What is self ? What is soul ?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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cappuccino
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Re: What is self ? What is soul ?

Post by cappuccino » Thu Mar 08, 2018 11:00 pm

Zom wrote:
Thu Mar 08, 2018 7:49 pm
You may think this is a self, but in reality it is not.

existing only in the imagination.

Alex9
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Re: What is self ? What is soul ?

Post by Alex9 » Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:01 am

I want to link an interesting article on this topic. Not wanting to derail the thread with polemics, but the interesting part to me is the discussion of how the English terms "self" and "consciousness" were neologisms invented by a particular person--John Locke. They never existed before and people had trouble understanding what they meant, and how to translate them into other European languages.

This really gives us pause for considering what anatta could have meant--the article argues that it almost certainly could neither have meant not-self, non-self, nor no-self, since self is a verifiably modern concept. The article follows the implications of this idea, but for this thread I will just paste the elaboration of the idea:

Locke's assumptions of 1.a mechanistic world of billiard-ball causality that includes the physical brain, 2. atomism of mind where individuals pre-exist society and "enter into" society from outside of it, 3. metalanguage where language is not social convention but names real things "out there" in the emperical world, and 4. fatalism which sees the contemporary world not as produced by people in history but as a second nature that cannot be changed but only adapted to...
these assumptions always lead to a kind of impossible contradiction. There seems no way to get from empiricism to the human world as it actually is without allowing in some magical leap. Often, this takes the form of the rhetorical sleight-of-hand sometimes referred to as the homunculus problem; Hume famously pointed this out in his postscript to his Treatise. Most people resort to “it’s just a grammatical necessity, not a contradiction,” but Hume had the intelligence and the nerve to admit it isn’t really—it’s a conceptual flaw. I won’t go through all the arguments against such materialist reductionists—there are many powerful examples dismantling this belief in addition to Hume’s. The response is usually of the “I use a pencil” variety [Q: how do you write those words? A: I use a pencil]: we can’t explain how the brain gives rise to such things as moral values or untrue beliefs, so we just say it has the power to do so, and leave it at that.

Locke was not quite happy to accept the “I use a pencil answer,” so he came up with a related but somewhat more complicated strategy. He produced some key ideological concepts, necessary to his system, and convinced us all these were real things in the world in need of further clarification to fill in the gaps. Sort of like explaining the world as the creation of God, then spending centuries trying to decide just what kind of thing God really is.

Locke did believe in God, and a soul, but his empiricist philosophy wouldn’t work if he pushed the explanation to that level. So he came up with the two related (and crucially, necessarily vague) concepts that have plagued us ever since: Consciousness and Self.

This might be startling at first. We all think these terms have been around forever, they simply must pick out something in the world (after all, we intuitively accept Locke’s theory of language, and can’t consider that a word might arise except by indicating a thing). But they haven’t been around forever. Both terms were neologisms in Locke’s work. Neologisms he was forced into because there was no such concept available, and he needed something more to complete his philosophical system. Before Locke, nobody ever thought they had a self, or that they were conscious—at least not in exactly the way we mean these things.

In Identity and Difference: John Locke & the Invention of Consciousness, Etienne Balibar details the invention of these concepts. He explains that these concepts were part of Locke’s “anti-linguistic ‘turn’”: “Locke attempts here to square the circle, by forging a generic expression for self-reference in the first person which the self may make use of in order to think itself (or objectify itself) without leaving itself”(116). The concept functions to resolve what is otherwise a fatal flaw in Locke’s system, and to enable the individual to remain atomistic, originating by interacting with a sensory (but never a social) world. This concept was at first troubling to Locke’s readers and translators (no such concept seems to have appeared in other European languages, so the need to invent terms to translate self and consciousness arose). But it didn’t take long before we all began using and thinking in these terms, without ever considering that we have no idea what we are saying when we use them.

In fact, it became the task of analytical philosophy to attempt to endlessly work at keeping these problematic terms, which we might call floating signifiers, from collapsing under the weight of their own meaninglessness. And so we still see endless books and articles trying to discuss the real nature of “self” or “consciousness,” never making much progress, because they continue to mistake an ideological term for a thing in the mind-independent world, something we already have before we even notice that we do, and that we just need to work to get clear about, like a kidney or a brainstem.
One way to ensure we stay firmly within (and blind to) our ideology is with translation. X-buddhists [the author means modern Buddhists, more or less] will argue passionately about whether anatman is best translated as not-self, no-self or non-self, but they would never consider that the term atman might not have meant “self” at all, that Buddha might not have been thinking in these thoroughly modern, thoroughly capitalist, Lockean concepts. The same goes for consciousness—a problematic term in translations of Buddhist texts, just as it is in Western philosophy. But maybe vinnana didn’t mean the same thing as we mean by consciousness at all; perhaps there was a concept the term indicated, and it wasn’t just an empty placeholder meant to fill in the gap in the capitalist ideology of the subject? When we translate these texts into terms central to our own ideology, we are doing nothing but reproducing our ideology and pretending its problems are the same ones all cultures have wrestled with. Maybe the alternative is to avoid such unquestioned translations into unclear and ideologically loaded terms, and instead to work to figure how thinkers in a radically different culture might have construed the world.

