Atma- analysis of Self


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.


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.


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.