"Is there a Self?"

Casual discussion amongst spiritual friends.
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Circle5
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Circle5 » Thu Feb 22, 2018 4:29 am

boundless wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 5:27 pm
Circle5 wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2018 10:59 pm

We were not speaking about self awareness. Your post to which I responded was a little older, I was late to respond. What you were talking about was "subjectivity of experience", this feeling that things are mine. There is this feeling there, nobody can deny it.

Here is where the trickery to understandin no-self lies. Here is where Buddha insight comes at play. Sam Vera and Alfatun are not interested in it. If you are interested in this, I can explain it and post the suttas in question. This is the hearth of the problem, this is where the trickery to understanding no-self lies.
Greetings Circle 5,

In my opinion there is a sort of misunderstanding here.

I agree wit you that the reason why the belief of self arises, according to Buddhism, is because we feel "the subjective experience". From the "subjective experience" we (incorrectly) infer that there is a "self".

So the problem is like this as far as I understood it. We have the feeling of "subjective experience". You, following the suttas, in my opinion are arguing that we cannot "find" the self as an "object" of our experience and therefore searching the self is useless. This leads anatta etc.

BV (but also Kant, Schopenhauer etc) instead are arguing that the "self" cannot be an object of experience because it is the subject of experience. In the same way you do not see in the eye in the visual field. Therefore the argument of "unfindability" against this position is incorrect because it already says that the "subject" exists but cannot be found, i.e. it cannot be an object of experience. So in my opinion arguments like "the self cannot be found in experience, therefore is like the rabbit's horn" cannot be applied against this type of "self theories". So if the arguments you want to share argue for "anatta" are like these, IMO they cannot refute this particular view (about the "unobserved observer", or better "unobservable observer"). This is the reason why IMO Sam Vara and aflatun are not interested in arguments from "unfindability of the self in experience" (and they cannot be used here to disprove the "trascendental self" argument).

For this reason I tried to argue that the "unobservable observer" is simply a concept that is valid epistemologically but cannot be regarder as a self, because it does not entail self-awareness. I was trying to prove that the view itself is in some ways inconsistent without arguing from the "unfindability" of the self.

I hope to have been clearer this time and/or to have not misunderstood what you are trying to say :smile:

By the way, I am interested in your arguments, for simply the sake of learning the Dhamma (actually, being nothing more than a beginner I am here in DW for this reason...). But if they argue for "anatta" from the conclusion that a "self" cannot be found in experience, then IMO they cannot be applied to refute BV's position (and maybe this is the reason why Sam Vara and aflatun are not interested in them...).

Thank you in advance!

:anjali:

auto wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:50 pm
...
Greetings auto,

than you for the response.

Sorry if I do not answer now. I will respond you as soon as I can.


:anjali:
Hello again. Indeed I see you point. But then, let me ask you this: based on what does this opinion that there might be an "unobservable observer" lay on ? What made Kant think such a thing might exist ? Was it not this same feeling of subjectivity that we are speaking about ?

Why would one not think that there might be an unobservable observer inside a computer ? The fact that we can't see it does not disprove it in any way because neither can you see a self in another person, same as you can't see it in yourself. Based on this logic, of possible invisible things that can not be perceived by anyone existing, then there might be a self inside every rock, every airplane, every ciggarete.

This is the classic spaggete monster defense that I spoke about. Sure, one can never prove that there is no spaggete monster. That is fighting a strawman. Have you ever seen me saying that you can disprove the self or the spaggete monster in that way ? But the burden of prof lies on the one making the claim. Even if this invisible self or spaggete monster is totally invisible and can not ever be perceived, neither in onself neither in others, then one should try to prove that such a conclusion could be inffered from other information. For example when they tried to prove the world is round, they did not have pictures from outer space, but could make a case for that based on certain measurements and penomenons.

In the same one, one that makes a claim that a self or a spaggete monster might exist, he has to provide at least some form of evidence. The fact that the spaggete monster theory is irrefutable from a logic point of view does not in any way make a case for anything. The burden of prof is on the one claiming such a thing might exist.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by boundless » Fri Feb 23, 2018 1:59 pm

Circle5 wrote:
Thu Feb 22, 2018 4:29 am
...
Hello Circle 5,

See for example this article by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-transcendental/. I find difficulties to explain it. However I find the "eye" analogy very interesting.

