Triangles Illusion

Triangles Illusion

The Buddha’s teachings on not-self truly are impressive, especially when you consider those were times in which people were immersed in beliefs about the supernatural, an essence of self that is everlasting, and a multitude of gods. For Buddha to point out the parts of the body as not self, the emotions as not self, thoughts and memories as not self was a startling teaching. In fact, it still is for many.

If you are not familiar with these teachings, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to explore, to go through item by item, everything within your living being and test if any one thing can be the self.

Most of us will say there is a feeling of self, a sense of self. Dig some more and we begin to see how often we identify through this feeling, create story around it, intertwine memories into it, and again there is this feeling, But I am me. If that is not self, what is it?

Buddha does explain this but not in a straightforward way that is easy for us to understand. The problems with identifying through the self we can see if we are mindful to the processes of Dependent Arising. See Linda’s article series on DA to learn more:Table of Contents for A Secular Understanding of Dependent Arising.

It’s of endless value to develop mindfulness for the many processes that go into making a person and the DA process for how suffering, or dukkha, is born.

But I’d also like to recommend this book: The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity by Bruce Hood. This book explains how the brain creates this illusion we call self in an easy-to-understand manner.

The sense of self that most of us experience is not to be found in any one area. Rather it emerges out of the orchestra of different brain processes like a symphony of the self, just as Buddha and Hume said.

Buddha pointed out the importance of not-self because of the danger in identifying through it so closely. Bruce also explains other reasons . . .

Knowledge is power. Understanding that the self is an illusion will help to reconcile the daily inconsistencies that you may experience in the way you think and behave. We are all too quick to notice how others can be manipulated, but we rarely appreciate how our own self is equally under the influence and control of others. That is something worth knowing and watching out for.

The style of this book is entertaining, and non-technical. If you’ve never read a book about the brain, this is a great one to start with. If you’ve read many brain books, this is another to add to your reading list.

But Bruce also makes it clear that it’s not the brain alone that creates the illusion of self.

We process the outside world through our nervous system in order to create a model of reality in our brains. And, just like the matrix in the science fiction movie, not everything is what it seems. . .  . In fact, we are our brains, but the brain itself is surprising dependent on the world it processes and, when it comes to generating the self, the role of others is paramount in shaping us.

Bruce also explains the importance of it to our development as human beings, how the people around us help us to create this illusory self, and how the groups we engage in reflect the self illusion. The social aspects point at the very important Buddhist teachings on interdependence, and the psychological aspects are explained in how the illusion of self can throw us off, how we can see through some of it, and why we can’t see through other parts.

Just like Keanu Reeves’ Neo, you have no direct connection with reality. Everything you experience is processed into patterns of neural activity that form your mental life. You are living in your own Matrix.

Buddha speaks of this also in how we create stories around our interpretations of the world, and this is where we get into trouble, where we create our own suffering and confusion. Bruce speaks about how faulty our memories are and explains that they are not at all like a video camera.

Our identity is the sum of our memories, but it turns out that memories are fluid, modified by context and sometimes simply confabulated. This means we cannot trust them, and our sense of self is compromised. Note how this leaves us with a glaring paradox–without a sense of self, memories have no meaning, and yet the self is a product of our memories.

In addition, Bruce speaks to the challenges we face in modern society, living in much larger groups, and dealing with social interactions globally.

Our human mind, which was forged and selected for group interaction on the Serengeti, is now expected to operate in an alien environment of instant communication with distant, often anonymous individuals. Our face-to-face interaction that was so finely tuned by natural selection is largely disappearing as we spend more time staring at terminal screens that were only invented a generation ago.

Bruce starts the book with an excellent, fascinating primer on the brain. He then goes onto explain how a sense of self develops, how our interactions with others encourages this, and how groups reflect our inner selves. In each section he also covers the problems that arise with this illusory self, how easily we are mistaken about ourselves and others.

What he does not cover and leaves off is the problem of attachment through this arising illusory self, and that is where our Buddhist practice of mindfulness comes in, our understanding of dependent arising, and the challenge of letting go.

I highly recommend this book to better understand or add to the teaching of not-self, why we need to see through this illusion, and what dynamics are at work. With that understanding being mindful of the processes of dependent arising can help you take the steps to intervene early, before dukkha can take hold.

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  1. Linda on July 15, 2012 at 7:19 am

    You’ve convinced me, Dana — I’m going to save up my allowance and buy the book!

