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If there is no self, then who’s sitting here?

flowing riverDoes the Buddhist idea of “no self” strike you as bizarre or outrageous? Sunada has been reflecting on this difficult concept, and shares her thoughts on it so far. It isn’t just an obscure philosophical point for mental gymnasts, she says. Paradoxically, she thinks the ideas can help us in a very real way toward finding and becoming more of who we really are.

If I asked you who you are, what would you say? Many people might begin by telling me what they do for work – teacher, software engineer, accountant. But no, I’d say. That’s the work you do, not who you are. If you changed or lost your job, that identity would disappear. So who are you really?

OK, then next you might tell me something about your family and your people – perhaps you’re a mother or father, a person of African descent, an American citizen, and so on. But no, that’s you in relation to others. So who are YOU, independent of them?

 There really isn’t anything we can point to within ourselves that we can confidently say is a core essence that will never change.  

So then you might bring up your personality or values – an introvert, a romantic, or that you have a deep love of beauty. But I’d say these are descriptors of ways you behave or what motivates you. They aren’t who you are.

The thing is, we can continue this exercise forever, but we’ll never find anything we can nail down as “who we are.” That’s because everything we come up with is superficial and impermanent. There really isn’t anything we can point to within ourselves that we can confidently say is a core essence that will never change.

Let me be clear that this idea isn’t saying we don’t exist. If we walked into a wall, our bodies would bump against it and we’d feel pain. Yes we exist! Instead, what it’s really saying is that we’re constantly changing beings, always in flux. We’re not permanent, fixed entities. We’re more like rivers. If you stood on a bank and watched a river, the water molecules passing by now would be different from what passed by a moment ago. So then how can we say it’s the same river? Giving it a fixed name and identity is just a convention that humans came up with so we can talk about it. The whole idea is a fiction.

 The problem is that as soon as we attach labels and concepts onto something, our egos kick in and start objectifying it, nailing it down, and spinning off stories to make something permanent out of it.  

At this point, you might argue that there are core aspects of our character that don’t seem to change over our lifetimes. OK, now we’re getting into some tricky territory. The problem is that as soon as we attach labels and concepts onto something, our egos kick in and start objectifying it, nailing it down, and spinning off stories to make something permanent out of it. And that’s what can get us into trouble.

Let me illustrate with an example of my own. Some of the traits that emerged very early in my life were my hard-working and self-motivated nature, and that I enjoyed accomplishing goals I set for myself. The various labels I took on included “high achiever,” “Type A personality,” “motivated by excellence.”

But labels are traps. With every one of them comes a whole string of stories, assumptions, and beliefs. And for the most part, they don’t match with reality. I took my labels to mean I should go after a high-paying, high-status professional job, become part of a “respectable” (i.e. conventional) community … you get the idea. But more than that, I felt I had to do my absolute best at everything I did. I was driven to excel at everything I took on because it made my ego feel good.

Many of you know my life story, so I’ll keep it short here — but basically, my house of cards came tumbling down hard in my thirties. I had so taken in my own stories of what being excellent meant that I wasn’t seeing any of the signs around me that were telling me otherwise. My physical health collapsed and I fell into a depression. Then on top of that, 9/11 happened, which among other things, pretty much closed the door on my career.

 …look at what I’m bringing to the table RIGHT NOW. Not my concepts of who I think I am or should be, but the full, raw potential of what I have in this present moment.  

So what did the idea of “no self” have to teach me about all this? First and foremost, drop the stories. In any given moment when I’m faced with a choice, look at what I’m bringing to the table RIGHT NOW. Not my concepts of who I think I am or should be, but the full, raw potential of what I have in this present moment. Of course, this doesn’t mean I disregard everything from my past. I have all that I’ve learned from my life experiences, all the skills and knowledge that I’ve acquired, and all my personal strengths and talents. But the real question is, how are those things actually manifesting in me right now, and how do they apply to the situation at hand? It’s not about the degrees I have, or the idea that I strive toward excellence, or that I want to succeed. Those are my stories. What’s really present for me right now, and what’s the most positive choice I can make based on that?

