Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

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Maranasati
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Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

Post by Maranasati »

Could someone clarify the meaning of the following excerpts:

Of the 'five remembrances' (Upajjhatthana Sutta)
I am the owner of my actions, heir of my actions, actions are the womb (from which I have sprung), actions are my relations, actions are my protection. Whatever actions I do, good or bad, of these I shall become the heir.
From the Abhidhamma:
The truth is that in the bodily movement of going, the consciousness that motivates it is no
person or being, no woman or man, not he, not I, not human, not a deva. It is only the
element of consciousness (citta or vinnana). The act of going caused by the consciousness
of going, is physical phenomena set in motion. Apart from mentality-materiality there
exists no person, no being, no personal entity, no soul, no individual life, no woman, or
man, neither he nor I, that goes. So also there is the coming but no one who actually
comes; there is the standing but no one who stands; there is the sitting but no one who sits,
there is the sleeping but no one who sleeps, there is the speaking but no one who speaks.
In any act there is only the action but no one who acts. There is no doer, no subject by way
of a living entity. And there is no creator. There is only the arising of physical phenomena
expressing themselves as going, coming, sitting, sleeping, speaking, etc., under the
motivating force or impulse of consciousness which is the true cause of all such arisings.
To be able to discern this truth is Knowledge in comprehending the Law of Causality.
The two passages appears to aim at different points, but how are they not in conflict with each other?

To me, the not-self doctrine has an intellectual and practical significance, which at least appears to be in conflict. Intellectually, all phenomena are 'not mine', 'not I', etc. Practically however, how should one apply this to ones own actions? The first passage above appears to encourage one to actually take possession of ones actions, and place upon them the importance that they deserve, e.g. through honing one's virtue. Is there any danger of unskillful self-view here? Or does the second passage not agree with how one should relate to ones actions? How do we parse that sentence, which explicitly states "I am the owner of my actions", compared to "In any act there is only the action but no one who acts. There is no doer, no subject by way of a living entity"
sunnat
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Post by sunnat »

One is the heir of ones kamma. The kamma has results. The results that arise and cause sitting standing walking and so on are sankharas. Sabbe sankhara anicca. That which is anicca is not-self.
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Lucas Oliveira
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Re: Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

Post by Lucas Oliveira »

"I am", it is just a conventional form of expression.
Maranasati wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 10:58 pm
Of the 'five remembrances' (Upajjhatthana Sutta)
I am the owner of my actions, heir of my actions, actions are the womb (from which I have sprung), actions are my relations, actions are my protection. Whatever actions I do, good or bad, of these I shall become the heir.
What we call "being", or "individual", or "I", according to Buddhist philosophy, is just a combination of constantly changing physical and mental forces / energies, which can be divided into five groups or aggregates .
https://www.acessoaoinsight.net/dhp/dhp2.php#N6
Maranasati wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 10:58 pm
From the Abhidhamma:
The truth is that in the bodily movement of going, the consciousness that motivates it is no
person or being, no woman or man, not he, not I, not human, not a deva. It is only the
element of consciousness (citta or vinnana). The act of going caused by the consciousness
of going, is physical phenomena set in motion. Apart from mentality-materiality there
exists no person, no being, no personal entity, no soul, no individual life, no woman, or
man, neither he nor I, that goes. So also there is the coming but no one who actually
comes; there is the standing but no one who stands; there is the sitting but no one who sits,
there is the sleeping but no one who sleeps, there is the speaking but no one who speaks.
In any act there is only the action but no one who acts. There is no doer, no subject by way
of a living entity. And there is no creator. There is only the arising of physical phenomena
expressing themselves as going, coming, sitting, sleeping, speaking, etc., under the
motivating force or impulse of consciousness which is the true cause of all such arisings.
To be able to discern this truth is Knowledge in comprehending the Law of Causality.
Samyutta Nikaya XII.37

Natumha Sutta

37. Not Yours

At Sāvatthī.

“Mendicants, this body doesn’t belong to you or to anyone else. It’s old deeds, and should be seen as produced by choices and intentions, as something to be felt.

