May 30 : Creating Identities

The innate sense of self is that very raw feeling of “I”, not just the conventional self, but the innate self-grasping of an independent “I”. The acquired self-grasping, a person’s basis, refers to all the identities we build about ourselves on that basis. For example, it becomes, I am this gender, I am this nationality, I have this kind of temperament, I am the occupation I have, and all these other identities that we learn in this life and make up images for. Look at the one about career — I am a doctor, I am a monastic, I am a garbage collector — whatever it is, we associate the self with that, we are that, and then we give meaning to whatever that label is. We think of ourselves in a certain way and create an identity of this life for ourselves in that way. All these create a ton of problems for us because when people do not treat us the way we think we should be treated according to that label, we get very offended. We blame them, we are insulted or we get arrogant, and on and on. You can see how that kind of identity depends on just the very raw sense of an independent “I”. Without it, we are not going to make up stories about “I am this” and “I am that”.

We are attached to some kind of independent, almost visceral feeling of an independent “I”. An “I” that does not need the body or the mind, can set itself up and stand on its own. That is the innate one and that one is the one that is the root of cyclic existence that we want to eliminate. It is very good as things happen during the day to be aware of the sense of “I” that comes up. Whenever our acquired one comes up — let us say we are offended because someone does not treat us the way we feel we should be treated according to the identity we are hanging on to at that moment — watch how that created identity sets us up for anger and attachment. Then, look beyond that to see how that sense of “I am”, the innate one, is the real root of the thing.

You can also see that at the time of death all these acquired identities slip away, except the sense of “I am” and that is the one that makes karma ripen and creates the craving and grasping at the time of death, which propels us into the next rebirth. That is the one that we want to be aware of and challenge its existence to see if it really exists or not. 

“365 Gems of Wisdom” e-book is out now!