My latest theory: No stationary self

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My latest theory: No stationary self

Postby dhammapal » Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:37 am

I've developed a new theory in response to no-self teachings which I misinterpreted as meaning that people were like ghosts arising and passing away which contributed to many years of mental illness.

In my Yahoo Group post Metta Through Space and Time I mentioned my latest theory that people do exist (are alive out there wanting to be happy as intensely as we do) but they are “on the move” (even with one's own person one can't sit still without breathing.) The dictionary definition of “move” is to change location. Doesn't this comply with the teachings on impermanence? They are also “on the feed” which complies with the teachings on the Four Nutriments of Life.

Thanks / dhammapal.

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Re: My latest theory: No stationary self

Postby Ben » Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:41 am

Hi Dhammapal,

I don't understand this need to develop a 'theory'. Any theory you develop will have as its base ignorance and miccha-ditthi. If you want to develop sammaditthi and develop real knowledge, then develop continuity of sila, samadhi and panna.
kind regards

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Re: My latest theory: No stationary self

Postby Kenshou » Tue Feb 08, 2011 8:31 am

It's not necessary to say that people are "unreal" (ghost-like) or "really existing" in some absolute way. That line of thought isn't really productive. What we need to know, is that forms, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, and mind-consciousness (aka everything we experience) are all impermanent and unsatisfactory. We can see this for ourselves without a lot of theoretical scaffolding.

And as it's said (more or less) in dozens of suttas:

"And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: 'This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am'?"

"No, lord."'


I hope this doesn't seem dry, obvious, and patronizing, but I think that's what counts.

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Re: My latest theory: No stationary self

Postby PeterB » Tue Feb 08, 2011 9:38 am

dhammapal wrote:I've developed a new theory in response to no-self teachings which I misinterpreted as meaning that people were like ghosts arising and passing away which contributed to many years of mental illness.

In my Yahoo Group post Metta Through Space and Time I mentioned my latest theory that people do exist (are alive out there wanting to be happy as intensely as we do) but they are “on the move” (even with one's own person one can't sit still without breathing.) The dictionary definition of “move” is to change location. Doesn't this comply with the teachings on impermanence? They are also “on the feed” which complies with the teachings on the Four Nutriments of Life.

Thanks / dhammapal.

My reading of your post dhammapal is that you have developed your theory to counteract clinical delusions of nihilism, which consiitute part of an ongoing condition ? You dont need to acknowledge this to me even if accurate.
I think such a strategy is a skillful means for you, as long as you remember that it is a strategy. Otherwise there is a possibility of substituting one set of ideas for another, rather than seeing where all cognitions arise. I hope that makes sense.

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Re: My latest theory: No stationary self

Postby Akuma » Tue Feb 08, 2011 9:47 am

I've developed a new theory in response to no-self teachings which I misinterpreted as meaning that people were like ghosts arising and passing away which contributed to many years of mental illness.


Do you think Buddhism is your last resort?
This may be quite a weird question but since you already got two religous answers it might be useful to approach this a bit differently.
If you are making your own theories this shows that you either dont know or dont want to accept the ideas of scholars and "masters" whose texts you could quickly get and read to get an idea about what no-self in Buddhism means. I cant judge your intelligence but what I can judge is that you are trying to fit whatever you think Buddhism is into your head more or less forcefully and couldnt even let it go after it made you sick - now trying to fit Buddhism in there in a way that this wont happen again.
Let me remind you as someone who has been in a similar situation that Buddhism is just an old religion. If it becomes more than that this is your own choice. It also is your own choice and freedom to gain a clear understanding why this should be the case, why you even think you need it in the first place.

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Re: My latest theory: No stationary self

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Feb 08, 2011 10:03 am

The Buddha in the Sabbasava sutta, instructs his disciples not to go around thinking 'do I exist, don't I exist' etc buy rather to overcome suffering by applying the four noble truths to your current suffering. To do that we know when suffering has arisen- then look for the cause - then remove the cause and watch that suffering disappear. Then akbowledge the path which took you there (including advice you may have taken to get there).

Hope that helps.

With metta

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Re: My latest theory: No stationary self

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Feb 08, 2011 6:57 pm

dhammapal wrote:I've developed a new theory


This is a mistake already.

