A question about ego death

A forum for beginners and members of other Buddhist traditions to ask questions about Theravāda (The Way of the Elders). Responses require moderator approval before they are visible in order to double-check alignment to Theravāda orthodoxy.
mbattle78
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:16 pm

A question about ego death

Post by mbattle78 » Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:34 pm

Hello friends -

I am new to this forum and have a burning question that has been bothering me for quite some time. Of course, it is one of 'the' impossible, mysterious questions,' but I am wondering if anyone here among us has also struggled with this and if anyone has any philosophical or practical explanations on how this could be better understood.

The goal for many is to see through the veil of delusion of this 'sense of self,' and I understand that the ego is likely a fabrication - all of that makes sense to me and the goal to see things as 'they really are,' which is, to become one with cosmic awareness, to escape from all of the ego trappings and suffering, etc.

My problem with this is that { and forgive the seemingly juvenile question } while there is no 'self,' no 'me' here - why is it that whatever I am, { eternal vastness, consciousness, etc. } I am still 'separated' and experiencing 'reality' through this very specific perspective? Or simply, if there is no 'me' here, why is whatever 'I am' stuck in this particular human body, looking through this very specific set of eyes and not from anyone's else or everywhere else?

Can anyone explain this contradiction? This isn't about the illusion of the sense of self, but the concrete and matter-of-fact situation that we are experiencing reality through this particular physical vantage point / perspective - which is what makes the ego illusion incredibly effective.

If I am not 'me,' why and how is consciousness contained in this one specific body, looking through these specific eyes?

User avatar
Nicolas
Posts: 975
Joined: Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:59 pm
Location: Somerville, MA, USA

Re: A question about ego death

Post by Nicolas » Wed Jan 02, 2019 4:51 pm

My understanding:
Specific karma and craving generates a specific "incarnation", perspective, configuration of mentality-materiality.
If there is no absolute self, there can still be delusion and the illusion of self tied to a specific perspective.

User avatar
cappuccino
Posts: 2853
Joined: Thu Feb 11, 2016 1:45 am

Re: A question about ego death

Post by cappuccino » Wed Jan 02, 2019 5:09 pm

this teaching isn't no self

since no self is still about self

rather, body isn't self, mind isn't self, etc.

User avatar
cappuccino
Posts: 2853
Joined: Thu Feb 11, 2016 1:45 am

Re: A question about ego death

Post by cappuccino » Wed Jan 02, 2019 5:11 pm

ordinarily we think of personality about the impersonal body

ordinarily we think of personality about the impersonal mind

etc.

dharmacorps
Posts: 930
Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2015 7:33 pm

Re: A question about ego death

Post by dharmacorps » Wed Jan 02, 2019 6:19 pm

I don't see a contradiction here. You are seeing through the eyes you are seeing through due to many causes and conditions which took place. I would recommend looking at the 5 aggregates to help understand some of those things which we take to be self.

User avatar
JamesTheGiant
Posts: 968
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2015 8:41 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: A question about ego death

Post by JamesTheGiant » Wed Jan 02, 2019 6:30 pm

mbattle78 wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:34 pm
If I am not 'me,' why and how is consciousness contained in this one specific body, looking through these specific eyes?
HOW is impossible to answer. We don't have the science for that... yet.
WHY is because if the consciousness wasn't in this one specific body, it wouldn't be asking that question. The Weak Anthropic Principle. Not the strong anthropic!

Also, on another matter, statistics doesn't work backwards. For example we can say how unlikely it was that mother and father met, and how unlikely it was that the specific sperm-cell fertilized that particular egg, and back into history, making your specific personal existence impossibly unlikely.
Statistics doesn't work like that. Because you are here asking the question, you start with probably = 1.

Oh I hope MikeNZ doesn't see this amateurish mathematics.

JohnK
Posts: 830
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 11:06 pm
Location: Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Re: A question about ego death

Post by JohnK » Wed Jan 02, 2019 8:15 pm

Hi there mbattle78.
You said:
mbattle78 wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:34 pm
...while there is no 'self,' no 'me' here
The apparent contradiction may be from your notion that somehow there shouldn't be a you seeing through your eyes -- that this is an illusion. I don't think this is the teaching of not-self.

What you are saying sounds like a claim about reality, a view (see my signature quote below from Thanissaro Bhikkhu).
I'm no expert on such things, and not-self is complex, subtle, and can be controversial, but you might consider having a close look at his book Selves & Not-Self -- probably worth the read for you as you say this is a burning question for you.
https://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Wri ... 181215.pdf
It is available in formats other than this pdf (online reading for example).
Good luck (and welcome).
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

paul
Posts: 1512
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 11:27 pm
Location: Cambodia

Re: A question about ego death

Post by paul » Wed Jan 02, 2019 9:02 pm

mbattle78 wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:34 pm
If I am not 'me,' why and how is consciousness contained in this one specific body, looking through these specific eyes?

