Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Welcome home! Please contact lincoln@newbuddhist.com if you have any difficulty logging in or using the site. New registrations must be manually approved which may take up to 48 hours. Can't log in? Try clearing your browser's cookies.

A surprising study on Buddhist monastics and compassion.

opiumpoetryopiumpoetry Delaware, Ohio, USA Explorer

Do We Really Exist? Believing That the 'Self' Is an Illusion Does Not Eliminate the Fear of Death https://www.newsweek.com/life-real-people-who-believe-reality-illusion-are-still-scared-death-800401

Comments

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited July 2021

    It does here. I ain't scared of dying. You know why? Because I won't be the only one doing it.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    The self being an illusion is a complex question. On the one hand we may turn out to be composite beings, certainly our bodies are composed of many different parts that have grown together, and so there is no one thing that makes the body the body. Instead, there is a complex interdependence: is the body still the body without lungs, even though it wouldn’t be able to function? Similarly our mind may be a composite, interdepend entity without a single key element.

    That means that although there is no self, there still is an interdependent whole that functions as long as it is all together and everything works as it should. So why should there not be a fear that that functioning should cease? That what we know now should come to an end?

  • opiumpoetryopiumpoetry Delaware, Ohio, USA Explorer

    I just realized that the most commonly used pronoun in Buddhism is YOU, which is just another way of saying ME. It's always YOU should meditate so YOU can realize that YOU don't exist and YOUR karma and YOUR enlightenment and YOUR perfection of wisdom. Maybe someone should just say YOU should donate to charity more often and spend less time on how many Buddhas can fit onto the point of a needle.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Maybe I should take my own advice.

    BunksSuraShine
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @opiumpoetry said:
    I just realized that the most commonly used pronoun in Buddhism is YOU, which is just another way of saying ME. It's always YOU should meditate so YOU can realize that YOU don't exist and YOUR karma and YOUR enlightenment and YOUR perfection of wisdom. Maybe someone should just say YOU should donate to charity more often and spend less time on how many Buddhas can fit onto the point of a needle.

    The Indian sage Sri Ramana Maharshi used to say, “the greatest gift you can give the world is your own enlightenment”. I don’t think meditation is about figuring out how many Buddhas can fit onto the point of a needle, rather it is about getting more truly enlightened minds into the world. Enough enlightened thinkers should be able to move the needle of where world culture is going.

    federicalobsterFosdick
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Do We Really Exist? Believing That the 'Self' Is an Illusion Does Not Eliminate the Fear of Death

    @Dakini answered this very well.
    meanwhile …here is the story of the woman Buddha …
    https://www.pemakhandro.org/when-buddha-was-a-woman/

    Dakiniopiumpoetry
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited July 2021

    @opiumpoetry said:
    Do We Really Exist? Believing That the 'Self' Is an Illusion Does Not Eliminate the Fear of Death https://www.newsweek.com/life-real-people-who-believe-reality-illusion-are-still-scared-death-800401

    Of course seeing life and subjectivity as an illusion does not mean its does not exist. It means it is either misunderstood or misrepresented.

    I agree that seeing it all as "unreal" does nothing to alleviate suffering but I disagree Buddha taught that life and suffering are somehow not real.

    To move beyond the fear of death I think we have to stop nurturing concepts like existence/non-existence or birth/death.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Indeed @David <3

    We have a conceptual mind (shrinking/tightening/focussing) and a widening/unknotting/loosening Being.

    We have many shellves. Many selfs, shelves of self.

    As we discard our formers and retain and retrain our lessers … we become

    >

    more than

    Is Dharma? Hope so B)

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited July 2021

    The Buddha taught the skhandas* were not the self. But if you look at many Pali sources he uses the word self. I think some times in a different sense than the self as a skhanda.

    My teacher says it is risking the misunderstanding of oneself and others to either say "such and such" (usually skhandas) are the self, but also equally risking misunderstanding oneself and others to say "there is no self whatsoever in any sense".

