What is a river?
Is the river the water droplets that from the hills to the sea? If we remove the water droplets one at at time, will we be able to see the river in the droplets?
The river is not the droplets. But if we remove all the droplets, is the river still there?
Yes. The river is still there, although it is a dried up river. When new droplets come, the river returns.
Is the river its banks?
But river banks change over time with erosion and natural processes. The winding path that the river takes changes over time.
So the river is not its banks.
If a river is not all the water droplets in it, and it is not its banks, if the river’s course can change over time… then what is a river? Where can we find the river?
The river is a combination of separate components. It is made up of the water that flows through it. It is made up of the banks and the path that leads from the hills to the sea. When water flows in such a winding path from high up the hills down to the sea, we call this a river.
A river does not exist.
It is a combination of components and conditions that come together. When these components come together in this form, we have collectively decided to call it a river. None of these components alone is a river. There is no independent, unchanging component called a river.
There is no river. Only its constituent parts that have come together in a certain way.
What am I?
Am I my body? If so, which part of my body am I?
Am I my arm? If I cut off my arm, do I still exist? Am I my leg? If I cut off my leg, do I still exist? Am I my brain? If I cut out my brain, do I still exist? The cells of my body are constantly dying and being reborn. There is probably no specific part of my body that is the same as it was 30 years ago.
I am not my body.
Am I my mind? If so, which part of my mind am I?
Am I the part of my mind that dreams and creates? Am I the part of my mind that thinks? Am I the part of my mind that sees things and interprets images? Am I my memories? Am I my emotions? My mind is constantly changing. It is always growing, developing, becoming better. The mind that I have today is not the mind I had 30 years ago.
I am not my mind.
I am neither my body nor my mind, for if I were, I should be able to find the unchanging ‘I’ in one of this constituent parts. I am none of these parts.
I don’t exist.
I am a specific combination of body and mind that, when put together with all my past experiences, emotions, memories, muscles, bones, skills, knowledge, people have collectively decided that this is I.
But I don’t really exist.