The Buddha’s teaching of no-self is about letting go. Let go of our stories, or in short, our egos. Our egos think those stories bring us security, but in reality they act more like ill-fitting glasses that distort our vision. But at the same time, the teaching isn’t telling us to be passive and let the winds blow us around. It’s about being so completely immersed in and open to the present moment that we know clearly and fully what the situation is – including our own strengths and weaknesses. With that clarity of vision, we can choose to flow more in harmony with the way things really are by confidently relying on our known strengths, rather than fighting to hold up our version of a fool’s paradise.

This is where the practice of mindfulness is vitally important. At some point in our practice, we begin to let go of our grasping to uphold “me” as something opposed to “the world out there.” We start subtly shifting away from being dualistically MINDFUL OF various things to sensing that we are just awareness itself, inseparable from our surroundings. We stand naked just as we are, the pure potential present in us right now, and flow intimately with the world as it is. That’s the real gift of mindfulness — to feel so confident and in harmony with the world that we can trust and let go of our lives to it.

 I find the Buddha’s teachings profoundly optimistic and hopeful, because it says that we can change, and we can choose how.  

Back to that notion of character traits that don’t change much – yes, I still have many of those qualities that keep me motivated to do my best at everything I do. But my way of thinking about them has really changed. I now know I’m at my best when I stand back and let the world around me augment what talents and skills I have. I suppose it’s sort of like sailing. Rather than me doing a lot of rowing, I’m learning how to harness the wind so it propels me toward where I want to go.

So if there is no self, then who’s sitting here? I guess the answer is a growing, changing being. In my case, this being also wants to grow toward becoming wiser and more open-hearted, and so every moment, I try to make the best choice I can to point myself in that direction. Where am I going? I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. Because the more I make positive choices, the more strongly the flow of my life seems to move in the direction I aspire toward.

I find the Buddha’s teachings profoundly optimistic and hopeful, because it says that we can change, and we can choose how. And paradoxically, I’m finding that the more I take in the idea of no-self, the more I’m becoming who I really am.


Sunada
Sunada not only teaches the online meditation courses at Wildmind, she runs her own business, Mindful Purpose Life Coaching, through which she coaches people toward finding their inner wisdom and confidence. You can read about her explorations of mindfulness in her Mindful Living Blog or follow her on Twitter.

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Comment from amy
Time: March 31, 2009, 9:42 am

What a wonderful way to explain it. I’ve always had trouble understanding the concept of no-self, but your words have definitely helped clarify it for me.

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Comment from Roger
Time: March 31, 2009, 10:28 am

This is one of the best things I’ve ever read on no-self. Thanks for sharing!

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Comment from Ted Daniels
Time: March 31, 2009, 1:05 pm

“Who am I?” I ask myself.

Comes the reply: “Who wants to now?”

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Comment from Ted Daniels
Time: March 31, 2009, 1:11 pm

PS on the river image: It’s Heraclitus’s paradox that you can’t step into the same river twice. It didn’t take him long to realize that you can’t step into the same river once.

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Comment from mark
Time: April 14, 2009, 10:25 pm

I found this blog via wildmind; and thanks for the instruction. No-self is a challenge, and I don’t understand yet. A river is not the water; it’s a flow of water in a particular place. If you go to that place tomorrow, you can step into that flow again. Likewise, though I might be ever-changing, I’m always me… the difficulty of answering the question, “who are you” doesn’t mean there’s no answer! There is an answer, but it’s the ultimate koan, and requires a lifetime.

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Comment from Verena
Time: May 5, 2009, 8:36 pm

Ted, I was thinking of Heraclitus too as I read the paragraph about the river. I remember a professor talking to us about it, she said “Why can’t a man step into the same river twice? Because it’s not the same river, and it’s not the same man”.

