Problems with no-self

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: Problems with no-self

Postby ground » Fri Apr 26, 2013 1:27 am

Alex123 wrote:For example:

Why can't someone postulate:
1) Self that is impermanent (born 1950, died at 2030 for example)?
...



What am I? What does it take for the sense of "I" to appear in my mind? Does this sense feel permanent? Can I rightly postulate that "I am impermanent"? To perceive "I am ..." it takes to perceive an "I" that "is" but in order that an "I" can "be" {this or that} the I has to be permanent because what does not endure cannot "be". But if the I is permanent, does it really feel the same way continuously, does it never disappear the way it feels in one concrete moment? When it appears it feels like permanent in this concrete moment however actually it changes all the time ... from moment to moment, sometimes it fells like this and sometimes like that. How can something be permanent and impermanent at the same time?
What is it? Is it "it" or is it the perception of some "it" ("I"). Since "perception of X" is "perception of {indeterminate phenomenon} as {name, e.g. 'I' or 'mine')" is a consciousness (i.e. cognition) to what extent are consciousness and my determination "I" different? Are they different?
When I will die what will die? The child which is my memory as having been "me" in the past or what? :sage:
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby pegembara » Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:24 am

Alex123 wrote:
pegembara wrote:
Self that is impermanent (born 1950, died at 2030 for example)?

You mean that the 80 year old was really born in 1950?


Person was few seconds old when s/he was born.

Or was it the newborn that came through the birth canal (birth by convention) in 1950? The 80 year old was never born in this sense.

Did the newborn die in 2030? If by death you mean the heart and breathing stopping, a casual observer can see that the newborn never died. It is the old man who died!

In impermanence, there is no self to be found.


That same person was 80 year old when s/he died. I understand what you are saying, I used to think like that as well. But river can be the same river even if it has different instances of water flowing through it.

Another thing:
That person in 1950 had John and Jane as parents and on birth certificate. And in 2030 his parents (though deceased) are still the same on birth certificate - John and Jane. So origin remains the same.

One has the same increasing "memory bank" and an outside observer could in principle observe physical continuity of the person.

Maybe MN#2 is right. One should reflect in the framework of 4NT, and don't think using philosophical categories such as:"there is...there is no self for me" . Maybe not having a self view means that one doesn't even think "there is no self for me".


Putting a label John or Jane does not mean that there is really an inherent John/Jane - although useful, it doesn't mean there is a John. If you were to name the baby Bill, the boy Cain, the man John and if he becomes a monk say Kassapa, this would be a little more accurate but this is clearly going to be confusing for people.

You could hold up a piece of paper stating that "you" own this piece of land and "you" pass this property to your children. How could "you" own anything when this land was here long before "you" exist and will still be here long after "you" are gone? All things are impermanent - they are "selfless". If you hold on to them as you or yours, you face disappointment.

MN2 tells you to fake it till you make it - not self strategy.

"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?

"The well-instructed disciple of the noble ones — who has regard for noble ones, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma; who has regard for men of integrity, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma — discerns what ideas are fit for attention and what ideas are unfit for attention. This being so, he does not attend to ideas unfit for attention and attends [instead] to ideas fit for attention.'
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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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby binocular » Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:09 pm

Alex123 wrote:
Alex123 wrote: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?

To put it differently: Why can't one refute anatta as presented in the suttas and commentaries with above 3 arguments?


Why does one want to refute it?

Do you know?

What do you hope to accomplish by pondering possible refutations of statements in some old scriptures?


Alex123 wrote:
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.

A casual observation suggests that it hurts to think of oneself as such - "I will sooner or later cease to exist."


If my death means death of suffering, then good riddance! Just like Alex didn't care for countless of billions of years prior to Alex's birth, neither will Alex care for countless of billions of years after death. [/quote]

If death (as is usually thought of in secular Western culture) means the end of suffering - you will not experience the end of suffering. So relying on death to end your suffering is futile.


Reflecting on my experience, the best time of my life is when I am totally asleep and don't cognize anything at all.


That may simply have to do with the quality of your thoughts, rather than anything else! :o


Alex123 wrote:Maybe MN#2 is right. One should reflect in the framework of 4NT, and don't think using philosophical categories such as:"there is...there is no self for me" . Maybe not having a self view means that one doesn't even think "there is no self for me".


