Different Senses of Self

@Green The sense of self is simply the feeling of being alive and awareness of such.
The ideological ‘self’ is born of the feeling of alive because of the individual of mind-body trying to ‘make sense’ of themselves, yet, in the same way the word ‘hand’ isn’t the :raised_hand: in itself is the same way the word ‘I’ (the idealogical sense of self) isn’t the entirety of the mind-body. Yet, the word ‘I’ still serves a convenient function which arises in conversation to designate one as compared to the other.

The Noble Ones do not deny a self. They encourage oneself to see what the sense of self arises dependent on. Aliveness is always changing instead of believing in some fixed permanent ‘thing’ on a given or its opposite. The body is always aging - age and time is the measurement of change in a variable in regard to another. Aliveness is a quality of ones own mind and body.

The aliveness (consciousness) in conjunction with feeling, thinking, form and perception enables one to give rise to the terms ‘changing and unchanging’. It (the mind, mental abstracting faculty), in itself, is not limited to being one of its descriptors. Consciousness is apprehended through the nature of mind, body and awareness unto which the 5 aggregates fit in.

Awakening is realising the actuality of the four noble truths, the reality of suffering, its origination/cessation and realising the intricacies of the noble path. It is the beginning of the doing away of defilement, hindrance, ignorance, attachment, aversion and the beginning of the blossoming of wisdom, concentration and ethical noble conduct. Without the mucky nutrients, the lotus cannot bloom. Awakening is the moment of realising of something as ‘actual’. The moment of learning itself. The focus of Noble One’s is the intricacies of the path that leads to freedom from suffering.

There is having an idea of oneself. Then there is being what one is, which in turn, enables one to form the idea of ‘oneself’. This is understood through looking at one through mind, body, awareness, and the 5 aggregates. One is that ‘which knows’ and ‘makes senses’.

Buddha: one who is awake, who understands, who knows.
Buddh, boudha, buddhi. These terms are telling.

Read SN15.1-20, it says inconceivable beginning is samsara. Directly from the Buddha.

The cause of this life is previous life not having gotten rid of ignorance, delusion etc, and the cause of previous life is the previous life to that and so on.

There’s either a first cause which is itself uncaused or there’s no first cause and it’s turtles all the way to infinite past. Buddhism opts for the latter (just a figure of speech in interfaith setting, to Buddhist: the reality is there’s infinite past and causes and effects has no beginning). To posit the alternative is the one which violates the rule of everything has a cause (except for nibbāna).

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EBT is about Buddha describing the nature of mind. He reveals in many sutta’s that we must distinguish what we perceive as the nature of mind, a Me, ego,(asmi mana) and what is really the nature of mind. Our understanding is all the time distorted by the effect of incoming defilements.
And the most fundamental distortion is that we experience the mind, that what knows, that what experiences, as a subject, a me, a kind of mental entity, a Self. That is all over the EBT.

Later buddhist adressed this direct and called this sense of self that we ususally have (as a mental entity that knows and lives) the unreal self, the small self, the untrue self. A distortion like EBT also teach. That what knows, experiences is not truly a mental entity self, an atta.

They refer to the real self not to some other mental entity, but to what is really the nature of what knows. Undistorted. Maha Boowa does also and he was a Theravada Forest Thai teacher.
The core is always that we do not really understand the nature of mind, or what mind really is. Also in EBT. We do not know this, because incoming defilements make us believe that mind is this or that.

People always become so on edge when they read about true self but is it exactly in line with EBT in which Buddha also teaches that we must see the nature of mind directly, undistorted, pure, and then we see it has never ever been a mental entity, an atta, who knows and lives and dies.

Nothing not EBT

Yes, some translate “without discoverable beginning”. I do not read this as: it has no beginning.

My gut feeling is that to think about rebirth as biljons of individual streams, always existing and always orderly apart from eachother is not likely. Thats all. I do not know all this. But i do not blindly believe that the sutta’s one up one reveall what Buddha knew and taught.

I also doubt about these buddhist ideas that the Earth is destroyed and re-arising many times in exactly the same way, like a copy, and all Buddha have the same carreer and awaken in the same place. Like the conditions are always exaclty the same at the beginning of every universe and the Earth in it. This idea of endless repeating patterns is not that Western. We are not raised with this idea. To me it seems unlikely. We are more raised in a culture that sees a beginning. I do not know.

