self or non-self?

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This topic contains 66 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  steve mareno 4 days, 4 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.

    • #42179

      Anonymous

      Also the apparent dichotomy is due to a failure to comprehend the two truths: conventional and ultimate. We require the term self in daily, social, life. This conventional usage is just as valid as the ultimate truth of anatta, when dealing with social matters and human concerns, e.g. history, etc.
      Conventional reality is also necessary for speaking of particulars, such as life-forms, species, etc. This is the doctrine of Two Truths.

  • #42137
    opiumpoetry
    opiumpoetry
    Participant

    That’s what I was thinking. As I wrote above, “[The soul] returns to a greater whole like a drop of water returning to the ocean.” I wish all those sutras and commentaries would just say that instead of beating round the bush. But then maybe forcing people to think and come to that conclusion on their own is the whole point. Thanks.

    • #42184

      Anonymous

      I recommend Lafcadio Hearn’s A DROP OF DEW, in KOTTO.

  • #42138
    kauva
    kauva
    Participant

    “Then the well spoke to me.

    It said: Abundance is scooped from abundance,
    yet abundance remains.”

    – Anne Sexton “What the bird with the human head knew”

    Your comment reminded me of Eaknath Easwaran’s commentary before his interpretation of the Isha Upanishad. Much like an algebraic equation if you go back and insert that interpretation of the self it begins to take on a newtonian fluid consistency. A body of paradox.

    Borrowing from both sides of the aisle. Metaphysical while physical. Still yet swifter than thought and senses. Seems far but always near. Inside us all as well as out. But, most of all – completely necessary for life on earth. Akin to life … the opposite of death.

    We’re just a little tributary that some of it flows thru. Identifiable individually only by the specific traits of this offshoot despite truly being powered by the whole. Same for us.

    This is how I found peace as a Buddhist. I read that Ghandhi sincerely loved the Isha Upanishad – favoring it above all others. He claimed all of the knowledge required for man rested within its’ passages. I find that to mean Isha provides a grand overview of vedic thought and I agree.

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 3 weeks ago by kauva kauva.
  • #42178

    Anonymous

    This passage is from John Blofeld’s marvellous book on Kwan Yin: Bodhisattva of Compassion. It accords with my view that mind and matter (form) are not distinct.

    “… our minds are not separate from Mind, which … you will know to be the sole reality. Known in its quiescent state as the Great Void … it is simultaneously the realm of form … By no means must they be thought of as separate. The Great Void and the realm of form are not two!”

    Reductionist materialism is in fact just as dualist as theism. As theism separates mind from matter, so reductionism does not see infinite matter as conscious. But consciousness – and not just of the limited human kind – is simultaneous with all that is.

    The illusion of self in humans leads to arrogance as well as error. We thus fail to apprehend the reality of oneness, of the infinity which is at once samsara and nirvana. (Nagarjuna).

  • #42181
    kauva
    kauva
    Participant

    Let me go another direction …

    ALL of existence is infinite. Our universe only exists of the observable universe. This is because the rules of the universe don’t start up until awareness strikes. You have matter, rules, and awareness (space). Those rules don’t begin to affect the matter until the matter is observed (double slit experiment). The double slit experiment showed that an electron does not choose its state (particle or ray) until observed. That was how the universe formed – observability caused the matter to be affected by the rules and matter turned into gas and stars and molecules and planets and animals and advanced animals and microtubules within brain cells that store information on a quantum level. WE are that space within which observability happens. WE are awareness that starts the chain. Of course WE are also stuck within the sensory confines of this shell. Once this dies and the illusion of self disappears we figure out that in our natural form we are space. awareness. We are everywhere with just different sensory apparatus – we detect vibration. We detect the change in matter over time. Of course as awareness/space our “time” is much different than while in this form. When awareness got up this morning the big bang happened.

  • #42182
    ScottPen
    ScottPen
    Participant

    For me and my new practice, non-self helps me to avoid clinging. What am I clinging to? Nothing that will stay put, I know that for sure. Thankfully I don’t have to set aside my materialist frame of reference to use that idea to relieve my dissatisfaction. If I did, I’d have given up pretty quickly. That’s the reason I’m thankful that the thinkers in the SBA are doing what they do.

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

    • #42185

      Anonymous

      I too cannot not be a materialist, being brought up a Marxist! But I read a book by the Unitarian Rev. Gary Kowalski, equating consciousness with the whole cosmos. Very Buddhistic in fact!
      I then found confirmation of my new view via the essays of Lafcadio Hearn, and have now discovered Nagarjuna.

  • #42204

    steve mareno
    Participant

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

    That depends on which Buddhist sect we are looking at. The atman is an old belief of Hinduism, not unlike the Christian soul. As to beliefs, again, that depends on the lineage. Tibetan Buddhists (as an example) believe all manner of things. If one accepts Trungpa’s Shambahla as a legitimate Buddhist sect, their beliefs are even more numerous. Pure Land has it’s beliefs, and on and on. I’m a Zen Buddhist, and it’s imperative that we jettison all beliefs systems to experience reality as it is. So, we have no beliefs.

    What a Buddha is also depends on the lineage’s definition. These are simply names, and these things may or may not really exist. A Buddha is simply one that is awake, and in my mind a Bodhisattva is more mythological. An aspiration perhaps.

    These names just get in the way of our practice. Meditate, wake up and do good, that’s it in a nutshell. There is nothing to aspire to beyond that, and that indeed is the work of a lifetime.