    That — not only do each of us construct our own self but — we each construct our own self under the influence of the society we live in is, I think, beautifully expressed by the Buddha in dependent arising by his references to the rituals of his day, which everyone agreed were effective in creating and perfecting the self that would go on to the afterlife. People performed these rituals in concert with those around them who also performed similar rituals, quite unaware of how, in the end, these rituals create something that is not a lasting self at all.

  2. Dana Nourie on July 15, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Linda, there are numerous books out there now on how the brain creates a sense of self, but this is the first book I’ve come across that beautifully addresses the social aspects of the development of self as we are growing up and why, and then it goes into the importance of group dynamics and the arising of self, the reflection of self onto the groups we choose, etc. It really demonstrates well the aspects of interdependence, the importance of influences, etc.

    I think you’ll like this book. I found it immensely helpful in conjunction with your articles on dependent arising, and with exploration of body/mind/selfing.

  3. mufi on July 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    The book sounds interesting, but one thing I might like to have seen in this review is at least one explanation of why it’s meaningful to call the self an “illusion.” Instead, it’s simply asserted over and over that this is the case.

    Mind you, I’m not denying that our realities are, in a sense, virtual – in a way that’s analogous to the interfaces that we experience and interact with on the computer devices that we use, which hide what’s really going on inside. That user interface (or UI) includes our sense of self, but it also includes our sense of everything else, internal and external. So is everything an illusion? Surely not in the convention sense of “illusion”, which picks out an abnormal perception. And what’s more normal than one’s perception of self?

    For that matter (back to the computer analogy), isn’t a UI every bit a real as the hardware and the software running on it? Just because the interface “objects” the we users manipulate on the screen are not literally windows, folders, files, or trashcans does not mean that they are illusory. Rather, they are device-generated phenomena that engineers and designers have carefully crafted for the purpose of aiding users in completing various tasks.

    I can only speculate (albeit, on the basis of knowledge derived from evolutionary biology) why human bodies are endowed with this function to create a sense of self. But the function itself seems as real as any other biological function (e.g. respiration and digestion).

    All that said, perhaps what we really want to say here is that “the self” is not some fixed reality, such as a soul or atman, that is separate from (and can thereby outlive) the body. If so, then I heartily agree, although “delusion” seems like a more fitting description of that belief.

    • Linda on July 15, 2012 at 6:08 pm

      Right on target, mufi. The illusion is of permanence and solidity, isn’t it.

    • Seekingbodhi on August 9, 2012 at 11:30 am

      I’d have to disagree with your assertion that the external world is not illusory. Perhaps this is more of a philosophical issue (and as such has less baring on day to day affairs) but how can this UI not be seen as being highly deceptive? Music is not really music, it is instead simply vibrations in the air that enter your brain. If you were not a human there would be no music. The same process goes for every single sensory process. What’s “out there” is atoms that we cannot see and colors that are not real in the “definite” sense.

      To say that we are “in the Matrix” is not much of a stretch. Dreams too prove this point quite well. If your brain is capable of stimulating an entire experience internally than how can the external world be seen as anything less than illusory? We live in a beautiful simulation that evolution has endowed us with over the course of millions of years. I think this is liberating, not condemning. The right combination of cells and internal processes creates a very robust sense of self but as can be seen this self is not “you” just as the sky is not truly “blue”, were you equipped with a different set of rods/cones it might be a different color entirely. No use in clinging so adamantly to a world that doesn’t really exist in the way you have come to know it!

      “The Ego Tunnel” by Thomas Metzinger is another great read on the subject though it is more of a philosophical take on it than what is being discussed here which seems like a Neuro-approach to the topic. I’m going to see if I can hunt it down at a library!

      • David Chou on August 2, 2013 at 1:06 pm

        I agree that the UI is highly deceptive. It’s evolved to do only one thing — survive, at all costs; not find truth, not be loving and kind, but survive.

        I don’t know if consciousness itself necessarily leads to truth and love at ever developed levels of maturity, but it’s certainly possible that human consciousness in particular may actually preclude such achievement, the Buddha’s promise notwithstanding.

  4. mufi on July 15, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Just subscribing to the thread, so that I’ll be alerted of any replies.

  5. Dana Nourie on July 15, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Mufi, illusion doesn’t mean it doesn’t exit. It means we perceive it differently than it really it. That is what the triangle image shows. There isn’t a white triangle drawn in, but we see a triangle. Yes, the illusion of self is a real experience. No one is saying that it isn’t.

