Joseph Goldstein – Insight Hour – Ep. 138 – The Secret Name of Things

Joseph Goldstein explores the fabricated concept of self, the secret name of things beneath our perception, the illusion of solidity, and the deeper reality that exists beyond our concept of self.

This dharma talk from October 1999 at the Insight Meditation Society Retreat Center was originally published on Dharma Seed.
The Secret Name of Things

Joseph introduces the Buddha’s teaching of selflessness and explores how we begin to get glimpses that the idea of self is a fabricated concept, a mental construct. If there is no self, why is the sense of it so deeply conditioned within us? Joseph hones in on the mental factor of perception, which can keep us imprisoned in the world of concepts if it’s out of balance.

“So there’s a secret name under the conventional name. The conventional name is the perception… The secret name is the sight and feel of the thing itself. Each experience speaks itself directly when we can be mindful. When there’s perception without mindfulness, then we simply get caught in this naming process, we get lost in the concept, and we stay on the very surface appearance of the experience. We’re not listening or hearing the secret name, the sight and feel of the thing itself. We’re just staying on our surface recognition, our surface perception.” – Joseph Goldstein

Sharon Salzberg, Robert Thurman, and Mark Epstein are meditating on selflessness in Metta Hour Ep. 107
The Illusion of Solidity (19:00)

Joseph talks about how our perception of the solidity of things keeps us from opening to the truth of impermanence. The rapidity of change deceives us until we train our minds to see it clearly; we can begin to penetrate the illusion of solidity if we look closely. Joseph explores our tendency to solidify concepts such as place, ownership, time, and self-image. 

“Things are solid, but only from a very limited perspective. What we need to do in our practice is to refine our powers of awareness so we are not imprisoned by that particular level.” – Joseph Goldstein

Mark Coleman joins Jack Kornfield for an exploration of love and impermanence in Heart Wisdom Ep. 100
A Deeper Reality (43:35)

Joseph details how some of our deepest conditioning is around the concept of self. When we observe carefully, we begin to see what we call the self is really a constellation of rapidly changing mental-physical phenomena. Joseph talks about how attachment to the concept of self keeps us separate from experiencing the unifying non-separate nature of existence. He ends with a brief meditation on the difference between concepts and awareness.

“On a relative level, the concept of self, like all the other concepts, is useful. So I’m not suggesting that we give up that level. We do relate as individuals. And yet there is an underlying reality, a deeper reality, in which we see that that is just a convention. And to the degree we can see that deeper reality, we then can operate on this level of self without attachment, without fear.” – Joseph Goldstein

Float down the river of self with Joseph Goldstein in Insight Hour Ep. 119
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