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Question regarding anatta - non-self


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I get why body, thoughts, emotions and sensations are not me - they arise and pass. I don't understand why anatta applies to:

- awareness itself,

- conscious action / decision.

Who is making the decision, if not me? Who is aware if not me? 

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Nobody has had anything to say. So im going to share my thoughts. But they may not really belong here. Cause its not based on any study. Or specific study i guess. And maybe something from reading the little i have about buddhism. I know probably the least about buddhism here on this forum. So thats my disclaimer.

I think that the philosophy of how we define an experience doesnt seem to me the horse that pulls the carriage. But i think it can help. And over time a philosophy i have found for me comes out of witnessing ones experience. And when that comes about its more like a brick house with a foundation. And i think there is probably a lot of similiarity from person to person. But also differences because of the uniquess in ones perception and i think there isnt really two experiences that are completely identitical

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On ‎5‎/‎11‎/‎2016 at 1:44 PM, micro said:

I get why body, thoughts, emotions and sensations are not me - they arise and pass. I don't understand why anatta applies to:

- awareness itself,

- conscious action / decision.

Who is making the decision, if not me? Who is aware if not me? 

Hi Micro,

Confusion arises because people make statements that thoughts, emotions and sensations are not us. They come and go but are not us. I know I have said that many times myself and in a way it is true but not really :)

The first stage most people are taught is the Witness/Mindfulness. That there is separation between us and our thoughts, that they are fleeting unless we cling to them just like you said.

In Dzogchen they use the term Rigpa and say that we are all those thoughts, sensations and emotions and call this movement.

It is all energy/light.

So first we get to the point of separation from our thoughts. It is like we can see them float on by, they no longer attach to us and we find freedom. With increased depth the thoughts become less and less and the silence grows from within. We feel the movement of the thoughts within the silence.

We know this because it is like the waves hitting the beach. We experience it like the waves coming in and then we are back to being lost in thoughts as the waves reside. Over time just like the tide the water gets deeper and deeper until we are that movement, until we are that silence. 

Now outside of our thinking we also have this body. Within the body, when people start to work with energy practices/pranayama techniques they first will notice a little energy within them. Over time this energy increases in depth and people start to feel energy hitting upon obstructions and that is when it becomes ecstatic. With still more depth one will notice that there body is energy. That the body is no different than our thoughts which is energy/light.

So our thoughts, emotions, sensations and our body are all energy/light. Just like a cloud each has form but in truth it is empty. It's true nature just like light or as science has shown atoms to be is emptiness.

The belief in an Atman, a soul according to Buddhism is not possible because a soul is a "thing" that "exists". In Buddhism the true nature of all things is emptiness. Because of that there is no soul that is made up of things residing in some place.

So who or what are we then?

Often when people first experience the light they are blinded by it. It is bright and it is all they can see. With increased depth you start to notice that the light is made up of individual streams of light. In Buddhism these are called Mind Streams.

A post was made in this section asking if all Buddhas are the same. I think this will help explain some things.

Do Buddha now all have different individual personalities? I was always taught that there is no difference between Buddha's and the only reason they have individual names is because we gave them different names to distinguish one Buddha manifestation from another, but to view them as different "Buddha's" is to create a duality in Enlightenment.


There are no differences between one Buddha and another in terms of realization; there are differences in terms of aspirations, and so on., which give rise to differences in sentient beings karmic connections with this buddhafield and that, and so on. In short, everyone who becomes a Buddha starts out as a sentient being, and there is a unique rosary of clarity that continues from the time of being a sentient being through the attainment of Vajradhara which forms the relative basis for Buddhahood.

 

Loppon Malcom

So we are each these mind streams that are made up of light that's true nature is emptiness. Each mind stream has unique karmic connections that the light hits upon that gives us our individuality. There is no "thing" in some place which is what anatta is referring to.

I hope this helps,

Tom

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  • 3 years later...
On 5/11/2016 at 9:44 PM, micro said:

I get why body, thoughts, emotions and sensations are not me - they arise and pass. I don't understand why anatta applies to:
- awareness itself,
- conscious action / decision.
Who is making the decision, if not me? Who is aware if not me? 

Yes you yourself are aware.
But human "consciousness"  is very primitive as we have only just moved beyond the apes.
Whilst the arms legs and subconscious systems are ancient and work very well, nature has not had a chance to evolve the human mind sot that they work properly, so we are all confused corrupting arrogant and destructive as a species.
Probably in 100,000 years humans will be adjusted naturally and be harmonious.
For the moment we are a species with new features and its messy.
So it's not very good.
One type of confusion is the promotion of the idea that individuals don't exist.
This is a confusion of several things together.
Also, the barbaric rulers of this planet have promoted this idea amongst people to keep them weak, and have only allowed spirituality  into their society that promotes the idea of weak and non-existent beings.
But in short you do exist, but not very well due to the aforementioned limitations of nature.
Through spiritual practice you can bring your real self into existence and finally relax as a normal being.

