What are your beliefs about the self?

| March 6, 2012 | 15 Comments

Take this pollTake this poll to share your beliefs about a self, or lack thereof:

[poll id=”10″]







Category: Polls

Dana Nourie

About the Author ()

Dana is Technical Director of the Secular Buddhist Association. She learned Buddhism through a DVD course on Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, followed by a two-year course in person. She then studied Theravada Buddhism through the Insight Meditation South Bay with teacher Shaila Catherine. She has been a practitioner now for over a decade. Dana has been working in the internet industry since 1992, has held the positions of web developer, technical writer, and online community manager. She is a geek girl with a passion for science and computing.

Comments (15)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Dana Nourie Dana Nourie says:

    I agree with the statement that when we die, that’s the end. However, I do believe we leave behind the consequences of our lives, influences we had, impressions on people left behind, carbon footprint, etc. behind.

  2. Linda Linda says:

    I like that one of the options above says we have a self but doesn’t define it further. This allows for a more flexible definition that many might use. For myself, I recognize that we have a conventional self, as well as a “sense of self” as well as things we mistake for self that we might be better off without. I don’t expect all of them to vanish if I should ever reach nibbana. That thought goes well with the understanding that kamma lies in how we affect others, an effect that lasts beyond this lifetime, even if our bodies and minds don’t.

  3. Other is the option that best suits me. My own belief is that the body dies, the ego (or the illusion of of a static self) dissolves and something moves on.

    From what I can make of things, the research into reincarnation does indicate that there is something happening that merits some serious looking into.

  4. Other is the option that best suits me. My own belief is that the body dies, the ego (or the illusion of of a static self) dissolves and something moves on.

    From what I can make of things, the research into reincarnation does indicate that there is something happening that merits some serious looking into.

  5. hundovir says:

    I voted “other”. I have recently been re-reading Susan Blackmore’s intriguing little book “Ten Zen Questions” (more recently republished in paperback as “Zen and the Art of Consciousness”.) I’d agree with her that “self” is a great deal more complicated than appears to ourselves(!) She includes the following conclusions:

    There is nothing it is like to be me.
    I am not a persisting conscious entity.
    I do not consciously cause the actions of my body.
    Consciousness is not a stream of experiences.
    Seeing involves no vivid mental pictures or movie in the brain.
    There is no unity of consciousness either in a given moment or through time.
    Brain activity is neither conscious nor unconscious.
    There are no contents of consciousness.
    There is no now.

    If you’re interested, I thoroughly recommend this book and also her website.

    • Keren Dar Keren Dar says:


      Best suits for now.

      And that is all up for change depending on which particular “I” or eye is looking at any particular time.

      Your reply comfortably suits “me” for most of the time.

      It does not when certain experiences cause me to draw or hold my breath
      for the sheer majesty;

      For the sense of gratitude I have for being here right now with what is
      just as it is.

      Thank you for sharing

  6. Ted Meissner Ted Meissner says:

    Just reading the book now, hundovir, and it is good! You might want to listen to her interview on this site, too, she was a wonderful guest I hope to have on again.

  7. ryoshin ryoshin says:

    There is no self, no soul. This body will die and be scattered. I don’t know if that’s the end.

  8. Rick Gardner says:

    The “self” is a stream of experience: thought, sensation, emotion; stored as memories in the brain. It is a convenient fiction with no ‘ultimate’ reality, and dissipates upon the death of the brain.

  9. Clark says:

    Something is wrong. I may have voted by mistake, now I can’t fix it or unvote. Oh well, not a flawless poll now…

  10. justinasia says:

    Why not include the traditional Buddhist view in the poll as an option? Seems strange to leave that to ‘other’ in a Buddhist discussion.

  11. Mark Knickelbine says:

    justinasia, which traditional Buddhist view? The one the majority of Buddhists throughout history have held — which is essentially transmigration of souls — is Option 1. The view of, for instance, Theravadin commentators, that it is karmic effects and not a “self” or “soul” that is reborn, is Option 2. What traditional Buddhist view did we miss?

  12. justinasia says:

    Hi Mark,
    I beg to differ. If you have source texts to back up your view, please do share them.

    Option 1 states “Human beings all possess an immortal soul”. It is my understanding that this is explicitly refuted by the traditional Buddhist doctrine of anatta (Pali, or in Sanskrit ‘anatma’). Atta or atma was the pre-Buddhist orthodox doctrine which we can call ‘soul’ or ‘self’ in English and corresponds to the Western idea of a soul. This was viewed as ‘immortal’ or ‘eternal’. The refutation of the doctrine of atta/atma, was perhaps the most radical of the Buddha’s doctrines.

    Option 2 states “Human beings possess a self”, which is the opposite of the traditional Buddhist view, including that of Theravada. Anatta, perhaps the most fundamental doctrine of Theravada Buddhism, means ‘no self’ or ‘not self’. Again, this refers to the same doctrine as in the paragraph above. Atma or atta in the Buddhist context are usually translated into English by the term ‘self’, but refer to the same concept designated by the term ‘immortal soul’ or ‘eternal soul’.

  13. irvjacob irvjacob says:

    Part of the evidence for future existence has been the apparent coincidence of qualities and characteristics in siblings and ourselves as being similar to our parents. Further many people believe their dreams and intuitions about previous experiences as visions of past lives. (Do we have a bridge they would like to purchase?) Thus the earliest teachings of Hindu and others about previous lives seems to have been an intuitive way to explain DNA, RNA, instincts, and the similarities of humans’ nature. The Jataka Tales are a literary genre. Psychologists say that as much as 80% of our personalities and characters are determined by our inheritance, e.g. genetic dispositions, diseases, intelligence… It is useful to study the teachings of Buddhadasa bikkhu on his explanation of “rebirth”. Once we accumulate this kind of frame of reference, we can skillfully return to the Buddha’s teaching of dealing with the life we have that is right in front of us.

  14. Judy-M Judy-M says:

    I may be off – but to me you have to work the whole Buddhist thing – the 4 noble truths, the 8 fold path, in whatever sect you follow, in order to truly get the self – because you have to feel the non-self through the meditation to figure it all out – otherwise, you are taken by the outside sources – whether it is capitalism or whatever

Leave a Reply