The path is gradual and the practitioner should begin to overcome the illusion of self in the way recommended by the Buddha, set out in the discourse on the non-self characteristic, SN 22.59, and here they are instructed to first contemplate impermanence which can be observed as a fact in materiality. By doing so and relating that characteristic to the illusionary self, it will be known conceptually that a permanent self cannot exist, and impermanence is the bedrock of the practice. When the understanding of impermanence is consolidated, then non-self is strengthened as a consequence. Then they will have two realities, conventional reality as stated in the OP question, which is held by the ordinary uninstructed worldling, and a conceptual grasp of ultimate reality, and even the Buddha and the arahants maintained this duality.

“An arahant monk, one who is done,
effluent-free, bearing his last body:
He would say, ‘I speak’;
would say, ‘They speak to me.’
Skillful, knowing harmonious gnosis
with regard to the world,
he uses expressions
just as expressions.”—SN 1.25

User avatar
Bundokji
Posts: 2266
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2014 11:57 pm

Re: A question about ego death

Post by Bundokji » Wed Jan 02, 2019 10:28 pm

When you look at your self in a mirror, is your eye consciousness contained in the mirror? or is the mirror contained in your consciousness?
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

mbattle78
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:16 pm

Re: A question about ego death

Post by mbattle78 » Wed Jan 02, 2019 10:34 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 10:28 pm
When you look at your self in a mirror, is your eye consciousness contained in the mirror? or is the mirror contained in your consciousness?
Mind blown? haha.

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 5783
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: A question about ego death

Post by DooDoot » Wed Jan 02, 2019 10:44 pm

mbattle78 wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:34 pm
My problem with this is that... while there is no 'self,' no 'me' here - why is it that whatever I am, { eternal vastness, consciousness, etc. } I am still 'separated' and experiencing 'reality' through this very specific perspective? Or simply, if there is no 'me' here, why is whatever 'I am' stuck in this particular human body, looking through this very specific set of eyes and not from anyone's else or everywhere else?
There is actually a "me" or "I am" in the mind. It is a thought fabrication. Only if & when the mind is free from the thought of "self" will the reality start to be discerned.
mbattle78 wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:34 pm
the concrete and matter-of-fact situation that we are experiencing reality through this particular physical vantage point / perspective - which is what makes the ego illusion incredibly effective.
Indeed. The ego illusion is like a natural survival instinct or mechanism. If a mother did not view her offspring as "my children", she probably would not care for them.
mbattle78 wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:34 pm
If I am not 'me,' why and how is consciousness contained in this one specific body, looking through these specific eyes?
Personally, I would not focus on the phenomena of "consciousness" and the "physical body". The self illusion is contained in "thinking" or "thoughts".
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/paticcasamuppada
https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/anapanasati

SarathW
Posts: 12020
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: A question about ego death

Post by SarathW » Thu Jan 03, 2019 1:51 am

mbattle78 wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:34 pm
Hello friends -

I am new to this forum and have a burning question that has been bothering me for quite some time. Of course, it is one of 'the' impossible, mysterious questions,' but I am wondering if anyone here among us has also struggled with this and if anyone has any philosophical or practical explanations on how this could be better understood.

The goal for many is to see through the veil of delusion of this 'sense of self,' and I understand that the ego is likely a fabrication - all of that makes sense to me and the goal to see things as 'they really are,' which is, to become one with cosmic awareness, to escape from all of the ego trappings and suffering, etc.

My problem with this is that { and forgive the seemingly juvenile question } while there is no 'self,' no 'me' here - why is it that whatever I am, { eternal vastness, consciousness, etc. } I am still 'separated' and experiencing 'reality' through this very specific perspective? Or simply, if there is no 'me' here, why is whatever 'I am' stuck in this particular human body, looking through this very specific set of eyes and not from anyone's else or everywhere else?

Can anyone explain this contradiction? This isn't about the illusion of the sense of self, but the concrete and matter-of-fact situation that we are experiencing reality through this particular physical vantage point / perspective - which is what makes the ego illusion incredibly effective.

If I am not 'me,' why and how is consciousness contained in this one specific body, looking through these specific eyes?
Good question.
Until you become Arahant you have the self identification.
This question is discussed here.
Is self view, a self fulfilling prophecy?

