Doctrinally Based Grasping for the Self of a Person

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We are speaking about incorrect consideration, and if we think in terms of incorrect consideration of me, of a person, of a self, whether it’s with respect to ourselves or others, what’s incorrect here is to consider that there is a me that’s separate from a body and a mind. What kind of relationship does that me have with a body or a mind? What we might imagine, what it might feel like, although it’s incorrect, is that there is a me that lives inside the body, lives inside my head, as if it were a home.

We might also think that that me is something that possesses or owns the body and controls it, and uses it, as if there was a me behind a panel, with a computer screen, and the information comes in through the eyes and through ear phones, and me in central control. And, “What should I do now?” or “What should I say now?” and then you push the button, and the hand moves and does this, or the mouth says that, and so on. “I have to get myself up out of bed in the morning. The alarm rang; I have to go to work,” as if there is a me inside that now has to somehow press a button and get the body up out of bed. An incorrect view – but that’s the way that it seems.

But it’s interesting like that, when you start to analyze, because we have these type of feelings, let’s say in terms of the arguments that women make in terms of having the right to decide whether they have an abortion or not. “It’s my body; I own it and I can do with it what I like. So it’s my choice.” What is this based on? Maybe their choice and aims. We’re not discussing the correctness or incorrectness of abortion, but we’re talking about the attitude toward the body, as if it were a possession, “That is mine, and there is a me that’s separate from it, and I can do with it what I like.”

We could be taught this type of attitude toward ourself, or our body, our relation to our body; or it can just automatically arise that we have this feeling that it’s like that, this belief that it’s like that. So, this is an incorrect consideration. What is correct is that there is a “me” imputed on a body and mind and so on, but it’s not some separate entity from it. Just as the body is going through changes moment to moment, so there’s an age, and the age changes from moment to moment; likewise, as the body and the mind and feelings will change from moment to moment as we're aware of things differently and do different things from moment to moment, there is “me” – “This is me, OK,” – and that’s also changing from moment to moment. It’s not separate; it’s not some entity inside it.

We’ve spoken about various types of incorrect consideration, and now we can put some of these together, and we get what’s known as “grasping for an impossible self,” an impossible me. Now, there is a doctrinally based grasping and an automatically arising type of grasping here. Buddhism, when it speaks about doctrinally based grasping for an impossible me, that’s speaking about some idea that we might have of a me that we were taught, that’s coming specifically from a non-Buddhist Indian system.

“Indian system” is speaking about an atman, they call it. How we translate that, I think probably the closest that we can translate it, is as a “soul.” So they’re talking about a soul. And they’re talking about a soul that goes from one lifetime to another lifetime, and we wouldn’t automatically think that we have a soul that goes from lifetime to lifetime, so you have to be taught that. The soul has certain characteristics that come all together in one package here. When I say package here, I’m talking about a package of certain characteristics. So, one characteristic is that it is static. Here, we’re not talking about “eternal,” because Buddhism says the mental continuum has no beginning and no end. So even the conventional me has no beginning and no end, but we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about a me that doesn’t change from moment to moment, that’s always the same. That means a me that’s not affected by anything. Like a suitcase moving along on a conveyor belt through time from childhood to old age, from one body to another body.

It is partless, that’s what it means when we hear the word “one.” “One” means that it is a monolith, it’s partless. Either it’s the size of the universe, like this whole idea of “atman is Brahma,” so “I am the universe,” or it’s like a tiny spark of life, or something like that. But, this is one of the characteristics, partless, monolithic.

The third characteristic is that it is separate from a body and mind. So it comes in, static! It is partless, and it lives inside a body and controls it, and uses it, and so on, and then goes on to another one. This we have to understand. Buddhism is making certain differentiations that might not be so clear, so let me underline it a little bit more.

Certain aspects of this impossible soul we’ve already encountered in our discussion of incorrect consideration. So, that there is a me that’s static, and always the same, permanent, you know, not affected by anything. That we could have by itself, either just being taught that, or automatically that arises. Same thing in terms of a separate me: we could have Christian or some other religious system’s idea of a soul with some of these qualities as well, we could have been taught that. These are problems, obviously, that we have to deal with, this incorrect belief in that, because it can lead to many disturbing emotions. But when we speak about doctrinally based grasping for an impossible me, it’s talking the combination of these particular qualities of an impossible me as taught in a non-Buddhist Indian system. That you have to be taught. You wouldn’t get the whole package, with all of these qualities, automatically.

