Mind versus Self?

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Mind versus Self?

Postby SittingSilent » Tue Nov 20, 2012 3:43 am

As a student of psychology (I am nearly done completely my bachelor's degree a university here in the United States) I have often encountered the explanation that it is the brain and the "mind" that give rise the the phenomenon known as consciousness and sense of self. However, as a student of Buddhism I am learning that the self doesn't exist, something which I am willing to accept, but then the same text, magazine article, etc. then goes on to discuss the mind in three or four sentences later leaving me dramatically confused. Can someone please clarify for me what the self is, what the mind is, as well as their respective differences? Also, since there is no self, what collects karma from existence to existence? If there is no self or identity or soul on which karma can have its effects, how can any sort of effect of karma happen?

Thanks and may all of you be closer to enlightenment!

Ethan
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby Huifeng » Tue Nov 20, 2012 4:59 am

SittingSilent wrote:As a student of psychology (I am nearly done completely my bachelor's degree a university here in the United States) I have often encountered the explanation that it is the brain and the "mind" that give rise the the phenomenon known as consciousness and sense of self. However, as a student of Buddhism I am learning that the self doesn't exist, something which I am willing to accept, but then the same text, magazine article, etc. then goes on to discuss the mind in three or four sentences later leaving me dramatically confused. Can someone please clarify for me what the self is, what the mind is, as well as their respective differences? Also, since there is no self, what collects karma from existence to existence? If there is no self or identity or soul on which karma can have its effects, how can any sort of effect of karma happen?

Thanks and may all of you be closer to enlightenment!

Ethan


In short:

"self" = "atman" / "pudgala" / "purisa" / etc.
--> permanent, blissful, autonomous entity, totally unaffected by any conditioned phenomena

"mind" = "citta" / "manas" / "vijnana" / etc.
--> stream of momentarily arising and ceasing states of consciousness, thus not an entity, each of which is conditioned by sense organ, sense object and preceding mental states

Neither are material.

That's a brief overview, lot's of things to nit pick at, but otherwise it'll require a 1000 page monograph to make everyone happy.

You'll need to study up on "dependent origination" (pratitya-samutpada) to get into any depth to answer your questions.

~~ Huifeng
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby KeithBC » Tue Nov 20, 2012 5:10 am

It is not an easy question you ask. I am sure some learned folks will be along later to straighten us both out. In the meantime, I'll have a shot at it.

"Self" is an illusion. Specifically, it is the illusion that you are separate from everything else. It is the illusion that you are an individual. It is the illusion that you end at the boundary of your skin, that you are your mind, that you "own" your body. All these things are illusions, and together, they make up the self.

"Mind" is harder to define. It has multiple meanings. By "the mind", you probably mean your mind (or mine). If so, that is just part of the illusion of self.

However, it is sometimes used without an article: Not a mine, the mine, your mind, my mind; just mind. In that case, it means the unity of all selves, the reality that distinctions are artificial. It is the mystical experience (where "mystical" has its proper technical meaning, not the popular misconception of "mysterious" or "exotic"). The most accurate thing you can say about mind is that it is not possible to say anything accurately about it. This is a limitation of language. Anything you can say in a language is necessarily conceptual, and mind is beyond concepts.

Clear as mud, right? :D

Om mani padme hum
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby anjali » Tue Nov 20, 2012 6:44 am

SittingSilent wrote:As a student of psychology (I am nearly done completely my bachelor's degree a university here in the United States) I have often encountered the explanation that it is the brain and the "mind" that give rise the the phenomenon known as consciousness and sense of self. However, as a student of Buddhism I am learning that the self doesn't exist, something which I am willing to accept, but then the same text, magazine article, etc. then goes on to discuss the mind in three or four sentences later leaving me dramatically confused. Can someone please clarify for me what the self is, what the mind is, as well as their respective differences? Also, since there is no self, what collects karma from existence to existence? If there is no self or identity or soul on which karma can have its effects, how can any sort of effect of karma happen?

Thanks and may all of you be closer to enlightenment!

