself as mother and father, sister and brother, but not just as human, but as the bird that flies over, the fish that swims, the tree the climbs toward heaven. You remember being predator and prey and they all become a cacophony of lives and just as meaningful as the one you are now in with the same attachment to I AM.

 This is the story of what the Buddha experienced the night before the rising of the morning star and his awakening -

 This story speaks to me of fluidity of self - it breaks down the barriers between myself and others -  If I have been all these things, If I have been, mother, father, brother, sister, victim, perpetrator, hero, villain, bear, wolf, rabbit, fish, tree and flower, why do I hold on so tight to Christopher? And Who is Christopher in the midst of these long long dance of life?

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