Anyway I try to summarize the argument with the "eye-visual field" analogy. When our eyes are open and functioning we have the experience of the visual field. However if we search to "find" the eyes as part of our visual field, we fail because at best we can experience seen eyes, like in a reflection in a mirror. At the same this visual field is "private" in the sense it can be "marked" by an identifier (i.e. "my" visual field, "your" visual field etc). This "unity" seems to be correlated to something that makes this "visual field", "this particular visual field". All my vision therefore is correlated with "something" that makes them part of the totality of "my" visual experiences. When the eyes do not function or are closed we do not experience a visual field. Logically speaking (I know of course the Sutta's take on this with the concept of contact etc) we cannot even say that the "opening" of the eyes causes the visual "field" since correlation does not imply causation. Logically we can only say that "when eyes are open and functioning, there is the visual experience", i.e. the "eye" and "its visual field" are associated, correlated etc.

In the same way our experience is private. Hence there must be something that is correlated all "my" particular experiences to make them part of all "my" experience. As the eye-visual field analogy however we cannot find "what" gives the mark of "myness" to all our experience. Therefore this unifying "factor" of all my experience cannot be found by examining the objects of our experiences. The "spaghetti monster" instead is a possible occurance of our experience. The "self"/"subject" and its "experience"/"object" are associated, coordinated. We cannot say that the "subject" causes its "object", but instead that the "object" is there whenever there is a "subject". So the subject in reality in this view is not even a "controller" of its experience, but simply is the "unifying" principle of its experience. Schopenhauer as reported here (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/self ... scSelfCons) wrote “that the subject should become an object for itself is the most monstrous contradiction ever thought of”. However the simple analysis of our experience cannot be used to "deduce" the subject, rather must "deduce" it as what render it "unified".

But of course, this argument cannot IMO strictly speaking "prove" the existence of the unifying principle (also because there is the assumption that our experience is "unified") that renders experience "my experience". But in the same way the arguments by the analysis of our experience cannot "disprove" it simply because it is already posited that it cannot be "found" in experience.

I hope to have outlined the difference :anjali:
Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 6:31 pm

Hi boundless,

Many thanks for your contributions to this thread, and in particular for this very nice summary. My point about the unity of apperception being a potential candidate for some type of selfhood (briefly mentioned in one of my posts above) is that I don't think that self-awareness is a necessary requirement of the type of self that Sam Harris and Hume are concerned to deny. In terms of a coherent conception of anatta, I don't think it is necessary to eliminate either a unity of apperception, or self-awareness, although both of them may well be dependently originated. (Self-awareness certainly is...)
Hello Sam Vara,

Let me separate two similar concepts of "self". One is a dynamical, dependently originated "unifier of experience". The other is the fixed "unifier of experience". The first is what can be thought to be the "empirical self". The second is the "trascendental" self, which is the "mark" that renders all experience as "my" experience.

The first seems to be accepted by "anatta", but with a "precisation". It is conventional, i.e. it is an abstraction. To make sense of our subjectivity we need to "distinguish" our experience as "ours". But as I understand "anatta" this is ultimately untrue, there is "no thing", "no mark" that really make "distinct", i.e. our experience is not really distinct from others. To re-use the "wave-ocean" analogy, the "distinctivness" of the "wave" to the rest of the ocean is ultimately illusory. To reify it is to posit the "self" of the "trascendentalists". This however should not to be taken as an assertion of the denail of the "wave". If we look to a "macroscopic" perspective there is the wave. However if we analyze the wave we find that at some levels of the analysis the "water" contained in the "wave" is not "special".

The trascendentalists disagree and say that, the "water" inside the wave is "special" at all level of analysis. They think that the water of the wave is somewhat "marked". So our experience are "marked" by the correlation to the "self". We cannot find a particular "experience" (i.e. a particular droplet of water) that shows the existence of the self. It is what is common to all experience. And again we cannot "go inside" others. So we cannot in any way find, in experience, that there is a "unifying principle" that makes "our" experience as ours.

What I meant with my observation that such a "self" cannot be "self-aware" without change is that according to DN15 it seems that we posit a self because we are "self-aware". But if there are no experience then our "trascendental self" neither experiences neither is self-aware.

