nibs wrote:Ok. Where does it say in the suttas a 'sense of self' does not dissapear for good at full awakening?
Where does it say it does
The Buddha wanted us to examine our assumptions about self, not come to ultimate conclusions about the ontological (metaphysical) status of self/selves.
Let's start with a passage from MN 22, Alagaddupama Sutta: The Water-Snake Simile
"And when the devas, together with Indra, the Brahmas, & Pajapati, search for the monk whose mind is thus released, they cannot find that 'The consciousness of the one truly gone (tathagata) is dependent on this.' Why is that? The one truly gone is untraceable even in the here & now.
"Speaking in this way, teaching in this way, I have been erroneously, vainly, falsely, unfactually misrepresented by some brahmans and contemplatives [who say], 'Gotama the contemplative is one who misleads. He declares the annihilation, destruction, extermination of the existing being.' But as I am not that, as I do not say that, so I have been erroneously, vainly, falsely, unfactually misrepresented by those venerable brahmans and contemplatives [who say], 'Gotama the contemplative is one who misleads. He declares the annihilation, destruction, extermination of the existing being.'
"Both formerly and now, monks, I declare only stress and the cessation of stress.
Thanissaro's introduction states that
Thanissaro wrote:This is a discourse about clinging to views (ditthi). Its central message is conveyed in two similes, among the most famous in the Canon: the simile of the water-snake and the simile of the raft. Taken together, these similes focus on the skill needed to grasp right view properly as a means of leading to the cessation of suffering, rather than an object of clinging, and then letting it go when it has done its job.
The first section of the discourse, leading up to the simile of the water-snake, focuses on the danger of misapprehending the Dhamma in general, and particularly the teachings on sensuality. The discourse doesn't explain how the offending monk, Arittha, formulated his misapprehension of the Dhamma, but the Commentary suggests a plausible scenario:
"Here the monk... having gone into seclusion, reasons as follows: 'There are people living the household life, enjoying the five pleasures of the senses, who are stream-winners, once-returners, and non-returners. As for monks, they see pleasurable forms cognizable via the eye, hear... smell... taste... feel (pleasurable) tactile sensations cognizable via the body. They use soft carpets and clothing. All this is proper. Then why shouldn't the sight, sound, smell, taste, and feel of a woman be proper? They too are proper!' Thus... comparing a mustard seed with Mount Sineru, he gives rise to the pernicious viewpoint, 'Why did the Blessed One — binding the ocean, as it were, with great effort — formulate the first parajika training rule (against sexual intercourse)? There is nothing wrong with that act.'"
Regardless of how Arittha actually arrived at his position, the Commentary's suggestion makes an important point: that just because an idea can be logically inferred from the Dhamma does not mean that the idea is valid or useful. The Buddha himself makes the same point in AN 2.25:
"Monks, these two slander the Tathagata. Which two? He who explains a discourse whose meaning needs to be inferred as one whose meaning has already been fully drawn out. And he who explains a discourse whose meaning has already been fully drawn out as one whose meaning needs to be inferred..."
Having established this point, the discourse illustrates it with the simile of the water-snake, which in turn is an introduction to the simile of the raft. It is important to underline the connection between these two similes, for it is often missed. Many a casual reader has concluded from the simile of the raft simply that the Dhamma is to be let go. In fact, one major Mahayana text — the Diamond Sutra — interprets the raft simile as meaning that one has to let go of the raft in order to cross the river. However, the simile of the water-snake makes the point that the Dhamma has to be grasped; the trick lies in grasping it properly. When this point is then applied to the raft simile, the implication is clear: One has to hold onto the raft properly in order to cross the river. Only when one has reached the safety of the further shore can one let go.
Taken together, these two similes set the stage for the remainder of the discourse, which focuses on the teaching of not-self. This is one of the most easily misapprehended teachings in the Canon largely because it is possible to draw the wrong inferences from it.
