How did you understand non-self?

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How did you understand non-self?

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Feb 20, 2010 8:43 am

How did you understand the non-self/not-self through your meditation? I think it is something worth talking about as it might point others in a useful direction (no guarantees though!) and is our duty as kalyanamittas. Undestanding non-self does not mean that person is enlightened and not even a stream entrant if I understand the insight knowledges correctly so please feel free to say how you feel. :smile:

I understood it when I saw non-continuous 'packets' of reality arising and passing away. It struck me if reality was just this, then there could be no doer, no continuous state which we could call the self.

It would be interesting to see how most people have understood it- this might be the most effective way perhaps!

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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby catmoon » Sat Feb 20, 2010 9:41 am

Just observing the continuing flow of mind-generated insanity was enough for me. It was so out of sync with my intentions that it seemed quite alien.
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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Feb 20, 2010 12:31 pm

Interesting Catmoon. I think this is the first time I have heard this way of understanding non-self.

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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby catmoon » Sun Feb 21, 2010 2:21 am

It works really well - if you happen to be insane. :rofl:
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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby Kenshou » Sun Feb 21, 2010 3:07 am

Observing each phenomenon and noticing how it is not self, not controlled, nobody is "doing" it. Digging into the sense of the existence of there being something which is acting, and seeing that all there is is a chain of cause and effect. In things that we seem to "choose" to do, even those choices came about due to previous causes, and "I" didn't even really "choose" to do what I did.
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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby Northernbuck » Sun Feb 21, 2010 4:22 am

I'm not up to that chapter yet. :D
But if this neutral feeling that has arisen is conditioned by the body which is impermanent, compounded and dependently arisen, how could such a neutral feeling be permanent? - SN 36.7
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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby rowyourboat » Sun Feb 21, 2010 8:38 am

Kenshou wrote:Observing each phenomenon and noticing how it is not self, not controlled, nobody is "doing" it. Digging into the sense of the existence of there being something which is acting, and seeing that all there is is a chain of cause and effect. In things that we seem to "choose" to do, even those choices came about due to previous causes, and "I" didn't even really "choose" to do what I did.


Hi Kenshou

So seeing that there was 'nobody doing it' was what did it for you. Did that happen at the point where you saw your choices arose from previous causes? I am curious about what practice you were doing when you saw this.

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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby Kenshou » Sun Feb 21, 2010 6:18 pm

rowyourboat wrote: Did that happen at the point where you saw your choices arose from previous causes? I am curious about what practice you were doing when you saw this.


Yes, essentially. Though it isn't as if I "got" it, more like just seeing it for a moment after putting the process under scrutiny. The whole "illusion" comes back together pretty easily when not under the microscope.

I'm not doing anything unusual in my practice, my preferred method is samatha-oriented anapanasati, but once I have a firm state of concentration, I sometimes try and gently observe all the phenomena present and see how the 3 characteristics apply. Probably not much different than most vipassana meditation in essence.
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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby rowyourboat » Sun Feb 21, 2010 9:19 pm

Hi Kenshou
Did a teacher tell you to look at choices in this manner or perhaps you read it somewhere? If you stumbled upon it on your own your are indeed fortunate!

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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby Kenshou » Mon Feb 22, 2010 12:54 am

What's going on in this sutta is pretty much what I try (keyword "try", ahem) to do. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Whatever qualities there are in the _____ jhana — (....list of qualities of that jhana...) — he ferreted them out one after another. Known to him they arose, known to him they remained, known to him they subsided. He discerned, 'So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.' He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated...

I'm no expert, but it works for me.

Edit: Oh, I read too hastily. As for analyzing "choice" like that, I haven't gotten that from anywhere in particular, it's just a way of looking at things that works for me.
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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby salmon » Mon Feb 22, 2010 2:23 am

I was in a group sitting and I peeked. I noticed everyone sitting with their eyes closed, focused on their breathing. And so I asked myself what made me different from other people? The body? The mind? So, I started to break down my constitution of elements of the body and the mind. Then I did it for the person sitting in front of me, then the ones next to me. That was when I realized there is no difference between myself and the next person.
~ swimming upstream is tough work! ~
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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Feb 22, 2010 8:20 am

Hi Salmon
What constitituents did you break the mind and body down to? I take that you already knew the non-self concept but didn't have any convincing proof?

