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I Think I Understand Anatta

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I think I understand anatta
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   I think I understand anatta (self.Buddhism)submitted 5 months ago * by look_withinInterbeingI want to share a couple thoughts on anatta to maybe help some others understand it and get a check on my understanding from those more knowledgeable than I. Naturally, this is only intended for those who believe there is value in a conceptual understanding of anatta.The first thought is an explanation of why the notion of the observer or the witness consciousness or the mirror that reflects experience or the empty space in which experience arises , i.e. the atman is not-self. The Buddha said that the aggregates are the source of suffering, but if they were me or mine we could say, let my material form be thus, let my feelings be thus, let my perceptions be thus, let my volitions be thus, let my consciousness be thus and they would be thus, such that suffering would immediately be eliminated. So the Buddha's argument that the aggregates are not-self is ultimately founded on the fact that they are beyond our control. The same argument applies to the atman. We do not control it: it simply observes, witnesses, reflects, etc. on it's own accord. In other words it just is. Thus, the atman is not me or mine .The second thought is an analogy regarding the big picture of anatta. To most of us it is very counterintuitive to say that a human being just is, i.e. that it is not owned and operated by a self. Yet, we are perfectly comfortable saying that something like water just is, with no need imply that it could not do what it does unless it were controlled by a self. So if someone were to say, What do you mean there is no 'you'? Then what is making you talk right now, how come you aren't motionless like a rock? One might reply, But water is in constant motion all over the world, becoming clouds, then raining or snowing onto land, then shaping that land by flowing as rivers, among many other things. Yet we do not feel the need to say that water has a great self that controls it to keep it moving. So a human being just is, and everything that it is composed of just is, in the same way that everything else just is, with no need to posit a self that is in control of it.*Edit: crossed out the source of in the second paragraph34 commentsshareall 34 commentssorted by: best[±]insanitybecomes 8 points 5 months ago Traditional Buddhism is pretty tricky, because all translations are misleading. I don't know if terms aren't described well in Pali or not, but as they're presented in English, they don't work well. If you read the Pali Canon for a long time, you start to understand that when the Buddha says self , he means controllable , and when he says being , he means grasping .In the suttas where he elaborates on these terms, it's always the case that self means controllable and being means grasping - in that one sutta describing the unlanding light of the sun, he describes that when consciousness lands on a clingable ground because of desire, that's a being .Meanwhile, in English and in Western culture, being means something completely different. If we were to analyze this freshly without buying in to the way that the Buddha defines things, I think the obvious answer is that the unlanding consciousness is necessarily Being. But because of the tricky way that the Buddha defined being , we have to be Buddhist apologists and say, it's beyond being and non-being , which is just sucking up to the tradition and not thinking for ourselves.There are so many misunderstandings because of language. Even the way that the Buddha defines consciousness has very little to do with what we think of when we say the word. His definition of consciousness is the five senses and the thought. When non-Buddhist mystics speak of consciousness, they don't mean this at al  l. But when the Buddha speaks of consciousness-as-we-know-it, he says that a monk is unestablished and free from consciousness . AKA, beyond the senses and thought. How many debates, how many arguments because of definitions?When the Buddha says consciousness is not self and consciousness is impermanent , he means that thoughts, sights, smells, touches, tastes, and sounds are changeful, because when the Buddha uses that word, he means the six senses.SN 22.57:And what is consciousness? These six classes of consciousness: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, intellect-consciousness. This is called consciousness.Check this out.For any brahmans or contemplatives who by directly knowing consciousness in this way, directly knowing the srcination of consciousness in this way, directly knowing the cessation of consciousness in this way...In English, consciousness and direct knowing are supposed to be synonymous. Once someone realizes that definitions are arbitrary, fundamentalism is impossible.Experientially, anatman means that nothing can be grasped. Everything is impermanent and flowing, and you can't ever pin it down. It has no self-nature, no stable configuration. The witness aka subtle-non-sensory diffuse experience, is also completely ungraspable, and has no obvious characteristics to identify it by or point it out, and so it can also be said to have no self-nature. And yet, it exists. Sometimes Dzogchen has elegantly gotten around this by calling it Absence instead of Presence. It would seem the people that came up with that scheme were almost as clever with re-definition and the appropriation of terms as the translated Pali Canon is.permalink[±]look_withinInterbeing[S] 2 points 5 months ago This is exciting stuff! I have to go to work shortly, but I'd like to process this and respond tomorrowpermalinkparent[±]clickstationtheravada layman 2 points 5 months ago If we were to analyze this freshly without buying in to the way that the Buddha defines things, I think the obvious answer is that the unlanding consciousness is necessarily Being.I don't get this part. Could you explain?permalinkparent[±]insanitybecomes 2 points 5 months ago Well, the Buddha says of the dimension of nibbana that there is an unmade, unfabricated... etc. I'm not sure if this is the Nibbana Sutta or what, but it's very accessible and a google search would lead you right to it.Or look at the Sabba Sutta:The Blessed One said, What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. [1] Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range. A non-sensory non-thought dimension exists, as every mystic in every tradition knows, but it can't be described, being beyond range . I think Western thought and philosophy would have no problem whatsoever calling this Being, because it is. It isn't nothing, but it's not describable. It has a reality to it. It has being.But because of the way that the Pali Canon defines being , ie/ consciousness landing on name and form due to desire and manifesting aggregates instead of remaining in its signless nature, if we talk about this dimension in a Buddhist context we have to watch our words, like we're tip-toeing over egg-shells, because saying