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by  steve mareno.
    • This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by  steve mareno.
  • #42212
    kauva
    kauva
    Participant

    the self is purely the awareness necessary to satisfy the double slit experiment and start the whole chain of events caused by “the rules”.

  • #42235
    Shane Presswood
    Shane Presswood
    Participant

    Great Discussion on self here! Gassho! I’ve found that separating the compounded elements of self (i.e. forms) alleviates the need for attachment to it. Also, Karma Yeshe Ragbye explains it quite well on his blog.

    “In Buddhism, one of the most difficult teachings for people to understand is anatman or non-self. The doctrine states that in humans there is no permanent entity that can be called a self or a soul. This denial of “any Soul or Self” is what distinguishes Buddhism from other major religions, such as Christianity and Hinduism, and gives Buddhism its uniqueness.

    The teaching is not only difficult, it is also controversial and one of the most poorly understood teachings in Buddhism. Many teachers believe it is more important to learn about karma and rebirth, but I would disagree. Most people usually misunderstand these teachings and they end up reinforcing a sense of self. They believe their karma gets attached to the self, and then this self is reborn. So, personally, I believe, if you want to reduce your suffering in this life, you should understand the teaching of non-self.

    This sense of being a permanent, solid, autonomous self is an illusion. The problem is this illusion doesn’t fit in with our ordinary experience. We have a sense of a permanent, individual self, but that is all it is, a sense, a feeling. If I ask you, ‘Who are you?’ you may tell me about your job – I’m a lawyer, doctor, teacher and so on. But this is not who you are, this is your work. If you changed your job, would you stop being you? So, you are most defiantly not your job.

    ‘THEY BELIEVE THEIR KARMA GETS ATTACHED TO THE SELF, AND THEN THIS SELF IS REBORN’

    You may tell me about your family or nationality – I’m from a wealthy, middle-class, poor family. I’m Indian, British, African and so on. Again, that is not who you are, it is just you in relation to others.

    You may tell me you’re a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, etc. But that is your religion and not who you are.

    You may say you are your thoughts or feelings or emotions, but these are all impermanent, so they cannot be you. The same goes for your body or your experiences, they are also impermanent and cannot be you.

    We can go on with this exercise forever, but everything we find will be impermanent and superficial. There really is nothing within ourselves that is independent and never changing.

    So, if you are thinking here that Buddhism is saying you don’t exist, it isn’t. What it’s saying is, you do not exist in the way you think you do. We are not permanent, individual, solid entities. Instead, we are changing moment to moment, like the water flowing down a mountain stream. Giving ourselves a fixed name or identity doesn’t make us permanent, it is just a convention we have come up with so we can talk about ourselves. If you took me apart and laid all of my bits and pieces on the floor, you would not find an inherently existing Yeshe.

    So, a question everyone asks when they come across this teaching is, ‘If I am not who I think I am, who am I? Instead of a permanent self or soul the individual is compounded of five factors that are constantly changing (See How we experience the world). These collection of five changing processes, known as the five aggregates, are: the processes of the physical body, of feelings, of perceptions, of responses and of the flow of consciousness that experiences them all.
    When we identify with the process of the physical body, we get attached to our physical form. When we identify with the process of our feelings, our perceptions and our responses, we become attached to them. Our sense of self arises whenever we grasp at, or identify with, these patterns.

    The sense of a self is perpetuated because we pay attention to only the surface of our experiences. We never take the time to delve deeper. We identify with what we like and don’t like, what we want and don’t want, our dreams and beliefs. We think our thoughts, feelings, emotions and physical sensations are a part of us, instead of seeing them as passing phenomena.

    If we allow ourselves time to observe these processes come and go, we would be able to see them as just experiences that arise and fall away, and not a self. If we had a permanent self we would never be able to change. So, if we want to grow and change, we need to let go of this idea that we have a self that defines us.

    ‘IN BUDDHISM, IT IS SAID THAT THE ILLUSION OF A SELF IS THE SOURCE OF ALL OUR SUFFERING’

    The next question people ask when they hear about non-self is, ‘So what? Why should I care if I have a self or not?’ This idea of a self produces harmful thoughts of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, selfish desire, craving, attachment, hatred, ill-will, conceit, pride, egoism and other defilements, impurities and problems. In fact, in Buddhism, it is said that the illusion of a self is the source of all our suffering.

    When we identify with our physical, emotional and mental experiences we become attached to them; the threat of losing any of these is deemed a threat to our very existence. But we are going to lose them because they are impermanent. This means the illusion of a self is setting ourselves up for failure.

    When we observe the rising and falling away of all phenomena we see that everything arises from nothing and then goes back to nothing. This includes our thoughts, feelings, emotions and physical sensations. If we examine our experiences in this way, we begin to see that our thoughts, feelings, emotions and sensations are not a self. This allows us to let go of our attachment to them. This in turn releases us from our suffering.

    So, you may still be thinking, ‘if this teaching of non-self is true, then who’s reading this? I would answer, a growing, changing being that is in constant flux, and not a solid, permanent, individual self or soul.”

    A Sense of Self

    Gassho,
    Shane

    • #42244

      Anonymous

      Excellent, Shane!

      Of course this is the HIGHER BUDDHISM and Madhyamika.

      The millions of people born into the Buddhist RELIGION believe, as most do, in souls and in self. They believe in spirits and their transmigration. They have no more awareness of this philosophy than most people anywhere do.

      So, we have to remember the Buddhist RELIGION is not Buddhism, no more than the Taoist religion is Lao Tzu!