A learned noble disciple carefully and properly attends to dependent origination itself: ‘When this exists, that is; due to the arising of this, that arises. When this doesn’t exist, that is not; due to the cessation of this, that ceases. That is: Ignorance is a condition for choices.

Choices are a condition for consciousness. … That is how this entire mass of suffering originates. When ignorance fades away and ceases with nothing left over, choices cease. When choices cease, consciousness ceases. … That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases.’”

https://suttacentral.net/sn12.37/en/sujato
:anjali:
Last edited by Lucas Oliveira on Sat Jan 02, 2021 1:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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pegembara
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Re: Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

Post by pegembara »

This may explain the difference.
The first deals with kamma and rebirth.
The supramundane or transcendent right view to see things as they truly are - anicca, dukkha, anatta.
"And what is right view? Right view, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions [of becoming]; there is right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

"And what is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions? 'There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are contemplatives & brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.

"And what is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor for awakening, the path factor of right view[1] in one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
Also, both are considered as right teachings too.
"And what is right speech? Right speech, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right speech with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions; there is right speech that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
Maranasati
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Re: Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

Post by Maranasati »

Lucas Oliveira wrote: Sat Jan 02, 2021 1:41 am "I am", it is just a conventional form of expression.
Maranasati wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 10:58 pm
Of the 'five remembrances' (Upajjhatthana Sutta)
I am the owner of my actions, heir of my actions, actions are the womb (from which I have sprung), actions are my relations, actions are my protection. Whatever actions I do, good or bad, of these I shall become the heir.
What we call "being", or "individual", or "I", according to Buddhist philosophy, is just a combination of constantly changing physical and mental forces / energies, which can be divided into five groups or aggregates .
https://www.acessoaoinsight.net/dhp/dhp2.php#N6
Are we supposed to think of "I am the owner/heir of my actions" as: "this heap of aggregates is the owner/heir of its actions"? However, the aggregates are not-self, and it is wise to reflect upon them as "not I". So why can't we conclude that it must therefore be wise to reflect "I am not the owner of my actions", just as it is wise to reflect upon "I am not the owner of my body"? I can't see how appealing to the conventional meaning of "I" and "mine" is the solution to this paradox.
Last edited by Maranasati on Sat Jan 02, 2021 8:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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DooDoot
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Re: Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

Post by DooDoot »

Maranasati wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 10:58 pm Could someone clarify the meaning of the following excerpts:

Of the 'five remembrances' (Upajjhatthana Sutta)
I am the owner of my actions, heir of my actions, actions are the womb (from which I have sprung), actions are my relations, actions are my protection. Whatever actions I do, good or bad, of these I shall become the heir.
The above is "mundane" or "conventional" language. Refer to MN 117 about the two sorts of right view or SN 1.25 & SN 5.10, which refer to "conventions".
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

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2600htz
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Re: Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

Post by 2600htz »

Hi:

Actually yes, "i am" is the owner of actions.
"I am" is a mind with craving.
When there is craving, there is owning. When there is owning there is suffering.
Craving is the function of the mind thats making the impersonal personal.

Still, every action has consequences. If a car goes 200 miles per hour on a highway, chances are it will crash. When crashing, it will break. It does not matter that the car is "no self", still is goberned by cause and effect.

Regards.
Maranasati
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Re: Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

Post by Maranasati »

2600htz wrote: Sat Jan 02, 2021 2:21 pm Hi:

Actually yes, "i am" is the owner of actions.
"I am" is a mind with craving.
When there is craving, there is owning. When there is owning there is suffering.
Craving is the function of the mind thats making the impersonal personal.
But does the "I am" which is the owner of actions, have the same sense of the "I am" which is the owner of the body? Because the view "I am the owner of my actions" is skillful and hence not self-view, while the view "I am the owner of my body" is self-view and not skillful. It is not clear how the not-self doctrine distinguishes between these two views.
DooDoot wrote: Sat Jan 02, 2021 1:56 pm
Maranasati wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 10:58 pm Could someone clarify the meaning of the following excerpts:

Of the 'five remembrances' (Upajjhatthana Sutta)
I am the owner of my actions, heir of my actions, actions are the womb (from which I have sprung), actions are my relations, actions are my protection. Whatever actions I do, good or bad, of these I shall become the heir.
The above is "mundane" or "conventional" language. Refer to MN 117 about the two sorts of right view or SN 1.25 & SN 5.10, which refer to "conventions".
Thanks for these references.
2600htz
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Re: Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