    • mufi on July 15, 2012 at 8:58 pm

      Dana: I submit that we perceive everything differently than it really is. After all, nature selects survivors and replicators, not diviners of the Truth. And everyday objects of perception (including all colors) exist only in our minds (i.e. constructed by our brains out of wavelengths of light via photoreceptors in our eyes). So why single out self perception?

      Presumably, you mean to suggest that self perception is more distorted than other kinds of perception (none of which truly represents “the thing in itself”, as Kant put it). Perhaps the book makes that case, but I’ve not seen it made here, only asserted.

      Or, if you mean to suggest that the self is not what many people claim it to be (e.g. substance dualists and/or religious believers in eternal souls), then I readily agree. But I would call that a “delusion”, not an “illusion”, as in:

      An illusion is a false mental image produced by misinterpretation of things that actually exist: ‘A mirage is an illusion produced by reflection of light against the sky’…. A delusion is a persistent false belief: A’ paranoiac has delusions of persecution’.


      • Dana Nourie on July 15, 2012 at 9:04 pm

        Mufi, I agree on everything you just said, and it’s explained similarly in the book, with the exception of the word “illusion”. The brain does create selfing processes, which we mistake for a solid, unchanging self. That is illusion, not delusion. There are selves, manifestations of mind in connection with our socialization, but they are perceptions of feelings of self, which we mistake for a self living within a body.

        Delusion is when our minds make up something that’s not there. The brain must create a sense of self or we wouldn’t feed ourselves. The problem is we mistake this feeling for a permanent self, rather than the set of processes that selfing is.

        You might give the book a try. I think it would make more sense why neuroscientists call it illusion rather than the problem of delusion.

        And yes our perceptions differ for each of us, though there are many similarities as well. I’m in agreement with you on all but the word illusion.

  6. mufi on July 16, 2012 at 6:37 am

    Dana: Fair enough. I really should read the book before I dismiss it.

    That said, here and now, you haven’t convinced me that it’s meaningful (or else that it’s not very misleading) to describe self perception as an “illusion”, unless we stipulate beforehand that all perception is an illusion (as in “a false mental image produced by misinterpretation of things that actually exist”). And that seems a rather idiosyncratic use of the word “illusion”, which does nothing to pick out any special traits of self perception (relative to all other kinds of perception).

    And I still say that belief in a permanent/static/eternal (disembodied) self is a “delusion” (as in “a persistent false belief”).

    And I say these things not because “delusion” sounds more Buddhist (as in “moha”), since I’m also aware that “anatta” is sometimes translated as “illusion of self.” Rather, I say them because they fit my understanding of the terms and because I believe they are true statements.

    • Dana Nourie on July 16, 2012 at 10:31 am

      Yeah, Mufi, I think we agree on everything. It’s a difficult thing to word. Neuroscientists choose self as an illusion, and some see it as a delusion. Either way, it’s something we need to be mindful of, particularly how we attach to these arisings, no matter what we call them. The label is not important. It’s the phenomena we want to be mindful of.

      • mufi on July 16, 2012 at 11:15 am

        Well, I agree that the label becomes less important as we spend more time clarifying what we mean by it. Unfortunately, we don’t always have that opportunity, and we may lose some folks (or else cause more strife than is necessary) if we don’t choose our labels wisely from the get-go.

        For my part, I just try to make it clear that, while certain beliefs about the self are mythical and (almost certainly) false, the self – if properly understood (say, as a metaphor for a subject experiencing consciousness, spread out over time) – nonetheless targets real people and events.

        • Dana Nourie on July 16, 2012 at 12:58 pm

          Mufi, it occurred to me as I read your posts here that perhaps, just maybe this is why the Buddha taught not-self and did not refer to a specific word for the selfing processes. If you just keep going throughout your body and experience asking, Is this self? You end up seeing this is not-self. Eventually, one sees that there are dynamic processes at work, ever changing, ever shifting, and all impermanent. And thus the teaching is not-self. So from a Buddhist perspective naming of the selfing process should probably just remain not-self.

          But I found it immensely helpful to understand this future by reading about the selfing process from a neuroscience and social psychological perspective, in how the brain creates selves and why. This scientists call the Illusion of Self. You may still disagree with what they’re calling it after reading the book, but what I want to emphasize is how it really helped me tie not-self to dependent arising and how we tend to project our ego/illusoryself/not-selves/delusion onto others, to situations, etc via attachment and clinging.

