The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

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The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby thecharmedbaja » Thu Feb 04, 2010 4:44 pm

:namaste: :D

I have very recently become a Buddhist (on the last Poya day, to be exact!), so have been looking further into what all you like-minded people believe. I had always been led to presume (by my friend and dad who are Buddhists) that it is a Theravadin belief of there being no 'self,' however, whilst looking up various things, I stumbled across this website which slightly confused me:

http://www.angelfire.com/electronic/awakening101/noself.html

Forgive me if the website I was on is completely unreputable and you're all thinking I'm completely out of my mind for questioning my fellow Buddhist friends who have more than a couple decades of knowledge and experience behind them! :? Anyway, which view is right - did the Buddha believe that there was categorically no 'self,' or did he simply not answer the question?

Thanks for any help,

Metta,
Jasmine
'He is able who thinks he is able.' - The Buddha
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby seanpdx » Thu Feb 04, 2010 5:02 pm

thecharmedbaja wrote::namaste: :D

I have very recently become a Buddhist (on the last Poya day, to be exact!), so have been looking further into what all you like-minded people believe. I had always been led to presume (by my friend and dad who are Buddhists) that it is a Theravadin belief of there being no 'self,' however, whilst looking up various things, I stumbled across this website which slightly confused me:

http://www.angelfire.com/electronic/awakening101/noself.html

Forgive me if the website I was on is completely unreputable and you're all thinking I'm completely out of my mind for questioning my fellow Buddhist friends who have more than a couple decades of knowledge and experience behind them! :? Anyway, which view is right - did the Buddha believe that there was categorically no 'self,' or did he simply not answer the question?

Thanks for any help,

Metta,
Jasmine


He didn't answer the question.

Thanissaro, the author, is a very respected and reputable theravadin monk. Also check out accesstoinsight.org, which has a lot of his writing.
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Feb 04, 2010 6:48 pm

Here he develops the topic a bit more http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... tself.html

The way I see it whatever we understand or perceive as my "self" it's not that, it's a distortion of reality or a fabrication. That doesn't necessarily mean there's nothing there but that it's not what we perceive it to be, and our perception of self is at the root of much of our suffering.

"Not self" is not a belief, it's not a doctrine, it's a practice. Everything we experience we are to experience in terms of it also being "not self", this gradually erodes the construction of self that causes us so much suffering and frees us to see things in a totally new way.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby seanpdx » Thu Feb 04, 2010 6:58 pm

For an academic response to the question, I'll quote Bronkhorst who himself refers to another work:

Johannes Bronkhorst wrote:At this point I may have to clarify some points. To begin with, the
early texts are not so clear as to whether the existence of a self is rejected
or not by the Buddha. Much has been written about this issue, without a
clear and unambiguous solution in sight so far. Most convincing is
probably Claus Oetke(5) who, at the end of a long and painstaking enquiry,
arrives at the conclusions that the early texts neither accept nor reject the
self.

(5) "Ich" und das Ich. Analytische Untersuchungen zur buddhistisch-brahmanischen Atmankontroverse,
Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1988 (ANISt 33), pp. 59-242.


It's times like these I wish I could read german. *grin*
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby meindzai » Thu Feb 04, 2010 7:15 pm

I hate confusing newcomers about this, but just be prepared to get a lot of different answers. A lot of it comes from different traditions and depends on what sources people use.

The answers so far are correct with regards to the most widely studied part of the Theravada canon which is contained in the Nikayas. These are the "Suttas" you will come across.

But if you study abhidhamma or talk to people who studied a lot of it you will most likely get a definitive "no" to the answer of whether a self exists. Not denying the conventional self (I am typing. I went to the store. I bought a loaf of bread) but in terms of ultimate dhammas or ultimate reality, no, there is no underlying essense or anything that can actually be called a "self" in any of it. There is just the arising and passing of dhammas (phenomenah) trillions of times per second in any given moment, all of which are anatta.

So as far as whether the Buddha "Said there was a self or not" depends on if you think the Buddha taught Abhidhamma or not. Thanissaro Bhikkhu (one of my top three favorite teachers) does come from a tradition that does not put much stock in Abhidhamma.

There are even people who will argue that you can come to the same "no" conclusion based on the Suttas. That's fine, though I tend to agree with Thanissaro the perspective of the Suttas it is kind of considered to just be a pointless question. "Ontology" in general was considered a kind of useless topic with regards to liberation - right along with politics and fashion.

"Just now, lord, after the meal, on returning from our alms round, we gathered at the meeting hall and got engaged in many kinds of bestial topics of conversation: conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state; armies, alarms, & battles; food & drink; clothing, furniture, garlands, & scents; relatives; vehicles; villages, towns, cities, the countryside; women & heroes; the gossip of the street & the well; tales of the dead; tales of diversity, the creation of the world & of the sea; talk of whether things exist or not."

