Don’t cling to anything as “I”, “me”, or “mine”

It has been said that the Buddha spoke this teaching, “Don’t cling to anything as ‘I’, ‘me’ or ‘mine'” and claimed that upon hearing this, one has heard the whole of the dharma; practicing it, one has practiced the whole of the dharma; and upon realizing the fruit of this practice, one has realized the fruit of the path–liberation.

Howie made this a central part of his talk this week at MissionDharma. It is nice to occasionally boil all of the dharma down into a tiny jewel. It’s something the mind can hold onto when the practice and the dharma seem too complex or overwhelming.

Spending some time on this in the last few days has been fruitful. The practice is one of letting go — but it also inspires some dharma investigation, such as, “what is clinging”? Can I remember to keep this in mind and apply it to whatever comes up? What am I clinging to, typically? Can this reminder help me let it go?

Being in the world, moving in my typical patterns while keeping this in mind I had to clarify the difference between craving and clinging. In some ways they are deeply related — I am habitually clinging to patterns of craving! One of the 4 things to which we cling are “rituals”. I originally took this to mean religious rituals — practices — but I see that it applies equally to habits and patterns. Identifying a pattern and applying this formula to let it go in the moment is quite powerful. I’m reminded of how flexible and responsive the mind can be.

The “process of selfing” is another teaching that resonates with this one. Watching a thought arise and bringing this teaching to bear on it causes the mind to investigate how we are including that particular thought as part of our self definition. It challenges us to immediately let it go, uncoupling the thought from our sense of self right then and there. It is very freeing. Of course our habits and self definitions are more resilient and will keep coming back — but you can really see the work of loosening their grip.

This triggers so many elements of practice for me.. it’s quite interesting! Another piece that this practice touches is Bhante Vimalaramsi’s “relax step”. I find myself consciously relaxing the tightness in and around my head when I am letting go during this exercise. There is a feeling of softening, relaxing, and coming back to the moment associated with this. It’s also pleasant and encourages further relaxation.

Don’t cling to anything as ‘I’, ‘me’, or ‘mine’. A tiny dharma jewel that’s worth remembering and practicing. It’s clearly quite central to the teaching — being equated with the whole of the teaching by the Buddha himself — and also illuminating many other dharma jewels I’ve encountered along the path.

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