Origin of concept of "I"

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Origin of concept of "I"

Postby WagamamaZen » Tue Jul 13, 2010 3:14 pm

I am researching on the origin of the concept of "I" historically, anthropologicaly in buddhist context.
Are there any written insights presented in the sutras or research that has been done by institutions?
Many thanks in advance.

Gassho
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Re: Origin of concept of "I"

Postby Rui Sousa » Tue Jul 13, 2010 3:36 pm

I'm am not sure if this is what you are looking for, but in my understanding of the Buddhist teaching the origin of the concept of "I" is delusion.
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Re: Origin of concept of "I"

Postby WagamamaZen » Tue Jul 13, 2010 4:00 pm

Yes, I know the concept of "I" is a delusion, a mere concept, but what I am looking for is how the delusion got started. What's the function of this delusion? Is it to enlarge our ego, to attain more power within a social group ... etc. I always think that if the apes were the first to realize the concept of "I" in pre-stone age or stone age - because one ape had a lightbulb moment after he had learned how to use a piece of cattle bone as a weapon, felt that he could use it to rule over a group, and possibly that's how the first concept of "I" arose ? Of course, this is just my wild supposition. No in depth study or proof.
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Re: Origin of concept of "I"

Postby Shonin » Tue Jul 13, 2010 4:21 pm

I suspect that at least higher animals must have some concept of self even if it's a primitive one. But basically it is only because of identity concepts such as 'I', 'you', 'cup', etc that abstract thought and language are possible. The mistake is in not realising that these are all symbols rather than being real things out in the world.
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Re: Origin of concept of "I"

Postby Mawkish1983 » Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:43 pm

Which do you want? The origin of the 'I' concept in Buddhism (you're in the right place) or the origin of the 'I' concept as an evolutionary tool (you're in the wrong place). I'm not sure what you want :)
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Re: Origin of concept of "I"

Postby acinteyyo » Tue Jul 13, 2010 9:12 pm

WagamamaZen wrote:Yes, I know the concept of "I" is a delusion, a mere concept, but what I am looking for is how the delusion got started.

One has to be careful. The concept of "I" is not a delusion. It's a concept. The origin of the concept "I am" is ignorance. Delusion is to take that concept (that "I am") for granted. The delusion got started because of ignorance.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.
Pathabyā ekarajjena, saggassa gamanena vā sabbalokādhipaccena, sotāpattiphalaṃ varaṃ. (Dhp 178)
Sole dominion over the earth, going to heaven or lordship over all worlds: the fruit of stream-entry excels them.

:anjali:
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Re: Origin of concept of "I"

Postby bodom » Tue Jul 13, 2010 9:21 pm

For the practicing Buddhist the origin of "I" is not as important as the cessation of "I".

“You are like a man who has been shot with a poison arrow and who, when the doctor comes to remove it, says ‘Wait! Before the arrow is removed I want to know the name of the man who shot it, what clan he comes from, which village he was born in. I want to know what type of wood his bow is made from, what feathers are on the end of the arrow, how long the arrows are, etc., etc.’ That man would die before all these questions could be answered. My job is to help you to remove the arrow of suffering from yourself” (Majjhima Nikaya Sutta No. 63).


:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Origin of concept of "I"

Postby Viscid » Tue Jul 13, 2010 9:34 pm

Well, I'd like to believe animals which can recognize themselves in a mirror have a sense of self since they can recognize it, and maybe also animals who live within a social structure, as they'd have to know their place.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James
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Re: Origin of concept of "I"

Postby WagamamaZen » Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:12 am

Appreciate each of your input and sharing.
If "I" is a concept that is born out of ignorance. What has kept this concept going for so many centuries?
What is the award ?
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Re: Origin of concept of "I"

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:34 am

WagamamaZen wrote:If "I" is a concept that is born out of ignorance. What has kept this concept going for so many centuries?
What is the award ?


The hope and desire for something better. But the actual award is:

Dukkha (suffering)
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Re: Origin of concept of "I"

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:40 am

WagamamaZen wrote:
Are there any written insights presented in the sutras or research that has been done by institutions?


The Aggañña Sutta (DN 27) suggests that this may have originated with the evolution of the first forms of life.

Then, after some very long time, when the World began to expand again, many of these Abbhasara creatures were born to the newly formed Earth. They floated above and around the Earth. At this time, there were not yet seen the Moon and the Sun, there were not yet Night and Day, there were not yet names and identity or female or male. The creatures were only known for creatures.

At that period, Vasettha, there was just one mass of water, and all was darkness, blinding darkness.... And sooner or later, after a very long period of time, savory earth spread itself over the waters where those beings were. It looked just like the skin that forms itself over hot milk as it cools. It was endowed with color, smell, and taste. It was the color of fine ghee or heated butter and it was very sweet, like pure wild honey

Some of the creatures of light (the Abbhasaras) who had curiosity and a greedy nature began to dive and taste the savory Earth's substance. At that moment, the creature found out that it tasted so delicious. Thus, greed started to seep in and it ate the substance voraciously, greedily, thus calling also its comrades (who were flying above and on earth) to join in the feast. Not long afterwards, the creatures began to eat so greedily and due to the huge amount of the mud substance, they could feed on it for a very long time.