Two mistaken inferences are particularly relevant here. The first concerns the range of the not-self teaching. Some have argued that, because the Buddha usually limits his teachings on not-self to the five aggregates — form, feeling, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness — he leaves open the possibility that something else may be regarded as self. Or, as the argument is often phrased, he denies the limited, temporal self as a means of pointing to one's identity with the larger, unlimited, cosmic self. However, in this discourse the Buddha explicitly phrases the not-self teaching in such a way as to refute any notion of cosmic self. Instead of centering his discussion of not-self on the five aggregates, he focuses on the first four aggregates plus two other possible objects of self-identification, both more explicitly cosmic in their range: (1) all that can be seen, heard, sensed, cognized, attained, sought after, pondered by the intellect; and (2) the cosmos as a whole, eternal and unchanging. In fact, the Buddha holds this last view up to particular ridicule, as the teaching of a fool, for two reasons that are developed at different points in this discourse: (1) If the cosmos were "me," then it must also be "mine," which is obviously not the case. (2) There is nothing in the experience of the cosmos that fits the bill of being eternal, unchanging, or that deserves to be clung to as "me" or "mine."
The second mistaken inference is that, given the thoroughness with which the Buddha teaches not-self, one should draw the inference that there is no self. This inference is treated less explicitly in this discourse, although it is touched upon briefly in terms of what the Buddha teaches here and how he teaches.
In terms of what: He explicitly states he cannot envision a doctrine of self that, if clung to, would not lead to sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair. He does not list all the possible doctrines of self included under this statement, but MN 2 provides at least a partial list:
I have a self... I have no self... It is precisely by means of self that I perceive self... It is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self... It is precisely by means of not-self that I perceive self... or... This very self of mine — the knower that is sensitive here & there to the ripening of good & bad actions — is the self of mine that is constant, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and will endure as long as eternity. This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. Bound by a fetter of views, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is not freed from birth, aging, & death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. He is not freed, I tell you, from suffering & stress.
Thus the view "I have no self" is just as much a doctrine of self as the view "I have a self." Because the act of clinging involves what the Buddha calls "I-making" — the creation of a sense of self — if one were to cling to the view that there is no self, one would be creating a very subtle sense of self around that view (see AN 4.24). But, as he says, the Dhamma is taught for "the elimination of all view-positions, determinations, biases, inclinations, & obsessions; for the stilling of all fabrications; for the relinquishing of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding."
Thus it is important to focus on how the Dhamma is taught: Even in his most thoroughgoing teachings about not-self, the Buddha never recommends replacing the assumption that there is a self with the assumption that there is no self. Instead, he only goes so far as to point out the drawbacks of various ways of conceiving the self and then to recommend dropping them. For example, in his standard series of questions building on the logic of the inconstancy and stress of the aggregates, he does not say that because the aggregates are inconstant and stressful there is no self. He simply asks, When they are inconstant and stressful, is it proper to assume that they are "me, my self, what I am"? Now, because the sense of self is a product of "I-making," this question seeks to do nothing more than to induce disenchantment and dispassion for that process of I-making, so as to put a stop to it. Once that is accomplished, the teaching has fulfilled its purpose in putting an end to suffering and stress. That's the safety of the further shore. As the Buddha says in this discourse, "Both formerly and now, monks, I declare only stress and the cessation of stress." As he also says here, when views of self are finally dropped, one is free from agitation; and as MN 140 points out, when one is truly unagitated one is unbound. The raft has reached the shore, and one can leave it there — free to go where one likes, in a way that cannot be traced.
And in a footnote to this passage, Thanissaro says,
Thanissaro wrote:Annihilationism is one of the two extremes of wrong view criticized most heavily by the Buddha (the other is eternalism, as represented by the sixth of the six view-positions). Some interpreters, citing this passage, have tried to limit the meaning of annihilationism simply to the idea of the annihilation of an existing being. The teaching that there is no self, they then argue, does not count as annihilationism because there is no self to be annihilated. This interpretation ignores SN 44.10, which counts the statement "there is no self" as siding with annihilationism.
As for the term, "existing being": SN 22.36 and SN 23.2 state that a being is defined by his/her/its objects of clinging. SN 5.10 indicates that one of the ways of overcoming clinging is to focus on how the concept of "being" arises, without assuming the truth of the concept. And as MN 72, SN 22.85, and SN 22.86 maintain, when clinging is gone, one is called not a being but a tathagata — who, freed from clinging, cannot be classified as or identified with anything at all.