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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby salmon » Mon Feb 22, 2010 9:21 am

Hi RYB,

Prior to this experience, my understanding of non-self was just "it's not me, it's not mine." (ie. nothing belongs to me).

The non-self experience I had in that sitting was not about not "owning" anything but it was the realization that I am not a unique individual. Whatever happened to me, happens to others too and whatever happens to others would happen to me too. It was a humbling experience to realize I was not special! :tongue:

The constituents which I broke the body and mind into were really quite crude. It was mainly: muscles, skeleton and organs (more or less), the ability to think, the ability to feel (pain, anger, happiness), the ability to remember (brain functions).

I reported that experience to my teacher, who later, after I got over my shock, taught me the contemplation of the 32 body parts. And that took me to a greater understanding of what non-self is.

I'm just another bowl of fruit salad with perhaps a few more cubes of melon than the bowl on my right and a few less slices of apple than the bowl on my left :stirthepot:

Erm...does that make sense? :shrug:

EDIT: typos
Last edited by salmon on Mon Feb 22, 2010 9:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby Freawaru » Mon Feb 22, 2010 9:34 am

rowyourboat wrote:How did you understand the non-self/not-self through your meditation? I think it is something worth talking about as it might point others in a useful direction (no guarantees though!) and is our duty as kalyanamittas. Undestanding non-self does not mean that person is enlightened and not even a stream entrant if I understand the insight knowledges correctly so please feel free to say how you feel. :smile:

I understood it when I saw non-continuous 'packets' of reality arising and passing away. It struck me if reality was just this, then there could be no doer, no continuous state which we could call the self.

It would be interesting to see how most people have understood it- this might be the most effective way perhaps!

with metta

RYB


Hi RYB,

still not sure what the term "self" refers to but I can speak about recognising "this is not me, I am not it".

There are - in my experience - four ways of directly knowing this.

1) I see the thoughts, intentions, etc arise automatically, without anybody (especially not me) doing them. There is a very spacious impression with it, as if everything arises inside this space. The space is experienced as "this is me, I am that space in that feelings, etc arise and dissolve". There is an increase of temporal resolution and discernment depending on concentration.

2) I see the space described in 1) from an external perspective, knowing "this space in that everything arises and dissolves is not me, is not what I am". I get the impression of watching the mind of another, of someone else, of it all being external to me, there is a simultaneous recognition of "this is a being that I observe" as well as "it consists of processes and patterns, nobody is controling it, more like a program running" (of course not in a language). Temporal resolution is even more increased, seconds seem like eternities. It is very difficult (for me) to reflect on the observing subject during these experiences as the focus is on the observed processes, but it seems it is a kind of space, too, just pretty empty.

3) I experience both perspectives simultaneously. Really odd this one as I am two and one is aware and observing and discerning the other and this other is not aware of the first. Temporal resolution can vary.

4) I get a view from outside that space described in 2). From this perspective 2) seems like a border or skin or shell around the space described in 1). They appear like a kind of "ball", 1) is a closed space with 2) around it like the skin of the ball. Temporal resolution is so high it seems almost a standstill. Both "spaces" (1) and 2) ) can be annihilated at will (a different will - not the one arising in that space 1) ) - but it seems I didn't want it as my personality in space 1) is still intact. :P

Seriously, this is why I don't understand "atta" or "an-atta" and prefer to speak about perspectives.
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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Feb 22, 2010 10:33 am

Hi Salmon
It does make sense. The idea that you are not a unique individual seems to chip away at the idea that there is a self, if I understood you correctly. I think this is a really useful way of working with conceit. I liked your fruit salad analogy :clap:
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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Feb 22, 2010 10:42 am

Hi Freewaru

The Buddha said that ignorance exists because of a lack of samadhi! Your ability to slow things down really helps. So observing the observer observing has helped! Maybe the fact that there is no one observer chips away at the self view. I suppose being able to dissolve the boundaries of those 'selves' and know that they are processes completes the dissolution of the self view.

