It has been said to you again and again that the Eastern mystics believe that the world is illusory. It is true: they not only believe that the world is untrue, illusory, maya — they know that it is maya, it is an illusion, a dream. But when they use the word sansara — the world — they don’t mean the objective world that science investigates; no, not at all. They don’t mean the world of the trees and the mountains and the rivers; no, not at all.
They mean the world that you create, spin and weave inside your mind, the wheel of the mind that goes on moving and spinning. Sansara has nothing to do with the outside world. There are three things to be remembered. One is the outside world, the objective world. Buddha will never say anything about it because that is not his concern; he is not an Albert Einstein.
Then there is a second world: the world of the mind, the world that the psychoanalysts, the psychiatrists, the psychologists investigate. Buddha will have a few things to say about it, not many, just a few — in fact, one: that it is illusory, that it has no truth, either objective or subjective, that it is in between.
The first world is the objective world, which science investigates. The second world is the world of the mind, which the psychologist investigates. And the third world is your subjectivity, your interiority, your inner self.
Buddha’s indication is towards the interiormost core of your being. But you are too much involved with the mind. Unless he helps you to become untrapped from the mind, you will never know the third, the real world: your inner substance. Hence he starts with the statement: WE ARE WHAT WE THINK. That’s what everybody is: his mind. ALL THAT WE ARE ARISES WITH OUR THOUGHTS.
Just imagine for a single moment that all thoughts have ceased…then who are you? If all thoughts cease for a single moment, then who are you? No answer will be coming. You cannot say, “I am a Catholic,” “I am a Protestant,” “I am a Hindu,” “I am a Mohammedan” — you cannot say that. All thoughts have ceased. So the Koran has disappeared, the Bible, the Gita…all words have ceased! You cannot even utter your name. All language has disappeared so you cannot say to which country you belong, to which race. When thoughts cease, who are you? An utter emptiness, nothingness, no-thingness.
It is because of this that Buddha has used a strange word; nobody has ever done such a thing before, or since. The mystics have always used the word ‘self’ for the interior most core of your being — Buddha uses the word ‘no-self’. And I perfectly agree with him; he is far more accurate, closer to truth. To use the word ‘self’ — even if you use the word ‘Self’ with a capital ‘S’, does not make much difference. It continues to give you the sense of the ego, and with a capital ‘S’ it may give you an even bigger ego.
Buddha does not use the words atma, ‘self’, atta. He uses just the opposite word: ‘no-self’, anatma, anatta. He says when mind ceases, there is no self left — you have become universal, you have overflowed the boundaries of the ego, you are a pure space, uncontaminated by anything. You are just a mirror reflecting nothing.
WE ARE WHAT WE THINK. ALL THAT WE ARE ARISES WITH OUR THOUGHTS. WITH OUR THOUGHTS WE MAKE THE WORLD.
If you really want to know who, in reality, you are, you will have to learn how to cease as a mind, how to stop thinking. That’s what meditation is all about. Meditation means going out of the mind, dropping the mind and moving in the space called no-mind. And in no-mind you will know the ultimate truth, dhamma.
And moving from mind to no-mind is the step, pada. And this is the whole secret of THE DHAMMAPADA.