How did you understand non-self?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
rowyourboat
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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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catmoon
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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.

rowyourboat
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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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catmoon
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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:

Kenshou
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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

rowyourboat
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Re: How did you understand non-self?

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

With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

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Re: How did you understand non-self?

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


rowyourboat
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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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salmon
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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! ~

rowyourboat
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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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salmon
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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.
~ swimming upstream is tough work! ~

Freawaru
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Re: How did you understand non-self?

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


rowyourboat
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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:
With Metta

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rowyourboat
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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.

with metta

RYB
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Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

Freawaru
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Re: How did you understand non-self?

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


meindzai
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Re: How did you understand non-self?

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

As I mentioned , 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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retrofuturist
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Re: How did you understand non-self?

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

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

Reductor
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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.


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