SN 44.10 (mentioned above), Ananda Sutta: To Ananda (On Self, No Self, and Not-self)
is also instructive:
Then the wanderer Vacchagotta went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there he asked the Blessed One: "Now then, Venerable Gotama, is there a self?"
When this was said, the Blessed One was silent.
"Then is there no self?"
A second time, the Blessed One was silent.
Then Vacchagotta the wanderer got up from his seat and left.
Then, not long after Vacchagotta the wanderer had left, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, "Why, lord, did the Blessed One not answer when asked a question by Vacchagotta the wanderer?"
"Ananda, if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self — were to answer that there is a self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of eternalism [the view that there is an eternal, unchanging soul]. If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of annihilationism [the view that death is the annihilation of consciousness]. If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self — were to answer that there is a self, would that be in keeping with the arising of knowledge that all phenomena are not-self?"
"And if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, the bewildered Vacchagotta would become even more bewildered: 'Does the self I used to have now not exist?'"
Also note Thanissaro's comment in his Introduction to the Avyakata Samyutta (Undeclared-connected)
this sutta comes from.
Thanissaro wrote:Even more controversial is SN 44.10, which addresses an issue not included in the standard list of ten undeclared questions: Is there a self? Is there no self? Many scholars have been uncomfortable with the fact that the Buddha leaves this question unanswered, believing that his statement that "all phenomena are not-self" implicitly states that there is no self. Thus they have tried to explain away the Buddha's silence on the existence or non-existence of the self, usually by pointing to the fourth of his reasons for not answering the question: his bewildered interlocutor, Vacchagotta, would have become even more bewildered. Had the Buddha been asked by someone less bewildered, these commentators say, he would have given the straight answer that there is no self. However, these commentators ignore two points. (1) The Buddha's first two reasons for not answering the questions have nothing to do with Vacchagotta. To say that there is a self, he says, would be siding with the wrong views of the eternalists. To say that there is no self would be siding with the wrong views of the annihilationists. (2) Immediately after Vacchagotta leaves, Ven. Ananda asks the Buddha to explain his silence. Had the Buddha really meant to declare that there is no self, this would have been the perfect time to do so, for bewildered people were now out of the way. But, again, he did not take that position.
One peculiarity of this approach to the Buddha's silence on this issue is that many commentators, noting the Buddha's desire not to bewilder Vacchagotta, assume somehow that their readers and listeners at present would not be bewildered by a doctrine that there is no self, and feel free to jump into the breach, stating baldly what they believe the Buddha was simply too reticent to say.
Another attempt to explain the Buddha's silence on this issue focuses on the second reason for his silence, saying that the annihilationists had laid claim to the slogan that there is no self, so — because the Buddha did not want his own doctrine of no self to be confused with theirs — he avoided their slogan. This explanation, however, is not supported by the Canon. The doctrines of the annihilationists are presented in a fair amount of detail in the Canon, and nowhere are they quoted as saying outright that there is no self. Thus there is no basis for saying that it was their slogan. Second, there are many instances where the Buddha, when asked a categorical question concerning an issue where he wanted to give a nuanced answer, showed himself perfectly capable of rephrasing the question in more nuanced terms before giving his reply. Had he held a nuanced doctrine that there is no self, he could have easily rephrased Vacchagotta's question before answering it. The fact that he chose not to do so, either in Vacchagotta's or Ven. Ananda's presence, indicates that he felt that this issue, too, was a thicket of views based on a misunderstanding, accompanied by suffering, and not leading to awakening.
So how is the statement "all phenomena are not self" to be taken? As a path to awakening. According to Dhp 279, when one sees this fact with discernment to the point of becoming disenchanted with stress, it forms the path to purity. Here the term "phenomena" covers fabricated and unfabricated phenomena. The fabricated phenomena encountered along the path include the aggregates, elements, and sense media. The unfabricated phenomenon, encountered when these fabricated phenomena cease, is the deathless. AN 9.96, however, points out that it is possible, on encountering the deathless, to feel a dhamma-passion and dhamma-delight for it, thus preventing full awakening. At this point the realization that all phenomena are not-self would be needed to overcome this last obstacle to total release. And once there is release, one becomes, like the Tathagata, indescribable: "deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the ocean." At that point, the path is abandoned, like a raft after it has been used to cross a river, and positions that "there is a self" and "there is no self" would not apply.