The "creatures" mentioned could be single-celled organisms which we know from biology have no gender, just as it is mentioned in the Suttas. Evolutionary biology suggests that the first forms life multiplied asexually and it would appear to do so at least sub-consciously through some sort of desire to continue to exist or out of greed, again completely in line with the Sutta account.
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Re: Origin of concept of "I"

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:48 am

WagamamaZen wrote:Yes, I know the concept of "I" is a delusion, a mere concept, but what I am looking for is how the delusion got started.
The concept of "I" is not a delusion. The delusion is that the "I" is more than it is, and what it is is an evolutionary construct around which information is organaized for our survival. Greed, hatred and ignorance/delusion. We grasp after those things that support or feed a sense of "I" and we push away those those things that threaten the sense of "I" and we imagine that the "I" is an unchanging, independent thingie. We see the rudiments of it even in simple life forms. Poke a worm with something pointy and it recoils.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Origin of concept of "I"

Postby Wind » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:15 am

WagamamaZen wrote:Appreciate each of your input and sharing.
If "I" is a concept that is born out of ignorance. What has kept this concept going for so many centuries?
What is the award ?


Craving is what kept it going. Dukkha is its award.
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Re: Origin of concept of "I"

Postby Rui Sousa » Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:58 am

As other have already said, I too believe the reason why the notion of "I" exists is because of attachment to ideas of "I am better", "I am prettier", "I am smarter". These ideas are perceived as a source of a good feeling, then desire for having them again arises, then craving and then clinging.
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Re: Origin of concept of "I"

Postby WagamamaZen » Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:08 pm

Seems like our cravings began with a single cell organism that loved the taste of food.
Shall explore Agganna Sutta. It looks interesting.
Thank you to each of you.

Gassho
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Re: Origin of concept of "I"

Postby Son » Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:01 am

Viscid wrote:Well, I'd like to believe animals which can recognize themselves in a mirror have a sense of self since they can recognize it, and maybe also animals who live within a social structure, as they'd have to know their place.


Yes. I'm inclined to think that the reproduction of the self-idea into the offspring of our civilization for perhaps millions of years is not hereditary, but societal. In fact, it is likely that some groups of earlier humans were completely lacking, or at least significantly depreciating the concept of the "I-self."
A seed sleeps in soil.
It's cold and alone, hopeless.
Until it blooms above.
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Re: Origin of concept of "I"

Postby Individual » Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:24 am

WagamamaZen wrote:I am researching on the origin of the concept of "I" historically, anthropologicaly in buddhist context.
Are there any written insights presented in the sutras or research that has been done by institutions?
Many thanks in advance.

Gassho
WagamamaZen

If people were doing research or reading about concepts, that would seem to be examining "other" rather than "I", or at least understanding "I" by means of comparison rather than more clearly seeing it directly (whatever it may or may not be).

You could try Wikipedia.

As I see it, words and concepts at some point become an obstacle to higher understanding because language arises out of primordial mental-physical states in which there is no language; it is this unconditioned or pre-conditioned mental-physical complex that is the basis for language and perception of self-existence. Reading and thinking about it doesn't generate understanding because you're never actually looking at it.

To use the allegory of the cave, using words and concepts to understand "I" is like looking at the shadows on the wall rather than the thing that's actually causing the shadows to appear.

Saying this, though, can also be a kind of mysticism which in itself can be an obstacle, because there isn't necessarily anything to see other than the shadows and one shouldn't imagine, for instance, a series of "perfect forms" to explain conditioned phenomena.

I did read something interesting on Wikipedia a while back about neuroscientists seeing self as a mental construct which has a narrative aspect (the story, continuity) and semantic\linguistic aspect (the name, the idea).
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Origin of concept of "I"

Postby Individual » Thu Jan 20, 2011 1:24 am

tiltbillings wrote:
WagamamaZen wrote:Yes, I know the concept of "I" is a delusion, a mere concept, but what I am looking for is how the delusion got started.
The concept of "I" is not a delusion.

It depends on what you mean by delusion. Self-perception is something that arises in dependence on other causes and, with the cessation of these causes, there is the cessation of self-perception.

However, it is not useful to necessarily think like this too much or else you can end up going crazy precisely as described in this thread.

You have to practically accept some foundation of personhood, as a context in which to practice mindfulness, morality, and... life.

In the absence of an assumed "I", any concepts that might follow are incoherent; concepts as we presently know them (not necessarily as they are or have the potential to be) are by their nature self-reflexive. Whether there are concepts which aren't extensions of self and are more or less subjective might be possible and it's something that is assumed in order to learn from wiser people, like Gautama Buddha. But I don't know that directly with certainty, so I wouldn't say so but nor would I disagree with it either.

FYI, lots of you folks have "Theravada Buddhist selves," and selfish religious views, going around thinking you've got a hold of the whole elephant when you're grasping too just like the rest of us.

If there is such a thing as genuine insight into the origin of the "I" concept and experience, one of the things that seems to characterize genuine understanding is original and contextual understanding, which is demonstratable, influential, useful, and appreciable; whatever one might say about self, one could have this or that view, and still not have genuine understanding if it is something like an echo or imitation without direct-seeing, which nobody (including oneself) ever uses to create meaningful change.
The best things in life aren't things.

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