Identity View and Fabrication (The Aggregates)

Perception of Reality/Identification

From Great Dialogues of Plato (Warmington and Rouse, eds.) New York, Signet Classics: 1999. p. 316.

The Conventional scientific material understanding of our reality is that what we can hear, see, feel, touch is all that exists.  These external sensory inputs plus thinking (the ever changing phenomena we experience) is who we define who are as people. But when we look for a self that is experiencing these sensations no self can be found.

Identification with these experiences is what causes us to suffer. When we do not identify with the senses then we do not suffer. One of the ways mindfulness works to our benefit is that it provides a space for us to be able to see this ever changing experience – to experience the knower who is experiencing this changing phenomena.

Another meditation tool that helps us to break away from this seeming connection is the practice of noting.  As we note our experience (seeing as seeing, hearing as hearing, planning as planning, and so on) we create space for both the experience and our awareness of it. We can also then become aware of the characteristics of those experiences themselves.  In Buddhist practice, this noting of the changing, selfless nature of experience is crucial to freeing the mind.

When people are in times of crisis a simple process for dealing with such problems has been proposed know as R.A.I.N.  Recognize – Allow – Investigate with kindness – Non-Attachment.  R.A.I.N is one of the fundamental practices taught to be used to overcome difficulties.

Some of the ways we identify with experience is in the labeling itself.  For example, if I define myself as a “man” then I take on the qualities of what it means to be a man that have been defined by our society and culture. This may mean that I do not cry or show weakness, or feel that I have to be the bread winner.  And then we judge ourselves by how well we fit these roles.  These labels by their definition box in our experience.  This labeling is a function of perception.

This labeling is a function of perception.  Most of our perception is generated by memories.  Once we have seen an apple and have identified with it then we feel we know all particular apples.  All of our understanding, views and opinions become attached to these labels.  We feel that we must defend this view.   So identification is linked with view.   How we view the world is how we act towards it.  When we do not identify with experience we are free to act in ways that do not re-enforce any particular view.

Identification in itself is not problem if tied to awareness.  For example, a person in recovery discovers that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol (or anything else) and then can use the tools of 12 Step programs or buddhist teachings to see their way past this.  (See Karma and Re-birth).

In Buddhism, there are twenty forms of sakkāya-diṭṭhi (personality belief) for which we identify. Five are to be believed identical to material form, feelings, perception, mental formations or consciousness, five to be contained within these qualities, five to be independent of them, and five to be the owner of them.

In NonDual teachings it is said that “once the apparently separate self, which is a process of seeking and resisting, is clearly seen through, it loses its foothold in both our thinking and feeling.” (Rupurt Spira).  ******find proper reference*******

Another take on this is the Lojong mind training. In this practice, fifty-nine slogans are used forming the root text of the mind training process.  They are designed as a set of antidotes to undesired mental habits that cause suffering. They contain methods to expand one’s viewpoint towards absolute bodhicitta (which is the enlightened mind that strives towards awakening, empathy and compassion for the benefit of all), and methods for relating to the world in a more constructive way with relative bodhicitta.

For further study see:

The Five Aggregates: A Study Guide – Thanissaro Bhikkhu

The Noble Eightfold Path to the End of Suffering – Bhikkhu Bodhi

(Audio) Awakened Consciousness – Ajahn Sumedho



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