The way the I, or the self, exists is merely labeled by the mind, but it appears to us as real, in the sense that it appears to exist from its own side. If it is expressed or introduced according to our experience, the ordinary term is the real I. This I appears to us as real, even when we are not upset, excited or frightened. Even when we don’t have these life situations, there is a real I appearing to us, but when we meet these situations, the I that appears as real becomes clearer and more obvious. When we get angry or when somebody provokes or blames us, or we win a game and we are excited about our success, at those times the I that appears as real becomes very clear and strong. This is called the emotional I and in that sense, the emotional I is always there, because this I appears as real. We always have this appearance and the emotional I is always there, but it is not as obvious, strong and clear as it appears in these particular life situations.
The real I—the emotional I, the truly existent I—doesn’t exist, because if we search for it, it can’t be found. If we search for that emotional I or that real I, it can’t be found anywhere on these aggregates, this association of the body and mind—from the tip of the hair down to the toes. If we search for this emotional I, this real I, this truly existent I, it can’t be found anywhere. When we are unaware of the reality of the I and we do not analyze, it looks as if there is a real I—a truly existent or inherently existent I—that can be found. However, if we look for the I and start to analyze, it suddenly becomes unclear and the experience that comes to us is that the I doesn’t exist.
If the I really exists, when we start to analyze and to search, it should become more and more clear. The existence of that emotional I—the real I or the truly existent I—should become more and more clear if it exists. We don’t feel that the I is in a particular location in the aggregates or the body, and as soon as we start to analyze we can’t find it, so that proves it is not there. This emotional I—the real I or the truly existent I—can’t be found anywhere on this association of body and mind, the aggregates.
The I is nowhere to be found, either on these aggregates or separate from these aggregates, therefore it doesn’t exist. Also this I is merely labeled by the mind, therefore it doesn’t exist from its own side and it doesn’t have true existence. There is no true existence on the I, which means there is no true existence on the merely labeled I. “On the I” means the I that exists, therefore, there is no true existence on the merely labeled I.
The conclusion is that every day, every moment when objects appear to us, they come from our own mind. If our mind does not label, there is no appearance of the objects of the senses, including the subject and object. If we do not label the subject, there is no appearance of the subject, and if we do not label the object, there is no appearance of the object.
By Lama Zopa Rinpoche