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=18241&p=256672&hilit=
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

pegembara
Posts: 1543
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:39 am

Re: A question about ego death

Post by pegembara » Thu Jan 03, 2019 4:29 am

mbattle78 wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:34 pm
Hello friends -

I am new to this forum and have a burning question that has been bothering me for quite some time. Of course, it is one of 'the' impossible, mysterious questions,' but I am wondering if anyone here among us has also struggled with this and if anyone has any philosophical or practical explanations on how this could be better understood.

The goal for many is to see through the veil of delusion of this 'sense of self,' and I understand that the ego is likely a fabrication - all of that makes sense to me and the goal to see things as 'they really are,' which is, to become one with cosmic awareness, to escape from all of the ego trappings and suffering, etc.

My problem with this is that { and forgive the seemingly juvenile question } while there is no 'self,' no 'me' here - why is it that whatever I am, { eternal vastness, consciousness, etc. } I am still 'separated' and experiencing 'reality' through this very specific perspective? Or simply, if there is no 'me' here, why is whatever 'I am' stuck in this particular human body, looking through this very specific set of eyes and not from anyone's else or everywhere else?

Can anyone explain this contradiction? This isn't about the illusion of the sense of self, but the concrete and matter-of-fact situation that we are experiencing reality through this particular physical vantage point / perspective - which is what makes the ego illusion incredibly effective.

If I am not 'me,' why and how is consciousness contained in this one specific body, looking through these specific eyes?
Is the body contained in consciousness or is consciousness contained in the body in your experience?
Is it possible that everything is contained within consciousness or experiencer or the 'I am'?
Is it then also the case that whatever 'you' can point to is not 'you'? There is no ultimate subject without a corresponding object ie. they are interdependent.
"Very well then, Kotthita my friend, I will give you an analogy; for there are cases where it is through the use of an analogy that intelligent people can understand the meaning of what is being said. It is as if two sheaves of reeds were to stand leaning against one another. In the same way, from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness, from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form.

"If one were to pull away one of those sheaves of reeds, the other would fall; if one were to pull away the other, the first one would fall. In the same way, from the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of consciousness, from the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

Padipa
Posts: 30
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2018 7:22 pm

Re: A question about ego death

Post by Padipa » Sat Jan 05, 2019 5:10 pm

mbattle78 wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:34 pm
Hello friends -

I am new to this forum and have a burning question that has been bothering me for quite some time. Of course, it is one of 'the' impossible, mysterious questions,' but I am wondering if anyone here among us has also struggled with this and if anyone has any philosophical or practical explanations on how this could be better understood.

The goal for many is to see through the veil of delusion of this 'sense of self,' and I understand that the ego is likely a fabrication - all of that makes sense to me and the goal to see things as 'they really are,' which is, to become one with cosmic awareness, to escape from all of the ego trappings and suffering, etc.

My problem with this is that { and forgive the seemingly juvenile question } while there is no 'self,' no 'me' here - why is it that whatever I am, { eternal vastness, consciousness, etc. } I am still 'separated' and experiencing 'reality' through this very specific perspective? Or simply, if there is no 'me' here, why is whatever 'I am' stuck in this particular human body, looking through this very specific set of eyes and not from anyone's else or everywhere else?

Can anyone explain this contradiction? This isn't about the illusion of the sense of self, but the concrete and matter-of-fact situation that we are experiencing reality through this particular physical vantage point / perspective - which is what makes the ego illusion incredibly effective.

If I am not 'me,' why and how is consciousness contained in this one specific body, looking through these specific eyes?

Welcome and thank you for an excellent question--cannot understand why people are not asking it all the time. Particularly since (Anatta) ‘no self’ is the single distinguishing feature of Buddhism. For this reason alone, it would be wise to grasp, to the extent possible for each of us, its meaning. Agreed: it is not easy, but nothing worth anything in life is. And it’s worth noting it wasn’t easy for the Buddha either. In fact, emerging from enlightenment he was skeptical of our ability to grasp thought which is contrary to our self-absorption. But he took the 45 year, nontenured teaching post anyway. Okay, here goes my self’s attempt to explain its own non-existence ;) LOL.

Firstly, there isn’t really a contradiction. It might be easier if you use the word distortion, not illusion: it’s actually that we distort our conception of self and this leads to illusion. And it is not that we are not ourselves; rather, it is that we are not what we think we are. Also, realize that, although your question does not touch on it, the word ‘self’ is seriously entangled with religious connotations. That is, for countless human beings, a self is not separable from the soul, the notion that a part of us continues after death, believed to be entrusted to us by a god for the purpose of keeping a connection to that god, a connection whose purpose supercedes all others in life.