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Comment from Ted Daniels
Time: May 6, 2009, 12:58 pm

Yeah, Verena, and ultimately of course there is no same anything. I love those pretentious comments I keep hearing about how somebody/thing changed the world (echoey baritone chest voice) forEVerrr. Show me a reversible change and I’ll show you time travel.

So yeah, there was a conference on that at MIT last year. You gonna go?

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Comment from Ted Daniels
Time: May 6, 2009, 1:06 pm

Sorry Mark but it’s not the same flow. It has a different pace, course, contour and temperature now than it did last time. Your first step into the not-the-same water had much to do with that.

It’s like the brain studies proving that the only accurate memory is amnesia, because whenever you haul a memory up that action rearranges the neurons holding it so the memory is different every time you recall (a version of) it. I can’t give you references on this but a little digging’ll get them for you.

This brings up the question of how significant is a difference. In communication theory information is news of difference. When a difference makes a difference then it can be said to have meaning. The change in a river flow day to day will probably not register with our senses at all, but from season to season, when the flow goes form an autumn trickle enforcing thirst on your family to a spring torrent flooding your fields, you’ll notice.

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Comment from Jill
Time: June 18, 2009, 5:27 pm

Thanks Sunada for examining this challenging topic in a way that integrates all the truths that help us live more content lives. I find your idea of letting go of being “dualistic mindful of various things” to sensing that we are just awareness itself to be really powerful. To sit with acceptance and awarenesss through our senses rather than our dualistic cognitive constructs of “me” is helpful in taking us out of our heads and into our bodies.

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Comment from Coral
Time: July 16, 2009, 11:07 am

Thank you so much for this article. I have always had a difficult time with this concept, I think because it wasn’t explained in a way I understood at the time. You have opened my mind to a whole new way of looking at this very powerful insight. Ironically, as I am writing this, it has occurred to me how many times I use the word “I”. LOL

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Comment from Ashley
Time: July 26, 2010, 8:55 am

I think the books, “Mindfuliness in Plain English” & “Beyond Mindfuliness” are two great books on the subject. I think the most important concept Buddhism has taught me so far is…”to let go of things”…. with the letting go process, comes great relief… and a realisation that giving up old beliefs, fears, and even desires… awakens the mind to an inner peace and joy I didn’t know existed.

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Comment from robin
Time: October 8, 2010, 7:26 pm

Does anybody recognize that Hillel (the Elder), from Jewish history also said much the same thing???? if there is no I then who is me? is the actual translation of the beginning: If I am not for myself then who will be for me? but when I am only for myself, then what am i? and if not now, when?

I’d love to hear comments about that!

Hillel taught that you should NOT do to others what you would not have them do to you and the rest is commentary… that fits with Buddahs teachings too, don’t you think?!!

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Comment from Sunada
Time: October 12, 2010, 12:51 pm

Hi Robin,

Yes, what you say about Hillel does indeed fit with the Buddha’s teachings. In fact, all the major world religions teach about love in this sense — that we should treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. Beyond that, though, I don’t know enough about Hillel to comment whether or not his teachings are similar to the Buddha’s. This quote you bring up seems to be talking about something other than what I’ve written about in this article though.

Best wishes,
Sunada
http://www.mindfulpurpose.com

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Comment from Pat
Time: January 4, 2012, 6:20 pm

I am not self, I am awareness born in an entity created to serve the will of the source of the awareness I am. If we focus awareness on the entities of beings, we confine awareness to the delusion of self. In other words, self is the delusion of a confined awareness, a stitch removed – devided – from the fabric of life that blankets the universe.
So, “If there is no self, then who is sitting here?”, the devided are sitting here – the confined awareness of an illusion of self. For the undivided there is no here, there is only now everywhere.