And Consider DN 15, The Maha-nidana (Great Causes) Sutta
Assumptions of a Self
"To what extent, Ananda, does one assume when assuming a self? Assuming feeling to be the self, one assumes that 'Feeling is my self' [or] 'Feeling is not my self: My self is oblivious [to feeling]' [or] 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious to feeling, but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling.'
"Now, one who says, 'Feeling is my self,' should be addressed as follows: 'There are these three feelings, my friend — feelings of pleasure, feelings of pain, and feelings of neither pleasure nor pain. Which of these three feelings do you assume to be the self?' At a moment when a feeling of pleasure is sensed, no feeling of pain or of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed. Only a feeling of pleasure is sensed at that moment. At a moment when a feeling of pain is sensed, no feeling of pleasure or of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed. Only a feeling of pain is sensed at that moment. At a moment when a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed, no feeling of pleasure or of pain is sensed. Only a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed at that moment.
"Now, a feeling of pleasure is inconstant, fabricated, dependent on conditions, subject to passing away, dissolution, fading, and cessation. A feeling of pain is inconstant, fabricated, dependent on conditions, subject to passing away, dissolution, fading, and cessation. A feeling of neither pleasure nor pain is inconstant, fabricated, dependent on conditions, subject to passing away, dissolution, fading, and cessation. Having sensed a feeling of pleasure as 'my self,' then with the cessation of one's very own feeling of pleasure, 'my self' has perished. Having sensed a feeling of pain as 'my self,' then with the cessation of one's very own feeling of pain, 'my self' has perished. Having sensed a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain as 'my self,' then with the cessation of one's very own feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, 'my self' has perished.
"Thus he assumes, assuming in the immediate present a self inconstant, entangled in pleasure and pain, subject to arising and passing away, he who says, 'Feeling is my self.' Thus in this manner, Ananda, one does not see fit to assume feeling to be the self.
"As for the person who says, 'Feeling is not the self: My self is oblivious [to feeling],' he should be addressed as follows: 'My friend, where nothing whatsoever is sensed (experienced) at all, would there be the thought, "I am"?'"
"Thus in this manner, Ananda, one does not see fit to assume that 'Feeling is not my self: My self is oblivious [to feeling].'
"As for the person who says, 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious [to feeling], but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling,' he should be addressed as follows: 'My friend, should feelings altogether and every way stop without remainder, then with feeling completely not existing, owing to the cessation of feeling, would there be the thought, "I am"?'"
"Thus in this manner, Ananda, one does not see fit to assume that 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious [to feeling], but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling.'
"Now, Ananda, in as far as a monk does not assume feeling to be the self, nor the self as oblivious, nor that 'My self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling,' then, not assuming in this way, he is not sustained by anything (does not cling to anything) in the world. Unsustained, he is not agitated. Unagitated, he is totally unbound right within. He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'
"If anyone were to say with regard to a monk whose mind is thus released that 'The Tathagata exists after death,' is his view, that would be mistaken; that 'The Tathagata does not exist after death'... that 'The Tathagata both exists and does not exist after death'... that 'The Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist after death' is his view, that would be mistaken. Why? Having directly known the extent of designation and the extent of the objects of designation, the extent of expression and the extent of the objects of expression, the extent of description and the extent of the objects of description, the extent of discernment and the extent of the objects of discernment, the extent to which the cycle revolves: Having directly known that, the monk is released. [To say that,] 'The monk released, having directly known that, does not see, does not know is his opinion,' that would be mistaken.
