refuting a 'palpable self': any cultural advantages?

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refuting a 'palpable self': any cultural advantages?

Postby mudra » Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:49 am

Sometimes I think that when we discuss the self to be refuted in Buddhism, because we depend on words and concepts to communicate (especially here) we tend to drift towards more of an abstract take. It's clear that this is not the kind of self that Nagarjuna, for example, was talking about, and Candrakirti points out that it is not the "acquired" sense of self that we all acquire culturally etc but the 'innate grasping' that runs so deep since beginningless time, something we cling to it "for dear life". HH the Dalai Lama, in a public talk in 1972, said that regarding this we feel: "If this (self) does not exist, what does?"

Was just trying to think of any cultural context (for instance a 'Buddhist' country), where the 'acquired sense of self' was such that it lent itself to helping us reduce our innate grasping, or whether in the end it is irrelevant to any real push for liberation.
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Re: refuting a 'palpable self': any cultural advantages?

Postby mudra » Tue Aug 09, 2011 2:43 am

For example, in some sub-cultures people refer to themselves in the third person when talking. I know this irritates some people who find it "babyish" but I wonder...
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Re: refuting a 'palpable self': any cultural advantages?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:07 am

It's an interesting question. I guess it has both aspects, the abstract take and that feeling you describe. The abstract take works better in theory, giving us intellectual understanding about the self and establishing the operative meaning of the concept, while in practice perhaps identifying that which we cling "to dear life" is more important. To better identify the second, having a clear notion of the first may help, I think. Like always, theory serves to guide practice. If we only think about the "self" as an abstract construct instead of a very deeply rooted product of ignorance (and the rest), we won't go far realizing that it only has conventional existence in practice. Intellectually we easily discover the self is empty, but to truly realize this we need much more than that. I believe that there are cultures that almost, if not completely, worship the individual self while others conceive it in a sort of more interrelated fashion, not stressing originality so much, but I'm not sure if you want to explore this idea in the thread.
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Re: refuting a 'palpable self': any cultural advantages?

Postby mudra » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:16 am

Dechen Norbu wrote: I believe that there are cultures that almost, if not completely, worship the individual self while others conceive it in a sort of more interrelated fashion, not stressing originality so much, but I'm not sure if you want to explore this idea in the thread.


It's actually exactly what I want to explore. It's kind of an old bug that pops up once in a while in my thoughts. I go from one side to the other. Having been immersed in different cultures as part of my work, and having had to learn a few different laguages, it has always struck me that each language has it's own psychology. Sometimes I think that makes the idea of 'anatta' or even 'shunyata' more accessible, at others I wonder if it really does affect the deep seated grasping.

For example in Buddhism we learn to not only focus on the 'wisdom' aspect but work on making our conduct more conducive. A large part of culture is in the realm of conduct isn't it?
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Re: refuting a 'palpable self': any cultural advantages?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Tue Aug 09, 2011 3:36 pm

I'm not sure if there's a specific culture that has an advantage regarding the refutation of the palpable self. The clinging to a self doesn't exactly depend on the fact that the notion of self is more individual or collective oriented. For instance, in Japan people tend to shape their personality more in accord to community rules than in, let's say, USA where people value their individualism above all. But it may be as difficult for a Japanese to free himself from community rules as for an American to diminish his appreciation for individualism. The ego just seem to be grown on different sorts of fertilizer.

On a different matter, which however we may compare, there's a good example about opposite means of reification of the ego. I think it's called reification by the negative and we can think about it. Some people love themselves while others hate themselves. Both are reifying their self by opposite means. Some cling to existence and others may even wish their demise, clinging to annihilation. It would be easy to think that someone who wishes to die finds no value in his ego. Yet, it's just repulsion instead of attachment to something that doesn't have more than conventional existence. The problem then lies in the reification of the self instead of other feelings about it (loving it more or less).

If at a first glance those cultures who seem to put less emphasis on individualism seem more permeable to ideas like the refutation of the self, under a second look we may, and I stress may, discover that their clinging to a self only has slight nuances, but is as powerful as anywhere.

However, it seems to me that what you may really be asking is if there are cultures in which their language makes them more prone to a better appreciation of what their self is in fact, having less difficulty transposing the ideas that compose the intellectual abstraction we use to define the self to a closer, more vivid, understanding about it actually feels like. If so, I believe that cultures which harbor these ideas for longer may have developed a more precise language to deal with them. Language plays a role in the social structure and individual self concepts. A group dealing with the notions of self, delusion and so on for long time may have shaped their social roles, interactions and morality in relation to them. Perhaps their semantics, even their syntax may be better suited for the task since they had more time to develop and refine. The way the individual thinks of himself under such influences may help him when it comes to realizing what the ego/self really is about.
However my knowledge about languages is not sufficient to draw any conclusion. It's my impression that some languages and cultures may have a slight advantage, but mostly I guess it boils down to the individual.
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Re: refuting a 'palpable self': any cultural advantages?

Postby mudra » Wed Aug 10, 2011 1:35 am

Dechen-la -

Yes, I too am not ready yet to say that cultural context may affect the deeper, palpable self-grasping.

Language is one avenue, but obviously an expression of the culture itself. Wonder if anyone has any specific examples?