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Comment from Sunada
Time: January 5, 2012, 1:22 pm

Hi Pat,

Thanks for your comments. Generally speaking, I agree with what you’re saying — that each of us is living with a confined awareness that’s much smaller than what’s truly there. I don’t really know what that greater thing is that we are a part of – or even if it’s accurate to call it a “thing”. I’m skeptical that it has a “will” of its own, for example, which implies a separate consciousness. But I do know that my life seems to have a flow of its own, and it’s to my detriment to try to resist it. There clearly are forces greater than me at work, whatever they may be.

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Comment from Pat
Time: January 17, 2012, 4:45 pm

Hello Sunada,
Knowing more of who we truly are is becoming, and when we experience life we come to Know about life, just as we come to know about salt having tasted salt. Its dualities, the essence of choice, creates the illusion of self, self and no-self, and the repository of illusions culminate in the totality of myths which illustrate the deception of life as self.
When we walk in the shadow of darkness we deceive ourselves with the labyrinth of lies disguised as stories, myths about who we are. We become what we believe. Hence, you are what you eat is becoming what you believe. When we digest the stories of our experiences as selves, we begin to decay in the suffering of deceit and when death descends on us, we lose the ability to experience – to Know, becoming lost in the abyss of not knowing.
When we walk in the illumination of the light cast from the unknowable source, the same source as the awareness we are, we come to know about the life within us, or that we are the seeds of new awareness nestled in the temples of the light that is, to witness not just who we are but where we are – we are what is here and now. The greater force at work in us and outside of us, that seems to have a flow of its own, is the Spirit of God, or the will of the source for His Children to become. We are the Fruit of the Tree, acceptance is the way of illumination, love is the labour of our ploughs, and knowing the truth is becoming.
Bless you to walk into your destiny of becoming.

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Comment from Pat
Time: January 17, 2012, 8:16 pm

Hello again Sunada, and hello Robin if you are still out there,
If I am not for myself then who will be for me? This is a beautiful way of illustrating the quest of and for life – true life, because the question is almost in itself the answer. If I am not for myself then I will be for my father, who will be for me, transforming the quest into the becoming. Living your live as Jesus foretells is to live in a way that fulfills the will of the Father, and loving your brother as you would have your brother love you is His will fulfilled. As I have said before, love is the labour of our ploughs. In living His will of loving, and in the light of His truth, we come to know that love is itself life, as evidenced in the death of those who know not this Love.

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Comment from Jorge
Time: March 26, 2013, 9:30 am

The self seems to continue existing even though you gave it a different dimension, it seems in buddha practice zazen there is not any self , not any ‘no self’ which is the self with a new clothes. The self doesnt exist but as a thought, and thought play with that thought giving it the apparence of no self.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 26, 2013, 10:44 am

Thanks, Jorge. The Buddha didn’t teach that there was no self, although he did teach that anything you might try to conceive of as yourself was in fact not-self (anatta). He said in fact that believing there was no self was just another view of self, and that any view of self (this one included) was a source of suffering. So there’s not a self, and there’s not no self”!

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Comment from Jorge
Time: March 26, 2013, 10:58 am

Whats the difference between the self as the ego, me, I, being a story and bringing or living that I in the present? Isnt it just the same belief in the atman? And are you going to believe buddha? Or discovering by ourselves?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 26, 2013, 11:08 am

I don’t see the self and the ego as being the same thing. When you have an insight into the fact that you don’t have a substantive self, you’re still left with a bunch of semi-autonomous processes that embody craving and aversion — and “the ego” seems like a good term for this.

Perhaps that relates to your question about “living that I in the present” which I confess I don’t understand. I think we may be operating from different premises.

And we’re certainly operating from different premises when you ask “And are you going to believe buddha? Or discovering by ourselves?” which is a false dichotomy. It’s not a question of “believing” the Buddha. It’s a question of trying to understand what he understood, which means trying to discover for ourselves what he meant, but more importantly what he experienced. Sure, we’re trying to see the moon, but we do need to look at the finger very closely to see where it’s pointing.

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Comment from Alex
Time: May 10, 2013, 5:18 am

Truly inspiring from Sunada – so I understand this concept of no self and is excellent explanation so one question on who is the observer inside me when I am meditating ? Taking in the insights and figuring out the path ahead – is this me or something else?