Ethan


As a psych major and Buddhist, you may find this blog posting interesting: http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2011/05/ps ... s-no-self/
  • The object of the game is to go on playing it. --John Von Neumann
  • All activities are like the games children play. If started, they can never be finished. They are only completed once you let them be, like castles made of sand. --Khenpo Nyoshul Rinpoche
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby SittingSilent » Wed Nov 21, 2012 12:27 am

To give an example of the type of language that I find confusing, I will quote from a book I am reading that is written by Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen entitled A Complete Guide to the Buddhist Path which is a commentary on The Jewel Treasury of Advice by Drikug Bhande Dharmaradza.

Here's what the author says:

Even if we are in the midst of singing and dancing, we will not lose our mindfulness and our Dharma practice will remain firm. Our mind will not be disturbed or polluted by such conditions; we can keep our minds pure and clear, unstained by these influences. But until we have this quality, it is good to protect ourselves from conditions that disturb and distract out mind.




Okay, how can it be OUR mind if a self doesn't exist?

Then, in a different segment of the book, the author describes the song Meaningful to Behold as quoting Jigten Sumgon (the o is supposed to have those two dots, but I don't know how to do that in here) as saying:

Although different traditions conclude that it is either the mind of the body that wanders in samsara, I don't take a particular position on this. But I would say that causes and conditions give rise to conceptual thought. Because of that, embodied propensities wander [in samsara].


Does anyone else see how confused I am? I understand what is meant by causes and conditions giving rise to conceptual though, and I know what embodiment means, at least from a sociological viewpoint, but overall I'm still lost. HELP!!!!

Ethan :shrug:
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby undefineable » Wed Nov 21, 2012 1:46 am

SittingSilent wrote:Because of that, embodied propensities wander [in samsara]

This quote has a thread devoted to it: viewtopic.php?f=66&t=10593

I find it a helpful bridge (to potential wisdom) to conceptualise that the individual mind is the owner of the apparent/illusory Self created by past karma. The difficulty is then in describing the mind in terms which can (recognisably and intelligibly) describe an object, and many would likely object that -since the mind is'nt even a proper subject, let alone an object- I'm in dangerous territory here.

Keith, I've heard of the idea of a 'collective' mind with reference to Hinduism - but not Buddhism. I was under the impression that the word 'mind' (in the Buddhist context) is used to describe a phenomenon with an infinite number of ultimately separate, self-contained instances, a bit like electrons or some such, although I understand that the picture changes (somehow?!) on full enlightenment.
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby floating_abu » Wed Nov 21, 2012 10:41 am

The Buddha never said there was no self, FWIW.
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby Jesse » Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:35 am

SittingSilent wrote:To give an example of the type of language that I find confusing, I will quote from a book I am reading that is written by Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen entitled A Complete Guide to the Buddhist Path which is a commentary on The Jewel Treasury of Advice by Drikug Bhande Dharmaradza.

Here's what the author says:

Even if we are in the midst of singing and dancing, we will not lose our mindfulness and our Dharma practice will remain firm. Our mind will not be disturbed or polluted by such conditions; we can keep our minds pure and clear, unstained by these influences. But until we have this quality, it is good to protect ourselves from conditions that disturb and distract out mind.

Okay, how can it be OUR mind if a self doesn't exist?

Then, in a different segment of the book, the author describes the song Meaningful to Behold as quoting Jigten Sumgon (the o is supposed to have those two dots, but I don't know how to do that in here) as saying:

Although different traditions conclude that it is either the mind of the body that wanders in samsara, I don't take a particular position on this. But I would say that causes and conditions give rise to conceptual thought. Because of that, embodied propensities wander [in samsara].


Does anyone else see how confused I am? I understand what is meant by causes and conditions giving rise to conceptual though, and I know what embodiment means, at least from a sociological viewpoint, but overall I'm still lost. HELP!!!!

Ethan :shrug:


Because the self is an illusion, a conceptual designation, one the happens automatically. Really all that exists is a stream of thoughts, feelings and perceptions. There is supposed to be a chain of causes and conditions that lead up to this illusion, which is called "dependent origination", though I don't really get how it clarifies things any further. good luck.
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby Huifeng » Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:59 am

floating_abu wrote:The Buddha never said there was no self, FWIW.


But he did say "all is not self", eg. SN iv 28: "‘‘Sabbaṃ, bhikkhave, anattā…pe…. ";
and "all phenomena are not self", eg. "Sabbe dhammā anattā." and "in all phenomena there is no self", eg. "Sabbesu dhammesu anattā’’ti " etc. etc. It's pretty clear.