Post by 2600htz »

Maranasati wrote: Sat Jan 02, 2021 3:55 pm
2600htz wrote: Sat Jan 02, 2021 2:21 pm Hi:

Actually yes, "i am" is the owner of actions.
"I am" is a mind with craving.
When there is craving, there is owning. When there is owning there is suffering.
Craving is the function of the mind thats making the impersonal personal.
But does the "I am" which is the owner of actions, have the same sense of the "I am" which is the owner of the body? Because the view "I am the owner of my actions" is skillful and hence not self-view, while the view "I am the owner of my body" is self-view and not skillful. It is not clear how the not-self doctrine distinguishes between these two views.
DooDoot wrote: Sat Jan 02, 2021 1:56 pm
Maranasati wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 10:58 pm Could someone clarify the meaning of the following excerpts:

Of the 'five remembrances' (Upajjhatthana Sutta)

The above is "mundane" or "conventional" language. Refer to MN 117 about the two sorts of right view or SN 1.25 & SN 5.10, which refer to "conventions".
Thanks for these references.
Hi:

The view "I am owner of my actions" is skillfull in the sense that the person adopts the doctrine of efficacy of kamma, hence he tries to act in a good way to have a good future.

This is not really a "no-self view", just because something is skillfull does not mean is a "no self view". I mean people can get pretty personal when doing good stuff.

In practical terms: as long as you are not an arahant, its ok to think in terms or i am the owner or doer of actions..

The view "i am this body" is unskillfull in the sense that the person is making a self in one of the aggregates (subject to change, sickness,etc), so he/she would suffer for the body when getting old, sick or death.

Regards.
skandha
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Re: Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

Post by skandha »

Both statements emphasise conditionality from different perspectives.

I am the owner of my actions - You take responsibility for your actions and are bounded to it's effects. "You" is subservient to cause and effect.

In any act there is only the action but no one who acts. There is no doer, no subject by way of a living entity - Cause and effects is the foundation for everything not "you". Even "you" is a product of cause and effect.
Last edited by skandha on Sun Jan 03, 2021 1:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
Form is like a lump of foam, Feeling like a water bubble; Perception is like a mirage, Volitions like a plantain trunk, and consciousness like an illusion
- SN 22.95
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mikenz66
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Re: Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

Post by mikenz66 »

skandha wrote: Sat Jan 02, 2021 11:54 pm Both statements emphasises conditionality from different perspectives.

I am the owner of my actions - You take responsibility for your actions and are bounded to it's effects. "You" is subservient to cause and effect.

In any act there is only the action but no one who acts. There is no doer, no subject by way of a living entity - Cause and effects is the foundation for everything not "you". Even "you" is a product of cause and effect.
I think this is a useful way of looking at it.

There can be rather unhelpful aspects to grasping the not-self doctrine too tightly. From another thread:
coconut wrote: Sat Jan 02, 2021 7:49 pm I think your view of no-self needs to be re-evaluated as it slants too much on the nihilistic part, which is very common.
The suttas do say things like:
You should truly see any kind of consciousness at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near: *all* consciousness—with right understanding: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’
https://suttacentral.net/sn22.59/en/sujato
However, it continues:
Seeing this, a learned noble disciple grows disillusioned with form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness. Being disillusioned, desire fades away. When desire fades away they’re freed. When they’re freed, they know they’re freed.
So the ultimate point of this is to be liberated from the aggregates.

But what should we be doing before that liberation? It would obviously be a mistake to grasp it as: "all this stuff is just not-self, so it belongs to someone else, so I have no responsibility for it."

The conundrum is that although thoughts, etc, are to be understand as not-self, they are not something externally imposed. They are not just "clouds floating by". They are what is actually happening and what needs to be worked with. Grasping this wrongly could lead to a dissociation from those thoughts, etc, which is not, I believe, the point.

I think this is a tricky balancing act. Being aware of the phenomena that make up our experience, and understanding them as not-self, without turning them into "objects" that are "separate from us".

