“Who Are You?”
Harvey writes, “Identifyingn the Buddha’s day, the spiritual quest was largely seen as the search for identifying and liberating a person’s true Self” (28). Peter is right in the sense that he identifies himself with all of those things, but when he looks in the mirror, he sees none of them. We all put labels on ourselves regardless of if they are ‘real‘ or not. Discovering who we truly are is an important step towards enlightenment. “Who Are You?” is a Buddhist poem because it elucidates the misconceptions we have with our self-identity and also highlights the always changing nature of our world.
Anatman, one of the three marks of existence, helps describe Peter’s false self-identity. Anatman, or Anatta “is nothing to do with ‘self’ in a certain sense: it is not a self - is not self - nor what pertains or belongs to such a thing...” (Harvey 58). Even our own bodies do not belong to us for they arise from past karma and don’t ‘belong’ to anyone (Harvey, 65). The modern day challenges us to have a certain identity or ‘self’, almost as if it had a value. Thus we constantly try to improve our status through things that we can’t see in the mirror. The “I am” attitude of “self-centredness and self importance is another key cause of dukkha [or suffering]” (Harvey 65). Peter’s unrestrained use of the words “I” or “I am” are the root of his misunderstood identity and his sense of ‘self’ left him confused at the end of the poem when he see’s none of the things he described himself as. “Who are you” shows how Peter really isn’t any of those things and only in his mind does he identify himself with them.
We only know ourselves as a composite of things that we call ourselves because “nothing arises of its own power.” For this reason we are taught that there are no entities or physical realities outside causes and conditions (Braitstein, September 18, 2013.) This contributes to the idea of the khandhas, or the five ‘bundles of...
References: Braitstein, S. (2013). Lecture of S.Braitstein, McGill, Montreal.
Harvey, Peter. An Introduction to Buddhism Teachings, History and Practices. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2012. Print.
Thurman, Robert A. F. “Practicing the Loving Spirit of Enlightenment.” In Essential Tibetan Buddhism, 142-163. Edison, N.J.: Castle Books, 1997.
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