"Is there a Self?"

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Zom
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Zom » Mon Feb 05, 2018 7:27 pm

How do you think one's practice should be informed by considerations of anatta?
Good question - and a complex one, not so easy to answer in short. Perceptions and reasonings on this matter is just a small part of actual practice (though important) and it doesn't affect all the practice taken as a whole. Actually, one can completely ignore this topic up to spiritual level of Alara Kalama or, lets say, ascetic Bahiya. They knew nothing about anatta, and still, succeeded greatly in spiritual life. Anatta - I'd say - is not so much about practice but more about insight. If you have this insight, if you have this understanding, it lessens your clingings, lessens your conceit, lessens your ignorance and distorted perceptions (vipallasa) and certain bad qualities stemmed from those - thus it is easier to practice other things. However, I strongly doubt you can "practice" anatta itself. Yes, you can learn how to change your perceptions from distorted into correct, but this alone won't give much. Reflecting on this topic shouldn't take too much time. Take suttas. Buddha gave lecture, and either his listeners understood it, or they did not. So either you ll get it - or not. If not, then better leave it aside, or you will enter "the thicket of views". You can pick it up later, maybe, when your mind will be more clean, I don't know -) When you'll be more wise, more open-minded, less biased.

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Sam Vara
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Feb 05, 2018 7:36 pm

Zom wrote:
Mon Feb 05, 2018 7:27 pm
How do you think one's practice should be informed by considerations of anatta?
Good question - and a complex one, not so easy to answer in short. Perceptions and reasonings on this matter is just a small part of actual practice (though important) and it doesn't affect all the practice taken as a whole. Actually, one can completely ignore this topic up to spiritual level of Alara Kalama or, lets say, ascetic Bahiya. They knew nothing about anatta, and still, succeeded greatly in spiritual life. Anatta - I'd say - is not so much about practice but more about insight. If you have this insight, if you have this understanding, it lessens your clingings, lessens your conceit, lessens your ignorance and distorted perceptions (vipallasa) and certain bad qualities stemmed from those - thus it is easier to practice other things. However, I strongly doubt you can "practice" anatta itself. Yes, you can learn how to change your perceptions from distorted into correct, but this alone won't give much. Reflecting on this topic shouldn't take too much time. Take suttas. Buddha gave lecture, and either his listeners understood it, or they did not. So either you ll get it - or not. If not, then better leave it aside, or you will enter "the thicket of views". You can pick it up later, maybe, when your mind will be more clean, I don't know -) When you'll be more wise, more open-minded, less biased.
Thanks, Zom.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Circle5 » Mon Feb 05, 2018 7:58 pm

I have a suggestion to all eternalist here. Let's do something unique, something done many times in the suttas but never done on this buddhist forum: Let's start a topic and discuss the idea itself, not weather Buddha said this or that.

When people hear about this idea of Annata, the natural reaction is to ask questions about it, to try to question it with arguments. For example, one might try to show how the body is actually the self, or how consciousness is actually the self, or etc. Let's discuss the idea itself, not just weather Buddha said this or not. If you believe there are arguments to be made about a self existing, then bring them foreward.

I have done such a topic on STC before. Is anyone interested in doing it here ? https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/an ... forum/7387

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Zom » Mon Feb 05, 2018 8:27 pm

For example, one might try to show how the body is actually the self, or how consciousness is actually the self, or etc. Let's discuss the idea itself
Cogito ergo sum

End of story :lol:

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Feb 05, 2018 8:47 pm

Circle5 wrote:
Mon Feb 05, 2018 7:58 pm
I have a suggestion to all eternalist here. Let's do something unique, something done many times in the suttas but never done on this buddhist forum: Let's start a topic and discuss the idea itself, not weather Buddha said this or that.

When people hear about this idea of Annata, the natural reaction is to ask questions about it, to try to question it with arguments. For example, one might try to show how the body is actually the self, or how consciousness is actually the self, or etc. Let's discuss the idea itself, not just weather Buddha said this or not. If you believe there are arguments to be made about a self existing, then bring them foreward.