But, for Buddhists, this notion of self harbors all the world’s evils. It isn’t the self, itself, which is the root of all evil, but our self-absorption in ourselves, itself, which springs Pandora out of the box. In other words, s-e-l-f is just a word, just a symbol, just a tool: it is our incorrect conceptualizing of it, not it, itself, which causes evil. In effect, it is our tendency to grossly exaggerate the self’s role in life which creates an illusory world. Worded differently, we illegitimately enthrone the self to a position of power to which it has no rights in objective reality. And, since we BELIEVE it has the power, it does have power--over us--in exaggerating the role of ourselves, and in downplaying or denying our mutually interdependent existence--the illusion is created. But the Buddhist lens provides us with opportunity to re-conceptualize our self.

Buddhists see an accurate understanding of self unfolding as one studies and ponders the implications of Conditioned Genesis and the 5 Aggregates. As seen through this lens, the self is finite, relative and exists only in the interplay of mutual interdependence. That is, the self does not and cannot exist independently, infinitely or regally. The self, particularly as conceptualized in the West, has a massive blind spot to objective reality: because it is so obsessed with serving itself, it’s oblivious to the cosmic dance of mutual interdependence. The self is merely a transient, fleeting, ever-changing psychobiological state & its brain mediates incoming stimuli in accordance with its conditioned biases.

A great place (highly recommended) to get a firm grasp on the Buddhist self (Anatta) is in the excellent work of Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught, revised & expanded edition, 1974. The following excerpt is from this book, found on the last page of chp 6--it summarizes the chapter on Anatta.

“According to the Buddha’s teaching, it is as wrong to hold the opinion ‘I have no self’ (which is annihilationist theory) as to hold the opinion ‘I have self’ (which is eternalist theory), because both are fetters, both arising out of the false idea ‘I AM.' The correct position with regard to the question of Anatta is not to take hold of any opinion or views, but to try to see things objectively as they are without mental projections, to see what we call ‘I’, or ‘being,’ is only a combination of physical & mental aggregates, which are working together interdependently in a flux of momentary change within the law of cause & effect, & that there is nothing permanent, everlasting, unchanging & eternal in the whole of existence.”


The inability to see objective reality unfolding interdependently is the impetus for the notion that the entirety of Earth’s resources are fair game for the sake of the human self, at the cost to all other life. That is, to hell with the rest of living Earth, so long as we can continue the indulgence and gluttony of our own selves--who cares about the rest of life. Our predispositions to distort ourselves is so utterly out of order that consequences (here, a collective form of (vipāka ) are now spilling over into all of life. We are gradually fathoming the soon-to-be-fatal mistake of our self-absorption, not because of altruist or religious reasons, but because OUR survival is endangered. We now possess an understanding that our self-absorption has consequences, but only because of our SELVES, not for all of our brethren with whom we share mutual interdependence. This heedless mentality sprang out of yoking humanity to a distorted perception its self, rather than objectively seeing humanity’s interdependence within the entire cosmos.

Once upon a time we relied upon the religious prophets for conscience, now, paradoxically, we rely upon scientists for conscience. It’s telling that Buddhism easily harmonizes with Science, but that Religion (that font of the self) tendentiously impedes Science. Science declared the Earth goes around the Sun, just like every other planet in our solar system. This struck the religious as heresy--why?--because, from this objective viewpoint, man was no longer able to conceptualize his self at the center of the universe. No, the Sun and all the “heavenly” bodies do not encircle the Earth......so Man was self-reduced in stature by the acceptance/seeing of objective reality, but it was, in no way, reduced enough. So, while the religious eventually, though recalcitrantly, came to accept this contribution of Science, their intransigence remains in too many other matters. I guess, if your sole purpose in life is derived from dying, then celebrating that death in an otherworldly place, then why care about this place?--logical enough???


Genesis I: 28 “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing which moves on earth.’ ”

User avatar
Benjamin
Posts: 260
Joined: Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:41 am
Location: Taiwan

Re: A question about ego death

Post by Benjamin » Sun Jan 06, 2019 2:28 pm

I would say that Buddhism's insistence (read: specific teachers' insistence) on teaching no-self as a fact of experience instead of a skillful perception is one of the worst things to happen to the dharma since the Buddha's time. Cultivating a skillful sense of self and holding onto the positive aspects of it - namely, the following of the path itself - is incredibly important and also in line with western psychology's understanding of healthy ego-functioning. Teaching that there is no self and no doer or controller behind action leads to apathy and nihilism for many, and at the very least a philosophical headache for others.

Just my opinion of course, but it's shared by Thanissaro Bhikku and others who have a strong understanding of early Buddhism and the Sutta Pitaka.


:anjali:
:candle: :buddha1: :candle:

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 12 guests