:anjali:
SDC wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 11:24 pm
boundless wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 5:27 pm
For this reason I tried to argue that the "unobservable observer" is simply a concept that is valid epistemologically but cannot be regarder as a self, because it does not entail self-awareness. I was trying to prove that the view itself is in some ways inconsistent without arguing from the "unfindability" of the self.
...Thus, that thing which was regarded as Self, does not disappear upon realization of anicca and dukkha, it ‘changes direction’, so to speak, and becomes not-Self, anattā. However, even then, the thing remains there and what disappears is Self-view... -Ven. N. Nanamoli, Hierarchy of Awareness
I'm super jealous I have not had the time to join this discussion. If I get a chance to read the BV piece maybe I'll jump in.
Hello SDC,

IMO Ven Nanamoli here asserts what I am talking about. What really matters if we can be "self-aware" and "happy" perpetually. However "anicca" implies that all our possible "lives", where we are self-aware, are not eternal. This renders them dukkha because we want to exist forever (even at a unconscious level). And therefore if we do not to suffer we have to consider them "not me, not mine, not myself" (anatta). I interpret Nibbana the only "state" (I am sorry if you find this word problematic) that is both "positive" and "not impermanent". However (per DN15) there is no self-awareness "in" it. So even Nibbana is "not me, not mine, not myself" (anatta).

I do not know Nanamoli's work, but I wonder if he was influenced by the "Personalists" in asserting that a "thing" remains there. IMO the Personalists were very close to the "trascendentalists" (maybe they were "trascendentalists", asserting the reality of the "mark" that makes "my experience" as "my"). Could you please explain what Nanamoli intended in this passage?

By the way Nanamoli seems close to what I was trying to say. Possibly "anatta" refers more to "self-awareness". In fact if Samsara is beginningless and endless* the fact that there is "something" that continues forever does not bring necessarily happiness to us (i.e. permanent/"nicca" does not imply "sukha")!

:anjali:

*As an (off-topic) note. The beginningless character of Samsara seems to follows from causal chain. If everthing we see is due to causes, then a "beginning" of time either requires a First Cause or a "coming to existence out of nothing". To my knoledge no Buddhist school accepts either possibility. In the same way in the sutta the "world" is neither said to be finite (in time) nor "eternal" (it is one of the "imponderables"). I was wondering if the Pali word "loka", translated as "world", refers to the "experienced world" rather than the "physical world", so to speak. In the first case I can see how a beginningless samsara can be reconciled to this "imponderable". However the "regression ad infinitum" seems to be implied by the suttas. (Maybe I will open a thread on this issue...)

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SDC
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by SDC » Fri Feb 23, 2018 4:17 pm

boundless wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 1:59 pm
...Thus, that thing which was regarded as Self, does not disappear upon realization of anicca and dukkha, it ‘changes direction’, so to speak, and becomes not-Self, anattā. However, even then, the thing remains there and what disappears is Self-view... -Ven. N. Nanamoli, Hierarchy of Awareness
I do not know Nanamoli's work, but I wonder if he was influenced by the "Personalists" in asserting that a "thing" remains there. IMO the Personalists were very close to the "trascendentalists" (maybe they were "trascendentalists", asserting the reality of the "mark" that makes "my experience" as "my"). Could you please explain what Nanamoli intended in this passage?
He is stressing the point that although the significance of the self-view disappears, it does not imply that that which was taken as SELF is gone also. Quite the opposite. That thing remains, but is no longer in that position of prominence and all that that implied. That "for me" nature that once defined the experience gave that "I" a fundamental position. With the realization, the position reverses, is pulled inside out. And although it remains an arisen phenomena, it is "not for me", i.e. things are not for it. Things just are - including that thing that things used to arise for.
This nature, if mindfulness pursued to the extent necessary, can eventually be completely understood and the gratuitous “I” destroyed. This, however, should not be taken in a sense that the phenomenon of “I” would disappear like it was never there, but in a sense that that “I” will cease to be “me” and “mine”. It will remain just standing there, hollow and dry. -Ven. N. Nanamoli, Notes on Meditation
So for the arahant, even that conceit "I am" is destroyed. First you take its prominent position, then you destroy the conceit and - as a result - any significance aside from that mere arising, i.e. the five aggregates continue to rise and fall.
boundless wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 1:59 pm
By the way Nanamoli seems close to what I was trying to say. Possibly "anatta" refers more to "self-awareness". In fact if Samsara is beginningless and endless* the fact that there is "something" that continues forever does not bring necessarily happiness to us (i.e. permanent/"nicca" does not imply "sukha")!
If by "awareness" you mean seeing it for how it is, then absolutely. And it is not so much that a thing continues forever as much as it is that the "nature of things" is infinite.
boundless wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 1:59 pm
*As an (off-topic) note. The beginningless character of Samsara seems to follows from causal chain. If everthing we see is due to causes, then a "beginning" of time either requires a First Cause or a "coming to existence out of nothing". To my knoledge no Buddhist school accepts either possibility. In the same way in the sutta the "world" is neither said to be finite (in time) nor "eternal" (it is one of the "imponderables"). I was wondering if the Pali word "loka", translated as "world", refers to the "experienced world" rather than the "physical world", so to speak. In the first case I can see how a beginningless samsara can be reconciled to this "imponderable". However the "regression ad infinitum" seems to be implied by the suttas. (Maybe I will open a thread on this issue...)
Absolutely. It is beginningless in the sense that experience is always sankhara-sankhata dhamma, it is always a thing there with its determination. All attempts to quantify this nature, "hold both together as a whole" fails to take into account that that "held whole" is just another thing with its own determination. Why? Because you assumed a position on the outside of this nature, a position not subject to the nature of DO, a position of permanence in regard to change that is both "me" and "mine". But that is the infinity. That nature can be known without identifying position of origin that is permanent. (cf. aflatun's signature and Notes on AN 1.51)

