Problems with no-self

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Problems with no-self

Postby Alex123 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:24 pm

Wow. :shock: I can't believe it. I used to believe in no-self, but suddenly arguments for it lost their convincing power. :cry:
For example:

Why can't someone postulate:
1) Self that is impermanent (born 1950, died at 2030 for example)?
2) Self that is not a certain momentary dhamma, but possesses dhammas?
3) Self that is subject to external conditions?

Wow. How much my beliefs change...
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby polarbuddha101 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:33 pm

Beliefs are impermanent. What is impermanent is unsatisfactory. Is that which is impermanent and unsatisfactory fit to be regarded as 'this is mine, this is myself, this is what I am?' No :tongue:

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Varanasi in the Game Refuge at Isipatana. There he addressed the group of five monks:

"Form, monks, is not self. If form were the self, this form would not lend itself to dis-ease. It would be possible [to say] with regard to form, 'Let this form be thus. Let this form not be thus.' But precisely because form is not self, form lends itself to dis-ease. And it is not possible [to say] with regard to form, 'Let this form be thus. Let this form not be thus.'

"Feeling is not self...

"Perception is not self...

"[Mental] fabrications are not self...

"Consciousness is not self. If consciousness were the self, this consciousness would not lend itself to dis-ease. It would be possible [to say] with regard to consciousness, 'Let my consciousness be thus. Let my consciousness not be thus.' But precisely because consciousness is not self, consciousness lends itself to dis-ease. And it is not possible [to say] with regard to consciousness, 'Let my consciousness be thus. Let my consciousness not be thus.'

"What do you think, monks — Is form constant or inconstant?"

"Inconstant, lord."

"And is that which is inconstant easeful or stressful?"

"Stressful, lord."

"And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: 'This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am'?"

"No, lord."

"...Is feeling constant or inconstant?"

"Inconstant, lord."...

"...Is perception constant or inconstant?"

"Inconstant, lord."...

"...Are fabrications constant or inconstant?"

"Inconstant, lord."...

"What do you think, monks — Is consciousness constant or inconstant?"

"Inconstant, lord."

"And is that which is inconstant easeful or stressful?"

"Stressful, lord."

"And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: 'This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am'?"

"No, lord."

"Thus, monks, any form whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every form is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: 'This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.'

"Any feeling whatsoever...

"Any perception whatsoever...

"Any fabrications whatsoever...

"Any consciousness whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every consciousness is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: 'This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.'

"Seeing thus, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness. Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion, he is fully released. With full release, there is the knowledge, 'Fully released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'"

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the group of five monks delighted at his words. And while this explanation was being given, the hearts of the group of five monks, through not clinging (not being sustained), were fully released from fermentation/effluents.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


"Monks, if you were to adhere to this view — so pure, so bright — if you were to cherish it, treasure it, regard it as 'mine,' would you understand the Dhamma taught as analogous to a raft,[4] for crossing over, not for holding on to?"

"No, lord."

"If you were not to adhere to this view — so pure, so bright — if you were to not to cherish it, not to treasure it, not to regard it as 'mine,' would you understand the Dhamma taught as analogous to a raft, for crossing over, not for holding on to?"

"Yes, lord."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby Alex123 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:45 pm

Maybe Venerable Thanissaro is very wise to teach anatta as a strategy, with which I agree. Of course believing something to be mine will make it hurt more when something bad happens to that.
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby polarbuddha101 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:52 pm

Also, it depends on the semantics one is using. If Alex123's self is defined as a biological organism with such and such DNA then that self is impermanent, but the Buddha says that anything that is impermanent is not fit to be taken as self, because then what is your self will change and thus it won't be yourself anymore cause it isn't the same self as the one before. So creating a sense of self is something the mind does, it makes up these ideas about who and what we are, or that there is a we or me at all.

Here's another interesting sutta to read: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby Alex123 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:56 pm

polarbuddha101 wrote:but the Buddha says that anything that is impermanent is not fit to be taken as self, because then what is your self will change and thus it won't be yourself anymore cause it isn't the same self as the one before.