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Comment from Rich Cook
Time: June 10, 2014, 8:15 pm

Haha! I love that you end in a paradox. It is always thus, because the guardians at the door to Truth are called Paradox and Confusion, and result from the struggle of the Ego to contemplate Reality. :-)

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Comment from Gerry
Time: June 11, 2014, 10:46 am

This is a great article and discussion – I learned a lot about it. I wonder though how high performing sports people would respond to this approach. I recall the desire, ego and drive in the likes of Alex Ferguson the manager and leader of Manchester United who lead them to unparalleled success………would living like a river work against an athlete who is striving to win gold medals at the Olympics or would it help him/her?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 11, 2014, 3:58 pm

There’s an interesting article just come out about sports and mindfulness, Gerry: The first group of athletes to complete a mindfulness training program developed at UC San Diego won first, second and third place at the 2014 USA Cycling Elite BMX National Championships.

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Comment from Rafael
Time: November 1, 2014, 5:50 am

This article is just promoting and idea of a self, but in an ‘ok’ way because this is a not fixed self. This is a wrong view.
There’s no self at all, never was and never will be. The self is just an ilussion.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 1, 2014, 12:08 pm

“The view I have a self arises in him as true & established, or the view I have no self… or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive self… or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self… or the view It is precisely by means of not-self that I perceive self arises in him as true & established, or else he has a view like this: This very self of mine — the knower that is sensitive here & there to the ripening of good & bad actions — is the self of mine that is constant, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and will stay just as it is for eternity. This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. Bound by a fetter of views, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is not freed from birth, aging, & death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. He is not freed, I tell you, from suffering & stress.” (Sabbasava Sutta)

I often say that there’s no self, but I explain that that’s just shorthand for “the kind of self you think you have doesn’t exist.” The Buddha taught that any view of the self, including the view “there is no self” is untrue and a source of suffering. So we have to be very careful about saying that there is no self, and not cling dogmatically to that view.

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Comment from Rafael
Time: November 1, 2014, 1:29 pm

Of course, “I have no-self” is wrong as well, but what I´m saying is different. The self is just an illusion, a dream. “You” and “me” are just projections of the mind, ideas like any other. Your argument just makes walk in circles because saying “there´s no self, and there´s not not-self” doesn´t address the issue.
My point is that the article published here is talking about a very subtle self, mindful and optimistic who make choices. It says things like “the Buddha taught that we can change, and we can choose how”, or “I make positive choices”, but what I´m saying is that´s not true because 1)the Buddha never said that and 2) there´s no doer of deeds at all, nobody who´s making choices, even positive or mindful choices. There are just conditions, “just bare phenomena roll on”, nor even a witness of all this phenomena. Just experience experiencing itself, so to speak.
Annata is not an idea or a concept but a fact, a characteristic of reality, and this article is a simplistic representation of what Annatta really is. To see through this illusion of self doesn´t makes you feel optimistic, or positive, with a hope, but will screw you up completely, leaving you without ground, and sometimes even hopeless because all the beliefs falls apart, and because there´s nothing to hold on to. The Heart Sutra is pretty clear.
What the Buddha said was “in the seen only the seen”, nobody seeing, but just the seeing, naked, brilliant, conditions arising and ceasing, life just as it is.
It would be nice that the people here understand that Buddhist teachings are not focused on create a mindful, positive or optimistic beings, but cut off all the ideas that we have and experience reality as it is, and this is not necessary pleasant or peaceful. Otherwise we are just diminishing the true liberating potential of the Buddhist teachings.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 1, 2014, 4:40 pm

I don’t actually see much in the article that concerns me or strikes me as untrue to the Buddha’s teaching or to my own experience of anatta. And I have to say that my experience of breaking the fetter of self view was nothing like this: “To see through this illusion of self doesn´t makes you feel optimistic, or positive, with a hope, but will screw you up completely, leaving you without ground, and sometimes even hopeless because all the beliefs falls apart.” On the contrary it was a joyful and liberating experience. Maybe what you’ve experienced isn’t the insight the Buddha was encouraging, or perhaps your qualities of confidence and metta were under-developed. Or perhaps you’re talking theoretically. I just don’t know.

