Monday, 25 July 2011

There Is No Self: Redux

OK, people. You already know (I hope) a really obvious truth: there is no self. If you don't, check it out in your own experience. Can you find an "I" as an actual thing anywhere, or are you just taking its existence for granted?

Now, there is something that people who have grasped that there is no self often trip up on. It is this: there is no self.

Yeah, really not where you'd expect to have a problem at this stage, is it? Here's how it works.

Many liberated talk about "the false self" or "the self constructed by thoughts" or "the concept of self". These things don't exist.

Really, check it out.

There is a belief, hopefully by now recognised as false: "the self exists". There are lots of other beliefs about the self, like "the self has free will", "the self observes reality", "the self believes that Pokemon is for kids", "the self despairs of British politics" etc. You can substitute "I" for "the self" to make these beliefs sound more familiar.

But notice this: they are all beliefs about the self.

There is no actual concept, belief or thought which is the self.

Compare angels. The concept of "angel" is made up of other concepts - person, wings, halo, white robe, Heaven, etc. But it is an actual concrete concept. You can imagine angels in and of themselves.

Or take a moral law like "stealing is wrong". It's abstract. You can't visualise it or anything. But it is an actual distinct concept. It exists as a concrete thought.

The self doesn't. It's not a concept the way angels and moral laws are concepts. It's a pointer to a thing which isn't there on any level, in any sense, like the "it" in "it's raining".

So whatever beliefs you have about liberation and the self, rethink them. There is no self. It is fully as true on the level of fiction as on the level of reality.

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