Due to the ignorance in the mind, there is an existence in the mind perception of a self-identity of an individual being (the ego, what the mind thinks is ‘I’) that consists of the body and the mind, and many others would also include the soul, where they believe that the body and the mind is mortal and impermanent (The impermanent I), while the soul is immortal and infinite (The permanent I), even when people have no idea what is the soul and whether the soul exist or non-exist. Just because many different religious scriptures say so, and people would just believe that it must be true.
People believe that after the death of the body and the mind (decomposed / stop existing), the soul (the silent consciousness/witness that is infinite/immortal) will be responsible for the consequences of all the actions and inactions of the body and the mind from birth till death, and be judged by ‘God’, and be sent to heaven or hell, to enjoy or suffer, for all that is nothing to do with the soul, if it exists. For example, if the mind is evil and being the ‘driver’ or ‘master’ of the body, it performs evil actions through the body, and somehow, the innocent soul will be punished for those evil doings and be sent to hell to suffer. Again, it’s everyone’s freedom for what they believe or disbelieve. It’s also up to everyone’s self-inquiry into the truth of everything to know the truth to attain self-realization.
In Buddhism, Buddha never mentioned about God or the soul. There’s deliberate non-comment over the existence or non-existence of God and the soul. This itself is a great teaching, where Buddha didn’t interfere with people’s believe or disbelieve in God or the soul. It doesn’t matter. Whether someone believes God and the soul exist or non-exist, it doesn’t free this being from the perception or experience of suffering if there’s egoism.
Buddha taught everyone to inquire into the truth of everything through deep mind purification via the eight fold path, self-control, self-discipline, self-inquiry, desireless, non-attachment, observing and respecting the law of impermanence, selflessness, renunciation, and silence. If the mind experiences or perceives suffering, it’s in now. It’s neither in the past nor the future. This is important. It doesn’t matter people believe that there’s only one life, or there’s continuous transitions of life infinitely, the only existence is now, and liberation from suffering is neither in the past nor in the future, is in now. In one moment, the mind experiences suffering when there’s attachment, and in one moment this mind is free from suffering when there’s no attachment. Suffering and liberation from suffering has nothing to do with any beliefs that one inherited from birth or adopted later in life.
This self-identity (the ego) comes along with egoism of desires, attachment, identification, clinging, longing, intention and expectation, and it thinks it is the one who performs actions and it is the one who receives the fruit of actions, and it’s the one who enjoys and suffers, where all kinds of impurities of satisfaction/dissatisfaction, fulfillment/disappointment, contentment/greed, admiration/jealousy, calmness/anger, love/hatred, respect/discrimination, friendliness/animosity, joy/hurts, innocent/guilt, pleased/regret, pride/shamefulness, low self-esteem/arrogance, excitement/boredom, fullness/emptiness, meaningfulness/meaninglessness, courage/fear and peace/worry, and etc, arising and passing away in the mind reacting towards all the perception of names and forms through the senses, based on what ‘I’ think what things are, and what ‘I’ like and dislike, what ‘I’ agree and disagree with, what ‘I’ want and doesn’t want. The egoistic mind perceives suffering/emptiness/unhappiness/dissatisfaction, when some or all of its desires are not being gratified, and hence the ego desires to escape or avoid or be free from suffering/emptiness/unhappiness/dissatisfaction.
But then ignorance hinders the mind from knowing the truth of the root cause of suffering/emptiness/unhappiness/dissatisfaction, where it thinks all its suffering/emptiness/unhappiness/dissatisfaction is caused by the quality of the objects of names and forms that it comes in contact with (the presence of certain names and forms) or doesn’t come in contact with (the absence of certain names and forms), and the mind thinks that it could escape or avoid or be free from suffering/emptiness/unhappiness/dissatisfaction through continuously and determinedly gratifying all its desires, by experiencing or coming in contact with certain qualities of names and forms, that it likes and wants and agrees with, that it thinks they have the quality that contribute pleasure, satisfaction, meaningfulness and happiness, such like doing something that makes it feels good, satisfied, happy and meaningful, and smoking/eating/drinking/touching/smelling/hearing/seeing/watching/reading/imagining something that will make it feels good, satisfied, happy and meaningful, while avoiding the experience or contact with certain qualities of names and forms that the mind doesn’t like, doesn’t want and doesn’t agree with, that it thinks they have the quality that contribute unpleasantness, dissatisfaction, meaninglessness and unhappiness, that will make it feels disturbed, dissatisfied, unhappy or meaningless. And hence, the mind is suffering from restlessness.
The real cause of all suffering/emptiness/unhappiness/dissatisfaction is not in the quality of names and forms that the mind perceives or doesn’t perceive through the sense, but it’s the ignorance and egoism that generates the idea/existence of ‘I’ that attached onto and identifying with the body and the mind, and the soul (for those who believe in the soul), where there are desires of craving and aversion and attachment towards what the ego likes and dislikes, agrees and disagrees with, wants and doesn’t want. Suffering exists is due to the existence of desires and attachment in the mind. If desires and attachment cease existing in the mind, suffering doesn’t exist.