I have done such a topic on STC before. Is anyone interested in doing it here ?
I thought that's precisely what I had done, by introducing the Bill Vallicella article. Of course, there's a lot of scope - and justifiably so - for claiming that the Sam Harris/Humean account of anatta (basically an inference based upon a search for an object of consciousness) is not what the Buddha meant. But you are welcome to comment critically on the article if you like.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Circle5 » Mon Feb 05, 2018 8:51 pm

Zom wrote:
Mon Feb 05, 2018 8:27 pm
For example, one might try to show how the body is actually the self, or how consciousness is actually the self, or etc. Let's discuss the idea itself
Cogito ergo sum

End of story :lol:
It's end of story for the existentialist who don't know weather things exist or not. As for a self existing or not, a computer is thinking too, so much that your own computer can defeat you at chess if you set chess titans up to level 7. (that's the best I can do) :tongue:

I actually started the new topic in the general discussion section. The one on STC was decently successful, though it didn't get to cover all the arguments that can be made for eternalism.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by aflatun » Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:58 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Mon Feb 05, 2018 8:47 pm

I thought that's precisely what I had done, by introducing the Bill Vallicella article...
It is :twothumbsup: Appeals to scripture, authority and faith have no place in this thread based on how I understand your OP, and it seems you agree.
"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 chownah » Tue Feb 06, 2018 5:05 am

Zom wrote:
Mon Feb 05, 2018 4:05 pm
OK. Then using your phrasing then, what kind of view is "I have no self for me" as this paraphrasing would appear in the sutta I brought?
(Aside: I think that english is not your first language if I remember correctly....the way I have always used english to say "I have no self" is the same as "I have no self for me"....the "for me" would usually be considered to be redundant (who else would you be having a self for?) so it is dropped.)
chownah
This "for me" is not just one of the possible english translations but it is there in original text in Pali. This little addition is obviously quite important, and of course gladly ignored by eternalists, because it ruins their eternal self theory.

Ven. Bodhi translation: “When he attends unwisely in this way, one of six views arises in him. The view ‘self exists for me’ arises in him as true
and established; or the view ‘no self exists for me’ arises in him as true and established; or the view ‘I perceive self with self’ arises in him as true and established; or the view ‘I perceive notself with self’ arises in him as true and established;

If you take a look on wrong views just after this pair, you will notice the similarity: "A Self thinks something about A Self". In this sense all these wrong views listed here are the same, sharing the same feature. This is that very dog running around a post. This "For Me" here is this very dog. This is why this view is a wrong one. However, remove the dog, and and it becomes a right view, because, well, there is no self 8-)
Then I guess you are saying that "I have no self for me" is wrong view. Is that correct?
chownah

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Polar Bear » Tue Feb 06, 2018 5:58 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Sun Feb 04, 2018 9:18 pm
Those interested in Western philosophy might be interested in this discussion by philosopher Bill Vallicella of a formulation of anatta apparently put forward by Sam Harris.

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/ ... rance.html

Bill V. is a Roman Catholic who meditates regularly, and who is extremely appreciative of Buddhism. He has often written on the topic of "no self", and finds his inability to accept this particular formulation and rationale of anatta a sufficient reason for not abandoning the religion of his birth. The ideas here have been expressed by him before, including in academic papers, but this is a very compressed and clear summary of his position.
I think the Buddha's discussion with Ananda in the Maha-Nidana Sutta is helpful here:
"As for the person who says, 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious [to feeling], but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling,' he should be addressed as follows: 'My friend, should feelings altogether and every way stop without remainder, then with feeling completely not existing, owing to the cessation of feeling, would there be the thought, "I am"?'"

"No, lord."