Sorry if any of this was unclear, I wrote it kind of fast.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by boundless » Fri Feb 23, 2018 5:21 pm

SDC wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 4:17 pm
...
Thank you for your answer! :smile:

I apologize for the misinterpretation of Ven. Nanamoli.

I will ponder on it in the next days.

P.S.
Thanks for the elaboration about samsara. Even though I need further reflections on this issue,
I now understand how a temporal infinity (no beginning and no end for the cycles of the universe)
can be compatible with the "imponderability".

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by binocular » Fri Feb 23, 2018 7:25 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:52 pm
binocular wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 11:41 am
An identical subject is inconceivable.
Given the preceding, I'm not sure what you mean by this.
That this whole discussion is progressively undermining itself. You want to talk about the true, indentical subject, but admit that anything you investigate is an object, so the moment you set out to investigate the subject, you make it an object, thus never being able to investigate the subject.
Thus an identical subject is inconceivable.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by binocular » Fri Feb 23, 2018 8:05 pm

aflatun wrote:
Wed Feb 21, 2018 3:38 am
As I understand the Kantian POV its not about whether it is or is not a melody. It could be a stream of cacophonous nonsense, and still the particulars of that stream would be intuited as a unitary whole ("this stream of cacophonous nonsense") which is coordinated to a single subject...or a single individual, or a single point of view, etc ("I am hearing this stream of cacophonous nonsense"). Barring this there is no experience whatsoever.

A strictly Nanaviran analysis comes to a similar conclusion, with the difference that there there is no appeal to a subject to account for the coherence of experience throughout time, but rather an infinite hierarchy of consciousness:
/.../
For Kantians a unitary consciousness, or subject, is the container that holds together the sequence of temporal objects in one higher order intuition in which it inuits itself (the "I think" must accompany all my representations, to paraphrase Kant) in coordination to its representations, whereas for Nanavira, since there is no subject (consciousness is the presence of phenomena only), all we get are "objects" (phenomena) that are hierarchically arranged in terms of general and particular and "retained" in an infinite hierarchy of consciousness (which is nothing but their presence)...in other words we have a subjectless, infinite hierarchy of the presence of phenomena only. On the latter account we confuse the undeniable unity of this individual, this consciousness-determination-perception-feeling-form, this point of view... with a Self, a Subject, a Perceiver, a Master over the that infinite hierarchy of the presence of phenomena.

Hopefully that helps?
I know people here really dislike it when I bring up the point that the intense focus on the subject and the felt need to postulate a permanent self is probably to a considerable extent due to the Christian motivation to judge people and to deport them to either eternal heaven or eternal hell.
I still think that this Christian influence, along with its later secular developments and variations, should be acknowledged as playing a role in many Westerners' obsession with the topic of selfhood.