~~ Huifeng
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Nov 21, 2012 12:43 pm

The idea of a "self" is what we mistakenly impute onto the five skandhas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skandha which are constantly changing and impermanent physical and mental functions. The four skandhas of feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness are what are considered to be, or constitute, the mind.

Yeah, I know, wiki article :zzz: but it actually it is a very good summary. From there you can follow the leads and spend the rest of your life studying Abhidharma or Abhidhamma. As a psych major I am sure you will love to study it!
:namaste:
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Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby seeker242 » Wed Nov 21, 2012 1:43 pm

SittingSilent wrote:To give an example of the type of language that I find confusing, I will quote from a book I am reading that is written by Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen entitled A Complete Guide to the Buddhist Path which is a commentary on The Jewel Treasury of Advice by Drikug Bhande Dharmaradza.

Here's what the author says:

Even if we are in the midst of singing and dancing, we will not lose our mindfulness and our Dharma practice will remain firm. Our mind will not be disturbed or polluted by such conditions; we can keep our minds pure and clear, unstained by these influences. But until we have this quality, it is good to protect ourselves from conditions that disturb and distract out mind.




Okay, how can it be OUR mind if a self doesn't exist?



This is a good little explanation. It has to do with the conventional use of language.

The Buddha's analysis of personality reveals five groups (khandha) as making up a human being: ruupakkhandha (physical body), vedanaakkhandha (feelings), sa~n~naakkhandha (perceptions), sankhaarakkhandha (mental formations and their fruits) and vi~n~na.nakkhandha (consciousness). A common classification is the grouping of these five into two sections: naama (mind, i.e., the psychological part of personality) comprising the last four, and ruupa (body, i.e., the physical aspect of personality), the first group. All these are characterized with the three qualities common to all living beings (impermanence, suffering and not-self). And as there is nothing in the human person outside these five, a human being is in reality without a permanent ego-entity, self or soul. He is like a bubble of water, or a cart on the road, things which give the impression of being entities because of the combination of certain factors, but which have no permanent substance to endure for ever.

There are two aspects of truth (sacca), namely,

the conventional truth (vohaara-sacca or sammuti-sacca) and
the ultimate truth (paramattha-sacca). The former means "things as they appear" and the latter, "things as they really are."

The Buddha, in his discourses, while addressing ordinary people or while expounding the common-sense viewpoint, generally spoke of conventional truth. Thus in this sutta the term "atta" self;(AKA "OUR" mind) is used only as conventional mode of speech, meaning "the human being as he appears." In the ultimate sense the personality is a flux, ever-changing and never the same even for two consecutive fractions of a moment. This is the doctrine of anattaa. It is a unique Buddhist discovery — in fact the most revolutionary discovery ever made in the field of human personality. Without a proper grasp of its import, Buddhism will be understood only superficially.http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... 3-stanza10


So instead of saying "Even if the human being as he appears right here, (that is normally referred to in language as "yourself"), is in the midst of singing and dancing, the human being as he appears right here will not lose it's mindfulness and Dharma practice of the the human being as he appears right here will remain firm. the mind of the human being as he appears right here will not be disturbed or polluted by such conditions; the human being as he appears right here can keep the mind of the human being as he appears right here pure and clear.

So instead of saying all that, it's a lot easier to just say "we" and "our", etc, etc. and speak in a more conventional manner. He's not really saying it's "our mind" so to speak. It's more like saying "I'm going food shopping right now" vs "This body and mind combination is going food shopping right now". It would be pretty ridiculous to use the latter when you are just talking to someone. It's just a convention of language, not something significant. That is how I see it anyway. :)
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby greentara » Wed Nov 21, 2012 2:08 pm

A man was holding a newspaper in his hand. He said you say self is everywhere.' The teacher replied, 'Can you say there is no paper because you do not notice it, beneath the print you were reading?
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby viniketa » Wed Nov 21, 2012 3:25 pm

floating_abu wrote:The Buddha never said there was no self, FWIW.


Exactly. "No self" is a poor translation of anattā or ātman. "Not self" is only slightly better, but it is used as a "shorthand" designator. "Without a self" is closer. In the final analysis, one can find nothing behind the designator. The designator is "empty of self".

