Can you explain the difference between self identity view and conceit
This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 4 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.
Slightly edited to improve readability
Self identity view is the view that there is a permanent sense of self, and that the permanent sense of self continues to take rebirth. So, that it’s the very same self that continues to take rebirth, lifetime after lifetime after lifetime, and that same sense of self is the inheritor of the past deeds, the effects of karma.
Whereas conceit is one of the higher fetters. When you become a Sotāpanna [Stream enterer], you destroy any sense of that kind of view, the identity view, and the idea that any of the Five Aggregates are self, or permanent self. When you destroy that fetter, there is still that sense of conceit. That conceit is the idea of attaching some sense of self, even if it’s impermanent, and identifying with that sense of self in any action, thought or word. Identifying it in the sense of any activity of the mind, whether it’s going into jhana, or doing anything else. And also comparing a sense of self with the outside world, comparing one’s sense of self with the other’s sense of self, so having the idea that there are other people who have a sense of self.
The difference is really this; the identity view, or the self-view, is the view in a permanent self. Once you destroy that, the conceit that’s there is still identifying with it, even though you know that there is no permanent self. There is still this sense of identification with it, there is still this attachment with it, and there is this still this use of I, me or mine with that sense of self, attaching and identifying with it.
An arahant [one who has attained full Awakening] can also use the words I, me or mine, but they use it for conventional purposes; behind those words there is no sense of any kind of self, permanent or impermanent, or whatever it might be.
There’s another sutta that you might want to read called the Khemaka Sutta [Samyutta Nikāya 22.89] and in that, he talks about how the Five Aggregates arise and pass away. Briefly put, he talks about how the identity view is destroyed, but the conceit is like a underlying scent. It’s like the scent of a lotus, so there is still the sense of self, there’s still sense of identification, which is the result of having been going through lifetime after lifetime of the identification process.
It’s a matter of reconditioning the mind, reconditioning the Formations, by continually following the Eightfold Path, by continually establishing Right View by following the Eightfold Path. And then ultimately making choices, where one does not identify or cling to the jhanas, or cling to any sensory experience.
The more one does this, sees it and experiences the Three Characteristics of Existence [impermanence, impersonal and suffering] at the level of Feeling, the more one weakens the fetter in the Formations, and the Projections that fetter those Formations, that create that sense of being, that create that sense of self, in that conceit. Finally, that is destroyed when, at arahantship when you have that experience; there’s no identification anywhere happening with that experience.
Up until the level of an Anāgāmi [Non-Returner], the relief that is felt after Nirodha, after Cessation, there is still some identification there. Because of that identification, there is still Craving in the case of a Sotāpanna. And then at the level of a Sakadāgāmī [Once-Returner], that relief is felt, but not so much attached to, and therefore there is a weakening of the sensual Craving and the weakening of ill will.
At the level of an Anāgāmi, there is only the identification there, but there is no taking relief, in the sense of that being a sensory relief. It’s just understanding that it was a series of processes, a series of causes and conditions, but there’s still identification with the relief. There is the idea that the being says that I just experienced Nirodha.
At the level of arahantship, there is no identification with any of that process. The idea of I, me or mine is completely destroyed, so that sense of relief has no identification. The Nirodha, the Cessation has no identification, the process of contact with Nibbāna has no identification. Because there’s no identification, the fetters have no fuel to continue and just drop away. This is the remainderless fading away of desire, remainderless fading away of conceit, remainderless fading away of Ignorance. This is how it is processed.