"Thus in this manner, Ananda, one does not see fit to assume that 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious [to feeling], but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling.' https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
So the Buddha isn't making an operator shift fallacy here, instead he is pointing out that the notion of a self subject to experience is an assumption that arises dependent on feeling. And he further goes on to say that making this assumption prevents the complete letting go that is liberation.
"Now, Ananda, in as far as a monk does not assume feeling to be the self, nor the self as oblivious, nor that 'My self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling,' then, not assuming in this way, he is not sustained by anything (does not cling to anything) in the world. Unsustained, he is not agitated. Unagitated, he is totally unbound right within. He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'
This self-assumption seems to entail taking-up existence, it goes against the ending of craving and against the ending of papanca:
"Now, there is the intellect, there are ideas (mental qualities), there is the property of ignorance. To an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person, touched by experience born of the contact of ignorance, there occur (the thoughts): 'I am,' 'I am thus,' 'I shall be,' 'I shall not be,' 'I shall be possessed of form,' 'I shall be formless,' 'I shall be percipient (conscious),' 'I shall be non-percipient,' or 'I shall be neither percipient nor non-percipient.'

"The five faculties, monks, continue as they were. And with regard to them the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones abandons ignorance and gives rise to clear knowing. Owing to the fading of ignorance and the arising of clear knowing, (the thoughts) — 'I am,' 'I am this,' 'I shall be,' 'I shall not be,' 'I shall be possessed of form,' 'I shall be formless,' 'I shall be percipient (conscious),' 'I shall be non-percipient,' and 'I shall be neither percipient nor non-percipient' — do not occur to him."

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
"'I am' is a objectification. 'I am this' is a objectification. 'I shall be' is a objectification. 'I shall not be'... 'I shall be possessed of form'... 'I shall not be possessed of form'... 'I shall be percipient'... 'I shall not be percipient'... 'I shall be neither percipient nor non-percipient' is a objectification. Objectification is a disease, objectification is a cancer, objectification is an arrow. Therefore, monks, you should train yourselves: 'We will dwell with an awareness free of objectifications.'

"'I am' is an act of conceit. 'I am this' is an act of conceit. 'I shall be' is an act of conceit. 'I shall not be'... 'I shall be possessed of form'... 'I shall not be possessed of form'... 'I shall be percipient'... 'I shall not be percipient'... 'I shall be neither percipient nor non-percipient' is an act of conceit. An act of conceit is a disease, an act of conceit is a cancer, an act of conceit is an arrow. Therefore, monks, you should train yourselves: 'We will dwell with an awareness free of acts of conceit.'"

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
:anjali:
"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: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Feb 06, 2018 7:38 am

polarbear101 wrote:
Tue Feb 06, 2018 5:58 am

I think the Buddha's discussion with Ananda in the Maha-Nidana Sutta is helpful here:
"As for the person who says, 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious [to feeling], but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling,' he should be addressed as follows: 'My friend, should feelings altogether and every way stop without remainder, then with feeling completely not existing, owing to the cessation of feeling, would there be the thought, "I am"?'"

"No, lord."

"Thus in this manner, Ananda, one does not see fit to assume that 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious [to feeling], but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling.' https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
So the Buddha isn't making an operator shift fallacy here, instead he is pointing out that the notion of a self subject to experience is an assumption that arises dependent on feeling. And he further goes on to say that making this assumption prevents the complete letting go that is liberation.
Yes, I agree completely with the fact that there is no operator shift fallacy here. There remains, of course, the second of Vallicella's arguments, which is that something which we can call a self is necessary for the various types of unity of our experience. This is not an assumption, but rather a transcendental requirement of any experience whatsoever. There is an assumption involved in saying that it arises dependent upon feeling, in that the existence of both is dependent (one logically dependent, the other phenomenologically dependent) upon the other, so I would be happier saying that they are somehow mutually dependent. And of course any other assumptions or extrapolations or reifications of such a "self" would be unjustified. This is about personal continuity, and not a "soul" or somesuch! I'm happy with the idea that the continuation of this prevents "letting go" and liberation. That would be part of the practice and something to be verified for oneself; but nevertheless knowing how one would even start to go about it is above my pay grade!

