Self vs Individual

Contining here.

Avuso @Vaddha I dunno what other baggages does the term individual has. Personal continuity and kamma is good enough.

The fact that not everyone feels the same feeling at the same time is enough to say that feelings are not the same, there are individual feelings, one for each person.

@Ceisiwr kamma works. That perhaps is using terminology that doesn’t trigger you?

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The Wikipedia page on Pudgalavāda might cover some of the basics for gaining familiarity:

I wasn’t “triggered” by anything you said. Conventionally there is kamma, yes.

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This recent review in The New Yorker of Charles Taylor’s final book may be relevant, with its philosophical discussion of unity vs. self, etc.

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Just for context for the public.

In trying to understand no self, it can be confusing for beginners. There tends to be an implicit mapping of self to many things, including the 5 aggregates, that there’s different persons which are named differently, have different bodies, or at least different head.

No self means ultimately, a self is a fictional thing, a concept we created in our mind to make sense of the world.

Conventionally it is useful to use self to refer to the 5 aggregates.

Ultimately (Theravada Abdhidhamma usage of ultimate, not mahāyāna usage), there’s just the 5 aggregates, broken down to 28 forms and 89 or 121 cittas and 52 cetasikas. They are all not self. Ultimate language used in Theravada Abhidhamma is supposed to be freed from concepts, so these are to be directly seen/known in deep meditation. Without using concepts, it’s hard to speak in daily life to refer to this 5 aggregates or that 5 aggregates instead of I or you.

But there’s still a possibility to distinguish this or that. This body is not the same as that body. That mind got enlightened doesn’t mean this mind got enlightened. That 5 aggregates produced wholesome kamma, which that 5 aggregates, linked by change and continuity also continue to reap, not other 5 aggregates.

The above is already painting the picture using no concept of self as it’s in Abhidhammic ultimate language.

Thus no self doesn’t deny this property of individual. Which is separation of the 5 aggregates, in terms of how kamma functions and in terms of how liberation is attained, each person for themselves.

Bring in past life recall, as far as the scriptures go, there’s no such thing as person A and B recall they were both person C in a past life. Each person has their own unique past life chains. And that past life chain is another way we can put the label of individual there, as having the characteristics of not mixing.

It’s not the same as lego blocks, I can create 10 houses with 10,000 lego blocks, but then destory them all (death) and rebuilt another 10 houses, with the same blocks, but each houses have different blocks than previous ones.

In terms of physical atoms, of course that can be a good analogy to describe that atoms are impersonal and goes all around.

In terms of kamma, ignorance, 5 faculties, attainment levels, memories, etc these follow strictly one individual and are bundled together. Or one can say the individual is defined by these things which passes from one life to another. No such thing as oh the attainment level of stream winning of Alice is swapped with Bob’s kamma, and then suddenly that Alice inherent Bob’s actions and her attainment, and her actions goes to Bob. Her past memories goes to Charlie, etc.

In this manner, individuality property can be discerned directly from how rebirth works.

None of these are self because they are not permanent entities.

Whether this is the same as Puggalavāda, I leave it to experts who have studied that school to judge.

Gopnick writes,

“ We are not atoms in a mindless universe, he argues, but agents in a metaphysically alert one, embodied and embedded in meanings we jointly create. Art is not an accessory to pleasure but the means of our connection to the cosmos.”


“ Antagonistic groups must go beyond the narrow aspiration of winning a contest against adversaries and come to one another with a sense of mutual recognition and regard. And the people best able to make this case, in Taylor’s view, “are people who are deeply rooted in their spiritual sources, often religious.” These are people who, at least culturally, have retained a sense of the sacred. Overcoming discrimination becomes not just an abstract advance in justice or an instrumental strategy for minimizing conflict but a “source of deep fulfillment.”

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Do you say that other people do good, I get to reap the reward? Other people walk the noble 8fold path, I get the enlightenment?

Or that 2 people can have the same past life memories?

How do you explain all those without using the concept of individual stream of consciousness?

We have experiences but they can’t be truly established or differentiated. It’s because there are individual streams of consciousness that there are no individual streams of consciousness. Nibbana is seen in dependent origination. Emptiness is seen in dhammas. As that famous sutra said:

“Form is emptiness, emptiness is form”

By the very fact that I can describe my experiences and you can describe yours when we see the same thing and our description will be different, there experiences can be differentiated.

It’s often just muddy the water when you bring in emptiness perspective when we are using conventional speech setting. There’s no additional insight to be gained.

In mahāyāna speech, perhaps what I said about no self yet there’s individual is:

Ultimate reality doesn’t deny conventional reality.

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You just agreed with me.

I agree that individuality is a concept, but the thing it describe is not unreal. Kamma is individual acting. Liberation is each for themselves.

You step on durian, I don’t feel the pain (provided I don’t use empathy with you at that moment).

That whole diamond sutra thing of A is not A that’s why it is A, is just breaking down concepts.

You can’t claim something is real without giving it an independent nature.

It’s entirely relevant to the discussion, especially since Madhyamaka has been critiqued. A reply is allowed, no?

I use real as in functional. Fire cooks food. Fire has the function of heating. It can be annoying to keep bringing in specialized terminology with meaning not intented by the speaker.

As far as I see, these Zen-like teachings are meant for direct awakening from teacher to students, not an intellectual discussion like in this forum. Thus, bringing them in really halts the discussions.

You were just arguing that kamma is real.

As far as I see, these Zen-like teachings are meant for direct awakening from teacher to students, not an intellectual discussion like in this forum. Thus, bringing them in really halts the discussions.

I know little of Zen. It is appropriate to discuss just what emptiness means. Madhyamaka is a valid exegesis. If you agree with it or not is another matter.

Have you found something that is not a concept that this individual concept is based upon? If so can you describe how “individuality” is a concept but this other found thing is not and what “a concept” means?

The Nile river is a concept and it also functions to drown certain beings. But then the components of the Nile river, the beings and “drowning” are all also just concepts. :man_shrugging: :pray:

Does it make sense to claim there are qualities without substances, which is the claim of the Abhidhamma? You also can’t know a dhamma apart from the concept in the Abhidhamma, so how do you establish their non-conceptual nature?

6 sense contacts are not concepts. Direct experience.

This is getting too technical. I suspect this is discussed in many commentaries already and I have no knowledge of these. So I don’t want to engage in things I am not good or familiar with. You’re welcome to write a whole essay on it, but I don’t want to be lead in discussing on it.

Direct knowledge is how to see the non conceptual nature.

Which parts? The internal or the external? Both? Sense bases are not concepts and/or sense contacts? Both?

Sounds a lot like, “I think, therefore I am” :joy: lots of solipsism vibes on the forum lately. “Only the person or individual is real and Buddhists should only be concerned about immediate personal experience and the rest of “the world” is irrelevant and/or doesn’t matter.”