The problem with asserting a self-view ("I am this," I am not," "I have a self" "I have no self") is that it cannot be evidenced by oneself to oneself (because for all practical intents and purposes, one cannot evidence that one actually is or isn't this or that) and that it limits the scope of one's actions, sometimes in ways that sooner or later turn out to be harmful.
IOW, whatever one happens to assert as "my self," there are going to be some problems with it down the line.
That doesn't mean that there is no self; just that whatever one (a run-of-the-mill person) happens to assert as one's self, is likely going to turn out problematic sooner or later.


Here are two talks by Thanissaro Bhikkhu on the problems of "Buddha nature" and on asserting a self-view in general:
Freedom From Buddha Nature
What is Wrong with Buddha Nature
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby binocular » Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:20 pm

ground wrote:But it is not about ideas but experiences. If you postulate self you should know what it is you are talking about. If you postulate no-self you should know what you are talking about. You should know your experience and how can you know by means of arguments instead of observation?


How can one observe anything without arguments?

Can one observe a quark? Yes, one can, if one first educates oneself about quarks and how they are to be perceived. When it comes to the things that science deals with, we tend to readily acknowledge that in order to see something, we have to operate out of a particular theoretical and practical framework. But we generally don't seem to have that tendency when it comes to seeing things about ourselves. Those we tend to take for granted.


Can you recognize the sense of self being the basis of this sadness? This sense of "I" and "mine"? it is not always there and not always full-flegded but the moment it makes itself felt it feels like permanent, doesn't it? But there is no permanent entity, it comes and goes depending on conditions.


Not necessarily. The sense of permanence, surety can be connected to sadness, or anger, for example. It's typical to feel very confident, very sure, very rational when angry. Sadness also carries with it a sense of surety, of finality, a sense of "things just have to be this way. " When the anger or sadness pass, so does the sense of surety.


ground wrote:What am I? What does it take for the sense of "I" to appear in my mind? Does this sense feel permanent? Can I rightly postulate that "I am impermanent"? To perceive "I am ..." it takes to perceive an "I" that "is" but in order that an "I" can "be" {this or that} the I has to be permanent because what does not endure cannot "be". But if the I is permanent, does it really feel the same way continuously, does it never disappear the way it feels in one concrete moment? When it appears it feels like permanent in this concrete moment however actually it changes all the time ... from moment to moment, sometimes it fells like this and sometimes like that. How can something be permanent and impermanent at the same time?
What is it? Is it "it" or is it the perception of some "it" ("I"). Since "perception of X" is "perception of {indeterminate phenomenon} as {name, e.g. 'I' or 'mine')" is a consciousness (i.e. cognition) to what extent are consciousness and my determination "I" different? Are they different?
When I will die what will die? The child which is my memory as having been "me" in the past or what?


I don't think it is possible to perceive the self. One cannot see what it is that one is seeing with.

However, views about the self are relevant inasmuch as they can be related to how a person acts, ie. for a person's justifications for their actions.
E.g.
"I am an ugly, lowly person, therefore, it doesn't really matter how I spend my time."
"I am a child of God, and therefore, other people owe me special respect."
etc. etc.
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby binocular » Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:26 pm

alan wrote:The idea of "no-self" has become dogma in some Buddhist circles. But it does not correspond with our experience, offers no help in understanding, and usually results in illogical, convoluted nonsense passing off as wisdom.
There is a use for this concept, of course, and it should be in understanding the aggregates from the point of meditation. Think of it as an avenue of approach, or a framework for understanding the basics of experience.
As a practice, however, it is beyond useless. It's downright dangerous--guaranteed to create confusion.


I think the idea of no-self (as promoted by some Buddhists) is really just sophisticated nihilism.

At first, I was in favor of the no-self idea. But after a while, I came to notice that the no-self folks struck me as a lot more angry and miserable than those with the not-self idea.
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby Alex123 » Fri Apr 26, 2013 8:03 pm

binocular wrote:Why does one want to refute it?...
What do you hope to accomplish by pondering possible refutations of statements in some old scriptures?


To test the validity of an idea, it can be a good thing to try to refute it and see how it stands to scrutiny. This is especially true when some use this idea to affect their practice. Ex: "Since there is no self... you can't practice because there is no "you" to practice, and if you do try to "control", then just more self views are built up and maggaphala is further and further away. etc etc"

binocular wrote:If death (as is usually thought of in secular Western culture) means the end of suffering - you will not experience the end of suffering. So relying on death to end your suffering is futile.


Do you think Buddhist idea of parinibbāna is some indescribable eternal consciousness that somehow enjoys parinibbāna?

