10s | CR Book IV, Chapter 3

Actions and agents [1941]

[Later Book XI, Chapter 5 - Actions and agents]

A person appears to be both one and many. The
one-and-sameness of the person, however, a) can-
not he accounted for, b) is self-contradictory, and
tends to fall apart into a multiplicity of selv-
es, and c) never covers the total self.

a) One has attempted to find a basis for perso-
nal unity in a common ingredient, an actual, imma-
terial self to which, as to a separate subject,
our actions belong. Such a pure Ego, has, however
not yet been isolated as anything more definite
than a word. The consequences of assuming a 'potent-
ial' self are discussed in bk 8 ch 1. As a 'funct-
ional' unity the self would be relative to the
levels of duration, generality and self-activity
(bk v to vii).

One may be content to speak of what is actually
observed - a (more or less continuous) series of
events, or states. Mere continuity, but not a per-
manent individual, or a factual unity in this
stream of action or becoming. Conditions and ac-
tivities follow one another. A sentiment of per-
sonal identity appears in some rather rare circum-
stances among those conditions. But it is just
one condition, not valid to go beyond its own ex-
istence and to bind the others together. It is
part of the mental discipline which the dhamma
imposes on its followers that they should be con-
tent with viewing the working of karma as a mere
sequence of events. It follows only one law: 'This
being (so, there), that is.' We go beyond this, we
seize on any belonging, any oneness or otherness
we believe to perceive in the series of events
from greed only, from a deceptive sense of owner-
ship, from a desire to keep a little, a minute
heap of events all to ourselves. The ensueing
unhappiness and intellectual confusion suggest
that we are on the wrong track. When one does
keep altogether out of the category of oneness
and its corresponding opposites, one does not
teach a lawless flux, a perpetual total change,
complete newness every moment (cf. bk x ch. 3). This
would be asserting the opposite of permanence.

Thus restricting oneself from fusing observed
events with categories of oneness and other-
ness, one sees that statements which attribute
actions to agents (A is, or does a) are always
misleading (of. bk 8 ch. 2). 'There is arising of