Mind versus Self?

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby floating_abu » Wed Nov 21, 2012 7:56 pm

KeithBC wrote:
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
Keith


Mumonkan - Case 2: Hyakujo's Fox

Once when Hyakujo delivered some Zen lectures an old man attended them, unseen by the monks. At the end of each talk when the monks left so did he. But one day he remained after the had gone, and Hyakujo asked him: "Who are you?" The old man replied: "I am not a human being, but I was a human being when the Kashapa Buddha preached in this world. I was a Zen master and lived on this mountain. At that time one of my students asked me whether the enlightened man is subject to the law of causation. I answered him:

'The enlightened man is not subject to the law of causation.'

For this answer evidencing a clinging to absoluteness I became a fox for five hundred rebirths, and I am still a fox. Will you save me from this condition with your Zen words and let me get out of a fox's body? Now may I ask you: Is the enlightened man subject to the law of causation?"

Hyakujo said: "The enlightened man is one with the law of causation."

At the words of Hyakujo the old man was enlightened. "I am emancipated," he said, paying homage with a deep bow. "I am no more a fox, but I have to leave my body in my dwelling place behind this mountain. Please perform my funeral as a monk." Then he disappeared.

The next day Hyakujo gave an order through the chief monk to prepare to attend the funeral of a monk. "No one was sick in the infirmary," wondered the monks. "What does our teacher mean?"

After dinner Hyakujo led the monks out and around the mountain. In a cave, with his staff he poked out the corpse of an old fox and then performed the ceremony of cremation.

That evening Hyakujo gave a talk to the monks and told this story about the law of causation.

Obaku, upon hearing this story, asked Hyakujo: "I understand that a long time ago because a certain person gave a wrong Zen answer he became a fox for five hundred rebirths. Now I was to ask: If some modern master is asked many questions, and he always gives the right answer, what will become of him?"

Hyakujo said: "You come here near me and I will tell you."

Obaku went near Hyakujo and slapped the teacher's face with this hand, for he knew this was the answer his teacher intended to give him.

Hyakujo clapped his hands and laughed at the discernment. "I thought a Persian had a red beard," he said, "and now I know a Persian who has a red beard."

Mumon's comment:

"The enlightened man is not subject." How can this answer make the monk a fox?

"The enlightened man is at one with the law of causation." How can this answer make the fox emancipated?

To understand clearly one has to have just one eye.

Controlled or not controlled?
The same dice shows two faces.
Not controlled or controlled,
Both are a grievous error.
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby floating_abu » Wed Nov 21, 2012 8:11 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:


Hi SittingSilent,

1. The Buddha never said there is no self and at the same time, he clearly taught anatta, dukkha, annica - as well as dependent origination (which is something to be realised, not memorised)

2. If you clarify this question, questions about karma, lives etc can fall into place.

Until then, it is all just mental ...fodder.

IOW practice furthers, anything else is just moving the pieces of the puzzle, but never reaching fruition.

FWIW

Best wishes,

Abu
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Nov 21, 2012 8:16 pm

A constantly changing stream of consciousness, conditioned by past deeds, is not the same as an eternal, abiding self. In fact, the two concepts are mutually exclusive.

To the best of my knowledge the idea that Karma is "collected" by a self is closer to Jain teachings than Buddhism.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Nov 21, 2012 9:55 pm

And yet Buddhism recognises the existence of individual mind streams that accumulate their own karma.
: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 Wayfarer » Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:55 am

I think the commonly-held view that "the Buddha teaches there is no self" IS confusing, which shows up in the OP.

"Nothing is self" does not mean the same thing as "there is no self". If there is no self, then who commits an action and suffers the consequences? You might say that ultimately there is nobody who does that, but it doesn't really address the issue of agency, or what happens meantime. (And 'meantime' can be a long time!)

So, my way of putting it is that "the Buddha teaches that nothing is self" or "self cannot be found anywhere". "Anatta" is used adjectively, a description of how things are, not of whether self exists or not.
"Reality is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one" ~ Albert Einstein
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby duckfiasco » Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:58 am

If self cannot be found anywhere, where else do you look?
Namu Amida Butsu
"When people of the Pure Land school chant Namu amida butsu, they are doing zazen with their mouths, and when we do zazen, we are performing Namu amida butsu with our whole body." - Kosho Uchiyama (Opening the Hand of Thought)
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:59 am

who wants to know? :shrug:
"Reality is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one" ~ Albert Einstein
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby Huifeng » Thu Nov 22, 2012 6:28 am

The main confusion is in the early choice of the English word "self" as a translation for the Indic "atta" / "atman" etc. The latter having connotations - in fact, the most important meaning in this doctrinal context - that the English word barely has, if at all. Something like "(eternal monad) soul" may be closer to the point. But, that's such a mouthful!