To offer just one example from much closer to our world than the Pali canon or Nagarjuna, consider Spearing’s translation of the fourteenth-century English text on meditation, “The Cloud of Unknowing.” Spearing translates from the original Middle English, and uses the term “consciousness.” But he points out in a note that no such term, or concept, existed in the fourteenth century. As he says, “no single modern term corresponds” to the original term, which was mynde. The concept indicated by this term is not what we mean by mind, nor what we mean by consciousness, but something along the lines of a collection of “faculties of the soul,” including memory. The use of the term consciousness, I would suggest, works to translate the entire contents of this texts into our contemporary ideological language. But what if we just learn to read it in the original, without a translation? Middle English isn’t all that alien, and we can even learn to think in its pre-capitalist concepts in a fairly short time. Perhaps we can, by doing this, learn to think in concepts different from our own, and get some space from our conceptual imprisonment in the Lockean ideology of the subject.

We might try a similar thing with Buddhism... What if, instead [of assuming correspondences ahead of time], we made it our practice to question such obviously ideological concepts, and to explore concepts in Buddhist texts that don’t have any correspondence in our language?

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Re: What is self ? What is soul ?

Post by ancientbuddhism » Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:19 am

cappuccino wrote:
Sat Mar 03, 2018 4:57 pm
The Ananda sutta is emphasising not self, rather than no self.

...

The Ānanda Sutta (SN. 44.10) emphasises neither. It only indicates who is a suitable audience for the sublime instructions of doctrine of anatta 'no-self'.
I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

A Handful of Leaves

Saengnapha
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Re: What is self ? What is soul ?

Post by Saengnapha » Fri Mar 09, 2018 8:15 am

aflatun wrote:
Thu Mar 08, 2018 3:14 pm
Saengnapha wrote:
Thu Mar 08, 2018 3:09 pm
But, I'm sure you can understand my point without any further explanation on my part. :smile:
If I could I wouldn't ask.
OK, you can't. :D

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Re: What is self ? What is soul ?

Post by Saengnapha » Fri Mar 09, 2018 8:51 am

Zom wrote:
Thu Mar 08, 2018 7:49 pm
if i am aware of my surroundings, i feel my hands. That means the world is on my hands. If to wear cloves then it just a filter, you can still tell by the shape what object you touch, is that sense imaginary? Is sense of self imaginary if i feel it and can tell that it is self?
Sense of self is not imaginary, but it is not self that what you really feel. You may think this is a self, but in reality it is not.
It seems statements that infer real or unreal, existence or non-existence, don't go deep enough into the nature of phenomenon and are not a substitute for the penetrating insight that comes about through thorough reasoning and analysis, repeatedly done, to the point where there is no doubt anywhere that selflessness is the true nature of all phenomenon including persons.

From Jam-yang-shay-ba's 'Great Exposition of Tenets':

The main object of meditation during the first stage of meditation
on emptiness is the "I". Through the sevenfold reasoning the
yogi comes to realize that a self-established I, covering its bases
of designation, does not exist at all anywhere at any time. He perceives
an utter vacuity that is the absence of such an I, and he
ascertains the mere elimination of the I that is negated in the
view of selflessness with nothing positive in its place. He sustains
this space-like realization, which is so called because just as
space is the mere absence of obstructive contact, so the selflessness
that he sees is the mere absence of such a self. When his
certitude of the non-existence of an inherently existent I weakens,
he again reflects a little on the reasoning and renews the
strength of the view of the emptiness of a self-established I.
The yogi during this stage of meditation has generated an
inferring consciousness that realizes the emptiness of the person,
and this consciousness has no ascertainment of knower and the
object known. All the elaborations of subject and object are said
to disappear in the sense that a consciousness that infers emptiness
does not ascertain subject and object; however, subject and
object still appear at this time. Though appearing, they are not
determined, for a consciousness inferring emptiness does not
identify the object, emptiness, and the subject, the cognizing
wisdom. The only phenomenon that is ascertained is the mere
absence of a self-established I such as usually appears to the
mind. It is not even thought, 'This is emptiness.'