      • #42246
        Shane Presswood
        Shane Presswood
        Participant

        Anthony, wow! thanks for that distinction. I am still working my way through the separation of dogma and factual understanding of the religious aspects of Buddhism. I prefer the Secular approach (of course!) I just get a bit fuzzy on the theistic. Perhaps due to my eagerness to rid myself of it.

        Gassho,
        Shane

  • #42240
    kauva
    kauva
    Participant

    I want to disagree with you, but I wont. I find the whole discussion to be a matter of semantics. I believe we are all part of one giant ether of consciousness and the idea of an individual self is inaccurate. Our individualism is merely an illusion caused by our physical body.

    So there is a “me” for purposes of being the charioteer. But outside of the chariot we are all just the awareness that it takes to make the double slit experiment register perception and make the electrons etc… pick particle or wave. But this is what works for me. Whether our quantum choices are physically stored in microampules of cells will be a course of study and research that I follow keenly over the upcoming years.

    • #42245

      Anonymous

      So we agree?

      When you say you are the charioteer though, the charioteer is an entity in addition to the components of the chariot. Take your components apart, there is no “self” apart from them, in addition to them, inside or outside them, or between them. So the analogy is not valid.

  • #42249
    Shane Presswood
    Shane Presswood
    Participant

    So we agree?

    When you say you are the charioteer though, the charioteer is an entity in addition to the components of the chariot. Take your components apart, there is no “self” apart from them, in addition to them, inside or outside them, or between them. So the analogy is not valid.

    Well Said! Also, my previous post did not seem to post. I feel that being semantic at times is essential to the cohesion of all living beings. Not in the aspect of mysticism and perfect agreement with one another, but more along the lines of getting along without the need for harm in the process.

    Gassho,
    Shane

    • #42254

      Anonymous

      I just sent you a long reply, and it didn’t post, so is lost.

  • #42255
    kauva
    kauva
    Participant

    I believe there is another part. I believe the charioteer is a portion there. And I believe this is the link between the physical and metaphysical via quantum mechanics.

    But thats what makes the world fun. How boring things might be if we all believed the same.

    • #42260

      Anonymous

      Yes indeed.
      Indian philosophy is new to me. Tibetan monks hold lively debating sessions and enjoy them. Of course there is the connection of India with ancient Greece and ancient atomism. Written with a small “d”, dharmas mean phenomena, and in particular atoms.

  • #42256
    Shane Presswood
    Shane Presswood
    Participant

    I got it via email.

    This happens sometimes unfortunately.

    Anthony wrote:

    Shane, I wish to recommend the essays of Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), such as ON THE IDEA OF PRE-EXISTENCE (in KOKORO, Project Gutenberg online), DUST (,in GLEANINGS IN BUDDHA FIELDS), ULTIMATE QUESTIONS (in ROMANCE OF THE MILKY WAY), etc.

    He is a good introduction to the Higher Buddhism (name of an essay in his JAPAN: AN ATTEMPT AT INTERPRETATION).

    Nagarjuna is very hard going, and I wouldn’t recommend it until one has mastered the knowledge of anatta.

    As Buddhism spread, its great tolerance and openness at the time led it to absorb the beliefs and superstitions of the peoples it encountered. Arguably the best RELIGION, it is therefore also the most corrupted.
    The philosophies remained the preserve of the clergy. They called it the HIGHER BUDDHISM, too esoteric for the common people. There is no way philosophical Buddhism would have made headway with feudal potentates or peasants, so a religion was offered instead, complete with all the trappings of medieval religions.
    If one is a feudal lord or samurai, devoted to war and land ownership, and serf ownership, of what interest to you is the Buddhist philosophy? In fact, it runs counter to everything you represent. Similarly, a serf eking out a living on the land, illiterate, has no use for the intricacies of Buddhist thought. He has instead, prayer flags and rosary beads, and a prayer wheel, and leaves philosophy to the monks!

    Like everything else, Buddhism exists in relation to society and is not a self-revolving independent thought system. Its roots are in social environments, always changing, just like all belief systems and ideas.

    Post Link: http://secularbuddhism.org/forums/topic/self-or-non-self/#post-42250

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    Login and visit the topic to unsubscribe from these emails.

    Gassho,
    Shane

  • #42259
    kauva
    kauva
    Participant

    I dont doubt that theory at all. I have studied the history of the vedas and that pattern seems prevalent throughout man’s history.

    When the arya ventured across the Kush into the indus valley they met a rather well established culture and brought with them various thoughts and rituals from as far west as the british isles and as far north as the nordic countries. The upanishads came from this wisdom and the common stories between various religions (flood, savior, etc…) seem likely to have been borne from this inclusion. Thats why I have tried to start studying from as close to original sources as possible. Of course thats hard when the Buddha’s teachings were exclusively by memory for a few hundred years. But I have found credible assistance from the vedas and the upanishads.

    • #42261

      Anonymous

      Yes. Jainism too is contemporary.
      Have you studied Latin? I am coming across links with Sanskrit and Pali, and not only to Latin, but English and German too. Skt. nama = name; Name (Ger.); na + mae (Jap.)
      Pali. pada = path, etc etc.

  • #42263
    kauva
    kauva
    Participant

    I have heard the debates are rather lively.

  • #42264

    Anonymous

    And Nagarjuna favoured philosophical knowledge via rational thought rather than meditation, and ethical deeds rather than “trance.”