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Feb 06, 2018 7:41 am

aflatun wrote:
Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:58 am
Sam Vara wrote:
Mon Feb 05, 2018 8:47 pm

I thought that's precisely what I had done, by introducing the Bill Vallicella article...
It is :twothumbsup: Appeals to scripture, authority and faith have no place in this thread based on how I understand your OP, and it seems you agree.
I've not forgotten your earlier point on this, aflatun, and will get back to you after family duties. Your point has caused me a lot of thinking which also probably needs more coffee! :smile:

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by pegembara » Tue Feb 06, 2018 7:49 am

A very strange question to ask if indeed there is a self, don't you think? Of course, "I" exist!

"I think, therefore I am" or I am the thinker who thinks thoughts.

How odd then that one doesn't know what the next thought will be before it makes an appearance.

Can one separate thinking from the thinker? When thinking stops, where does the thinker go? -North, South, East or West.
Thinking, thinker and thoughts are dependently arisen. All is one and the same.
"And suppose someone were to ask you, 'This fire that has gone out in front of you, in which direction from here has it gone? East? West? North? Or south?' Thus asked, how would you reply?"

"That doesn't apply, Master Gotama. Any fire burning dependent on a sustenance of grass and timber, being unnourished — from having consumed that sustenance and not being offered any other — is classified simply as 'out' (unbound)."
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

“If this exists, that exists; if this ceases to exist, that also ceases to exist."
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: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Saengnapha » Tue Feb 06, 2018 9:14 am

polarbear101 wrote:
Tue Feb 06, 2018 5:58 am

I think the Buddha's discussion with Ananda in the Maha-Nidana Sutta is helpful here:
"As for the person who says, 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious [to feeling], but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling,' he should be addressed as follows: 'My friend, should feelings altogether and every way stop without remainder, then with feeling completely not existing, owing to the cessation of feeling, would there be the thought, "I am"?'"

"No, lord."

"Thus in this manner, Ananda, one does not see fit to assume that 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious [to feeling], but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling.' https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
So the Buddha isn't making an operator shift fallacy here, instead he is pointing out that the notion of a self subject to experience is an assumption that arises dependent on feeling. And he further goes on to say that making this assumption prevents the complete letting go that is liberation.
"Now, Ananda, in as far as a monk does not assume feeling to be the self, nor the self as oblivious, nor that 'My self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling,' then, not assuming in this way, he is not sustained by anything (does not cling to anything) in the world. Unsustained, he is not agitated. Unagitated, he is totally unbound right within. He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'
This self-assumption seems to entail taking-up existence, it goes against the ending of craving and against the ending of papanca:
I think this hits it on the head, polarbear. This assumption is no ordinary assumption like most that we hold and can replace with something different. This is a maha-assumption in the perception/cognition activity itself which is felt as pervasive through every cell in our bodies. No wonder the earth shook at the Buddha's awakening! It is an event in nature affecting everything.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Polar Bear » Tue Feb 06, 2018 9:25 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Feb 06, 2018 7:38 am