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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby duckfiasco » Thu Nov 22, 2012 6:31 am

Someone curious about where the distinction might lead :cheers: A lot of those specific teachings seem to be a process of elimination. This is no self, that is no self, even this thing you really thought was it... sorry, that has no self either. Kind of pruning away a bramble thicket to get through. I can see how taking "there is no self" at face value kind of misses this whole somewhat alarming deconstruction process. But it seems like saying "there's just no self" is at least a bit closer to the end goal of reducing self-cherishing than "there is a self somewhere, just not in these things" which avoiding an outright negation might suggest to some. I hope people can skillfully choose whichever tool is most beneficial to them. Even self-professed atheists or agnostics in Western society deep down often feel there is some kind of permanent agent, at least one that works behind the scenes and gives them personality and identity. They may just call it a function of the brain, but a lot of the qualities enumerated as belonging to an inaccurate atman are shared here. So "self" may be more useful to these folks than "soul" which they'll unhesitatingly say is bull-pucky while behaving in full accord with belief in an atman. At least, this is according to my anecdotal observations.

In my opinion, it's not even that important that we understand exactly what "self" meant in the Buddha's time, culture, and to his audience. Ego clinging has as many forms as stars in the sky :rolleye: It may be that what's important is having the rug pulled out from under us so we get jolted out of our habitual complacency and ideas. Then we can start actually practicing, and there are some very specific, practical directions for that, thank goodness.

As for agency, it's one of the most surreal parts of Buddhist practice that spooks me if I ever get too close to it. I mean, things seem to happen all the time and we're cool with it. Thoughts come endlessly and we pay sometimes attention. We have an emotional reaction to something, maybe try to mitigate it or aren't even aware of its influence.
But especially in shamatha, I don't know how accurate this is since I'm not an experienced practitioner, there's the experience of thoughts arising then going, and you don't have a single clue where they came from or where they went. As someone who's good friends with monkey mind, I can tell you if I had one iota of direct control over thoughts arising, I wouldn't be driving myself insane on the cushion like this. Even in deeper concentration, where you sense the ripple of a distraction about to form, or the slightest thrum of a thought about to arise, and you look at it, it disappears like a ghost. But it still nearly arose anyway, without our say-so. Thoughts without a thinker. Feelings without a feeler. Only the process itself, and some mysterious ability to intervene. And yet here we are, usually not totally out of our minds. This may have been a tangent :rolleye: :popcorn:

Looking forward to more of your insight on these topics :) :buddha1: :heart:
Namu Amida Butsu
"When people of the Pure Land school chant Namu amida butsu, they are doing zazen with their mouths, and when we do zazen, we are performing Namu amida butsu with our whole body." - Kosho Uchiyama (Opening the Hand of Thought)
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby Huifeng » Thu Nov 22, 2012 6:35 am

It also helps to keep in mind the grammatical usage of "a(n)-" as a prefix, ie. in "anatta" and "anatman", where in fact it can be either "no self" (grammatically a karmadharya) or "not self" (as a bahuvrhi). Again, while the Indic prefix has both of these senses, and can be thus read as either or both, choice of English translation terminology renders as either "not ..." or "no ...", and most people think it's one or the other, rather than potentially both. From the way in which the term is used in Buddhism, particularly with the refutation of an atman with respect to the five aggregates in four ways each, ie. negating identity "it is not that X is atman", negating difference "it is not that X is one thing and the atman is another", and negating mutual inclusion "it is not that X is in an atman" and "it is not that an atman is within X", and combined with the notion that there is nothing apart from the five aggregates, ie. the "all" (sabba / sarva), it is pretty clear that there is no atman.

~~ Huifeng
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby Jnana » Thu Nov 22, 2012 6:54 am

Huifeng wrote: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 Wayfarer » Thu Nov 22, 2012 7:17 am

However, in this sutta:

Then the wanderer Vacchagotta went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there he asked the Blessed One: "Now then, Venerable Gotama, is there a self?"

When this was said, the Blessed One was silent.

"Then is there no self?"

A second time, the Blessed One was silent.

Then Vacchagotta the wanderer got up from his seat and left.

Then, not long after Vacchagotta the wanderer had left, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, "Why, lord, did the Blessed One not answer when asked a question by Vacchagotta the wanderer?"

"Ananda, if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self — were to answer that there is a self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of eternalism [the view that there is an eternal, unchanging soul]. If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of annihilationism [the view that death is the annihilation of consciousness]. If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self — were to answer that there is a self, would that be in keeping with the arising of knowledge that all phenomena are not-self?"

"No, lord."

"And if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, the bewildered Vacchagotta would become even more bewildered: 'Does the self I used to have now not exist?'"


It is significant that in this passage, the question ‘then is there no self?’ is expressed as follows: “Kiṃ pana, bho gotama, natthattā”ti? Here, natthattā is the noun form and is one of the only occurrences of this form in the texts. Virtually every other instances of the term is given adjectively, as anattā, and nearly always in relation to ‘those things which are not the self’.

So in answer to the direct question 'is there a self', the answer is neither yes or no.
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby duckfiasco » Thu Nov 22, 2012 7:35 am

I don't know the original language unfortunately :( My superficial impression of that sutra was that the Buddha knew answering either way would cause the man suffering. He anticipated the man would do what I thought jeeprs was also trying to avoid causing people to do: giving into an absolute statement that may be swallowed whole instead of nibbled at through actual practice. Statements like "there is a self" or "there is no self" tend to be that way, since they're nice and tidy.