  • #42268

    steve mareno
    Participant

    This can become more and more confusing if we stray from the basics. You asked what is there to become a Buddha if there is no self? Buddha allegedly never said that there was no self, that is a misstatement that has tripped up many people. What he allegedly said is that there is no permanent self. The self is real in a sense, it is not an illusion, we are not illusions, but being ego, the self is always changing and not a fixed thing. When we die, our ego dies, our body dies, and what happens after that is pure conjecture. We’ll all know at some point, that’s for sure!

    Think of it as Small Self and Big Self. Small Self tells me that I am a Southerner, a photographer, a Democrat, all these things which are NOT me, they are simply things that my ego identifies with. Small Self is constantly wanting to run things because it is not “me”, it is similar to a software program that is always running in the background. It’s fine to have an ego, we need it in our lives, but we also need to be aware that it is not really “us”. When we meditate, chant, etc we have a way to silence that “I” and allow reality to manifest w/o an agenda. At that point we are Big Self, all that there is, and we are one with the universe because in reality we ARE the universe, not the little constantly squeaking ego that is always wanting to assert itself into the world.

  • #42271

    Anonymous

    Nagarjuna specifies two truths, conventional and ultimate. We need conventional terms like self in daily speech and social life, but ultimately there is no entity that is a self. Both are valid truths and the Buddha used both.

  • #42272
    kauva
    kauva
    Participant

    Stray from the basics? I dont believe a concept that is unclear mostly because of language differences counts as the most basic. Plus the Buddha himself said that you don’t accept his teachings in faith. You learn and investigate. Just as with the koans you dwell and meditate on these concepts over and over so you can take advantage of the brains’ neuroplasticity to lay out new trails of thought and thereby changing your thoughts and behavior.

    Make sure to check out the dalai lama’s presentation from a couple of days ago. It covers just this topic.

  • #42287
    Shane Presswood
    Shane Presswood
    Participant

    This can become more and more confusing if we stray from the basics. You asked what is there to become a Buddha if there is no self? Buddha allegedly never said that there was no self, that is a misstatement that has tripped up many people. What he allegedly said is that there is no permanent self. The self is real in a sense, it is not an illusion, we are not illusions, but being ego, the self is always changing and not a fixed thing. When we die, our ego dies, our body dies, and what happens after that is pure conjecture. We’ll all know at some point, that’s for sure!

    Think of it as Small Self and Big Self. Small Self tells me that I am a Southerner, a photographer, a Democrat, all these things which are NOT me, they are simply things that my ego identifies with. Small Self is constantly wanting to run things because it is not “me”, it is similar to a software program that is always running in the background. It’s fine to have an ego, we need it in our lives, but we also need to be aware that it is not really “us”. When we meditate, chant, etc we have a way to silence that “I” and allow reality to manifest w/o an agenda. At that point we are Big Self, all that there is, and we are one with the universe because in reality we ARE the universe, not the little constantly squeaking ego that is always wanting to assert itself into the world.

    Loving this Steve! Thanks!

    Shared this in one of my other groups and was wanting some feedback if you so feel inclined.

    Gassho & Metta All!

    Like the metaphor about the [I]child from a barren woman[/I] (ie. it simply does not exist) the self is equally non-existent. So, when we sit and either do or not do as the case may be, are we not merely swapping one identity for another? Are we not substituting ‘me’ the psychotherapist for ‘me’ the ‘Zazen(ist)….then again for something else. Round and Round again….? No change and nothing changing…..still deluded, still believing in fantasies and still experiencing Dukkha!

    How does this get us closer to experiencing the FACT of how we DO exist as oppose to how we appear to exist? Am I not merely moving the furniture around in the prison cell rather than walking through the door of liberation (…pft, that was a bit fluffy….but you get the gist?)

    Thanks,

    Tony

    #sat_today

    Hey Tony!

    I have been studying a lot on this lately and I must say that I am finally getting to the point of simplifying it. I think the point of “non-self” is all in focusing on what our perception is about what we originally (as imperfect humans) see the “self” as in the first place.

    We are compounded and interconnected of many parts and through many people and things. If we find that we are focusing on those parts, things, and people then that is okay as long as we can allow them to not define our perception of our personality. I am not going into the soul/no-soul debate as that is a whole other conversation. I am going to say that when I imagine my “self” through the studies I am currently on I am finding that it is no where near what I thought it was before the studies.

    If I am able to separate the parts, the people and the things visually (as if they are floating through a stream or in the sky away from me) then I know there is no obsession or attachment to them at that present time. This feeling or perception doesn’t often last for long periods, but it does allow me to sit in the mindful Zazen way even if just for a few seconds. I too practice many types of meditation and am still sifting through the philosophical awaiting to come to a more streamlined comfort zone in Buddhism.

    Hope this is helps! I know it has helped me writing it!

    Sat2day

    Gassho,
    Shane

    • #42288
      Shane Presswood
      Shane Presswood
      Participant

      Stray from the basics? I dont believe a concept that is unclear mostly because of language differences counts as the most basic. Plus the Buddha himself said that you don’t accept his teachings in faith. You learn and investigate. Just as with the koans you dwell and meditate on these concepts over and over so you can take advantage of the brains’ neuroplasticity to lay out new trails of thought and thereby changing your thoughts and behavior.

      Neuroplasticity is indeed a wonderful thing!

