Struggling with Am I a Self?

Danny Alexei Vocal, modified 3 Years ago at 1/24/19 4:04 PM
Created 3 Years ago at 1/24/19 4:01 PM

Struggling with Am I a Self?

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Is it important in Buddhism to believe one is not a self?  We after all do EXPERIENCE ourselves as selves, just as we experience ourselves as bodies and feelings.  Yes, I can see how our feelings and bodily sensations reflect the dimension of physiology/associations/psychology and so on, but surely to achieve a larger consciousness is not to deny the parts that are within.  Obviously, we are trying to achieve a state that transcends the ego, in which we are present-centered and compassionate with all suffering beings.  But that doesn't mean we suddenly lose having a body with sexual components that still tug at us, emotions about loss or whatever that may still sadden us, and so on?  I wonder if such thinking is guilty of what philosopher Ken Wilber calls the pre/tran fallacy.  When I focus uniquely on my breath, of course I am not thinking (I may be aware of thoughts that interfere, but then I return to my breathing).  But not thinking is not the same thing as having a super-consciousness in which I transcend the sense of self, if you know what I mean.  According to Wilber, we have pre-rational, rational and post-rational levels, just as we have pre-thinking, thinking and post-thinking levels or pre-feeling, feeling and post-feeling levels.  He believes that every organism transcends but still includes the parts that make the organism whole.  Thus, experiencing my sense of self does not preclude myself at times transcending it in a sense of profound realization/awakening of all beings and a profound desire to be present to others, without discrimination, offering my love to them. 

I also struggle with the alleged argument that we can't have a self as the universe is obviously impermanent.  Just because my self is impermanent, is not enduring, changes, does not mean it does not exist.  Music changes all the time but is still music.  Things can exist for temporary periods of time.  Being awoken to life's impermanency may tune me into the essential tragedy of life and the need to be present and aware of all that is right now, but it doesn't logically mean the impermanent things (like ourselves) don't exist.

Can I still sit each day, observing my asavas/effluents/aggregates attempting to attune myself to a grander reality with greater compassion without necessarily believing I am not a self (at least, for periods of time)?

Greetings to all, and deep appreciations for all responses,

Danny
J C, modified 3 Years ago at 1/24/19 9:05 PM
Created 3 Years ago at 1/24/19 9:05 PM

RE: Struggling with Am I a Self?

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It's not a matter of belief. It's a matter of direct experience. At a certain point on the path you will no longer experience things as if you were a self. You never were one - it's an illusion that vanishes when you see it clearly.

Feelings, sensations, emotions, thoughts, and all the rest continue exactly as before.

I agree about not denying the parts within and including all parts that make you whole, but the illusion of self is just an illusion.
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Jordi, modified 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 12:37 AM
Created 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 12:37 AM

RE: Struggling with Am I a Self?

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Self is made of no self.
There is a self but no one having a self.
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Buman Shadding, modified 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 1:49 AM
Created 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 1:46 AM

RE: Struggling with Am I a Self?

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The self is an identification of the ego. To see past this shroud is one step towards liberation. This new perspective is good, but often followed by doubt, confusion, and disenchantment, among other concerns. Enlightenment is this, or that, but one thing it is not, is a devoid-ence of feeling. 

We are human, succeptible to the spectrum of emotions. These concepts are basic human traits. Knowing and understanding this clearly is another step towards awakening. 

Another thing that requires more understanding is that Buddhism is not one set ideology. It is also spectrum of engagement. Challenge what has been told, what has been taught. Don’t hold yourself to one teaching :-) 

regards 
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Chris M, modified 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 6:47 AM
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RE: Struggling with Am I a Self?

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I also struggle with the alleged argument that we can't have a self as the universe is obviously impermanent.  Just because my self is impermanent, is not enduring, changes, does not mean it does not exist.

A major objective of meditation practice in Buddhism is to realize and to grok very deeply the mental processing that comprises the sense of having a self. You DO have a sense of self, but that "self" is as much a chimera or illusion as everything else you see, hear, feel, touch, taste or think. I prefer the term "not-self" over "no-self" because "no-self" implies that there is no sense of self at all, which we all know isn't the case. 
shargrol, modified 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 7:05 AM
Created 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 7:05 AM

RE: Struggling with Am I a Self?

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+1 to Chris' comment emoticon
JP, modified 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 8:48 AM
Created 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 8:48 AM

RE: Struggling with Am I a Self?

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You DO have a sense of self, but that "self" is as much a chimera or illusion as everything else you see, hear, feel, touch, taste or think. 