          I feel that in addition to my subjective understanding and experience of how selfing arises, I can now let go in more ways due to understanding why the brain does so much of this in the first place, where it is helpful to us, and the extra baggage I can just drop.

          But your points are well taken, and I suspect this is why Buddha worded not-self as he did, and why he didn’t point out our self creations and name it. That would be calling it something, right? But for conventional purposes I find identification of this process in scientific terms very helpful.

          Thank you for bringing this up. You bring up important points and also why this can be so hard to explain:-)

          • David Chou on August 2, 2013 at 1:10 pm

            Fascinating. I prefer no-self, as I believe that’s an accurate ontological statement to make (that there’s never a self to be found is as good as saying there is none at all in an “ultimate” sense), but certainly not-self is the more “practiceable” and “learnable” reading.

  7. mufi on July 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Thanks, Dana.

    Presumably, the Buddha was reacting to a brahmin concept of self (viz. atman), which is a pretty good example of what I meant by “certain beliefs about the self [that] are mythical and (almost certainly) false.” In that sense, I think we’re very much in agreement with the Buddha that that kind of self we are not.

    But the definition of “self” that I tossed in is metaphorical, which I think means that it’s compatible with not-self – provided that we do read it too literally and do not try to reduce it to the level of a single neuro-phenomenal event.

  8. mufi on July 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Ugh. That should have said: “…provided that we do not read it too literally…”

  9. David S on July 18, 2012 at 6:07 am

    I’ve also been thinking about the social side to thinking and how deeply it goes. In respect to studying Buddhism it has been difficult to navigate with my differing beliefs than those of the teachers and the teachings. I think that as a person who is not oriented towards mystical thinking I have been labeled a doubter, when in fact I come to different conclusions as to the meaning of my experiences. This labeling affects how calm and concentrated I can be while meditating. I become an outsider from the group. My mind becomes agitated with knowing this status within the group.

    This seems to be the central drive behind the formation of this website, a place for other like minded people to come for sharing ideas and creating a sense of identity within a group. It has a calming effect on the mind.

    It surprises me how greatly social group dynamics affects what I am thinking and how I am thinking, as well as feeling, and it isn’t even acknowledged within the teachings.

    • Linda on July 18, 2012 at 7:46 am

      Oh, David, but it is acknowledged within the teachings; it’s just (1) not overt (to us) that this is being said and (2) has been invisible to the traditions — at least I don’t see them noticing it.

      I seem to play only one instrument lately — dependent arising (DA) — fortunately for me (or not for my audience, if they get tired of hearing me talk about it) the subject touches on just about every aspect of Buddhism. Just a wee bit of personal history before I answer your point, just so you’ll know where I’m coming from. Several years back I decided that I wanted to write a book that would show what the Buddha taught and why, so I started reading the ancient Pali suttas, and my studies and notes were going along just fine until I got to DA, when it quickly became apparent that no one actually had a good explanation for it that worked end-to-end and fit with what was in the suttas. So I set out to learn enough about the times to understand it (I read a lot about Vedism) without any actual expectation that I would figure out what it was about, really — but working on the unsolved mystery was fun and what I was learning about both Buddhism and the Buddha’s times was fascinating, so I kept on. No one was more surprised than me when (with the help of the writings of several scholars living and dead) I sort of stumbled onto the original structure (about which see my paper/info provided if you want it).

      So what I’m going to say isn’t something you’ll find in the traditions anywhere. It’s something I was surprised to find in the structure of dependent arising, myself, but it does make sense, and answers your point above: How could the Buddha have missed something as essential as the way our self-concepts are constructed in part from social structures? Well, he didn’t. DA is about how we construct the self, and it is built on a social structure that was very common in his day: rituals (specifically rituals that had as their focus building up of the self). He also embeds myths about “who we are/how we come to be” in the beginning of DA, and in so doing he is also pointing out that it is our socially constructed beliefs about the self that are, in part, responsible for bringing the self we expect to construct into being. But by using rituals-of-self as an integral part of his lesson about how we construct our false sense that we have a lasting/eternal self I am pretty sure he was telling us that much of the process is socially-supported.

