Atma- analysis of Self

Factors of entering the stream:

  1. Association with kalyanamittas
  2. Listening to the true dhamma
  3. Contemplation of the dhamma
  4. Practice according to the dhamma- dhammanudhamma patipada

So our analysis would fall into step 3. It’s said that some people rarely do understand Anatta merely by contemplation. The majority might need to see the phenomena arising and passing away with their own eyes.

Correct. Useful before realising anatta and even more afterwards to recall or recapture that moment of insight to fully integrate its meaning into oneself (pun not intended). We can still use the word Self, so as not to bring confusion when speaking to others, just as the Buddha did. This doesn’t mean they do not understand anatta but is familiar with ‘both sides of the fence’, and is able to think and behave appropriately.

With metta

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First , the five aggregate Not equal to the self is by Buddhism definition .
By Brahmanism definition , Atman is something beyond the five aggregate .
As I said earlier ,
Instead of analysing Atman , which you said never existed ,
You analyse the five aggregate .
That’s all I am saying .
The logic is you don’t have to and no need to find something that you think non existence .

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And in Buddhism Nibbana is something beyond the five aggregates. Though of course Nibbana is not Atman.

It all looks like a thicket of views to me. Personally I focus on paying close attention to experience with a view to understanding better what is happening, and why. I notice transience and conditionality, but not directly the absence of self.

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Everyone entitled to believe in what they think are the truth . I just point out the fallacy of the approach .

As @Gene rightly said, “by Brahmanism definition, Atman is something beyond the five aggregates” - and I would add that this Atman is somewhat IN the aggregates, as the atma.
I say “somewhat”, because it depends on the periods in the Veda, and the Rishis’ interpretations.
In the early Upanishadic (and generally the Hindu creed,) atma is somewhat Ka/Prajapati. The evolved Atma>Brahma>Prajapati>Ka Self in the “body” (Ka,) of all creatures - and to which one should melt into Brahma, once (the Upanishadic) ignorance is understood .
This (little) atma/atta, continuous (and blissful) is what Buddha rejects, because of the anicca nature of the khandhas.

But once again, Buddha never rejected an Atman in the avyakata. Buddha just said that this is irrelevant to the Teaching - that is to say, irrelevant to the liberation through the asankhata.
A Self, if it exists, is beyond words (samkhya), says Snp 5.7 (Upasīva­māṇava­pucchā,) for instance.
A useless and insane speculation.

Again, one should not mix up the different meanings of atta - as much as one should not mix up the different meanings of dhamma/Dhamma.


If anyone begins to utter a meaning loaded term like Brahma to emptiness rather than saying it is empty, they have imagined something in place of emptiness, rather than accepting it for what it really is.

And the fallacy of thinking there is something concrete beyond thoughts, is that it is just that- even more thoughts and imagining. Welcome flying one eyed pyramid doing the jig in empty space. If you use a reductive approach to prove there is atma, as is done in the original post by Maharishi then it must be amenable to logical analysis. He didn’t simply say ‘come and see’ for yourself, but said that the body and the mine is mine, therefore it is not me, and asserted that there is a Self in the emptiness ie he never truly approached the topic neutrally but held onto a self and when it wasn’t found anywhere, thought it must be in the emptiness.

with metta,

Mat , I did not say anything about Maharsi .
The Question is , What is the logic of you in trying to prove something you already find never existed ?
Does not sound that proper .
That’s all .
But , if you insist , please by all means .

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I would even go one step back in a way: Let’s say there is a Buddhist dogma of no-self (which there isn’t). And further that I believe it. What is gained by that? Am I magically transported into nibbana-lala-land?

At best I start a practice of dispassion towards the phenomena I encounter. And I’ll hit a wall where my subtlety is not sufficient because I never got properly explained what the knockout argument of ‘aggregates’ (or ‘ayatanas’) really supposed to mean.

At worst I start walking around, preaching “no-self, no-self”, propagating a theoretical salvation I never realized myself, looking down on others who have teachings I don’t like because I identify with the term “no-self”.

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But it is not a question of emptiness. It is a question of non-continuity.

Nama-rupa nidana is not empty. It just comes from no-thing-ness. And anything below namarupa nidana is not empty.
And don’t come with that “bubble thing”, because it is given in another context - (as in: what can be non-empty in something like a body that decays, etc.? )

The all atta thing is about continuity.

You are again mixing up everything, to suit your own view about a non existing big Self- mixing it up with the concepts of a small “self”.

Did Buddha ever said that Brahma was an empty thing ?

It is just that this satta of yours cannot universally merge with Brahma. Period.
You cannot say like the modern Hindu “I am Brahma !”.
That’s it !

But that you know.

No, but Maharishi is saying that which is beyond nama rupa is Atma.

