My Understanding of the Attachment to “Self”
(Minghui.org) Eliminating the attachment to “self” is something all Falun Dafa practitioners should do. The many forms of manifestations of the attachment to ‘self’ can be seen throughout our cultivation, but they appear to be particularly difficult to overcome.
What Is “Self”?
The “self” we are talking about here is actually made up of acquired notions - human attachments and karma. It’s not our innate nature or our “true self” as discussed in the Fa-teaching Fa-teaching Given at the Conference in Sydney. In other words, this “self” is a living entity that is fashioned out of our emotions.
Most of the time, we live for our “constructed self” which dictates how we live our lives.
Master Li Hongzhi said of the “self:” “Out of selfishness and anger he complains about unfairness towards himself.” (“Realms,” Essentials for Further Advancement)
Master also pointed out that it is a demonic part of us that we need to get rid of. It’s very dominant in all of us and its presence is strongly felt at the beginning of our cultivation journeys. If we were not cultivators and if it were not for Master’s help, it would be very difficult for us to tame this “self”.
How the “Self” is Strengthened
Feeding on our emotions, the “self” can become an indispensable part of us, and it can be hidden deeply and may become a self-protection mechanism. It is inherently selfish and runs counter to the Fa principles of 'Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance'.
It gains strength and grows if we are not vigilant in our cultivation. The stronger it becomes, the more inclined we are to protect it out of fear of being attacked.
When the “self” is insecure or fears being hurt or losing worldly interests, it generates fear in us.
“...fear or lack thereof proves [one’s] humanity or divinity, and it is what differentiates cultivators from ordinary people. It is something that a cultivator must face, and the biggest human attachment that a cultivator must remove.” (“Study the Fa Well, and Getting Rid of Attachments is Not Hard,” The Essentials of Diligent Progress Vol III)
My understanding is that our fear comes from this “self”, rather than from our original selves or our cultivated parts. If we stop indulging in our fear, the “self” will gradually weaken. To me, this is the biggest and most difficult hurdle we need to overcome.
The more accomplished we are in ordinary society or the more authority we wield in our homes, the easier it is for our “self” to gain strength. Our sense of inflated self-importance demands that things go our way, but this only adds to our karma and our emotional attachments.
The self believes that its wishes cannot be rejected because that would threaten its existence, so it fights tooth and nail to protect itself. In its fierce battle for self-preservation, nothing is too high a price to pay, including the death of the physical body.
When our “self” is challenged we feel unhappy, but the “self” is facing a life and death struggle. We are fueling the growth of the “self” every time we give in to a human attachment. Over time, it may become unstoppable. Its control over us only becomes obvious when Master deems it time for us to get rid of it.
The “self” is quite cunning and sometimes it covers one attachment with another. When a large attachment is uncovered, it may use a smaller one as a shield or a scapegoat in order to protect the larger attachment.
How the “Self” Manifests in Our Cultivation
Human attachments are a manifestation of the ‘self’. Our tendencies to show off, be self-satisfied over minor achievements, feelings of jealousy, and combativeness, all serve to boost the “self”.
Part of what makes up the “self” is karma - both thought and sickness karma.
Like poison, the karma will eventually cause harm. When it’s time to dissolve the karma, Master will bring it to the surface for us to see. Of course, we want to get rid of it completely, but the sickness karma instead makes us seek medical treatment, thus giving it another chance to survive. The karma fools us into seeking a cure via conventional means, rather than following the teachings of Falun Dafa. So instead of being destroyed, the karma now has us trapped in its grasp and gradually wears down our faith in Master and Dafa.
“Self” fears death, whereas our true selves do not. This “self” feeds on recognition at a superficial level. It makes us eager to project an image of how well we are cultivating, rather than earnestly working to improve. We seek recognition, fame and material gains, and when we are successful, our egotistic “self” continues to grow and become stronger.
The “self” is particularly embedded in someone who is influential or authoritative within a group or an organization. This issue has been widely discussed in many Minghui articles written by practitioners in coordinator roles.
Within our cultivation community, the “self” likes us to form cliques because it feels safer that way. The cliques are made to gossip about others, put others down, and are used as a means to shield people’s own deep-rooted human attachments from being exposed. This may lead to divisions between practitioners.
As we draw closer to the end of our cultivation journeys, our desire for leisure is also embedded in the “self”. It makes us want to subconsciously avoid hardship, cajoles us into abandoning the true principles of this universe which dictates that human beings must suffer in order to repay karma. The desire for a leisurely, comfortable life is sometimes hard to detect because it’s become second nature to us. But it acts as a poison that works slowly, eating away at our will to cultivate while in turn, the accumulating karma strengthens this “self”.
Whether we appear to be kind and compassionate depends on how strong our “self” is. When we make quick progress in our cultivation in Falun Dafa, and a part of us meets the required standard, it’s partitioned off. Therefore, we may not be as compassionate as we once were. I believe the weaker the “self”, the more compassionate we will be.
However, I've noticed a worrying trend. There is little sharing and discussion among practitioners, particularly after studying the Fa together. Some practitioners are concerned about their privacy, while others worry about being judged. Even when there is sharing it tends to be at a rather superficial level.
The division between practitioners is mainly caused by the protective “self” in us. Of course, there are also other factors involved, such as practitioners coming from many different cultures and backgrounds, and there may also be spies working among us.
When practitioners don’t work together as one body, attendance at group Fa-study and exercise sites dwindle, and the cultivation environment gets worse for everyone. I think we all ought to be sincere and make it a better cultivation environment for everyone.
When the “self” doesn't get the satisfaction it craves, it may feel depressed. For example, the slow pace of Fa-rectification, the lack of support for one’s point of view or for not getting as good as a result in truth-clarification activities as another practitioner. These all become causes for feeling depressed. We can easily lose our motivation because our human desires are not satisfied.
When the “self” is challenged we may become emotional, leading to many unnecessary mistakes. Master wants us to validate the Fa with wisdom. My personal understanding of “validating the Fa with wisdom” is to make as few mistakes as possible while achieving the biggest impact. When the “self” is strong, our righteous thoughts tend to be weaker and our wisdom diminishes. This creates a perfect gap for the old forces to exploit, thus undermining our efforts in saving people.
The closer we get to the end of our cultivation journeys, the more we have to pay attention to minor details. We need to be aware of our every thought and be vigilant in getting rid of any human attachments we detect, no matter how trivial they may seem. A small thing may very well be a reflection of a much bigger attachment.
Truly Eliminating “Self”
There are two approaches we can take to get rid of “self,” in my understanding.
One way is to make every effort to uncover our own emotional attachments and desires for fame and material gain.
The other approach is to always look at conflicts from the perspective of the other party. To rein in this “self”, we have to put others first. When we are truly humble we can see other people's positive aspects. We can then be the most determined, tolerant and compassionate beings.