"It isn't right, monks, that sons of good families, on having gone forth out of faith from home to the homeless life, should get engaged in such topics of conversation, i.e., conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state... talk of whether things exist or not.


-M
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 04, 2010 7:17 pm

seanpdx wrote:For an academic response to the question, I'll quote Bronkhorst who himself refers to another work:

Johannes Bronkhorst wrote:... at the end of a long and painstaking enquiry,
arrives at the conclusions that the early texts neither accept nor reject the
self.
Depends upon what is meant "self."
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby seanpdx » Thu Feb 04, 2010 7:21 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
seanpdx wrote:For an academic response to the question, I'll quote Bronkhorst who himself refers to another work:

Johannes Bronkhorst wrote:... at the end of a long and painstaking enquiry,
arrives at the conclusions that the early texts neither accept nor reject the
self.
Depends upon what is meant "self."


Quite right, and folks need to understand that the way we may define "self" may not necessarily be the proper way to define "self" in the context of early buddhism and its contemporaries. Hooray for language!
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby meindzai » Thu Feb 04, 2010 7:24 pm

seanpdx wrote:For an academic response to the question, I'll quote Bronkhorst who himself refers to another work:

Johannes Bronkhorst wrote:At this point I may have to clarify some points. To begin with, the
early texts are not so clear as to whether the existence of a self is rejected
or not by the Buddha. Much has been written about this issue, without a
clear and unambiguous solution in sight so far. Most convincing is
probably Claus Oetke(5) who, at the end of a long and painstaking enquiry,
arrives at the conclusions that the early texts neither accept nor reject the
self.

(5) "Ich" und das Ich. Analytische Untersuchungen zur buddhistisch-brahmanischen Atmankontroverse,
Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1988 (ANISt 33), pp. 59-242.


It's times like these I wish I could read german. *grin*


it's just the citation anyway. It is wierd (to me) that they compounded the Sanskrit (atman) with the german word for controversey. But they do like to compound words. (Mark Twain said that some German words are so long, they have perspective). Anywho...

I wonder if this particular scholar was taking Abhidhamma into account when he refers to "early texts."

-M
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby seanpdx » Thu Feb 04, 2010 7:29 pm

meindzai wrote:That's fine, though I tend to agree with Thanissaro the perspective of the Suttas it is kind of considered to just be a pointless question. "Ontology" in general was considered a kind of useless topic with regards to liberation - right along with politics and fashion.


Arguably one of the best comments in this thread.

It's also good to point out that perspective is important, as meindzai noted. Those folks with 20+ years experience may simply be more inclined to follow an abhidhammic or commentarial tradition, or possibly a non-theravadin tradition (?).
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby jcsuperstar » Thu Feb 04, 2010 7:31 pm

"You are a self that is not a real self. If you do not understand this, you do not understand Buddhism". -Buddhadasa Bhikkhu
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby cooran » Thu Feb 04, 2010 7:33 pm

Hello all,

These links may be of assistance:

NO INNER CORE - ANATTA by Venerable Sayadaw U Sīlānanda
http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books ... ANATTA.htm


The Buddha’s Teaching of Selflessness Anattaa
An Essay, with extracts from the Sa.myutta-Nikaaya by Nyanatiloka Mahaathera
http://www.bps.lk/other_library/buddhas ... sness.html


What the Buddha Taught by Ven. Walpola Rahual (book can be downloaded, and relevant chapter accessed)
http://seouldharmagroup.ning.com/group/ ... Topic:6221

with metta
Chris
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby seanpdx » Thu Feb 04, 2010 7:34 pm

meindzai wrote:
seanpdx wrote:(5) "Ich" und das Ich. Analytische Untersuchungen zur buddhistisch-brahmanischen Atmankontroverse,
Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1988 (ANISt 33), pp. 59-242.

It's times like these I wish I could read german. *grin*


it's just the citation anyway. It is wierd (to me) that they compounded the Sanskrit (atman) with the german word for controversey. But they do like to compound words. (Mark Twain said that some German words are so long, they have perspective). Anywho...


Yeah, I found that odd also. Anyway, the point of my comment was that it'd be nice if I could read the work being cited. I'm assuming that it's not just the title that's in german.

I wonder if this particular scholar was taking Abhidhamma into account when he refers to "early texts."