I guess any statement on its own can be rendered useless by the listener, and is always inaccurate anyway. So maybe my whole nitpick is useless :stirthepot:
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby Huifeng » Thu Nov 22, 2012 7:56 am

jeeprs wrote:However, in this sutta:

Then the wanderer Vacchagotta went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there he asked the Blessed One: "Now then, Venerable Gotama, is there a self?"

When this was said, the Blessed One was silent.

"Then is there no self?"

A second time, the Blessed One was silent.

Then Vacchagotta the wanderer got up from his seat and left.

Then, not long after Vacchagotta the wanderer had left, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, "Why, lord, did the Blessed One not answer when asked a question by Vacchagotta the wanderer?"

"Ananda, if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self — were to answer that there is a self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of eternalism [the view that there is an eternal, unchanging soul]. If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of annihilationism [the view that death is the annihilation of consciousness]. If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self — were to answer that there is a self, would that be in keeping with the arising of knowledge that all phenomena are not-self?"

"No, lord."

"And if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, the bewildered Vacchagotta would become even more bewildered: 'Does the self I used to have now not exist?'"


It is significant that in this passage, the question ‘then is there no self?’ is expressed as follows: “Kiṃ pana, bho gotama, natthattā”ti? Here, natthattā is the noun form and is one of the only occurrences of this form in the texts. Virtually every other instances of the term is given adjectively, as anattā, and nearly always in relation to ‘those things which are not the self’.

So in answer to the direct question 'is there a self', the answer is neither yes or no.


So, in answer to the direct question by Vacchagotta 'is there a self', the Buddha did not answer. Elsewhere, the Buddha was quite clear. It's a matter of pedagogy in this case, whereby Vacchagotta would misunderstand if the stock answer was given, because he already assumed that he has an atman, and would interpret anatman incorrectly, thinking it means atmakhaya (or whatever term one may wish to use), ie. the destruction of an atman. Elsewhere, too, the Buddha was clear that he did not teach the destruction of an atman. How could he, when there is no atman to destroy. But, that's not how some people, those people who believe that there is an atman, would understand such a response.

~~ Huifeng
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby undefineable » Fri Nov 23, 2012 1:22 am

Huifeng wrote:It's a matter of pedagogy in this case, whereby Vacchagotta would misunderstand if the stock answer was given, because he already assumed that he has an atman, and would interpret anatman incorrectly, thinking it means atmakhaya (or whatever term one may wish to use), ie. the destruction of an atman. Elsewhere, too, the Buddha was clear that he did not teach the destruction of an atman. How could he, when there is no atman to destroy. But, that's not how some people, those people who believe that there is an atman, would understand such a response.


I wonder what the Buddha would have made of those neuroscientists and associated thinkers (John Gray etc.) who assert that self is an illusion AND that all consciousness ceases permanently at death :thinking:
"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 Wayfarer » Fri Nov 23, 2012 3:10 am

They are materialists, and, according to the Buddhist classification, also nihilists, ucchedavada. There was a character in the early scriptures called Prince Payasi who was also a materialist-nihilist, who conducted gruesome experiments, such as sealing condemned prisoners in jars until they died, and then breaking the seal to see if he could observe the soul escaping. (Needless to say, he didn't.) But the view that there is no further life beyond this one was common in the Buddha's day.
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby undefineable » Fri Nov 23, 2012 10:03 pm

jeeprs wrote:They are materialists, and, according to the Buddhist classification, also nihilists, ucchedavada


In practical terms, materialism is a form of nihilism, but strictly speaking, it's an assertion that the fabric of reality is utterly alien and inaccessible to everything we define as 'me' and 'my life' - while still defining the objects of our shared perceptions. 'Pure' nihilism would be the assertion that there is no reality. Both are to be expected in societies (such as ours and the Buddha's) that value free enquiry.
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby songhill » Fri Nov 23, 2012 10:59 pm

SittingSilent wrote: 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


The self in Buddhism does not collect karma for a very good reason (even in hinduism the âtman does not collect karma—it is the jiva). It is consciousness or in sanskrit, vijñâna, that transmigrates and bears the karmic energizes.
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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby SittingSilent » Sat Nov 24, 2012 12:59 am

Okay, so what is the Buddhist conception of consciousness, how does it relate to my concept of the me I experience everyday, and how does it relate within Buddhism to the self, the mind, and this thing I've just read about called the mind-stream?

(This is interesting to learn about because some or most of these terms have very different meanings in my psychology classes).

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Re: Mind versus Self?

Postby SittingSilent » Sat Nov 24, 2012 1:33 am

I found a member named PadmaVonSamba said the following in a thread "Thoughts on Consciousness". This finally makes the concept of no-self as well as the stream of consciousness and everything make sense to me, so I'm quoting him or her here to offer to everyone else the wonderful insight that was so helpful to me!

Ultimately, there is no self
yet the experience of self is real...it is pretty much all we have!
so that is what we work with.

But strictly speaking, there is no actual continuity of consciousness
rather, there is the constant replication of the causes of consciousness
which recreate the sensation of continuity over and over again
with minor changes, of course.



:thanks: :woohoo: :thumbsup:

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