Take away the threat of eternal damnation or the promise of an idyllic afterlife, take away the threat of social ostracism, and it becomes perfectly okay that there are experiences, but no appeal to a persisting, self-contained subject.
Christians, some other Abrahamists, and people committed to maintaining social hierarchies need to postulate such a self, because without it, their religious or social system has no footing. This, I think, is enough to consider their notions of selfhood to be suspect.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by binocular » Fri Feb 23, 2018 8:14 pm

NOTE TO THE MODERATORS:
As I tried to post the above post, I kept getting locked out/timed out (which has been happening for me ever since the upgrade to the new software). So I refreshed the page and tried again, but nothing seemed to be happening. Until the post finally went through, and then it turned out that it was posted many times in a row. I deleted the multiple postings. I apologize for the inconvenience.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Feb 23, 2018 10:36 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 7:25 pm
You want to talk about the true, indentical subject,
Not really. Apart from it being a good candidate for selfhood, I don't have much to say about it at all. As far as your posts are concerned, I've mainly pointed out that you seem to be confusing it with objects of consciousness.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Feb 23, 2018 11:23 pm

boundless wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 1:59 pm

Let me separate two similar concepts of "self". One is a dynamical, dependently originated "unifier of experience". The other is the fixed "unifier of experience". The first is what can be thought to be the "empirical self". The second is the "trascendental" self, which is the "mark" that renders all experience as "my" experience.

The first seems to be accepted by "anatta", but with a "precisation". It is conventional, i.e. it is an abstraction. To make sense of our subjectivity we need to "distinguish" our experience as "ours". But as I understand "anatta" this is ultimately untrue, there is "no thing", "no mark" that really make "distinct", i.e. our experience is not really distinct from others. To re-use the "wave-ocean" analogy, the "distinctivness" of the "wave" to the rest of the ocean is ultimately illusory.
Hi boundless,

Many thanks for your response. I'm not sure that I understand the distinction between the two concepts of "self" that you suggest, or that they have much bearing on the points I made. Anatta seems to be the key issue here, and with a much more modest conception of what the Buddha meant by the term, I think I can safely use the term "self" for either or both of these. One aspect of this is that if anatta requires that my experience is ultimately not different from any other experience, then I can make no sense at all of anatta. I could concede that my experience is also experienced by another in a manner I am not aware of, but for it to be universally true, I would need to also have that experience of everything that could be experienced. I don't have that, so it would make the anatta doctrine a piece of theory-saving metaphysics. At the moment, my experience is clearly unitary, and clearly bounded, which is all I need to retain that use of the term "self" while simultaneously subscribing to a more modest conception of anatta in the Buddha's teaching.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by auto » Sat Feb 24, 2018 3:06 pm

boundless wrote:
Wed Feb 21, 2018 2:23 pm
auto wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:50 pm
...
Hi,

While I am quite skeptical, generally, about comparisons with science, I agree that some ideas are very similar.

If I am understanding correctly what you are saying, then yes what we normally take "reality-as-it-is" in fact depends on how we "interact" with "reality". We are not "outside" the world, we are "in" the world and therefore our experience arises due to a complex interaction between our mind, our body and the world "outside" (in Buddhist terms I am thinking about the concept of "contact"). Normally we think that we observe "reality-as-it-is" because we unconsciously adopt what in philosophical terms is called "naive realism", i.e. the view that our perception is infallible. However when we begin to analyze our experience we begin to realize that it is much more complicated than what we think it is. For example the "experience" of reality changes if I am "nervous" : sounds seem louder, colours seem brigher etc. Therefore our mental condition reflects our perception of reality (here the first two verses of the Dhammpada are enlightening). As you noted we are in the flux, we participate in it.

Regarding the Unconditioned, IMO it is beyond our grasp. For this reason I think the Buddha spoke in negative terms describing it as the "not-conditioned, the not-born, the nont-formed etc" *. To me the reason is to stress that it is empty of all qualities we can think with our "conditioned minds", so to speak. It is "empty" because all our conceptualization cannot "apprehend" it (therefore even saying that it is a "thing" maybe it is too much. At the same time saying that is a "mere absence" is even worse IMO) and therefore we should avoid to speculate (too much) about it. So I agree that it seems, so to speak, "very empty" but comparing it to "something" that we can imagine can lead to misunderestandings.