With metta

‘SuttaCentral exists’ ontologically, is a delusion, is uncertain (according to the Dhamma). ‘SuttaCentral doesn’t exist’ is just the opposite view, with nothing to back it up as SC can be seen, now. Buddhism allows the meditator to see for themselves, that SC arises at the eye base, gives rise to fleeting consciousness at the eye, which in turn gives rise to eye contact. This in turn specifically gives rise to (idapaccayata) feeling, identifications and intensions, ie. this arising happens down a specific pathway as mentioned before, and not in a chaotic manner. This isn’t the seeing of the existent world out-there. The process of perception includes material and the mental phenomena. The mental portion is the mind’s projection on to the outside world meanings it doesn’t contain. One could say that 90% is added to it subsequent to the initial arising of the eye + image. The ‘world’ is fabricated sense base by sense base, in this manner. Rather than ontological reality or non-existence, the ‘world’ arises as experiences, as a string of causally arisen phenomena, each lasting less than a second before giving rise to the next phenomena, which then also passes away, and so on, to infinity. Therefore they are dependently originated. Without the cause there would be no effect. There are no ‘entities’ observing this process- just the process itself is aware of it own arising. This process happens so fast that 3 dimensional world is created, with its material and mental aspects seemingly ‘fused’ (ghana sanna). Dispersing this fusion is the task of samadhi in vipassana. The majority of the ‘experience’ has been created subsequently- and is an illusion- like a mirage or a projection. This means it makes sense to detach from thinking our experiences are real manifestations of reality. It is meaningful to not view our experiences as having much validity, but rather to ‘not take the signs or the details’, or to ‘just see the seen’ as mentioned in certain suttas. So when we come to see that we have been living in an illusion (a ‘matrix’ of sorts) it gives rise to repulsion (nibbida) and we un-plug from samsara. The world arises because we are attached and want it to arise, at a deep level. At the end of this we have Samma ditti (Right view) which will open the door to stop generating phenomena, after later practicing vipassana. These are teachings which incline the mind to Nibbana’. Atman provides us with an insurmountable barrier to reaching experiential Nibbana. Our greatest attachment and that which requires the greatest detachment (Nibbana) cannot co-exist. The latter is also the ending of suffering- the Self is a great cause of our suffering, as we build our hopes, achievements, goals, and ego around it.

We are not ruling out the existence of the world- as it keeps arising, regularly
We are not saying it exists because clearly it is dependently originated
(if we say it arises in the ‘mind’, that is also about existing in the world, but just in mind and brain)
The third way, the middle way, is that it can be experienced to arise as causes and effects, moment by moment, infused by delusion (avijja).
Attachment to this process, unknowingly, causes suffering.
Detachment from this process is the ending of suffering.
Nibbana is when this process has halted, and there is no more arising in the present moment to be experienced (nirodha).

with metta


Sorry Gene, it wasn’t me who started this topic.

I think it’s further complicated by the fact that we tend to find what we are expecting to find. Our assumptions lead us to label “spiritual” experiences in particular ways.


If one were to see self, it would be initially quite an insight, because that self is always in the background of experience. (for a putthujana, and ariya, except arahant).
In regard to everything and every experience, there is a self in the background. (for a putthujana, and ariya, except arahant)
The self can be defined as a vague ambiguous thing, ‘floating’ in the background. It cannot be defined as any of the aggregates, for it is in regards to them.
Therefore, one who actually, understood self, as an ambiguous phenomenon, would potentially become stuck there, in that knowledge, or composed in that (wrong)mindfulness of self as the overarching phenomenon governing all things. A thing that has always been there, unchanging since one can remember.

So there is a self, Ramana Maharshi is right in that sense.
However, he seemed not to realise that the self, that vague phenomenon is an assumption, determined by ignorance i.e it cannot be owned, it is determined by that which it is not.

If there were no aggregates or even if there was no experience of things, then that self could not be discerned either.
The self is only known because of the rest of the world is in relation to it i.e it is determined by this very NON-knowledge of the principle of paticcasamupada.

He was apparently authentic enough to recognise a vague ambiguous self- atta, but seemed not to go further as in attaining right view by seeing that, that atta was an-atta.
However, it seems that he was most likely free of sensuality, which is possible. If he came across the Buddha’s teaching and dwelt on it, he most likely would have understood it relatively quick.

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Regardless of the practice of meditation this shows the importance of understanding the dhamma in developing Right view so that ignorance doesn’t totally become an obstacle to our insight and we end up with Wrong views.

Without mine we might be able to let go of objects but there might still be attachment to me whatever that is.

Good point - and different “spiritual” methods are likely to lead in different directions, and produce different results. There is also “spiritual” observer bias, where one tends to interpret experiences in line with pre-existing beliefs and assumptions. For example, I used to do “silent worship” with the Quakers - they tended to associate meditative stillness with the presence of God, whereas I did not.


Maybe a point is that we do detect it ; at least we detect what we think is a self. Observing it we come to see that this thing we detect as the self (one of the aggregates) is devoid of characteristics of a coherent self existing self. Anything we cannot detect, isn’t particularly important for ending suffering, and is likely to be philosophical fantasies (derived from attachment to one of the five aggregates- universal consciousness etc.)

Wouldn’t you agree that anything we experience is based on something that is outside of experience?

Cognitively this should be correct, but also in the dhamma I haven’t seen anusaya or asavas to be direct experiences, and yet they are fundamental for the self-experience. Anusaya and asavas are inferred because of experiences I do have.

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Paraphrasing, it’s said by the Buddha that [ontological] reality cannot be said to not exist as there is arising. Reality ‘out there’ isn’t rejected. At the same time the EBTs say the khandas are like a mirage, a bubble, etc. to show their insubstantiality. He also says reality cannot be said to be real as there is cessation. This includes cessation of rupa, from which phenomena originate in the process of perception. Anusaya and asava are kilesas arisen due to ignorance as a response to the world outside. You could say that ignorance itself is ‘proof’ of a world as it is a misunderstanding of it. However then there is Self (and the misaprehended status of the Thatagata) which is derived from ‘all this’ which are complete fabrications.

If we had little knowledge of what is under the hood of a car we wouldn’t be able to understand what all the components are when it’s broken down and the hood is popped. It requires prior knowledge. It needs understanding what each piece is and how it interacts. Similarly when looking under the hood of perceiving the sense bases, dhatu and aggregates become apparent. It’s helpful to understand what is being experienced. It’s helpful to know how it arises from causes and leads to effects. Without having some understanding to begin with it’s possible to jump into superstition. The observations of impermanence and causality are to be observed. Dukkha and no self is to be infered. Ignorance is challenged as we see how the fabric of our reality is being created in the moment.

The dhamma is the Buddha being supportive, with his realisation, so that it’s much more easier for us.

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