Do you follow that? Buddha was teaching to an Indian audience, originally, so he spoke about the specific incorrect view of an atman, or the soul. But different aspects of that can be found in non-Indian religions as well, non-Indian philosophies. So, if we know what is referred to by this term, or that term, and so on, we don’t get confused what could automatically arise, what we would have to be taught, and so on.

Although we have all these different aspects, these different elements, now we get down to, “How do we understand what goes from lifetime to lifetime?” When we speak about a soul, I’m not an expert in Christian theology, and I’m sure that there are many different views within Christianity as to the nature of the soul, but these Buddhism also wouldn’t agree with, that, for instance, “The soul is created by God.” That’s one view. I don’t know if Christianity says that, “Created, but then it’s eternal,” “doesn’t change,” “just has one other lifetime after this, heaven or hell.” These are other views that perhaps we would need to refute.

I raise all these points because there is a lot of confusion that often we as Westerners have in studying this material, because, “OK, doctrinally based disturbing emotions, you get rid of them first.” There are many disturbing emotions that could be based on this view of me that we were taught, but it’s only talking about a view that’s taught in non-Buddhist Indian systems, Hinduism, Jainism, etc., and we say, “Wow! I didn’t study Hinduism or Jainism, so how is that relevant to me?” “I don’t believe this, I never even heard about it,” “I never studied Hinduism.”

But the thing is that each of the qualities of this soul taught in Hinduism or Jainism – that is based on some incorrect consideration. And so, if we look at our own concept of a soul or a feeling that “Well, there is no soul; I just become a nothing at the time of death,” there are other incorrect types of consideration that are being involved. So, Buddhism is dealing with any possible misconception that we can have. It’s not only talking about a misconception that was formulated in ancient India.

The question becomes, “Who do I think I am?” Am I a soul, am I something else, am I my body, am I my mind? What am I? What is it that my selfishness is based on, that “I want to be the first in line”, “I want to get what I want,” “I am the most important thing,” or “I should be the most important thing in your life.” What are the qualities of that me?

Because when we believe in some type of me like this, some solid me, then it always has to have its way. So there is grasping, there’s greed, attachment, and so on, “I don’t get my way,” so you get anger. Or we get jealousy, “You don’t love me, you’re loving somebody else.” We get arrogance, “Oh! I’m so wonderful”; indecisive wavering, “What should I choose? There’s a hundred and fifty breakfast cereals, which one is going to make me happy?” – me “so I want to choose the right one that will make me happy.” “What computer should I buy?” “What mobile phone should I buy? There are thousands of choices, but I want to get the right one for me.” What is this me?

Questions about the Self

In Christianity, we try to have an ethical “I” that doesn’t want so many things, so what’s the point? Fighting selfishness seems common to all spiritual paths.

That’s true, but the issue that comes up here is an issue that we’ve mentioned already, which is, “When we are refuting a misconception about me, have we refuted enough?” In other words: in other systems – even within Buddhism there are many systems – we might refute certain characteristics, which are impossible. But if we haven’t gone deeply enough and refuted everything that’s mistaken, still there can be a subtle level of selfishness that comes up.

For example, we might be extremely generous and do so many things for another person or our children, so it seems as though we’re selfless. But we want to be appreciated, we want to be thanked. We remind the person of what we’ve done, “I’ve done so much for you and you don’t appreciate it.” There is still a feeling of a solid me underneath there, even though we’re not being so selfish.

Or we can go on the martyr trip, “I am the martyr, I am the saint, I’m doing so much for the world,” and it becomes a big ego trip. Or, “to overcome my selfishness, I have to whip myself and beat myself, because I’m bad for being selfish.” Sure, you can be very generous and very helpful to everybody else, but that’s certainly a very disturbed state of mind, and you’re still thinking of a guilty, bad me, a solid me. I’m giving as an example an extreme; but our misconceptions can be very, very subtle.

Why do we have to renounce the atman?

The point is that we are not denying the conventional me. Whether you want to call that a soul, whether you want to call that an atman, it doesn’t matter what name you give it, there is a conventional me, Buddhism is not refuting that, it’s not saying that there is nothing. But the point is, “How does it exist?” If we don’t have a sense of the conventional me, then we’re not motivated to do anything. Why should we try to gain enlightenment?