*To my knowledge in the Suttas there is never an esplicit statement that says "Nibbana is permanent". IMO the first time in the Canon where there is such such an explicit that I am aware of is in the Abhidhamma: https://suttacentral.net/en/kv1.6 (Kathavatthu, Abhidhamma) where it is said that "Nibbana is permanent, persistent, eternal...". This shows how Buddhist tradition have been always reticent to speak about the Goal, to avoid probably misunderestanding. In fact the "negative" language is a source of freedom. As a friend of mine said if the Unconditioned could be "conceptualized" it would be very "depressing" since it would take some of its "greateness" from it, so to speak (in fact it is not possible to compare it to anything, then of course our words are unable to "express" it). But this is off-topic and I apologize for my "digression".
The unconditioned is beyond our grasp because it rises autonomously. You can't will it happen, it is empty of self. From a self-view these sensations rise randomly, by change and probably.
In order to see something new, you need get lost first. These sensations are everfresh, new.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by aflatun » Sat Feb 24, 2018 5:42 pm

SDC wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 4:17 pm
Absolutely. It is beginningless in the sense that experience is always sankhara-sankhata dhamma, it is always a thing there with its determination. All attempts to quantify this nature, "hold both together as a whole" fails to take into account that that "held whole" is just another thing with its own determination. Why? Because you assumed a position on the outside of this nature, a position not subject to the nature of DO, a position of permanence in regard to change that is both "me" and "mine". But that is the infinity. That nature can be known without identifying position of origin that is permanent. (cf. aflatun's signature and Notes on AN 1.51)
:goodpost:

Thank you for this, I'm glad you found us in here :heart:

I also really like the related article, Hierarchy of Awareness:
Ven. N. Nanamoli wrote:The fundamental nature of our experience can be described as a hierarchy, which Ven. Ñāṇavīra Thera tried to explain in his Fundamental Structure (Notes on Dhamma). We are what we experience, it is not possible to view (or imagine) this hierarchy from 'outside', independent of us, because regardless of how far one steps back, one cannot abandon the experience as such.
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by SDC » Sun Feb 25, 2018 2:52 am

boundless wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 5:21 pm
P.S.
Thanks for the elaboration about samsara. Even though I need further reflections on this issue,
I now understand how a temporal infinity (no beginning and no end for the cycles of the universe)
can be compatible with the "imponderability".
Sure thing.

(OFF TOPIC: I'm out on a limb here - and this may be what you mean when you say compatibility - but if you take into account those suttas about those cycles of expansion and contraction, it isn't so much that the discernible beginning is being addressed in two different ways - temporal and atemporal - but that even through all of those grand and immense temporal descriptions, which share that infinite nature, the status of that imponderability never alters. It is just as relevant aeons ago as it is right now, and no matter how big you try and make it, the potency of that imponderability remains exactly the same. Totally unaffected by any sort of temporal distance. Flat out unknowable in temporal terms. Drop AN 4.45 into the mix and the whole thing gets even more intriguing: it takes a tremendous and fundamental act of ignoring to ponder beginninglessness in both space and time. Why? Because it is being done from a position that is assumed to be beyond the reaches of either; hell, assumed to be beyond the reaches of everything. That is what subjectivity is, until it isn't.

I cannot remember where, perhaps aflatun does, but Ven NN mentions something about impermanence is in regard to that infinity. That experience can be infinite yet impermanent, i.e. that infinity is always available even if it isn't being considered. So you can see why assuming permanence at the foundations of what is fundamentally both infinite, therefore impermanent, creates all sorts of problems. A whole other can of worms, but something to consider.)

boundless
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by boundless » Sun Feb 25, 2018 11:03 am

SDC wrote:
Sun Feb 25, 2018 2:52 am
...
Hello SDC,
After some reflection (not really enough :thinking: I am still quite confused BTW ), these are my "comments". So, “reality” is a continuous process of arising and ceasing. We can see it in our breathing, for example. The cyclic idea of the universe suggests that even “everything” is such a process of arising and ceasing, re-arising and re-ceasing etc Interestingly this idea was quite popular in ancient cultures: even many Greeks thought that our universe was a beginning-less and end-less cyclical process. And in fact, as Parmenides said if some-thing really “was”, then it could not change. At the same time, however, since there is the arising we cannot conclude that things do not exist. So “existence” and “non-existence” cannot be applied to such a process. In fact a real “being” or a real “non-being” cannot “arise” and “cease”: they would be an “obstruction” to the “flow” of ever-changing phenomena. This is true to the cosmos. Also the cosmos as a whole is not a "being", but a process. (it is about the cosmos, but I added it because it is relevant in my reasoning...)