The idea of an uncreated creator also seems unlikely to me.

I do not really reject rebirth but i can see that all those ideas about how heaven and hell is, are all very antropocentric. Clearly the projections of a human being. That is suspicious at least, i find.
Probably animals would project other heavens and hells.

Some ideas of heaven for me feel really absurd like man surrounded with all beautiful woman or having great power and rule like one is a king. Only humans can see this as heaven. If i think about this, i feel it is quit childish.

Do you experience that? Do you feel every day again that you have totally changed, or do you, like me, feel this is not the case at all. Do you real feel from within that you have aged? Do you real feel that this sense of aliveness ages?

The moment you awaken you awaken in the same inner world, the same inner room, right? We do not feel the room has changed. At least that is how we experience it, right?
Even when the room feels dark, or another moment light, or even when tables are in the room, or removed again, it feels like we live in the same room, right? Or ego comes in the room or leaves again the room. Do we change?

Now we can make some appointment that this same room must be an illusion but that is meaningles.
We at least must find a reason, a cause that we all have have this inner stable sense of self or aliveness .
A room that does not seem to change whatever comes in and goes.

Not that crazy actually, using just classical physics, if we split space and time down fine enough, we can put each smallest particle in one unit box of smallest space fit for the particle. And divide velocity to smallest units, but finite size. Then we have a very large but finite phase space for each particle having all possible range of velocity and position. Add in all 10^80 particle or about that number in the universe, and we have still a large, but finite way to arrange everything.

Add in the same dynamical laws of physics, biology etc, we limit the total possible range of things in the universe which can happen.

Given infinite past, history repeats itself infinite times, or almost, even if each occation happens very far away from each other.

Buddhist conception of cyclic universe doesn’t seem to preclude the possibility of exotic planets, humans which are not homo sapiens, etc.

Given animals is one of the realms, one shouldn’t be attached to animal perception. Gods thinks of humans as filthy similar to how we think of some animals as filthy. So it’s very different perception thing.

Dependent origination, physics with cyclic multiverse, no need for any creator. Just laws of nature.

Read Nietzsche, he is considered western right? he came up with eternal recurrance. That live the life so well that you wouldn’t mind living it again eternally. Of course, that is not the Buddhist ideal.

In essence my heart does not accept that life is not something whole, and holy, a wonder, a deep mysterie, in the ground good. I think that is essentially going in my heart.

I just cannot connect to this perspective that being alive is such a problem that one longs to cease for ever. One longs to vanish. If not as self, then as a lifestream without anything remaining. To me this is darkness. I am honest about this.

I also do not think that such a wish, desire, longing can arise and exist in a sphere of purity, without defilements ruling, without strong passions and a sense of ego. This desire or wish cannot be pure. This wish cannot be authentic too. That is my hearts knowledge. And i do not want to judge but this is my heart knowledge

Everybody must see for him/herself if this is really ones authentic wish…to vanish without anything remaining. Is that really a heartfelt wish? For me this has never been what brought me to buddhism.
What brought me to buddhist is to trust life again. To cure distrust. Not believing in the goodness of life anymore.

I cannot help but to feel it is also silly to see it as a holy task to vanish without anything remaining and delight in this perspective. A holy life tesitifies and shows the holiness of life, or as you wish the wholeness of life. Like the Buddha did, i feel.

I feel, the Buddha’s first drive to start searching was egocentric. He was shocked by the idea that even He would become sick, old and die. This was the narcist in the Buddha, i believe. We all have this. The narcist in us that is really shocked that we are not God, and do not rule. It says something about how we think about ourselves. As rulers, as unique, as special. How can we die? We do not become sick, This is for others. But i believe confronted with suffering we especially realise we are not rulers, not mighty, not God. I think we hate this more then the suffering itself.

To make a long story short: in the end the Buddha understood this: It were his defilements, his own delusion, his own passions, that caused the initial shock confronted with suffering.
He came in terms with life, also with suffering, also with defilements, with all that exist. And this was the opening to and resulted in his awakening. This was the end of ego, the end of the narcist, the end of the idea that life is not holy and one. The Buddha entered a wholeness. A oneness.

