A question about buddhism...

So, I’ve been reading up on buddhism, just out of curiosity, and have come upon a stumbling block. The problem I face is to figure out how there is no self. None. How is there no self? Just a collection of parts?

So, how is there no such thing as a self to a buddhist?

Thanks in advance! :slight_smile:

Buddhism analyses a person into five parts: form, feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness. None of the five is permanent. All of the five change. For ordinary purposes, we have an obvious ‘self’ as a convenient description of the five parts. A deeper analysis shows us that the five parts are all that there is. We like to think that there is more, but that is just an illusion. What we think of as our ‘true self’ actually isn’t.

Our illusion of having a ‘self’ is one of the things we have to leave behind is we want to achieve enlightenment.

rossum, it looks to me like you are referring to the five skandas? The best way that I’ve heard the doctrine of emptiness stated was when I studied buddhism before returning to Catholicism. It’s not if things exist , but the way things (including the self) exist. Do you agree?

In Catholicism, all things depend on God for their existence. He sustains creation with a mere act of will, so it appears. Does this view contradict any of what you have learned in your religion regarding a no self-existing self?

Religious buddhism is a fusion of contradicting terms.

The philosophy of buddhism is that to rely on others is to be led away from the truth. :thumbsup:

I’m not a Buddhist but have studied it on and off for many years.

There is no self in Buddhism…no “self”, “I” or “individual” that exists. All you have are the 5 parts mentioned by Rossum that have a dependency on one another in that they interact in a circular state. Nothing remains the same, everything is in a constant state of flux or change. Since everything is in a constant state of change there nothing “Permanent”…everything is impermanent.

One of the problems I have had with this in studying Buddhism is that for a cycle to begin it must have something to give it that jumpstart. But according to Buddhists there is nothing…no “starter” of the jumpstart. This is just one of the major obstacles I have encountered in studying Buddhism.

Hope what I have said helps.

God bless

Indeed I was.

The best way that I’ve heard the doctrine of emptiness stated was when I studied buddhism before returning to Catholicism. It’s not if things exist , but the way things (including the self) exist. Do you agree?

Things exist, but they don’t exist the way we think they exist. Our brains overlay a lot of internal stuff over external reality. When most of us see a spider, we just see a spider. When an arachnophobe ses a spider there is an overlay of terror as well as the spider. Not all of our mental overlays (the feelings and perceptions I listed earlier) are as obvious.

The emptiness of emptiness is the fact that not even emptiness exists ultimately, that it is also dependent, conventional, nominal, and in the end it is just the everydayness of the everyday. Penetrating to the depths of being, we find ourselves back on the surface of things and so discover that there is nothing, after all, beneath those deceptive surfaces. Moreover, what is deceptive about them is simply the fact that we assume ontological depth lurking just beneath.

– Jay Garfield, “Empty words, Buddhist philosophy and cross-cultural interpretation.” OUP 2002.

In Catholicism, all things depend on God for their existence. He sustains creation with a mere act of will, so it appears. Does this view contradict any of what you have learned in your religion regarding a no self-existing self?

The problem I have is with God and change. Does God change? If He does then He is not eternal – the eternal cannot change. If He does not change, then our souls cannot change either. If our souls are unchanging, then we are into Calvinist election/damnation territory. That form of belief was condemned by the Buddha as not useful. The essence of Buddhist morality is that actions have consequences. If our soul is unchangeable than there are no consequences for our actions. Saved souls remain saved; damned souls remain damned.

Our perceptions of the world are imperfect. We can’t smell as well as dogs or see as well as eagles. Our perception of a ‘self’ is similarly imperfect. What we think of as our self isn’t actually a self. It is like the terror perceived by an arachnophobe. It is a mental overlay that has no permanent basis in the external world.

rossum

The problem I have is with God and change. Does God change? If He does then He is not eternal – the eternal cannot change.

rossum,

that is the dogmatic assertion of the Vedas. They have their own reasons, which they consider support of it, but how do they know? God can do anything at all - if he wants to change then he will change. The Buddhists say that ‘creation’ is always changing. The Vedas say that creation (verb) is an ‘act’, meaning that it proves whoever created is not an unchanging being, since in his act of creation there was change of himself. Still, where do they get the idea that immortality and eternality are lost in change?