To the best of my knowledge, no scholar of early buddhism accepts any abhidhamma/abhidharma as being a part of "early buddhism". All such works are clearly acknowledged to postdate the historical Buddha.
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Feb 04, 2010 7:49 pm

Hi
I agree with Thanissaro also.
The Buddha didn't make metaphysical or ontological statements of absolute reality, he gave logical reflective statements. as Ajahn Sumedho says the noble truths aren't noble because they are true, but because they are reflective statements of truth. or something to that effect.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby cooran » Thu Feb 04, 2010 8:03 pm

Hello all,

I'd be interested in what your thoughts are on my links above -

with metta
Chris
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---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby seanpdx » Thu Feb 04, 2010 8:16 pm

cooran wrote:Hello all,

I'd be interested in what your thoughts are on my links above -

with metta
Chris


I don't like 'em, no sir I don't.
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 04, 2010 8:16 pm

Manapa wrote:Hi
I agree with Thanissaro also.
The Buddha didn't make metaphysical or ontological statements of absolute reality….
Well, yeah. What good is a metaphysical self? Does it see? Does it feel? Does it act?

Monks, whatever contemplatives or priests who assume in various ways when assuming a self, all assume the five clinging-aggregates, or a certain one of them. SN III 46. If the metaphysical self sees, act, feels, what differentiates it from the khandhas?

What the Buddha dealt with was the “All”: "Monks, I will teach you the all. And what is the all? The eye and forms, the ear and sounds the nose and odors, the tongue and tastes, the body and touch, the mind and mental phenomena. This is called the all. If anyone, monks, should speak thus: ' Having rejected this all, I shall make known another all' - that would be a mere empty boast." SN IV 15, which is an interesting text in that it seems to be a response to the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad’s notion of what is “All”:

Klaus Klostermaier's A SURVEY OF HINDUISM, pgs: 137-8, 149-50 wrote:"In the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad we read a dialogue in which Yajnavalkya is asked the crucial question: Kati devah, how many are the devas [gods]? His first answer is a quotation from a Vedic text:

'Three hundred and three and three thousand and three." Pressed
on, he reduces the number first to thirty-three, then to six, then to
three, to two, to one-and-a-half and finally to One.

'Which is the one deva [god]?' And he answers: "The prana (breath, life). The Brahman. He is called tyat(that).' Though the devas still figure in sacrificial practice and religious debate, the question 'Who is God?' is here answered in terms that has remained the Hindu answer ever since.

10. Verily, in the beginning this world was Brahma. It knew only itself
(atmanam): "I am Brahma!" Therefore it became the All. Whoever of the gods became awakened to this, he indeed became it; likewise in the case of seers (rsi), likewise in the case of men. Seeing this, indeed, the seer Vamadeva began:-

I was Manu and the sun (surya)!

This is so now also. Whoever thus knows "I am Brahma!" becomes this All; even the gods have not power to prevent his becoming thus, for he becomes their self (atman).

So whoever worships another divinity [than his Self], thinking "He is
one and I another," he knows not. He is like a sacrificial animal for the gods. Verily, indeed, as many animals would be of service to a man, even so each single person is of service to the gods. If even one animal is taken away, it is not pleasant. What, then, if many? Therefore it is not pleasing to those [gods] that men should know this.

11. Verily, in the beginning this world was Brahma, one only.


So, again, what need is there of a metaphysical all or self? If it feels or acts, what differentiates it from the khandhas? What does it do? How can it be known?
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby cooran » Thu Feb 04, 2010 8:23 pm

seanpdx wrote:
cooran wrote:Hello all,

I'd be interested in what your thoughts are on my links above -

with metta
Chris


I don't like 'em, no sir I don't.

So ..... you don't like what Ven. Sayadaw U Silananda, Ven Rahula Walpola, and Ven.Nyanatiloka wrote based on the Tipitaka.

Why?

Rather than just an unsubstantiated remark, I'd be interested in a response with substance ~ quoting the relevant parts of their articles and relevant parts of the Suttas which show your perspective (whatever you choose to state) is correct.

with metta
Chris
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby meindzai » Thu Feb 04, 2010 8:25 pm

cooran wrote:Hello all,

I'd be interested in what your thoughts are on my links above -

with metta
Chris


They're quite long. :)

Which means only that it would take some time before I think we can really comment on them. But it goes to show that it is a complex subject and there is no easy way to answer a beginner. I feel for Jasmine, coming back to this thread and seeing the flurry of replies for such a seemingly simple question.

-M
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby Chula » Thu Feb 04, 2010 8:27 pm

I think people too easily misunderstand Thānissaro Bhikkhu's view on the not-self teaching. I recommend listening to his recent talks on a retreat about Anattā:

Selves and Not Self -
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Retr ... Audio.html

Holding that he has some hidden self-view, or that he thinks that the Buddha implied some possibility of a self outside of the aggregates, is a misunderstanding I think even people who claim to agree with his views fall to.
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Re: The Concept Of Anatta - No-Self

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Feb 04, 2010 9:50 pm

cooran wrote:Hello all,

I'd be interested in what your thoughts are on my links above -



I think they are links. Personally I don't generally have a great deal of motivation to click on links unless they are supporting some views, questions, or opinions expressed by the poster.

So what do you think of them?
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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