Consider also DN 9, Potthapada Sutta: About Potthapada
Potthapada, there are these three acquisitions of a self: the gross acquisition of a self, the mind-made acquisition of a self, and the formless acquisition of a self.  And what is the gross acquisition of a self? Possessed of form, made up of the four great existents, feeding on physical food: this is the gross acquisition of a self. And what is the mind-made acquisition of a self? Possessed of form, mind-made, complete in all its parts, not inferior in its faculties: this is the mind-made acquisition of a self. And what is the formless acquisition of a self? Formless and made of perception: this is the formless acquisition of a self.
In his introduction to this sutta, Thanissaro states,
Thanissaro wrote:This sutta portrays two modes by which the Buddha responded to the controversial issues of his day. The first mode — illustrated by his contribution to the discussion on the ultimate cessation of perception — was to adopt the terms of the discussion but to invest them with his own meanings, and then to try to direct the discussion to the practice leading to the cessation of suffering & stress. The second mode — illustrated by his treatment of whether the cosmos is eternal, etc. — was to declare the issues as unconducive to awakening, and to refuse to take a position on them.
Several other suttas — such as MN 63, MN 72, and AN 10.93 — portray the Buddha and his disciples adopting the second mode. This sutta is unusual in its extended portrait of the Buddha's adopting the first. Many of the technical terms he uses here — such as the perception of a refined truth, the peak of perception, the alert step-by step attainment of the ultimate cessation of perception, the acquisition of a self — are found no where else in the Canon. At the end of the sutta, he describes them as "the world's designations, the world's expressions, the world's ways of speaking, the world's descriptions, with which the Tathagata expresses himself but without grasping at them." In other words, he picks them up for the purpose at hand and then lets them go. Thus they are not to be regarded as central to his teaching. Instead, they should be read as examples of his ability to adapt the language of his interlocutors to his own purposes. For this reason, this sutta is best read only after you have read other suttas and are familiar with the more central concepts of the Buddha's teachings.
Of particular interest here is the Buddha's treatment of the three "acquisitions of a self." The first — the gross self — refers to the ordinary, everyday sense of identifying with one's body. The latter two — the mind-made acquisition and the formless acquisition — refer to the sense of self that can be developed in meditation. The mind-made acquisition can result from an experience of the mind-made body — the "astral body" — that constitutes one of the powers that can be developed through concentration practice. The formless acquisition can result from any of the formless states of concentration — such as an experience of infinite space, infinite consciousness, or nothingness. Although meditators, on experiencing these states, might assume that they have encountered their "true self," the Buddha is careful to note that these are acquisitions, and that they are no more one's true self than the body is. They are one's acquisition of a self only for the time that one identifies with them. The Buddha goes on to say that he teaches the Dhamma for the sake of abandoning every acquisition of a self "such that, when you practice it, defiling mental qualities will be abandoned, bright mental qualities will grow, and you will enter & remain in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having known & realized it for yourself in the here & now."
And in Thanissaro's note to this passage he says,
Thanissaro wrote:Acquisition of a self (atta-pa.tilaabho): According to the Commentary, this refers to the acquisition of an individual identity (attabhaava-pa.tilaabho) on any of the three levels of becoming: the sensual level, the level of form, and the formless level. The term attabhaava-pa.tilaabho is used in a number of suttas — among them AN 4.192 — where it definitely refers to the type of identity one assumes on experiencing rebirth in a particular level of being. However, there are two reasons for not following the Commentary's equation of atta-pa.tilaabho with attabhaava-pa.tilaabho. (1) As AN 4.72 makes clear, there is a type of attabhaava-pa.tilaabho — rebirth in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception — that would not be covered by any of the three types of acquisition of a self mentioned in this sutta. Thus the Buddha seems to be limiting his discussion here to the alternative selves posited by Potthapada. (2) In a later passage in this sutta, the Buddha refers to the acquisition of a self as something he can point to directly in his listeners' immediate range of experience. Thus the term would seem to refer to the sense of self one can attain as a result of different levels of experience in meditation here and now.
See also: SN 22.1, SN 22.42, SN 22.47, SN 44.1, MN 44, MN 109 (where the Buddha reprimands a monk for taking the not-self teaching too far), AN 3.40 (where the Buddha includes the self as one of the three governing principles) and AN 4.200.