      We don’t see this in traditional interpretations of Buddhism these days because the traditions somehow lost “the keys” to DA. They came up with a different interpretation for the underlying structure, one that suited their emphasis on rebirth. (Rebirth is discussed in what I found to be the structure of DA, but it doesn’t say what the traditions think it says about rebirth.) When they stopped recognizing DA as using those rituals as the structure, they lost a lot, including the reference to the social aspects.

      • David Chou on August 2, 2013 at 1:19 pm

        Such an interesting theory — I think I’ll just buy your book now without waiting for my Amazon cart to total $25 for the free shipping!!

        I was thinking that the social aspects of the selfing process, as Dana calls it, weren’t spelled out in marquee lights by the Buddha because it’s self-evident — I think only modern Western society is so concerned about the self and the individual. Also, the Eightfold Path speaks specifically about right speech and livlihood, which would imply a society, someone else to speak to and someone else to buy from or sell to (Jack London-esque hermit-hunters notwithstanding).

        Finally, the Buddha did establish the institution of the sangha, and this seems to speak to his recognition of how interconnected we are more than anything else.

  10. NaturalEntrust on July 18, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Those black parts of that picture allow our brain to see a white triangle.
    So if we move from that pictorial analogy to what what in our body/brain that creates the delusion of a permanent self we can come to many suggestions for why the body behaves that way.

    1. To wake up one morning and realize that I am another person than the one that went to sleep can be a frightening experience. The body seen from a pragmatic and practical perspective “feels” more secure and safe if one always wake up to the delusion of having a self that one can count on to know whom it is that look out through the eyes.

    I guess most of us have heard of people who wake up from illness or accidents not knowing whom they are. They don’t know their self. They really have the personal experience of having no permanent self. The self they where yesterday is not reachable so they look in beilderment at the mirror of themselves and ask everybody. Who am I? why am I here in this room with these strangers. “They are your relatives” don’t your recognize them?” No they look like strangers to me. Have never seen them before. and so on. A very frightening experience.

    So this claim that Buddism have of no permanent self have to be qualified in a way that are realistic.

    It is more about clinging to cherished views of one “Self” as someone needing this and that to be fulfilled that is the delusion or illusion of permanence.

    For the body to have a stable permanent self looks very vital for to survive.

    I trust the claims is more about “craving a self that is something to be proud of or to be somebody in the group or such” that the claims maybe are about. But I am total nobody that just try to get what the text is about. I trust I don’t understand Buddhist words at all.

    Maybe my reading of Zen texts has biased me to see almost all claims by Buddhists to be wild suggestions by Zen Masters to nod the young pupil to get out of his or her preconceived ideas?

  11. NaturalEntrust on July 18, 2012 at 8:35 am

    2. Self delusions a personal story. I where about 23 years old. I moved from a small place to the big city and knew nobody there so I had to find new friends and get to know strangers.

    Having a strong self where needed for to get a work promotion going. One had to sell oneself as a good worker somebody they could trust on to accomplish things.

    Unfortunately I had the wrong view of myself and a delusion of what I could accomplish and whom I really where and I lived a kind of self lie and illusion and did not really knew myself

    One day I realized that I where not the one I though. I realized I where a loser or a nobody.

    That insight did not liberate me at all it through me into a deep depression. That is not the fault of Buddhist teaching of no self but I just want to point out that survival of the body can depend on that the sense of self worth don’t get so low that one lose it entirely. A lot of people have done suicide when their sense of self worth have get lost or get too low to be easily repaired.

    So too low or too high both have bad effects. I don’t know how to solve this dilemma.
    One would need a realistic view of oneself but not too realistic if that means one realize one are too much of a loser to not have the right to survive. One need a secure amount of delusion that one at least is worth to go on living.

    Maybe my brain is not clever enough to get what the four noble truths says about the solution to suffering.

    My take on being attached to my emerged self and my body is that for to survive I need a certain level of self compassion and failing to provide that for myself I turned to Amida that assured me of that I where worthy of being alive and that Amida did care about me.

    Maybe that is a self delusion but to me it is a way to survive. I see Amida as a metaphor but what the metaphor refers to can be the survival circuits of my physical body. Animal instincts or something. I trust that natural science sooner or later can find those patterns in our brain that build this emerged self and why we need it.

    We don’t need to crave to grand delusions of a Self that is extraordinary but we maybe need the amount of self compassion that allow us to survive when we realize we are a nobody.

    Those who are a somebody most likely don’t have problem with too low self esteem?