      Gassho,
      Shane

  • #42292

    Anonymous

    The Buddha said, the Buddha never said. Irrelevant. Why?
    Philosophy is about thought.
    Ideology is about following someone.
    That is why whether the Buddha said or did not say is irrelevant.
    I agree with a thing if it makes sense to me.
    I do not follow an authority figure.

  • #42294
    Shane Presswood
    Shane Presswood
    Participant

    The Buddha said, the Buddha never said. Irrelevant. Why?
    Philosophy is about thought.
    Ideology is about following someone.
    That is why whether the Buddha said or did not say is irrelevant.
    I agree with a thing if it makes sense to me.
    I do not follow an authority figure.

    An excellent distinction to remain aware of Anthony!

    Gassho,
    Shane

  • #42295

    Anonymous

    Thanks Shane. Those answering the anatta doctrine by retorting “The Buddha never said that!” are assuming it matters. What matters is the argument. If the Buddha did not agree, so what?

  • #42297
    kauva
    kauva
    Participant

    yes, just because the Buddha said it doesn’t mean it is correct. I am not believing by faith. I have reasoning. I can get to Cleveland from OKC by going to NYC and then back to Ohio OR I can just drive straight to Cleveland. I’d prefer the direct route where available.

  • #42299

    Anonymous

    “If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.”
    (The Dalai Lama).

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by Ted Meissner Ted Meissner. Reason: by request of author
  • #42300

    Anonymous

    And the Buddha held out his closed fist and said to his disciple, what am I holding in my fist? The disciple said, I believe it is a stone. Then the Buddha opened his fist and revealed the stone. While my hand was closed, he said, you BELIEVED I had a stone in it. Now you KNOW I have a stone, and no longer BELIEVE.

  • #42308
    kauva
    kauva
    Participant

    I dont understand your point anthony. I have been studying cosmology, neurology, quantum physics, and psychology. My view on this draws a consistent line and link between the “self” described in the isha upanishad, the microampules of our neuron cells, and the various experiments and theories of quantum physics. Where is the conflict?

  • #42309

    Anonymous

    What conflict?

  • #42311
    kauva
    kauva
    Participant

    you’re 100% correct. I dont know what I was thinking. I believe I started off reading with a preconceived bias when you mentioned Nagarjuna and my mind flew off on some tangent. I have always tried to veer away from any ancient mahayana or theravadan descriptions of things relying on my own view from source documents. which of course even then is assisted because I speak neither pali not sanskrit. it’s really myopic on my part though because such close-mindedness by me closes off a lot of valuable insight. my bad and a good lesson learned.

  • #42316

    Anonymous

    I do not describe myself as a Buddhist, but I have approached Buddhism recently via Lafcadio Hearn, and have discovered Nagarjuna. The same holds for Nagarjuna: i’m not FOLLOWING him, I AGREE with him. If it turns out he was not the author of what I agree with, it will still be the argument I agree with, not Nagarjuna.
    I am a materialist before I am a Buddhist.
    My learning has been the materialism of the French Philosophes. I am ignorant of the Indian philosophers, and only now have I come across them. I find them repetitive and their terminology alien, but, studying it, I see it joins the materialism I know, and further enriches it.
    I know that my own stance on Buddhist doctrine is just that: my interpretation. What seems to converge with it is the “Buddhism” of Hearn and Nagarjuna. And yes, despite his popularity, I am sure that for many, Nagarjuna is a “heretic”, whilst Hearn, like me, is first and foremost a Darwinist.
    My interpretation, therefore, sees much in Buddhism that presages modern science. That being said, the RELIGION has much of the absurd, which I reinterpret thus:

    “Liberation from the cycle of birth and death” is absurd! But knowledge of the natural process of birth and death is not.
    “Enlightenment” (nirvana) I translate rather as UNDERSTANDING that one is in fluidity (shunyata) with everything (the cosmos), and that is all nirvana means.
    And who is to say that the Buddha simply meant this too, and nothing more?
    (All the rest being merely the poetic extravagance of Indian expression and terminology).

  • #42318

    Anonymous

    No one is disputing the “arising” – the coming into form of the human entity, and the coming together of material ingredients that produce human thought and self-consciousness: “the self.”

    What one is disputing is the existence of an entity among those ingredients that is the “self”, or “soul.” A separate individuality which “inhabits” the body and which – for the religious – migrates from one body to another.

    Separate your components, and there is nothing among them which is the self. The self is a term for all your components together, but has no individual existence.

    In the context of social existence, you need the term “self” in relation to what surrounds you and to which you relate. In comprehending also social history, politics, etc., we require “the self” in differentiating groups, societies, classes, and so on.

    So in Madhyamika (Mahayana) Buddhism, the self is comprehended as having a conventional reality, but not an ultimate reality.

    By ultimate reality is meant the cosmos, which all beings (even inanimate objects!) are. Not parts of it, not separate individuals, but of it; the cosmos “itself” (no pun intended! :-)).

    Consciousness takes an infinite number of forms. Consciousness and motion (which consciousness is) are themselves universal. Your “self” is non-self because it is universal and not individual. The cycle of birth and death is a universal, cosmic, movement – the eternal dance of atoms which is everything – the whole of existence.

  • #42321

    Anonymous

    Conflict is latent in the title of this thread: Self or non-self?
    Maybe we should call it Self AND non-self.
    That would be Madhyamaka: the middle way, recognising that both conventional and ultimate reality are equally valid.

