Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
coconut
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Re: Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

Post by coconut »

Maranasati wrote: Sun Jan 03, 2021 8:51 am There are many valuable comments in this thread which I find useful, but the underlying paradox of why the not-self doctrine cannot be applied here remains for me. Basically, again:

If, as you say, it is true to say: 1) "This nama-rupa (mind-body) is the owner of its actions."
We know that it is skillful to say: 2) "This nama-rupa (mind-body) is not mine, not I."
Then why is it not therefore skillful to say: 3) "I am not the owner of my actions."

[ A is the owner of B ] + [ A is not C ] => [ C is not the owner of B ]

3) Seems to follow logically from 1) and 2), as a combination of a true and a skillful statement, yet it is unskillful. What is the mistake in the above reasoning?
Because you're still "plugged in" to nama-rupa. You may not be the car, but if you are plugged into it, and the car crashes, you're going to feel that pain. As long as you're "clinging" or "plugged in", you're tied to that nama-rupa.

When you're "unplugged" then you're detached, and not clinging, and no longer affected by what happens to nama-rupa.

He discerns thus: "When I confront the source of this suffering with effort, by confronting it with effort [the suffering] fades away.

When the source of this suffering is passively observed, through developing detached awareness, [the suffering] fades away.

— M.2.223
It's only once you've unplugged/detached that you're no longer affected by what happens to nama-rupa, and coincidentally, you're no longer generating karma.

The Buddha uses a metaphor of removing the skin off a cow, by destroying the tendons, and then putting the skin on the cows body again, this time unattached.

As long as those tendons (asavas) are attached to your vehicle (nama-rupa) you are the owner of your actions. But when you are detached from your nama-rupa, you are no longer the owner of your actions but it doesn't matter anyway because you're not generating any more karma at that point as you're an Arahant.
“Sisters, suppose a skilled butcher or his apprentice were to kill a cow and carve it up with a sharp butcher’s knife. Without damaging the inner mass of flesh and without damaging the outer hide, he would cut, sever, and carve away the inner tendons, sinews, and ligaments with the sharp butcher’s knife. Then having cut, severed, and carved all this away, he would remove the outer hide and cover the cow again with that same hide. Would he be speaking rightly if he were to say: ‘This cow is joined to this hide just as it was before’?”

“No, venerable sir. Why is that? Because if that skilled butcher or his apprentice were to kill a cow…and cut, sever, and carve all that away, even though he covers the cow again with that same hide and says: ‘This cow is joined to this hide just as it was before,’ that cow would still be disjoined from that hide.”

“Sisters, I have given this simile in order to convey a meaning. This is the meaning: ‘The inner mass of flesh’ is a term for the six internal bases. ‘The outer hide’ is a term for the six external bases. ‘The inner tendons, sinews, and ligaments’ is a term for delight and lust. ‘The sharp butcher’s knife’ is a term for noble wisdom—the noble wisdom that cuts, severs, and carves away the inner defilements, fetters, and bonds.
- MN 146
Maranasati
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Re: Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

Post by Maranasati »

coconut wrote: Mon Jan 04, 2021 10:01 am
Maranasati wrote: Sun Jan 03, 2021 8:51 am There are many valuable comments in this thread which I find useful, but the underlying paradox of why the not-self doctrine cannot be applied here remains for me. Basically, again:

If, as you say, it is true to say: 1) "This nama-rupa (mind-body) is the owner of its actions."
We know that it is skillful to say: 2) "This nama-rupa (mind-body) is not mine, not I."
Then why is it not therefore skillful to say: 3) "I am not the owner of my actions."

[ A is the owner of B ] + [ A is not C ] => [ C is not the owner of B ]

3) Seems to follow logically from 1) and 2), as a combination of a true and a skillful statement, yet it is unskillful. What is the mistake in the above reasoning?
Because you're still "plugged in" to nama-rupa. You may not be the car, but if you are plugged into it, and the car crashes, you're going to feel that pain. As long as you're "clinging" or "plugged in", you're tied to that nama-rupa.

When you're "unplugged" then you're detached, and not clinging, and no longer affected by what happens to nama-rupa.

...

As long as those tendons (asavas) are attached to your vehicle (nama-rupa) you are the owner of your actions. But when you are detached from your nama-rupa, you are no longer the owner of your actions but it doesn't matter anyway because you're not generating any more karma at that point as you're an Arahant.
DooDoot wrote: Mon Jan 04, 2021 12:17 am
Maranasati wrote: Sun Jan 03, 2021 8:51 amWe know that it is skillful to say: 2) "This nama-rupa (mind-body) is not mine, not I."
No. The above is unnecessary. Not-self is implicit in the view of 'nama-rupa'. Once the view of nama-rupa (mind-body) is established, there is no need to reflect it is not-self, as though the mind is attempting to free itself of self-view.
Maranasati wrote: Sun Jan 03, 2021 8:51 amThen why is it not therefore skillful to say: 3) "I am not the owner of my actions."
Why? Because the idea of "I" has been re-introduced. The above is "annhilationism", which is to believe a self exists that is not a self; similar to the wrong views of the befuddled Vacchagotta in SN 44.10.

Also, once the view of nama-rupa is established, the potential range of actions (kamma) shrinks greatly (since most actions are born from self-view).
Thank you both for your insightful comments, they have been very helpful.

I believe the mistake in my "deduction" has been exactly what DooDoot points out: the "I" has been re-introduced for no reason, or: the self has been reified as an object. How does the following analysis look like to you?

When we say for example: "This body is not me", we are not saying that the self something different from the body. That would be reifying the self as an object, even just hypothetically, and positing it as something different from the body (self =/= body), which would be a form of self-view. That is why "This body is not different from me" is also right view. Because we're not saying that the self is the same as the body (self = body), which would also be a reification of the self. By these two: "This body is not me" & "This body is not different from me", we can conclude that the underlying issue the not-self doctrine is pointing at is the subtle reification of the self in whatever way, and not merely by means of identification (e.g. of self with the body).

But, I would also like to point out, this may have been my long-standing issue with understanding the convention of "I" as "the aggregates". It really is a reification of the self, so I can't understand how it can truly be helpful. Rather, I prefer to think of the convention of "I" as "simply an expression". I am still interested in other suttas touching on the concept of conventions regarding "I" and "self", beyond those that have been mentioned (SN 1.25, SN 5.10 & SN 23.2).
user99
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Re: Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

Post by user99 »

I understand the law of causuality but when i Think about my life and causuality i cant see the point with using causuality för understand not-self no i, it doesnt help. It did before not any longer. I feel so agitated all the time. Please i need help. Can someone here help me understand that i doesnt have a free Will?
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cappuccino
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Re: Clarification of not-self and 'the doer'

Post by cappuccino »

user99 wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 8:38 pm I feel so agitated all the time. Please I need help.
treat bad feelings as something you're trying to delight in


then simply hold back from such delight


this restraint will improve your mood


be careful though, this is powerful advice
Art requires philosophy, just as philosophy requires art. Otherwise, what would become of beauty? ―Paul Gauguin
Art of the 21st Century
user99
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Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2016 11:40 pm

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

Post by user99 »

My karma comed today. Now i feel so much calmer.
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