God cannot do “anything at all” if He is as described. If God is omniscient then He can never learn anything new - He already knew it.

Does God sustain the world? If so then there was a part of God that sustained Dodos. That part of God no longer exists, because Dodos no longer exist. Hence we can determine that the part of God that sustained Dodos is not eternal. Keep shaving all the non-eternal parts of God off, and work out what you are left with – something that does not, and cannot, change.

rossum

Actually, wouldn’t that part have shifted over to do something else? Perhaps it would not be keeping track of the dodos. How about some of the 7 billion people on planet Earth?

Also, why is it necessary, as a result of God being unchanging, for everything else to be unchanging? Yes, ultimately all things have a fate. But that does not mean this fate cannot be chosen by that thing. God knows all; He does not do all. :wink:

Brenlae

I was a Buddhist for 5 years before becoming a Catholic.

I can recommend Paul Williams’ ‘The Unexpected Way’.

Williams is Professor of Buddhism at Bristol university in England. He was a Buddhist for 20 years and then became a Catholic. His book goes through Buddhist teachings and demonstrates how, even though at first they appear to make sense, they are untenable and illogical.

Then that part has changed. Things that change are different at different points in time. Things that are eternal are the same at different points in time. That which changes cannot be eternal, and vice versa.

Also, why is it necessary, as a result of God being unchanging, for everything else to be unchanging?

That only follows if God is sustaining those other things. If those things exist independently of God then they can change.

The illustration I sometimes use of an unchanging God is:On the first day God said “Let there be light,” and on the second day God said “Let there be light,” and on the third day God said “Let there be light,” and on the fourth day …

An unchanging God is extremely limited in how He can act.

rossum

You are referring to the dilemmas of Freewill and Time. God has stood apart from his creation, but we believe nothing has gone unnoticed by Him. The moment in time something happens for us, God has already known about it. Since through Jesus we partake of God’s divinity, our actions can be thought of as creations, and we as co-creators in time. When we choose Divine actions, such as acts of mercy and love, we do so as Freewilled people, and act as the very God who is the author of all tha this good. This Freewill, the ability to choose Freely what is known beforehand by God appears to be a form of predestination.

What has been created is obviously new and therefore satisfies part of your objection’s demand. What you mean by ‘learn’ is something I personally don’t know.

It is Buddhism that sees a mechanical universe of karma with no freewill. As a result, their world view holds no possibility for learning anything new or, should I use their terms, of learning anything that is ultimately new.

Your point about Dodos is no different than the point you could have raised about people. The difference between the two is that Dodos have less Freewill. They are more mechanically predestined, they cannot choose God, and though the sacrfice of their lives may have benefited men, it ended there, with their extinction. The analogy, Dodos are to men what men are to God would have held true were it not for Jesus, who redeemed man and made him a thinking, conscious, and freewilled being capable of intentionally choosing God.

Why couldn’t He just say: “Let all things which possibly can exist exist in a form that is chronological and where all these things have the choice to work with me or work against me”?

Prove that I am conscious.
Define free will.
:wave:

I tried to elucidate my take on those ideas in another thread. Since it’s a significant course change from the topic of this thread, I’ll just tell you the thread’s name (it’s on the second page of non-catholic religions listings)). ( “Natural” proof of God’s existence). Sorry I don’t know how to embed links to other threads, postings. The OP is PathDiagnosis. If your response there or here is as interseting as your name, I will look forward to your response in any event.
:thumbsup:

One of the Indian sects contemporary with the Buddha was the Ajivikas. They were fatalists, denying free will, and were condemned for that by the Buddha. Free will is essential to karma. Our will is constrained, but not completely so. I cannot spread my wings and fly, because I was not reincarnated as a bird. My free will is constrained by my previous actions. However, within those constraints, I am free to act.