  • #42322

    Anonymous

    Putting it in terms independent of Buddhism altogether:
    >
    > 1. Ultimate truth. “We are all star stuff.” (Carl Sagan). You are not other than that tree, that flower, that horse, that elephant, that fly, that cloud, that drop of dew. They are not other than you. Nothing is separate from all that is.
    >
    > 2. Conventional truth. We live in a particular set of relations which obliges us to use the term “self”, “individual”, etc.
    >
    > We need both truths for different purposes.
    >
    > Conventional truth is necessary for language and communication in daily life and for purposes of particularisation.
    >
    > Ultimate truth is that all particularisation is conventional necessity only. There is in reality no fragmentary, separate, substantial existence. Forms are manifestations of the cosmos. We are star stuff.

  • #42323
    Shane Presswood
    Shane Presswood
    Participant

    Anthony and Kauva,

    I was thinking about this thread on my way into work yesterday and how sometimes I complicate the heck out of the Dharma. I appreciate the discussion/debate going on here and would like to thank both of you for allowing my simplistic comments.

    In Buddhism I am finding that going back to the basics of the teachings will always be a necessity for at least me. While I find interest in deeper meaning at times I know that I could drive myself into a form of aggravated insanity if I forget the original Buddha came up with the basics of the four noble truths for a reason.

    Four is such an easy number to grasp my head and heart around, and they too are just a part of my interchangeable impermanence that fluctuates through time and teaching.

    Gassho,
    Shane

  • #42330
    kauva
    kauva
    Participant

    Shane – I often go back to the philosophy and angle of reasoning that was taken by Buddha Shakyamuni. But when it comes to lists of 4 this, 5 that, 8 of this, 12 of these … I tend to draw a line.

    Why? I try to base my understanding of the Buddha’s teachings on current scientific knowledge. With the exception of advanced psychology/neurobiology and some discrete Chinese “fringe” biology we know more now about most science than they were even close to knowing then. So that list may be different for things where we now understand the causation much better. It’s just as you mentioned above regarding the impermanence of dharma.

    In fact, this is always a key component of nearly every speech the Dalai Lama gives these days that I have seen. His message Monday last during the presentation of the Happiness initiative for Delhi schools was very typical of his approach here. He said for the last 30 years he has been studying modern psychology, neurobiology, quantum physics, and cosmology to further his understanding of the reality of our universe. Thus, we may give reverence to the historical views – but not at the sake of regarding them above current understanding.

    Of course this means redefining a good many terms and approaches to conform with modern science. This is where I tend to get SO confused. For example: self, atman, brahma, soul, consciousness, being, spirit, life force, psyche … so many like terms over so many centuries. And in some cases they don’t encompass the exact same venn diagram so you end up with underlap or overlap.

    So my point is don’t think your terms or explanations are simple or inconsequential. We are all trying to piece together the same things from different viewpoints and half of the confusion is just a tower of babel syndrome. Much of the work involves seeing if we’re talking about the same things LOL! namaste my friend. I recognize your input and its’ legitimacy.

  • #42331
    Shane Presswood
    Shane Presswood
    Participant

    Shane – I often go back to the philosophy and angle of reasoning that was taken by Buddha Shakyamuni. But when it comes to lists of 4 this, 5 that, 8 of this, 12 of these … I tend to draw a line.

    Why? I try to base my understanding of the Buddha’s teachings on current scientific knowledge. With the exception of advanced psychology/neurobiology and some discrete Chinese “fringe” biology we know more now about most science than they were even close to knowing then. So that list may be different for things where we now understand the causation much better. It’s just as you mentioned above regarding the impermanence of dharma.

    In fact, this is always a key component of nearly every speech the Dalai Lama gives these days that I have seen. His message Monday last during the presentation of the Happiness initiative for Delhi schools was very typical of his approach here. He said for the last 30 years he has been studying modern psychology, neurobiology, quantum physics, and cosmology to further his understanding of the reality of our universe. Thus, we may give reverence to the historical views – but not at the sake of regarding them above current understanding.

    Of course this means redefining a good many terms and approaches to conform with modern science. This is where I tend to get SO confused. For example: self, atman, brahma, soul, consciousness, being, spirit, life force, psyche … so many like terms over so many centuries. And in some cases they don’t encompass the exact same venn diagram so you end up with underlap or overlap.

    So my point is don’t think your terms or explanations are simple or inconsequential. We are all trying to piece together the same things from different viewpoints and half of the confusion is just a tower of babel syndrome. Much of the work involves seeing if we’re talking about the same things LOL! namaste my friend. I recognize your input and its’ legitimacy.

    Kauva,

    I can appreciate your analogy of some being a little too structured and rigid in the practice, I however am still back about 2500 years ago with Sids teaching. I only dabble very little in current monastics views as a barometer to where I am heading. I cannot say I have EVER listened to anything from the Dali Lama, because I do not follow anyone but my own interpretation of the meaning at the end of the day.

    Many thanks for the legitimacy mention “).

    Gassho,
    Shane

    • #42337

      Anonymous

      I can agree with something the Dalai Lama says, but I do not follow him.
      I’m not a Buddhist anyway.

  • #42339
    Shane Presswood
    Shane Presswood
    Participant

    I can agree with something the Dalai Lama says, but I do not follow him. I’m not a Buddhist anyway. Nor do I side with any state structure, either in place or in exile.

    He said this eh?

    Gassho,
    Shane

  • #42340

    Anonymous

    What’s that?