At a “personal” level, we can see the arising and ceasing of our experiences. These “cycles” have different time-spans. There is waking and sleeping, there is birth and death and so on. And everything that arises must also cease. Therefore our “lives” are impermanent. But as is the cosmos, is also our life, i.e. empty of a “being”, a truly “unifying” core. If there were such a core, then change would not be possible: a “core” would “obstruct” the incessant process of arising and ceasing. When we realize this, we cease to attach a “unifying” label to our experience, i.e. we do not regard them as “ours”, anymore. Then, of course, there is still “becoming” but in a different way: things arise and cease, without self-view imposed on them. Since rebirth is due to craving (SN 56.11) and craving is due to the tendency to see “things” as “mine”, then gradually our minds begin to “disentangle” to phenomena. And after some time, consciousness ceases to “arise” (and to “cease”).

However, this does not really address the point of the “transcendentalists”, IMO. They in fact think that the “self” is to be found “outside” experience. So it does not cause an “obstruction” to the process of arising and ceasing. However, to be self-aware that “self” needs the awareness of change. It needs to have some kinds of experience. Therefore all arguments which try to disprove the existence of the ”transcendent self” fail if they are based on the analysis of experience. Possibly the only real “proof” is experiential: when one “realizes the truth”, then his consciousness is so radically different in this “state” that it has no sense of “privateness” (at least in the instant of “awakening”). But again, I really do not know how this argument can be used against the “transcendental self”: maybe because now the “mind” has no limits, so we cannot consider it as a “whole” or a “distinct thing”.

(OFF TOPIC: Interestingly, In the article you have linked, there is the famous verse of MN 49 “non-indicative consciousness, limitless, completely radiant” which describes a mind utterly free of “obstructions” of defilements. This is also linked to “akasa”, unobstructed space. I found a striking resemblance to some Mahayana ideas. In both Vajrayana (e.g. https://www.lionsroar.com/this-very-min ... -luminous/) and Chan Buddhism (e.g. https://terebess.hu/zen/huangboBlofeld.html), for example, there is a very similar language. The “voidness” has also a “cognitive/radiant” component, so to speak. This “radiance” according to them has always been there. The idea seems to be that once one has “relinquished” the tendency to “attach” labels of “I-ness and my-ness” to “things”, this “brightness” of the mind becomes “manifest”. This seems also the idea of a consistent number of teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition. According to them, this “bright” mind is obscured by defilements and Buddhist practice aims to “remove” them, to reveal the innate (not original) luminosity. So once all defilements are “removed”, the mind is completely pure and sees reality-as-it-is. For these teachers, this “pure mind” has been here since beginning-less time.

Regarding what you say in the last response... my understanding is that "the world is eternal" and "the world is non-eternal" are wrong because they are partial, see for example https://suttacentral.net/en/ud6.4, where these views are compared to the famous blind men and elephant situation. So if we think about this partiality, then we can understand why the cyclic process of the universe can be said to be "beginningless", without admitting its "eternity". Possibly the same reason is about spatial infinity (Actually the Rohitassa Sutta is, like the one of the elephant, one of my favourites). Anyway I think that I will read some Ven. Nanavira writings. He seems quite interesting, by the way (until now I mostly ignored him due to his "negativistic" stance on both Nibbana and "life", so to speak :thinking: ). )

Thank you for the insights! :anjali:
Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 11:23 pm
...
Hello Sam Vara,
Yeah, it is difficult to explain the concept when in fact it is not very clear even to me. My idea is that according to Buddhism at a level of analysis of reality there are indeed “beings”. There is indeed a “self”, which is the empirical self. So there is a “unifying” point in our experience… but only because we do not really see reality as It really is. At a “coarse level” there is indeed the unity. In the same way at a “macroscopic level” water has indeed a temperature (but at atomic level there is no temperature, so “temperature” is not a property that has meaning to all scales). But maybe (see also the second and third paragraphs of the answer to SDC) at awakening we “see” the “unobstructed consciousness”: a consciousness without a “perceived center”, with no perspective. In this case the “experience” cannot be taken as “unified”, because it is impossible to “unify” a limitless mind. To use the wave-ocean analogy. At a coarse level, droplets of water associated to a wave seems to be “of” a wave. However, waves do not really exist at all scales of analysis. At a microscopic level, waves cannot be “distinguished” by the rest of the ocean. So the same water that seemed to be “of” a wave, now is not “special” anymore. It is not different from the other waves of the ocean.