I have come to feel that a lot of people understand non-self or whatever the definition is but are reluctant to admit it. But I don't think there is any great danger in doing it. We can just learn so much from each other as long as it is done in the right spirit.

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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby Freawaru » Mon Feb 22, 2010 7:14 pm

Hi RYB

rowyourboat wrote:Hi Freewaru

I have come to feel that a lot of people understand non-self or whatever the definition is but are reluctant to admit it. But I don't think there is any great danger in doing it. We can just learn so much from each other as long as it is done in the right spirit.

with metta

RYB


It seems to me that one reason why many are reluctant is that there seems to be a wide-spread belief (at least on the internet) that an-atta means the destruction of the personality. When I started to discuss with Buddhists on an internet forum years ago the majority on that board was into hating their personality (and those of all others) and the patterns and processes associated with it. Many were depressed, if you ask me. When describing the sense of detachment one can experience some Buddhists (even those who claimed to be monks) assumed I talked about depersonalisation disorder. Their idea was that by not talking in terms of "I did..." or "I felt..." they were understanding an-atta.

So the danger is that one can get responses of misunderstanding and even insults. That is why I like this forum, by previous responses I know I can trust people to stay polite and there are practitioners who really know what they talk about, basing their opinions on own experiences and not on depression coloured interpretation of suttas.
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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby meindzai » Mon Feb 22, 2010 7:14 pm

As I mentioned in an earlier thread, I'm realizing more and more how little (for me) the technique of meditation matters, vs. how much or how consistently I am actually doing it. It's not so much that I've stopped completely trying to do any technique. However, I'm learning to balance how much that is useful vs. how much my mind has a "mind of it's own" and that sometimes it's better just not to interfere.

-M
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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:00 am

Greetings RYB,

rowyourboat wrote:How did you understand the non-self/not-self through your meditation? I think it is something worth talking about as it might point others in a useful direction (no guarantees though!) and is our duty as kalyanamittas. Undestanding non-self does not mean that person is enlightened and not even a stream entrant if I understand the insight knowledges correctly so please feel free to say how you feel. :smile:


I observe it indirectly, via anicca.

I could elaborate further, but I'd merely be duplicating what I wrote earlier in this topic...

Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=3529

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: How did you understand non-self?

Postby Reductor » Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:43 am

Oh, all right. I'll bite. :thinking:

Since I was sixteen I've had an intellectual appreciation of notself, and accepted it as my position. Over the years I seldom meditated, and poorly when I did. However, I would habitually reflect on feelings, emotions, thoughts, experiences to see if they were something I could call self. During that time I think I got a pretty good feel for what wasn't really part of my identity, and didn't see anything that was solid or permanent, lasting, etc. Figured I had this down pat.

Well, after I started to meditate properly and get some skill at it, I took up the cemetery contemplations. The second one, I think it is, is where the corpse is being consumed by wildlife... so I had a pretty good mental image going on, and then I wondered, out of the blue: "why would they eat that" It wasn't that I doubted a dog or bird would eat decaying flesh. Rather, I wondered why they need to eat at all. Then I contemplated what they were ingesting and what happened to it once it was consumed. Then I had a rather complete insight: they accumulate to their forms, all the while shedding from their forms... food goes in, bodies grow, heat is produced, waste is expelled, they go on, eventually dieing and also being consumed. The implication was clearly that all that I had, bodily, was accumulated in the same way, and when life left it, it would be very quick for all that I was calling 'my body' to be stripped and redistributed. If I died in the jungle, all that was 'mine' would be scattered across a hundred square miles by day break. So much for all my tender care of the body. Almost immediately I had another image arise in my mind, and it was that of an embryo, and I realized I had accumulated and shed since my conception ... at no point was I not accumulating or shedding, and was doing both all the time... my body was in flux at every moment, as are all bodies. At death the accumulation stops, but the shedding continues until there is nothing left to call 'me' or 'mine', although other beings would certainly call it 'theirs' and 'themselves'.

While all this is intellectually unsurprising, there was a shock when I realized it. That was the day I really appreciated how ignorant I was: totally overlooking the obvious.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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