It arises in thought after some meditation that a part of what is being sought so often in the so-called "hardcore" movement is an affirmation or justification of self-identity: I am searching, I am seeking enlightenment, I am meditating, I have a guru. This is almost inevitable. There are very few who will attend a meditation retreat, or sit in a comfortable position with incense burning for the first time without that companion, the self, looking around anxiously for signs of danger or relief.
It takes some time and exploration of real knowledge to finally understand that this is the painful and inescapable reality of the search: one must become none.The companion must be abandoned. This process of shedding of the skin of identity is very difficult. It often requires enduring some very rocky emotional storms. However, the result is worthwhile. The Buddha's spontaneous verse from the Muccalinda Sutta expresses this well:
Blissful is solitude for one who's content,who has heard the Dhamma, who sees.Blissful is non-affliction with regard for the world,restraint for living beings.Blissful is dispassion with regard for the world,the overcoming of sensuality.But the subduing of the conceit "I am"— That is truly the ultimate bliss.
So why get rid of or limit the self? What harm does it do? In our Anglo-European view it is self that is paramount: self as citizen, self as one with rights, self as powerful maker of choices, self as needing to be given esteem. However, in dhamma, it is identification with the needs of self - the conceit "I am" - that deeply link to clinging onto and craving after ephemeral sensations, things without substance. Thus self-conceit is linked to dukkha, particularly the second Noble Truth.
According to Dhammadinna the nun, highly praised by the Buddha as a dhamma teacher, self-identification arises with the assumption that the khandas - the aggregates made up of form, feeling, perception, formations and consciousness - are the self, that the self possesses each one of these, or that each is in the self, or the self is in each of these. It is not self that is in question, it is attachment to what self is claimed to be that brings suffering.
In the end, this false sense of "self" is an unpleasant companion, forever bringing more stress and doubts, constantly concerned with past or future, what was, what will be. Release it to roam free and be without it. This seems to be the deeper meaning of the Buddha's teaching about solitude and release:
(Picture is of novice in Laos.)