self or non-self?

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by kauva kauva 3 days, 18 hours ago.

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  • #41976
    opiumpoetry
    opiumpoetry
    Participant

    If Buddhists don’t believe in the Self/atman, then what is there to become a Buddha/Bodhisattva?

  • #41981
    ScottPen
    ScottPen
    Participant

    This is the first time I’ve tried to explain any somewhat difficult Buddhist concept, so please give me some feedback or correction if I need it.

    The Buddha didn’t say that the “self” categorically doesn’t exist. In fact, he once refused to answer a person who asked him that exact question, implying that the question was irrelevant to his teaching, since his focus was on the elimination of dukka.

    During a different sutta he addressed the concept/question and offered an alternative view of the “self.” He asserted that what we consider to be our sense of “self” is actually an attachment to the 5 basic building blocks of our “self,” namely:

    – form (body, but also it’s important to consider the form of everything when considering impermanence)
    – sensation (5 senses and whether we view the sensations as pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent)
    – perception (our thoughts and ideas about ANY experience)
    – mental formations (this one is tough to put in a nutshell… but I understand it as being our emotions)
    – consciousness (the combination of our 5 senses and our mind, and the way they interact with each other and the world around us)

    So, all of these things are impermanent because they are all subject to change. It’s very simple to look at all 5 of these “5 aggregates” and note that they are mercurial, whether viewed from moment to moment or from a wide view of our entire lives.

    Yes we exist. In that sense there is a self. What is your “self”? It is the everything about you. A comprehensive being. A sum of parts. This is what becomes a Bodhisattva or even a Buddha. However, the “Right View” is that the “self” is constantly changing so clinging to it causes suffering.

    Anatta or Anatman doesn’t meant that the self does not exist. It’s just that clinging to it is like trying to hold onto a squirming cat. It’s no fun and you’re just gonna drop it anyway.

    Any thoughts?

    ______________________________
    "May all beings be at ease!" - Siddartha Gautama... probably... maybe... ah, who cares?

  • #41982
    opiumpoetry
    opiumpoetry
    Participant

    Thanks for the reply. So the True Self then would be your consciousness minus everything you’ve experienced in this life–basically, consciousness without memory? Another silly question is, is the True Self eternal or does it return to a greater whole like a drop of water returning to the ocean? I know a secular Buddhist forum may not be the best place to ask such questions. I agree that following the 5 principles is all that really matters, but theological speculation is still intriguing, all the same.

  • #42006
    XenMan
    XenMan
    Participant

    My view is that it is about how you want to approach the secular part of Buddhism.

    You can see all the mind states that result from meditation as purely constructs we create in our brain. These are as simple as neurons being strengthened and weakened for your brain to learn a new skill such as juggling, complex maths or being nice to people.

    At the other extreme you take on the metaphysical that we have a base of consciousness minus our part in the world, with the consciousness being continuous.

    Unfortunately, as part of being human, we need to see cause and effect behind everything. This is why religion is the ‘opium of the mases’, because it works to satisfy that yearning for the bigger picture.

    From my experience, the real change in your view of self through the Dharma is the separation of consciousness/awareness/spirit from your mind and body. You either believe it is real or a construct, but the when you experience this, it is powerful in reinforcing Gotoma’s middle path or Chan’s doubt. Your life will change after this; some call it enlightenment.

    As for the eternity question, you are truly on your own for that. Zen sees life as a one off, Chan and Tibetan as continuous. What most Buddhists don’t like to talk about is what an end to Samsara actually means. To become a Buddha and end Samsara can only mean an eternal death. Of course this is softened with the ‘spirit becoming one with the universe’ rhetoric, as who would sign up for that.

    My personal views are that we don’t know, and going a bit Douglas Adams, I would say that the answer is 42 as the question is all wrong.

    • #42024
      opiumpoetry
      opiumpoetry
      Participant

      Yes, I agree for the most part. I guess the only “right” answer would be, “Right now, you should only worry about this life. Follow the 5 principles and the next life will take care of itself.” Thanks.

  • #42038
    opiumpoetry
    opiumpoetry
    Participant

    Yes, I agree for the most part. I guess the only “right” answer would be, “Right now, you should only worry about this life. Follow the 5 principles and the next life will take care of itself.” Thanks.

    Perhaps the more proper phrase above would be “might be” instead of “would be.”

  • #42083
    kauva
    kauva
    Participant

    please let me offer another thought.

    The self does exist. But it also does not exist individually. This individual self we believe we sense is actually an illusion. Self is actually awareness as sensed through whatever faculties and senses we possess. It exists everywhere and the same self inside you is the self inside your dog or a neighbor(read the Isha upanishad). And it will still exist long after your shell is gone.

    this is the modern western buddhist view on the self. this dichotomy is why the Buddha said it was and it wasn’t.

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