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Considering Buddhism, Part II - Dhamma Wheel

Considering Buddhism, Part II

A forum for beginners and members of other Buddhist traditions to ask questions about Theravāda (The Way of the Elders). Responses require moderator approval before they are visible.
chatra
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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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Goofaholix
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

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


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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby Zom » Tue Jun 01, 2010 9:12 pm


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Wind
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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).

chatra
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

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


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Nibbida
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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.

chatra
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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?

chatra
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

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


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Wind
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

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

I think you are making progress. :)

chatra
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

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


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Jason
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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" (). 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" (). 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 ".")

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 () or imply that the conventional person doesn't exist (). 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" ().

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., ), 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 , 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" ().

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Shonin
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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

Postby Stiphan » Wed Jun 02, 2010 8:39 am


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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

Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

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Re: Considering Buddhism, Part II

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