Buddhist practise is to see/understand the not self nature of all of the 5 aggregates, simple as that, no need to develop theories.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah

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Re: My latest theory: No stationary self

Postby andre9999 » Tue Feb 08, 2011 8:23 pm

Your theory strikes me as a distraction from observing and understanding your regret about how you treated people who've since died.

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Re: My latest theory: No stationary self

Postby Nyana » Tue Feb 08, 2011 9:07 pm

dhammapal wrote:people do exist (are alive out there wanting to be happy as intensely as we do)

Of course, conventionally speaking, people exist. Simplistic reductionism cannot account for dynamic systems such as biological systems or mind-streams or sentient beings. An ordered, functioning system cannot be reduced to the sum of its parts. A living cell cannot be reduced to the molecules which comprise it. A complex living organism cannot be reduced to to the cells which comprise it. In the context of a mind-stream, a healthy functioning ego cannot simply be reduced to the aggregates which comprise it (or more precisely, from which it emerges). Why? Because there are pathological mind-streams which have all of the same component parts (i.e. feeling, apperception, contact, attention, intention, desire, etc.), yet a healthy, functional ego (which is a dynamic system) doesn't emerge from these component parts. This is why many contemporary insight meditation teachers have recognized that no significant progress can be made by employing the path of gradual training unless the student is in good mental health. Hence the well known phrase: "You have to be somebody before you can be nobody."

In order to understand the recognition of anatta (anattasaññā) it's important to understand the object of negation. Anatta is negating the notion of a permanent Self which is not subject to affliction/dis-ease. It is not negating the utility of a healthy, functional ego with conditional self-agency (attakāra). Take SN 22.59 for example, as it is a central teachings on anatta. The Self which is being negated in SN 22.59 is a Self which would be:

    1. permanent
    2. satisfactory
    3. not subject to affliction/dis-ease

This "Self" is refuted: a permanent, satisfactory Self which is not prone to old age, sickness, and death. As SN 22.59 states:

    Bhikkhus, form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness is not-self. Were form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness self, then this form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness would not lead to affliction/dis-ease.

This criterion of affliction/disease is context for the following statement that:

    none can have it of form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness: 'Let my form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness be thus, let my form... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness be not thus.'

This in no way negates conditional self-agency (attakāra). AN 6.38 Attakāra Sutta:

    "This, master Gotama, is my my doctrine; this is my view: There is no self-agency/acting (attakāra); there is no other-agency/acting (parakāra)."

    "Never, brahman, have I seen or heard of such a doctrine, such a view. How indeed can one step forward, how can one step back, yet say: 'There is no self-agency/acting; there is no other-agency/acting'? What do you think, brahman, is there such a thing as initiative?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "That being so, are beings known to initiate?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "Well, brahman, since there is such a thing as initiative and beings are known to initiate, this among beings is self-agency; this is other-agency."

    "What do you think, brahmin, is there such a thing as stepping away ... such a thing as stepping forward ... such a thing as stopping ... such a thing as standing still ... such a thing as stepping toward?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "That being so, are beings known to do all these things?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "Well, brahmin, since there is such a thing as stepping away and stepping forward, and the rest, and beings are known to do these things, this among beings is self-agency/acting; this is other-agency/acting. Never, Brahmin, I have seen or heard of such a doctrine, such a view as yours. How indeed can one step forward, how can one step back, yet say: 'There is no self-agency; there is no other-agency'?"

All the best,

Geoff

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Re: My latest theory: No stationary self

Postby acinteyyo » Tue Feb 08, 2011 10:23 pm

:goodpost:
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:

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Re: My latest theory: No stationary self

Postby dhammapal » Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:31 pm

Thanks for the replies. Yes I am familiar with the idea of viewing experience in terms of the Four Noble Truths instead of self/other, being/non-being. But the Four Noble Truths are the most advanced teaching on the gradual training and I was looking for a stable, commonsense world-view in order to do things like hold down a job.

As for to what extent people exist out there, I just had the idea that the dukkha of separation from the loved doesn't just mean that they have died but also covers temporary separation.

With metta / dhammapal.

