One of the aspects of searching for truth that contains any number of potential stumbling blocks is our expectations. Thoughts can arise such as, ‘If I see there’s no separate self, will I become like a Buddha? Will I be enlightenened? Will all suffering cease? Will I get rid of all my hang-ups? Will I be a perfected being?…’ and many more.
We can paint a picture of ourselves serenly gliding through life, unfazed by all of the troubles that beset the world and challenges that arise for us each day. It can be imagined that all desire and attachment will cease and we’ll simply radiate love and kindness, and every word we utter will be infused with a timeless truth.
It’s certainly a pleasant fantasy, but how close to reality is it?
One of the best starting points when trying to engage with questions like this is to apply common sense or logic. So let’s look using this and see what we might expect.
The patterns of behaviour, the likes and dislikes, the tendencies and reactions and responses that characterise our behaviour in a multitude of ways have built up over a lifetime. From the first moment senses arose, reactions began to form. Is it realistic to believe that because it is seen that there is no separate self, that all of these patterns automatically vanish? What would be the basis for that assumption?
There is still a form isn’t there? This body is still this body. And sensing our surroundings, awareness follows pathways of recognition, judgement and response. This happens too quickly for most of us to pay much attention to it but if we look we can see this and in a good deal of detail if we take the time to.
Now that no-self is realised does this change? Well, it changes as it changes, usually slowly over time. But what does change is our belief in it or rather that it means anything. With no belief in a central self to whom all of these things are happening – my body, my life, my job, my relationship, my favourite possessions, then these patterns of response happen, but are seen as happening to no-one – they just happen.
So is life perfect? Are we perfect? From the narrow perspective of the separate self, life never is, never can be, aside from a few shining moments of bliss. How could the entire manifest universe unfold its complexity in exactly the right way to ensure a single point remains forever in the eye of the storm, experiencing only felicitous happiness on a personal level? No death, no disease, no discontent, no discord – all perfect, always. Can we imagine this? Not unless we’re dreaming.
But from the perspective of ALL, everything that arises in this moment has been caused to arise. These causes led to these effects and could have led to no other. These effects are themselves causes and so this ever moving and changing, infinitely vast moment perpetuates in complete perfection as it always has.
The only question is which aspect we remember to identify with.