Exactly.  You have a sense of self in the same way you have a sense of smell -- you smell different things at different times, and sometimes you don't smell anything at all.  In the same way, your sense of self will feel different ways at different times in response to internal and external circumstances, and sometimes you're busy paying attention to something where your sense of self isn't needed, like being enraptured with nature, engrossed in a particular task, or experiencing a fictional world in a movie or novel.  But that sense of self is a useful sensory component of living your life -- it's how you can approximately track what would be beneficial for you and model yourself in interacting with others.

It's also helpful over time to start noticing the details of what your sense of self seems to consist of.  For me, it started off as a sense of muscle tension in the face and head that was grafted into my visual field, along with a qualitative component of seeming to know or think.  That muscle tension was also the spot that was "speaking" my internally-voiced thoughts as well as hearing them.  Sometimes it seemed to have additional muscle tension or qualities of controlling/puppeting the rest of my body from that spot, kind of like this tattoo.  Additionally, it seemed like that spot was "in charge" of how my attention was allowed to move. A lot of that experience has changed over time, but I'd say that the combination of muscle tension and qualitative overlay remains for me.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 9:22 AM
Created 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 9:22 AM

RE: Struggling with Am I a Self?

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JP:
You DO have a sense of self, but that "self" is as much a chimera or illusion as everything else you see, hear, feel, touch, taste or think. 

Exactly.  You have a sense of self in the same way you have a sense of smell -- you smell different things at different times, and sometimes you don't smell anything at all.  In the same way, your sense of self will feel different ways at different times in response to internal and external circumstances, and sometimes you're busy paying attention to something where your sense of self isn't needed, like being enraptured with nature, engrossed in a particular task, or experiencing a fictional world in a movie or novel.  But that sense of self is a useful sensory component of living your life -- it's how you can approximately track what would be beneficial for you and model yourself in interacting with others.

It's also helpful over time to start noticing the details of what your sense of self seems to consist of.  For me, it started off as a sense of muscle tension in the face and head that was grafted into my visual field, along with a qualitative component of seeming to know or think.  That muscle tension was also the spot that was "speaking" my internally-voiced thoughts as well as hearing them.  Sometimes it seemed to have additional muscle tension or qualities of controlling/puppeting the rest of my body from that spot, kind of like this tattoo.  Additionally, it seemed like that spot was "in charge" of how my attention was allowed to move. A lot of that experience has changed over time, but I'd say that the combination of muscle tension and qualitative overlay remains for me.


Sorry for being off topic, but I’m so glad to see someone else saying that internal talk does not need to be auditory first and foremost. For me it is mainly kinesthetic, and I need to go through muscle activation in order to imagine hearing a voice.
An Eternal Now, modified 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 10:46 AM
Created 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 10:46 AM

RE: Struggling with Am I a Self?

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Danny Alexei Vocal:
Is it important in Buddhism to believe one is not a self?  We after all do EXPERIENCE ourselves as selves, just as we experience ourselves as bodies and feelings.  Yes, I can see how our feelings and bodily sensations reflect the dimension of physiology/associations/psychology and so on, but surely to achieve a larger consciousness is not to deny the parts that are within.  Obviously, we are trying to achieve a state that transcends the ego, in which we are present-centered and compassionate with all suffering beings.  But that doesn't mean we suddenly lose having a body with sexual components that still tug at us, emotions about loss or whatever that may still sadden us, and so on?  I wonder if such thinking is guilty of what philosopher Ken Wilber calls the pre/tran fallacy.  When I focus uniquely on my breath, of course I am not thinking (I may be aware of thoughts that interfere, but then I return to my breathing).  But not thinking is not the same thing as having a super-consciousness in which I transcend the sense of self, if you know what I mean.  According to Wilber, we have pre-rational, rational and post-rational levels, just as we have pre-thinking, thinking and post-thinking levels or pre-feeling, feeling and post-feeling levels.  He believes that every organism transcends but still includes the parts that make the organism whole.  Thus, experiencing my sense of self does not preclude myself at times transcending it in a sense of profound realization/awakening of all beings and a profound desire to be present to others, without discrimination, offering my love to them. 

I also struggle with the alleged argument that we can't have a self as the universe is obviously impermanent.  Just because my self is impermanent, is not enduring, changes, does not mean it does not exist.  Music changes all the time but is still music.  Things can exist for temporary periods of time.  Being awoken to life's impermanency may tune me into the essential tragedy of life and the need to be present and aware of all that is right now, but it doesn't logically mean the impermanent things (like ourselves) don't exist.