Absence of experience = total peace. No observer. Years ago I used to have problems with the idea of final end thinking
"What is the point of practice just to cease forever?" Now I think that even one life is too much.
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby polarbuddha101 » Fri Apr 26, 2013 9:36 pm

"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 » Fri Apr 26, 2013 9:50 pm

Hello Polarbuddha,

polarbuddha101 wrote:You may want to read this


Thanks for the suggestion. Yeh, I remember that sense of self is by product of the brain, perhaps for survival purposes so that one could pass on one's genes.
I agree with that.
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby 5heaps » Fri Apr 26, 2013 10:39 pm

Alex123 wrote: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.

because then you are asserting a person who is independent of its parts. in other words you are asserting a self to persons. you are asserting that what identifies a person as being a person is the characteristic of self in them. without that essential nature that endures over time, one could not rationally posit "Alex123" today and tomorrow.

the task is to resolve how we are one person from birth to death, which is correct, yet at the same time we are not independent of our constantly changing parts.

nor are we precisely equivalent to them. when this is understood cause and effect is understood. when cause and effect is understood disintegration is understood. when they are understood, the tendency to assent to faulty appearances dissolves. when assenting to faulty appearances dissolves, all the suffering which was hinges on those faulty appearances (ie. 99% of our suffering) falls away since it has nothing to hinge on. etc.
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby Alex123 » Sat Apr 27, 2013 12:18 am

5heaps wrote:because then you are asserting a person who is independent of its parts. in other words you are asserting a self to persons.


Why can't one posit a self (in a sense of empiric person such as: John or Jack) that cannot be without its parts, but its parts can change like parts of a river.

John doesn't become Jack, and Jack doesn't become John.

But of course, self is probably a delusion of the individual brain & body in order to survive in the world, to reproduce and for survival the species.
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby reflection » Sat Apr 27, 2013 12:36 am

There is the same person, but you shouldn't see a person as a thing. It's a process. Liken it to a song: the notes fade in and out, but still there is a continuity there that is not a "thing". A song is not a thing, it is just a collection of notes. We call it a song, and give it a name, simply because that is useful on a conventional level. If I say I want to listen to Beat It, well, you know what song I mean.

If I call somebody John, that's useful because you know what person I mean. But in the process "John", nothing is constant. You could call the person a "self", and you could have a point, but that's all on the conventional level. In reality there are no concepts, so self and not self don't really apply. We can only see that there is a construction of what we take ourselves to be. With meditation a lot of people shave off a lot of this, making it smaller. The Buddha wanted us to see we are shaving something which has no core. Like taking layers of an onion. You can keep going and nothing is left. You may be stuck on a certain layer right now, and that's ok, but if you keep following the path, you'll find a way to peel it I'm sure.
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby pegembara » Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:03 am

Why can't one posit a self (in a sense of empiric person such as: John or Jack) that cannot be without its parts, but its parts can change like parts of a river.

John doesn't become Jack, and Jack doesn't become John.



There is no person, only skin, liver, lungs, arms, legs, brain put together in a certain way. The liver is not a person. There is no liver in fact. The individual cells which make up the liver is not the liver. See what I am getting at.

Another approach to the understanding of death is through an understanding of the law of aggregates or Sankharas which states that everything is a combination of things and does not exist by itself as an independent entity. "Sankhara" is a Pali term used for an aggregation, a combination, or an assemblage. The word, is derived from the prefix san meaning "together" and the root kar meaning "to make." The two together mean "made together" or "constructed together" or "combined together." "All things in this world," says the Buddha, "are aggregates or combinations." That is to say, they do not exist by themselves, but are composed of several things. Any one thing, be it a mighty mountain or a minute mustard seed, is a combination of several things. These things are themselves combinations of several other things. Nothing is a unity, nothing is an entity, large or small. Neither is the sun nor moon an entity, nor is the smallest grain of sand an entity. Each of them is a Sankhara, a combination of several things. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el102.html
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby ground » Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:37 am

binocular wrote:
ground wrote:But it is not about ideas but experiences. If you postulate self you should know what it is you are talking about. If you postulate no-self you should know what you are talking about. You should know your experience and how can you know by means of arguments instead of observation?


How can one observe anything without arguments?

Can one observe a quark? Yes, one can, if one first educates oneself about quarks and how they are to be perceived. When it comes to the things that science deals with, we tend to readily acknowledge that in order to see something, we have to operate out of a particular theoretical and practical framework. But we generally don't seem to have that tendency when it comes to seeing things about ourselves. Those we tend to take for granted.

