The Buddha teaches, contrary to our most cherished beliefs, that our individual being -the five aggregates- can not be identified as self, as an enduring and substantial ground of personal identity. The notion of self has only a conventional validity, as a convenient shorthand device for denoting a composite insubstantial situation.
“Reality is always paired with the concept that we lay over it. Wisdom understands the reality that underlies the concept. It goes beyond the concept to understand what lies beneath it. Reality is the object of wisdom.”
—Sayadaw U Tejaniya
“The fixed idea that we have about ourselves as solid and separate from each other is painfully limiting. It is possible to move through the drama of our lives without believing so earnestly in the character that we play. That we take ourselves so seriously, that we are so absurdly important in our own minds, is a problem for us. We feel justified in being annoyed with everything. We feel justified in denigrating ourselves or in feeling that we are more clever than other people. Self-importance hurts us, limiting us to the narrow world of our likes and dislikes. We end up bored to death with ourselves and our world. We end up never satisfied.
We have two alternatives: either we question our beliefs — or we don’t. Either we accept our fixed versions of reality, or we begin to challenge them. In Buddha’s opinion, to train in staying open and curious — to train in dissolving our assumptions and beliefs — is the best use of our human lives.”
~ Pema Chödron