I’m trying to connect a few dots in my thinking, maybe you can see and contribute, this more of a reflection, and not what is true/false.
- We know that ascetics who attain jhanas, both non-ariyas and ariyas, see the drawbacks of sensuality, that’s why they no longer indulge in sensuality. However, the difference between the two is Ariya no longer have identity view
- We know that Identity view is replaced by dependent origination
“When, bhikkhus, a noble disciple has clearly seen with correct wisdom as it really is this dependent origination and these dependently arisen phenomena, it is impossible that he will run back into the past, thinking: ‘Did I exist in the past? Did I not exist in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what did I become in the past?’ Or that he will run forward into the future, thinking: ‘Will I exist in the future? Will I not exist in the future? What will I be in the future? How will I be in the future? Having been what, what will I become in the future?’ Or that he will now be inwardly confused about the present thus: ‘Do I exist? Do I not exist? What am I? How am I? This being—where has it come from, and where will it go?’
- SN 12.20
To me “Identity View” seems like the question every person has: “Why am I here?” or “Why do I exist?”. I think it is this reason why people run to religion. Some people are satisfied with God being the reason they’re here, others are not, then they turn to rituals to offer to some God which the Buddha rejects because there’s no proof that those rituals do anything.
Now if you look at Dependent Origination, it answers that question of why you’re here.
- As long as you’re ignorant, you will be reborn
- You’ve always been ignorant
- Therefore you’ve always been here (in samsara)
- You’re here because you’re ignorant
Ignorant of what? Ignorant of the four noble truths and why you’re here (Dependent Origination).
So to go back to the beginning of this post. Non-ariyas attain Jhanas, but still don’t know why they’re here. Perhaps they can see their past lives, maybe aeons of past lives, but that still doesn’t answer their question, where they come from and why they’re still here. This is why the Buddha said he looked back so many past lives but gave up and stopped because he couldn’t get to the origin, the source, “the house builder”.
Therefore finding out why you’re here cannot be based on the past or time. It has to be based on a mechanism that is occurring in the present moment. You should be able to see that mechanism occurring right here and now, and this is done in jhanas.
Now, what is that we’re supposed to be looking for to see this mechanism?
"Monks, intention for forms is inconstant, changeable, alterable. Intention for sounds… Intention for smells… Intention for tastes… Intention for tactile sensations… Intention for ideas is inconstant, changeable, alterable.
"One who has conviction & belief that these phenomena are this way is called a faith-follower: one who has entered the orderliness of rightness, entered the plane of people of integrity, transcended the plane of the run-of-the-mill. He is incapable of doing any deed by which he might be reborn in hell, in the animal womb, or in the realm of hungry shades. He is incapable of passing away until he has realized the fruit of stream-entry.
"One who, after pondering with a modicum of discernment, has accepted that these phenomena are this way is called a Dhamma-follower: one who has entered the orderliness of rightness, entered the plane of people of integrity, transcended the plane of the run-of-the-mill. He is incapable of doing any deed by which he might be reborn in hell, in the animal womb, or in the realm of hungry shades. He is incapable of passing away until he has realized the fruit of stream-entry.
“One who knows and sees that these phenomena are this way is called a stream-enterer, steadfast, never again destined for states of woe, headed for self-awakening.”
- SN 25.7
That means that if you can see the impermanence of intention / sankhara that should be enough to attain stream entry, which means you see the mechanism that answers you existential question of why you’re here/exist, and identity view is given up.
We know from the four noble truths we’re here because we crave to be here by craving things within this plane like sensuality and that we fuel our own existence. But how does seeing the 3 characteristics of intention, or any aggregate, allow us to see the mechanism of why we’re here?
“So you should truly see any kind of form at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near: all form—with right understanding: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’
- SN 24.96
It seem like understanding why you’re here/exist, has to do with understanding no-self. Perhaps there is no external cause for why you exist, only that your belief in your self perpetuates a clinging to views which results in your existence. Basically, you are your own creator, you are causing yourself to exist.
But that would then mean that there is a self causing oneself to exist… There is a fabricated self that is created from ignorance, which when undone, results in no-self, and thus no more conceit (I-making) and no more existence/becoming. In short, you exist because you don’t know better (you’re ignorant) and when you know better, you’ll no longer “become/exist”.
“But at that time what did Reverend Sāriputta perceive?”
“One perception arose in me and another perception ceased: ‘The cessation of continued existence is extinguishment. The cessation of continued existence is extinguishment.’ Suppose there was a burning pile of twigs. One flame would arise and another would cease. In the same way, one perception arose in me and another perception ceased: ‘The cessation of continued existence is extinguishment. The cessation of continued existence is extinguishment.’ At that time I perceived that the cessation of continued existence is extinguishment.”
- AN 10.7
The cause of your “continued existence” is clinging and craving
"And what is clinging, what is the origin of clinging, what is the cessation of clinging, what is the way leading to the cessation of clinging? There are these four kinds of clinging: clinging to sensual pleasures, clinging to views, clinging to rituals and observances, and clinging to a doctrine of self. With the arising of craving there is the arising of clinging. With the cessation of craving there is the cessation of clinging. The way leading to the cessation of clinging is just this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view… right concentration.
"And what is craving, what is the origin of craving, what is the cessation of craving, what is the way leading to the cessation of craving? There are these six classes of craving: craving for forms, craving for sounds, craving for odors, craving for flavors, craving for tangibles, craving for mind-objects. With the arising of feeling there is the arising of craving. With the cessation of feeling there is the cessation of craving. The way leading to the cessation of craving is just this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view… right concentration.
- “When a noble disciple has thus understood the taints, the origin of the taints, the cessation of the taints, and the way leading to the cessation of the taints, he entirely abandons the underlying tendency to lust, he abolishes the underlying tendency to aversion, he extirpates the underlying tendency to the view and conceit ‘I am,’ and by abandoning ignorance and arousing true knowledge he here and now makes an end of suffering. In that way too a noble disciple is one of right view, whose view is straight, who has perfect confidence in the Dhamma and has arrived at this true Dhamma.”
- Samma Ditthi sutta
So it is your identity view and “I making” (conceit) that is causes you to exist here. It is your ignorant assumptions about existence that fuel your rebirth. Sounds like a paradox, your very own questioning of existence, is what is making you exist.
As per MN 1, an ignorant person identifies with what they perceive, they assume it as self,
They perceive the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception as the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. But then they identify with the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception … Why is that? Because they haven’t completely understood it, I say.
They perceive the seen as the seen. But then they identify with the seen … Why is that? Because they haven’t completely understood it, I say.
and it is this ignorant assumption that fuels their rebirth.
Hence the Buddha tells Bahiya
"Herein, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: ‘In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized.’ In this way you should train yourself, Bahiya.
“When, Bahiya, for you in the seen is merely what is seen… in the cognized is merely what is cognized, then, Bahiya, you will not be ‘with that.’ When, Bahiya, you are not ‘with that,’ then, Bahiya, you will not be ‘in that.’ When, Bahiya, you are not ‘in that,’ then, Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering.”
Now through this brief Dhamma teaching of the Lord the mind of Bahiya of the Bark-cloth was immediately freed from the taints without grasping. Then the Lord, having instructed Bahiya with this brief instruction, went away.
Stop identifying with what you perceive, as it is that identifying that leads to conceit, and rebirth.