The Nature of Selflessness I

September 18, 2013


Selflessness is one of the Three Characteristics of Experience along with impermanence and unsatisfactoriness.

Selflessness is the nature of all phenomena whether it be a thought, memory, perception or sensation.  All phenomena arise from emptiness.  If we identify with them, we think that there is an “I,”, “me”, or “mine”.  For example, this is “my” thought or this is “my’ memory.

The three stages of awakening are identification, witness and pure awareness.  In the identification stage, we think of our body and our mind as our own and thus, we identify or attach to them with resultant suffering because we are trying to make permanent what is not.  As we discover what we are not such as mind or body, we are able to witness what is happening without identifying or become too attached.  This allows a great deal of freedom.  Pure awareness is when there is no witness, no object to witness and no interaction.  More on this later.

Sri Nisargadatta Maharj in I Am That stated:  The person is merely the result of a misunderstanding. In reality, there is no such thing. Feelings, thoughts and actions face before the watcher in endless succession, leaving traces in the brain and creating an illusion of continuity. A reflection of the watcher in the mind creates the sense of ‘I’ and the person acquires an apparently independent existence. In reality there is no person, only the watcher identifying himself with the ‘I’ and the ‘mine’. The teacher tells the watcher: you are not this, there is nothing of yours in this, except the little point of ‘I am’, which is the bridge between the watcher and his dream. ‘I am this, I am that’ is dream, while pure ‘I am’ has the stamp of reality on it. You have tasted so many things – all came to naught. Only the sense ‘I am’ persisted – unchanged. Stay with the changeless among the changeful, until you are able to go beyond.

Meditation (Beyond Beliefs based on Douglas Harding’s works).

What about the world we live in?  How can we do without a “self’? We have an identity to communicate and relate to others in this world.  It is when we believe that it is real that we suffer.


Introduce yourself to yourself out loud using sentences that start with “I am”.  Are any of the things you say really you or are they just concepts (phenomena)?