Why can't we say that Self has the body, feelings, etc which change? Even though these change, it is still the same person. Jack doesn't become John the next moment, Jane the third moment and Andrew the fourth moment. There is continuity of person from cradle to grave even though body and specific mental states do change.
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby Dan74 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:04 pm

I don't think it is a matter of belief but of examination. When we try to look for the essence within, what do we find?
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby Alex123 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:06 pm

Dan74 wrote:I don't think it is a matter of belief but of examination. When we try to look for the essence within, what do we find?


This happened with my examination of my and others pro-anatta arguments. There is this center of experience that does feel and cognize things. Even though feelings, perceptions, intentions, thoughts, etc, change, this SAME center of experience remains. A child, youth, adult, old man can still have the same center of experience, same first person perspective. Of course when aggregates cease, self ceases as well. I don't see why self can't have impermanent duration, example: 80 years. I don't see why self can't be subject to external conditions.
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby Dan74 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:10 pm

Alex123 wrote:
Dan74 wrote:I don't think it is a matter of belief but of examination. When we try to look for the essence within, what do we find?


This happened with my examination of my and others pro-anatta arguments. There is this center of experience that does feel and cognize things. Even though feelings, perceptions, intentions, thoughts, etc, change, this SAME center of experience remains. A child, youth, adult, old man can still have the same center of experience, same first person perspective. Of course when aggregates cease, self ceases as well.


Have you tried to examine this "centre"? Is it possibly part of the experience rather than something apart from it?
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby polarbuddha101 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:12 pm

Alex123 wrote:
polarbuddha101 wrote:but the Buddha says that anything that is impermanent is not fit to be taken as self, because then what is your self will change and thus it won't be yourself anymore cause it isn't the same self as the one before.


Why can't we say that Self has the body, feelings, etc which change? Even though these change, it is still the same person. Jack doesn't become John the next moment, and Jane the third moment. There is obvious continuity of person from cradle to grave.


This would be an argument from continuity. It can also go like this, "I have experiences, these experiences are mine and not another's, I know this because other people don't have my experiences. These experiences continue and so my self also continues even though the experiences change." This argument takes first person subjectivity as the basis for inferring a self or an experiencer. But what happens if there is no body, no feelings, no consciousness, there certainly wouldn't be a self or an experiencer left over.

Here's an analogy:

Imagine that when one is conceived in the womb, a red brick also appears in the womb. When the person is born, the brick comes out too. The brick follows the person everywhere all their life right behind them, and when the person dies, the brick appears in a new womb with a new baby being formed. Now, would that make those two people the same person? No. And this is why a soul or a self that isn't equated with consciousness is silly. But consciousness is impermanent, constantly changing, and so it isn't fit to be taken as self. You can't separate consciousness from consciousness of. Establishing the difference between experiences and experiencer is just a mental construct, it doesn't have any reality apart from that.

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"?'"

"No, lord."

"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"?'"

"No, lord."

"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. [1]

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


:namaste:
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby Alex123 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:15 pm

Dan74 wrote:Have you tried to examine this "centre"? Is it possibly part of the experience rather than something apart from it?


Yes, I tried to examine it. Of course it cannot be without 5 aggregates, but nevertheless the self as center of experience seems to "own" them.


polarbuddha101, you have quoted the exact sutta which I was responding in my first post.

DN15 wrote:"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"?'"


polarbuddha101 wrote: But what happens if there is no body, no feelings, no consciousness, there certainly wouldn't be a self or an experiencer left over.


Then, the self is gone. I don't see why self has to be eternal and invulnerable to be a self. This and other arguments from anicca seem to suggest that the Buddha has meant by Atta something more than mere self.

Thinking over the suttas, I just don't see how Buddha could convince anyone with merely those statements. Either there was a LOT of other arguments that didn't make it into the suttas, or the Brahmins have meant by Atta something very different than mere empiric self.
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby polarbuddha101 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:24 pm

So you're saying there is no self apart from experience right?
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby Alex123 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:25 pm

polarbuddha101 wrote:So you're saying there is no self apart from experience right?