Although this quite an involved subject, but one curious thing about the idea about "I don't exist" is that it ... feels very secure, something you can be certain about.   And this is very appealing to the many people on the planet who don't feel existentially secure, a sense of certainty.
Whereas real change is frightening.
Another thing about the idea about "I don't exist" is that it is practical, it can lead to realisation as a practice, but that is different from saying it is conceptually accurate.  Saying "I don't exist" is very simple and therefore can be good.
And a further thing is the relationship between the Source, the Cosmos, the Creatures within the universe, states of consciousness, and states of realisation it is extremely complex and only really accessible to people with deep meditational capabilities.
 

Edited by rideforever
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8 hours ago, rideforever said:

Yes you yourself are aware.
But human "consciousness"  is very primitive as we have only just moved beyond the apes.
Whilst the arms legs and subconscious systems are ancient and work very well, nature has not had a chance to evolve the human mind sot that they work properly, so we are all confused corrupting arrogant and destructive as a species.
Probably in 100,000 years humans will be adjusted naturally and be harmonious.
For the moment we are a species with new features and its messy.
So it's not very good.
One type of confusion is the promotion of the idea that individuals don't exist.
This is a confusion of several things together.
Also, the barbaric rulers of this planet have promoted this idea amongst people to keep them weak, and have only allowed spirituality  into their society that promotes the idea of weak and non-existent beings.
But in short you do exist, but not very well due to the aforementioned limitations of nature.
Through spiritual practice you can bring your real self into existence and finally relax as a normal being.

Although this quite an involved subject, but one curious thing about the idea about "I don't exist" is that it ... feels very secure, something you can be certain about.   And this is very appealing to the many people on the planet who don't feel existentially secure, a sense of certainty.
Whereas real change is frightening.
Another thing about the idea about "I don't exist" is that it is practical, it can lead to realisation as a practice, but that is different from saying it is conceptually accurate.  Saying "I don't exist" is very simple and therefore can be good.
And a further thing is the relationship between the Source, the Cosmos, the Creatures within the universe, states of consciousness, and states of realisation it is extremely complex and only really accessible to people with deep meditational capabilities.
 

Good thoughts.

I don't know what I think about self vs no self ... so I just leave it open ended, and see what happens.

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For another perspective: modern science tends to agree with Buddhism in that there is no you or me somewhere hidden inside us that experiences and/or acts. Experiencing and acting are psychological processes that don't need an "experiencer" or actor. So in a sense we don't exist (in the way we naively think that we exist). But as temporary processes we do exist. And the words "you" and "me" are useful for designating those processes. Problems start when the words "you" and "me" are taken to refer to some independently existing entities. It is those supposed independently existing entities you and me that don't exist. There are also some Western philosophers (such as David Hume) who by introspection and some hard logical analysis arrived at a viewpoint that is essentially similar to the doctrine of anatta .

It's my personal opinion that Buddhism (except for karma and reincarnation) is a very rational philosophy of life.

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In Tibet the Buddhist have made small caves where some monks live.  You go in, and live there and don't ever come out.  Food is passed in to you.   When you don't take food then the next monk goes in drags out your dead body and takes your place.
They also believed they didn't exist.
Perhaps it makes life easier.
Such is the derangement of our species.

There are ways to tell you are different to another person.
You can play the game of ... can you know what I am thinking? No.
Or do you see what I see? No.
If someone in Japan wakes up do you wake up? No.
No, of course you don't, you are an individual, meaning an individualised part.
Can you also feel the Source? Yes you can, like a sunbeam looking back towards the Sun.

But such simple logic means little to a species that is suffering tremendous conditioning and corruption.
And who have lived in a world of traditional self-hatred and exploitation for thousands of years.

Unfortunately this version of the non-existence idea that is fashionable today, the result of it is that people do not meditate sincerely, and then they do not reach realisation.
How many meditators are sitting there and inside they are thinking either that they don't exist or that they are god.
So they sit there telling themselves these things and do not do what they are taught to do.
That is why Astavakra says that the state of realisation is "very rare" even for spiritual people.
That is why so many sages died saying that none of their students had understood, sometimes only one.
Bodhidharma had one student apparently.
Some teachers taught for 40 or 50 years and yet said nobody understood them.

But even listening to the words of the sages is not something spiritual people are interested in.
Largely spirituality is just another way for people to delude themselves and make little progress.
In the end death is coming.

In the phoney Western world of today, people do not make much practical progress in their outer lives.
And this informs the inner lives.
Everything is a game, with plastic toys to distract yourself with.
Strange world, it is maya.
Even though people have the possibility to escape, they do not, such is the confusion and lack of understanding.
Death is certain, but most people seem to take no practical action to try different things.

I have always prioritized the life stories of teachers, which tell the truth of the journey, and the stories of their direct students, how it was to be with a teacher.
And also listening carefully to what they said verbatim.

 

Edited by rideforever
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Such is the level of confusion, that realised beings who are now permanently individualised souls and immortal individually and give themselves a new name to prove it ... such is the confusion that even they say they don't exist.
What a mad place.
Some even say there is no path when if they considered their path they would understand is a ridiculous thing to say.
Maya, it's a good word for this place.