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Re: My latest theory: No stationary self

Postby pulga » Wed Feb 09, 2011 11:23 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:"Well, brahmin, since there is such a thing as stepping away and stepping forward, and the rest, and beings are known to do these things, this among beings is self-agency/acting; this is other-agency/acting. Never, Brahmin, I have seen or heard of such a doctrine, such a view as yours. How indeed can one step forward, how can one step back, yet say: 'There is no self-agency; there is no other-agency'?" AN 6.38


"If one asserts: 'He who makes (suffering) feels (it): being one existent from the beginning, his suffering is of his own making,' then one arrives at eternalism. But if one asserts: 'One makes (suffering), another feels (it): being one existent crushed out by feeling, his suffering is of another's making,' then one arrives at annihilationism. Instead of resorting to either of these extremes, a Perfect One expounds the Dhamma by the middle way: ... (that is, by dependent arising and cessation)." SN 12:17 (Ven. Ñanamoli's translation)

"But now this difficulty arises. What, precisely, is upádána (grasping, or as I prefer, holding) if it is not synonymous with cetaná (intention)? This, and not any other, is the fundamental question raised by the Buddha's Teaching; and it is extremely difficult to see the answer (though it can be stated without difficulty). The answer is, essentially, that all notions of subjectivity, of the existence of a subject (to whom objects are present), all notions of 'I' and 'mine', are upádána. Can there, then, be intentional conscious action—such as eating food—without the notion 'It is I who am acting, who am eating this food'? The answer is, Yes. The arahat intentionally eats food, but the eating is quite unaccompanied by any thought of a subject who is eating the food. For all non-arahats such thoughts (in varying degrees, of course) do arise. The arahat remains an individual (i.e. distinct from other individuals) but is no longer a person (i.e. a somebody, a self, a subject). This is not—as you might perhaps be tempted to think—a distinction without a difference. It is a genuine distinction, a very difficult distinction, but a distinction that must be made. (Ven. Ñanavira, L. 37)



"
Last edited by pulga on Thu Feb 10, 2011 2:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: My latest theory: No stationary self

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Feb 10, 2011 1:16 am

Greetings,

dhammapal wrote:I've developed a new theory in response to no-self teachings which I misinterpreted as meaning that people were like ghosts arising and passing away which contributed to many years of mental illness.

Eek! "No self" is an unproveable metaphysical assertion... what the Buddha actually taught was anatta (not-self)... namely that the five aggregates of experience are not self, and there is no therefore no self to be found within them, or in any combination of them. In essence, if self is not a component of experience, then why allow beliefs about its existence or non-existence to contribute to suffering? Issues about self become moot. Self-views are wrong views, as explained in the Brahmajala Sutta.

For more information see...

The Not-self Strategy by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... tself.html

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: My latest theory: No stationary self

Postby zavk » Thu Feb 10, 2011 3:14 am

dhammapal wrote:...I was looking for a stable, commonsense world-view in order to do things like hold down a job.


Hi dhammapal

As the others have pointed out, it is difficult to translate some of the specific teachings about anatta in terms of 'movement'. But nevertheless, if you're simply looking to find a 'commonsense', non-technical way of applying the general teachings, the notion of 'movement' can be helpful if you take it as a poetic device or general metaphor for guiding your day-to-day interactions. As you've suggested, our very 'being' can be thought of as a constant movement: from the minute biological process within our body to our breathing to our day to day actions. If this is the case, then, we can reasonably take 'movement' as a metaphor for life. It can be said that it is our daily movements of thought, speech, and action where the movement towards Awakening, peace, happiness, etc, occurs. In other words, that much we think, speak, and act in line with the Eightfold Path, that much we are Awakening.

There's a phrase I discovered recently which is apparently used quite commonly: 'walking as controlled falling' (Moderators: the following is not related to Buddhism as such but I think it addresses dhammapal's aim above and I think it can be related to some general Buddhist ideals). The Canadian philosopher Brian Massumi has talked about it, and even though he doesn't speak of any specific, concrete real life situation I find it to be a very helpful advice for negotiating the responsibilities of everyday life where we inevitably face all sorts of constraints. This is what he says:

I like the notion of ‘walking as controlled falling’. It’s something of a proverb, and Laurie Anderson, among others, has used it. It conveys the sense that freedom, or the ability to move forward and to transit through life, isn’t necessarily about escaping from constraints. There are always constraints. When we walk, we’re dealing with the constraint of gravity. There’s also the constraint of balance, and a need for equilibrium. But, at the same time, to walk you need to throw off the equilibrium, you have to let yourself go into a fall, then you cut it off and regain the balance. You move forward by playing with the constraints, not avoiding them. There’s an openness of movement, even though there’s no escaping constraint... [this reminds me of walking meditation]

