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No-self?

Posted: Sat Dec 08, 2012 12:26 am
by nrose619
What is the meaning of no-self in Buddhism? Is it the idea that instead of independent beings, there is a collaborative "we" in all life forms? or is it a more nihilistic view that the self is not real and that nothing is real?

Much Love,
Nick

Re: No-self?

Posted: Sat Dec 08, 2012 1:28 am
by daverupa
You may benefit from reading the following article:

On the No-self Characteristic
The Anatta-lakkhana Sutta
translated, with an introduction by
N.K.G. Mendis
No-self (anatta) means that there is no permanent, unchanging entity in anything animate or inanimate. With regard to the animate, this implies the absence of a soul which either emanated from a divine source or was created by a divine being. Biblical religions bless only the human being in the whole of the animal kingdom with this soul. The No-self doctrine is found only in the teaching of the Buddha. At least an intellectual grasp of this characteristic of existence is needed to appreciate the Buddha's teaching. It is only when insight is gained in this respect that progress can be made along the Path to full enlightenment.

Re: No-self?

Posted: Sat Dec 08, 2012 3:19 am
by drifting cloud
nrose619 wrote:What is the meaning of no-self in Buddhism? Is it the idea that instead of independent beings, there is a collaborative "we" in all life forms? or is it a more nihilistic view that the self is not real and that nothing is real?
Neither. It is one of the "Three Characteristics" that are said to apply to all phenomena. Everything you experience is said to be

anicca - impermanent, unstable
dukkha - unsatisfactory, stressful
anatta - not self, not mine

These are not really metaphysical propositions as much as they are strategies of perception to be adopted, tested, experimented with. You analyze the objects of your experience and ask: are they permanent or not? Inherently satisfactory or not? Do they constitute a self or not? Are there certain sensations that I tend to regard as belonging to or constituting myself? Does the activity of labeling things 'self' lead to happiness or to suffering? What happens if I regard the sensations I experience as 'not I, not mine'?

The claim is that if you perform this experiment, you will find that it is the habituated patterns of identifying various phenomena as 'self' that lead to suffering. This leads to suffering because of the other two characteristics: these same phenomena are inconstant, constantly changing, and thus there is no permanent abiding sense of self. As such the mind is constantly having to contort itself to grasp onto a sense of a fixed identity, an activity which is inherently stressful and unsatisfactory. Abandoning these patterns leads to freedom from suffering.

It's interesting to note that the Buddha never categorically declares "there is no self". For a deeper look at anatta, you may want to check out the following articles by Thanissaro Bhikku:

No self or Not-self? (a short article)
The Not-Self Strategy (medium length essay with long extracts from the Pali Canon)
Selves & Not-Self: The Buddhist Teaching of Anatta (long series of essays, including the above two)