:heart:
Mike
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Re: Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

Post by coconut »

mikenz66 wrote: Sun Jan 03, 2021 12:37 am
skandha wrote: Sat Jan 02, 2021 11:54 pm Both statements emphasises conditionality from different perspectives.

I am the owner of my actions - You take responsibility for your actions and are bounded to it's effects. "You" is subservient to cause and effect.

In any act there is only the action but no one who acts. There is no doer, no subject by way of a living entity - Cause and effects is the foundation for everything not "you". Even "you" is a product of cause and effect.
I think this is a useful way of looking at it.

There can be rather unhelpful aspects to grasping the not-self doctrine too tightly. From another thread:
coconut wrote: Sat Jan 02, 2021 7:49 pm I think your view of no-self needs to be re-evaluated as it slants too much on the nihilistic part, which is very common.
The suttas do say things like:
You should truly see any kind of consciousness at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near: *all* consciousness—with right understanding: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’
https://suttacentral.net/sn22.59/en/sujato
However, it continues:
Seeing this, a learned noble disciple grows disillusioned with form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness. Being disillusioned, desire fades away. When desire fades away they’re freed. When they’re freed, they know they’re freed.
So the ultimate point of this is to be liberated from the aggregates.

But what should we be doing before that liberation? It would obviously be a mistake to grasp it as: "all this stuff is just not-self, so it belongs to someone else, so I have no responsibility for it."

The conundrum is that although thoughts, etc, are to be understand as not-self, they are not something externally imposed. They are not just "clouds floating by". They are what is actually happening and what needs to be worked with. Grasping this wrongly could lead to a dissociation from those thoughts, etc, which is not, I believe, the point.

I think this is a tricky balancing act. Being aware of the phenomena that make up our experience, and understanding them as not-self, without turning them into "objects" that are "separate from us".

:heart:
Mike
:goodpost:

A simple way to look at no-self, is to see the aggregates as a vehicle, like a car. You still need to drive carefully, maintain the car (body and mind), put the right fuel inside (food), not get into car accidents, not ignore the warning signs on the dashboard (bad thoughts) and deal with them as soon as possible. Also not to abuse the car's purpose, to use it for transportation and not entertainment/pleasure or worse, likewise use the body for work and solving dukkha, and do not waste it on sensual desires or worse.

You are not the car, but it doesn't mean you don't control the car. The car will eventually break down beyond repair, as whatever arises must eventually pass/cease, and that's the part you cannot control.

Finally, hopefully one day you won't have to work anymore so you won't need a car at all, and therefore won't have to buy a new one once your current one dies.
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Re: Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

Post by mikenz66 »

coconut wrote: Sun Jan 03, 2021 12:57 am You are not the car, but it doesn't mean you don't control the car. ...
Yes, but isn't this the tricky bit? What is this you that is separate from (in this simile) "the car"?

:sage:
Mike
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Post by sunnat »

'This you' is ignorance. Conceit that it is you is let go of when enlightenment leads to true knowledge, wisdom, panna, the end of ignorance.
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Re: Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

Post by skandha »

mikenz66 wrote: Sun Jan 03, 2021 1:08 am
coconut wrote: Sun Jan 03, 2021 12:57 am You are not the car, but it doesn't mean you don't control the car. ...
Yes, but isn't this the tricky bit? What is this you that is separate from (in this simile) "the car"?

:sage:
Mike
The "you" that seems to operate the five aggregates from our perspective of clinging, is not really in control of the aggregates. Instead "you" is subjected to the rules of the five aggregates, the rules of conditionality. Not only is it subjected to it, it is totally within it's domain and not outside of it. Likewise it seems that we are controlling the car but in fact we are subservient to the mechanics of cause and effect of the car, laws of physics. Even our will/intention and choices are given to "us" and as the suttas say, "it arises" and what arises is subject to cessation. Overall even the effects of our responsibility is bounded by the laws of cause and effect. The only worthwhile reference to a self is that of responsibility for suffering and cessation of suffering, which is bounded by predictable laws of cause and effect.
Form is like a lump of foam, Feeling like a water bubble; Perception is like a mirage, Volitions like a plantain trunk, and consciousness like an illusion
- SN 22.95
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