The impure minds might interpret selflessness as non-existence of ‘my’ worldly life existence, where they think if ‘I’ doesn’t exist, then ‘my’ entire worldly life existence consisting the body and the mind in this world doesn’t exist at all. If people think or believe that is the truth, they will think that they can just do whatever they like as it doesn’t matter because all these worldly life experiences are not real, and they won’t suffer for the consequences of their actions. And so, all kinds of human suffering are not real, or non-existing. They believe that this worldly life existence is one long dream or a continuous flow of many dreams. In dreams, we can do anything that we want, but once we woke up, we are not responsible for whatever we did or experienced in all the dreams. There’s no consequences of actions in dreams, where we could experience death and injury in dreams, we could kill other people and be killed by others, and still, once we woke up from the dreams, we are still alive and non-injured, and there’s no responsibility of any consequences of actions performed in the dreams, as none of those actions or experiences are real. It’s just mere imaginations of the mind. If they feel satisfied in this dream of a worldly existence, they hope to stay in the dream (live forever in this life existence), and will be reluctant to be awaken in a different reality that is unknown to them (death of this life existence or next life). And if they are dissatisfied with this dream, they hope to be awaken in a different but better reality that is unknown to them (heaven or a better life in a better world).
And if all worldly experiences are not real, and suffering are not real, then there’s no need to talk about any kind of practices to be free from suffering, where everyone would be more selfish and immoral, and wouldn’t have self-control to refrain one’s behavior from causing harm to oneself and others.
But then this ‘understanding’ doesn’t bring people liberation from the suffering of the consequences of their actions in their worldly life existence (An existence in now that is subject to impermanence and consequences of actions), as the body and the mind continues to experience suffering even though there is the ‘interpretation’, or ‘understanding’, or ‘idea’ in the mind about worldly life existence is just a dream, all is not real. In dreams, everything might not be logical and are disorientated most of the time, such like old memories and fresh memories and wild imaginations might appear together at one time in a dream, and it’s okay, as once we woke up, we will know that all those images/experiences are not real, no matter how scary or painful or excited or violence was the dream. But, in this worldly life existence, in now, one will be treated as mentally ill, if one’s mind perceives mixed up images of some old memories with fresh memories and wild imaginations, and believes that all these images are real, and this will influence one’s behavior and affect one’s relationship with other people. It doesn’t matter if one strongly believes or disbelieves that this life existence is just a dream, all is not real, but if suffering arise due to attachment, suffering is here, it doesn’t disappear if we don’t like or don’t want this suffering.
This ‘interpretation’ or ‘understanding’ of selflessness or non-existence of ‘I’, is the outcome of the impure ignorant minds attached onto and identifying with the body and the mind as ‘I’ or ‘Who I am’. And so, these minds couldn’t go beyond the understanding of the body and the mind are existing and functioning in this present moment, and it’s mortal and impermanent, but then the existence and the function of the body and the mind is selflessness, that there’s no ‘I’ existing as an individual being to be mastering or in control of the impermanent existence, function, condition and state of the body and the mind. It’s just the mind functioning and perceiving all kinds of names and forms through the senses in the present, and the mind might keep jumping back and forth between the past memories and future wild imaginations and the perceptions through the senses in the present, and all these thoughts perceptions/activities, whether pleasant or unpleasant, desired or undesired, the perceiver (the mind), the perceived (the objects of names and forms), the past memories, the present experiences and the future wild imaginations, are impermanent and there’s no ‘I’ in control of the impermanent changes. All these experiences are here, in now, the only existence. The past doesn’t exist in now, just some remembrance of past experiences. The future doesn’t exist, just some wild imaginations, and they all are impermanent, and there’s no ‘I’ existing as the perceiver or the experiencer of all the pleasant and unpleasant, desirable and undesirable experiences in the present, or remembrance of the past, or wild imaginations of the future, in now.
This ‘I’ that the mind think is ‘who/what I am’ doesn’t exist or non-exist. There is injury in the body, the mind perceives this sensation of pain in the body, in now, and this sensation of pain is impermanent, and there’s no ‘I’ am in pain, or ‘I’ am suffering from painful sensation. There’s no disappointment or dissatisfaction when this painful sensation is here. There is pleasant sensation in the body, the mind perceives this pleasant sensation in the body, in now, and this pleasant sensation is impermanent, and there’s no ‘I’ am pleasant, or ‘I’ am enjoying pleasant sensation. There’s no disappointment or dissatisfaction when this pleasant sensation changed into something else or disappeared.
Once the ego is annihilated, there’s no one there to initiate desires of craving or aversion towards all the perception of names and forms, and hence, there’s no tension or restlessness in the egoless and desireless mind, there’s no one here to react with dissatisfaction, disappointment, greed, jealousy, anger, hatred, pride, low self-esteem, animosity, hurts, regret, guilt, fear and worry, and etc. The mind is aware of all the perceptions of names and forms (the past memories, present moment and future imaginations), in now, but it’s free from tension and restlessness, or suffering. There’s no clinging or aversion towards all the names and forms that are present in now, and there’s no craving or longing or aversion towards names and forms that are absent in now. It’s at peace, disregards all the perception of names and forms being here, as what they are. And all these names and forms have no intention or quality to contribute pleasure or suffering to the mind. There’s no ‘I’ being there to enjoy or suffer. There are actions being performed through the body and the mind, and there are consequences of actions, but there is no ‘I’ being there performing actions and to enjoy or suffer for the consequences of actions.
Just like all the internal organs and every single cells in the body, they are performing actions ceaselessly to support the existence and function of this body until they are worn out, but there’s no egoism in each of them to discriminate each other, to like or dislike and agree or disagree with each other, to be superior or inferior than one another, to be identified as the performer of actions or the receiver of the fruit of actions. But this egoism exists in the thinking mind due to ignorance, that initiates all kinds of suffering to itself, which is truly unnecessary.