Make that Schopenhauer, Venerable. Same general idea, but explains how the problem of the first cause or uncreated creator doesn’t apply. :pray:

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Buddhism posits neither, this is one of the undeclared points/questions to be set aside as made clear in the Digha Nikaya.

The sutta you have referenced says there is no discernable beginning.

Classical physics is based on the assumptions of calculus which is not discretized, and in classical physics there is no splitting of space and time into finite sizes.

This does not follow. There are many examples of infinite things which do not contain everything.

For example, the real number

Is infinite yet clearly missing a lot of possible sequences.

So an infinite past does not imply history repeats itself.

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Ahh, the cardinality of the reals versus the cardinality of the integers. Just wanted to point out that the infinite to my mind has never been constructed nor observed. BTW, I love where this conversation has taken us :slight_smile:

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The question of whether the world had a beginning or is eternal is one of Kant’s so called “antinomies of pure reason”. Meaning that both can be logically proven at the same time! How can this be?

Kant believed that this was only possible if what we can perceive of reality is not the full picture. Our minds are limited and condition the way reality looks to us. Time and space are not external things but our “software” trough which any sense input has to enter and in this process be split up in space and time. Whatever the “input” may look like before that we may never know. This in turn means that something, even when derived logically, remains an illusion if it cannot be confirmed empirically.

I’m just reading up on the second and third wheel of Dhamma in Mahayana Buddhism, and it looks like the so called Yogacara school implemented something very similar to this to their teachings more than 1000 years before Kant! And arguably even the Teacher himself alredy sensed something - because he refuted the monism of the Vedic schools. And monism is one of the metaphysical views that first and foremost gets “debunked” by this theory of Kant.

A little difficult for me to write all this in English. I hope it still makes sense.

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There are some consistent themes and then some changing elements. All is in motion.

I compare aging with 1) physical change 2) maturing. I am aging, physically changing and maturing. I recognise the change. I can say that yes I do recognise that I have aged and change plus changing.

When I awake in a room, there is a familiarity of ‘roomness’ present but outside it may be gloomy or maybe sunny. The light outside or lack of can impact the appearance of the room. There is a familiarity and consistency to the room and a changingness to the appearance of the room as influenced by many factors. The room is generally stable and not changing, enough so for light to flow in uninterrupted in a way that harmoniously illuminates ones room. The room was crafted through the hands of people putting it together. It seems fixed whilst one is dwelling in such and in a way it is to the degree that one tends to the room.

I do not think of the ‘ego’ as an idea or a thing in itself. Instead, I look at what is described as the ego, underneath that is the sense of self (the feeling of being alive), the ideological sense of self (names of varying degrees, ‘I’, Green’, ‘Bob’, ‘Sid’) born of awareness of being alive or aware of being aware. Aliveness and awareness are synonymous. I think that when many describe ego they think of a sort of ‘grandiose and conceited attachment to ones views and self image’. The differences in definitions can prove troubling when gauging the ground to communicate clearly with another.

For me, waking happens. ‘I’ cognise of this happening. Later on, I say to someone ‘I woke up at 9AM today’. Because of the feeling of being alive (consciousness), sensory data pouring through the senses due to the body, perceiving such and then thinking, contemplating, reasoning and abstracting about life - ‘I’ come into motion. At first, this happens all automatically from birth and we are not born with the knowledge of how our thinking process works. That is why these ideas such as the 5 aggregates, 5 senses, mind, body, awareness, wisdom, four noble truths, concentration, ethics, ignorance, attachment, aversion, ill-will, greed and such other myriad terms serve as a great fruit, and are evidence of contemplatives who have come before us who have left a scaffolding to grow into or content to contemplate. Little artifacts of those who have been walking the road before we have come around to discern it too, or, even finding our own path aligning and merging. Then, awareness of thinking blossoms as we contemplate our nature and a sense of responsivity & conscious exertion of will arises enabling one to let go of the aspects that further perpetuates stress and suffering - now no longer habitually reacting to life from a position of unknowing (the four foundations - mechanisms of grasping) but responding from wisdom (knowledge discerned to be true that has been applied to ones life in a way that is of benefit and conducive to wellbeing of one/all).

