The concept of non-self or soul-lessness is a cornerstone of Buddhism. In Buddhism we kept emphasising that enlightenment means the removal of greed, hatred and ignorance.
Greed and hatred is easy to appreciate. However, what is meant by ignorance?
Simply, it means we got it (understanding of our existence) all wrong from the start.
For example, the belief that we have a soul, a permanent unyielding entity that remains after death. A super ego entity that goes to heaven or hell or is being reborn.
In Buddhism, it is taught that what we mistaken as a permanent entity (aka SOUL) is nothing but the mere coming together of mental factors. Such mental factors is nothing but a projection that is tainted by our deluded senses. It creates an illusion of a SELF. A super ego.
This super ego is the source of suffering in the world.
Modern science and physcology are becoming more aligned with this understanding.
In the same context, Buddhism states that it doesn’t mean we are void or non-existing. Buddhism avoid the extremes of eternalism and nihilism.
At this juncture, you should appreciate how hard it is to fanthom it’s meaning just by thinking and reasoning. It is simply impossible to imagine.
This aspect of Buddhism, like all other aspects of it, is not meant to be a studied knowledge. We may read all sort of books on the topic. However if we do not realise and experience it directly, we are only mouthing empty words to decribe a fruit that we had never tasted.
Neither is it meant to be a philosophical reckoning that we think about to arrive at an educated deduction. If we try to do so, we’ll just drive ourselves into a mental breakdown (cautioned by past enlightened masters)
To experience it, there is no other way except through mind training. Stilling our mental distraction and examining deep within ourselves to come face to face with it.
It is said that when we possess a human existence, we are equipped with the best tools to uncover this mystery of existence. That is the foremost requisite.
Other requisite includes our mental inclination or our merit for enlightenment. If we had been similarly trained in our previous existence, then it become easier to breakthrough our ignorance to see the ultimate reality.
If not, we just have to start somewhere, beginning with this life.
The advantage of training in this way is obvious. “You can become anything!”
Because there is nothing fixed and solid, there is room for change. We want to and can become Buddha!
By not grasping to a notion of permanent self, we learn to be more relax about ourselves. It does not mean we become irresponsible, we just know that we are ever evolving and changing.
While we responsibly and actively train / condition ourselves for the great breakthrough (aka Enlightenment), we live our life to our best, not getting super egoistic in the process. Lessening our mental burden that is self created.
One simple mental exercise is to remind ourselves of impermanence. It is easy to relate too. We see it everywhere if we are brave enough to face them.
When we become mindful of our super ego and our mental grasping, simply remind ourselves that all is impermanent and ever changing. That way, we feel more relax and more easy going in life.
Just like a ringing bell; when the conditions are present, we hear a ring. That sound arise and then fade…. Everything else we experience now is like that. Acknowledge and then let go.
When we finally manage to embrace “soul-lessness”, we are enlightened…….
All Buddhist traditions and sects are just trying to condition us to see that.