Experiencing this potential for change, experiencing the eventfulness and uniqueness of every situation, even the most conventional ones, that’s not necessarily about commanding movement, it’s about navigating movement. It’s about being immersed in an experience that is already underway. It’s about being bodily attuned to opportunities in the movement, going with the flow. It’s more like surfing the situation, or tweaking it, than commanding or programming it. The command paradigm approaches experience as if we were somehow outside it, looking in, like disembodied subjects handling an object. But our experiences aren’t objects. They’re us, they’re what we’re made of. We are our situations, we are our moving through them. We are our participation — not some abstract entity that is somehow outside looking in at it all.


One possible Buddhist objection to the above is that he is implying that the conditioned world is all there is to reality, while Buddhism posits the possibility for letting go of this conditioned reality. Yes, this is true. But I prefer to think of the above in terms of the Four Noble Truths which, generally speaking, is telling us: 'Life is always full of constraints. Accept it as it its. There's not avoiding it. You are not and cannot be separate from this fact of life. But that much you are willing to move--to think, speak, and act--in line with the Eightfold Path, that much you are Awakening: that much you are unconstrained.'

That's my two cents on the notion of 'movement'. I'm NOT saying that 'movement' is a good explanation of anatta as such. I merely suggesting that 'movement' can be a helpful metaphor for navigating, to paraphrase Sayadaw U Pandita, this very life.

:anjali: :smile: :group:
With metta,
zavk

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Re: My latest theory: No stationary self

Postby Nyana » Thu Feb 10, 2011 3:18 am

pulga wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:"Well, brahmin, since there is such a thing as stepping away and stepping forward, and the rest, and beings are known to do these things, this among beings is self-agency/acting; this is other-agency/acting. Never, Brahmin, I have seen or heard of such a doctrine, such a view as yours. How indeed can one step forward, how can one step back, yet say: 'There is no self-agency; there is no other-agency'?" AN 6.38


"If one asserts: 'He who makes (suffering) feels (it): being one existent from the beginning, his suffering is of his own making,' then one arrives at eternalism. But if one asserts: 'One makes (suffering), another feels (it): being one existent crushed out by feeling, his suffering is of another's making,' then one arrives at annihilationism. Instead of resorting to either of these extremes, a Perfect One expounds the Dhamma by the middle way: ... (that is, by dependent arising and cessation)." SN 12:17 (Ven. Ñanamoli's translation)

"But now this difficulty arises. What, precisely, is upádána (grasping, or as I prefer, holding) if it is not synonymous with cetaná (intention)? This, and not any other, is the fundamental question raised by the Buddha's Teaching; and it is extremely difficult to see the answer (though it can be stated without difficulty). The answer is, essentially, that all notions of subjectivity, of the existence of a subject (to whom objects are present), all notions of 'I' and 'mine', are upádána. Can there, then, be intentional conscious action—such as eating food—without the notion 'It is I who am acting, who am eating this food'? The answer is, Yes. The arahat intentionally eats food, but the eating is quite unaccompanied by any thought of a subject who is eating the food. For all non-arahats such thoughts (in varying degrees, of course) do arise. The arahat remains an individual (i.e. distinct from other individuals) but is no longer a person (i.e. a somebody, a self, a subject). This is not—as you might perhaps be tempted to think—a distinction without a difference. It is a genuine distinction, a very difficult distinction, but a distinction that must be made. (Ven. Ñanavira, L. 37)"

Yes, indeed. An arahant has abandoned all notions of "I am."

All the best,

Geoff

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Re: My latest theory: No stationary self

Postby dhammapal » Tue Feb 22, 2011 10:05 am

My no stationary self theory was an unsuccessful attempt to explain the mystery of life's unfolding, the mystery of not being able to even pin down the reality of one person (see Anuradha Sutta). I had the view that the number of beings in samsara was constant, because one being couldn't be reborn as two etc. Now I'm thinking that by letting go of clinging to views about the existence of the mass of humanity when there is one person in front of me I can give them my full attention, content with the richness and profundity of direct experience.

With metta / dhammapal.


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