On the basis of a correct view of a conventional me, we get our lives together. We get up in the morning; we get dressed; we make a life for ourselves; we take care of ourselves. But is there a dualism here of me and “I have to take care of myself?” as if they were two different things? And “I have to stop myself and control myself from being selfish,” as if one part of me is the judge, the disciplinarian, and the other one is the naughty part of me? It becomes very neurotic and leads to guilt.

In psychoanalysis, that’s the “super-ego.”

But is that super-ego something which is separate, existing all by itself? Are there two me’s there, a me and a super-ego? This is rather strange.

See, Buddhism speaks in terms of mental factors. You know there’s the five aggregates. “Five aggregates” is just a classification scheme for many, many different factors that make up each moment of our experience. So, there is discipline, this is a mental factor. There is in one moment an ear consciousness of the sound of an alarm clock, and the sound that we hear, and a feeling that accompanies it, which maybe is not very happy, and we’re distinguishing the sound of the alarm clock from the sound of the birds singing outside, or the traffic going by outside of our window. There can be accompanying this, a mental factor of laziness and anger, “I don’t want to get up,” as if there’s a separate me from all this that now has to get up. But there can also be accompanying this a mental factor of intention to get up and the mental factor of discipline.

Many, many mental factors are there, and that’s all that’s happening from one moment to the next moment to the next moment. It doesn’t require some separate me, sitting behind the control board, and the sound comes in on the earphones, and then this me presses the button of discipline and now discipline comes there, and then, “I have to get myself up out of bed.” It’s not like that.

You just get up. You just do it, without all these garbage thoughts of, “Aaah, I don’t want to get up,” and, “Now I have to force myself to get up,” and, “Why me? Why do I always have to get up?” All of this is garbage, and it is experienced, usually, with great unhappiness.

The hearing of the alarm clock is experienced with unhappiness, so what? “OK, there is unhappiness in this moment. That doesn’t matter. I’m not attached to it, I’m not identifying with it,” and then the next moment, because of the habit of discipline, and motivation, and whatever, then, the next moment you are getting up. Now, what’s “me” here? Well, who got up? I got up; it wasn’t somebody else. So, we can label on the continuum of this sequence of moments, made up of all these parts that are changing, “me,” and it functions. It’s not just that a body gets out of bed; I get out of bed. There aren’t two separate things getting out of bed, a body and a “me.” “My body gets out, but I don’t want to get out.” One has to analyze quite deeply, what is the cause of our unhappiness when we have to get up in the morning?

Questions and Discussion about Reincarnation

You know two incarnations of Serkong Rinpoche. What reminded you of the “first” Serkong Rinpoche? What did you find in common? What did you find in this continuum that was similar to the previous incarnation?

Now we open up a large topic. Now we have to consider “continuums,” and a continuum within one lifetime. Now, if we look at a continuum of “me,” or of somebody else, such as my teacher Serkong Rinpoche, there probably isn’t even one cell in his body – I’m talking about the older one, when he was sixty years old from when he was two years old – no cell in his body is the same. Everything has changed. This is really amazing, if you consider how much food goes in, and how much waste comes out, and from that the body is made. But it’s changing from moment to moment, and nothing stays the same. And the amount of knowledge has changed from moment to moment, Certainly it’s not the same when he is two years old and when he is sixty years old.

Everything has changed, yet there is a continuity; there’s a continuum. This is a very big question that is analyzed and explained on many different levels of profundity of “How is the continuum maintained?” “How does it maintain its individuality?” “Did it turn into somebody else?” It’s the same issue in terms of two lifetimes as it is in terms of one lifetime. So, we have a continuum moment to moment to moment, and nothing is remaining the same. We can impute on that “a person,” an individual.

What is it based on? It’s based on a sequence of cause and effect. It’s very simple. “I put some food in my mouth,” and then, the next moment there is a sensation of the food going down, and the next moment there’s a sensation of the hunger going away, and so on. There’s a causal sequence. It makes sense, and so we can label “me” on this causal sequence.

We can also impute various habits on this continuum. What’s a habit? “I have a habit of drinking coffee.” What’s that? I’m not drinking coffee every moment of my existence, but there’s a sequence of various occasions, in which there is a drinking of coffee, and on the basis of that, we say there’s a habit. It’s a way of putting it together. Is the habit something solid? Can we find it? No. Does it exist? Yes. Does it produce effects? Yes. Because I have a habit of drinking coffee, I probably will drink another cup of coffee tomorrow.

