The sense of being: The 8th fetter

The sense of being is the assumption that I am.

We believe that the sense of I am is true and that being is our fundamental nature. This is the end of all identification.

Buddha called the fetter asmi-mana.
The tendency to (self) conceit. So the imagination, or idea, of me.

Because of not knowing the 10th fetter, we become troubled.
The restlessness of the 9th fetter gives rise to volitional agitation, the thirst for existence and sensual experience.
Thus we come under the influence of the urges:

Avijjasava (ignorance instinct)
the tendency to (self) conceit

I am illusion

The 8th fetter is the imagination of me. It is the fundamental way we identify with experience.

It is the assumption that I exist. This sense of existing is very subtle and when it disappears, there is no more identity. You will no longer feel like a woman or a man, a mother or a father, a Christian or a Buddhist, and so on.

There is no longer an inside or outside.

With seeing through the 7th fetter, the experience of the world, the body, the mind is gone. But the subtle feeling of I am or I exist is fundamental. It has nothing to do with the world, the body or the mind, rather it is the ground on which the whole framework stands. This feeling has survived everything that was previously seen through and discarded as an illusion. The belief in a separate self. The belief in the changeability of experience. The assumption that the world is related to us. The assumption of perceiving something independent of us. We have discarded all of this and so this feeling now lies open and can be enquired into.

This feeling of being is the desire that arises from the restlessness of the 9th fetter, that there must be something we can hold on to.

And so we invent being. Then perception, the world, the relationship to it, control over it and this autonomous person who holds it all securely in their hands.

Now we have reached the point where we can no longer point to anything and say: This is me! And yet there is this feeling…

Enquiry into the 8th fetter

While the self of the first fetter was something very tangible after we could search with the 5 senses, this feeling is so subtle that it is hard to grasp. It feels as if it is the frame itself. The colour on the wall. The scent of the flower. The sound of the wind. And somehow this feeling creates a sense of home. Of an inner space that is our home. Where we live and are safe. From the outside. This most subtle of boundaries gives us proof that we exist.

And so we draw a line between: I am in here and everything else is outside.

| Inside | Outside |

But it’s an illusion.

Releasing the 8th fetter

When the 8th fetter is removed, all boundaries disappear forever. There is no more inside and outside. The last feeling of self disappears as there is no more separation and duality is no longer felt. What remains is experience. That which was always there anyway. The fact that separation is no longer experienced does not mean that differences are no longer experienced. But these differences are no longer taken as proof that I exist.

Now we realise that there is no need for a self in order to suffer. The suffering is significantly reduced. But it is still there.

The self had an important function. It helped us to repress painful feelings and hold them somewhere in the body. And when it is no longer there, unresolved traumas that may still be there come into our experience. This is usually a process that begins with the disappearance of the self illusion, so that in the fetters of desire and aversion, we have to deal with these traumas and repressed feelings in particular.

We can save ourselves a lot of suffering if we pay attention to signs of trauma on our way through the fetters, accept them and work on them (with professional help if necessary).

The words I or me are still used, but they no longer have any meaning in relation to what is happening.

Since there is no longer an inside, the place we could go to when we wanted to withdraw from the world has also disappeared. The space we explored in meditation never existed. There was never a here inside or a there outside. It was an imagination. It was a beautiful and often helpful and safe illusion that we no longer need.

In mediation, all senses are now focussed on experience. Seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting. So there is actually no longer any difference between – yes, between what?

With the shift in the 8th fetter, a deep peace often spreads. An incredible silence. Because there is simply nothing left. The boundary to the world is gone. The friction.

Unseparated from life, like a drop in the ocean. Like the colour on the wall. Like the scent of a flower. Like the sound of the wind. A particle among particles. A movement, one with the movement of life.

I am is the basic assumption from which all other assumptions arise. The first and most constant experience we have.

The fact that I am is what I am. The experience of being.

All appearances disappear when I am disappears. All focussing on projections outside disappears.

The first illusion is consciousness: I am.

Then come inside, outside, objects, feelings, thoughts, self.

The whole illusion of what we call the world, the whole world of experience, has its origin in the assumption: I am. And when this assumption of I am dissolves, there is only infinity. Vastness. Silence.

Buddha explained that there are 10 assumptions or 10 fetters that stand in the way of awakening. If you want to know what they are, read on here: Through the 10 Fetters to Awakening.