He also calls it the abysmal thought and it occurred to him while he was convalescing in a psychiatric hospital. It wasn’t something he welcomed. The images he constructs around all that are agonizing. As well he links it to whatever that creature was that eats its own tale (tail - I’ll leave the Freudian slip).

Edit: Oroborus
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He ended up with - probably - the chaosmos as an eternal base. But I am influenced by a Deleuzian reading of him, rather than a specialist one, so I cannot say.

  1. Given small enough splitting, there’s no discernable difference. I place an atom on the grid which is 1 million times smaller, vs 1 billion times smaller, doesn’t make much of a difference, of course it could still. Also, we can always switch to the many models of quantum gravity, and there the limit of the smallest distance is Planck length, which is finite.

  2. It does follows that given a finite amount of particles to be distributed into a finite amount of phase space, do it enough times, some patterns must repeat. Indeed, not all patterns are guaranteed to happen, like everyone gets enlightened in the past already.

But repeat is guaranteed given enough time. Example, birthdays. there’s finite amount of days in a year for birthdays to be distributed. Given enough people, we are bound to have 2 or more people with the same birthdays, but not all birthdays are guaranteed to be covered even if we have 1 billion people.

Also, do read the SN15.1-20, it’s quite clear to me that the Buddha said all those implies no beginning. Discerning is from recalling past lives, which takes time, which one would die before reaching infinite past, thus infinite past is basically not discernable.

In many commentary stories, like Dhammapada, Buddha had said, this happened before. Eg. A minister (or equivalent) did a good job, the king made him king for 7 days, a dancer who entertained him for 7 days died of exhaustion in front of him, the minister sought for the Buddha who said this happened before, and the minister got enlightened that very day.

The Buddha also said to a parent weeping for the loss of a child, which child are you crying for? there’s several of them named the same name, died in the same place and so on. (details may vary, due to hazy memory).

ps. to use the infinite decimal points number example, say let’s use pi. And phase space is in units of 100 digits. Go though the decimal points of pi, and eventually, 100 digits of all possible combination would be filled or more likely same 2 numbers of 100 digits would be there.

Easier to imagine if our digits is 3 digit number, or 2.

To use the number you suggested of only 0 and 1 in decimal place, yes, the phase space is limited to those digits, but make a sample of 3 digits, 100 digits, they will repeat eventually. So history repeating is seen from here.

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Yes, a finite system which gets iterated infinitely is guaranteed to repeat (at least one) state. This is the pigeonhole principle. Also relevant to the discussion is the Poincare Recurrence Theorem; however, see my below comments about an infinite universe.

It is a misconception that the Planck length implies discretized space. See this answer, and also see this article.

But more importantly, there are a lot of assumptions that need to be made in order to make the argument you are making. There is no reason to assume that our universe has a constant phase space. Right now the universe is expanding, and so the phase space is changing. A big bang/crunch model of the universe (which seems to be implied by the suttas) would imply that the phase space of the universe constantly changes. Furthermore, the quantum fields which exist could become different, and the parameters of these could be tuned differently in a big bang/crunch model. But even to assume that the framework of quantum mechanics or classical physics would hold in the next iterative cycle of the universe is an assumption that does not follow from the assumption of infinite time.

Well, if it is quite clear to you from this sutta that the Buddha said the universe has an infinite past, then I think the clarity you experience is not well founded.

Mendicants, transmigration has no known beginning.
No first point is found of sentient beings roaming and transmigrating, shrouded by ignorance and fettered by craving.

There is a big difference between saying something is so big/long that you couldn’t find the end of it, versus the (unprovable in this case it would seem) ontological claim that something is infinite. See DN1 3.1.1. In regards to claiming that either the self or the cosmos are eternal, the Buddha says:

The Realized One understands this: ‘If you hold on to and attach to these grounds for views it leads to such and such a destiny in the next life.’ He understands this, and what goes beyond this. And since he does not misapprehend that understanding, he has realized extinguishment within himself. Having truly understood the origin, ending, gratification, drawback, and escape from feelings, the Realized One is freed through not grasping.

Taking the position that the universe has an infinite past of a finite past and then arguing for that position would seem to be “clinging to views.” The relevant question for myself is whether or not the position I am taking right now is also clinging to a view :laughing:

Yes, something being very long is much different than something being infinitely long.

