A lifetime of exploring one’s own nature reveals the self to be nothing more than a wave upon the ocean. We could get into a whole discussion about when the wave actually appeared, but at some point there was recognisably a wave. We could also get into some point about when the wave disappeared but there never was anything other than the ocean with the appearance of a wave.
I guess this begs the point what is the ocean and what is the wave? What does the self depend on? Naturally, the self exists in relationship with other selves. An alpha wolf depends on the pack to be an alpha wolf. But more importantly, the self depends on the mind. There is no inherent reality in the self. There is no inherent soul, no spiritual being. You’re unequivocally going to die. That will be the end of the agglomeration of experiences, thoughts, feels and opinions. All sounds quite depressing. It is. There is no true, no essential self.
But the most important thing is the mind. Every single experience depends on the mind. Whether you’re happy depends on your mind. You can’t depend on anything else. You certainly can’t depend on another self, which is also dependent on environment and mind, especially when that mind is deludedly thinking that there is an inherent self. They’re going to die to and they don’t know it, and I trust them for an accurate prediction of how they’re going to be in the future? Crazy.
The best thing IMHO is to take care of the mind and hence to take care of the self. Create happiness in your mind. If you think something makes you sad then you’ve allowed your mind to perceive that it depends on something externally. No worries it happens all the time. You’ve got to put the mind in order, and there is a method. It’s called the eightfold path:- right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. To me these speak for themselves. They’re obvious. Take care of your mind by how you think about things, what you do, and a meditative practice that is empty of self and you’ll get there.
So, what about the rope and the snake? The story goes that a person walks home at night and sees a brightly coloured rope in the garden, but they mistake it for a snake. That’s how we treat ourselves. We mistake an impermanent expression of the mind and social conditions, for something intrinsically real. I am that. So many mistakes. There is no I. There is no that.
A fellow called Nagarjuna went to great effort to reveal that nothing we think is ultimately real. He called the perception of things conventional reality. It’s a big topic. The point here is that the self isn’t ultimately real. But conventionally there is a self. And like the rope in the garden, if we leave it outside in the rain, it will rot and not be of much use. So we tend to our faults and cultivate good qualities. And those good qualities make us happy. Our happiness is dependent on the mind. By cultivating happiness in the mind, we’re happy. This to me is Buddha. This is to be awake. The cup that you’re drinking your coffee from is going to break. Best you take care of it, keep it clean, so that you can enjoy your coffee in it. The self is like that too. It’s going to die. So best you take care of it, keep it peaceful and happy, so that it can make the world a better place, while it’s here.
So that’s it. You’re here for a good time, not a long time. And good is what ends suffering.