    *skhandas https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skandha

    lobsterBunksDakini
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    I think that is it @Jeffrey

    Though we manifest from and through our flaws/impediments/skandha

    We are more than our manifestation, in fact we are beyond self. We are beyond senses

    Beyond ideas of being describable/contained by self delusion/persona …

    Bunks
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited July 2021

    @Dakini said:
    I'm not sure how this "no self" business got started. From what I understand, the Buddha did not teach "no self", which he considered to be nihilism. He cautioned his followers against this. Rather, he chose a "middle way" between attachment to "self" and "no self"; he taught to not become attached to "self", to one's "place" in life (according to the Pali text). "Place" in the Buddha's parlance referred to one's status in life, whether it be one's profession, age, position in one's family, socio-economic class, ethnicity, and so forth.

    One needs a "self" in order to sign contracts, open bank accounts, apply for, and carry out, jobs. But one shouldn't get one's ego all tied up in the trappings of "self".

    That makes sense. All those trappings of "self" are impermanent; one can lose one's job and economic position in society, one's age changes, one's family status can change after divorce, say, and so forth. All of that are phenomena that arise and pass. Suffering happens when we're too attached to that stuff, so when change occurs, as is inevitable in life, we have trouble adjusting if we're too attached to our status quo.

    So the Buddha was about non-attachment to "self", not "no self". There are sutras in which he states that both "eternalism" ( a permanent unchanging self), and nihilism (no self) are to be avoided.

    So I wonder how this belief that Buddhism is about "no self" got started. Perhaps it was a later commentator on the sutras, who misinterpreted this important teaching?

    I don't agree. "Nihilism" in this context means the belief in a self that is annihilated at death. And in the suttas, self-view and the conceit "I am" are fetters to be abandoned, ie obstacles to enlightenment. See the Bahiya Sutta for example "In the seen, just the seen... no you there". The suttas advise not to regard the aggregates as "me" and "mine", and of course there is nothing "outside" the aggregates (except Nibbana, which is also anatta).

    IMO anatta and shunyata are both clearly negating self-hood, own-being, etc.

    personlobster
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited July 2021

    Nirvana is anatta? In his Parinirvana Suttras, the Buddha says, that Nirvana is the one thing that's permanent, the one exception to the overall rule.

    Advising to not regard the aggregates as "me" and "mine" is not inconsistent with the interpretation to not become attached to any aspects of self one might (erroneously) believe to be permanent.

    But I confess that I was posting from my notes from a 3-day Stephen Batchelor retreat years ago. I found his interpretations of the sutras to make a lot of sense, and to be easier to understand than the usual more literal translations.

    ....so shoot me. :smiley:

    opiumpoetry
  • opiumpoetryopiumpoetry Delaware, Ohio, USA Explorer

    @DairyLama said:

    @Dakini said:
    So I wonder how this belief that Buddhism is about "no self" got started. Perhaps it was a later commentator on the sutras, who misinterpreted this important teaching?

    I don't agree. "Nihilism" in this context means the belief in a self that is annihilated at death. And in the suttas, self-view and the conceit "I am" are fetters to be abandoned, ie obstacles to enlightenment. See the Bahiya Sutta for example "In the seen, just the seen... no you there". The suttas advise not to regard the aggregates as "me" and "mine", and of course there is nothing "outside" the aggregates (except Nibbana, which is also anatta).

    IMO anatta and shunyata are both clearly negating self-hood, own-being, etc.

    According to "Atman" in Wikipedia, American monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu of the Thai Forest Tradition describes the Buddha's statements on non-self as a path to awakening rather than a universal truth. Thanissaro Bhikkhu states that the Buddha intentionally set aside the question of whether or not there is a self as a useless question, and that clinging to the idea that there is no self at all would actually prevent enlightenment. And in "Anatta," Thanissaro Bhikkhu goes on to call the phrase "there is no self" the "granddaddy of fake Buddhist quotes". And forest hermit monks like Luang Pu Sodh and Ajahn Mun support the notion of a "true self", which may be the Dhammakaya.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited July 2021

    @Jeffrey said:
    The Buddha taught the skhandas* were not the self. But if you look at many Pali sources he uses the word self. I think some times in a different sense than the self as a skhanda.

    My teacher says it is risking the misunderstanding of oneself and others to either say "such and such" (usually skhandas) are the self, but also equally risking misunderstanding oneself and others to say "there is no self whatsoever in any sense".

