On not-self, existence, and ontological strategies

Sorry to ask this question late.
What is the definition of the self for this discussion?

It’s not about mistakes. It’s about suffering. Are you saying that the suttas are not helping your suffering? That is actually quite interesting because they work for many many of us. MN1 in particular helped me immensely with my struggle with identity view. It wasn’t an intellectual thing. It was much deeper as Ven. Brahmali explained. My struggle was with fear even though I did have the knowledge that that fear was a delusion. The clinging to a self runs very very deep.

How are the suttas not working for you?

I never say the suttas are not working for me. That statement is simply saying that I see criticism as a wonderful tool for me to see my hidden mistakes that I may overlook them. Many times, we think that we understood and got the “truth”, but we actually messed up. It is good to see those mistakes and correct them before it is too late. However, this does not mean that any criticism is correct (even in this case, it is also good for me to see how well I can control myself and how much conceit I may have.)

As I see, your struggle with fear is because you attached yourself with that feeling. That feeling has become you. It has become “my feeling” or “I fear”. That feeling itself is simply a feeling, it does not need you in it. It comes and goes by its condition. When the condition is removed, it will go away by itself. Therefore, you may want to keep reminding yourself that “this fear is not mine, it is not myself, it is not worth to continue with it”. The more you can detach from it, the less you fear. However, this requires a lot of practice.

You fear because you created a self (of you) in that feeling. If you remove that self from that feeling, then you are free from that fear.

However, I know that my view is not going along with the main stream or famous teachers. It’s up to you if you want to believe what I say.

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Ah. OK. I think I understand what you are saying about fear. I literally could not remove myself from that fear in the moment of fearing. It was crushing. This was the horrible surprise. It was also surprising because I had not created myself in that fear. I had created myself in a delight that I feared losing. This is a little different, perhaps, than what you have said?

I did eventually address the fear by relinquishing the delight that I feared losing. That release took a very long time. Years and years. This is what MN1 refers to. The fear was a symptom of the delight.

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When you delight, you become that delight. You created the self (of you) in that delight. You love it and you are afraid of losing it. You want to keep it for yourself as long as you could (even forever).

However, because of the impermanent nature of all things, that delight must end soon or later, and the opposite must come. Therefore, delight is the root of suffering.

Seeing this, we do not want to cling to any delight, since it must lead to dukkha.

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Even here we have to be wary of Mara.
Because I too believed what you had written.

But I got fancy and clever.
Being fancy and clever, I had this thought:
“What if I let go of the current delight and simply pass freely on to the next?”
And this fancy and clever thought did indeed work as my monkey swung from branch to branch.

But one day, on a cliff looking down.
Looking down I saw no branches.
The monkey screamed in fear.

This is why Bhante Sujato translates MN1 as:

relishing is the root of suffering –MN1

My monkey was attached to relishing successive delights.

But I still didn’t understand until I read Ven. Bodhi’s translation:

delight is the root of suffering –MN1

That closed the loophole I thought I had found.


My autobiographical thoughts


If delight will always lead to delight, then it is permanently delight because it will never go away from delight. However, because it is impermanent, it must lead to the opposite (See in term of yin/yang, day/night, breath in and breath out).

That’s what I see, you do not need to believe it. It is good to see that you take me as Mara :sunglasses:

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:rofl: I do not see you as Mara.
Yes. Delight ends in suffering. Always.

Yes, but if you do not attach or create yourself in that then you will see just delight comes and goes, suffering comes and goes. They are what they are, you have nothing to do with them. However, this requires a lot of practice! The less you have them, the less you will need to deal with them.

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If suffering comes and goes it hasn’t been understood, it’s causes haven’t been removed and it’s cessation hasn’t been experienced!

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Yes. Freedom and I are currently just using a lot of sandpaper.

Which army of Mara are you fighting right now?
You can vote up to three options.

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I was listening to our friend and scholar @dougsmith 's excellent youtube talk on “The Buddha on Self and Non-Self” and thought I’d share it today, here.


Yes, I think the annihilationist view is also based on the assumption of something existing. It exists for a while and is then annihilated, ie it ceases to exist. Meanwhile the eternalist view assumes that something exists indefinitely.

My understanding of the history is something like this:

Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s teachers in the Thai Forest Tradition teach that there is a consciousness for (a what-its-like-to-be) an arahant. This got kind-of sloppily worded as “there does exist a permanent consciousness” which then gets questioned and criticized by scholars for being contrary to “viññana anicca” / “sabbe dhamma anatta.” Thanissaro Bhikkhu finds himself “having” to defend his tradition, so he concocts a slightly tortured argument to provide academic coverage for his lineage.

Is this an accurate understanding of the history here?


Sorry for a late reply. I came here through this topic: which referenced a post on this topic I made 2 years ago, found here Bodhi vs Ṭhānissaro debate.

One argument I did not make there, because I found it a bit too cheap and didn’t reply to any specific statement in previous posts. But I’d like to add it here, because it is actually quite illustrative of how complicated discussions can get over things are actually very clear. We are here discussing particular phrases in a certain historical context in very particular suttas. That is perhaps part of the confusion for people. We look at the tree and miss the forest.

So what about the forest? Throughout the suttas anatta, dukkha and anicca are treated almost equally. Compare for example SN 22.9 till SN 22.11, and you’ll find similar phrases, such as:

Consciousness of the past and future is impermanent, let alone the present. (SN22.9)
Consciousness of the past and future is suffering, let alone the present. (SN22.10)
Consciousness of the past and future is not-self, let alone the present. (SN22.11)

Given their similarity, both in translation and the Pali, it makes no sense for one of them to be a strategy and two of them to be ontological truths! In other words, if anatta were a strategy, so would dukkha and anicca. Dukkha would be a strategy for what, exactly? Overcoming dukkha?.. I think you all get the drift.

(Sorry if something similar has been said before here or elsewhere. I skipped through the topics a bit – haven’t been here in a long time, and it’s too much to catch up!)


Yes I think it’s a strategy indeed a safe strategy and it’s better than the alternative strategy for example the view of true self or the view that nibbana is self

nibbana is self for it’s a state of understanding a state of permanent non suffering but it’s dangerous to think like that because if you think you achieve nibbana but it’s not nibbana then you will regard it as self thus clinging to it and being trapped again in this infinity dream called samsara

I personally understand that Buddha means to transcend self & no-self.
When we think of the world, we think in terms of 5 aggregates, and do away with conventional categories, in likes of i, u, it; here there and external, or philosophically, a pot of soup, a grand flux, a collection of energetic units.

Thus any will, action or exploration with footing in self or no self, should ring alarms to our mindfulness, should be discerned as incomplete - recognizing it as it is, should be put in place, although it might take multiple life time to erode away the footing .