Self has experience via 5 aggregates, and without experience and 5 aggregates, self is gone.

Why can't self experience different mental states (even moment by moment), and why ideas (in infant hood, youth, adult, old years) of this self can not change?
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby Dan74 » Thu Apr 25, 2013 1:15 am

Alex123 wrote:
Dan74 wrote:Have you tried to examine this "centre"? Is it possibly part of the experience rather than something apart from it?


Yes, I tried to examine it. Of course it cannot be without 5 aggregates, but nevertheless the self as center of experience seems to "own" them.


Are you sure? All five are necessary? So what supports this sense of self exactly?
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby ground » Thu Apr 25, 2013 1:40 am

Alex123 wrote:Wow. :shock: I can't believe it. I used to believe in no-self, but suddenly arguments for it lost their convincing power. :cry:

So you believed that it is a matter of arguments?

Alex123 wrote:For example:

Why can't someone postulate:
1) Self that is impermanent (born 1950, died at 2030 for example)?
2) Self that is not a certain momentary dhamma, but possesses dhammas?
3) Self that is subject to external conditions?

Why shouldn't someone postulate all this?

See I am postulating the horn of a hare. Yes, I can. :sage:
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby SamKR » Thu Apr 25, 2013 1:43 am

Alex123 wrote:Thinking over the suttas, I just don't see how Buddha could convince anyone with merely those statements. Either there was a LOT of other arguments that didn't make it into the suttas, or the Brahmins have meant by Atta something very different than mere empiric self.

Of course, we cannot expect suttas to contain all the arguments that could have taken place. But I think Brahmins in general, even at that time, whenever talk about atta would already assume permanency. By definition, whatever is anicca could not be atta, for them.
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby SamKR » Thu Apr 25, 2013 1:56 am

Post deleted.
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby ground » Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:01 am

Alex123 wrote:
Dan74 wrote:Have you tried to examine this "centre"? Is it possibly part of the experience rather than something apart from it?


Yes, I tried to examine it. Of course it cannot be without 5 aggregates, but nevertheless the self as center of experience seems to "own" them.

But what about the sense of self, that which merely dependently arises and - if its dependent origination is not realized - is grasped as "self"? (This is not an argument!) :sage:
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby Ben » Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:11 am

Dan74 wrote:I don't think it is a matter of belief but of examination. When we try to look for the essence within, what do we find?


Well said, Dan.
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby ground » Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:35 am

ground wrote:
Alex123 wrote:
Dan74 wrote:Have you tried to examine this "centre"? Is it possibly part of the experience rather than something apart from it?


Yes, I tried to examine it. Of course it cannot be without 5 aggregates, but nevertheless the self as center of experience seems to "own" them.

But what about the sense of self, that which merely dependently arises and - if its dependent origination is not realized - is grasped as "self"? (This is not an argument!) :sage:

Now a bit hypothetically ...
Realisation of the arising of a phenomenon is realisation of a dynamic process. It is realisation that first there is the absence of the phenomenon which then develops into its full-flegded presence. Realisation of the arising of a phenomenon therefore has as a condition that the state without it (the phenomenon) is known because otherwise the dynamic process of arising cannot be realized. Why? Because what is already there cannot be realized to be merely dependently arisen. So it seems that there is a kind of circularity here. All distracting concepts (concepts being inappropriate in the first place) in the context of "no-self" or "anatta" can only be dropped once the dependent arising of self (via sense of self) is "known" but this dependent arising can only be "known" if the state without sense of self (and self) is "known". And the latter is the reason why concentration qua meditation is suggested at all.

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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby SamKR » Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:48 am

Alex123 wrote:Wow. :shock: I can't believe it. I used to believe in no-self, but suddenly arguments for it lost their convincing power. :cry:

Arguments will lose their powers with another strong argument. Arguments are undependable, in my experience too. We need to base our insight in direct experience and not only arguments.
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