    *skhandas https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skandha

    Yes, > @Dakini said:

    Nirvana is anatta? In his Parinirvana Suttras, the Buddha says, that Nirvana is the one thing that's permanent, the one exception to the overall rule.

    Advising to not regard the aggregates as "me" and "mine" is not inconsistent with the interpretation to not become attached to any aspects of self one might (erroneously) believe to be permanent.

    But I confess that I was posting from my notes from a 3-day Stephen Batchelor retreat years ago. I found his interpretations of the sutras to make a lot of sense, and to be easier to understand than the usual more literal translations.

    ....so shoot me. :smiley:

    In the suttas of the Pali Canon, Nibbana is anatta, but not anicca or dukkha, hence "sabbe dhamma anatta".
    In the Mahayana sutras, samsara = Nirvana, and there are no exceptions to shunyata.

    Anatta and shunyata are radical teachings which some people find very unsettling, so I think some teachers tone them down a bit, eg TNH with his "Interbeing" interpretation of shunyata.

    Obviously I don't know how Stephen Batchelor explained it, and I haven't read any of his stuff for ages. But I do recall he has a tendency to "delete" the bits of suttas that he doesn't like. 😋

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited July 2021

    @opiumpoetry said:

    @DairyLama said:

    @Dakini said:
    So I wonder how this belief that Buddhism is about "no self" got started. Perhaps it was a later commentator on the sutras, who misinterpreted this important teaching?

    I don't agree. "Nihilism" in this context means the belief in a self that is annihilated at death. And in the suttas, self-view and the conceit "I am" are fetters to be abandoned, ie obstacles to enlightenment. See the Bahiya Sutta for example "In the seen, just the seen... no you there". The suttas advise not to regard the aggregates as "me" and "mine", and of course there is nothing "outside" the aggregates (except Nibbana, which is also anatta).

    IMO anatta and shunyata are both clearly negating self-hood, own-being, etc.

    According to "Atman" in Wikipedia, American monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu of the Thai Forest Tradition describes the Buddha's statements on non-self as a path to awakening rather than a universal truth. Thanissaro Bhikkhu states that the Buddha intentionally set aside the question of whether or not there is a self as a useless question, and that clinging to the idea that there is no self at all would actually prevent enlightenment. And in "Anatta," Thanissaro Bhikkhu goes on to call the phrase "there is no self" the "granddaddy of fake Buddhist quotes". And forest hermit monks like Luang Pu Sodh and Ajahn Mun support the notion of a "true self", which may be the Dhammakaya.

    Thanissaro's interpretation is a fudge, based on a misreading of a particular sutta, and it doesn't have much traction in Theravada these days
    Meanwhile, the Dhammakaya stuff is very much a fringe belief in Theravada.
    There's nothing wrong with believing in a "true self" (I'm quite partial to the idea myself these days), but it would probably make more sense to explore this in a school like Advaita Vedanta. There is just too much in the Buddhist texts which contradicts this idea.
    And if you remove or water down anatta, then you're effectively introducing an Atman, in which case you might as well say Buddhism is just another school of Hinduism. I've heard Hindus claim that actually. 😋

    lobster
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited July 2021

    @DairyLama said:

    Thanissaro's interpretation is a fudge, based on a misreading of a particular sutta, and it doesn't have much traction in Theravada these days
    Meanwhile, the Dhammakaya stuff is very much a fringe belief in Theravada.
    There's nothing wrong with believing in a "true self" (I'm quite partial to the idea myself these days), but it would probably make more sense to explore this in a school like Advaita Vedanta. There is just too much in the Buddhist texts which contradicts this belief.

    My understanding of the "True Self" concept is, that the True Self is what you have, after you've let go of your attachment to a false self. Once you've left ego and identification with your own transitory qualities behind, you've realized the nature of the True Self.

    One can see why the Buddha left that teaching to the very last moment. it's something one can't introduce too early, before you've completed teaching about grasping at self, the aggregates, attachment to this and that, etc., and have seen some of your followers progress in their understanding and internalizing of those concepts.

    lobster
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited July 2021

    @Dakini said:

    @DairyLama said:

    Thanissaro's interpretation is a fudge, based on a misreading of a particular sutta, and it doesn't have much traction in Theravada these days
    Meanwhile, the Dhammakaya stuff is very much a fringe belief in Theravada.
    There's nothing wrong with believing in a "true self" (I'm quite partial to the idea myself these days), but it would probably make more sense to explore this in a school like Advaita Vedanta. There is just too much in the Buddhist texts which contradicts this belief.