You seem very confident that the Buddha did not say that we can change and make positive choices. And yet although the language in this article is contemporary, that’s actually very much the message he taught. Here are a few random verses from the Dhammapada, for example:

33. Just as a fletcher straightens an arrow shaft, even so the discerning man straightens his mind — so fickle and unsteady, so difficult to guard.

34. As a fish when pulled out of water and cast on land throbs and quivers, even so is this mind agitated. Hence should one abandon the realm of Mara.

35. Wonderful, indeed, it is to subdue the mind, so difficult to subdue, ever swift, and seizing whatever it desires. A tamed mind brings happiness.

36. Let the discerning man guard the mind, so difficult to detect and extremely subtle, seizing whatever it desires. A guarded mind brings happiness.

Maybe you’re critical of the Buddha too, for using conventional language in order to talk about how “we” change? :) There are different ways to talk about spiritual practice, and Sunada’s simply using the perspective of conventional language, which is pretty much impossible to avoid.

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Comment from Rafael
Time: November 1, 2014, 9:08 pm

I´m glad you had an joyful and liberating experience breaking the fetter. I must say that I experienced the same, fireworks included, but this is just the beginning. What´s left after the self view is broken is a pile of habits, tendencies and beliefs that still running in the system but doesn´t hold on to anything, and this can be confusing, because you´re never prepared for that, even if you have practiced Metta practice for 30 years. That´s exactly what means to see through the illusion of self because all your beliefs included that of an experienced meditator with enough confidence and Metta qualities, will fall apart. This is why some approaches like “Coaching in Mindfulness” can be dangerous because Buddhist practices are not focused to create a new and better self, positive and mindful, but to realize that there no such thing, never was and never will be. I guess Sunada will not say to her clients “look, this practice will left you with a sensation that you´re falling from a cliff and completely screwed up in front of the photocopier” because her business wouldn´t be successful ;)

I´m a bit surprised that you makes an opinion about the experience saying things like “Maybe what you’ve experienced isn’t the insight the Buddha was encouraging, or perhaps your qualities of confidence and metta were under-developed. Or perhaps you’re talking theoretically” because on one hand this is not about who have the real or better insight (insight is just insight), and on the other hand every persone can have different experiences but with the same taste of liberation, even if it´s “unpleasant”, and you never are prepared for it as I said before. The “I” cannot be prepared for see that “I” doesn´t exist more than as an idea because an idea cannot be prepared for anything, is just nonsense. Can you see what I mean?

Of course I´m being critic of the Buddha itself because the point is to burn in the fire of our own experience all the things that he said. I´m even adventure to declare that much of what we read in the Suttas are not words from the Buddha but comes from the mouths of conservative monks who wanted to keep and maintain religious structures, which actually is not very different with what is happening in the contemporary institutional religions, Buddhism included.

I´m not being critic about the conventional language my friend but I´m criticizing the message inserted in this article, that we “do” something for change and we “decide” the direction of the change, that is just simply false because there´s no doer of actions, there´s no one who is deciding to write this message and no one there reading it, is just a projection of the mind which is saying that “you” and “me” are discussing in this forum. This are just conditions, the naked phenomena roll on. To believe the contrary is just an illusion, a dream. Do you find someone in your experience who is deciding and making choices? Can you choose the next thought coming to your mind? Can you control the sensations you´re experiencing at this precisely moment? Just keep digging and you will find a vast and empty space and the sensation of the ground disappearing under your feet.

