"Is there a Self?"

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aflatun
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by aflatun » Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:26 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Feb 06, 2018 7:41 am

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:
I was going to say, English tea might not cut it for this one :tongue:

Its remarkable how similar some of BV's ideas are to those of Ven. Nanavira, with the exception that for the latter the "unity of experience" is undermined by its dependence on its constituents (i.e. it cannot be self). This is perhaps a reflection of BV's Kantianism and Ven. Nv's indirect Kantianism as inherited via the existentialists (or the suttas :tongue:). Or perhaps its just a testament to the fact that it is possible to think (and think more coherently) without descending into the quagmire of British Empricisim. Just thought I'd share this one, which has been shared before:
Venerable Nanavira wrote:8. It is quite possible that the notion of paramattha sacca, 'truth in the highest, or ultimate, or absolute, sense' was in existence before the time of the Milindapañha; but its use there (Pt. II, Ch. 1) is so clear and unambiguous that that book is the obvious point of departure for any discussion about it. The passage quotes the two lines (5 & 6) containing the simile of the chariot. They are used to justify the following argument. The word 'chariot' is the conventional name given to an assemblage of parts; but if each part is examined individually it cannot be said of any one of them that it is the chariot, nor do we find any chariot in the parts collectively, nor do we find any chariot outside the parts. Therefore, 'in the highest sense', there exists no chariot. Similarly, an 'individual' (the word puggala is used) is merely a conventional name given to an assemblage of parts (parts of the body, as well as khandhā), and, 'in the highest sense', there exists no individual. That is all.

9. Let us first consider the validity of the argument. If a chariot is taken to pieces, and a man is then shown the pieces one by one, each time with the question 'Is this a chariot?', it is obvious that he will always say no. And if these pieces are gathered together in a heap, and he is shown the heap, then also he will say that there is no chariot. If, finally, he is asked whether apart from these pieces he sees any chariot, he will still say no. But suppose now that he is shown these pieces assembled together in such a way that the assemblage can be used for conveying a man from place to place; when he is asked he will undoubtedly assert that there is a chariot, that the chariot exists. According to the argument, the man was speaking in the conventional sense when he asserted the existence of the chariot, and in the highest sense when he denied it. But, clearly enough, the man (who has had no training in such subtleties) is using ordinary conventional language throughout; and the reason for the difference between his two statements is to be found in the fact that on one occasion he was shown a chariot and on the others he was not. If a chariot is taken to pieces (even in imagination) it ceases to be a chariot; for a chariot is, precisely, a vehicle, and a heap of components is not a vehicle—it is a heap of components. (If the man is shown the heap of components and asked 'Is this a heap of components?', he will say yes.) In other words, a chariot is most certainly an assemblage of parts, but it is an assemblage of parts in a particular functional arrangement, and to alter this arrangement is to destroy the chariot. It is no great wonder that a chariot cannot be found if we have taken the precaution of destroying it before starting to look for it. If a man sees a chariot in working order and says 'In the highest sense there is no chariot; for it is a mere assemblage of parts', all he is saying is 'It is possible to take this chariot to pieces and to gather them in a heap; and when this is done there will no longer be a chariot'. The argument, then, does not show the non-existence of the chariot; at best it merely asserts that an existing chariot can be destroyed. And when it is applied to an individual (i.e. a set of pañcakkhandhā) it is even less valid; for not only does it not show the non-existence of the individual, but since the functional arrangement of the pañcakkhandhā cannot be altered, even in imagination, it asserts an impossibility, that an existing individual can be destroyed. As applied to an individual (or a creature) the argument runs into contradiction; and to say of an individual 'In the highest sense there is no individual; for it is a mere asemblage of khandhā' is to be unintelligible.