"Mind" is a whole other matter. In terms of definition, it is more difficult to define. I, personally find it easier to read about if no possessive pronoun is used (my, your, our). In English, it's a catch-all word that can be used to designate a variety of things. In the original languages of Buddhism, there are a wide variety of words used to indicate "mind"; like the many works in Aleut for "snow". These cultures examined "inner" processes very closely and have different words to indicate different aspects or functions of mind. After a while of reading and sitting, one begins to fathom what all those different words mean.

:namaste:
If they can sever like and dislike, along with greed, anger, and delusion, regardless of their difference in nature, they will all accomplish the Buddha Path.. ~ Sutra of Complete Enlightenment
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby floating_abu » Wed Nov 21, 2012 4:13 pm

Huifeng wrote:
floating_abu wrote:The Buddha never said there was no self, FWIW.


But he did say "all is not self", eg. SN iv 28: "‘‘Sabbaṃ, bhikkhave, anattā…pe…. ";
and "all phenomena are not self", eg. "Sabbe dhammā anattā." and "in all phenomena there is no self", eg. "Sabbesu dhammesu anattā’’ti " etc. etc. It's pretty clear.

~~ Huifeng


Therefore, my comment stands. Clarification might be a good word to use in this context.

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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby floating_abu » Wed Nov 21, 2012 4:51 pm

One of the better papers I have read on this topic:

As for what lies beyond suffering & stress, the Canon states that although it may be experienced, it lies beyond the range of description, and thus such descriptions as "self" or "not-self" would not apply.

The Not-Self Strategy


Back to practice! :)

Abu
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby floating_abu » Wed Nov 21, 2012 4:52 pm

viniketa wrote:
floating_abu wrote:The Buddha never said there was no self, FWIW.


Exactly. "No self" is a poor translation of anattā or ātman. "Not self" is only slightly better, but it is used as a "shorthand" designator. "Without a self" is closer. In the final analysis, one can find nothing behind the designator. The designator is "empty of self".

"Mind" is a whole other matter. In terms of definition, it is more difficult to define. I, personally find it easier to read about if no possessive pronoun is used (my, your, our). In English, it's a catch-all word that can be used to designate a variety of things. In the original languages of Buddhism, there are a wide variety of words used to indicate "mind"; like the many works in Aleut for "snow". These cultures examined "inner" processes very closely and have different words to indicate different aspects or functions of mind. After a while of reading and sitting, one begins to fathom what all those different words mean.

:namaste:


All of these words and concepts can be problematic, in fact.

It is always better to practice and find out for oneself (although understood this can sometimes seem more difficult than 'comprehension')

Well wishes :namaste:

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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby SittingSilent » Wed Nov 21, 2012 6:27 pm

Thanks for the leads on some good articles to read. I'll definitely be checking those out. However, nobody has yet addressed the second part of my question, which is; if there is nothing such as a self, soul, etc. that exists from one incarnation, life, etc. to the next, what carries the accumulation of karma? Does a bundle of karma simple exist on its own? :thinking:
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby KeithBC » Wed Nov 21, 2012 6:38 pm

SittingSilent wrote:Thanks for the leads on some good articles to read. I'll definitely be checking those out. However, nobody has yet addressed the second part of my question, which is; if there is nothing such as a self, soul, etc. that exists from one incarnation, life, etc. to the next, what carries the accumulation of karma? Does a bundle of karma simple exist on its own? :thinking:

The accumulation of karma is part of the illusion of self. As long as we are trapped in the illusion, we have to work with it. Once we see it for the illusion it is, it goes away.

Om mani padme hum
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Nov 21, 2012 6:55 pm

SittingSilent wrote:Thanks for the leads on some good articles to read. I'll definitely be checking those out. However, nobody has yet addressed the second part of my question, which is; if there is nothing such as a self, soul, etc. that exists from one incarnation, life, etc. to the next, what carries the accumulation of karma? Does a bundle of karma simple exist on its own? :thinking:
According to the eight consciousness model it is Alaya Vijnana that carries karmic seeds. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight_Consciousnesses
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Wed Nov 21, 2012 7:15 pm

viniketa wrote:
floating_abu wrote:The Buddha never said there was no self, FWIW.


Exactly. "No self" is a poor translation of anattā or ātman. "Not self" is only slightly better, but it is used as a "shorthand" designator. "Without a self" is closer. In the final analysis, one can find nothing behind the designator. The designator is "empty of self".


I'm coming to like

anatta

as:

no "self".

Image
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