The wave analogy is IMO apt for another reason. A wave is a dynamical and conditioned process. But it still has of course its "individuality". You can distinguish the single wave from what is outside it. Again, the wave is changing and the content of water inside it is also continuosly changing. So speaking about waves is not incorrect. What is incorrect is saying that it is "something" we can distinguish from the ocean at all level of analysis. https://suttacentral.net/en/ud6.4 Here there is the famed metaphor of the elephant and blind men. "The wave is something distinct" is a partial view. It is not really "wrong", but it becomes wrong when we think that it is true at all levels (this is IMO the problem of atta. Such a "self" is not there because it should be "found" at all levels of analysis). "The wave does not exist" is again partial. It is true that it is not really "separated" from the ocean, but at the same time we cannot deny that it is there. In the same way, the mistake of the eternalist is maybe the lack of recognition of "emptiness", s/he sees the way as a "well defined thing". However saying that "there is no self" can lead to a dangerous misunderestanding (at least in the hearers). In fact https://suttacentral.net/en/mn60 here we read:
“Householders, there are some recluses and brahmins whose doctrine and view is this: ‘There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed; no fruit or result of good and bad actions; no this world, no other world; no mother, no father; no beings who are reborn spontaneously; no good and virtuous recluses and brahmins in the world who have themselves realised by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world.’

emphasis mine
It seems that a group of annihilationists held the view that if something is not enduring, then it does not exist (they held that "there is no this world"). So while it is incorrect to hold that the waves "exist" it is also incorrect to say that they do not exist without qualification. They exist as a dynamic process. Their identity is not fixed but "fuzzy", ambiguous. The same can IMO be said regarding "the self". While it is true that no "atta" "exist", saying that "there is no atta" can be a cause of confusion.

Maybe, the “unobstructed consciousness” makes no difference between the droplets of the ocean. It cannot be considered “unified” because it has no limits. This is different from the “transcendentalist” point of view: it is not that all water is “one”. It is not that the “limitless” mind is “unified” to a self. It has no “unifying” label. As in Zen Buddhism, “not-two” is not “one”.

So, while the arguments that try to disprove the “transcendental self” by the analysis of experience fail because according to the “transcendentalists” we cannot find the subject of experience (as I said above in the first paragraph). For both them and Buddhism the “center” cannot be found. So, maybe the “real proof” arrives with experience

This is only my opinion, of course ;)

:anjali:

Edit... Just to clarify "unobstructed consciousness" refers to the "liberated consciousness", not to a "cosmic consciousness".
auto wrote:
Sat Feb 24, 2018 3:06 pm


The unconditioned is beyond our grasp because it rises autonomously. You can't will it happen, it is empty of self. From a self-view these sensations rise randomly, by change and probably.
In order to see something new, you need get lost first. These sensations are everfresh, new.



Hello auto,

I agree that it is empty of a self. But I do not think that the unconditioned can be said to "rise", since "rising" is a temporal activity. IMO it being timeless is "indipendent".

"In order to see something new, you need get lost first", yeah true ;)

:anjali:
Last edited by boundless on Sun Feb 25, 2018 3:18 pm, edited 3 times in total.

binocular
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by binocular » Sun Feb 25, 2018 11:26 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 10:36 pm
binocular wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 7:25 pm
You want to talk about the true, indentical subject,
Not really. Apart from it being a good candidate for selfhood, I don't have much to say about it at all. As far as your posts are concerned, I've mainly pointed out that you seem to be confusing it with objects of consciousness.
What use is there in a self that one can never know ...
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Sam Vara
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Sam Vara » Sun Feb 25, 2018 12:19 pm

binocular wrote:
Sun Feb 25, 2018 11:26 am

What use is there in a self that one can never know ...
None whatsoever. "Use" refers to objects or our consciousness, and in particular how they relate to our desires. But there is use in the concept of such a self, in that it has helped me to clarify how to construe what the Buddha said, and therefore how to practice.

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