10. What, now, is the reason for this argument? Why has this notion of 'truth in the highest sense' been invented? We find the clue in the Visuddhimagga. This work (Ch. XVIII) quotes the last four lines (5, 6, 7, & 8) and then repeats in essence the argument of the Milindapañha, using the word satta as well as puggala. It goes on, however, to make clear what was only implicit in the Milindapañha, namely that the purpose of the argument is to remove the conceit '(I) am' (asmimāna): if it is seen that 'in the highest sense', paramatthato, no creature exists, there will be no ground for conceiving that I exist. This allows us to understand why the argument was felt to be necessary. The assutavā puthujjana identifies himself with the individual or the creature, which he proceeds to regard as 'self'. He learns, however, that the Buddha has said that 'actually and in truth neither self nor what belongs to self are to be found' (see the second Sutta passage in §4). Since he cannot conceive of the individual except in terms of 'self', he finds that in order to abolish 'self' he must abolish the individual; and he does it by this device. But the device, as we have seen, abolishes nothing. It is noteworthy that the passage in the Milindapañha makes no mention at all of 'self': the identification of 'self' with the individual is so much taken for granted that once it is established that 'in the highest sense there is no individual' no further discussion is thought to be necessary. Not the least of the dangers of the facile and fallacious notion 'truth in the highest sense' is its power to lull the unreflecting mind into a false sense of security. The unwary thinker comes to believe that he understands what, in fact, he does not understand, and thereby effectively blocks his own progress.
PARAMATTHA SACCA
"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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Zom
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Zom » Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:46 pm

So, is it right view or is it wrong view?
Taking into account your comment that equated those 2 views (with and without "for me" particle), I'd say again, it depends on your understanding.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by chownah » Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:05 pm

Zom wrote:
Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:46 pm
So, is it right view or is it wrong view?
Taking into account your comment that equated those 2 views (with and without "for me" particle), I'd say again, it depends on your understanding.
I am not asking about this with respect to my understanding.....I am asking with respect to the sutta I referenced:
There is the case where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person... does not discern what ideas are fit for attention, or what ideas are unfit for attention. This being so, he does not attend to ideas fit for attention, and attends instead to ideas unfit for attention... 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?'

"As he attends inappropriately in this way, one of six kinds of view arises in him: The view I have a self arises in him as true & established, or the view I have no self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self... or the view It is precisely by means of not-self that I perceive self arises in him as true & established, or else he has a view like this: This very self of mine — the knower that is sensitive here & there to the ripening of good & bad actions — is the self of mine that is constant, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and will endure as long as eternity. This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. Bound by a fetter of views, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is not freed from birth, aging, & death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. He is not freed, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

"The well-instructed disciple of the noble ones... 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... He attends appropriately, This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress. As he attends appropriately in this way, three fetters are abandoned in him: identity-view, doubt, and grasping at precepts & practices."

— MN 2
It seems that you do not agree with this translation of what appears in red so I am saying if we replace what appears in red with your preferred translation (and I guess replace all the other elements in the list with your preferred translation too as you see fit) being "I have no self for me"....is it wrong view. The sutta says that this view arises from inappropriate attention and that it is part of the arising of a thicket of views. Could this be right view then?.....I think not.
chownah

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Zom » Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:47 pm

It seems that you do not agree with this translation of what appears in red so I am saying if we replace what appears in red with your preferred translation (and I guess replace all the other elements in the list with your preferred translation too as you see fit) being "I have no self for me"....is it wrong view. The sutta says that this view arises from inappropriate attention and that it is part of the arising of a thicket of views. Could this be right view then?.....I think not.
chownah
Yes, this view "there is no self FOR ME" is a thicket of views and incorrect on the "sakkaya-ditthi" basis. What this means is that someone who speaks thus already believes in Self. One with in such position is considered bewildered.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Feb 06, 2018 4:05 pm

aflatun wrote:
Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:26 pm

I was going to say, English tea might not cut it for this one :tongue:
Agreed - I need all the help I can get, chemical and otherwise!

Your input in this is much appreciated. Your earlier comment has an element which is repeated above: the idea that what is dependent upon something else cannot be self. I think I am arguing for a "middle way" of a definition here, something that is bounded by the Buddha's other utterances, but also by common sense and intelligibility. A self as the personal unity of experience is certainly dependent, in two ways. First, it logically requires those elements of experience, those objects which render it a unitary subject. We could not conceive of subjectivity as being content-free, any more than we can conceive of objects in themselves. Second, there is no reason why this type of "self" should not begin and end with one's biological life, and be a mere epiphenomenon of we-know-not-what. I suspect Bill V. would want to save a little space whereby this unitary nature of experience could form the foundation for an eternal soul, though to his credit he doesn't attempt to argue this. And I can see why Nanavira would want to downplay this and keep well clear of the notion of "self". On the other hand, I'm very keen to steer clear of eternalism, especially as it is manifested in "khandas-as-essences", and "everlasting signless consciousness".

