The Origin of “I”

f7708b2df85e9d36aa352a4dbf996546This is, because that is.

This is not, because that is not.

This comes to be, because that comes to be.

This ceases to be, because that ceases to be.

—Buddha Shakyamuni

Conditionality (idampratyayata) is the general expression of causality in the manifestation of all phenomena. Dependent origination (pratityasamutpada) is the specific expression of causality in sentient beings.

Dependent origination describes how the sense of self, the “I” consciousness, arises out of multiple causes and conditions. Although often explained as a process that takes place over two, three, or more lifetimes, my Lama taught that the most direct understanding refers to the constant generation of the false sense of individuality (separate existence) that occurs hundreds and even thousands of times every single day in this very lifetime.

Dependent on ignorance (of the process of causality, of which the Four Noble Truths are one important formulation), formations (tendencies) arise. Dependent on formations, a particular type of consciousness (celestial, demonic, human, animal, phantasmal, infernal) arises.

Dependent on consciousness, a specific mind-body complex (a proper vehicle for the expression of that particular consciousness) arises. Dependent on the mind-body complex, sense bases (the organs of perception) arise. Dependent on the sense bases, contact (with the objects of perception) arises. Dependent on contact, sensation (pleasant, unpleasant, and neither pleasant nor unpleasant) arises.

Dependent on sensation, craving (desire to possess, reject, or ignore) arises. Dependent on craving, clinging (to sense objects, views, or practices) arises. Dependent on clinging, becoming (one who wants or needs to possess, reject, or ignore such sense objects, views, or practices) arises.

Dependent on becoming, birth (the appearance of the “I” capable of acting on such clinging) arises. Dependent on birth, aging and death (the duration and disappearance of the “I” sense necessary to execute those actions) arise. Such is dependent origination.


About Tashi Nyima

I am a Dharma student, and aspire to be a companion on the path. I trust that these texts can offer a general approach and basic tools for practicing the Buddha's way to enlightenment. ||| Soy un estudiante del Dharma, y aspiro a ser un compañero en el sendero. Espero que estos textos ofrezcan a algunos un mapa general y herramientas básicas para la práctica del sendero a la iluminación que nos ofrece el Buda.
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