Apparently you love to use the words of the Buddha instead of your own words but in your reply there´s no clear evidence of the Buddha saying that we can make “decisions”. So I´ll reply using a clearer quote,
“Bhikkhus, form is not-self. Were form self, then this form would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of form: ‘Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.’ And since form is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of form: ‘Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.’ (and the same with the feelings, perceptions and the rest of the skandhas. Anatta-lakkhana Sutta: The Discourse on the Not-self Characteristic). For me is pretty clear that he´s saying we don´t decide what to think, what to feel, or what to do, and actually to believe there´s a doer of actions just lead to affliction.

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Comment from Rafael
Time: November 2, 2014, 11:25 am

Please publish my comment, give me the right to reply.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 2, 2014, 1:46 pm

It’s Sunday, and I’ve been spending time with my kids. You might want to be careful about jumping to conclusions :)

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 2, 2014, 2:46 pm

When I first explored the Dharma it was largely because I was unhappy and wanted to be happier, and although I also had a sense that there was some different way to perceive life that I didn’t have access to, my primary motivation was to be less unhappy. But pretty much everyone I’ve met who is now seriously into Dharma practice started with some variant of wanting to suffer less and to experience more peace in their lives. Quite possibly you had similar motivations. It doesn’t much matter how people come to the Dharma as long as they’re exposed to a deeper perspective at some point.

The Buddha appears to have been a skilled teacher. He met people at an appropriate level, depending on where they were at spiritually. Some people he just encouraged to practice with the assurance that they’d live in more harmony with their family, or that they’d have a better rebirth. Others he offered deeper perspectives. So I don’t see anything inherently wrong with helping people to suffer less. It would be a shame to become an “anatta Nazi,” insisting that there’s only one acceptable motivation for beginning to practice the Dharma.

The “I” cannot be prepared for see that “I” doesn´t exist more than as an idea…

Of course. But Buddhist practice also isn’t narrowly focused on attaining insight. It’s a path of complete development, including the development of ethics, metta, karuna, and faith (to name just a few). Those qualities provide a buffer when insight does arise, and they’re also valuable in their own right, as qualities that inform a life well lived. I suspect many people who have a bumpy ride after insight arises haven’t developed themselves in a rounded way. But on the other hand I don’t think anyone’s done any kind of systematic study of this, so this is just my opinion.

I´m not being critic about the conventional language my friend but I´m criticizing the message inserted in this article, that we “do” something for change and we “decide” the direction of the change, that is just simply false because there´s no doer of actions, there´s no one who is deciding to write this message and no one there reading it…

Your own comment says “I´m criticizing the message.” If I were an “anatta Nazi” I’d be jumping all over you for having falsely assumed that there is a “self” that can criticize. But I’m not, so I simply try to appreciate what “you” are trying to communicate. So you are being critical of conventional language, since it’s virtually impossible to communicate without using the language of a “we” who “do” something.

“Apparently you love to use the words of the Buddha instead of your own words.”

Nice (and false) assumption :)

For me is pretty clear that he´s saying we don´t decide what to think, what to feel, or what to do, and actually to believe there´s a doer of actions just lead to affliction.

Who, precisely, is arguing that there is a doer of actions? You seem to be arguing with a straw man here.

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Comment from Rafael
Time: November 3, 2014, 6:40 pm

I have the impression that you don´t understand what I´m trying to say, or maybe I haven´t been clear enough.
I´m not being critical of the conventional language, we all need it for to communicate and we use nouns and pronouns as a tools. Otherwise the communication will be almost impossible or at least very complicated. What I´m being critical is about the way in which this article is exploring Anatta. Reading phrases like “we can choose to flow more in harmony with the way things really are” or “the more I make positive choices” gives the impression that behind this useful pronouns “I” and “we” there are some agents who control situations and decide “to flow” or “make positive choices”. The point what I´m trying to make is that there´s no such thing as agents who makes choices. You, me, and Sudana we are not making choices because behind “you”, “me” and “Sundana” there´s Anatta, nothing substantial. People come here trying to find the truth and what they got? A bunch of ideas and arguments saying “we can do positive choices” because this article is just offering that, concepts of what Annata means, and creates the idea that once understanding intellectually (or even worst, thinking that the puzzle is solved with a paradoxical argument like “there´s no-self but there´s not no-self) this concept of Anatta they can live a better life, making better and positive choices, but doesn´t encourage people to dig on their own experience and see by themselves that the self we think we are is just an illusion. There´s nothing inherently wrong trying to help people offering a perspective but it would be great if in the first paragraph of this article somebody can make a statement saying “this is just an idea, if you want to really find and understand in your own experience what exactly no-self means, you need to have the courage to jump into the unknown” otherwise you´re just offering a simplistic and even false perspective of this potentially liberating realization.

