Exactly what is the definition of "self"?
Wind wrote:There need to be a clarification on No-self vs Not-Self. The Buddha didn't say there is no self but that the 5 aggregates we call a person is not self. Not-Self doctrine is important because if you can see the truth of this, then it follows that you won't cling any more to the conceit of "I", "Mine", or "myself" which is part of the source of our suffering.
And why does these aggregates lack inherent self? Because they are impermanent. They rise and fall. Just as you would not claim the shirt on your body as you because the shirt gets replace or change all the time. Likewise these aggregates goes through a constant state of change. It is easy to mistake the body as self since we have it with us the whole life time, but we can also see that the body can be remove parts by parts and we retain a sense of self. So this lead others to believe the mind is self. And the Buddha said the mind changes so fast that it is describe as a monkey swinging from one branch to another. The branch symbolize the mind and so the mind too is not self. So you can see that anything that left you because of impermanence can't be you. The five aggregates we call a person is simply a delusion and it's not-self (Anatta).
chatra wrote:Wait, wait, wait; I think I've figured it out.
We are like the Stock Market.
There is no seperate entity that is "The Stock Market" - it is an amalgamation of many different, constantly (well ... between 9:30 and 4:00 and after hours) changing elements. It is a process in the sense that it moves forward, it is not an entity in the sense that the DJIA nor the S&P500 are separate beings; they are composed of different, in flux, entities, contributing to one larger "thing" - a concept that we've built to provide an easy frame of reference for our understanding of the current market situation!
... By God, I think I've finally got it!
Well? What do you think, do I look like I have a grip on the concept?
Anatta can be translated as 'not-self, 'selfless', or 'nonself’. As anatta is a negation of atta, to comprehend the characteristic of nonself we must first understand the meaning of atta. Atta (Sanskrit - atman) refers to an eternal self or substance, which is the purported essence or core of any particular thing, residing permanently in an object. It is both owner and controller, the essential recipient of experience and agent of action. It is that which lies behind all phenomena, including all life, able to direct things in conformity with its needs and desires.
Some religions elaborate by claiming that a superior 'Self or 'Spirit' lies behind all worldly phenomena, reigning over the souls or substance of all living beings and inanimate objects. They claim that this supreme Spirit creates and governs all things. In Hinduism, for example, it is called Brahma or Paramatman.
The gist of the teaching on anatta is the negation of this fixed abiding self, both mundane and transcendent; it asserts that this self is simply an idea stemming from a misapprehension by unenlightened human beings, who do not perceive the true nature of the world. People create a (concept of) self and superimpose it on reality; this (concept of) self then obstructs them from seeing the truth. A clear understanding of nonself dispels the misapprehension and dissolves the obscuring (idea of) self. The teaching of nonself bids us to discern with wisdom that all things, all components of reality, exist and proceed in conformity with their own nature. No hidden abiding self exists as owner or director: things are not subservient to an internal or external jurisdiction.
A basic definition of selflessness, both in regard to conditioned phenomena and the Unconditioned, is that all things exist in compliance with their nature, and are not subordinate to an external authority.
...Buddhism refers to a self solely on a conventional level: the self is a relative truth; it is not believed to be absolute.
...The Buddha rejected the validity of such a notion, and encouraged people to abandon the attachment to self. In Buddhism, a substantial self is of no importance; it is not a matter requiring speculation. Buddhism focuses on the attachment to self, or on the concept of self which is the object of such attachment. Buddhism teaches people to release the attachment. With its release one's responsibility is fulfilled, and a fixed stable self no longer has relevance.
To summarise, once a person understands that conditioned things are selfless, the topic of self versus nonself is over. A person who has realized the Unconditioned no longer identifies with anything as a self.
The 'notself' nature of "Myself"
The characteristic of selflessness, non-self, is the deepest and the most difficult of the characteristics. In the teaching of Anatta, the Buddha proclaims that there is nothing that can be identified as self, that all the things that we take to be ourself, to be I and mine, are really not self. This teaching cuts sharply against the traditional forms of thinking and makes Buddhism a distinctly unique teaching. Almost all of our thoughts and activities are centred around the idea of "I" and "mine" and "myself". Yet the Buddha holds that these notions are deceptive. They are delusions that lead us into conflicts and suffering. And he teaches further that, in order to get free from Dukkha, we have to break out of the clinging to the idea of self. The only way to do this is to penerate the mark of selflessness, to see with insight the selfless nature of all phenomena.
WHAT THE TEACHING DENIES
To grasp the exact meaning of this teaching we have to discriminate between what the teaching denies and what it does not deny. We can approach this task by distinguishing the different meanings of the word self. 'Anatta' means literally ' not self'. So what is the 'self' that is denied in the teaching of 'Anatta'?
The word "self" can be used in three senses.
(a) With a reflexive meaning, as when when we speak of "myself". "yourself", "oneself".The Buddha accepts this use of the word "self". He says that you have to train yourself, one must purify oneself, you have to make the effort yourself and so on.
