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If There is No Self

I usually post these idealistic, serious perspectives on the Buddha's doctrine of "anatta" no permanent self.

This is very short, very "Zen" and Mahayana-ish.   

Refreshing!  Think about it!

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Replies (10)
  • Interesting debate, both parties operated on the basis of certain assumptions about physical and non-physical reality. I have a problem with this because I feel that first the assumptions should be declared.

    For instance, the teacher said that if there is a permanent self, then nothing can change but that is based on an assumption which he did not declare. The assumption is that if there is something permanent that something cannot be adjusted ever and also that something cannot be fused with other things which constantly change.

    I feel that what we have is multiple selves, with variation in their perceptions and approaches to figuring what is reality. That is wonderful indeed! 

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    • One other aspect of the discourse about self and noSelf is the situation of target. In the discourse we have a bearded man targetting the monk. If there is a target then the assumption is that there is a self and that is verified by the monk's reply using koans from the Zen Buddhist tradition of killing unfavorable arguments. If the monk was not a target he would not have replied using koans. (In this read target as self).


      a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment.



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      • At the 2 minute mark there is the declaration:

        "Because there is no self, that is why everything is possible"

        Hearing that caused me to soften my mental predispositions and think outside the box a bit.    

        In reference to Michael's assertion of there being multiple selves, I am assuming that this manifestation is constantly being played out by the everchanging adjuncts of sense of identity, intellect, kundalini, etc.  


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        • This manifestation is constantly being played out by the adjuncts' interactions with whatever they encounter and are reactive to in the manifestation. And the coreSelf?

          Well it is affected or not affected according to its sensitivity to the adjuncts.

          In the game of debate, I would write to the monk that:

           Because there is a self, that is why everything is possible because the self is a constant around which everything spins and is supported.

          Because we have a central power deep in the earth, there is gravity which pulls everything to that center and we all stay put instead of floating off into space. But that gravity shows as nothing physical and so it can be said that it is not there but we know that it has to be there just as we know that the cell phone signal has to be there even though we cannot proof that it is there as a physical something in terms of what we can see and hold.

          To be fair however, we admit that this is based on assumptions, that there is a self or target of feelings and observation.

          So long as one is limited and was a victim in this manifestation, it makes sense that one would begin with a no-self assumption, because the reason for trauma is the connection of a self with whatever produces the trauma. Logic is that if that self is removed, it would have no trauma. So long as that self is there, and it is not absolute and it cannot control the manifestation, it is a sitting duck for every hunter who comes into the forest. Hence not being in existence seems like a solution.

          But is it?

          Does this self really have the power to de-exist or to cancel itself?

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          • In this definition of not-self below, it begins the premise that all phenomena is devoid of self but that is a premise only in this statement because there is no proof given. One is expected to accept it as an assumption.

            All the same I could begin the assumption that phenomena is full of everything and thus there is self everywhere, surfacing and disappearing constantly. The lack of constancy does not prove that there is no self or that everything is nothing.

            The contention that the phantom personality is born of ignorance and delusion does not remove the instance of self. In fact once someone states that it is bound up with suffering, that means there is a target or self and thus the denial of it is absurd.


            anattã: Not-self; the truth that all phenomena are devoid of anything that can be identified as “self”. This means that none of the physical and mental components of personality (the 5 khandhas ) make up an entity, either individual or collective, nor can a self-entity be found anywhere within the heart (citta). Therefore, what is experienced as being an abiding self is no more than a phantom personality born of ignorance and delusion – inherently transient, unstable, and bound up with suffering


            That is from the book at this link:


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            • What could be possible with no self?

              What could be real?

              I have heard from various spiritual literature that what is real falls into 2 categories:

              1. the material elements of earth, water, fire, and air
              2. the ultimate, absolute reality (which underlies all of the material creation) 

              In terms of a permanent self as discussed in this thread, in Buddhist doctrine it seems to refer to a permanent self made up of material elements.  Not understanding this distinction leads to conceptual and linguistic confusion. 

              All of the various displays of selves that are comprised of gross material or super subtle material elements, are just temporary displays which will dissolve sooner or later, after seconds or aeons. This is so due to their inherent IMPERMANENCE..

              I have been told that nibbana is beyond materiality.  It is unchanging, permanent, free of modification. It does not involve becoming "someone" or going "anywhere."  It is the "unbinding" (from materiality and mentality).  

              When contrasting this view with inSelf Yoga, I think the main difference is that inSelf Yoga does not feel it is possible to ever separate the core self from the sense of identity adjunct.  In Buddhism, the sense of identity (all those displays of impermanent selves and mentalities)  is to be cast off.  One writer, Upasika Ke Nanayon, compared the sense of identity to a sticky glob of tar which one has to get unstuck from.   And I assume that when one achieves that, one experiences nibbana, which is called the deathless, the unbinding, release, no more becoming etc.  I guess it falls into the category of the "mystical" which needs to be experienced in order to fully comprehend.  Those who claim to have the experience, all seem to say that ordinary language can only allude to it. 

