(Pali = no self or not self)

The Pali term for the Buddha's denial that there exists a permanent or substantial self or soul.

1. It is one of the three essential doctrines of existence in Buddhism; the others being dukkha (suffering) and anicca (impermanence).

2. The Sanskrit term is anatman — an atman, no self, i.e. the denial of the atman.

3. My opinion: The concept "self" is, I believe, emergent from the invention of language, i.e. it is one of the tools we use to communicate with others.

My guess is that, pre-language, there is no concept of self, there is just emotion, behaviour, and response. Thus in this sense, "self" is not an illusion, it is actually a convention, which emerged from language because is useful in communicating more precisely with othersm, e.g. "I need help."

4. "Other Buddhists, such as the psychologist Susan Blackmore, are strict materialists, who deny that mind can exist independently of matter. Blackmore looks favorably, however, upon the Buddhist doctrine of anatta, which holds that the self is an illusion.

"Where, exactly, is your self?" Buddha asked. "Of what components and properties does your self consist?" Since no answer to these questions suffices, the self must be in some sense illusory. ...

Actually, modern science — and meditative introspection — have discovered that the self is an emergent phenomenon, difficult to explain in terms of its parts.

The world abounds in emergent phenomena. The school where I teach can't be defined in strictly reductionist terms either. You can’t point to a person or classroom or lab and say, "Here is Stevens Institute." But does that mean my school doesn't exist?"
(John Horgan, Why I don't dig Buddhism)

"The insights imputed to meditation are questionable, too. Meditation, the brain researcher Francisco Varela told me before he died in 2001, confirms the Buddhist doctrine of anatta, which holds that the self is an illusion.

Varela contended that anatta has also been corroborated by cognitive science, which has discovered that our perception of our minds as discrete, unified entities is an illusion foisted upon us by our clever brains.

In fact, all that cognitive science has revealed is that the mind is an emergent phenomenon, which is difficult to explain or predict in terms of its parts; few scientists would equate the property of emergence with nonexistence, as anatta does.
(John Horgan)
Categories: buddhism opinion

Please comment