Different Senses of Self

Thanks, I see your argument, and on the face of it it seems logical…but it butts up against the idea that when the Buddha was asked is Parinibbana total extinguishment with nothing left behind he categorically said it wasnt didnt he? (Yes, I understand he said the other 3 options were also wrong, making it hard to fathom!!!). Your analysis seems to imply there is nothing but the 5 khandas, and no additional thing we could call a self…fine…but that contradicts other parts of the EBT IMO.

So I currently hold the view we are not ONLY the 5 khandas and all the EBTs are saying is that you wont find a self anywhere in the khandas…but that is not to say we are nothing other than the 5 khandas…if that makes sense?

For me essense is not the same as self. If a say that gold has an essence, and there is a real nature of gold, i do not mean to say it is a self or atman. I only mean that gold are molecules au. They have a specific molecular structure and together they form a certain structure that we call gold. That makes that gold is something unique with certain characteristics.

The same way with mind, i believe. Mind has a certain essence, a nature. Defilements hinder that we directly see this essence or nature of the mind. Buddha has found what this is. He knows the undefiled nature of mind.

I think it is not that bad to call this real self. Why, because i believe that our sense of self that is not part of conceiving (no ego) is based upon this total openess and simplicity of the nature of mind. In this way i believe we can only become more ourselves when body and mind gets progressively purified.
But i do not mean to instigate to attach to a doctrine of self.

If it is really possible to have memories of former lifes, how is it possible we can know them as our-former-lives without any notion of self? There is must be something that makes us know that those are our-former feelings, our former thoughts, our former experiences. There must be something that makes us know…that was me…but what is that?

What does it mean that there is no longer confusion about ones condition? Buddhists seem to have no agreement on this.

What is a ‘Buddhist’? A being of mind-body that identifies with the term.

I mentioned court cases, which judges people’s life and death based on the same word: evidences. It’s not an exclusively scientific reserved usage. I have a bachelor’s in physics and from my scientific point of view, the evidence for rebirth is not at all like the other crackpot theories we see in physics.

Psychology got it a bit worse for having the unreplicable stanfort prison experiment to inform us about so called human nature. In contrast, there are hundreds of cases of rebirth evidences.

This is because the question phrased was does the Buddha exist or not exist or both or neither. It uses the concept of self, by referring to Buddha.

I phrase it as is there anything or nothing after parinibbāna. it avoids the self concept.

“is there anything or nothing after parinibbāna?”

So, your answer to this format of the question then?

As I said above, nothing.

Green, this

Contradicts this

Therefore, don’t entertain any identification with self etc, it will just get you back to self delusion on the back door.

Really, which part? The Buddha did asked do you regard the Buddha as other than this 5 aggregates? and people replied no.

Anyway, let’s entertain this notion for a bit, anything which is out of 5 aggregates, is either permanent or impermanent, from the dhammapada quotes, we know only the unconditioned nibbana is permanent. And nibbana is stated to be not self.

As for the other possibility, of being impermanent, it too is not self according to the second sermon on not self, as explained above, a few posts up.

Thus, there’s no backdoor for self to come in if we analyse things properly.

I copy paste an analogy with company to illustrate this.

What are we referring to when we say google is going green, powering their servers with solar power?

There’s no person called google, there’s no soul of company called google

We are just pointing to the decisions of some people in the company to connect solar panels to their servers, which has the label google

Same thing is to be investigated for this 5 aggregates. Or 6 sense contacts. Each of them are not actually a self. And there’s no self to be found apart from them.

For a company, imagine a company without building, staff, documentation, money flow, etc… nothing. can you point to a soul of a company apart from all these?

Yet, a company can move countries.

Can change name as from facebook to meta. Can hire and fire staff.

Say a company in country A is located in this building, with this set of staff, ceo, business in selling cars, named G.

they can change and move to country B, fire and hire so much that a total turnover happens, focus on a different business, change their name to Y, company culture also change after a certain amount of time…

And repeat the process to 100 different countries, 100 different names.

In what sense can we say it’s the same company?

