The Buddhist doctrine of no-self is not a nihilistic denial of your reality. It should inspire confidence, not provoke despair – Jay Garfield.

  1. No-self (Annata) in Buddhism should really be understood as “no self independent of surroundings” or “no eternally unchanging substance of self.” It is not a statement that the self does not exist, but rather a subtle interpretation of the nature of self, and what it means to exist.

  2. Yeah. The illusion of self refers largely to the feeling that there's a self sitting behind the eyes, so to speak. That there is an open observer, a thinker of thoughts. But that is, in itself, an experience of consciousness, not consciousness itself, and is something that does not exist in actuality.

  3. Thanks for clarifying. I always thought I was clever or some shit because saying there was "no self" made no sense to me. I thought: isn't there no essence to anything? I figured people spouting no self simply didn't understand what essentialism is and that it's false.

  4. Thank you for your explanation as I believe it aligns with my interpretation that the “self” only exists as perceived and not made of “anything”. An example would be a chair. When fully assembled, we recognize it as such. But as it is disassembled, it no longer becomes a chair or it’s original “self”, but in fact continues to become multiples parts of whole that becomes unrecognizable the further one travels the chain of breakdown to the atomic level

  5. Not sure I get the significance of the self is illusion thing. Yes, sure all there is is this stream of different experiences but the fact the experiences themselves exist and seem to have coherent structure doesn't really change much or offer anything when you say that the self is an illusion. When I think about it Im not even sure if the self-illusion thing actually even means much at all - is it not the same as saying a chair is an illusion because it is constituted of atoms or whatever? can say this about anything.

  6. Right. It depends on what you mean by “illusion”. I don’t think it’s something to cast aside. This has been analyzed to death by academia. Illusionism is not some sort of settled law despite its subversive popularity among fledgling young philosophers. It’s an intensely debated web of definitions and intersecting frameworks. Arguments vary in quality and level of good faith. It’s tied up in other debates about emergence, reductionism, dualism, monism, consciousness, eternalism, presentism, determinism, and…free will?

  7. It's mentioned better elsewhere on this post, but really the idea is that the illusion isn't that we don't exist, so much as that we don't exist separate from everything else. It's like saying a hand doesn't exist. It DOES, but it's also a part of a body that is essential for its existence and usefulness. If I believe too much that I'm separate from everything else, it will make me very depressed, I'll try to fill this emptiness inside of myself through drugs, sex, whatever instead of connection and community, I'll be more anxious because I'll always be convinced that I'm walking this road alone. Self centered existence is a sad place to be.

  8. Buddhism teaches you not to take the myth of your Self so seriously. It can be rewritten and retold just like all the other myths, and whenever you meet someone who hasn't heard of it before you can try out some new flair. Enjoy your time. It will not be too short or too long, it will be yours.

  9. It's important to point out that it's phenomenologically justified, not epistemologically. In your raw, continuous, conscious experience, there is no self or an observer, only the raw observation; we fabricate this observing person from the observations thenselves and manufacture an entire story, personifying the observer. Any suffering that we experience is tied only to the fabricated self, not the observation stream itself.

  10. Thanks for sharing this, and I'm wondering if the aforementioned "myth of your Self" is similar to how I feel that being the heroes of our own story may be a basic human condition. We all start out gung ho in life, but are faced with an uncomfortable truth sooner or later (i.e. realizing that the world is unforgiving, there may be no meaning, or we realize that we're not the heroes we thought we were). For those who take their hero selves seriously, there then becomes a painful grieving process where they may deny that such uncomfortable truths are valid or act out in anger at those truths.

  11. It's not that a specific person is reborn as a specific other person, it more like all of the pieces that make you up continue to exist after you die. just like the atoms in your body are constantly being shed and will someday be in millions of other people's bodies, the ideas and values that make up what we call "self" are also rippling out into the world, and will someday find themselves in the minds of others.

  12. Buddhism, at least in the Mahāyāna branch, operates on two levels of reality, the conventional and the ultimate. Conventionally, we subscribe to some form of either dualism or idealism depending on the branch and essentially believe that the non-physical storehouse consciousness that contains all the karmic seeds is reborn. On an ultimate level, we believe that there is no reincarnation because, y'know, emptiness and all that. The crucial point is that the ultimate does not negate our conventional experience of reality, which we believe includes reincarnation.

  13. The no-self doctrine is meant to make you realize the self is impermanent, mutable, subject to change and not yours. I'd also add that the concept of emptiness, at it's core, means nothing arises independently rather than there is no true essence. No true essence is merely a result of this. All things arise from other things and are subject to change and, therefore, are empty of true, independent existence. Your sense of self is no different.

  14. I'm sorry where is that fuzzy line between religious and philosophical thinking boundary? Just want to be sure I am on the same page as everyone here.

  15. The religion / philosophy boundary doesn't exist in the Buddhist tradition. I think Buddhism is relevant to both philosophy and religious studies departments since it overlaps into both, as most religious traditions do.

  16. The whole point of the religion is to not come back to embodiment and suffer more. If you’re not at that point of disgust and weariness with reality you can still live a less painful life but it will just suck less, at best.

  17. Only selfs can experience confidence and despair. When there is no self, there is also no confidence and no despair. Confidence and despair are equally annihilated.

  18. But you can't get rid of self. All you can do is acknowledge the existence and the difference between what you really are and the idea of self. Just because you are aware of this illusion doesn't magically take your body away from you. It will be there until you die. Occasionally you can experience Zen or Toa but you still have to go to work the next day.

  19. Altruism, to live selfless is actually to do what's best consciously, not for instant gratification. By offering our support to the community, that involves making healthy choices, and progressing as a person in arts and crafts, as well as fitness and wellness - to have more skill to offer others, and more time alive and well. One doesn't have to sacrifice their personal goals & passions, they just need to readjust them to involve others best interest as well !

  20. It’s funny that if you see the meaningless of life and feel despair it actually means there is still a self at the centre of it. Once you realise the self doesn’t exist there is no one to be in despair for

  21. I'm really enjoying the article, and these concepts for clarifying the "I" in my sentence. However, if a majority of people, across cultures and ages have an instinct or inkling of their self and it take mental gymnastics to pinpoint, isolate and then begin to "unbuild" it as a concept...well, intentions aside this feels like programming. To be clear: fellow humans trying to convince their fellows that they don't have something that they instinctively do, and share as an instinct across cultures and oceans....feels like gaslighting, cult style.

  22. On the contary; the experience (not the doctrine) is the ultimate affirmation of the transcendent reality. Anyone that says otherwise has no idea what they're talking about.

  23. My teacher (San Francisco Zen Center/Green Gulch Farm) in a dharma talk once described the idea of no-self in buddhism as something akin to unselfconsciousness. Unselfconsciousness is something we can experience directly during zazen (zen meditation) and in doing so we become free of the illusion of 'self' as something separate from our consciousness.

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