The Examination Of The Notion Of Self


The belief in immortality is based on the strong instinct of

self-preservation that calls forth an insatiable longing for

longevity. It is another form of egoism, one of the relics of our

brute forefathers. We must bear in mind that this illusion of the

individual Self is the foundation on which every form of immorality

has its being. I challenge my readers to find in the whole history

of mankind any crime not based
on egoism. Evil-doers have been as a

rule pleasure-hunters, money-seekers, seekers after self-interests,

characterized by lust, folly, and cruelty. Has there been anyone who

committed theft that he might further the interests of his villagers?

Has there been any paramour who disgraced himself that lie might

help his neighbours? Has there been any traitor who performed the

ignoble conduct to promote the welfare of his own country or society

at large?

To get Enlightened, therefore, we have to correct, first of all, our

notions concerning Self. Individual body and mind are not the only

important constituents of Self. There are many other indispensable

elements in the notion of Self. For instance, I have come into

existence as another form of my parents. I am theirs, and may justly

be called the reincarnation of them. And again, my father is another

form of his parents; my mother of hers; his and her parents of

theirs; and ad infinitum. In brief, all my forefathers live and have

their being in me. I cannot help, therefore, thinking that my

physical state is the result of the sum total of my good and bad

actions in the past lives I led in the persons of my forefathers, and

of the influence I received therein;[FN#186] and that my psychical

state is the result of that which I received, felt, imagined,

conceived, experienced, and thought in my past existences in the

persons of my ancestors.

[FN#186] This is the law of Karma.

Besides this, my brothers, my sisters, my neighbours--nay, all my

follow-men and fellow-women are no other than the reincarnation of

their parents and forefathers, who are also mine. The same blood

invigorated the king as well as the beggar; the same nerve energized

the white as well as the black men; the same consciousness vitalized

the wise as well as the unwise. Impossible it is to conceive myself

independent of my fellow-men and fellow-women, for they are mine and

I am theirs--that is, I live and move in them, and they live and move

in me.

It is bare nonsense to say that I go to school, not to be educated as

a member of society, but simply to gratify my individual desire for

knowledge; or that I make a fortune, not to lead the life of a

well-to-do in society, but to satisfy my individual money-loving

instinct; or that I seek after truth, neither to do good to my

contemporaries nor to the future generations, but only for my

individual curiosity or that I live neither to live with my family

nor with my friends nor with anyone else, but to live my individual

life. It is as gross absurdity to say that I am an individual

absolutely independent of society as to say I am a husband with no

wife, or I am a son to no parents. Whatever I do directly or

indirectly I contribute to the common fortune of man; whatever anyone

else does directly or indirectly determines my fate. Therefore we

must realize that our Selves necessarily include other members of the

community, while other members' Selves necessarily comprehend us.