Considering Buddhism, Part II

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Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby chatra » Tue Jun 01, 2010 8:35 pm

I don't want to disrupt the continuity of the other thread, so instead of diverting topics within it, I figured I should start this second thread, since it deals with a separate topic.
I am very grateful - supremely grateful - for all the assistance that has been given in the last thread. Conversion has always been an enormous issue for me, and I am always very glad to have the help of those willing to offer it; and the help that has been offered has been excellent.

Another ... hang-up I've had about Buddhism, that I was hoping for some clarification on, is the Atman No-Self Doctrine. I'm having a very difficult time wrapping my head around this. I think I understand the basic idea underlying it, that there is no unchanging, continuous being we can call "I". The different aggregates of our make up are constantly changing; just as I now believe different things than I did 6 months ago, I can no longer be said to be the same person that I was.
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? 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...
(edit; forgot to add this) I've also heard it said that the doctrine is merely a tool for meditation, allowing us to "let go". How is this doctrine taken in Theravada and other branches of Buddhism?
I'm not rejecting or accepting the concept; I'm saying that I don't think I understand it well enough to actually hold a position. If anyone has any advice on understanding this very confusing concept, and/or some resources they would be willing to suggest, I would be incredibly grateful.
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Jun 01, 2010 8:43 pm

"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: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby Zom » Tue Jun 01, 2010 9:12 pm

Exactly what is the definition of "self"?


It depends on a certain wrong view. Some may think that this self is eternal, some may think it is not eternal. Some may think it is unchangeble, some may think that it changes all the time. All these wrong views you can find in Brahmajala sutta and other suttas.

The basic idea is that the feeling of "self" creates a continuous clinging "to be", "to exist" (and vice versa) - in whaterever form, or even formless - with a perception or even without it. This is what is called "Craving", that combines numerous "impersonal particles of the universe" into 1 single "independent" being. This craving acts like a glue. And when there is a "glued up thing", there is this feeling, sensation "I exist".

In this sutta Buddha explains what is "a being" >> http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
The interesting moment here is the analogy with sand castle. Sand castles actually consist of small sand particles, that "glued up together" with water. If we dry up this sand - water will vapour out, sand will be dispersed and no castle will be found. And then if we ask "oh, where did THIS CASTLE go?" - that will be a stupid question. It hasn't gone anywhere. It just ceased to be. And from the ultimate truth there has never been any castle. Just sand particles - combined in some way...
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby Wind » Tue Jun 01, 2010 9:37 pm

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).
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby chatra » Tue Jun 01, 2010 10:09 pm

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).



So ... in other words ... there is no indivisible entity called "Chatra"; he is made up of several distinct parts. None of these parts is me, they are all seperate, and form something that seems to be an indivisible entity. But that entity is not really there, they are not something seperate in and of themselves. They are part of the makeup of a person, not the person itself. I think I'm getting this. Since the combinations of them change so fast, the combination of them cannot be called a self either, because they lack a definite form or identity to give to them...
Am I right so far? I'm wondering about my last conclusion, since the Buddha seems to have made it a point not to answer questions about weather or not the self exists, and the last part seems to have answered that in the negative... I think I've made progress, but there's still a little I'm not sure that I'm sure on.
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby Nibbida » Tue Jun 01, 2010 10:26 pm

Another way to think of this is of the self as a process rather than a thing. We're a collection of mental and physical processes, that are interdependent with everything else, rather than a separate, static thing. The only reason it seems that there is a separate, static you is due to concepts. What we experience as a "self" is really a concept (or set of concepts) about who we are, what we are, our boundaries, etc. So there is no "you" in the way it seems. An awakened person still has those experiences of mind and body, but the sense of a "little me in the head" whose running the show is gone. It may sound disturbing but it's not. It's not like depersonalization disorder (although superficially they sound remarkably the same). It's actually like a burden lifted. Sharon Salzberg once said that people are sometimes afraid that if they experience no-self that they will turn into a blob of protoplasm or something. She said "You got into this room without a self, so you can get out of it without one."

Attached is a good talk by Joseph Goldstein that helped me understand it better.
Attachments
Goldstein - Concepts & Reality.pdf
Joseph Goldstein talk - "Concepts & Reality"
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby chatra » Tue Jun 01, 2010 11:52 pm

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?
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby chatra » Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:02 am

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?


Form: The New York Stock Exchange, or the physical "Wall Street"
Consciousness: The economic decisions of billions of people (who could be likened to neurons)
Sensory Feelings: The green and red arrows, the charts on the screens, the numbers flying past on ticker tapes
Acts of Volition: The 777 point drop on the DJIA back in 2008, the 112 point drop today, the rise that will inevitably come tomorrow
Conceptualization: The reports on CNBC, Maria Bartiromow, Jim Cramer, the Analysts on their Spreadsheets...


I'm sort of caught up in the fast-minded and not entirely focused thrill of (thinking I) finally understanding a concept, so these are far from perfect analogies, but they're part of me coming closer to fully "getting it".
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby Wind » Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:35 am

I think you are making progress. :)
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby chatra » Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:43 am

Wind wrote:I think you are making progress. :)



:namaste:
I also think I'm the first person to begin understanding this doctrine by thinking in terms of the Stock Market...
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby Jason » Wed Jun 02, 2010 1:38 am

Here's my two cents. I think the teachings on not-self (anatta) are often misunderstood. The view that there is no self and the view that there is a self are both forms of self-view. In fact, the Buddha refused to directly answer whether or not there is a self, stating that he didn't see "any such supporting (argument) for views [of self] from the reliance on which there would not arise sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair" (MN 22). Instead, he focuses on events in and of themselves, as they're experienced, bypassing the question of self altogether. The Buddha said, "Who suffers," isn't a valid question, and suggests the alternative, "From what as a requisite condition comes suffering" (SN 12.35). Hence, my understanding is that the teachings on not-self are ultimately pragmatic, soteriological methods rather than strictly ontological statements.