In an inferential realization of emptiness, an emptiness is cognized
conceptually or through the medium of an image. Despite
the profound nature of such inferential intuition, direct realization
is yet to be attained.

auto
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Re: What is self ? What is soul ?

Post by auto » Fri Mar 09, 2018 11:39 am

Zom wrote:
Thu Mar 08, 2018 7:49 pm
if i am aware of my surroundings, i feel my hands. That means the world is on my hands. If to wear cloves then it just a filter, you can still tell by the shape what object you touch, is that sense imaginary? Is sense of self imaginary if i feel it and can tell that it is self?
Sense of self is not imaginary, but it is not self that what you really feel. You may think this is a self, but in reality it is not.
Nah, sense in my language means mind. Self means earth. Sense of self is mind of earth.

auto
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Re: What is self ? What is soul ?

Post by auto » Fri Mar 09, 2018 11:50 am

Saengnapha wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 8:51 am
Zom wrote:
Thu Mar 08, 2018 7:49 pm
if i am aware of my surroundings, i feel my hands. That means the world is on my hands. If to wear cloves then it just a filter, you can still tell by the shape what object you touch, is that sense imaginary? Is sense of self imaginary if i feel it and can tell that it is self?
Sense of self is not imaginary, but it is not self that what you really feel. You may think this is a self, but in reality it is not.
It seems statements that infer real or unreal, existence or non-existence, don't go deep enough into the nature of phenomenon and are not a substitute for the penetrating insight that comes about through thorough reasoning and analysis, repeatedly done, to the point where there is no doubt anywhere that selflessness is the true nature of all phenomenon including persons.

From Jam-yang-shay-ba's 'Great Exposition of Tenets':

The main object of meditation during the first stage of meditation
on emptiness is the "I". Through the sevenfold reasoning the
yogi comes to realize that a self-established I, covering its bases
of designation, does not exist at all anywhere at any time. He perceives
an utter vacuity that is the absence of such an I, and he
ascertains the mere elimination of the I that is negated in the
view of selflessness with nothing positive in its place. He sustains
this space-like realization, which is so called because just as
space is the mere absence of obstructive contact, so the selflessness
that he sees is the mere absence of such a self. When his
certitude of the non-existence of an inherently existent I weakens,
he again reflects a little on the reasoning and renews the
strength of the view of the emptiness of a self-established I.
The yogi during this stage of meditation has generated an
inferring consciousness that realizes the emptiness of the person,
and this consciousness has no ascertainment of knower and the
object known. All the elaborations of subject and object are said
to disappear in the sense that a consciousness that infers emptiness
does not ascertain subject and object; however, subject and
object still appear at this time. Though appearing, they are not
determined, for a consciousness inferring emptiness does not
identify the object, emptiness, and the subject, the cognizing
wisdom. The only phenomenon that is ascertained is the mere
absence of a self-established I such as usually appears to the
mind. It is not even thought, 'This is emptiness.'

In an inferential realization of emptiness, an emptiness is cognized
conceptually or through the medium of an image. Despite
the profound nature of such inferential intuition, direct realization
is yet to be attained.
that "I". When you can know how it resonates. The pronunciation means "from earth".

auto
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Re: What is self ? What is soul ?

Post by auto » Fri Mar 09, 2018 12:37 pm

cappuccino wrote:
Thu Mar 08, 2018 11:00 pm
Zom wrote:
Thu Mar 08, 2018 7:49 pm
You may think this is a self, but in reality it is not.

existing only in the imagination.
Self vessel enters into head via eyes. When it enters the body, below the neck, then self knowledge will arise.

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cappuccino
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Re: What is self ? What is soul ?

Post by cappuccino » Wed Mar 14, 2018 3:10 pm

auto wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 12:37 pm
Self vessel enters into head via eyes. When it enters the body, below the neck, then self knowledge will arise.

something that is intended to deceive

auto
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Re: What is self ? What is soul ?

Post by auto » Thu Mar 15, 2018 2:54 pm

cappuccino wrote:
Wed Mar 14, 2018 3:10 pm
auto wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 12:37 pm
Self vessel enters into head via eyes. When it enters the body, below the neck, then self knowledge will arise.

something that is intended to deceive
That what arises is within space and how it affects others is through space via radiation. When you look at the object you may get a sensory response in body, that sensation functions in a certain way: you can guess try out what you can do and do it with your mind.

