Buddhism teaches that there is no such thing as an “I,” at least not as the term is traditionally understood. Rather, the self is a collection of passions, impulses, and habits that cannot hold together over time.
Sadly, I’m beginning to think that this belief is often true. I have met countless people who never reason things out for themselves or engage in self-examination. Instead, they just absorb slogans that match their preferred worldview. Then they spit them back out like a machine, reacting with hostility to anyone who holds a different opinion. I’m really not sure they are human, not in the fullest and best sense of the term anyway. Maybe they’re like the shades in Greek mythology that inhabited Hades.
You may say that this sort of thinking could lead to atrocities like the Holocaust, since it regards some people as less than human. That might be true. It might also be true that those who commit such horrible acts do so because they are sub-human themselves. The world might be inhabited, or even controlled, by creatures that are nothing more than hideous compilations of ego, greed, and a desire to dominate others. It’s a scary thought.
Even scarier, I fear that I may be a lot like them. Am I a unique individual with my own thoughts, goals and insights? Or am I just a collection of effects with a multitude of causes? Or is the truth somewhere in between? What do you say? Or is there really a “you” that can offer a response?