Knowing yourself is knowing the dharma
What is dharma? Dharma is not something in the book that you read, nor is it something new that you need to learn and keep in mind. Anything that is not related to your mind is not dharma.
So what is dharma? Dharma is everything that you see and experience right now, it is all of your ways of thinking, working and being. Dharma is to enquire: ‘How do I relate to things? How did I come to see things in this way? On what presumptions is this way of seeing things based? When guiding students I am trying to help them know themselves as they are. Because seeing oneself truly, is what I understand the dharma to be.
What is it to know oneself? There are many levels to it: What is self? It’s what we call “Me” or “I” isn’t it? When we try to understand this “I” – asking ourselves, ‘Does this “I” really exist?’ Coming to see, ‘Oh, there is no “I” !’ That’s knowing yourself, knowing the dharma. The Buddhist texts teach us that there is no distinct ‘I.’ Or maybe we don’t have such a high view yet, but we can still see what we are like in terms of how many thoughts we have, how incorrect they are; how many afflictions, mind poisons, we have. That’s also knowing ourselves.
Not knowing yourself is when you can’t say what you have been doing for the last two hours, or what you have been thinking from morning till now; or even just in the last few minutes. Are you cognisant of how you have been listening to this teaching just now? What thoughts have ran through your mind in the last few minutes? So I think we can safely say that we don’t know ourselves.
What’s so great about knowing yourself? When you know yourself, there is a chance to improve. Even these initial glimpses into how we are will show us that to continue on blindly as we have been doing is futile and that a change is necessary. A single insight into a single aspect of ourself will give us something definite to work on and improve.
First, we need to come to know ourselves, who we are. Not the dharma as we usually think of it. Keep this in mind. Knowing yourself is knowing the dharma. You will never understand the dharma if you are trying to understand something other than yourself.