              I am actually fine with either statement:

              • Because their is a self, that is why everything is possible.
              • Because there is no self, that is why everything is possible.

              Each statement has its own basis and assumption, which lends it to credibility.

              However, based on my own meditation experiences so far, I don't feel that the core self or the "deathless," is permanently fused to a sense of identity. 

              The important thing for us all, is to keep practicing and to keep  assumptions out of the practice, so that we get direct experiences which are not skewed by the intellect.  Reaching the state of stillness, of no thought, so that we are directly knowing without being goaded by the thinking mind.  We train on the basis of many assumptions, but then we are required to LET GO.









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              • All of the various displays of selves that are comprised of gross material or super subtle material elements, are just temporary displays which will dissolve sooner or later, after seconds or aeons. This is so due to their inherent IMPERMANENCE..


                Mi~Beloved’s Response:

                In this statement Buddhism contradicts itself because if these various displays of self are JUST temporary, then why are they declaring eight noble truths in which one has to behave in a certain way using these displays of self, why does it matter what one does or does not do. That is a contradiction. Either these displays are something or they are nothing and it is not required to do anything nor to reform anything or have any stipulated behaviors.


                However, based on my own meditation experiences so far, I don't feel that the core self or the "deathless," is permanently fused to a sense of identity. 


                Mi~Beloved’s Response:

                Yes, for the purpose of inSelf Yoga, it is not possible for the limited self to divest itself of the sense of identity. That is impossible. It does not have that power. While in Buddhism everyone can be buddha or can be like buddha, inSelf Yoga says, no, others who are limited coreSelves cannot be like Buddha. The limited selves cannot divest themselves of the sense of identity but what they can do is restrict the involvement between the sense of identity and the intellect. And even to do that the yogi has to make tons of effort because that is unnatural. There can be detachment from and isolation from the influence of the sense of identity but that sense cannot be eliminated by the coreSelf.

                In inselfyoga, the core did not create itself and thus it has no power to de-create itself. It may study itself and its adjuncts and then it can see what it can do and how to do what it is capable of doing. Everything it dreams up is not possible for it, only some things are.

                Periodic experiences in meditation where there is absence of the sense of identity in no way shows that it is nonexistent. Many features and mystic objects which do not show in a meditation are in existence except that the meditator has no means of perceiving the invisible imperceptible objects while in those meditative states because the means of perception are absent during such experiences.

                But the big event in this is the reappearance of the adjuncts after a meditation session. Why do they reappear if they were actually non-existent? And why do they reappear with their same qualities and functions. At least if I go into a state where my computer disappears, then if again another computer appears it should not have memories, functions, actions which are exactly the same as the one which disappeared.

                Why does the adjunct appear again?

                And if the reply is that it does so because the meditator was not liberated, or did not attain nirvana, that is a cop-out. Even if the meditator becomes liberated even then what is the proof that he or she may not involuntarily assume all or some of the adjuncts again. And why does it have to be that at death this total disappearance happens and it does not do so during life. Buddha got nirvana at the time of enlightenment and still he kept his adjuncts, used his intellect in arguments with others and so on.

                And why the need to get rid of the adjuncts. What is causing that need???????

                Why not keep the adjuncts and work to keep them in the least harmful way because the evidence that they cannot be eliminated is so pressing because of the way the manifestation is configured by nature.

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              • You know I am not a strong boxer in the ring so I will let your challenges stand because I am not willing to take punches for the sake of views which do not reconcile.
                May all your new becomings be blissful.

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                • Sounds reasonable but the fact is that the fight is between the coreSelf and its adjuncts at least that is the battle in inSelf Yoga. Thus any help with that would be welcomed. In Buddhism, it may be another type of internal battle especially is there is no core and everything is an adjunct.

                  This clears up something which is that Buddha did battle in his psyche and also with Mara, a supernatural being (illusion being?????) But inSelf Yoga has no fight with Mara. He is nowhere around. It is a fight between the core and its adjuncts. 

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                  • Many perspectives converge without crossing.

                    Indeed it does appear that the koan or hypothetical sort of question did give cues to the reply at least from the perspective of this supposed inquirer. I pay particular attention to the word "responsibility", and he is specific about the identity responsible, the doer of activities, even such as the noble path.

                    It is a powerful and loaded question for most transcendentalists. It is interesting that he is suggested to wait the next day to understand more about his own so nicely phrased statement. 
                    The question refers to a certain level of spiritual development.

                    Not experiencing self in a natural way or in selflessness way, if it were possible and as a result from there "having" or living all possibilities has no practical basis as a statement for mere mortals. I can see how encouraging such a conception may be in theory, but master Thich Nhat Hanh not being a nihilist may be misexpressing himself on the qualities of the Brahman effulgence. 

                    Such level may not become genuinely relevant prior to advanced mysticism. However, the statements though sounding remarkable don't appear to coalesce into a clear concept, and further, the work towards insight is postponed to the next day and pretty much returned to the asker. 

                    I wonder if he'd also say that it is possible to exist without living, or to not exist without living or de-exist without death? And, if being human means anything or has any relevance as it pertains to salvation.


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