Thursday, November 20, 2014

“There is no self.”

The Buddha was careful to classify questions according to how they should be answered, based on how helpful they were to gaining awakening. Some questions deserved a categorical answer, that is, one that holds true across the board. Some he answered analytically, redefining or refining the terms before answering. Some required counter-questioning, to clarify the issue in the questioner’s mind. But if the question was an obstacle on the path, the Buddha put it aside.
When Vacchagotta the wanderer asked him point-blank whether or not there is a self, the Buddha remained silent, which means that the question has no helpful answer. As he later explained to Ananda, to respond either yes or no to this question would be to side with opposite extremes of wrong view (Samyutta Nikaya 44.10). Some have argued that the Buddha didn’t answer with “no” because Vacchagotta wouldn’t have understood the answer. But there’s another passage where the Buddha advises all the monks to avoid getting involved in questions such as “What am I?” “Do I exist?” “Do I not exist?” because they lead to answers like “I have a self” and “I have no self,” both of which are a “thicket of views, a writhing of views, a contortion of views” that get in the way of awakening (Majjhima Nikaya 2).
So how did we get the idea that the Buddha said that there is no self? The main culprit seems to be the debate culture of ancient India. Religious teachers often held public debates on the hot questions of the day, both to draw adherents and to angle for royal patronage. The Buddha warned his followers not to enter into these debates (Sutta Nipata 4.8), partly because once the sponsor of a debate had set a question, the debaters couldn’t follow the Buddha’s policy of putting useless questions aside.
Later generations of monks forgot the warning and soon found themselves in debates where they had to devise a Buddhist answer to the question of whether there is or isn’t a self. TheKathavatthu, an Abhidhamma text attributed to the time of King Ashoka, contains the earliest extant version of the answer “no.” Two popular literary works, the Buddhacharitaand Milinda Panha, both from around the first century CE, place this “no” at the center of the Buddha’s message. Later texts, like the Abhidharmakosha Bhashya, provide analytical answers to the question of whether there is a self, saying that there’s no personal self but that each person has a “dharma-self” composed of five aggregates: material form, feelings, perceptions, mental fabrications, and consciousness. At present we have our own analytical answers to the question, such as the teaching that although we have no separate self, we do have a cosmic self—a teaching, by the way, that the Buddha singled out for special ridicule (MN 22).
“There is no self” is the granddaddy of fake Buddhist quotes. It has survived so long because of its superficial resemblance to the teaching on anatta, or not-self, which was one of the Buddha’s tools for putting an end to clinging. Even though he neither affirmed nor denied the existence of a self, he did talk of the process by which the mind creates many senses of self—what he called “I-making” and “my-making”—as it pursues its desires.
In other words, he focused on the karma of selfing. Because clinging lies at the heart of suffering, and because there’s clinging in each sense of self, he advised using the perception of not-self as a strategy to dismantle that clinging. Whenever you see yourself identifying with anything stressful and inconstant, you remind yourself that it’s not-self: not worth clinging to, not worth calling your self (SN 22.59). This helps you let go of it. When you do this thoroughly enough, it can lead to awakening. In this way, the not-self teaching is an answer—not to the question of whether there’s a self, but to the question that the Buddha said lies at the heart of discernment: “What, when I do it, will lead to my long-term welfare and happiness?” (MN 135). You find true happiness by letting go.
Some ways of selfing, the Buddha and his disciples found, are useful along the path, as when you develop a sense of self that’s heedful and responsible, confident that you can manage the practice (Anguttara Nikaya 4.159). While you’re on the path, you apply the perception of not-self to anything that would pull you astray. Only at the end do you apply that perception to the path itself. As for the goal, it’s possible to develop a sense of clinging around the experience of the deathless, so the Buddha advises that you regard even the deathless as not-self (AN 9.36). But when there’s no more clinging, you have no need for perceptions either of self or not-self. You see no point in answering the question of whether there is or isn’t a self because you’ve found the ultimate happiness.
The belief that there is no self can actually get in the way of awakening. As the Buddha noted, the contemplation of not-self can lead to an experience of nothingness (MN 106). If your purpose in practicing is to disprove the self—perhaps from wanting to escape the responsibilities of having a self—you can easily interpret the experience of nothingness as the proof you’re looking for: a sign you’ve reached the end of the path. Yet the Buddha warned that subtle clinging can persist in that experience. If you think you’ve reached awakening, you won’t look for the clinging. But if you learn to keep looking for clinging, even in the experience of nothingness, you’ll have a chance of finding it. Only when you find it can you then let it go.
So it’s important to remember which questions the not-self teaching was meant to answer and which ones it wasn’t. Getting clear on this point can mean the difference between a false awakening and the real thing.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu is the abbot of Metta Forest Monastery 

Saturday, April 02, 2011

50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind

50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind

These questions have no right or wrong answers.

Because sometimes asking the right questions is the answer.

  1. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
  2. Which is worse, failing or never trying?
  3. If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?
  4. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?
  5. What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?
  6. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
  7. Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?
  8. If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?
  9. To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken?
  10. Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?
  11. You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire. They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend. The criticism is distasteful and unjustified. What do you do?
  12. If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?
  13. Would you break the law to save a loved one?
  14. Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity?
  15. What’s something you know you do differently than most people?
  16. How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy?
  17. What one thing have you not done that you really want to do? What’s holding you back?
  18. Are you holding onto something you need to let go of?
  19. If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why?
  20. Do you push the elevator button more than once? Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster?
  21. Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?
  22. Why are you, you?
  23. Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend?
  24. Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you?
  25. What are you most grateful for?
  26. Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?
  27. Is is possible to know the truth without challenging it first?
  28. Has your greatest fear ever come true?
  29. Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset? Does it really matter now?
  30. What is your happiest childhood memory? What makes it so special?
  31. At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?
  32. If not now, then when?
  33. If you haven’t achieved it yet, what do you have to lose?
  34. Have you ever been with someone, said nothing, and walked away feeling like you just had the best conversation ever?
  35. Why do religions that support love cause so many wars?
  36. Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil?
  37. If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job?
  38. Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing?
  39. Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before?
  40. When was the last time you marched into the dark with only the soft glow of an idea you strongly believed in?
  41. If you knew that everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today?
  42. Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous?
  43. What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
  44. When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right?
  45. If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?
  46. What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
  47. When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing?
  48. What do you love? Have any of your recent actions openly expressed this love?
  49. In 5 years from now, will you remember what you did yesterday? What about the day before that? Or the day before that?
  50. Decisions are being made right now. The question is: Are you making them for yourself, or are you letting others make them for you?

Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Quote Details: Emiliano Zapata: It is better to... - The Quotations Page

Quote Details: Emiliano Zapata: It is better to... - The Quotations Page

It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.
Emiliano Zapata
Mexican reformer & revolutionary (1877 - 1919)

a lot of do jobs and school that we have to do as we're told, but just remember as your nodding your head yes that you understand what you are being told, to think in the back of your head, how you will be free and think independently, even while following orders

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Confused Supreme Court to decide on vaccine suits | Reuters

Confused Supreme Court to decide on vaccine suits | Reuters

people cant sue vaccine companies, even if they get sick from the vaccine

companies could put hydroxide in the vaccines and still be immune from lawsuits and litigation???