If you postulate "sweet" you should know what you are talking about. You should know your experience and how can you know by means of arguments instead of observation?

binocular wrote:
Can you recognize the sense of self being the basis of this sadness? This sense of "I" and "mine"? it is not always there and not always full-flegded but the moment it makes itself felt it feels like permanent, doesn't it? But there is no permanent entity, it comes and goes depending on conditions.


Not necessarily.

Sorry but the question has its context and was adressed to another person.

binocular wrote:The sense of permanence, surety can be connected to sadness,

Also please read carefully. "This sense of "I" and "mine"? it is not always there and not always full-flegded but the moment it makes itself felt it feels like permanent, doesn't it? " If you cannot recognize the basis (first question) then it is useless to consider the next questions.

binocular wrote:
ground wrote:What am I? What does it take for the sense of "I" to appear in my mind? Does this sense feel permanent? Can I rightly postulate that "I am impermanent"? To perceive "I am ..." it takes to perceive an "I" that "is" but in order that an "I" can "be" {this or that} the I has to be permanent because what does not endure cannot "be". But if the I is permanent, does it really feel the same way continuously, does it never disappear the way it feels in one concrete moment? When it appears it feels like permanent in this concrete moment however actually it changes all the time ... from moment to moment, sometimes it fells like this and sometimes like that. How can something be permanent and impermanent at the same time?
What is it? Is it "it" or is it the perception of some "it" ("I"). Since "perception of X" is "perception of {indeterminate phenomenon} as {name, e.g. 'I' or 'mine')" is a consciousness (i.e. cognition) to what extent are consciousness and my determination "I" different? Are they different?
When I will die what will die? The child which is my memory as having been "me" in the past or what?


I don't think it is possible to perceive the self.

Try the sense of "I" and "mine" as suggested here. You have perceived it right now but probably it has gone unnoticed like so many times before. :sage:
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby binocular » Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:27 am

Alex123 wrote:
binocular wrote:Why does one want to refute it?...
What do you hope to accomplish by pondering possible refutations of statements in some old scriptures?


To test the validity of an idea, it can be a good thing to try to refute it and see how it stands to scrutiny.


To test it by what criteria?


This is especially true when some use this idea to affect their practice. Ex: "Since there is no self... you can't practice because there is no "you" to practice, and if you do try to "control", then just more self views are built up and maggaphala is further and further away. etc etc"


Sure.


Do you think Buddhist idea of parinibbāna is some indescribable eternal consciousness that somehow enjoys parinibbāna?


I don't have any particular opinion on this.


Absence of experience = total peace.


No. For there to be "total peace," there'd still need to be the presence of experience, in order to experience this total peace.
Otherwise, "total peace" does not apply.


No observer.


That is the view is a kind of annihilationism.

Similar to Pakudha Kaccayana's pernicious view:

"'And among them there is no killer nor one who causes killing, no hearer nor one who causes hearing, no cognizer nor one who causes cognition. When one cuts off [another person's] head, there is no one taking anyone's life. It is simply between the seven substances that the sword passes.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html



Now I think that even one life is too much.


Wasting even just one lifetime, even just one minute, is too much.


Alex123 wrote:Thanks for the suggestion. Yeh, I remember that sense of self is by product of the brain, perhaps for survival purposes so that one could pass on one's genes.
I agree with that.


That's some considerable faith in science.
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby binocular » Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:41 am

ground wrote:If you postulate "sweet" you should know what you are talking about. You should know your experience and how can you know by means of arguments instead of observation?


To call something "sweet" is something I've learned; it's not my direct experience. The direct experience of tasting sugar has no verbal name.
For a typical Westerner, sugar and ripe bananas both have a similar component of taste, namely that which we call "sweet." Someone from a different culture, however, might not experience-classify it that way. A good example for such culturally conditioned specifics is the color vocabulary. What some people call "blue," others call "green," etc.
This, too, suggests that our observations-preceptions are not direct, but take place in accordance with particular paradigms that are specific to the culture or one's individuality.

And it appears you didn't read my comment:
How can one observe anything without arguments?
Can one observe a quark? Yes, one can, if one first educates oneself about quarks and how they are to be perceived. When it comes to the things that science deals with, we tend to readily acknowledge that in order to see something, we have to operate out of a particular theoretical and practical framework. But we generally don't seem to have that tendency when it comes to seeing things about ourselves. Those we tend to take for granted.



Try the sense of "I" and "mine" as suggested here. You have perceived it right now but probably it has gone unnoticed like so many times before.