Can I still sit each day, observing my asavas/effluents/aggregates attempting to attune myself to a grander reality with greater compassion without necessarily believing I am not a self (at least, for periods of time)?

Greetings to all, and deep appreciations for all responses,

Danny


Check this out: https://www.ted.com/talks/julian_baggini_is_there_a_real_you

Let us know if and why you have trouble accepting this.
J C, modified 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 11:01 AM
Created 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 11:01 AM

RE: Struggling with Am I a Self?

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Chris Marti:
I also struggle with the alleged argument that we can't have a self as the universe is obviously impermanent.  Just because my self is impermanent, is not enduring, changes, does not mean it does not exist.

A major objective of meditation practice in Buddhism is to realize and to grok very deeply the mental processing that comprises the sense of having a self. You DO have a sense of self, but that "self" is as much a chimera or illusion as everything else you see, hear, feel, touch, taste or think. I prefer the term "not-self" over "no-self" because "no-self" implies that there is no sense of self at all, which we all know isn't the case. 

I disagree - perceptions that come through the six sense doors are not illusions - they're self-aware perceptions. They don't dissolve on close examination.

But the illusion that there is a center point, agent, controller, or self is different. It goes away on close examination. After 4th path, there is no more illusion of self - you've totally dissolved it.

I don't like the term "sense of self" because it suggests that the illusion of self is a sensory perception, when after 4th path all the same sensory perceptions are there without that illusion.
J C, modified 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 11:05 AM
Created 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 11:05 AM

RE: Struggling with Am I a Self?

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JP:
You DO have a sense of self, but that "self" is as much a chimera or illusion as everything else you see, hear, feel, touch, taste or think. 


But that sense of self is a useful sensory component of living your life -- it's how you can approximately track what would be beneficial for you and model yourself in interacting with others.



As I said in my reply to Chris, it's neither useful nor sensory - the whole point of this path is to dissolve it, and when it's gone, thoughts of social interaction and what would be beneficial still occur just as they did before.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 12:46 PM
Created 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 12:46 PM

RE: Struggling with Am I a Self?

Posts: 6734 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Sensations that are illusions do exist. Maybe they don’t come through the sense doors, though. I wouldn’t know about that yet. What I do know is that people mishear things all the time, and mistake one thing for another. I have had auditory hallucinations of my phone ringing that seemed as real as the actual phone signal, but even though I heard the signal clearly I know that I was mistaken because I could see with my own eyes that the phone was turned off.

Aren’t perceptions and formations and stuff like that part of the dual reality as well? In nonduality there can be no awareness, right? So if perceptions can be real and self-aware, why can’t persons?
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 12:49 PM
Created 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 12:49 PM

RE: Struggling with Am I a Self?

Posts: 6734 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
I thought that the perceived (!) self was the ego identifying with thoughts, emotions, intentions, and so on. What is identification? Doesn’t it have any sensory components?
Danny Alexei Vocal, modified 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 1:29 PM
Created 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 1:29 PM

RE: Struggling with Am I a Self? THANK YOU!

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Thank you all for your wonderful observations, quite a bit to chew on for a while so I will cogitate/meditate upon the perspectives you provided.  I too have explored much about what is illusory about our mind.  In my book on consciousness and metacognition, I actually delineated five major filters through which we experience life which are, from the most biological to the most social: emotions, biases, personalities, identifications and ideologies.  I was coming from a more scientific perspective (psychology) but my philosophical examination of what it is to have a mind and be conscious of it could be viewed as very Buddhist.  But I don't know if I would still go so far as say there is no self just because we are attempting a "bigger self" or "bigger perspective."  The parts that make up the whole are still there, even if we find ourselves experiencing reality at some "higher" perspective at which we are no longer dwelling on the parts.  I argue in my book, in fact, that our mind and its illusions are actually part of a unique dimension in space, since they don't conform to the usual dimensions of space or time that affect other things (quantum phenomena notwithstanding):

https://www.amazon.com/Illusory-Dimension-Talking-Animals-ebook/dp/B07GV27DVH/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1548443991&sr=8-3&keywords=illusory+dimension+of+talking+animals

Again, thanks for all your wise words!   Daniel
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Chris M, modified 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 1:41 PM
Created 3 Years ago at 1/25/19 1:38 PM

RE: Struggling with Am I a Self?

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I disagree - perceptions that come through the six sense doors are not illusions - they're self-aware perceptions. They don't dissolve on close examination.

I was loose with my language in my zeal to explain the nature of experience. Shoot me now!

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