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In the Lotus Sutra, Buddha says that each awakened being (and he named a group of individuals who were present during his speech) had reached liberation by each following diligently their own long and arduous paths.
It is strange then that some Buddhists say that there is nothing to do and nobody to do it; words that can be misunderstood.
Buddha himself has never seemed to answer why anyone should do anything, or who is doing it, and so on.
He did not seem to know.
But after all it was after he reached the limits of his own intelligence that he sat under a tree.
Other teachers do actually know these days.

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The interesting thing is that the ego is not individual.
It is noisy and colourful and so on ... but if you see people in the shopping mall or town square you start to see how alike everyone is.
The ego is one face of a collective herd.
They talk a lot, but you have herd it all before ... if you look at which tv they watched last week it is identical with their thoughts.
They are machine-like.
Walking past tables in a cafe: Tables #1 and #7 are moaning, Tables 2# and #13 are first dates, Tables 3# and #5 are planning something exciting.
There is nothing individual here.
All this is mechanical.

The only way to become individual is to ... become individual.
Meaning that you have to tear yourself out of the collective-mind and struggle to create an identity that is your own, to carve out your own intelligence.  This is difficult and requires work on many levels.
99.9% of mankind will not do this, even though they could.
Often it is only severe trauma and repeated mortal shocks that causes people to struggle out.
The dark (k)night of the soul.

When a being awakens then he takes a name, his real name.   
His previous name is only the sheep number of the herd like the farmer spraying a stamp on you.

As for the thoughts of the ego.
Not all thoughts are the same.
Some are static repeating from last nights news, they just go on and on.
But this is different to focussed problem solving, like designing a bridge.
Designing a bridge makes you more conscious and connected to reality, you are more objective.
And the bridge works, it works therefore you must have been connected to reality in your thinking and your design.

This difference in types and quality of thoughts is rarely discussed.
Without seeing this difference some people assume the whole thing is to be severed.
That is not intelligent.

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The basic illusion concerning the ego is that it is or could become independent.That the ego can exist as a separate entity from everything else. One can indeed break free from the herd mentality, and I think such would be a good thing. But as being a part of the whole one cannot break free from Tao, natural law, or whatever one likes to call the general workings of the cosmos. It is in this last sense that it is said that the ego doesn't exist, meaning that there is no independently existing you (or me) at the centre of your (or my) being. And thus we don't have to kill or destroy what doesn't even exist.

Edited by Zwerver
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Breaking free from herd mentality is very rare.
Of course if you walk up to anyone in a coffee shop they will defend for their life their individuality.
That, is the problem.

As for the Tao, I am not sure what you mean by breaking free.
But unless you wield the power of the whole, then you are not the whole.
It would be strange to say you are the whole when you don't have its power.
The whole has made a great many things ... can you do that ?

If somebody in Japan wakes up, do you ?
No.
When Mr Japan walks around do you live ?
Do you know what Mr Japan is doing ?
No.
When a person dies, other people will wake up.
But it will not be the person who dies.
His eyes will never reopen.
He is not the Tao.
He simply is finished.

A person is a temporary formation of the Tao.
It has a life dependent on the body, when it is gone, it is gone.
Other creatures are born, but that one is gone forever.

Unless something very unusual has happened.
Then the eyes do reopen.
That, is spirituality.

The great struggle, the life and death battle that sages have undertaken and sacrificed their lives in terrible conditions.
People do not do that for no reason.
And we do not remember someone for 2000 years for no reason.

Having said all this, there are paths which involve contemplation of the idea of non-existence.
This is a technique to take you to real being inside.
It can trigger the right state, which is good.
But it is not conceptually correct, it is simply a tool.
I am sure there are many ways we talk to ourselves to take us to a certain mode of being, that are not conceptually correct.
They are simply words to push us into a certain state.

And, there are  great many people in spirituality who never really had any intention of doing much changing.
They like words, but they don't like work.
No blame.

Anyway existence creates many things, some last some don't.
How many insects die every day.
A lot !!!!
But the path migrates your identity so that it is solely dependent on the source itself.
Outside of the manifest existence.
Then you are immortal individually.
Meaning that your individual is a permanent feature within the source.
Like a whirlpool in the ocean that has reached a permanent state.
If not the whirlpool is undone and is dissolved.
Like acorns that did not move beyond being a seed.

It is for this reason there are spiritual teachings.
Otherwise who would have bothered.

 

Edited by rideforever
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4 minutes ago, rideforever said:

The great struggle, the life and death battle that sages have undertaken and sacrificed their lives in terrible conditions.
People do not do that for no reason.
And we do not remember someone for 2000 years for no reason.

Breaking free from the herd mentality means making up your own mind. History tells us that people are willing to suffer and die for all kinds of reasons. One cannot establish the value of a certain spiritual approach by measuring the trouble people on that road are willing to go through.

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