I think Japan is an interesting case. The lack of looting during the nuclear meltdown for example is such a stark contrast with what went down in London, but of course the circumstances are totally different. So then we could look at those (cultural) circumstances?
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Re: refuting a 'palpable self': any cultural advantages?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed Aug 10, 2011 3:31 am

:lol: I had written some rubbish, as I don't know much about this subject, so I've erased it before submitting the post.
These situations are quite complex. I'm sure culture has plenty to do with it, even the circumstances being different. We can also look at the usual crime rates and think about it, not forgetting to look for other variables that may concur to the situation (like demographic data and so on). The relation between language and our world view is also quite interesting, but I'm somehow little educated about it, so mostly I would be writing nonsense. You are very well traveled and probably have good insights to offer us. I'd like to read some of your thoughts about it. :smile:
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Re: refuting a 'palpable self': any cultural advantages?

Postby mudra » Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:34 am

Dechen-lags,

At the moment my thoughts are just ideas, I really can't start positing any well developed hypotheses, so these are just possibilities.

As a simple example, when I learned languages that don't come from the same language group (say Indo-European vs Malayo-Polynesian), I was always struck by the need to think in a different manner in order to feel comfortable with different syntax. Tibetan is classic in this regard. But even for example the difference between Indonesian syntax and more localized Balinese or Javanese syntax is significant enough that when I hear a Balinese speaking Indonesian, unless he/she was raised outside of Bali, I can tell he/she is Balinese just from slips in syntax/grammar (accent is another give away but irrelevant here).

Indonesian is a "new" language, a lingua franca mish-mash of Malay blended with many loan words from Sanskrit, Arabic, Portuguese, Dutch and English. But even as a relatively new language which is constantly growing, we have already started forming specific mindset. Malaysians, who tend to speak more classic Malay when not using dialect, find Indonesian cruder but secretly admire the liveliness and adaptability of Indonesian. One Indonesian poet friend of mine jokingly pointed out that we have many words for messy and chaotic, but only two or three for neat and orderly - for the rest we rely on European loan words!

German for example, is a much more precise language in some ways than French. French is more literary perhaps, but many well educated Germans would argue that in high literature German is actually more sophisticated in conceptualizing etc.

But languages adapt to and reflect cultural and other practical needs. The classic case would be Tibetan which developed so many specific dharma terms early on as a result of the huge emphasis on Buddha Dharma as a cultural and political force. A completely different situation would be the many terms for snow in Inuit.

You might be interested to know that in Indonesian we use Portuguese loan words (spelled in 'phonetic') for things such as window (jendela), chair (kursi), fork (garpu), shoes (sepatu). In the old days we didn't use those things: people sat on mats, ate with their hands, wore sarongs etc.

I am just conjecturing that this could all actually have some reflection on cultural bias towards keeping the innate grasping at self in check...
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Re: refuting a 'palpable self': any cultural advantages?

Postby muni » Fri Aug 12, 2011 11:02 am

Even considering ourselves Buddhists, use the same words about dependence, impermanent..., or "samelike" meanings, the way how to out that palpable self is different appaering. Some talk a bit more, other less about me and its characteristics/values; I am so, I am American, I am Asian, I am Autralian, I am so smart/silly, buddhist...from that point comes those who appear to be like me and those not; friends, enemies and neutrals get also characteristics and from these perceptions our habits, behaviour is rolling.
Through that, all is enforced and settled in my perfect turning palpable me's-movie.

No big problem at all, if there is recognition of the fictitious constructed movie just freely moves on the free screen is there told by wise in different words but same meaning.

I saw words about those of "other culture" who see Buddhism as what is individual for them. Even an outing as "an individual" who is Tibetan Buddhist and knows is a figure of the movie.

No problem again, as who other can see wrongnesses than me: permanent characteristic stubborn head? As vast compassionate energy of wisdom is not conditioned like my dividing stubborness. As me; unchanging valuable entities' identity with it belonging and not belonging entities, is not.
Mudra, not sure this is a good answer.
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Re: refuting a 'palpable self': any cultural advantages?

Postby mudra » Sat Aug 13, 2011 1:04 am

muni wrote:Even considering ourselves Buddhists, use the same words about dependence, impermanent..., or "samelike" meanings, the way how to out that palpable self is different appaering. Some talk a bit more, other less about me and its characteristics/values; I am so, I am American, I am Asian, I am Autralian, I am so smart/silly, buddhist...from that point comes those who appear to be like me and those not; friends, enemies and neutrals get also characteristics and from these perceptions our habits, behaviour is rolling.
Through that, all is enforced and settled in my perfect turning palpable me's-movie.



Hi Muni - seems to me that actually all these identity things are more the effect than the cause of innate grasping at a palpable self, which we have carried with us since beginningless time.
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Re: refuting a 'palpable self': any cultural advantages?

Postby muni » Thu Aug 18, 2011 8:12 am

mudra wrote:[
Hi Muni - seems to me that actually all these identity things are more the effect than the cause of innate grasping at a palpable self, which we have carried with us since beginningless time.

It all turns and turns like such a roll of old movie making system. Samsara, unreal wheel.
How we see-react are the effects of own obscurations, yes!
Habitual tendencies relating to objects, our body, obscured intellect and so all phenomena get an inventitious value seen through the filter of negativities, strong attachments. Even "Buddhist knowledges" turn through such in poison.
Triggered by obscurations: the effects are mistaken action body speech mind, keeping then the suffering wheel turning for own being and others.

People must be strong, must be great, must produce, must prove themselves from in the schools, isn't?...some cultures have strong individualism, also we have to learn to stand on own feet; this easely is mistakenly seen as solid individualism. Confusion!

freedom from dreamlike wheel.
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