The Not-Self Strategy

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Re: The Not-Self Strategy

Postby Jechbi » Mon Aug 24, 2009 4:49 am

That's why I think it's true that the Buddha also taught a strategy of not dwelling on the "self existence" notion, not obsessing over whether there is in reality a self or not. That question strikes me as a huge distraction, perhaps of philosophical interest but of no real relevance to actual hands-on practice, and far the realization of the truth of anatta. As Ven. Thanissaro wrote:
Ven. Thanissaro (emphasis added) wrote:[The Buddha] offered an alternative way of dividing up experience: the four Noble Truths of stress, its cause, its cessation, and the path to its cessation. Rather than viewing these truths as pertaining to self or other, he said, one should recognize them simply for what they are, in and of themselves, as they are directly experienced, and then perform the duty appropriate to each. Stress should be comprehended, its cause abandoned, its cessation realized, and the path to its cessation developed. These duties form the context in which the anatta doctrine is best understood. If you develop the path of virtue, concentration, and discernment to a state of calm well-being and use that calm state to look at experience in terms of the Noble Truths, the questions that occur to the mind are not "Is there a self? What is my self?" but rather "Am I suffering stress because I'm holding onto this particular phenomenon? Is it really me, myself, or mine? If it's stressful but not really me or mine, why hold on?" These last questions merit straightforward answers, as they then help you to comprehend stress and to chip away at the attachment and clinging — the residual sense of self-identification — that cause it, until ultimately all traces of self-identification are gone and all that's left is limitless freedom.

So I'm curious to know why this so-called "not-self strategy" is controversial.
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Re: The Not-Self Strategy

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Aug 27, 2009 4:14 am

Ngawang Drolma wrote:Why was Lord Buddha willing to discuss not-self so clearly, but he didn't offer a reply when he was asked if there was no-self?

He explained why.
To Ananda.
In SN 44.10.
Because it only would have confused Vacchagotta further.

In general, though, I have learned whenever the Buddha doesn't answer something it is because it is not connected with the goal.
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Re: The Not-Self Strategy

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Aug 27, 2009 4:15 am

Jechbi wrote:So I'm curious to know why this so-called "not-self strategy" is controversial.

Because some use it as a way to assert there is a self after all.
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Re: The Not-Self Strategy

Postby Jechbi » Thu Aug 27, 2009 6:54 am

Peter wrote:Because some use it as a way to assert there is a self after all.

Well then it seems as though that assertion would be controversial, not the "not-self strategy" itself.
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Re: The Not-Self Strategy

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Aug 28, 2009 6:14 am

Greetings Jechbi,

Yes, that's what I was thinking.

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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The Not-Self Strategy

Postby PeterB » Sat Aug 29, 2009 4:45 pm

Peter wrote:
Jechbi wrote:So I'm curious to know why this so-called "not-self strategy" is controversial.

Because some use it as a way to assert there is a self after all.

There is at least one well known writer and teacher of things Buddhist ( his identity is not the point, the point is to illustrate Peter's point ) whose teachings on anatta and dependent origination are widely seen as being variants on atta teachings in actuality.
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Re: The Not-Self Strategy

Postby Jechbi » Sat Aug 29, 2009 5:16 pm

PeterB wrote:There is at least one well known writer and teacher of things Buddhist ( his identity is not the point, the point is to illustrate Peter's point ) whose teachings on anatta and dependent origination are widely seen as being variants on atta teachings in actuality.

How does your comment relate to the topic of this thread? What point of Peter's are you trying to underscore?
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Re: The Not-Self Strategy

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Aug 29, 2009 6:38 pm

PeterB wrote:
Peter wrote:
Jechbi wrote:So I'm curious to know why this so-called "not-self strategy" is controversial.

Because some use it as a way to assert there is a self after all.

There is at least one well known writer and teacher of things Buddhist ( his identity is not the point, the point is to illustrate Peter's point ) whose teachings on anatta and dependent origination are widely seen as being variants on atta teachings in actuality.


