Another quotation I shared with an experienced group of students today. Ayya Khema was a German-born Buddhist nun in the Theravada tradition. -Tim
To look for total satisfaction in oneself is a futile endeavor. Neither satisfaction nor self really exist. Since everything changes from moment to moment, where can self and where can satisfaction be found? Yet these are two things that the whole world is looking for and it sounds quite reasonable, doesn’t it? But since these are impossible to find, everybody is unhappy. Not necessarily because of tragedies, poverty, sickness, or death: simply because of unfilled desire. Everybody is looking for something that isn’t available. It’s worse than looking for a needle in a haystack; at least the needle is there, even though it is hard to find. But satisfaction and self are both delusions, so how can they ever be found? Searching here and there keeps everyone busy on this little globe of ours. If we were to stop looking for satisfaction for the self, we would have an immediate lessening of dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), since dukkha arises only from wanting something. Also our self-concept would be minimized, as ego is no longer constantly in the forefront of the mind.
To get to this enormous root system that entangles us, we have to use mindfulness. The reason we find it so difficult to be really mindful is the fact that true attention shows us that there is no person, only mind and body. It is like coming up against a wall and instead of digging through that wall, the mind veers off and doesn’t want to know anything further. True mindfulness has arisen when there is only the action but no doer. With divided mindfulness we experience both, the one who is mindful and the one who is being watched. If we use precision in our attention, we see—even if only for a moment—that no person is embedded in our mind/body process. We can never forget that experience.