Buddhism, Guided Meditation, Hinduism / Sanatana Dharma, Philosophy, Society, Spirituality

Episode 54: Understanding “Not-self” in Buddhism


Good afternoon, and welcome to the Curious Bodhi Podcast!

On our show, we are talk about one of the most mysterious and misunderstood terms in Buddhism. This is the notion of “not-self” or Anatta.

The Buddha taught the Middle Way between eternalism and nihilism. In Zen, they say: “if your mind is leaning [to the left or right], then you have lost the Way”. We often forget this as our mind leans towards either philosophising/intellectualising or clinging to our notion of self (in the false way).

So, how do we explain what not-self is, if it’s not mere intellectual and not completely personal?

Firstly, the Buddha taught there are five aggregates which compose our everyday experience. They are:

  1. Form
  2. Sensation/feeling
  3. Perception
  4. Mental formations
  5. Consciousness

All of these make up each moment for us. However, when we don’t have enough distance from them (non-duality) or cling to them as definitely “me” and “my experience, as opposed to anything or anyone else” (duality), then our mind is leaning.

When we understand the Middle Way, composed of duality and non-duality simultaneously, then we can make light of our experience and stay in the moment.

Have a listen to our podcast for an in-depth explanation. Here is Sri Acharya’s video on Sanatana Dharma & Buddhism which I reference in our show:

*Please send your questions and comments to curiousbodhi@zoho.com and I will answer them on our next show.


2 thoughts on “Episode 54: Understanding “Not-self” in Buddhism”

  1. Vedanta and Buddhism are the crown jewel of Indian philosophical thought. What Buddha taught was essentially Vedanta, in my opinion. Buddha never said that he was preaching anything new. He was teaching the Eternal Dharma, nothing more and nothing less.

    „Both Buddhism and Vedanta accept the law of Karma and its corollary, reincarnation. How long does this law of Karma operate ‘”I So long as you think you have a ‘seW and so thinking, run after sense-enjoyment, says Buddhism. Vedanta thinks this law of Karma operates so long as you do not .know your true self. Yon think your body is your self. So you try to keep the body in comfort. If the body is in pain, you think you are in pain, if the body enjoys something, you think you are enjoying it, .1 n the case of Vedanta, your ignorance of your true Self is the root of your trouble. The dictum of Vedanta is ‘Know thy Self Atmanam Viddhi. Buddhism does not speak of there being any permanent Self. rather discourages the idea that there is such a thing as I Self’. It keeps harping that there is no ‘Self’, perhaps because it is observsd that· it is from this idea of ‘Selt’ that attachment grows. When . , Buddhism says there is no such thing as ‘self’ it obviously refers to the phenomenal world which is without substance. Ananda once asked Buddha why h’3 preferred to remain silent when people asked him whether there was a self or not. Buddha replied that this was because he did not want to confuse people. If he said that there was no self. people might then become completely nihilistic in outlook, thinking annihilation was the end of everything. If he said that there was a self. then people would mistake the body for the self and ~un after sense-enjoyment. In essence” however. both the standpoints mean the same thing. The problem is the problem of overcoming attachment to the phenomenal world. Buddhism says you can overcome this by knawing that it is false.

    Vedanta says that you should know that it is false but should try to shift your attachment to your true Self which is free and independent under all circumstances, without birth and without death, which is Existence, Knowledge and Bliss Absolute, and which needs no help of the phenomenal world for its happiness. If the surface of the mirror is clean; you have a good reflection of yourself on it. The layer of dust that has accumul.ated on it is the hindrance. This hindrance has to be removed. Similary, there is the hindrance of the false ego and consequential attachment to the world to your knowledge of the Self. If you remo Je this hindrance, you automatically know your Self. Buddha stressed the need to remove this hindrance, the false ego and the attachment to the world. He perhaps argued that if he talked about the Self, people would get confused, so he wanted that they should concentrate on the removal of the hindrance rather than try to understand a subject which is really beyond understanding. The self is something ‘words cannot express’-‘the mind comes away from it baffled, unable to reach it’ (Taittiriya, II. 4)“

    Click to access 7434085.pdf


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