I would like to know more of what the Buddha was talking about when he referred to atta. At the moment, I am drawn to Gombrich's view that it meant something more akin to "eternal unchanging soul" than self; especially when self is taken to mean a spatially and temporally extended personal identifier. Attempts to apply anatta to mere personal identity seem to be misplaced, both because of what Gombrich (and DNS on this thread) show to be its effects on kamma-vipaka and personal responsibility; and also because it plunges us into Humean incoherence and "momentariness" and all that sort of thing. I'm currently looking at various "no self" statements in the suttas to see whether and how they can be squared with that middle position. (You know, the ones that get quoted here at such times; the axioms!)

It's hard to see how a transcendental unity of apperception could be seen as arising from a process as per the nidanas. It's difficult to see it as any type of explicandum. Consciousness could certainly be said to arise dependent upon other conditions, but there is of course an important difference between sense-consciousness and a personal unity of experience. It would seem to be presupposed by any attempt to construct an account of how it arises. I think there is a problem to do with paccaya and how we use it - it appears to be different from our conception of causality, and "dependency" is a bit too vague to be of much use. Maybe we just need to accept that simile of two sheaves leaning upon each other, but that hardly encourages further exploration! My guess, as I said earlier to another member, is that the Buddha had no conception whatever of subjective unity of experience, except as an unexamined assumption which he was not concerned to elucidate. My concern is to save it as a necessary requirement to make sense of what else he said.

The Nanavira quote is very interesting. I especially liked this:
Not the least of the dangers of the facile and fallacious notion 'truth in the highest sense' is its power to lull the unreflecting mind into a false sense of security. The unwary thinker comes to believe that he understands what, in fact, he does not understand, and thereby effectively blocks his own progress.
It couldn't happen around here, could it?! :lol:

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Circle5 » Tue Feb 06, 2018 6:05 pm

It couldn't happen around here, could it?!
It certainly could never happen to Nanavira, since he is the one who wrote it. :anjali:

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by chownah » Wed Feb 07, 2018 1:49 am

Zom wrote:
Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:47 pm
It seems that you do not agree with this translation of what appears in red so I am saying if we replace what appears in red with your preferred translation (and I guess replace all the other elements in the list with your preferred translation too as you see fit) being "I have no self for me"....is it wrong view. The sutta says that this view arises from inappropriate attention and that it is part of the arising of a thicket of views. Could this be right view then?.....I think not.
chownah
Yes, this view "there is no self FOR ME" is a thicket of views and incorrect on the "sakkaya-ditthi" basis. What this means is that someone who speaks thus already believes in Self. One with in such position is considered bewildered.
Then is it wrong view?
You seem to be hesitant to make a clear statement.
chownah

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by binocular » Wed Feb 07, 2018 10:41 am

Zom wrote:
Mon Feb 05, 2018 12:29 pm
To say that there is no self is therefore wrong view.
He did not say that. Usually proponents of latent eternalism speak thus, because they just can't bear the very idea that there is no self
I suspect there are more motivations for eternalism than just the desire for there to be a self.

I suspect that the type of (Buddhist) eternalism referred to here can be a side-effect of trying to internalize all of Buddhist doctrine at once, and trying to develop an identity as a Buddhist and a member of a Buddhist community, an ism.

I have this suspicion because as someone very much outside of the system of Buddhism, I distinctly feel the pressure of many Buddhists expecting me to internalize the whole Buddhist doctrine at once, to become a member of a Buddhist group, to be part of this ism. For example, when I first came in contact with Buddhists, the anatta doctrine was pretty much thrown at me, along with the slogan, "Anyone who even wonders about whether there is a self or not, does so only because they want to have a permanent self!" The anatta issue never had much traction in my mind (and still doesn't), because I've always thought this is advanced stuff that I'll deal with if and when I get to that point. But I do have some desire to fit in and to have friends, even among Buddhists, but that, unfortunately for me, seems to mean I am supposed to take a firm stance on the anatta issue. And one is supposed to have such a stance even as a relative beginner, despite evidently not having the proper accomplishment of virture and insight! I think that's a recipe for madness. For a while I did have such a stance, but eventually got weary of it, and went back to "I'll deal with it if and when the time comes" and accepted the social sacrifices that come with that ...
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Zom » Wed Feb 07, 2018 1:28 pm

Then is it wrong view?
You seem to be hesitant to make a clear statement.
It seems you don't listen.
And one is supposed to have such a stance even as a relative beginner, despite evidently not having the proper accomplishment of virture and insight! I think that's a recipe for madness. For a while I did have such a stance, but eventually got weary of it, and went back to "I'll deal with it if and when the time comes" and accepted the social sacrifices that come with that ...
I don't know. In Buddhism there are no "musts". Those who speak thus or press on someone - they are just newbies in Buddhism themselves. I think this is normal for all religions - newly converted neophytes are trying to proselytize as much as possible :D