    My understanding of the "True Self" concept is, that the True Self is what you have, after you've let go of your attachment to a false self. Once you've left ego and identification with your own transitory qualities behind, you've realized the nature of the True Self.

    One can see why the Buddha left that teaching to the very last moment. it's something one can't introduce too early, before you've completed teaching about grasping at self, the aggregates, attachment to this and that, etc., and have seen some of your followers progress in their understanding and internalizing of those concepts.

    The "True Self" thing you're describing sounds much more like Advaita than Buddhism. In Advaita you'd use neti-neti and self-enquiry to distinguish "True Self" from the transitory aspects of experience.
    But I don't see any mention of a "True Self" in the suttas. If it's not in the aggregates, then I don't know where else it would be. Note that Nibbana is not a "thing", and it's mostly described in terms if cessation. So it's very difficult to see how Nibbana could be a True Self.
    And wouldn't a pivotal goal like discovering our True Self be front and centre in the suttas? Rather than all the stuff about not-self, and the cessation of suffering?

    And if you read the Heart Sutra, emptiness applies to everything, which appears to exclude the possibility of a "True Self".

    To put it rather crudely, anatta negates Atman, and shunyata negates Brahman. That's the essential difference IMO between Buddhism and Hinduism.

    lobster
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited July 2021

    I don't know how the sutras came to be organized. Is there a "front and center"? The Buddha taught about the True Self on his deathbed, as life was slowly ebbing away from him. It was his last teaching. And as I mentioned, it was appropriate for it to be the last, as it was his most advanced teaching, or group of teachings. "Last" as in: delivered after all other teachings, including the Heart Sutra.

    Are you not familiar with the Buddha's Parinirvana sutras? Granted, I've heard the teachings are controversial, for the very reasons you're bringing up.

    Nirvana is a state of realization, one that, according to these final teachings, is permanent once one gains Enlightened insight. One doesn't lose one's realization after attaining it, according to these teachings. It's not fleeting, like falling into or out of love.

    Anyway, it's good to have you back, and it's been nice discussing with you. <3 I hope you stick around awhile, somewhat semi-permanently. :p

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @Dakini said:
    I don't know how the sutras came to be organized. Is there a "front and center"? The Buddha taught about the True Self on his deathbed, as life was slowly ebbing away from him. It was his last teaching. And as I mentioned, it was appropriate for it to be the last, as it was his most advanced teaching, or group of teachings. "Last" as in: delivered after all other teachings, including the Heart Sutra.

    Are you not familiar with the Buddha's Parinirvana sutras? Granted, I've heard the teachings are controversial, for the very reasons you're bringing up.

    Nirvana is a state of realization, one that, according to these final teachings, is permanent once one gains Enlightened insight. One doesn't lose one's realization after attaining it, according to these teachings. It's not fleeting, like falling into or out of love.

    Anyway, it's good to have you back, and it's been nice discussing with you. <3 I hope you stick around awhile, somewhat semi-permanently. :p

    I had a quick look at the Wiki article, and that Nirvana sutra sounds quite strange to me!
    Saying that Nirvana is a permanent realisation doesn't sound controversial, but calling that realisation an Atman would be, IMO.
    Anyway, nice to chat.

  • opiumpoetryopiumpoetry Delaware, Ohio, USA Explorer

    @DairyLama said:
    The "True Self" thing you're describing sounds much more like Advaita than Buddhism. In Advaita you'd use neti-neti and self-enquiry to distinguish "True Self" from the transitory aspects of experience.
    But I don't see any mention of a "True Self" in the suttas. If it's not in the aggregates, then I don't know where else it would be. Note that Nibbana is not a "thing", and it's mostly described in terms if cessation. So it's very difficult to see how Nibbana could be a True Self.
    And wouldn't a pivotal goal like discovering our True Self be front and centre in the suttas? Rather than all the stuff about not-self, and the cessation of suffering?