  • #42341

    Anonymous

    Why I am not a Buddhist, concisely.
    >
    > 1) I do not consider birth and death to be things to be liberated from.
    >
    > 2) I see most human suffering as socio-economic and rooted in present human social reality, not in the inability to understand shunyata.
    >
    > 3) I do not share Buddhism’s hierarchical view of life, with humans above other animals, “higher” and “lower” rebirth, etc.
    > In fact, as far as we know, humans are the only beings – because of our history – who are alienated from our true nature and the consciousness of shunyata – which would make us the “lower” ones!

  • #42347
    Shane Presswood
    Shane Presswood
    Participant

    Anthony,

    I enjoy your perspectives! It just goes to further prove how wonderful the journey of Buddhism teachings are and how in flux they remain!

    Gassho,
    Shane

  • #42372
    ScottPen
    ScottPen
    Participant

    The human cerebral cortex has evolved to the point that its physiology enables us to have this conversation. There’s your “self.” Our “self” is just a user interface which is its own user.

    Just like the Buddha taught (but not because he taught it) your “self” is the combination of your memories, experiences, sensations, physiology, etc. It’s not an actual thing to be grasped. The “self” can’t be defined because it’s just an illusion… a shadow. Finding your “self” is like trying to find your reflection in a pool of water. No matter how accurate you think it might be, you’re fooling yourself because there are too many variables at play to truly nail it down. It IS the “basics” because it shows us that no matter how familiar and personal something is, clinging to it is a recipe for dissatisfaction and delusion. We are all simultaneously more and not more than the sum of our parts.

    You exist, I exist, we all exist… but our impermanent existence is a summation of other impermanent things, each of which is a summation of other impermanent things, and so on and so on.

    Don’t cling to what you want, not even your idea of your “true self” or your “best self.” They will change and you’re just feeding dukka.
    Don’t cling to that to which you are averse, not even your idea of your “false self” or “worst self.” They will change and you’re just feeding dukka.

    At each moment your cerebral cortex is filtering, associating, and contextualizing the stuff that happens outside of our bodies with our limbic and nervous systems. As such, at each moment that is the only self that exists. You’re not you and you never were. You are you and you always will be.

    Mic drop.

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

  • #42447
    Shane Presswood
    Shane Presswood
    Participant

    The human cerebral cortex has evolved to the point that its physiology enables us to have this conversation. There’s your “self.” Our “self” is just a user interface which is its own user.

    Just like the Buddha taught (but not because he taught it) your “self” is the combination of your memories, experiences, sensations, physiology, etc. It’s not an actual thing to be grasped. The “self” can’t be defined because it’s just an illusion… a shadow. Finding your “self” is like trying to find your reflection in a pool of water. No matter how accurate you think it might be, you’re fooling yourself because there are too many variables at play to truly nail it down. It IS the “basics” because it shows us that no matter how familiar and personal something is, clinging to it is a recipe for dissatisfaction and delusion. We are all simultaneously more and not more than the sum of our parts.

    You exist, I exist, we all exist… but our impermanent existence is a summation of other impermanent things, each of which is a summation of other impermanent things, and so on and so on.

    Don’t cling to what you want, not even your idea of your “true self” or your “best self.” They will change and you’re just feeding dukka.
    Don’t cling to that to which you are averse, not even your idea of your “false self” or “worst self.” They will change and you’re just feeding dukka.

    At each moment your cerebral cortex is filtering, associating, and contextualizing the stuff that happens outside of our bodies with our limbic and nervous systems. As such, at each moment that is the only self that exists. You’re not you and you never were. You are you and you always will be.

    Mic drop.

    You drop that Mic for sure! The way you have explained this is so easily and simply understood! You should definitely author a book strictly on the Non-Self. You have awakened a new understanding in this topic for me!

    MUCH GASSHHO Scott!

    Gassho,
    Shane

  • #42517

    steve mareno
    Participant

    But remember, we are not our cerebral cortex either 🙂

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist. That’s a very cerebral explanation Scott….sorry!

    It’s hard NOT to get smarty pants on this subject, and I like that, because rather than getting riled up about this or that, most of us here are saying the same thing in different ways and words.

    Another side issue is mind, not brain. It’s hard to talk about in a sense, but to me the mind is what we could call the workings of the brain. Not a very deep analogy, but using the brain to study the brain, or the mind to study the mind….it’s sort of a dead end at that point. Like trying to see my eyeballs with my eyeballs.

    That’s something that made me think of two things. One, a neurologist named Richard Restak wrote a wonderful book called The Brain Has a Mind of It’s Own, wherein he mentioned that there are more potentially different synaptic connections in one human brain (possible connections of interface in brain nerve cells) than there are atoms in the known universe. No wonder I can’t find my car when I park it at Walmart.

    The other thing is that I have always had a lot of pushback concerning the notion of needing a Zen teacher. I asked a visiting Tibetan lama once in Portland about this and somewhat peevishly said…Look, at some point, isn’t everything we come into contact our teacher? The cat, the sun, the repair manual for the lawnmower, isn’t EVERYTHING our teacher? So why do I need a teacher? His answer stopped me in my tracks because he said “Yes, that’s correct. But sometimes you need someone to tell you what the back of your head looks like”. All I could think of at that point was “Oh”.

    He was telling me, in so many words, that is it oh so easy to get caught up in our own stuff, and the help of someone that isn’t caught in our own head can offer up a little helpful insight now and then. I still think that was a great answer, and an unusual one coming from someone that has a lineage with a guru/student type of relationship, whereas a Zen teacher simply points the way.