In what sense can we point to anything constantly there, a soul of a company

It’s the same company only via the chain of causation that can be traced

Same thing for beings

Moving to another country is like rebirth, building is like body,

We can only point to the same person over many past lives, via the causality chain

But there is no soul underlying the process

If companies can move countries without a soul, then why can’t beings be reborn without a soul?

Ok, let’s address memory.

some people might think since we can recall past lives, isn’t that the true self then?

Well… For one thing memory keeps on adding new ones.

And by living in samsara long enough, we lose practical access to the super far away, long ago memories

Even if we could recollect 100 lifetimes in a second, for all our lives, going back and back, 100 universe cycles in a second etc, we will die without finding a first life, a beginning

So memory has a lifespan. too old memories are gone.

Is that still worth identifying as self?

Or say if one person attained to arahanthood, died, as in parinibbana. then he cannot recall past lives anymore, because no more body and mind. but maybe some other people with divine eye can see the past lives of such arahant.

fast forward to many universe cycles away, or just try to see the past lives of arahants of buddhas too long ago, we would die first before we can recall it.

Memories too are impermanent

I do not etertain identification with self. I know from experience that I cannot change. Impossible.
I have never ever experienced something like this.
I have not changed at all since i became self-aware. Although i have become older in bodily sense, maybe a bit riper in emotional sense, and the content of the mind changes from moment to moment, i do not experience that i change. Not when i knew nothing of buddhism and not when i know something.

Does this mean that i have some doctrine of self?

I never understand that other people really feel they have changed internally. I really do not know what that means. That is really sincerely so. I may have others habits, other ideas but that does not change me at all, i feel.

I am not able to change, i feel. And i also must not practice that way. That is not good for me. To force myself into a someone else. To become this or that. This does not work for me. It is painful, suffering, violent.

The idea that one can change is for me not true. But the idea that habits can change, views, tendecies, body, feeling, sensations is true but i do not change a bit.

I also do not grow old. That is impossible. I am without age. If i do not look at the body or my date of birth, the idea of age is meaningless. The mind has not age, i feel. It is ageless. Also, perceptions have not an age.

I can understand that people feel they have changed when they identify with habits, with views, with body, but there is clearly something that really does not change. For me there is.

This inners sense of aliveness, as @dhammapala calls this, does not change. I do not say that it is eternal, (i do not know) but any time one awakens it is the same sense of aliveness or being present, right? It is never that one awakens and feel a totally different person. Does this mean we are deluded?
Must we awaken with a feeling that we are constant totally different persons? Is that not illness?

See it like this: you meditatie and thoughts come and go. After some time no thoughts come and go. Do you now have the experience that you have become another person and have another self?


I do not believe it is reasonable to assume that there have always been biljons, endless, individual lifestreams, without any cause or reason. They were just there always. i feel this is just as unreasonable as claiming that a Person God has always existed and created the world.

Everything in buddhism has a cause or some origin, except these individual lifestreams? They were for some reason always there? How likely is this? You, as some individual lifestream were always there?
My gut feeling says…very unlikely. This idea of everlasting endless individual lifestreams without discoverable beginning, i feel, only suggest knowledge where there is a total absent of true knowledge about all this. It are merely assumptions.

I feel, the Buddha teaches that in the end this idea to exist as an individual lifestream is mere an illusion that arises due to attachment with five khandha’s. We have never ever been such a lifestream. Even in this life we are not.

This seems inconsistent. You base your conclusions on “gut feeling” and decry mere assumption in the total absence of true knowledge, but base your entire sense of self on just that: assumptions and a total absence of true knowledge; gut feeling.

Where is this self that you assume? You seem to indicate that you don’t think it resides in the khandas or that it is appropriate to think of the khandas as some sort of individual, but then where is it? Can you locate this self that you assume? If you can’t locate it and pin it down, then why do you assume it? Isn’t gut feeling also a “total absence of true knowledge?”


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Buddha talks about the element or aspect that is not seen arising, ceasing and changing in the meantime; the asankhata element. He does not talk about this element as a self. Why must we do that?

I believe, if we look, we all see this element. We cannot say that we only see in our lives formations arising, ceasing and changing, right? And if we do that, we do that from a reference of no arising, right?