To make a deep research in the immediate and direct experience, to question the most valuable beliefs and ask yourself “what exactly “I” is trying to point out?” doesn´t makes you an “Anatta Nazi” but someone who is thirsty finding the truth, a consciousness who´s trying to wake up from the idea of “you” so to speak. So you don´t need to qualify yourself or others as “Nazis” because they show a strong yearning for the truth and they want to test the most deep belief “I am”.

And no man, is not as simple as “many people who have a bumpy ride after insight arises haven’t developed themselves in a rounded way”. I could say that is even worst for people who have meditated for years creating an idea of themselves as an experienced-mediators-prepared-for-the-insight-to-come. It would be cases in which the insight blows as a soft wind which can be feel in the hair, but in many cases, maybe the most, this experience comes as a tornado sweeping completely all the ideas that we have of ourselves. Yes, there´s a lot of freedom afterwards, but as well phenomena as “the Dark Side of the Soul” which we don´t really understand. And this doesn´t hae anything to do with the “development” you´re talking about.
A lot of people outside talks about what happens after insight. You can read Daniel Ingram, Adyashanti, Rupert Spira, Rodney Smith, and even the most traditional as Chogyam Trungmpa, Dilgo Kyentze Rympoche and a long etc. They offer maps to explore the territory of the unknown which are really useful and helpful to understand what happen after this sort of insights. I´m really surprised you don´t know them.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 6, 2014, 2:40 pm

I have the impression that you don´t understand what I´m trying to say, or maybe I haven´t been clear enough.

Or I do understand what you’re saying and disagree with it :)

What I´m being critical is about the way in which this article is exploring Anatta. Reading phrases like “we can choose to flow more in harmony with the way things really are” or “the more I make positive choices” gives the impression that behind this useful pronouns “I” and “we” there are some agents who control situations and decide “to flow” or “make positive choices”.

It’s important for people to recognize at a certain stage that what they are isn’t fixed. It’s also important for them to recognize that they can make choices. At that stage telling them that “they” don’t really make choices is something they simply can’t understand, and that may even be seriously misleading. So I see this particular article as offering something useful to people who are at a certain stage of understanding.

So you don´t need to qualify yourself or others as “Nazis” because they show a strong yearning for the truth and they want to test the most deep belief “I am”.

I wouldn’t describe anyone as being an “anatta Nazi” for having a yearning for the truth — only for lacking a nuanced appreciation of varying people’s different spiritual needs and for being rigid in their thinking.

People come here trying to find the truth and what they got? A bunch of ideas and arguments saying “we can do positive choices”

I’d regard that as a good illustration of not respecting that different people have different needs at different points in their spiritual lives. I remember many years ago the realization that I could shape my own experience being stunning and new.

I could say that is even worst for people who have meditated for years creating an idea of themselves as an experienced-mediators-prepared-for-the-insight-to-come.

But that’s not what I was talking about, was it?

I´m really surprised you don´t know them.

Life is full of surprises :)

I’ve met a couple of the people you mention, and read books by some of the others. Perhaps your experience is that most people who experience stream entry have a very rough time afterward, but it’s certainly not mine.

Anyway, it’s been interesting talking, but I’m not sure we’re getting anywhere, and I assume we both have other things to do with our time. I know I do.

By the way, I wonder if you’ve seen this article I wrote on anatta?

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