that being is the ultimate is a taboo.permalinkparent[±]clickstationtheravada layman 1 point 5 months ago Ah, thanks. I disagree with a couple of points there, but I'm gonna leave it at  that :)permalinkparent[±]cornpuffs28 1 point 23 days ago I like to use Kabbalah models at the point when someone is ready to understand the primordial Buddha. Otherwise, I think you said it as well as it can be said.permalinkparent[±]vajrabhijna108post-buddhism 2 points 5 months ago* Interesting, but I'm not sold on the idea that self = controllable, and being = graspable. I'm not seeing control as the characteristic of self in Buddha's thought, instead identity. Sometimes control - agency, is brought into the picture, adjunct the essential characteristic of identity - rather it's characterization as identity that is itself debunked, along with its contingent illusion of control. We can say that because there's no real control, this is one of the ways to recognize anatman - but what isn't controlling?I can see that graspability is required for beinghood, but I'm not sure beinghood is required for graspability, as you are defining it. I can grasp the unborn as a being, so the meaning and the word come unglued this way.permalinkparent[±]insanitybecomes 1 point 5 months ago You shouldn't be sold on the idea, I'm not either. Being is being and self is self. But as the words are used in English translations of the Pali Canon, they're synonyms, based on how the Buddha defined them in the suttas.rather it's characterization as identity that is itself debunkedPossibly. But if you read what the Pali Canon says about the aggregates, the Buddha basically said, these things can't be controlled, and that hurts, so you shouldn't think of them as what you are .The most direct refutation of identity that I've read in the suttas is when he said that mindfulness of impermanence was the direct way to counter the 'I am' conceit , but even that is going after controllability and permanence, and just has the dissolution of identity as a side effect.Of course later Buddhist thought is definitely more identity focused.I can grasp the unborn as a being, so the meaning and the word come unglued this way.Exactly.I'm not arguing for this definition, I'm arguing against it, but I'm pointing out that in the suttas, that is how those words are actually defined, and this being the case, there are a lot of misunderstandings. Like if someone hears, the goal is to end consciousness , then that falls neatly into nihilism. But what if the Buddha meant the goal is to end the six senses , and acknowledged the reality of non-sensory being? The picture is completely different, because people aren't aware of how the Buddha defines his terms.permalinkparent[±]guise_of_existence 1 point 5 months ago We can say that because there's no real control, this is one of the ways to recognize anatman - but what isn't controlling?There is control. That's why release from samsara is possible.I can grasp the unborn as a beingThis is still 'becoming'permalinkparent[±]vajrabhijna108post-buddhism 2 points 5 months ago There is control. That's why release from samsara is possible.Not in this context. Bhikkhus, consciousness is not self. Were consciousness self, then this consciousness would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.' And since consciousness is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.' - SN 22.59 Anatta-LakkhanaThat we have an illusion of agency because of self-imputation is certain; that this agency is released through carrying out the path is also, at least in Buddha   dharma. So yes, the illusion of control makes the illusion of release possible within illusion itself.This is still 'becoming'Certainly, but it's not an entity. That's rather my point.permalinkparent[±]guise_of_existence 1 point 5 months ago none can have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.' I think I see what you are getting at, but I am still rather confused.I can understand there being no control over consciousness, but consciousness co-dependently arises with the other aggregates over which there is control, such as attention and intention.Or are you trying to make a greater point about samsara=nirvana and all nirmanakaya is illusion? It seems strange though that you would quote the Pali Cannon to make this point, which makes me think I'm not understanding.permalinkparent[±]vajrabhijna108post-buddhism 2 points 5 months ago* I'm saying that here control, strong agency, is contingent on consciousness and ahamkara/atman - imputation of a self. I'm not talking about the ontological status of nirvana, only the epistemic import of samsara.By recognizing that we lack true or full, self-contained control over our own consciousness, we realize that it is not our own, any more than our body is our own. We have some weak agency, this is true, but it is as illusory as the next constructed thing - that is to say, conventionally, habitually and even pragmatically real - I am not denying free will, though it's hardly free being so conditioned and constructed. But Buddhism doesn't posit any real agency, of persons or otherwise, for this will to be associated with.There is, however, the illusory agency that commits to the path and enters the stream and engages the faculties mounting the pathways of hearing, pondering, meditating, deepening and actualizing.There is something behind this, if you will, bodhicitta - the universal aspiration of enlightenment, which is not actually an agency because no I and no object and no imputations. Bodhicitta is how emptiness manifests, because emptiness is form and form is emptiness.Up to and including consciousness and its lack of control over itself (its conditions and responses to them).Bodhicitta appears in personal prisms of awareness, mindstreams, like the sun appears in eyes; through its shed light. Bodhicitta is the luminous mind itself. Bodhicitta persists beyond the craving for enlightenment as its innate attainment. Even though it is an aspiration, it has no intention aside from Prajnaparamita. Because there is no mind for intension, no object of intention and no time for intentions in Prajnaparamita, it can hardly be said to be intention.Embarking on the path we are motivated by our local, illusory, imputed agency born of beginningless ignorance (and therefore actually unborn and unreal). Our ego. Our belief that we are real means that we really suffer. We really want release. We want the path. This is all ego activity. We enter the stream through its auspices.But we disappear into the stream not through ego activity - our weak sense of agency and will, but through bodhicitta, the universal aspiration which appears in the mindstream as inevitably irreversible pathway resolve.permalinkparent[±]guise_of_existence 2 points 5 months ago Thank you.permalinkparent[±]obliviron 1 point 5 months ago I can understand there being no control over consciousness, but consciousness co-dependently arises with the other aggregates over which there is control, such as attention and intention.As I understand it, 'true you' (that is not self and not not-self) AKA non-self,
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