So the argument you have made is as follows?

  1. I can give an example of a number where all sequences of 100 digits occur
  2. ?
  3. Therefore, history repeats.

The point I was making was that something being infinite does not imply that it contains everything. I gave an example to show this. Finding a counterexample is not relevant, because I am not denying that there are examples where such a thing occurs. The strongest way this can happen is with what is called a normal numbers. See this article for more about whether or not pi specifically is a normal number.


Yes, but not without identification. When the mind just abides in its own empty and open nature there is no sense of age or being this or that. Such ideas only arise due to identification.

Yes, but do you also believe you do not exist while not awake? Or, in other words, can we see ourselves as s stream of vinnana’s, moments of awareness, or is this also mere a perspective on ourselves?

I still do not understand why people do not just admit that they really feel no different person from within. There is no change from within even when spheres, emotions, thoughts, feelings, burden change. If you have a headackhe and finally it ends you do not experience at all that the one with headacke is a different person from the one who has not.

This sense of self remains the same. I believe this is also true from worldling to arahant and Buddha.

The Buddhist claim is that this sense of self is a fabricated thing. It depends on thoughts. Try practising not thinking “I am”, “I am this”, “I maybe”, “may I be this”, “I will be” and so on. Very soon, the sense of self cannot sustain itself. But it easily comes back due to strong delusion and habit.

Good afternoon to you @Green

Without identification or abstracting of age, that which is considered to be aging still changes. The word ‘change and age’ exist because of a need to describe the variation of a particular thing and the means by which it varies in relation to other factors.

When one dwells, is not experiencing habitual thought, nor engaging conscious thought, but just in the suchness of things as they are - that is just as it is. The word age and changing has a specific meaning or definition and serves a particular function. What is considered to be aging is still aging or changing even when I am not thinking of such.

Every inhale and exhale is a change.

No, I do not believe that I do not exist when I am asleep. The conscious aspect of my being is temporarily switched off for rest. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to see or hear it, does it make a sound? The answer is yes.

The mind in itself is what produces these terms of ‘stream, vinanna, moments of awareness’. I do not see myself behind the lense of conceptual abstraction but I dwell as I am & recognise the faculties of my being.

There is thinking about consciousness or ones being through mental abstraction, and then simply being as one is. There is thinking of wiggling ones finger and then the action of doing so. These are two different matters. Having perspectives are fine, the problem is when suffering arises as a result of such.

Maybe you do not understand because you are presuming or essentially thinking people are being deceiving by not suggesting that they feel the same within. How would you know what is the way for others? Changingness is apart of experience. There are consistent themes and then there are obviously changing themes.

A headache affects the body and is recognised by mind (mind-body). When it goes, it’s going has been registered by mind (the one that knows that such has gone). I do not think like this “I am a person who is experiencing a head ache” neither “I am a different person before or after a head ache”. The head ache comes, the head ache goes, but the mind-body is generally consistent although changing.

An Arahant (perfected person) and a Buddha (one who knows fully) are similar. The historical Buddha (one who knows, sees, understands, is awake to) described himself a Buddha. A sense of self remains whilst aliveness is present but no longer is one ignorant to the functionings of mind, body, feelings and the arising of phenomenon which in turn includes the mind-body as well as other crude matter or the elements etc. The worldling experiences the world from ignorance and not-knowing. The Awakened One views the world from a position of wisdom and knowing. If you know, you can respond in the most unhelpful way, if you do not know… you find your way and learn through experience like all Buddha’s from Antiquity have done. The worldling is a lotus to be, and a Buddha is a blossomed lotus.

It requires hard work. This is the meaning of Kung Fu. Realising and actualisation of the Noble Path requires relentless graft.

I tend to believe that when there is no grasping there is no sense of self as in a ego-like sense of self. No sense of self that looks like a homunculus, a small person in our head. A mental figure like sense of self.
I believe our minds constantly win and loose this perception of being an internal figure. It is not constant present.

For me it is very important, i found out, not to practice Dhamma with the head because that only gives rise to a growing sense of ego. Also when i have strategies and goals. That all leads to more delusion, a more stronger sense of ego.