I would like to know who that is.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: The Not-Self Strategy

Postby PeterB » Sat Aug 29, 2009 7:25 pm

I am not being coy when I say that my post was a lapse in judgment and I prefer it to be deleted, or at least ignored.
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Re: The Not-Self Strategy

Postby wtp » Sat Oct 03, 2009 9:03 pm

Ngawang Drolma wrote:Hi friends :)

I just found this commentary from Thanissaro Bhikkhu on Not-Self that I've pasted below. Two things came to mind. Why was Lord Buddha willing to discuss not-self so clearly, but he didn't offer a reply when he was asked if there was no-self?


Great topic. I haven't discussed this for years, but would like to make the following point:

It seems to me that an important starting point in any discussion on anatta, is what did the Buddha take atta to mean? If all dhammas are anatta, what is atta? From what I can see atta (and hence anatta) means at least 3 things in the suttas:

1. a personal reflexive pronoun - "myself". Usual usage in the Dhammapada
2. personality or personhood, what makes us have a sense of idenity and ownership - "ego". Ususal usage when the Buddha is expounding doctrine to his followers
3. a soul that survives death and ultimately unites with Brahma/God in some sort of permanent mystical union - this is the way the contemporary Brahmins would have usually thought of atta

These definitions overlap somewhat and can lead to confusion if the wrong concept is applied in the a particular context. Of course the english word "self" is similarly multifaceted and can equally be used for all these concepts.

A good example is the famous Ananda sutta where the Buddha refuses to answer Vacchagotta about whether or not there is an "atta"

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn44/sn44.010.than.html

When Ananda asks the Buddha why he didn't reply he gives a double response. Firstly he says that to say there is an atta would be to side with the eternalists and to say there was no atta would be to side with the anhilationists. Secondly he says that to declare there is an atta would be to contradict the fact that all dhammas are not atta; but to declare there was no atta would simply bewilder Vacchagotta.

Why would the Buddha give a double answer to Ananda? It is more than a little confusing on initial reading.

However it makes sense if for the first part atta is used to mean "soul" and for the second part "ego". "Soul" is the likely meaning Vacchagotta, a non-Buddhist, would have meant. He was asking the Buddha does a soul exist and persist after death. Clearly the answer is there is no soul or unchanging essence that persists after death, however neither is death the end.

For the second part of the answer it makes sense if atta is used in the sense of "ego" or "independent identity". The Buddha says that in this sense he could not say atta exists because, to be blunt, it doesn't; on the otherhand to tell this to Vacchagotta would just bewilder him because Vacchagota was not at a stage where he could conceive that he does not have an independent identity.

So I think the Buddha in this sutta is fairly clear, there is no atta either as a "soul" or as an "ego". Vacchagota was simply not at a stage where the Buddha could explain this to him.
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Re: The Not-Self Strategy

Postby wtp » Sat Oct 03, 2009 9:45 pm

Jason wrote:When I read the discourses of the Buddha, whether they are translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Bhikkhu Bodhi, etc., I get the picture that the Buddha did not teach a doctrine of self at all.* One reason is that in MN 2, both the views of "I have a self" and "I have no self" are considered to be "inappropriate attention." To have any position or view of self is "a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views."


Hi Jason,

I have also contemplated this over the years as it is a little confusing, at least to me. How can both the view "I have a self" and the view "I don't have a self" be wrong? Firstly here is the whole passage:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?'

"As he attends inappropriately in this way, one of six kinds of view arises in him: The view I have a self arises in him as true & established, or the view I have no self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self... or the view It is precisely by means of not-self that I perceive self arises in him as true & established, or else he has a view like this: 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 stay just as it is for 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.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The first paragraph is pretty clear I think. Speculating on where this perceived self-identity came from or goes to just reinforces the sense of self identity.

The second paragraph is the one that gets a little contentious and is has been quoted to support the idea that the Buddha did not deny a self because he says here that the view "I have no self" is also wrong. Or more commonly it is used to suggest that any view or even discussion about anatta is beyond us.

However if "atta" in this paragraph is translated as "soul" then it seems much clearer. Believing there is no soul, in this context, means believing death is the end of our existence - the annihilationist viewpoint. This is clearly wrong.

