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Verhoeven Martin - Buddhist Ideas About No-Self and the Person

Verhoeven Martin - Buddhist Ideas About No-Self and the Person

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07/10/2013

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Buddhist Ideas aboutNo-Self and he Person
Martin Verhoeven
Abstact: The uhor rgue h he docrine of no-e lhoughndmenl o Buddhi eching, i widely miunderood   form of nihilim. The eenil eching i h ll phenomen, including he humn e re compoie,nd h herefore hey hve no permnen eence of heir own The Buddhdid no, however, dicoun he experience of  e on he conrry, he heldh our chmen o elf i he ulime cue of ueringThi pper w preened o he fourh nnul Norhern Cliforni Chn/ZenCholic Dilogue, Jnu
2006.
Mere suering sts, no sueer s found;The deeds are bu no doer of he deeds is thereNvana s, bu not he man tha entes it;The path is but no raveler on i is seen.-om he
Visuddhimagga X
Be a eson of the Way Wth no mndAlthough you'e a esonThere's no self hen he Way of being a eson is efeced,Budhahood accomplshes tself.Chan Maste Hsan Hua
T
he idea that no permanent sef is to be found n the basc elements of our expeience is at the heart of the Buddhist path to beation. The
nmn
doctrne taught by the Buddha pocams the impersonality of al living phenomena of exstence: thee s no self, nothng belongs to a self. In the Buddhist teachng, no being has any enduing essence opersonalty; eveyone, even the Buddha, exsts in name only. The namemeey efes to a congeres of psycho-physical eements which aise andvansh om moment to moment, carried along from begnnngess tme
ISSUE , OCTOBER 
33
 
Martin Verhoeven
on a turning wheel of lves. Indeed, the rst stages of enghtenment aremarked by a diect and deep understandng that our sense of"I is not what o how we imagne it to be-solid enduring nvioabe and autonomousRathe, it s a habtfomed constructon hed togethe by caving, clngng, averson and attachmentDespte ts centra impotance the concept of noself geneates moreconson and msundestandng than almost any othe Buddhst dea "I just can't seem to wap my mnd around nosef! s a remak I fequently hea fom begnnng students n faness so thony s the doctne of nosef that f one could easly wap the mnd around t,  suppose one wouldaleady be a Buddha To a large degree the probem s one of unque deences n anguage, cutue and psychoogy, as they appy East and West.n taking about the "self;' it must be remembeed that the Buddhawas referring to a concept
tman,
as t appeared n the Hindu Upanishadtadton Contray to what was asserted by the Brahmins, the Buddha hedthat the "self conceived as a pemanent, stable, eternal and unchangingentty does not exst anywhere At the rsk of ovesimping a hghly complex idea, we could say that the deent notons of tman al refeedto abstact ontoogica dmensions of the indvdual-the"sef of cosmicconscousness that denties wth the unvese All wee thought to besomethng lke an abding entity, a"soul,"inne self or"hgher sef that  was uncondtoned, pemanent and selfexsting. n othe words, tmanefered pmaly to a presumed phosophcal and metaphyscal entty not to a psychologcal and empica concept of "self used in contempoary  Westen discouseBut at anothe leve the pobem is decty related to a universa experience that goes beyond cultura o ngustic dierences: Frst, whatif anythng, n this word s stabe, xed and independenty abidng? Secondy, "who or "what am ? Am I my body? My mnd? Some combnaton? f so, "who or "what exists before I am born? "Who or "what emainsae body and mind depart? Even when examinng man or the personn an emprica and mmedate way the dea of"self s both scientcaly and phlosophicaly poblematc. No matte how dligenty we seach anenduing entity we ca "sef emains eusve t tuns out that wappingone's mnd around "self s no ess fomdabe than wrappng one's mndaround noself.The Buddhst doctne of nosef states that nether within the physcaand menta phenomena of existence no outside of them can anything befound that in the ultimate sense mght be egarded as a selfexsting, ealegoentity a soul or any othe abiding substance Lacking a pemanent andndependent nature nothng n the wod exhbts any form of unchanging
34
RELGION EAST & WEST
 
Buddhist Ideas about No-Se and the Person
reality. The impcatons of this teaching mght be claed by stating it anothe way, st as t apples to
dharmas,
that s, to phenomena, and secondas it apples to people (Howeve, t should be emembeed that the to aeinsepaably interwoven as the "world and "self ae intedependent).Fist, "a phenomena are devod of self
(sarva dharma antman)
means that all things ack a natue of ther own
(sabha)
A phenomena of the word ean on each other in a vbatng dance of constant ux.As all things aise and fade away govened by the ebb and ow of changingcondtions, nothing exists independenty; eveything eles on somethngese ad nntum Because a phenomena arise and exist interdependently 
(prata-samuda)
they are ndamentaly"empt
(nya)
 becausethey have no substantal sef-exsting natue they ae chaacterized as"not sef or moe precsey as havng the condtion of"non-essentialty No-sef and emptiness then ndcate"no nature of ts own
(nihsabha)
meaningthat there s nothing that s of tself immutable m or lasting: nothing wecan obseve has a xed fom that s subject nethe to arisng o passngaway Ths s why the Buddha said to nanda: "Empty s the world, empty is the wold:
In what way, enerble sir, is it said, 'empty is the world?" It is,Ananda, because it is emp of se and what belongs to se that it is said, empt
i
the world."
1
Second, as concenng peope the"self o "me s aso a conditonedentty and theefoe lke al other phenomena nsubstantia and empty Self is devoid of self Our own condition is one of non-essentiaty "Me and"mne aso lack substantiaty
I
am born, matue, age and vanishandutimately as Shakespeae amented "Nothing'gainst tmes scythe canmake defense But om the Buddhist point of vew, we ae "empty and"not sef we before we decline and die All along, there has been no selfony a sees of tansitory phenomena whch cannot be hed or stayed muchlke a rive as Heacltus obseved This early Geek phosophe pontedout that when one steps into a movng rive, pulls out ones foot, and stepsn again the rve has moved on and is n fact a deent rive2
Se
and
me 
ae words that efe to an uson o mrage that exsts only as long as t sgrasped at We ke to thnk we have some endung coe essencea sef o a soulwhich s the subject of ou expeences lke someone sittng in atheate watching a move projected on a screen We fee our self o ego to be a witness of what happens, like a movegoer But the Buddha insstedths so-caled self is meely a bunde of physca and menta phenomena kept gong by gnoance and dese 
SSUE 6, OCTOBER 2006
35

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