When we speak about a continuum from one lifetime to another lifetime, like with my own teacher Serkong Rinpoche, what do we find that is in common, besides being given the same name? What is there a continuity of? Certain habits, certain instincts. Now, if we look in terms of our history, particularly over many lifetimes, there are so many habits, so many different things, not everything is going to occur at the same time.

I had habits when I was three years old that I don’t have now. This is very clear. As a baby, I had a habit of going to the toilet in my pants, and putting food all over my mouth, not getting it into my mouth. They were habits that repeated when I was a baby. I don’t have these habits now. I don’t do that now – hopefully. So, with Serkong Rinpoche there are certain habits, which are similar to what he had in the previous lifetime, sense of humor, and so on.

“Well, lots of people have senses of humor, so it’s not necessarily a continuity of the previous lifetime’s sense of humor.” But what was convincing for me is that there is a certain sense of familiarity with people. We might have experienced this: that you meet somebody, and automatically you feel as though you’ve known this person forever. Automatically you feel very close, or automatically you feel very distant, there’s an instant aversion to this person.

With the young Serkong Rinpoche – when I first met him he was four years old. He came to Dharamsala, and when I walked in, the attendant who was taking care of him asked, “Do you know who this is?” And the little boy said, “Don’t be stupid, of course I know who this is,” and instantly, from the very beginning, he was totally familiar with me, totally warm and close to me. He wasn’t like that with other people. And this was coming from a four year old. You can’t fake that as a four year old. So, this sense of closeness was there, just as it was in the previous lifetime. Well, sure, in each moment it’s slightly different, so we just impute on that, that this is a “closeness,” but there’s a continuity of that. This was very convincing for me.

Of course there are things that he might remember from a previous lifetime. We were watching, once, a video, a recording, of a teaching that he had given in his last lifetime, and he said, “Ah. I remember saying that, I remember doing that.” There is no reason for him to lie to me.

Now we get into a discussion of Nagajuna’s presentation. Is he the same person, totally identical to the one in his previous lifetime? No. Is he totally different? No, not totally different. It’s a continuum, it’s a continuity. Is there something solid that’s going like a piece of luggage from one lifetime to another lifetime? No. Is there a continuum? Yes, continuity. So, neither the same, nor different, not totally identical, not totally different, unrelated.

Why would some of Rinpoche’s memories of his past life be more clear and others not so clear?

This is the same in terms of, “What do we remember in this life?” Do you remember everything that you ate, in your life? Can you even remember every word that you just said thirty seconds ago and repeat every word exactly?

So, why do we remember this and we don’t remember that? That’s a difficult question. I suppose it has to with how interested we are, how much we pay attention. Was there a strong emotion at the time or not a very strong emotion? If there’s a strong emotion, usually we tend to remember it more. There can be something that reminds us of a previous thing, and if you don’t come across something that reminds you, then you don’t remember it.

There are many, many factors to why we remember something – everything depends on circumstances. It’s the same thing in terms of habits. There’s so many habits. Not all the habits will manifest in the next lifetime – some will, some won’t. It all depends on the circumstances. If I had the habit of eating mango fruits and I’m born in a place where there are no mangoes, I’m not going to eat mangoes. I won’t even think of eating mangoes.

I’m not convinced by your explanation. The deepest impressions on Rinpoche’s mind should be of the most recent part of his last life, because they are the freshest. Why should Rinpoche remember one teaching that he gave, but not the most recent one?

It’s not the freshest thing that we remember. Certain things you remember and certain things you don’t remember. It’s dependent on many, many different factors. It’s very difficult to actually analyze and explain, “Why did I remember this particular thing and not something else?”

So is it completely arbitrary?

No. You can’t say that it is arbitrary, that it’s just by chance that I remember something. There have to be certain circumstances. He didn’t remember everything. We watched many different videos and one thing he remembered, so it seemed a little bit more familiar. Why? I don’t know. I don’t know what was going on in his mind when he actually taught that. You’re asking a question which is a very difficult question to answer, because it’s the same issue as, “If we have so many karmic potentials from beginningless lifetimes for all sorts of results, why does this particular karmic potential ripen in this moment and not another one. It’s the same question, why do you have this memory now and not another one? It’s the same issue.

Buddhism explains that things don’t happen for no cause at all, as then anything could happen at any time and there would be no sequence or no sense in anything that happens. And this is not the case. If things depend on circumstances, then what are circumstances? It could be that I meet an object that is similar to something before. It could be the influence of another person. It could be an influence of the weather. It could be an influence of so many different things.