I know Thanissaro does not agree with this and feels discussion on the nature of anatta is beside the point but I disagree. I do agree that fundamentally anatta is a concept to be used in a pragmatic fashion to loosen our attachment to the world of the six senses. But isn't that is true of all concepts the Buddha taught? That doesn't mean those concepts are only stategies.
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Re: The Not-Self Strategy

Postby pegembara » Sat Oct 17, 2009 5:34 am

Viktor Frankl's 1946 book Man's Search for Meaning chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate


“An active life serves the purpose of giving man the opportunity to realize values in creative work, while a passive life affords him the opportunity to obtain fulfillment in experiencing beauty, art, or nature.

But there is also purpose in that life which is almost barren of both creation and enjoyment and which admits of but one possibility of high moral behavior: namely, in man’s attitude to his existence, an existence restricted by external forces.

A creative life and a life of enjoyment are banned to him.

But not only creativeness and enjoyment are meaningful.

If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering.

Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death.

Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.”

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

"Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!"

"We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing a something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering."

"Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment."

"When we are no longer able to change a situation - just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer - we are challenged to change ourselves. "



The key to this passage is in understanding the metaphor Viktor Frankl is laying out.

First he portrays the obvious span between active creative living as opposed to passive enjoyment of life.

He says that each of these two aspects have certain inherent and assumed sets of value that, though different, provide equal access to meaning and purpose.

Where meaning and purpose are the necessary ingredients of fulfillment which are necessary to a worthwhile life.

Then Viktor Frankl introduces a third extreme in this metaphoric structure, suffering, which he implies has previously been assumed to be effectively barren of any ingredients for worth in life, or for “high moral behavior” as he puts it.

Making his point he asserts authoritatively that meaning is not the exclusive province of just the two extremes of creativity and enjoyment.

His concept is that life is an empty container in which meaning and purpose reside.

He is saying that meaning and purpose are pervasive throughout the container of life, therefore, as a consequence of simply being within the container of life, suffering also has meaning and purpose.

Contrary to popular belief, he asserts, suffering cannot negate nor restrict access to meaning and purpose.

Viktor Frankl is saying that we have a generally accepted idea that life is inherently meaningful except for the areas of life in which suffering occurs.

When you observe a person in a state of suffering you get the impression that meaning and purpose are absent or that the suffering person is prevented from accessing them.

Viktor Frankl assumes that life is inherently meaningful, so he points out how suffering must also be meaningful because of the fact that it is part of life, ipso facto.

Since life is inherently meaningful then any assumption that is made about the inherent meaninglessness or purposelessness of suffering is false, an illusion.

Is it possible that Victor had a glimpsed into emptiness, the original "Buddha" nature of mind where there were no concepts, prejudices or ideas with a sense of ownership(me, mine and myself) that that led to suffering? But in the end he attaches meaning to suffering and did not transcend samsara in the Buddhist sense.


Surrender is surrender to this moment, not to a story through which we interpret this moment and then try to resign ourself to it.

For instance, we may have a disability and can't walk anymore. The condition is as it is.
Perhaps our mind is now creating a story that says, “This is what my life has come to. I have ended up in a wheelchair. Life has treated me harshly and unfairly. I don't deserve this.”

Can we accept the "isness" of this moment and not confuse it with a story the mind has created around it?

Surrender comes when we no longer ask “Why is this happening to me?"

Even within the seemingly most unacceptable and painful situation is concealed a deeper good, and within every disaster is contained the seed of grace.

Throughout history, there have been women and men who, in the face of great loss, illness, imprisonment, or impending death, accepted the seemingly unacceptable and thus found “the peace that passeth all understanding.”
Acceptance of the unacceptable is the greatest source of grace in this world.


"Ananda, whatever contemplatives and priests who in the past entered & remained in an emptiness that was pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all entered & remained in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed. Whatever contemplatives and priests who in the future will enter & remain in an emptiness that will be pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all will enter & remain in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed. Whatever contemplatives and priests who at present enter & remain in an emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all enter & remain in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed.

"Therefore, Ananda, you should train yourselves: 'We will enter & remain in the emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed.'"

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, Ven. Ananda delighted in the Blessed One's words.

Cula-suññata Sutta: The Lesser Discourse on Emptiness

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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