Your point about Dodos is no different than the point you could have raised about people. The difference between the two is that Dodos have less Freewill.

Remember that in Buddhism there is far less difference between humans and other animals. We may be reincarnated as an animal and an animal may be reincarnated as a human. All men and all animals have a constrained free will. Our previous actions limit the range of actions that are possible to us now. How we choose within the range available to us now helps determine what range we will be working within in future.

They are more mechanically predestined, they cannot choose God, and though the sacrfice of their lives may have benefited men

No. Injuring living things is not of long term benefit, since it is a cause of bad karma.

rossum

I read all of your posts in that thread.
You don’t prove the statement I quoted. You are ignoring the question. :thumbsup:

Not “determined”. That is a mistaken belief. They are conditioned by the moment preceding. If they were “determined” then all moral responsibility for our actions would cease, and that is an obvious error in Buddhist philosophy.

incidentally, there is a latin proverb, tempis fugit, “time flys”

I prefer:
Time flies like an arrow.
Fruit flies like a banana.

:slight_smile:

With Jesus, anything good no matter how unlikely can happen because of the observed reality of miracles.

Miracles are not confined to Christianity. Vimalakirti fed 80,000 people from a single bowl of rice. You need neither Jesus, nor Christianity, for miracles.

But nevertheless, in the Buddhism I studied, Buddha cannot affect your karma and you cannot be helped beyond your capacity of the moment.

Correct. Buddhism is a “salvation by works” religion. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can offer advice and encouragement, but ultimately it is up to each individual to do the necessary work.

My understanding of Buddhism is that Buddhists consider themselves fortunate to have ‘met-up’ with ‘dharma’.

‘Fortunate’ because of our previous actions. We are living as a human in a time and a place when the dharma is available. What use we make of it is up to us.

I was exposed to a belief that Buddhists, once they are on the path, follow it inexorably to Nirvanna. Straying from the path is not their fault, and all beings eventually arrive at Nirvanna.

Not just Buddhists, all living beings eventually attain nirvana. Some have already done it. Some will do it quickly. Some will do it slowly. Even Mara (the rough equivalent of Satan) will eventually attain nirvana.

In Catholicism, no one goes to Hell (a permanent separation from God) unless he Chooses to.

In Buddhism nothing is permanent. That includes the heavens and the hells. Even nirvana has to change. If it can’t change from nirvana-without-rossum to nirvana-with-rossum then the whole exercise is pointless.

The Apostles Creed holds that Jesus descended to the dead and preached the gospel to condemned souls. Thus, we can presume that even in Hell, though there be great pain and suffering, a soul has access to truth.

Correct. The Buddha preaches in the hells:

http://www.thangka.ru/gallery/img/koleso_3.jpg

The hells are at the bottom, with the Buddha preaching there, as in all the other destinations.

Yet the mystery I referred to was that often good does result from the sacrifice of others.

The sacrifice must be voluntary. Animal sacrifice is not. When Buddhism moves into a country, the main things that it tries to stop in other religions is human sacrifice and animal sacrifice.

But Jesus’ death and resurrection saved humanity from obliteration.

Jesus’ sacrifice was voluntary.

rossum

Then there is no self to get enlightened.

I read that book. It was pretty good, although I was a bit disappointed with it. It could have been better. When he started talking about his cat he completely lost me…:confused:

But overall, he did have some good logical observations.:slight_smile: For instance:
Pg 62 “It is simply not true that we all want happiness and the avoidance of suffering. There is something more fundamental than pleasant sensations.” And page 67: “it is simply not true that all religions are saying the same thing, either in their doctrines or practices.” And, pg 67 “Jesus simply does not speak of meditation or advocate the way of the mystic for His followers…”

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