Buddhist concept of self

 
RoseTylerFan
 
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RoseTylerFan
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25 May 2018 05:41
 

The Buddha taught the self is an illusion. What is real is only a collection of thoughts, feelings and experiences. But how to reconcile this teaching with the common sense truth that we distinguish clearly between thoughts, feelings and experiences which are ours and someone else’s?

Our selves arise within an interconnected system of neurons know as the brain. If Jeremy Corbyn gets hit with a stone, he will feel pain and I won’t. Even if I were enlightened, I could feel perfect compassion for him, but the experience would still be different from Corbyn’s first-person experience of pain because our nervous systems are not connected. Yet Buddhist teachings allow the enlightened to say only “there is pain”. Pain and pleasure don’t work like saying “there is London”, which has the same nature for a visitor from outside it or for a native living there. Pain and pleasure are personal experiences and don’t exist without the self.

Even if I replace “my hand, my leg, my joy, my sorrow” with “there is a hand, a leg, there is joy and sorrow”, there still is a point of view from which they are observed. Doesn’t this point of view constitute a self?

 
GAD
 
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GAD
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25 May 2018 08:26
 

Buddhism is’t a truth, it’s a philosophy i.e. a subjective opinion. Is chocolate a better flavor then vanilla, if you replace chocolate pudding with vanilla pudding do you still not have pudding and a flavor?

 
 
sojourner
 
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sojourner
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25 May 2018 22:44
 

I think Buddhism does generally allow for a ‘self’ of sorts (especially with the concept of karma and reincarnation, which have to apply to a given entity), but emphasizes not identifying with this ‘self’.


Of course that still leaves the question of what the logical result would be if one was totally ‘non-identified’. I do think it’s worth noting that Buddhism, while often secularized in pop culture, does contain some pretty bold metaphysical propositions in at least some of its religious forms - and I think in a sense it has to, as these are, again, the logical conclusions of various ideas within Buddhism. Advanced Buddhists are - at least in many traditions - ‘supposed’ to have powers related to omniscience and telepathy, for example - and again, I think the fact that Buddhism talks about this (despite the Dalai Lama himself, I saw recently, saying he has never seen an example in the real world of something like telepathy,) is because it is the only really logical conclusion of the axioms. If the ‘self’ is ultimately illusory, then so is the ‘self/other’ division, after all - the logical conclusion of which would be omniscience (everything as part of one awareness) or a lack of awareness all together (all ‘self’ based experiences - whether your own or other’s - as illusory, and true reality as a the proverbial bright light or whatever.)


I think when people talk about the self as illusory in a more secular sense, they are referring to the idea that it is possible to feel ‘selfless’, in a more emotional / subjective sense; and that logically the ‘self’ is more a composite narrative, subject to interpretation, than a concrete ‘thing’.


 
 
RoseTylerFan
 
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RoseTylerFan
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26 May 2018 03:33
 
NL. - 25 May 2018 10:44 PM

I think when people talk about the self as illusory in a more secular sense, they are referring to the idea that it is possible to feel ‘selfless’, in a more emotional / subjective sense; and that logically the ‘self’ is more a composite narrative, subject to interpretation, than a concrete ‘thing’.

So far I agree.
But the more advanced claims of Buddhist philosophy can be ridiculous.

 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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26 May 2018 06:18
 

Humans aren’t the only beasts who commonly deceive themselves, but we’re perhaps better at it than any other creature on earth. It seems apparent to me that chief among our self- and other-deceptions is a strong tendency to exaggerate. So we hear experts making nutty claims involving no-free will and no-self, when all they’re doing is exaggerating an insight they’ve experienced. Doctors continue to describe some muscles as voluntary and other muscles as involuntary. And individuals continue with the extraordinarily useful application of words such as self, choice, decision-making strategies, etc.

I agree with Harris and others if they realize that “self” and “free will” are antiquated terms that arrived to our vocabulary via terribly ignorant ways of approaching human psychology. But when someone says that this or that highly abstract concept has been found to be only an illusion, I wonder instead if all they can actually say with validity is that xyz has been found to be a commonly misunderstood concept, rather than broadening their claims into a disappearing act. They end up appearing to be nutty by almost everyone who has even a minimal grasp of what’s up.