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Loosening the grip of the sense of self

Buddhist teachings point to “papanca” [pah PAHN chah], the naturally-occurring tendency of the mind to generate endless thoughts about one’s self.

Joseph Goldstein offers a particularly penetrating in-depth analysis of papanca’s sources. The first is “craving”, the sense of “mine” (my thoughts, my feelings and so on). The second is “conceit,” the felt sense of “I am …” (I am angry, I am patient, etc). The third is “wrong view”, the deeply held belief in an abiding self. These three sources of papanca constantly reinforce our illusory sense of self. 

How to be free of such deeply rooted tendencies? Margaret guided our reflections this week, as we were led by Joseph’s deep focus on the impermanence and non-personal nature of our experience.

Margaret read some potent quotes during the meeting, some of which are reproduced below.

I’m tired of going around, pretending to be me.

– Philip Larkin

All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind.
Speak or act with a corrupted mind,
And suffering follows
As the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox.

All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind.
Speak or act with a peaceful mind,
And happiness follows
Like a never-departing shadow.

The Dhammapada as translated by Gil Fronsdal

There was also some very insightful discussion in our group, including,

I’m pretty much just a story that I made up; I’m just a work of fiction, and not a particularly good one at that.

Don S.

The talk Margaret played is part of https://dharmaseed.org/talks/68027/

The preceding talk, https://dharmaseed.org/talks/68004/, is well-worth listening to for those interested in the topic of how the habits of mind reinforce our sense of self.