3 great myths

There are many notions and myths, these three and their stories are mentioned in Joseph Goldsteins vipassana retreat handbook.

  • Time
  • Place
  • Self


Although we know that “time” is an artificial construct, most of us take this concept very seriously. We label our experience of memories and reflections “past,” and behave as though these thoughts actually represent something solid that exists continuously behind us. Similarly, we plan and imagine a “future.” on which we project
all manner of expectations, hopes, and fears. In fact, the thoughts of both “past” and “future”
” are happening right now. When we take them for reality, we get stuck in past traumas and triumphs, burdened with anticipated problems, and misled by projected outcomes.


The idea of place is another example of a concept we seldom question. A youngGreek woman tells a story about traveling to India. One day, she came across a desert border crossing: a dry riverbed, spanned by a large iron bridge. Half of the
bridge was painted red, the other half green. In the middle of the bridge was a great iron gate. There was nothing else out there but this huge red and green bridge with its locked gate. To allow the traveler to cross from one country to the other, the guards on one side of the bridge called to those on the other side and both walked up to the gate. Then, at the same moment, they turned their keys in the lock. The gate opened, and the young woman crossed the border. Many of the tensions and hostilities in our world today are founded on the notion that such borders exist, separating “my country” from your country. In fact, the planet doesn’t naturally recognize such divisions. They exist only as concepts, on which we build great, elaborate structures. When we get too attached to these structures, they often become the cause of great conflict and suffering.


Our deepest and most persistent concept is the notion of self: the idea that a permanent entity exists as the essence of our being. As we meditate, we discover that “self?” “I” and “mine”are mistaken ideas arising from our identification with different aspects of the mind/body process. Many of the world’s problems are born from our attempts to justify and defend this imaginary, separate self. This misunderstanding, which we call “ego,” can also be seen as the source of our indiVidual suffering. It’s important to remember that these concepts, as well as many others, serve useful functions in our lives. If we remember, though, that they are constructs of our minds, then we can use them when appropriate, and avoid being imprisoned by them.


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