Curious Dog wrote:Hello all,
I am 22 and very much new to Buddhism in the sense of looking deep into its teachings and dilligently practiscing meditation. I am thoroughly enjoying the exploration but was yesterday hit with a feeling of confusion over the notion of the self. I have read recently that Buddhism teaches that in an emprical sense there is a 'self' but not in a metaphysical sense. My confusion comes from the fact that Buddhism seems to on the one hand promote an understanding of the idea of 'no-self' but on the other hand has some very introspective elements promoting improvement of oneself and showing compassion to other 'selves'. If we say outright that there is no self then this must also exist for other selves and so why show compassion or any particular feeling to anything? However if there is indeed a self then one of the fundamental beliefs of Buddhism seems difficult to maintain. I presume the key is in the metaphysical/empirical distinction and as with the philosophies of men such as Schopenhauer, it is dependent on one's perspective. Could someone please give me a little clarity on this issue?
I hope the dilemma is clear and any help is greatly appreciated. Furthermore apologies if this is posted in the wrong area,
Curious Dog wrote:If we say outright that there is no self
Although the concept "not-self" is a useful way of disentangling oneself from the attachments & clingings which lead to suffering, the view that there is no self is simply one of many metaphysical or ontological views which bind one to suffering.
A devout elderly lady from a nearby province came on a pilgrimage to Wat Pah Pong. She told Ajahn Chah she could stay only a short time, as she had to return to take care of her grandchildren, and since she was an old lady, she asked if he could please give her a brief Dhamma talk. Ajahn Chah replied with great force, "Hay, listen! There’s no one here, just this! No owner, no one to be old, to be young, to be good or bad, weak or strong. Just this, that’s all - just various elements of nature going their own way, all empty. No one born and no one to die! Those who speak of birth and death are speaking the language of ignorant children. In the language of the heart, of Dhamma, there are no such things as birth and death."
ancientbuddhism wrote:MN.1.3.2 (MN.22)
244. “attani vā, bhikkhave, sati attaniyaṃ me ti assā”ti?
“Monks, surly, there being a ‘self’, would I know of things pertaining to this ‘self’?”
“Yes, venerable sir.”
“attaniye vā, bhikkhave, sati attā me ti assā”ti?
“And surly, Monks, because of these things pertaining to this ‘self’, would I know of this self?”
“Yes, venerable sir.”
“attani ca, bhikkhave, attaniye ca saccato thetato anupalabbhamāne, yampi taṃ diṭṭhiṭṭhānaṃ -- ‘so loko so attā, so pecca bhavissāmi nicco dhuvo sassato avipariṇāmadhammo, sassatisamaṃ tatheva ṭhassāmī’ti -- nanāyaṃ, bhikkhave, kevalo paripūro bāladhammo’”ti?
“Monks, because this ‘self’ and things pertaining to a ‘self’ are not true and reliable, this position on views: “Of this ‘self’ and conditions, this will be after death – everlasting, constant, permanent, eternal, remaining unchanged for eternity”, monks, is this not a totally and absolutely childish theory?”
22. "You may well take hold of a possession, O monks, that is permanent, stable, eternal, immutable, that abides eternally the same in its very condition. (But) do you see, monks, any such possession?" — "No, Lord." — "Well, monks, I, too, do not see any such possession that is permanent, stable, eternal, immutable, that abides eternally the same in its very condition."
23. "You may well accept, monks, the assumption of a self-theory from the acceptance of which there would not arise sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief, and despair. (But) do you see, monks, any such assumption of a self-theory?" — "No, Lord." — "Well, monks, I, too, do not see any such assumption of a self-theory from the acceptance of which there would not arise sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair."
24. "You may well rely, monks, on any supporting (argument) for views from the reliance on which there would not arise sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair. (But) do you see, monks, any such supporting (argument) for views?" — "No, Lord." — "Well, monks, I, too, do not see any such supporting (argument) for views from the reliance on which there would not arise sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair."
25. "If there were a self, monks, would there be my self's property?" — "So it is, Lord." — "Or if there is a self's property, would there by my self?" — "So it is, Lord." — "Since in truth and in fact, self and self's property do not obtain, O monks, then this ground for views, 'The universe is the Self. That I shall be after death; permanent, stable, eternal, immutable; eternally the same shall I abide, in that very condition' — is it not, monks, an entirely and perfectly foolish idea?" — "What else should it be, Lord? It is an entirely and perfectly foolish idea."