    • Candol on July 18, 2012 at 6:15 pm

      “One would need a realistic view of oneself but not too realistic if that means one realize one are too much of a loser to not have the right to survive.”

      Natural entrust, while you have recognised that the high self esteem you had when first looking for work was an inaccurate understanding of your self, you also made the mistake of erring in assessing yourself as being someone of no worth. This is equally misguided but of course when you see yourself this way, you fall into depression. Both views of yourself were wrong.

      Everyone has a right to life. Everyone has value. The challenge is to make yourself develop the value that is inherent in your. For instance, say you see a little old lady crossing the road who needs help. go and help her!. You’ve just made yourself valuable to someone else. IN recognising this, this should give you some self worth. Its not that you have to do anything to be a person of value but if you do stuff that helps others in some way, you will find it easier to find the value in your own being and this can be enough to pull you out of depression.

      Your last sentence is sad reading. I am just not convinced it is accurate. Yes on one hand we are all nobodies and it is only in that way that there is any truth in what you wrote i believe. You may be nobody or a person of no interest to others but just as you had compassion for the lady you helped across the street, you should have compassion for yourself. You need help too. You can try to help yourself by developing this compassion and also loving kindness for yourself. You practice that by banishing the negative self talk and practicing positive self talk. But i also think that you, and i mean natural entrust, should find a support group or a counsellor when you are feeling low like this.

      So you understand that i know what i am talking about, i can tell you i also suffer from depression and struggle with negative thinking at times. I also know that it helps a lot to have someone caring to talk to and so i think you should seek out such people to help support you.

      You really do need a group of people around you. I would strongly advise that you join a sangha if you can’t find any other type of support group. A support group with people who share your problems is even better than a sangha but such a thing probably doesn’t exist in your city. Still its worth looking for something. So talk to your local doctors and psychologists etc and tell them you need something like this and support.

      In my home town, i am working on a project to set up a centre where such a support group could exist. All it would take for other people with the same problem be brought together, ie referred by professionals so that you could all sit together and support each, and create friendships. When you are with people who have the same problem as you, you feel more relaxed and more supported than when sitting with people who do not know or understand your problems – i mean ordinary people, even ordinary buddhist people.

      It is an act of compassion for myself and for others that i am trying to do this project. It is not easy. But you can go and ask professionals to help set up a support group for people like you. There is actually an existing program that is australian , called GROW. It would suit you but you would need the health professionals over there to set it up for you. If you look up GROW mental health on google, you should find it.

    • David S on July 18, 2012 at 7:44 pm

      For what it’s worth… I find it helpful for self-esteem a more simple humanistic view than Buddhism. The no-self of Buddhism seems like a very encompassing view bearing relativity towards all of one’s experiences, but it isn’t helpful in regard to the needs of self-esteem when viewed as the self being bad/ilusion (which in all our lives it exists regardless). I just think every human has common needs and qualities that if brought to mind can be helpful to regain a perspective that can get lost. Just knowing that each and everyone of us is good at heart at birth gives me understanding of those who become otherwise, including myself, and it gives me a sense of compassion towards all of us. I also remind myself that everyone is in need of love and capable of loving. This too gives me a sense of compassion towards others as well as myself. We all are trying to do the best we can. No-one is better than anyone else in their humanness, we are all equal at a very essential level. When one becomes depressed about our life these reminders of our basic humanity can help ease the pain of separation with a view of commonality and inherent goodness.

      • David Chou on August 2, 2013 at 1:26 pm

        This talk of utility…I believe it’s animated by the self, the ego, and its self-preservation instincts.

        People who become depressed upon learning of no-self/not-self are simply undergoing the symptoms of ego-withdrawal, same as with any drug. This development is analogous with what happens when one undergoes a diet of drastically reduced calories — the body will rebel, preferring always its current state. A similar process occurs psychologically when we realize the implications of no-self/not-self: our egos, our minds, quickly sense the symbolic organism under threat and creates unpleasant sensations (which is what it always does, like when dieting or withdrawing from drug dependency) in order to get us to restore the previous order of business.

  12. NaturalEntrust on July 19, 2012 at 1:05 am

    This is Dana telling us about this book she recommend.

    The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity by Bruce Hood.

    I have nor read it so I should write about my views on Secular Buddhist views on Self and suffering in the discussions and not here where we should comment on the book by Bruce.

    So thanks for all the good advice from both of you and thanks to Dana for telling about the book.

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