Self (atta), in the philosophical sense as opposed to it's conventional usage, is defined as that which is "permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change" (SN 24.3). Our sense of self, the ephemeral "I," on the other hand, is merely a mental imputation, the product of what the Buddha called a process of "I-making and my-making." (I think that Thanissaro Bhikkhu sums up the relationship between the teachings on not-self and the process of I-making and my-making very well in his essay "The Problem Of Egolessness.")

In the simplest of terms, the Buddha taught that whatever is inconstant is stressful, and whatever is stressful is not-self—with the goal being to essentially take this [analytical] knowledge, along with a specific set of practices such as meditation, as a stepping stone to what I can only describe as a profound psychological event that radically changes the way the mind relates to experience. That doesn't mean, however, that the teachings on not-self are understood to deny individuality (MN 22) or imply that the conventional person doesn't exist (SN 22.22). The way I understand it, they merely break down the conceptual idea of a self — i.e., that which is satisfactory, permanent and completely subject to our control — in relation to the various aspects of our experience that we falsely cling to as "me" or "mine" (SN 22.59).

In addition, the five aggregates (khandhas) aren't simply descriptions of what constitutes a human being as some people mistakenly think, they're just one of the many ways of looking at and dividing up experience that we find throughout the Pali Canon (e.g., aggregates, elements, six sense-media, etc.). More importantly, they represent the most discernible aspects of our experience on top of which we construct our sense of self in the process of "I-making" and "my-making" (e.g., MN 109), and I think it might be more helpful to think of them as representing things we do as opposed to just things (e.g., in the MN 43, the aggregates are described in their verb forms, not as things but as activities).

So in essence, the Buddhist teachings on not-self aren't merely assertions that we have no self; they're a method for deconstructing our false perceptions about reality, as well as an important tool in removing the vast net of clinging that gives rise to suffering.

As I've mentioned before, in one of the ways I like to look at it, the conventional viewpoint (sammuti sacca) explains things through subject, verb and object whereas the ultimate viewpoint (paramattha sacca) explains things through verb alone. In essence, things are being viewed from the perspective of activities and processes. This, I think, is incredibly difficult to see, but perhaps what happens here is that once self-identity view (sakkaya-ditthi) is removed, the duality of subject and object is also removed, thereby revealing the level of mere conditional phenomena, i.e., dependent co-arising in action. This mental process is "seen," ignorance is replaced by knowledge and vision of things as they are (yatha-bhuta-nana-dassana), and nibbana, then, would be the result of "letting go" of what isn't self through the dispassion (viraga) invoked in seeing the inconstant (anicca) and stressful (dukkha) nature of clinging to false refuges that are neither fixed nor stable (anatta).
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby Shonin » Wed Jun 02, 2010 5:45 am

Here are an excerpt from a really good book on this subject:

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 Three Signs - Anicca, Dukkha & Anatta in the Buddha's Teachings by Ven. Phra Brahmagunabhorn (P.A.Payutto) and Suriyo Bhikkhu
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby Stephen K » Wed Jun 02, 2010 8:39 am

from http://www.beyondthenet.net/dhamma/notself.htm


ANATTA

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.

SELFHOOD

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
(c) unconditioned
(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.

(b) Simplicity
This is the idea that the self is not compounded, that it possesses a basic simplicity or indivisibility.

(c) Unconditioned
We assume that the self must possess its own power of being, it must be self-sufficient, unconditioned, not dependent upon causes and conditions.

(d) Control.
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.
He says:

(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.
With metta,
Upāsaka Sumana
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:25 am

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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby clw_uk » Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:00 pm

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


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. However the body is impermanent. It just goes a long with nature in accordance with conditionality. If the body was "self" then "you" should be able to make it change accoriding to your whims. However have you ever tried to make your body become something else? Since Self would imply complete control and our bodies are outside of control they are not self. Same for feelings etc. You cant say "may my feeling be thus" it just is.



"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.'


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html



So we can observe thorugh meditation that form, feeling, perceptions, mental volitions and consciousness are impermanent, dukkha if clung to and so not-self. Apart from these 5 aggregates there are not other "parts" of a "being"

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...


The Buddhas teaching show that the concept of "Self" is merely that, a concept or notion or "ego-consciousness" that is born due to ignorance of the Dhamma (the way things are) so ignorance of the fact that the five aggregates are impermanent, dukkha and not-self. Because of this ignorance there is clinging to the five aggregates and so "I am" is continuously born. This is what "self" is in Buddhism, the result of ignorance and attachment (the sense of "I am" also being impermanent since its based on that which is impermanent and so cannot be permanent, hence its rise and fall)

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“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:14 pm

chatra wrote: :namaste:
I also think I'm the first person to begin understanding this doctrine by thinking in terms of the Stock Market...

Very likely! :smile:
But it is actually quite a good metaphor. Don't throw it away just because it is new.
:namaste:
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby Shonin » Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:22 pm

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.


What is clinging to the aggregates? (It takes two to cling.)
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