    Not sure why one thing led to another in my mind on this subject, but it seems that it is pretty easy to get caught up in what we read by an expert vs what we “know”. Maybe what Restak is saying is right, I really have no way of knowing, but I KNEW what the lama was saying was on the money. It was not his truth, it was THE truth. How do I know this? Too much thinking can be a hindrance. In fact, I would say that it is a hindrance nearly all of the time. Often we really don’t have to weigh one thing against the other or do research, we just know. It’s difficult for me to be present and in the moment and experience reality. My Zen teacher, and yes, I now have one would say it isn’t difficult, it’s impossible. And he never tires of telling me that :]

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by  steve mareno.
    • This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by  steve mareno.
    • #42520
      Anthony
      Anthony
      Participant

      What! You can’t see your eyeballs with your eyeballs?

      I have a gadget here. It’s called a mirror. … 😀

      Compassion for all living beings.

  • #42568
    Anthony
    Anthony
    Participant

    Whilst the wisdom of the Higher Buddhism, heir to ancient Indian philosophy, shows self to be an illusion and all life fluid – in spite of humanity’s obsession with fragmentation, compartmentalism and strict species’, as well as personal, demarcation – the obsession with self permanence holds most in thrall. Western religion enshrined this prejudice – the desperate need for self permanence – via the dogma of the immortal “soul”, but the obsession with self permanence has survived the dethronement of the Western God and insinuated itself into the very “scientific” atheism which mocks every other part of the old theism.
    So much so that the desperate need for self permanence is leading to ever more outrageous and grisly graspings at individual and selfish “immortality.”
    Far from showing any emancipation from superstition, prejudice and folly, the so-called “scientific” pursuit of self permanence is worse than anything manufactured by religion. I am speaking of the obsession with personal longevity at whatever cost.

    This obsession with self permanency already condemns the sick and the elderly to linger in agony, pushing time to its limits to preserve for as long as mechanically possible longevity for its own sake, regardless of quality of life.

    Let us learn, rather, to accept the wheel of existence, the cycle of life and death, as natural and inevitable. Let us learn to appreciate and become one with impermanency, mortality, fluidity, the beauty and wonder of shunyata – openness.
    For no matter how desperately we cling to this false notion of self, it remains illusion and die we will, and must.
    Let it be with wisdom, dignity, and acceptance.
    Therein lies enlightenment and the end of fear.

    Compassion for all living beings.

  • #42577
    Anthony
    Anthony
    Participant

    In the light of Madhyamika Buddhist philosophy too, the current fad of anti-Copernicanism is yet another form of clinging.
    If the Earth is the centre of everything, then that implies we are. It is an extension of the desperate need for self “significance” and human exceptionalism.
    The unwillingness to “let go” of our desperate need for self and species exceptionalism draws us to pseudoscience as an antidote to what we perceive as the “insignificance” Copernicanism appears to impose. We cling to “significance” and “self-importance”, but this is precisely what prevents us from realising our oneness with everything.

    Compassion for all living beings.

  • #42591
    Anthony
    Anthony
    Participant

    Significance/insignificance.

    Humans want to be significant. They worry about being insignificant.

    But significance and insignificance are only existent within a context, and that context is personal and social only. It bears no relation to cosmology or to natural philosophy.

    It is linked with the illusion of self.

    What is significance or insignificance? They are both prejudices of the self-obsessed being. Neither exist apart from perception. Or rather, lack of perception.

    We are neither significant nor insignificant. “We” are not even separate entities. So whether we are significant or insignificant has no meaning in cosmology, only in society.

    Compassion for all living beings.

  • #42597
    opiumpoetry
    opiumpoetry
    Participant

    And yet, the Dhammakaya Movement in Thailand asserts that there is indeed an eternal personal soul. I guess all Buddhists will have to learn to let go of all dogmas, since it seems there isn’t too much that all Buddhists agree on.

  • #42672
    Graham
    Graham
    Participant

    I am new to the forum and relatively new to Buddhism although I’ve been ‘dabbling’ for a few years. I’ve really enjoyed this particular thread as one of the things I’ve been struggling with is the ‘self’ or ‘no-self’ question. It worried me slightly when someone referred to this as the ‘basics’! :-} If this is the easy bit it might take me a while to understand the rest!

  • #42682

    steve mareno
    Participant

    Nice try Anthony :]

    That is but a reflection of my eyeballs in a mirror, I am not seeing my eyeballs, just the reflection of them.

    Yes, the basis of Buddhism is that the self is an illusion. It’s our conditioning, our beliefs, our years of identifying as a Democrat or a Republican, our view of the world, etc. It isn’t real, it’s just who we think we are, and we need to know what we are. Meditation is the path to that. One never eliminates the ego, we just learn to see when it’s running us and then we have control over our thoughts and actions.

    One more basic: No view is the only correct view. No view means simply seeing things as they are. Any preferences or conditioning prevents that.

    Much of people’s confusion in Buddhism comes from mixing different lineages. After investigating different ones we should choose one that suits us and go w/ it. That does not mean following everything w/o questioning. Not at all. It means always using discernment. Finding a place where we can practice is a big help too, as we get to see how other people ck our stuff, and we theirs.

    The Buddhist view that there is an eternal anything is incorrect, and of course there is no proof of that at all. That is a Hindu belief. Buddhism is not Hinduism, and yet some lineages cling to their old beliefs. Very sad.

    • This reply was modified 4 days, 4 hours ago by  steve mareno.
    • This reply was modified 4 days, 4 hours ago by  steve mareno.

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