In our analysis of emptiness, first we must understand the object of our meditation on emptiness. This article asks if the object is the “self” then which aspect of the “self” is to be analysed? The key points are summarised here:
|5 Aggregates||Subtle Consciousness|
|Duration||Single lifetime||Lifetime after lifetime|
|Self||Identity of this lifetime||Deep seated sense of self|
In the ‘Middle Length Lamrim’ a lot of the reasons applied to negating the “self” relate to meditate on the 5 Aggregates. The 5 Aggregates are: form, feeling, discrimination, compositional factors, and consciousness. The name and form, and feeling are tied to this lifetime as explained in the 12 Links of Dependent Arising.
For our meditation this brings to mind a “self” tied to the identity of this lifetime, this body, this personality, this ego, and other characteristics. This “self” will surely end when the 5 Aggregates disintegrate. This can be understood simply by meditating on Dependent Arising. In our meditation we can reflect on the causes and conditions that both this lifetime and this “self” rely upon. For example, this “self” is no longer the baby, the child, or the teenager that it once was, and this “self” will inevitably die. We just need to understand Dependent Arising to understand that there is nothing definite or independent about this “self”.
It is the subtle consciousness described in the 12 Links of Dependent Arising that is not constrained to this lifetime but continues on to other lifetimes. Our karma is bound to this subtle consciousness and that karma changes the direction of the lifetimes to come.
For our meditation this “self” does identify with past and future lifetimes, but it brings to mind a deep seated sense of “self” that spans all of these lifetimes. It brings to mind a “self” that is somehow permanent or independent because it continues on between lives. How can we understand this deeper sense of “self” more clearly for our meditation on emptiness?