(b) To refer to one's own person, to refer to the compound of body and mind.
Here the word self or it is a shorthand device used to refer easily and economically to what is really a complex process. 'Self' in this sense is acceptable to Buddhism.
(c) A substantial ego entity, a lasting subject existing at the core of the psycho-physical personality.
It is with the idea of selfhood in this sense that the Buddha's teaching is concerned, for it is this assumption that draws us into suffering.
SNAKE IS THE ROPE
Now the teaching does not deny the existence of the person taken as a psycho-physical complex. What it denies is that the person exists as a 'self', as a lasting, simple ego-entity.
The person exists, but the person is anatta. The individual is a complex of five aggregates, and to say that a person exists is to say that this unified compound of the five aggregates exists. To say that a person is Anatta is to say that no inner nucleus of selfhood can be found within or behind the personality made up of the five aggregates.
Perhaps one can make this point clearer with an example. Suppose we are walking down the country road at night. We look down at the ground and suddenly we see a snake and become frightened. Then we turn our flashlight on it. We look again and we see that there is only a rope, no snake. The rope was there all along, never a snake, but the rope appeared to us to be a snake because our sight was obscured by the darkness, because we did not focus our light on it. As a result of seeing a snake we became filled with fear and worry. When we found that it was only a rope, the appearance of the snake dissolved. We can compare the snake to the idea of self or ego, the flashlight to wisdom, and the rope to the complex of five aggregates.
To make the teaching of Anatta clearer we have to investigate two things more carefully: 1) What exactly is the nature of selfhood ? 2) Why is the person not-self? (What are the reasons for negating selfhood in the five aggregates?)
There are four dominant criteria of selfhood:
(a) the idea of duration or lastingness
(b) simplicity, incomposite entity
(d) susceptibility to control
(a) Idea of Lastingness
Self has to be an entity which persists through time. It might be a temporary duration. eg. that we come into being at birth, continue as the same self throughout life, and are annihilated at death. Or else a permanent duration, the idea of an eternal everlasting self.
This is the idea that the self is not compounded, that it possesses a basic simplicity or indivisibility.
We assume that the self must possess its own power of being, it must be self-sufficient, unconditioned, not dependent upon causes and conditions.
If something really belongs to us we should be able to exercise mastery over it, to control it so that it is subject to our determination.
SELFLESS NATURE OF THE FIVE AGGREGATES
To illustrate the selfless nature of the five aggregates the Buddha gives certain similies.
(a)The body is like a lump of foam - seems solid but when crushed turns out to be a hollow.
(b)Feeling is like a bubble - bubbles on water just arise and break up and show themselves to be empty.
(c)Perception is like a mirage. A mirage appears but when we examine it we don't find anything substantial.
(d)Formations are like the trunk of a banana tree. Just rolls of tissue within rolls and rolls without hard wood.
(e)Consciousness is like a magical illusion.It appears but has no substance.
CAN THE TEACHING OF THE TRILOGY LEAD YOU TO LIBERATION
The Buddha teaches that the way to the end of dukkha is through understanding. It is due to not understanding the real nature of existence that we remain tied to dukkha. Because of our craving, clinging and attachment, we cling to body and mind, because we see them as permanent, pleasurable and self. We interpret them as I, mine and myself. From these erroneous notions all sorts of defilements arise. Greed arises as the drive to acquisition.We want to grab hold of more power, more pleasure, higher status. The deluded notion of self gives rise to anger and hatred towards what opposes ourself. It causes the arising of selfishness, jealousy, pride, vanity, competitiveness.At the deepest level the ideas of permanence, pleasure and selfhood sustain the round of sansara.
When we get tired of running in pursuit of the objects of our desire, of trying to substantiate our sense of selfhood, then we turn away and seek the way to liberation. The Buddha points out that liberation lies precisely in the realisation of these three marks of existence: impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and selflessness, by looking at our experience with insight. When we stop identifying ourselves with the five aggregates, we see them as not mine, not I and not self. Then we become detached from the five aggregates and with detachment there comes liberation. That is the end of dukkha, the goal of the teaching.
Beyond this, I can't help but feel like I'm missing something. Is Buddhism preaching that there is no independent self within a person
"Bhikkhus, form is not-self. Were form self, then this form would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.' And since form is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.'
Exactly what is the definition of "self"? If it is the Five Aggregates, than why preach "no-self" if it's been acknowledged that all our self (?) is, is those five aggregates? Does Buddhism say that the "self" is merely a part of the Universal Soul? How, exactly, am I part of a "Universal Soul"? What defines Universal Soul? etc., etc...
I also think I'm the first person to begin understanding this doctrine by thinking in terms of the Stock Market...
clw_uk wrote:The notion of "Self" is born from clinging to the aggregates. For example if there is clinging to the body then the notion "I am the body" arises.
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