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by chownah » Wed Feb 07, 2018 1:39 pm

Zom wrote:
Wed Feb 07, 2018 1:28 pm
Then is it wrong view?
You seem to be hesitant to make a clear statement.
It seems you don't listen.
I think I'm listening very well. You were hesitant to answer when considering my understanding of the phrase in that I guess it is your view that if understood one way it would be right view and if understood another way it would be wrong view. I understand this arguement very well and I agree with it. Another example of this is rebirth....if one has a good understanding of anatta then one is likely to have right view on rebirth while if one does not have a good understanding of anatta and is of the view that a self is reborn then that view on rebirth is wrong view.....so.....I do understand the issue you were raising I think.

However, I have re-framed the arguement to consider the situation described in the sutta ....but it seems that you are unwilling to make a clear statement as to whether you consider the phrase in question to be right view or wrong view. You have not explained why.
chownah

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Zom » Wed Feb 07, 2018 1:52 pm

However, I have re-framed the arguement to consider the situation described in the sutta ....but it seems that you are unwilling to make a clear statement as to whether you consider the phrase in question to be right view or wrong view. You have not explained why.
I told you, if you equate "there is no self for me" with "there is no self", and, doing so, you stand on a self-view position, then this view of yours is a wrong one. If you equate "there is no self for me" with "there is no self" and, doing so, you don't stand on a self-view position, then this view of yours is a right one. Now, in MN 2 Sabbasava Sutta Buddha says about someone standing on a self-view position, and such person may think thus: "there is no self for me" which is ayoniso manasikara (unwise direction of mind) and, of course, a wrong view of the Thicket Of Views.

Okay now? :D

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by chownah » Wed Feb 07, 2018 3:50 pm

Zom wrote:
Wed Feb 07, 2018 1:52 pm
However, I have re-framed the arguement to consider the situation described in the sutta ....but it seems that you are unwilling to make a clear statement as to whether you consider the phrase in question to be right view or wrong view. You have not explained why.
I told you, if you equate "there is no self for me" with "there is no self", and, doing so, you stand on a self-view position, then this view of yours is a wrong one. If you equate "there is no self for me" with "there is no self" and, doing so, you don't stand on a self-view position, then this view of yours is a right one. Now, in MN 2 Sabbasava Sutta Buddha says about someone standing on a self-view position, and such person may think thus: "there is no self for me" which is ayoniso manasikara (unwise direction of mind) and, of course, a wrong view of the Thicket Of Views.

Okay now? :D
Yes. Thank you very much. It has been very instrutive for me and I thank you for your patience.

I have for quite a long time now been of the view that there is no self...anywhere...ever. In fact I can not imagine it being possible that there is a self (for me or anyone or anything else for that matter). And I have always taken the excerpt from mn2 as an indication that my view was wrong view. I didn't let this bother me in that just because (it seemed) that the sutta indicated wrong view it did not provide me with anything which changed my experience so that I could find some right view which I agreed with. I have tried to see why "I have no self (for me)" would be wrong view but could never quite see it....so I just accepted my wrongness but didn't worry about it too much because my views on anatta have been a real help in elimiating stress and I am not one to argue with results...but I am one to keep looking at ways to refine my views.

So...it is very interesting to me to see that what I thought was a wrong view might actually not be wrong view....I'll not jump to conclusions too quickly but this does give me a very different way of seeing mn2.
Thanks,
chownah

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by SunWuKong » Wed Feb 07, 2018 5:07 pm

There is no Atman or “Soul” in Buddha’s teaching. The rest is mostly speculation.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Saengnapha » Thu Feb 08, 2018 3:03 am

Taking a position:Wrong View
Not taking a position:Wrong View

No position can be held as all are impermanent and conceptualized. If we don't move past this point, we repeat, repeat, repeat........

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by manas » Thu Feb 08, 2018 8:13 am

bodom wrote:
Sun Feb 04, 2018 9:37 pm
There is a huge difference between no-self, what the Buddha did not teach and not-self, what he did.
I think this discrepancy would clear up a large amount of misundersanding of his teaching on anatta.

:goodpost:
Last edited by manas on Thu Feb 08, 2018 10:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Knowing this body is like a clay jar,
securing this mind like a fort,
attack Mara with the spear of discernment,
then guard what's won without settling there,
without laying claim.

- Dhp 40

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