Yes, I agree completely with the fact that there is no operator shift fallacy here. There remains, of course, the second of Vallicella's arguments, which is that something which we can call a self is necessary for the various types of unity of our experience. This is not an assumption, but rather a transcendental requirement of any experience whatsoever. There is an assumption involved in saying that it arises dependent upon feeling, in that the existence of both is dependent (one logically dependent, the other phenomenologically dependent) upon the other, so I would be happier saying that they are somehow mutually dependent. And of course any other assumptions or extrapolations or reifications of such a "self" would be unjustified. This is about personal continuity, and not a "soul" or somesuch! I'm happy with the idea that the continuation of this prevents "letting go" and liberation. That would be part of the practice and something to be verified for oneself; but nevertheless knowing how one would even start to go about it is above my pay grade!
I think we should distinguish the something searching here:
This is a sort of transcendental argument for the self. We start with a plain fact, namely, that a search is going on, a search for the referent of 'I' given that I am not identical to my property, my body, or any introspectible contents. We then ask: what makes it possible for this search to proceed? We conclude that there must be something that is searching, and what might that be? Well, me! I am searching. The I, ego, self is not exhausted by its objectifiable features.
From the idea of a self-same and unitary self here:
The fact that we hear melodies thus shows that there must be a self-same and unitary self through the period of time between the onset of the melody and its completion. This unitary self is neither identical to the sum or collection of A1, A2, and A3, nor is it identical to something wholly distinct from them. Nor of course is it identical to any one of them or any two of them. This unitary self is given whenever one hears a melody.
I think we can easily do away with the need to assume that the cause underlying the search is a self:
"Lord, who feels?"

"Not a valid question," the Blessed One said. "I don't say 'feels.' If I were to say 'feels,' then 'Who feels?' would be a valid question. But I don't say that. When I don't say that, the valid question is 'From what as a requisite condition comes feeling?' And the valid answer is, 'From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving.'"

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
It seems that the idea that it must be a self doing the searching is simply due to a kind of linguistic error, a reification arising out of certain noun-verb grammatical constructs.

As for the idea of a self-same and unitary self being a requirement to hear a melody, I can understand the need for numerical identity, and certainly in buddhism streams of consciousness maintain numerical identity otherwise kamma would be all haphazard, forking off in various ways. But qualitative identity of of the subject of experience, i.e. consciousness, over time does not feature, and I don't think that a self-same self can exist over time while undergoing various different experiences if that self is the subject experiencing them.
The fact that we hear melodies thus shows that there must be a self-same and unitary self through the period of time between the onset of the melody and its completion. This unitary self is neither identical to the sum or collection of A1, A2, and A3, nor is it identical to something wholly distinct from them. Nor of course is it identical to any one of them or any two of them. This unitary self is given whenever one hears a melody.
If this self is not wholly distinct from A1, A2, & A3, then it appears to me that this self is in part constituted by these events. So it seems to me the self existing at the time of A1 is in part different from the self existing at the time of A2 etc. because at the time of A1 the self, which is supposedly self-same, and is not wholly distinct from A1, A2 etc, lacked that quality of having heard A2, which it only acquired subsequently. Therefore, the self is not self-same.

Anyway, a penny for your thoughts?

:anjali:
"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: "Is there a Self?"

Post by binocular » Tue Feb 06, 2018 10:01 am

Zom wrote:
Mon Feb 05, 2018 7:27 pm
How do you think one's practice should be informed by considerations of anatta?
Good question - and a complex one, not so easy to answer in short. Perceptions and reasonings on this matter is just a small part of actual practice (though important) and it doesn't affect all the practice taken as a whole. Actually, one can completely ignore this topic up to spiritual level of Alara Kalama or, lets say, ascetic Bahiya. /.../
You can pick it up later, maybe, when your mind will be more clean, I don't know -) When you'll be more wise, more open-minded, less biased.
The doctrine of anatta appears to be one of Buddhism's major selling points in the West, but also one about which people are most compelled.

Westerners coming to Buddhism not rarely come from an Abrahamic(-influenced) background possibly because of which they believe that 1. religious doctrines should be believed, taken on faith, regardless of one's level of attainment, and 2. all doctrines of a religion are on the same level, equally important at all times.

And then we get threads like, "I've become a Buddhist a year ago, but I still struggle with anatta. Can you help me out guys?"

I think that already for someone who keeps the five precepts with some consistency, the whole anatta business will look very differently than for someone who doesn't (which is probably most folks, including most philosophers). Purification is supposed to be efficacious, and in ways that an impure person has difficulty to envision or value.

:woohoo:
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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