Oh dear! dave rupa it would have been more helpful to give me a quote not a whole library. I am not inclined to read all those links. My studies will take a long while that's for sure and I will get around to studying the original texts but i am not quite ready to plough all that lot.
befriend, I find it a little difficult to follow what you are saying but reading the last posters post i start to get it. But it makes me start to think that the self has lost the battle right from the start because of the way the buddha has tried to define it.
Now let me look at what Prasad says since i think his post is probably the most useful to me. I mean not to offend anyone, but that it actually gives me something i can chew on and which is fairly clear. so let me see.
Im going to say something which is pretty much in line with what others have said. Not because its any more accurate but because it may shed a bit more light on the topic.
There is a sutta (Historical record of what the Buddha said) were the Buddha talks about identifying what is not self (annata). He directs the attention of his student towards five categories. These five categories divide up all the components of our unfolding experience. Here are the categories:
This is the subjective texture of experience. It could be further divided into the types of sensation or elements of experience like hardness, Fluidity, motion, heat, etc etc.
The subjective texture of experience - what is that exactly? It surely isn't fluidity motion heat etc. Subjective experience means my experience as i experience it. It is subjective. You can't experience my experience because you aren't me. It is particular to me. But being an experience, it certainly is not me and it is not my self. But it is part of my self i think. Or it becomes part of my self. It affects my self. It helps bring change to my self. You see i have no problem with the fact that the self changes and is impermanent. So then the subjective texture of my experience - texture is a hard word to define here. I know what is meant but i can't find other words but i know it has nothing to do with those examples given. And that is the thing too isn't it. Good writers are good at describing the subjective texture of experience, be it their own or their characters. Bad writers are not good at it. Most people are not good writers so most people can not articulate very well the subjective texture of their experience. Its always going to be a partial and limited explanation if one is to try to convey it ot someone else. Suffice to say that the subejctive texture of your own experience can only be fully understood and felt by your own self. No one else can get the whole picture.
This is the preferential tones which accompany experience. They fall into three categories: Pleasant, Painful, and Neither Pleasant not Painful.
I know what feeling is. These are also part of the self but they are not the whole self. They are fleeting its true. they are not a permanent part of experience but they often do recur don't they. I read some useful thing about pleasant unpleasant and neutral feelings today. Of course we know in hte modern world that htere are more than these three feeling states but this is jsut a general classification. No we wouldn't ordinary say that our feelings constitute our self. But they are part of our experience so therefore i would say they are part of what makes up our self.
This is the identifying at every level which picks out particular details of and interprets experience.
Yes my perception is part of my experience i think. What i perceive is not always the same as what you can perceive. My ability to perceive is not necessarily the same either. You could be blind for example so you wouldn't be able to see what i can. But anyone who can see what i see can therefore perceive what i perceive. and then...But no perception does not interpret experience. Interpretation i think is part of mental fabrication. To perceive is to feel, see, hear, touch, taste, smell and sometimes also to intuit.
This is a hard one to get at but in this context I think its best understood as volitional predispositions in action.
Mental fabrications are not a hard one for me. These are our intepretations of what we perceive. For example, if we see a hollow round white object on a flat board. I might say its a cup. Someone else might say its a bowl. For me who believes its a cup i would think i could drink out of it. for the person who interprets it as a bowl, they might also eat out of it. Or they might use to store things in. That is very basic. But this type of mental fabrication is conceptualisation. We name things. But mental fabrications are also fanatasies. And then all manner of personal mental tricks that modern psychologists have analysed very well such as denial, rationalisation, projeciton and so on. Mental fabrications are what we do in our minds with what we perceive. Its how we think about things. These are very very personal. They are very subjective and mostly lacking in objectivity.
This is the objectifying aspect of attention which is constantly projecting a subject in relation to an object.
I am not sure what you mean here. Sometimes i myself am not sure what is meant by consciousness. To me it means to be aware of myself and to be awake in the ordinary meaning of hte word. IT gives me trouble when scientists say that animals don't have consciousness because i think they are almost as much aware of themselvse as we are of ourselves. Certainy they are not robots. They can make choices and have feelings. they are not asleep either. Consciousness itself is not our self but without consciousness we would be dead.
The Buddha points out that if these components don't meet certain criteria they should not be regarded as a self. So he is asking us to systematically look into our experience using the categories above to see if they meet these criteria. That way we will begin to have a more appropriate understanding of how to regard our experience.
These criteria are:
1) It is not conducive to dis-ease.
2) We are able to will it to be as we wish it to be.
3) It is constant or without fluctuation.
How does he arrive at these criteria? Are they trustworthy? ie why should it be constant and unchanging. Why must the self be permanent and non changeable. Perhaps this is where the problem lies for me. Perhaps these criteria are not great criteria for describing what a self is.
So yes none of these things alone seem to me to constitute a self. But i think they are part of the self. The self is definitely a tricky creature whatever it is.
I Hesitate to try to give a definition myself since i have only just begun thinking about what a self might be and the fact that the buddha doesn't think we even have one. But i am familiar with thinking about the concept of self in terms of psychology since i used to read a lot of psychology books and psychologists are very concerned with the self.