No-self

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This topic contains 4 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Alex K 3 weeks, 1 day ago.

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  • #1909

    Mateos
    Member

    First of all, thank you very much for this forum – it is very helpful!

    My question is on the intellectual understanding of No-self. Here is my admittedly very basic understanding, from which my question arises:
    – We are just the five aggregates
    – Everything, incl. our five aggreagtes, arises and passes away causally conditioned, and the whole of the universe is connected in these causal relationships
    – Our mind is made of of a multitude of often conflicting processes
    – From these propositions, it follows that there is no permanent, unified, unchanging “Doer” or “Self”. I fully buy into this intellectually.

    Now, how does this No-Self justify having no self-interest any more (and being relaxed and in bliss)? Or alternatively, what is wrong or missing in my understanding of No-self? There is still a distinction between what I experience in my five aggregates and what I don’t , and hence “optimizing” for my five aggregates still makes sense (even for a dispersed mind), doesn’t it? I guess here is where I go astray and would appreciate clarification. Is the missing link the futility of our striving for optimizing for the five aggregates, because it is all conditioned? Or is another piece missing, namely insight into a law of nature that rewards self-lessness, which is an impression I get in some buddhist teachings? That would be a different line or reasoning, though, which is much harder to buy into intellectually.

    Sorry for throwing in a heavy-weight question without having real depth in these concepts, but after listeining to some of Culadasa’s recordings, I got the impression that intellectually it might not be that terribly complicated. Just let me know if you disagree, and I would appreciate hints to some material that might get me some clarification.

    Many thanks in advance!

    #2159

    jimisommer
    Member

    Well you’re actually very accurate in what you’ve said here. The only aspect you’ve left out is sunyata, or emptiness. When the other two marks, anicca (impermanent, unreliable, unstable) and dukkha (suffering, unsatisfactory, bereft), are taken together with sunyata, regarding the 5 aggregates, you then get anatta, no self. Emptiness is essential the idea of no-essence. There is no intrinsic nature to anything. Whatever you look at, there is nothing within it that makes it that thing. Everything is just made up of aggregates, all of them also empty, anicca, and dukkha. And so it is not just us, but everything that is no-self. As far as your experience as compared to anyone else’s, it is true that your specific aggregates are bound together by form, but you must see that each of those aggregates are not yours, or pertaining to you. So another way to think of it is that yes, the 5 aggregates that make “you” up are bound together by form, but they just are, they’re not your form, it’s just form, not your mental formations, just mental formations, not your perceptions, just perceptions, and so on. As well as them not being yours, they do not pertain to you. So, you aren’t seeing, there is just seeing. You aren’t feeling, there is just feeling. You aren’t angry, there is just anger. I assume you’re still with me on all of this, but I understand when you get to consciousness it starts to get difficult. But, in the same way, the knowing, or experiencing, is not your consciousness, it is just consciousness. And you are not knowing, there is just knowing. In the same way as all the rest, this knowing is anicca, dukkha, and sunyata, and so this is not you either. When you think of it this way, you can almost experience it without even meditating. Just think, there is only the surface level, there is no one this is all happening to. Whatever is happening right now, even as you read this, there is only that. You aren’t perceiving the text, there is just seeing, you aren’t sitting down, there is just form sitting, you aren’t understanding the words through mental formations, there is just mental formations, and most complex of all, you aren’t knowing and experiencing all of this, there is just an empty knowing. I hope this helps, I know it’s an unusual way of understanding the world, but it also just so happens to be true. If you have any other questions regarding this, just ask, I’m sure there are many others that have far deeper insight into anatta than me.

    #2160

    Jevan P
    Member

    “Now, how does this No-Self justify having no self-interest any more (and being relaxed and in bliss)? Or alternatively, what is wrong or missing in my understanding of No-self?”

    It’s the difference between saying “I’m angry” and “there is anger arising”. The first one, will lead to more thoughts that tend to aggravate that anger…the second one will not stroke the fires and the anger will dissipate instead of get inflamed.

    #2189

    Mateos
    Member

    Thanks for you reply – I like the way you describe emptiness in this quite tangible way. And it is the answer to my question, I guess. I am still presupposing a self of some sort, when I ask, why the mind does not optimize for ‘its’ five aggregates. True No-self would mean there is nobody optimizing for pleasure or avoiding pain. Wisdom becomes the driver of actions instead. And whatever wisdom drives is not a self – this last step is kind of hard to grasp still, but I guess it makes sense. Fascinating stuff!

    #3320

    Alex K
    Member

    When you see with discernment,
    ‘All fabrications are inconstant’ —
    you grow disenchanted with stress.
    This is the path
    to purity.

    When you see with discernment,
    ‘All fabrications are stressful’ —
    you grow disenchanted with stress.
    This is the path
    to purity.

    When you see with discernment,
    ‘All phenomena are not-self’ —
    you grow disenchanted with stress.
    This is the path
    to purity.

    Sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā’ti yadā paññāya passati
    Atha nibbindati dukkhe esa maggo visuddhiyā.

    Sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhā’ti yadā paññāya passati
    Atha nibbindati dukkhe esa maggo visuddhiyā.

    Sabbe dhammā anattā’ti yadā paññāya passati
    Atha nibbindati dukkhe esa maggo visuddhiyā.

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