Emptiness and the true self

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
Returntospirit
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Dec 26, 2009 11:52 pm

Emptiness and the true self

Postby Returntospirit » Sat Dec 26, 2009 11:55 pm

I can't quite grasp the concept of emptiness and the reality of who I am. Until this moment I thought that the true self was the awareness behind the body and the mind. The mind is thinking and I am aware of that but I am not the one who is thinking. But upon reading about emptiness I begin to wonder what emptiness is and who am I if no real self exists. I would like some wisdom on this matter. Please give me your thoughts. Thank you.

User avatar
Ben
Posts: 18442
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: kanamaluka

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby Ben » Sun Dec 27, 2009 12:07 am

The doctrine of anatta is profound and hard to grasp.
Metzinger put it well when he suggested that the self is merely a computational aid to help process data streams from a number of diverse simultaneous sensory inputs.
kind regards

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

Returntospirit
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Dec 26, 2009 11:52 pm

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby Returntospirit » Sun Dec 27, 2009 12:11 am

But who is the experiencer or the silent witness who is aware of everything? And what is emptiness?

Paññāsikhara
Posts: 980
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 5:27 am
Contact:

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Dec 27, 2009 2:44 am

My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: .

Cafael Dust
Posts: 194
Joined: Thu Aug 13, 2009 2:55 pm

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby Cafael Dust » Sun Dec 27, 2009 2:52 am

There's just this.
Not twice, not three times, not once,
the wheel is turning.

Returntospirit
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Dec 26, 2009 11:52 pm

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby Returntospirit » Sun Dec 27, 2009 3:17 am

Paññāsikhara, I agree with you. This subject might be best directed to Hinduism but my understanding of the 7 stages of consciousness (just in case you don't know what I'm talking about here is a link http://www.psycanics.com/modules.php?na ... cle&sid=45 ) is that Buddha attained the 7th stage. But do we not need to go through all the stages in order to access the highest (enlightenment) ? I am stuck in stage 4, Self awareness, how do I move beyond that into Samadhi and the higher stages?

User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 23012
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Dec 27, 2009 3:21 am


User avatar
Ben
Posts: 18442
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: kanamaluka

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby Ben » Sun Dec 27, 2009 3:25 am

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

User avatar
Ben
Posts: 18442
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: kanamaluka

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby Ben » Sun Dec 27, 2009 3:31 am

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

User avatar
IanAnd
Posts: 403
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:19 am
Location: the deserts of Arizona

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby IanAnd » Sun Dec 27, 2009 6:15 am

"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV

phil
Posts: 788
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 5:08 am
Location: Tokyo

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby phil » Sun Dec 27, 2009 6:29 am

Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)

User avatar
Bhikkhu Pesala
Posts: 3670
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:17 pm

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Dec 27, 2009 10:04 am

• • • • (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)

User avatar
Stiphan
Posts: 1343
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 2:53 pm

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby Stiphan » Sun Dec 27, 2009 11:31 am

I highly recommend this lecture on the Five Aggregates and the Three Marks of Existence (impermanence, suffering, and nonself) by Bhikkhu Bodhi:

http://www.bodhimonastery.net/courses/T ... stence.mp3

User avatar
acinteyyo
Posts: 1684
Joined: Mon Jun 01, 2009 9:48 am
Location: Bavaria / Germany

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby acinteyyo » Sun Dec 27, 2009 12:51 pm

Hi Returntospirit,

the matter is already very well explained above. So I won't say much in addition.
If you want to find "the one" who is walking, "the one" who is talking "the one" who experiences thinking and so on..., examine those phenomena seriously. Everything of those phenomena which is impermanent cannot be considered as "the one". You asked "who am I..."? Everything which is impermanent cannot be considered as "I am this". Any phenomenon of which you find out that it is impermanent, you will know that this is not-self, not yours, not "I am this". Try to do it every moment, with everything. You will come to the conclusion that there is no thing which can be considered as "I am this" and then you'll see that the question "who am I" itself is an improper question, because such a question takes for granted that there actually is anything which can be considered as "I am this". You won't try to find a "who" anymore.
If you want to understand this truly, you have to examine your body, consciousness, feeling, perception and mind. Then understanding will arise and confusion about "the one" will cease.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.

chownah
Posts: 6161
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby chownah » Mon Dec 28, 2009 1:38 pm

I think the Buddha taught that we should do our best to have no doctrine of self whatever....and I take this to mean that it matters not if there is a self or is no self or there is a "true" self or is not "true" self. If you are trying to ascertain which of these exist or don't exist or what they are or aren't they you are probably trying to develop a doctrine of self.....better to do your best to just see that things happen and that one of the things that happens is an idea that there is some grand thing called me.
chownah