But Buddha never talks about these two aspects as self versus not-self. Those are just two elements or aspects of our lifes. Non is a soul, an atman, a entity like thing.

I believe, we have always overlooked this element of no arising and ceasing because we are so obsessed with formations arising and ceasing. And, the reason why we overlook it is also because it is for us most familiar and common. Much more familiar than all that has the nature to arise.

This is a perspective.

You seem to be equating nibbana with the self, but I don’t see how that answers my question at all. You are seemingly inconsistent: on the one hand you say we should not assume in the absence of true knowledge, but then you seemingly assume this self as a “gut feeling.” I am asking how you address this inconsistency. :pray:

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No need for a conversation, you’re free to believe what you like.

Great masters in buddhism, as you also know, teach that it is all about seeing or knowing the true undefiled nature of mind. Now, influenced by defilements, we have the impression that this nature of the mind-, the one who knows-, is a subject, a person, a me, an entity like thing, a someone, an ego. That is our experiential impression from within, right?

What they teach is that this is a distorted perception of the nature of mind. It is the fundamental ignorance who rules here. Not having a true understanding of the empty, open, clear light nature of mind. We experience this empty, open, clear light nature of mind as someone who knows, as me, a ego.
This is, seeing things not as they are.

To make and end to this distortion we must see directly what is the nature of mind. Or, in other words, we must see our own nature, the nature of the one who knows. What is it that knows?
If we have direct knowledge of the one who knows, we see it was never a person, a me, a subject, a mental entity. We have always been deluded about the nature of mind.

This true knowledge becomes the cause for the destruction of all attachment to doctrines of self and defilements.

This appeals to me.

In the end we do not understand ourselves. That is where it comes down to. What we think we are, we are not. What our impression is who we are, we are not.

Buddha does not teach that we cannot find an affirmative answer to who or what we are but he advices not to search for answers in a psychological or intellectual way. Because probably we will become trapped in views of self.
He advices to focus on removing first coarse defilements, then middle and then subtle. While this is in progress we will get more and more taste of the real nature of mind. One day we will know and see who or what we are. This way we do not force answers upon ourselves but let reality speak.

Buddha does not really say there is no self.

Sutta’s do not say that there is no answer or affirmative knowledge about ourselves.
But we must proceed from removing defilements and let reality give the answers.

I do not feel it is really exotic, irrational, esoteric to have some taste, some initial understanding, that the mind is not really a me, a subject, a person, ego but an openess and clear light nature.

I understand it’s important for you to believe in rebirth. I’m not trying to challenge your beliefs. And if there are other researchers who want to pick up where Stevenson left off all the best to them. You’ve been given an answer: “no thanks.” In Canada violation of our Charter principle of freedom of religion is considered to be violation to human dignity. I recognize that there’s a cultural difference, so I am letting you know that for me what you are doing is truly offensive.

I think the best thing for me to do is just mute you @NgXinZhao, because we also have a criminal law that protects us from attempts to approach or communicate that are known to be unwelcome or should be known to be unwelcome. You’ve been advised. I’ve met my duty to ensure that you are informed. Your aggression has to stop, and you’re not at a point of understanding where you are able to do that. So I’ll solve the problem at this end and retract.

Best of luck to you with whatever you choose to do in your life.

This sounds quite a bit like dzogchen, rigpa, mahamudra vajrayana views and therefore not apposite on this forum or at least I’m not clear they are appropriate to discuss here. Regardless, I am not a student of Vajrayana and thus have very little means to discuss it. :pray:

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I don’t think any of those ideas are disallowed here. (Apart from hateful ideas, I don’t think any ideas are really disallowed here.) This forum has a “purpose” (discussion of EBTs), and so it naturally attracts a certain crowd which is more interested in certain ideas, but I don’t think keeping discussions strictly to those domains is an explicit rule.

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Ok, then I’ll just leave it by noting the similarity to my mind in what @Green has written above and the doctrines of dzogchen, rigpa, mahamudra vajrayana that appear to my mind granting that I know very little to nothing about them. Knowing so little about them I’ll leave it to others to discuss as they like. :pray:

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