My Unfindable Self, by Dr. Diong Kok Hui

I once set out to get rid of my self.

My self was causing all sorts of problems, or so I thought.

It was seeking.

It was suffering.

Telling stories of self-importance.

My sole interest was to be rid of this pesky self. All happiness would come to me, once I was rid of this damn thing, or so I thought.

But then I began to look for it instead.

Instead of trying to get rid of it, I just began to see if it was really here.

I saw a thought here or a thought there. I saw the thought, “ME,” but that wasn’t it.

The self seemed like more than that. It must be a collection of thoughts. Yet I never experience a collection. I only experience a thought, followed by another thought…none of which is a self. The notion of a “collection of thoughts” is, itself, just another thought. It is not a self.

I saw a memory here or a memory there. For example, I saw the memory of graduating high school and the memory of being with my family on a holiday. But those were memories. Each one merely a passing thought. Still no self.

Where was it?

I continued looking. There was a feeling of fear or a feeling of anger there. I placed no thoughts on these things. Instead, I just observed them without thinking. I let them be there. And not a single emotion was this self character. The emotions never said a word. They never said they belonged to a self or that they were a self. They just did the only thing they could do. Arise, then fall.

I looked at an experience here and an experience there. Each was so fleeting that, by the time I looked at it, it was over. No self there either.

I experienced all sorts of things, including spiritual experiences. Each one came and went. Not a solid, fixed, separate self in any of it. Just fleeting stuff, like butterflies flapping away in the wind until they became distant memories.

But then I thought, I must be this body. This body seems so solid, so separate, so ME. But when I looked for the body, I found only mental pictures of body parts, each one arising and falling like every other thought. Or I found sensations of touch, heat, vibration, tingling. None of these arisings were a self.

And then I looked at sentences that I would write about this self, like the one I’m writing now. I kept seeing the word “I” pop up. Could that be it? No, that’s just a letter, a scribble on a page.

I could not find my self. It’s emptiness was so apparent. It could not be found.

I still cannot find it.

And yet thought continues. Emotions continue. Experiences continue. So beautifully, so perfectly, just like before. But each so fleeting, without a hint that any of them could do anything but arise and fall away into thin air, leaving no trace. And so no suffering is left. No seeking. Just the coming and going of everything. And even if suffering or seeking were to arise, they would be bursts of energy . . . without a self to fall back into . . . only space.

Each time I hear someone talking of being free of ego, I just want to ask, “Don’t you have to find it before you can be rid of it?”

Regardless of the answer, I just go on living my life as ME, the ME that cannot be found but that somehow makes its appearance anyway. Sweet and simple! No more bells and whistles. No big spiritual experiences anymore. None needed. They wouldn’t be a self either.

Just the unfindability of this ME. And the unfindability of everything else. And somehow that’s why everything feels so alive and cool and interesting and joyful. I can no longer be at war with things that aren’t really here. So there is nothing left to do but enjoy the emptiness of all these things. There is nothing left to do but be ME.

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