User avatar
withoutcolour
Posts: 105
Joined: Sun Dec 13, 2009 7:53 pm

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby withoutcolour » Sat Jan 02, 2010 1:46 am

I'm not sure if this is helpful or not, but I had an interesting insight into this recently... I was doing some vipassana on the three marks of existence, and was thinking about anatta... and later that day, "I" was feeling joyful and peaceful at work (go figure!), and rather than thinking "How nice, I feel great!" I thought, "There is a feeling of peacefulness", as in, the skandhas are coming together at this particular point in time, and *there exists* peacefulness and happiness, rather than *I am the owner* of those particular emotions.
Similarly, today I was a little irritated, and I acknowledged it as "There is anger" as opposed to "I am angry."
Because I did not put the label of an owner on it, it became far less powerful, and dissipated much faster than usual. Which is also a powerful way to penetrate impermanence (anicca) too. (and a great way to handle negative emotions as well!)
I know this is a little more subjective, but, hey, if it helps...

But as its written above, there is no true self, no permanent thing that is *you*, you are not the thinker, you are not your thoughts. These thoughts simply exist as a coming-together of the five aggregates (skandhas).

I've struggled with this concept for so long, but I've been meditating on it a lot, and it seems to be coming together a bit more lately. It's so hard to get rid of self because of the way we're raised, but we've got to keep emptying our jug until we can get rid of all concepts.

Best of luck, keep up the good work! :buddha1:
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ
sabbe sattā sukhita hontu

Grindle's Grindis
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Jan 08, 2010 6:26 pm

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby Grindle's Grindis » Fri Jan 08, 2010 6:42 pm

Maybe I'm wrong but to say explicitly that "there is no self" is a form of nihilism, which would fall into wrong view. As far as I know the Buddha didn't say that there is no self, but that there is no "self" in any "thing". No things belong to a self. Therefore nothing could be "me" or "mine". So the "pure citta", or the "enlightened mind" (for want of a better term) is not "something", but it's not "nothing", either. It's what remains after everything else has been seen through, dropped, shattered, exploded, however you want to say it's no longer causing you confusion. Like anatta, it's totally beyond intellectual comprehension. It is realized instantly, unexpectedly, in a flash of intuition, so they say. I hope you're blessed with a good teacher to help you find your way.

dolphin
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Jan 16, 2010 3:03 pm

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby dolphin » Sun Jan 17, 2010 5:13 am

Hi

I recall for quite a while believing that "I" am empty or not real.

then one day, i actually felt the implcation of that deep in my gut. I felt disorientated at first and shaken deep inside. The reality of "me" acutally not being real as such felt a little scary.

Then the days went by and I found that there was still eating, sleeping, laughing, working and so on. And it mattered less and less to me.

Now, sensing the emptiness within and without seems like a blessing. For some time now, a subtle joy seems to emanate out of emptiness or the dwelling on it, whether in or out of meditation. I can't explain why.

Metta
dolphin

User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 23012
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jan 17, 2010 8:57 am


User avatar
Nibbida
Posts: 466
Joined: Sat May 02, 2009 3:44 am

Re: Emptiness and the true self

Postby Nibbida » Mon Jan 18, 2010 4:03 pm

Here's the most succint explanation I can give. All things (& and people) are empty of a separate, permanent, inherent existence. That is, nothing exists separately or permanently because of dependent origination (cause-and-effect) and impermanence (everything is in a constant state of change). In this sense, no thing called a "self" exists because there is no thing that is separate or permanent. "Self" is a concept, a frozen snapshot we superimpose on elements of experience. What we are is a changing, interdependent set of mental and physical processes (5 aggregates), rather than a thing. The "witness" is just another process that observes the other processes. When you have an experience of emptiness, all of those mental and physical processes are still there, but that's all. The illusion of a self behind all of it diminishes or disappears.

I find Thich Nhat Hanh's cloud in a book example helpful:

"If you are a poet, you will clearly see that there is a cloud
floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud there will be no
water; without water, the trees cannot grow; and without trees you
cannot make this paper. So the cloud is in here. The existence of
this page is dependent on the existence of a cloud.... The paper is
made of all the non-paper elements to the extent that if we return
the non-paper elements to their sources ... the paper is empty.
Empty of what? Empty of a separate self.... Empty, in this sense,
means that the paper is full of everything, the entire cosmos."


(Being Peace, 1987: 45-46)


Return to “General Theravāda discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 29 guests

Google Saffron, Theravada Search Engine