Thursday, 30 September 2010

Self less. - Buddhism's belief in 'no self'
something to think about perhaps,
from a thread on a great website/forum which opened up my mind to whole bunch of scary crap about 2 years ago.
follow the discussion here -

I recently had the opportunity to speak with a very wise Buddhist monk, and when he asked me what are some of my dilemma’s or confusions about Buddhism’s philosophies I mentioned two things: the reality of Nirvana and the theory of ‘no self’ (illusion of the ‘self). I would like to share his explanation of ‘no self’ with you all, to maybe both better your understanding insofar as hear your feedback about it.

He started by saying: “Touch this book. Now touch this table… Look around the room and notice the walls, the paintings, the colors… Listen to the birds outside singing. Listen to the wind coming through the window… Take a deep breath through your nose and smell the incense that are burning.” “Now one must say that all these objects, noises, and smells are real, that they are in fact there, because they are. We cannot say that these things do not exist, because they do.”

“Now touch your nose and your hair. Here touch my hand. These are all real are they not?”

I quietly responded “Yes.”

He continued, “Tell me your name and when you do, listen to the sound your voice makes.”

“My name is Matthew.” I said.

He went on, “Right, and so the sound your voice created is real, is it not?”

“Yes.” I said.

He again continued, “Now since you are able to walk and since you are able to conversate with me, you obviously must also be able to think, right? And so your thoughts must also be real, are they not?”

“Yes, they must be.” I replied.

“And I see you are dressed in some ‘hip’ clothes with some interesting shoes , and you talk in a certain way that is somewhat different than many of your peers, and you are very compassionate unlike some other humans, so you have a unique style you could say, and you may consider this all a part of your own personality, would you not?”

A little thrown off by his ‘hip’ comment, I somewhat shamefully replied, “Umm, I guess so. I mean yea, you are definitely right, I would consider this my style or personality traits.”

Smiling, he then asked me, “Good! So now tell me which of these things would you label as your ‘self’? Would you say your ‘self’ is your body? Would you say it is your voice? Would you say it is your thoughts? Or would you say it is your style or personality?”

Very confused at this point, but still trying to come off as wise , I said, “Well, maybe it is a little bit of all of them.”

He again smiled as if he knew I would say something to that effect, and replied, “Ok, well let me ask you this, did you look the same as you do now, 15 years ago? Did your voice sound the same then as it does now? Did you always think the same way as you do now? Did you always dress this way and have the same style?”

I replied, “No, of course not.”

He continued, “Then you have changed, and these things that you have labeled as your ‘self’ have changed. So if what you currently perceive as your ‘self’ is not the same as what you once before perceived as your ‘self’ then what can you label as the ‘self’?”

Somewhat understanding of what he was saying, but still confused, I replied, “Right, but just like my appearance, my voice, my thoughts and my style, couldn’t my ‘self’ be real but also have changed just like them?”

He responded, “Ah, you are indeed very wise. So again I ask you what would you define as your ‘self’?”

“Umm… I guess it would also have to be an ever changing thing.” I said. “Right?” I then asked him.

“You are a smart young man, and I assure you that if you contemplate further you will find your answer. I do not mind helping you find the path, but in the end it is something you must find an answer to on your own. Go home and meditate on this, and come back whenever you like. I am always here.”

And that was it! I was like a fish begging to be set back in water, and he just left me out to dry! Now I definitely need to contemplate on this further, but I do kinda understand what he was getting at, however I would really appreciate any insights you may have on this. Thanks for reading!