    And if you read the Heart Sutra, emptiness applies to everything, which appears to exclude the possibility of a "True Self".

    To put it rather crudely, anatta negates Atman, and shunyata negates Brahman. That's the essential difference IMO between Buddhism and Hinduism.

    If there's no Self, then what accumulates karma?
    If there's no Self, then what becomes a Buddha?

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited July 2021

    @opiumpoetry said:

    @DairyLama said:
    The "True Self" thing you're describing sounds much more like Advaita than Buddhism. In Advaita you'd use neti-neti and self-enquiry to distinguish "True Self" from the transitory aspects of experience.
    But I don't see any mention of a "True Self" in the suttas. If it's not in the aggregates, then I don't know where else it would be. Note that Nibbana is not a "thing", and it's mostly described in terms if cessation. So it's very difficult to see how Nibbana could be a True Self.
    And wouldn't a pivotal goal like discovering our True Self be front and centre in the suttas? Rather than all the stuff about not-self, and the cessation of suffering?

    And if you read the Heart Sutra, emptiness applies to everything, which appears to exclude the possibility of a "True Self".

    To put it rather crudely, anatta negates Atman, and shunyata negates Brahman. That's the essential difference IMO between Buddhism and Hinduism.

    If there's no Self, then what accumulates karma?
    If there's no Self, then what becomes a Buddha?

    I'm still exploring these questions myself.
    However, the Buddhist response would be that there is no "doer of the deeds", and nobody who gets enlightened. The Buddhist response would be that "I am" is just a view, and ultimately an incorrect one.
    For a flavour of this, see the verses at the end of the Vajira Sutta (SN 5.10).
    And you could also read the Bahiya Sutta, which I previously mentioned.

    As I said before, if you want to assume a True Self (whatever), that's fine, and it's a valid starting point for enquiry. However the Buddhist texts do repeatedly challenge this assumption, and they can make for uncomfortable reading.

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited July 2021

    @opiumpoetry said:
    Do We Really Exist? Believing That the 'Self' Is an Illusion Does Not Eliminate the Fear of Death https://www.newsweek.com/life-real-people-who-believe-reality-illusion-are-still-scared-death-800401

    The self or even reality being an illusion only means it is misunderstood or misrepresented by the senses. It doesn't mean that we don't really exist.

    If we understand that we are not the individuals we appear to be then the fear of death may be lessened because we are more than just these bodies.

    Perhaps the writer of the article thinks the word "illusion" means non-existent when it doesn't.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited July 2021

    @DairyLama said:

    I had a quick look at the Wiki article, and that Nirvana sutra sounds quite strange to me!
    Saying that Nirvana is a permanent realisation doesn't sound controversial, but calling that realisation an Atman would be, IMO.
    Anyway, nice to chat.

    Well, but no one's calling the True Self "Atman". You keep coming back to that, but the Buddha would be the last person to ever teach about "Atman".

    I reviewed your first post on this topic earlier in this discussion, and it reads to me like you and I are saying the same thing, but with different words. The only thing I disagree with in that post is the first sentence: that "Nihilism" in the Buddhist context refers to the end of "self" at death. I don't know where that came from. But otherwise, it looks to me like we're on the same page about the basic teachings on "self" (leaving out the Buddha's final teaching on "Self").

    opiumpoetry
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @Dakini said:

    @DairyLama said:

    I had a quick look at the Wiki article, and that Nirvana sutra sounds quite strange to me!
    Saying that Nirvana is a permanent realisation doesn't sound controversial, but calling that realisation an Atman would be, IMO.
    Anyway, nice to chat.

    Well, but no one's calling the True Self "Atman". You keep coming back to that, but the Buddha would be the last person to ever teach about "Atman".

    I reviewed your first post on this topic earlier in this discussion, and it reads to me like you and I are saying the same thing, but with different words. The only thing I disagree with in that post is the first sentence: that "Nihilism" in the Buddhist context refers to the end of "self" at death. I don't know where that came from. But otherwise, it looks to me like we're on the same page about the basic teachings on "self" (leaving out the Buddha's final teaching on "Self").

    No, we're not on the same page. But that really is OK. :)

    opiumpoetry
Sign In or Register to comment.