Sensory response is causing certain pressure, internal heat and anger type of feeling points out what to look for..you can't move on unless you untangle it. If you figure it out it causes movement in head and satisfaction from seeing the way how it was done.

It is liberation from the desire to consume the result from your actions, it is enough to see when others do it, you get a sympathetic response, compassion.
---
The consciousness arises in sense organs is yin a ghost, but the sensory response in body is yang it is within space tangible and can operate it.
when you solve, untangle it, it is food for brain, jing.

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Re: What is self ? What is soul ?

Post by retrofuturist » Thu Mar 15, 2018 8:27 pm

Greetings Auto,

Please keep in mind that this is the General Theravada section.

Your non-Theravada explanations are off topic.

:focus:

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: What is self ? What is soul ?

Post by auto » Fri Mar 16, 2018 4:34 pm

retrofuturist wrote:
Thu Mar 15, 2018 8:27 pm
Greetings Auto,

Please keep in mind that this is the General Theravada section.

Your non-Theravada explanations are off topic.

:focus:

Metta,
Paul. :)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theravada
Theravāda (Pali, literally "school of the elder monks") is a branch of Buddhism that uses the Buddha's teaching preserved in the Pāli Canon as its doctrinal core. The Pali canon is the only complete Buddhist canon which survives in a classical Indic Language, Pali, which serves as the sacred language and lingua franca of Theravada Buddhism.[1] Another feature of Theravada is its tendency to be very conservative with regard to matters of doctrine and monastic discipline.[2] As a distinct sect, Theravada Buddhism developed in Sri Lanka and spread to the rest of Southeast Asia.

The name Theravāda comes from the ancestral Sthāvirīya, one of the early Buddhist schools, from which the Theravadins claim descent. After unsuccessfully trying to modify the Vinaya, a small group of "elderly members", i.e. sthaviras, broke away from the majority Mahāsāṃghika during the Second Buddhist council, giving rise to the Sthavira sect.[3] According to its own accounts, the Theravāda school is fundamentally derived from the Vibhajjavāda "doctrine of analysis" grouping,[4] which was a division of the Sthāvirīya.


ok

auto
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Re: What is self ? What is soul ?

Post by auto » Mon Mar 19, 2018 3:52 pm

Zom wrote:
Sat Mar 03, 2018 5:18 pm
Self (atta) is an (imaginary) unchanging entity of a particular being. Different people, though, may take different things as their "self". I recommend to read DN1 sutta which covers this question in details. Usually people think that "self" is their consciousness or their volition. Some deluded buddhists think that 5 khandhas are not self, but still, there is self somewhere somehow 8-) These generally don't like the idea "there is no self" and try to argue that Buddha never said that.
You are correct, i also think that consciousness/citta is a self on a practical or living stance.
You may read about khandas that they are not self and by reason that there is no self. But on a day-to-day living there is khandas what make up a being.
Get it, what you say doesn't make sense on a practical level. If you practice then you can't get rid of self. Even nibbana would belong to 5th khanda but because it is not differentiated by time it is not put into that group.

5 khandas as a group are called a being.
Citta and cetsikas as a group are called nama
----
Abhidhamma:
By characterising each type of citta, each type of cetasika
and each type of råpa in his mind and body, he comes to know
that only the feeling group (vedanà), the perception group (sa¤¤à),
the group of mental formations (saïkhàra), the consciousness
group (vi¤¤àõa) and the corporeality group (råpa) exist, and that
nothing else, such as ‘atta’, ‘self’ or ‘ego’, ever exists.
just wrap your mind over it, you realize that only the 5 khandas are and there is nothing besides that. That is your self or what constitutes your being.

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cappuccino
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Re: What is self ? What is soul ?

Post by cappuccino » Mon Mar 19, 2018 6:01 pm

auto wrote:
Mon Mar 19, 2018 3:52 pm
If you practice then you can't get rid of self.

Don't say that, friend. Don't misrepresent the Blessed One. It's not good to misrepresent the Blessed One

auto
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Re: What is self ? What is soul ?

Post by auto » Tue Mar 20, 2018 2:11 am

cappuccino wrote:
Mon Mar 19, 2018 6:01 pm
auto wrote:
Mon Mar 19, 2018 3:52 pm
If you practice then you can't get rid of self.

Don't say that, friend. Don't misrepresent the Blessed One. It's not good to misrepresent the Blessed One
self view is craving for ones self. You need sense to return its source.

Cittas have a vatthu, sense base in body. Mind cittas rise from heart.

There are different cravings tanha. Craving that you would be someone, recognized person, famous etc. These belong to sakkaya ditthi. There is not just one fetter, there is many waht belong under that fetter.

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