How do I remember somebody’s name? I can’t remember this person’s name. I know the name; I know that I know the name, but I can’t remember the person’s name. So, what do I do? I go through the alphabet and I say in my mind each letter. I pronounce each letter of the alphabet and usually I can remember, because if in my mind I hear the sound of “K” – something like that, this just happened yesterday, I couldn’t think of the name of a friend in Latvia, and so I went through the alphabet, and I came to “K,” and then “Ah, the name is Karlis.” So, there can be various things that remind us, that help us. This is circumstance. So we can do this either consciously, or it could happen because of seeing something or meeting something that – we say in our language – it reminds us of somebody else, and then you remember.

There are other things that I don’t have to go through a method like that. The habit is so strong that, whenever I see Massimo now, or Claudia, I don’t have to go through the alphabet to remember their name. I remember. But there is a circumstance – I see them or I think of them. At least today. I may not remember a year from now. “Who translated for me in Italy? I don’t know, I don’t remember.”

Interest has to be there as well. I visited a friend and stayed with this friend for four months. I had my own bedroom, I stayed in that. I could not remember at all what color the wall was. I used the bathroom everyday and we had gone to a store to buy some shower curtain, and my friend asked, “What color should we get? What would match with the wall?” I had no idea what color the wall was – I had used the bathroom every single day – and then my friend asked me, “What color is the bedroom you’re staying in?” I had no idea whatsoever, because I’m not interested. I’ve been staying in this room here for the last several days. I have no idea whatsoever what color the wall is. I’ve not paid attention to it, so how can I remember?

If something is important to us, like “Where did I park my car?” then we remember it. If it’s not important to us, “I don’t remember where I parked my car,” we’re in big trouble.

If you died this evening, the most recent thing that you did was give this teaching, then why would you not remember it as a two-year old child?

There are many circumstances. I would have to learn again; I would have to study again. The actual physical basis of the brain and so on, wouldn’t be developed enough. I wouldn’t have the language skills to be able to repeat it. Just because something happened recently doesn’t mean that we remember it. Can you remember and repeat exactly, word for word, what you just said? Most of us can’t do that. Or what we just heard?

That’s very difficult. We have to really have the strong intention to be able to do that. Let’s say if we are an interpreter, then you remember what the person just said. If we are a teacher, then if somebody asks us, “Oh, could you repeat that? I didn’t understand,” it’s very embarrassing if you say, “I don’t remember what I just said.” You have to remember, be able to repeat. So, different motivations. Motivation is important.

Did I understand you correctly? When meeting the present Serkong Rinpoche, you recognized some habits of the previous one, but none of the personality?

I didn’t say there was none of the personality. I said that there was continuity, not everything. It’s not the same personality, but – I don’t have the same personality that I had when I was a teenager. Some things are similar and some things are quite different.

Some things, like love and compassion, should be expressed continuously during the life of a bodhisattva. But from what you say, the only things that bear on this continuum are just a series of causes and circumstances and nothing else.

Well, yes everything is arising based on causes and circumstances. What I was trying to illustrate was that, for instance, if I could meet a hundred people who are very loving, why is one a continuity of the previous incarnation of my teacher, and not another? So, just because somebody has love, doesn’t mean that it’s a continuity of a specific person’s previous lifetime.

With a tulku, it’s “very special,” because somebody actually recognizes them and gives a name, and it’s the same name – at least the general name, he has a personal name, which is different. What would have happened if no one recognized him, if nobody found him, and I just happened to meet him? It would be the same thing.

I’ve met many people in my lifetime that, instantly, from both sides we felt extremely close. This has happened. I’ve been teaching in a room of a hundred people and my eyes keep on going back to somebody, all the way in the back of the room. But my attention keeps on going to this person, and then, all of a sudden, at the end of the teaching, that person comes up and starts to talk to me, and we developed very quickly a very close friendship.

The old Serkong Rinpoche was like that. We would be in a group of people and he would say, “That one over there, get that person’s name.” And sure enough, a very strong relationship was there. I don’t know what this person’s past lifetime was, that’s not necessary, to have a name, and so on, but we experience things like that. I’ve certainly experienced it and perhaps you’ve experienced something similar, that instant friendship, an instant feeling of closeness with somebody. Why? Is it just based on desire – you find them attractive? Not necessarily.

