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Buddhadharma : Summer 2009
33 summer 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly latter as insight into the ultimate nature of reality, or knowl- edge of it. So long as we remain ignorant of the ultimate nature of reality, we are in samsara. Once we gain insight into the ultimate nature of reality, we move toward nirvana, or the transcendence of unenlightened existence. They are differen- tiated on the basis of knowledge. But here again, we cannot speak of knowledge without speaking of an individual who has or does not have knowledge. We come back again to the question of the self. What exactly is its nature? This type of inquiry predates the Buddha. Such question- ing was already prevalent in India before the Buddha arrived. Until he taught, the dominant belief was that since everyone has an innate sense of selfhood, a natural instinctive notion of “I am,” there must be some enduring thing that is the real self. Since the physical and mental faculties that constitute our existence are transient—they change, age, and then one day cease—they cannot be the true self. Were they the real self, then our intuition of an enduring self that is somehow independent but also a master of our body and mind would have to be false. Thus, before the Buddha, the concept of the self as independent and separate from the physical and the mental faculties, was commonly accepted. Innate grasping of selfhood is reinforced by this kind of philosophical reflection. These Indian philosophers main- tained that the self did not undergo a process of change. We say, “when I was young, I was like this,” and “when I am older, I will do this,” and these philosophers asserted that these statements presume the presence of an unchanging entity ali waiting, 2008