26.Pariggaha.m parigganheyyaatha. This links up with §19: the anxiety about external possessions.
27.Attavaadupaadaanam upadiyetha. While in most translations the term upaadaana has been rendered by "clinging," we have followed here a suggestion of the late Bhikkhu Ñanamoli, rendering it by "assumption" [see The Wheel No. 17: Three Cardinal Discourses of the Buddha, p. 19 (Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy)]. In this context, the word "assumption" should be understood: (1) in the sense of a supposition, (2) in the literal sense of its Latin source: adsumere, "to take up," which closely parallels the derivation of our Paali term: upa-aadaana, "taking up strongly." In this sense we have used it when translating the derivative verb upaadiyetha by "you may accept." Attavaadupaadaana is one of the four types of clinging (see Nyanatiloka's Buddhist Dictionary), conditioned by craving (tanhaa). This term comprises, according to Comy, the twenty types of personality-belief (sakkaaya-ditthi).
Quoting this passage of our text, the Ven. Dr. Walpola Rahula remarks: "If there had been any soul-theory which the Buddha had accepted, he would certainly have explained it here, because he asked the monks to accept that soul-theory which did not produce suffering. But in the Buddha's view, there is no such soul-theory..." (What the Buddha Taught, London, 1959; p.58).
28.Ditthinissaya.m nissayetha. Nissaya, lit.: support basis. Comy explains this phrase as the sixty-two false views headed by personality-belief (see DN 1, Brahmajaala Sutta). They form the theoretical or ideological basis, or support, for the various creeds and speculative doctrines derived from them. Sub-Comy: "The view itself is a support for views; because for one with incorrect conceptions, the view will serve as a prop for his firm adherence to, and the propagation of, his ideas." Alternative renderings: You may well place reliance on a view, or may derive conviction from it.
See Satipatthaana Sutta where, in explanation of anissito the Comy mentions tanhaanissaya and ditthi-nissaya, "dependence on craving and views."
29.In this section, according to Comy, a "three-fold voidness is shown," i.e., referring to external possessions, self-theory and reliance on speculative views.
30.The two supplementary statements in this section suggest the following implications: The concepts of "I" and "Mine" are inseparably linked; so also, in philosophical terms, are substance and attribute. If there is personality-belief or self-theory, there will be necessarily acquisitiveness or possessiveness in some form or other; at least these views themselves will be held with strong tenacity and be regarded as an "inalienable property" (see Note 22). There is no pure, abstract self or substance without its determination, property or attribute. On the other hand, acquisitiveness and possessiveness — even if of a quite unphilosophical character — cannot be without at least a tacit assumption of a proprietary self; this applies also to materialistic doctrines (annihilationism). Since in truth and fact neither an abiding property (or attribute) can be established nor an abiding self (or substance), either of these terms is left without its essential referent. Hence the conception of individual immortality as formulated in the sixth ground for views, is found to be devoid of any basis and is, therefore, rejected by the Buddha as a fool's doctrine, being outside of serious consideration.
Comy: Here a "two-fold voidness" is shown, that of self (atta) and of property (or properties) belonging to a self (attaniya).
"Monks, where a self or what belongs to self are not pinned down as a truth or reality, then the view-position — 'This cosmos is the self. After death this I will be constant, permanent, eternal, not subject to change. I will stay just like that for an eternity' — Isn't it utterly & completely a fool's teaching?"
Since a self and what belongs to a self are not apprehended as true and established, then this standpoint for views, namely, 'This self, this is the world; after death I shall be permanent, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change; I shall endure as long as eternity’ -- would it not be an utterly and completely foolish teaching? -- MLDB, p 232.
Good, monks, I too do not perceive a theory of self where taking it up would not bring about grief, sorrow, suffering, unhappiness, and distress for the one taking it up. . . . But if both self and what belongs to the self are not in actual fact found, then the point of view that the world and the self are the same and that after death this is what one will be, permanent, enduring, eternal, not liable to change, one will remain like that for all eternity, is a totally and completely foolish idea. SAYINGS OF THE BUDDHA, p 164.
Monks, whatever contemplatives or priests who assume in various ways when assuming a self, all assume the five clinging-aggregates, or a certain one of them. -- SN III 46
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