The Daily Dharma – July 1, 2021

The Illusory Self

Oil portrait painting of a father and son looking toward the light shining through a window with a bookcase filled with books in the background.
Ryan and Joel Portrait Painting Seamus Berkeley

When a young child learns that a sequence of sounds produced by the parents’ vocal cords is his or her name, the child begins to equate a word, which in the mind becomes a thought, with who he or she is. At that stage, some children refer to themselves in the third person. “Johnny is hungry.” Soon after, they learn the magic word “I” and equate it with their name, which they have already equated with who they are. Then other thoughts come and merge with the original I-thought. The next step are the thoughts of me and mine to designate things that are somehow part of “I.” This is identification with objects, which means investing things, but ultimately thoughts that represent things with a sense of self, thereby deriving an identity from them. When “my” toy breaks or is taken away, intense suffering arises. Not because of any intrinsic value that the toy has – the child will soon lose interest in it, and it will be replaced by other toys, other objects – but because of the thought of “mine.” The toy became part of the child’s development of self, of “I.” 

Eckhart Tolle
from A New Earth; Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose