Vaibhashika and Sautrantika: The Self

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When we look at the concept of the self in Buddhism, we need to analyze it from the points of view of the four schools of the Indian tenet systems. We’re going to refine our understanding further and further as we work our way through these schools. When we speak about the self, the word self here is going to be used as a synonym for a person and “me.” When I look in the mirror and I see myself, I see “me,” I see a person; it’s all referring to the same thing. We’re not talking about ego; we’re not talking about any of these psychological things; we’re just talking about the conventional “me.”

In order to understand the self, like any other thing in Buddhism, we have to exclude what it’s not. That’s the only way that we can identify things; it’s what’s left over after we exclude what it’s not. That’s how a doctor diagnoses a sickness; something has been excluded; it’s not this and it’s not that. That way, we can conclude what it is. 

All four tenet systems assert in common that we lack a coarse impossible self or soul. In other words, the type of soul or atman that’s asserted by the non-Buddhist Indian systems; this is impossible. There’s no such thing; we don’t exist like that. We don’t exist as this type of soul, this type of atman. That’s not “me.” Okay? 

Assertions about the Self Common to All Four Buddhist Tenet Systems

Let’s go through the characteristics here that the self is not, and then we see what it is. The self is not something that is static, unaffected by causes and conditions, unchanging from moment to moment. It’s not as if there is something inside our body and mind that always stays the same, that’s always “me.” It’s not that. Rather, the self is non-static. It’s affected by causes and conditions, and it’s changing from moment to moment. I’m changing all the time. I’m young, I’m old, I’m tired and I’m awake; I’m changing all the time.

Then, the self is something that, like a mental continuum, lacks a beginning. Each lifetime has a beginning, of course, but that is not the start of the existence of the self. The self is not created by some creator god nor by the sperm and egg of parents, nor does it arise spontaneously from nothing. 

The self also is not one entity with all other selves. We don’t have this idea in Buddhism, like in Advaita Vedanta, that with liberation, all atmans merge and become one in qualityless Brahma. It’s not that we’re all one. The self is always individual even when enlightened. Thus, it’s not that our individuality is an illusion and that we’re all constitute one undifferentiated soup. We’re all individual, always individual.

Also, the self isn’t partless. It’s not like some Indian schools’ belief that the self is a partless monad, like a spark of life, or that we are one with the universe. The self always has parts. For example, we have a body and mind and also parts in terms of moments of continuity.

The self lacks existence as something independent or separate from the body and mind. Many of the Indian systems say that with liberation, the self exists all alone by itself without a body and mind. Buddhism says that’s impossible. These schools are not talking about enlightenment; they’re talking about liberation, liberation from samsara, uncontrollably recurring rebirth. 

We have to understand that most of the Indian philosophical systems, except for some very minor exceptions, are talking about the same issues. Some say that there’s a creator god, some don’t, but they all accept rebirth, and that rebirth is generated by our compulsive karmic actions. Basically, they all accept karma, although their understanding of karma will be different. They all assert that rebirth is uncontrollably recurring. They all call it samsara and agree that it entails suffering, that suffering is coming from our unawareness of how we exist and how reality exists, and that with correct understanding, we can gain liberation from it.

However, Buddha came along and said, well, your understanding of all of these things is not correct. I’ve understood the true suffering, the true cause of it, the true state of freedom from it, and the true understanding that will bring it about; that’s the Four Noble Truths.

Remember, be careful; don’t just use this word “path” for the fourth noble truth. A path implies something that we walk on. Rather, we’re talking about an understanding, as in, what the correct understanding is that serves as a path to bring about liberation. It is a way of understanding that brings about the attainment of a true stopping of suffering and the true causes of suffering. Then, that self can be liberated. 

In summary, all Buddhist tenet systems agree that the self is not something that is static and never changes, and it’s not something that is created. It’s not something that is one with everybody else; it’s individual. It’s not something that is partless. It’s not something that when it’s liberated can exist all on its own without a body and mind; it’s always associated with a body and mind – or, more fully, always associated with five aggregates. 

The Five Aggregates 

Aggregates are just groupings of various things that change within our moment-to-moment experience. Nothing exists as if in boxes; there are no boxes that exist somewhere as aggregates. This is just a conceptual framework for understanding our experiences. 

  1. In every moment of our experience, there’s some form of a physical phenomenon: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, physical sensations, and cognitive sensors, photosensitive cells of the eyes and so on, including all the cells of the body that are sensitive to physical sensations. 
  2. Then, each moment is going to have some type of primary consciousness that is just aware of the essential nature of something – that it’s a sight, a sound, and so on. 
  3. Then, we have distinguishing. Distinguishing is usually translated as “recognition,” but that’s very misleading. In a visual sensory field, the mental factor of distinguishing is able to individualize one object from another. Some masters just speak of the visual field in terms of pixels; some speak in terms of colored shapes. Regardless, distinguishing enables us to distinguish the colored shapes that form your face from the colored shapes of what’s behind you, the background. Otherwise, we can’t deal with anything. 
  4. Then, everyone has some level of a feeling of happiness and unhappiness in each moment. When we speak about feeling in Buddhism, all that feeling is referring to is the variable of happiness or unhappiness, somewhere on that spectrum. 
  5. Furthermore, there is the aggregate of everything else, all other affecting variables. They include all those that are congruent with consciousness, sharing five things in common with it. Among them there are the various emotions and the various mental factors that help us to cognize something, like attention, concentration, interests. Also, in this aggregate, we have the affecting variables that are not congruent with consciousness, for instance, age. 

The self, “me,” can’t exist separate from these aggregates. I use the words body and mind as the most general thing that covers all of this. The self is not a form of physical phenomenon, which one of the Indian schools asserts, and the self is not a way of being aware of something. The self is a noncongruent affecting variable – it changes from moment to moment, is not congruent with the consciousness (it doesn’t share five things in common with consciousness) and it is categorized within that aggregate of other affecting variables. 

It is not an unimputed phenomenon. It’s not that the self exists as a soul that comes into the body or comes into the mind and inhabits it, possesses it and controls it. It does not control the body and the brain, as if pushing the buttons sitting inside our heads, often talking with a voice in our heads. It seems like that, doesn’t it, that there’s somebody sitting there in our heads talking, deciding what a bunch of people think of “me?” “Now, what am I going to say?” It’s not that it presses the buttons and the voice speaks. It’s not like that. Rather, the self is an imputation phenomenon on the basis of an individual continuum of five aggregates. 

An imputation phenomenon is something that cannot exist or be known independently of a basis for imputation. Age, for instance, cannot exist or be known independently of it being the age of something. Likewise, a self cannot exist or be known independently of an individual continuum of five aggregates.

The Basis for the Imputation Phenomenon “Me” and the Basis for the Mental Label “Me” 

The self, “me,” is a non-static imputation phenomenon on an individual continuum of aggregates as its basis for imputation. No one needs to impute it. As Sautrantika asserts, it is something objective and can be cognized both non-conceptually and conceptually. You can see me, and you can remember and think of me later. 

There is also the static category “me” that is a mental label – or more accurately, a conceptual label – optionally tagged onto the aggregates as its basis for labeling. This conceptual label is the category “me,” a static phenomenon that can only be cognized conceptually. Each time I think of myself, it is through the category “me.” It is as if I fit the “me” I think of each time into this category so that I am thinking of the same person each time. This category and all the items in it (each “me” I think of) can also serve as the basis for designation of the word “me” or “mich” in German or “ya” in Russian. 

The basis for the imputation “me” and the basis for labeling of the category “me” are the same, every moment of experience in an individual continuum. Each moment of experience is changing all the time and is made up of so many different parts. These parts can be organized and understood in terms of these five aggregates, and all these parts are changing at different rates from each other. We’re seeing and hearing things, and they’re changing all the time; what we distinguish also changes all the time. How we feel – happy or unhappy – that’s changing constantly at some different rate. The various emotions are changing all the time, each of them at a different rate and with a different blend in each moment. Other factors like how much we pay attention and how much interest we have – all that’s changing all the time. Each moment of all of that is the basis for the imputation phenomenon “me” and the basis for the conceptual label or category “me.” What is “me?” The only thing we can say is that “me” is what the category “me,” labeled on each of these moments, refers to. That is the referent object, “me.” 

The question that the four schools address is going to be, “Is there a referent thing, a findable ‘me,’ sitting inside somewhere that corresponds to what is labeled by the category “me” and that backs it up, like a focal support, when we see or think “me.” This will be refined as we go through these schools. Anyway, there nevertheless is a “me” that is an imputation phenomenon. It’s not something that can exist and be known independently of a basis, just coming into the body and going out to another one and pressing the buttons while in the body. 

The self is not a static imputation phenomenon. There are static phenomena that are also imputation phenomena, like space – the absence of anything preventing our body from occupying three dimensions. No matter where we go, nothing is stopping our body from occupying three dimensions. That absence of anything preventing our body from occupying three dimensions is a static fact about it. It never changes regardless of where we go, the position of our bodies, and so on. The self, however, is not like space, although both are imputation phenomena on the basis of the body. The self is non-static, while space is static.

Further, when we speak of the self, we’re talking about everybody, me, you and even the worm. When we talk about rebirth from a Buddhist point of view, we can be reborn as any so-called sentient being. “Sentient being” means someone with a limited mind. A Buddha is not a sentient being. A sentient being, with its limited mind influenced by not knowing how, as a person, it exists, does things intentionally and, through the mechanism of karma, experiences the results of its intentional behavior. Its experiences arise not just mechanically because of chemicals. It experiences the results of its intentional behavior in terms of feeling happy or unhappy. We’re also not talking about experiencing these results as the physical sensations of pleasure or pain; we’re talking about happiness or unhappiness. 

The Self, an Agent of Activity, and Karma 

So, “me,” the self, is an agent of activity; it actually does things. The self is also what experiences the results – happiness or unhappiness – from its karmic actions. Karma refers to the mental impulses, the urges, that drive our compelling thoughts and the physical impulses of the compulsive motions of our body and compulsive utterances of words as the methods we implement for causing the actions of our body and speech to take place. So, karma is talking about the compulsiveness of our behavior, compulsion; it’s not talking about actions. 

Unfortunately, Western translators have chosen the word “actions” to translate the Sanskrit word karma and its Tibetan rendering las, perhaps because one aspect of karma is the compulsive motions of our body. But those compulsive motions are just methods implemented for causing an action of the body to take place, they are not the action itself. An action of the body entails an object at which it is aimed, a correct distinguishing of that object, an intention of what we aim to accomplish with or toward that object, an emotion, a movement of the body, and a reaching of the intended outcome. The physical karmic impulse is just part of the action, and these Western translators are calling a part of something by the name of the whole – like when we hurt a spot on our forearm, we say we hurt our arm.

So, karma does not mean action. If it meant action, then the absurd conclusion would follow that to gain liberation by overcoming karma, all we have to do is stop doing anything, and then we become liberated. That is the Jain view and Buddhism rejects that. Therefore, karma cannot possibly mean action. Please always keep that in mind. 

With karma, then, we’re talking about the compulsiveness that drives us to act in certain seemingly uncontrollable ways. The compelling impulses of the mind and the compulsive movements of the body and compulsive utterances of our speech lead us and enable us to act in certain ways, and karma refers to those mental and physical impulses. They are “karmic impulses.” 

Disturbing emotions and attitudes cause these karmic impulses to arise and accompany them. Because of disturbing emotions, such as longing desire, anger and naivety, destructive karmic impulses arise, and we act in destructive ways. Disturbing attitudes, such as a deluded attitude about how we exist, underly our destructive karmic impulses and cause constructive karmic impulses to arise. For example, because we are confused about how we exist and have this idea that we have to be perfect, we are driven to be a perfectionist. We always have to clean our house over and over, or we always have to wash our hands, or we always have to be the best at school or at work. It’s positive but very neurotic, isn’t it? That’s compulsive; that’s karma.

The self is the agent of all our activity. It is not just that the body, speech and mind do things, we do things as imputation phenomena on the basis of the body, speech and mind. And because we do things compulsively by intention, we experience the results of our actions in terms of happiness or unhappiness. Similarly, the self is the cognizer of objects. It is not just that eye consciousness sees things and mental consciousness thinks things, we see things and we think things as imputation phenomena on the basis of eye consciousness and mental consciousness. 

Let’s examine this point more closely. The Buddhist texts explain the role of the self in terms of cognition, but we can apply this explanation also to karmic activity.

Manifest Cognition and Subliminal Cognition 

The self and consciousness do not share five things in common. However, they do share one of these five: they both cognitively take the same object. Cognition of something, for instance the table, entails giving rise to a mental hologram representing the table, and this arising of a mental hologram is equivalent to a cognitive engagement with the table, a cognitive taking of the table as an object. This is what we call “seeing the table.” Eye consciousness sees the table and I see the table; however, only the consciousness gives rise to the mental hologram. The self does not give rise to the mental hologram. That’s a big difference. The self and the consciousness perceive simultaneously; they “cognitively take the object” is the technical term. They will do this harmoniously together. Let’s not go too deeply into these five things in common because different schools will assert them differently. The main difference, what’s of importance, is that the self does not give rise to the mental hologram. Only consciousness does that. 

To understand the difference between a consciousness cognitively taking an object and a self doing that, we need to understand the difference between manifest cognition and subliminal cognition. Manifest cognition, using the example of seeing the table, is when we are awake and both the eye consciousness and the self see the table. Subliminal cognition occurs, for instance, when we’re asleep. There is the sound of the alarm clock ticking. That sound comes to the ear consciousness, and so the ear consciousness takes it as an object; however, “I” am not aware of it. Ear consciousness, in a sense, hears it, but we don’t hear it. If that were not the case, we could never hear the alarm when the alarm goes off in the morning. Ear consciousness is functioning all the time, but we were asleep. However, when the sound is loud enough, then it becomes manifest and we hear it as well. 

I think we can extend this difference between manifest and subliminal cognition to our actions. In doing something, for instance hitting someone, the body, being a form of physical phenomenon, makes physical contact with the body of the person it hits. The self, “me,” being non-physical, does not make contact, yet both the body and I perform the action of hitting someone, and I am aware of it. I consciously hit the person. We could call such an action a “manifest action.” A subliminal action would be like our heart pumping blood. Normally, I am not aware of my heart beating, it is unconscious. But when my heartbeat is strong enough, I do become aware of it. So, in these senses, Buddhism asserts that the self is both the agent of actions and the cognizer of objects. Being the cognizer of objects, the self is also what experiences happiness and unhappiness as the results of its karmic actions.  

The non-Buddhist Indian schools also discuss these same issues regarding the self but have different assertions from these common Buddhist ones. Some will say that the self does things but does not cognize anything and thus does not experience the results of what it does; some say the reverse. There are several variations.

Vaibhashika and Sautrantika Assertions Regarding the Characteristics of the Self 

Now, let’s go to the four Indian Buddhist tenet systems. All four assert that the self does not exist like this coarse impossible soul that the non-Buddhist schools assert. Vaibhashika and Sautrantika in common – those are Hinayana schools – say that the self, although lacking a beginning, is not something that has no end. It does end when we become liberated or when we attain enlightenment. At the end of that lifetime in which we either become liberated or enlightened, the self goes out like a candle. That’s what the word “nirvana” literally means, blown out like a candle, extinguished. It’s not like in some of the Indian non-Buddhist schools where the self goes on forever after liberation in some transcendent realm all by itself. These two Hinayana schools also don’t agree with Mahayana either, which also says that the self continues eternally, even when liberated or enlightened, but still as an imputation phenomenon on the basis of aggregates.

Further, these two Hinayana schools say that when we search for the self, we can point to it as something self-established and findable. “There I am; that’s me.” You can point to yourself; you can find the “me” established from its own side. “There I am, right?” There you are. It’s you over there; it’s not just what the category “you” refers to. Furthermore, the self is substantially established, which means that the self is established as something whose existence is established and proved by the fact that it functions: I perform the active functions of eating, walking and so on as well as the passive function of serving as an object of cognition. However, what Vaibhashika asserts that is specific to Vaibhashika – nobody else agrees on this point – is that I can perceive myself and I can perceive “you” self-sufficiently. I don’t need to perceive anything else, like the body, directly at the same time.

Vaibhashika says we have direct cognition. Direct means the actual object, we would say, in the case of vision, light from the object, directly makes contact with the photosensitive cells of the eyes and that consciousness connects with the pair to directly cognize the object. There is no mental hologram involved. Although “me” or “you” is an imputation phenomenon on the aggregates – the body and mind – Vaibhashika asserts that when you see me, your consciousness just comes in contact with the “me” directly and not the combination of “me” and its basis of imputation, one or more of the aggregates.

Sautrantika says that the self isn’t something that could be directly known without a mental hologram arising; rather, it’s always known in the context of a mental hologram. Because “me” and its basis of imputation, the aggregates, always appear together in the mental hologram, the self is not self-sufficiently knowable. The self’s lack of being self-sufficiently knowable is the lack of a subtle impossible soul – the subtle selflessness or identitylessness of the self of a person. All Buddhist tenet systems other than Vaibhashika refute this subtle impossible self. 

Doctrinally Based or Automatically Arising Misconceptions 

Belief in the coarse impossible self, this atman of the non-Buddhists, is doctrinally based. In order to think that we exist like that, we have to be taught that and believe it. The worm doesn’t think like that. We have to be taught, understand and believe that we can be liberated and that then we’ll go to some transcendent realm and exist without a body and mind. How would a worm know that? A child wouldn’t think that either. We go to some religious school and they teach us that. However, that we are self-sufficiently knowable – this is something that automatically arises. It automatically arises, or we could have been taught that by the Vaibhashikas.

For example, when we see ourselves in the mirror, we see a body in the mirror; on the basis of the body, we also see “me” as an imputation phenomenon on the basis of the body. We can’t just see “me” without seeing the body; however, we don’t really think like that, do we? That’s “me” in the mirror, or that’s “me” in the photograph. It’s very interesting if we see a series of photographs spanning our life. We say, oh that’s “me” in each of them. Well, is that the same “me?” What is it? How do we know that’s “me?” How do we know it’s “me” when we see this picture of an infant? In any case, it automatically seems as though it is “me.”

If we hear somebody on the phone, for example, “I’m speaking to Patrick; that’s Patrick.” Is that Patrick? No, that’s a vibration of some sort of electronic thing that we’re calling his voice, and we’re calling and naming it him. We can’t just hear Patrick or talk to Patrick. We’re hearing Patrick as an imputation phenomenon on the basis of the sound. We can’t just hear Patrick by itself. Patrick is not self-sufficiently knowable. 

My favorite example for this is “I want you to love me for ‘me,’ not for my body, not for my money, not for anything else. I want you to love just ‘me’ for myself.” How can we love a person without it being an imputation phenomenon on the basis of something? You can’t just love “me” or “you.” There needs to be a body and everything else about them. 

The hologram that arises when we see someone has in it a composite of a basis for imputation – the form of a body – and “me” as the imputation phenomenon on the body as its basis. The self doesn’t exist as something that can be known all by itself. It can only be imputedly known; however, according to Sautrantika, it’s not something that has its existence established merely in terms of what the mental label “me” refers to in the conceptual cognition of “me.” 

According to Sautrantika, the self is a deepest true phenomenon. It is objectively real. Objectively, I’m here, and you’re there. I’m truly established because I do things. I’m talking to you. I’m drinking water; so, my existence is established from my own side, from the side of “me.” My existence is not established merely in terms of the concept “me.” Whether I conceive of “me” in terms of the category “me” or conceive of “you” in terms of the category “you,” it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because I’m still “me,” and you’re still “you.” Something findable on my side, a defining characteristic, is what establishes “me” as “me” – something like a barcode – and establishes “you” as “you.”

Where Is the Barcode? 

Now, the real question comes up. Where is that barcode? Where is it found? Sautrantika would say that it is found in the basis for imputation, the continuum of mental consciousness. Mental consciousness, like the self, has no beginning but has an end when we die at the end of the lifetime in which we attain liberation or enlightenment. It has an end with parinirvana. It changes from moment to moment, and it’s affected by various things, sees different things, and has parts and many, many moments. Like that, its defining characteristics – its barcode – is findable on the side of the mental continuum, since that’s what continues from lifetime to lifetime with different bodies and so on. 

Vaibhashika said that the barcode of the self is found just on the side of the self and that’s why it can be cognized self-sufficiently. But Sautrantika rejects that and asserts that the mental continuum has the defining characteristic features, or the barcode, not only of mental consciousness but also the barcode of “me.” It’s because of that, that we, the self, “me,” exists as an imputation phenomenon on the basis of that mental continuum, and because the barcode is findably there, then whether or not we conceptually label “me” with the category “me” or designate it with the word “me,” it doesn’t matter because objectively that individual mental continuum is “me.” 

We’re not the same as the mental continuum, but on the basis of that continuum, there is “me” as an imputation phenomenon. There is a “me.” Of course, we’re not identical to the mental consciousness, but it almost feels like that. It’s almost as if there’s an actual, solidly findable “me” inside the mental continuum that’s the referent thing that’s holding up the referent object, “me,” of the concept and word “me.” Even outside the context of conceptual thought, there’s “me.” 

This becomes very interesting to visualize. In the non-Buddhist Indian schools, it’s like there is a package representing this lifetime and there are three separate objects in this package: a body, a mind and a self. You get the picture? When that lifetime ends, the self can leave the package by itself and then enter a new package with another body and mind. However, what Sautrantika is saying is that actually the “me” is inside the mind and is going along with the mental continuum with each lifetime and, of course, it has a barcode of a “me” inside the mental continuum, an individual “me,” that is not “you.” 

I’m simplifying this very much but just get the idea of what we’re talking about and we can imagine that. We identify with our minds, don’t we? For example, we weigh ourselves on the scale – we weigh our body on the scale actually – and think while weighing ourselves, “That’s not ‘me.’ I can’t weigh that much.” It seems that there’s an actual “me” sitting inside the mind, inside the mental consciousness, talking and saying that. It automatically appears like that, doesn’t it? It feels like that and we believe it; however, it’s ridiculous. There’s no cartoon “me” sitting inside our heads. It’s a complete fiction. There is no such thing. 

That’s what Buddhism says: the self does not exist like that. It’s devoid of existing like that. To be more technical, its existence is not established by there being something actually sitting inside and talking that can be known by itself. There is no little “me” sitting in our heads as a self-sufficiently knowable, separable entity that could fly off and still exist by itself without a body or mind.

What Is Left after Refuting an Impossible Self

When we have refuted the non-Buddhist Indian assertion of a static, not partless, independently existent self, we are left with a nonstatic self that is an imputation phenomenon that has parts and can only exist on the basis of an individual continuum of five aggregates. But Vaibhashika asserts that such a self can be known by itself; it is self-sufficiently knowable.

When we have refuted this Vaibhashika assertion of a self-sufficiently knowable self, what we are left with is that there is a truly established findable “me” sitting inside the mind, pushing the buttons but, which can only be known simultaneously with its basis for imputation, the mind, also being known. It is truly established as something objective, independently of being the referent object of the concept and word for it. Furthermore, it objectively exists prior to and independently of any cognition of it. Chittamatra refutes the Sautrantika assertion of that type of “me” pushing the buttons. Chittamatra asserts that it is impossible to establish the existence of something, including the self, prior to the cognition of it. 


How do we differentiate the self from the mental continuum? 

That’s why we brought up the topic of subliminal cognition: ear consciousness actually does perceive the sound of the clock ticking while we’re asleep, but “I” don’t perceive it; “I” don’t hear it. What is the definition of knowing something? It has three parts; it’s usually translated as clarity and awareness, and merely that, only that. 

Clarity does not refer to being in focus; the English term is misleading. Clarity refers to giving rise to a mental hologram of some cognitive object, so something arises. Awareness refers to some cognitive engagement with that same cognitive object. These two are just two ways of describing the same phenomenon. When we talk about mind, we’re talking about mental activity. We’re not talking about the thing that does it. What is the mental activity in each moment? It’s the arising of a mental hologram and a cognitive engagement; it’s the same activity from two different points of view.

We can understand this in terms of thinking. It’s not that a thought arises, and then we think it. The arising of a thought and the thinking of a thought are the same, aren’t they? It’s not that a mental hologram, a sight, arises and then we see it. How can we see it? The arising of that mental hologram is what seeing is. That is what seeing is, and the really interesting thing is that this is happening without there being a separate “me” that is doing it, or that is observing it, or controlling it, or out of control because it can’t control it. 

Mental activity – cognition – happens without a mind being something that is like a machine that is doing this. It’s not that there’s a “me” over here and a machine, which is the mind over there, and this “me” presses the buttons on this machine and a hologram comes up. It’s not like that. We can also describe this mental activity from a physical point of view: the brain, the brain waves, and electric impulses and chemicals. That’s not being refuted; however, Buddhism is describing mental activity from a subjective point of view. 

In terms of that mental activity, mental consciousness, for example, as we’ve mentioned, both gives rise to a mental hologram and cognitively engages with it. Although the self is not a separate entity making that mental activity happen, nevertheless the self also cognitive engages with an object, but it is not giving rise to a mental hologram.

Let’s use a simple example. A mental consciousness gives rise to a thought and thinks the thought. It both produces the thought and thinks the thought. We just think the thought; we don’t produce the thought. Thought arises from mental consciousness and not from “me.” Both mental consciousness and we think. The barcodes for mental consciousness and for “me” are both located on the side of mental consciousness. The barcode for the mental consciousness contains giving rise to a mental hologram and cognitively engaging with an object as two of its defining characteristics. The barcode for the self contains only cognitively engaging with an object as one of its defining characteristics and does not contain giving rise to a mental hologram. This difference is subtle, but there’s a difference.