I'm quite sure that if you had, say, a Hindu background, you'd conceptualize all this very differently.


:sage:


Uh. :o
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby ground » Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:58 am

binocular wrote:
ground wrote:If you postulate "sweet" you should know what you are talking about. You should know your experience and how can you know by means of arguments instead of observation?


To call something "sweet" is something I've learned; it's not my direct experience. The direct experience of tasting sugar has no verbal name.

Direct experience or not, if you postulate "sweet" you should know what you are talking about. " sweet" has been applied to illustrate was has been said in the context of "self" and "no-self".


binocular wrote:And it appears you didn't read my comment:
How can one observe anything without arguments?
Can one observe a quark? Yes, one can, if one first educates oneself about quarks and how they are to be perceived. When it comes to the things that science deals with, we tend to readily acknowledge that in order to see something, we have to operate out of a particular theoretical and practical framework. But we generally don't seem to have that tendency when it comes to seeing things about ourselves. Those we tend to take for granted.

I have read it, however:
ground wrote:But it is not about ideas but experiences. If you postulate self you should know what it is you are talking about. If you postulate no-self you should know what you are talking about. You should know your experience and how can you know by means of arguments instead of observation?



binocular wrote:
Try the sense of "I" and "mine" as suggested here. You have perceived it right now but probably it has gone unnoticed like so many times before.


I'm quite sure that if you had, say, a Hindu background, you'd conceptualize all this very differently.

Whatever background there may be or not be there is nothing conceptualized here but there is something being expressed. :sage:
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby binocular » Sat Apr 27, 2013 7:20 am

ground wrote:Direct experience or not, if you postulate "sweet" you should know what you are talking about. " sweet" has been applied to illustrate was has been said in the context of "self" and "no-self".


ground wrote:But it is not about ideas but experiences. If you postulate self you should know what it is you are talking about. If you postulate no-self you should know what you are talking about. You should know your experience and how can you know by means of arguments instead of observation?


How can one exprience something if one doesn't have an idea about what it - supposedly - is?

If I were to request you to take an apple out of the fruit basket: how could you do it, unless you have first learned what an apple is?


Whatever background there may be or not be there is nothing conceptualized here but there is something being expressed.


I guess I don't share your faith, or conviction, or certainty in direct experience.
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby ground » Sat Apr 27, 2013 8:06 am

binocular wrote:
ground wrote:Direct experience or not, if you postulate "sweet" you should know what you are talking about. " sweet" has been applied to illustrate was has been said in the context of "self" and "no-self".


ground wrote:But it is not about ideas but experiences. If you postulate self you should know what it is you are talking about. If you postulate no-self you should know what you are talking about. You should know your experience and how can you know by means of arguments instead of observation?


How can one exprience something if one doesn't have an idea about what it - supposedly - is?

But that is not the point here in this context. Having not experienced dependent origination of what is called "self" you still may think about or discuss about "self" endlessly. But all you are thinking and discussing about are just abstractions of wavering thoughts. That is why it has been said that one should know what one is talking about and "You should know your experience and how can you know by means of arguments instead of observation?" :sage:
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby Alex123 » Sat Apr 27, 2013 11:11 am

binocular wrote:To test it by what criteria?


How it stands up to current empiric observation.
Check internal logical consistency.

binocular wrote:
Alex123 wrote:Thanks for the suggestion. Yeh, I remember that sense of self is by product of the brain, perhaps for survival purposes so that one could pass on one's genes.
I agree with that.

That's some considerable faith in science.


Science operates by facts and evidence. Religious faith says "believe us" and provides no solid logic and evidence.
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Re: Problems with no-self

Postby 5heaps » Sat Apr 27, 2013 11:34 am

Alex123 wrote:
5heaps wrote:because then you are asserting a person who is independent of its parts. in other words you are asserting a self to persons.

Why can't one posit a self (in a sense of empiric person such as: John or Jack) that cannot be without its parts, but its parts can change like parts of a river.

if the person is equivalent to the parts then since those parts are momentary (ie. they cannot magically endure into a second moment) the person too must end at that time

thats one of the main reasons why the buddha explained that the person is neither the same as the aggregates nor different than the aggregates.
A Japanese man has been arrested on suspicion of writing a computer virus that destroys and replaces files on a victim PC with manga images of squid, octopuses and sea urchins. Masato Nakatsuji, 27, of Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, was quoted as telling police: "I wanted to see how much my computer programming skills had improved since the last time I was arrested."
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