With Serkong Rinpoche, it was really quite extraordinary, because when he was a little boy, as soon as he could speak – he was born in the Spiti valley, and the old Serkong Rinpoche was like almost the saint of the Spiti valley, he had revived Buddhism there, and so on, everybody there had a picture of him in their house, and this little kid, a year and a half, two years old, when he’d just first learned to speak – he would go over to a picture and point to it and say, “That’s me!”

When people from his household went around in the region, looking for the reincarnation, he recognized, he ran to one of the people that were there. He ran into their arms and knew their name, recognized them by name. And then all he wanted to do was go with them, go to Dharamsala. He felt – he told me this later – that there was somebody important there who he needed to meet, which was His Holiness. When he left, he was four years old, and never, ever asked for his parents again, never cried. And it wasn’t that his parents were cruel and horrible people; they’re very nice people. So, where is this coming from?

Put all these things together and I’m quite convinced that this is the reincarnation. I have been thinking about rebirth for a long, long time. I’ve been involved with Buddhism for forty-five years I’ve been studying it. But this really took me over the border of, “Do I actually believe in rebirth?” It’s very hard to get a gut feeling. You can intellectually believe it, but an emotional feeling? Is it really so? This convinced me. But is he the same person, identical? No. So, like that.

That brings us to six-thirty, where we’re going to stop for this evening. But perhaps we can spend a few minutes, before we leave, to just try to digest what we have been talking about, and let’s try to remember – here is a circumstance to help you remember, I will say something, and maybe you don’t remember at all what we were talking about – we were talking about voidness – remember that? – and an impossible me, that there is no such thing. We might think that there is, and it might feel as though there is, but it’s not referring to anything real.

Was there a me here – and we can give it a name, Serkong Rinpoche – who was exactly the same, static, one lifetime to another lifetime, not affected by anything, therefore he should remember instantly every word that he said in his previous lifetime? No, there is no such thing. He’s affected by causes, circumstances: where he was born, who were the people who raised him, all sorts of things affect what manifests in this lifetime. Is there a person, Serkong Rinpoche, separate from all of this, from these two bodies? No. Where? What? Is there a Serkong Rinpoche who was living inside the old body and now is living inside the new body? No, this is impossible.

We tend to think like that. “Who will I be in my next lifetime?” as if there was an Alex that now Alex is reborn inside a dog, Fifi the poodle. Now, well, I wake up and it’s Alex and, “Oh, my god,” This is like in a movie, a Hollywood movie, “Oh! I’m inside the body of a poodle,” and everybody is calling me Fifi and putting pink toe nail polish on me, or something like that. It’s not like that. It’s not that there’s this solid me, who is the same as me in this lifetime, now in another body. These are impossible.

In this case we cannot pray to Serkong Rinpoche, because he’s not there anymore.

No, it’s a continuum. it’s not some solid block. It’s the same thing, this chair isn’t solid and my body isn’t solid; nevertheless, I don’t fall through the chair. Similarly, although there isn’t a solid Serkong Rinpoche, going like a piece of luggage through a conveyor belt, one lifetime to another lifetime; nevertheless, one can offer prayers and so on, and this is of benefit. Shantideva spoke about that, in terms of, “How can you build up positive force by praying to a Buddha who has already died, to a stupa? And the topic is discussed there, there’s a continuum.

Could you be more precise?

We could be more precise, that’s true, that’s exactly it. That’s why we haven’t finished our discussion on mental labeling. We will continue, “What actually is a ‘me’ imputed on ever-changing aggregates?”

Your presentation of reincarnation sounds unusual to me. Now I understood that there is no Serkong Rinpoche who reincarnates, but just some parts of him, very small parts?

There, a nose has reincarnated.

It’s not Rinpoche, who has reincarnated but a very small part of the continuum?

Well, is it a small part, so that Rinpoche as a whole hasn’t reincarnated? The whole has not reincarnated, but a small part, a habit, or something like that? No. There is no findable habit either. What is a habit? There isn’t anything findable, solid, whether a habit, whether a nose, whether a Serkong Rinpoche, or whatever, that has gone from one lifetime to another lifetime. Remember our example of a habit. “I drank coffee yesterday, I drank coffee today, and I’ll drink my coffee tomorrow.” So how do we put this all together? You say there’s a “habit.” A habit isn’t something solid. Similarly there is a person who has continued from one lifetime to another lifetime. It’s individual.