Self & No-Self

Yesterday, I went to a Buddhist center in Oslo for meditation. The teacher mentioned something along the lines of there is no fixed thing that can be an I.

I thought I would look briefly at self and no-self again and what those words may point to.

HUMAN SELF

For me, I would say there is a self here. There is a human self here.

And yet, that’s not what I most fundamentally am. I find I am what this human self happens within and as. I am what a thought may call consciousness, and this human self and any other content of experience happens within and as what I am.

That’s something I can notice in immediacy and without mental representations.

There are also a couple of related things I can notice using mental representations.

All content of experience comes and goes, including anything I can take as an I, me, or self. It’s always changing. There is nothing fixed there, as the teacher mentioned. I can notice this by comparing mental representations of what’s here (what just passed) with what was a little longer ago. I compare mental representations of something placed on two or more locations on an imaginary timeline.

Also, this human self is a seamless part of a larger whole. He is the local and temporary eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. (To paraphrase Carl Sagan.) Each choice and action of this human self has infinite causes, stretching back to the beginning of time (if there is any) and the widest extent of existence (if there is any). Existence is a seamless system.

NO-SELF

I find I fundamentally am what this human self, and anything else, happens within and as. I am what forms itself into the experience of this human self and anything else.

I find I even more fundamentally am capacity for all of this. What I am is capacity for consciousness and all of what it forms itself into to create an experience for itself.

SELF WITH CAPITAL S

If I want, I can also call what I am – consciousness, Big Mind, or whatever – Self with capital S.

I don’t find it so useful and it can easily be misunderstood (it can be taken to be a self within the content of experience, a self with an other), but it is possible to use language this way.

SELF AND NO-SELF

This all comes from direct noticing and it’s far less complicated than words make it sound.

For all practical purposes, there is a self here. It’s a human self with a passport, identities, hopes and fears, hangups, a life in the world, and so on.

That’s not what I more fundamentally am. I am what any content of experience – including anything making up the experience of this human self – happens within and as. I am the consciousness that forms itself into any and all experience it has.

Even more fundamentally, I am capacity for all of that – consciousness and what it forms itself into.

So yes, there is a self. There is also no self in that that self is not what I more fundamentally am. And what I more fundamentally am can be called, if you want, Self with capital S.

DIRECT NOTICING PUT INTO WORDS

When this is alive in direct noticing, it’s more simple than simple.

Putting it into words can be challenging, and there are many ways to do it. These words reflect direct noticing, and they may point to a direct noticing if we use it that way1.

NOTES

(1) If we come mainly from mental representations more than direct noticing, it’s easy to overly complicate it, and we may even go into simplistic and somewhat absurd either-or views. For instance, we may insist there is no self, and ignore that there is a human self here. When I see that, I see someone who is scared, uncomfortable with that fear, and tries to find safety by holding onto certain mental ideas as truth.

Image by me and Midjourney


INITIAL DRAFT

SELF & NO-SELF

Yesterday, I went to a Buddhist center in Oslo for meditation. The teacher mentioned something about “there is no fixed thing that can be an I”.

I thought I would look briefly at self and no-self again.

There is no self here in a few different ways.

There is no fixed self. Everything in our content of experience is change.

There is no separate self. We are a part of a seamless whole. Existence can be seen as wholes within wholes. Any choice and action in our life has infinite causes, stretching back to beginning of time (if there is any) and the widest extent of existence (if there is an edge).

What I would mainly say is that there is a kind of self here. There is obviously a human self here. And yet, that’s not what I more fundamentally am. This human self comes and goes in my experience. I am what this human self – and anything else – happens within and as.

And that too is a kind of Self. It’s the Self of consciousness, of Big Mind.

So yes, is no self in a few different ways, and there are also a few kinds of selves.

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