About " I "
There are many interesting questions posted in this board. Recently, this site has much more questions posted in each day. 4 months ago one question was for 2 weeks. This site is becoming successful very fast. I would like to thank everyone here and especially to the webmaster who made all this for us. At the same time I would like to apologize for any inappropriate things that caused by me. Please forgive me to end all Karma between us.
I raise this topic About "I" in order to ask for any ideas or comments from everyone about "I". We always see other problems clearer than our problems. We may see our problems causing by other persons instead of causing by ourself (yourself, myself, oneself, and "I"). Why should a person understand himself first? I believe that many questions in this board can be answered when these following questions are answered.
What is "I" or Atta?
How to find "I"?
What should a person do to his "I"?
p.s. Please do not care whether your response is right or wrong. The Buddha taught us to make our own wisdom. Wisdom needs thinking process and trial and error. Wisdom is not from memorizing. I hope that the scholars here will kindly help others to understand as you already understand.
About " I "
This is a very difficult concept to understand, but I will share a few quotes and thoughts that might be helpful. The Buddha said "consciousness is not self, perceptions are not self, mental fabrications are not self, feeling is not self, form is not self." In other words, nothing that you feel, perceive, are conscious of, fabricate mentally, no form that you possess, can be said "this is me, this is mine, this is what I am." (also a quote from the Buddha.) So, what is I?
This is one of the things the Buddha refused to answer, because he said the answer was not helpful to the end of Dukkha, to the holy life. This is because (in my opinion) the way the question is phrased is a problem. There is no answer.
Why? Because nothing you perceive, nothing you are conscious of, nothing you fabricate mentally, nothing you feel, no form you possess, can be called "this is you, this is what you are, this is yours" Everything is Anicca. Where could there be a self? Everything arises on a condition, nothing arises by itself. So where do you end, or begin? That is why the Buddha said: "When you see everything is Anatta, this is the path to purity." Of course this is very hard to accept, because it goes against our "vibhava-tanha" (desire to be), but the Buddha taught that "vibhava-tanha" was one of the three main types of craving that cause suffering. If everything is Anicca, where can we find anyone to be? Many people have tried to say that the Buddha taught the "real self" but this is a misunderstanding. The Buddha nowhere said that. In the Majhima Nikaya the Buddha said that even Nibbana is Anatta. This does not mean that we cease to exist. The Buddha said that he worried that people would think he was preaching that "before I had a self, but now I will lose it." The Buddha teaches that there was never anything we could call a self, and when we see things as they are, we are free. I hope that is helpful. Please write if you want to discuss further. As for what to do with the "I", I think that the answer is to travel the Noble Eightfold Path.
(By the way, you may know this already, but the Buddha taught that he gave discourses using conventional language, recognized in the world, and on the level of ultimate truth. Consequently, it is not a problem to use the word "I" in Buddhist discussions.))
Re: About " I "
Thanks and there will not be any disagreements between your posting and my following response. I have just recognized how difficult the concept of "I". I believe that "I" should not be represented by other words such as "my", "mine", or "self". Atta may be "self" but not "I". I am feeling that it is better for me to learn Pali in order to translate from the original. However Pali dictionary may translate Atta as "I". Then I should confirm it from my own practice.
From my practical experience, I had found "I" while I was meditating. There was another body beside my own body. It is hard to explain that situation. I had seen that my physical body was just a place that "I" was residing. This physical body was not "I". It was not me. It was not mine. It was not inside "I". I was not inside this physical body. All sensory organ turned off from external receivers but I still felt from internally. I believe that actually "I" is the mind body or Citta. (Please refers to the Body inside the Body in the first step of Satipatthana.)
: The Buddha said "consciousness is not self, perceptions are not self, mental fabrications are not self, feeling is not self, form is not self."
Your sentence is the Five Aggregates (Panca-khandha). In order to find the truth and make the wisdom that any aggregates are not self, each one has to begin from finding "I" then "I" will show the sub-part of form, feeling, memory, perception, and consciousness. Then by studying and disconnecting the flow of the interactions among Five Aggregates, the one will find "I" that all aggregates are not self. Dhammakaya Meditation refers to this process as the transforming the Panca-khandha to the Dhamma-khanda. Dhamma-khanda is for Dhamma body of Lokuttara persons (Sotapatti, Sakadagami, Anagami, and Arahanta).
: This is one of the things the Buddha refused to answer, because he said the answer was not helpful to the end of Dukkha, to the holy life. This is because (in my opinion) the way the question is phrased is a problem. There is no answer.
I think this question of "I" is a problem of no answer but the concept of Five Aggregates is the Buddha's technique to find "I" without answering the question of "I". Each person who passes will understand by himself about "I". He has to answer this question by himself. Purifying the Five Aggregates is the process of detaching from form, feeling, memory, perception, and consciousness whatever are subjecting to Aniccata and Anatta. After purifying there will be no Aniccata and Anatta in the Five Aggregates then it called the Dhamma-khanda. "I" after purifying will return back to be the original "I" of no attachment.
: In the Majhima Nikaya the Buddha said that even Nibbana is Anatta. This does not mean that we cease to exist. The Buddha said that he worried that people would think he was preaching that "before I had a self, but now I will lose it."
I like your sentence very much. I would like to repeat this sentence again. "This does NOT mean that we cease to exist."
Matthew, I am going to find more easy explanation for other readers on this topic. Someone may think it is so hard or too difficult. What do you think if I answer a guideline instead of the direct answer? For example :
What is "I" ? Start from the Five Aggregates then you will know.
How to find "I"? By meditating or applying wisdom to find cause of the cause.
What should a person do to his "I"? Study then detach it from Aniccata and Anatta.
Re: About " I "
My understanding of "I" is equivalent to the "I" entity in one dream. While in the dream the "I" know nothing about the actual I because the "I" in the dream is just a projection. Therefore the Heart sutra stated the consciousness, perception and etc are just empty and not real. As nothing is real in a dream until one wake up (enlightenment).
Re: About " I "
You had shown some good point of your understanding so I will try to share my understanding with you in accordance with your posting. Hope that my posting will help your cultivation in your own way (not my way).
What is "I" ?
"I" is a kind of body that still exists no matter of reborn in any realms or being enlightenment. "I" always exist so it should be the Mind Body or Citta. (Please do not confuse with the acting of mind, which is subjected to Aniccata and Anatta.) Citta may be Anatta in the sense of the dying of the physical body that the Citta is residing. After the death, Citta will change place to be in new body. Actually Citta has his own Five Aggregates (Panca-khandha) that incorporated into a form of body to be called as the Mind Body.
"I" has to be reborn again if "I" is attached with Craving (Tanha). Tanha has 3 kinds : Kama-tanha (craving for sensual pleasure), Bhava-tanha (craving for existance of being) and Vibhava-tanha (craving for self-annihilation). Tanha is the cause of greed (Lobha), lust (Raga), hatred (Dosa), and delusion (Moha). They are the cause of no right view or the lack of knowledge (Avijja). Avijja is the factor that causes the mind body to be reborn and suffering again.
You may know what is more suitable word for "I". In my level, I prefer using the word "the Mind Body" for "I". Your posting was referred to a kind of Tanha so I think we are quite in the same path.
How to find "I"?
Samatha may be a process to find "I" but Samatha is too inert to deal with "I". Vipassana can help the person to find and deal effectively with his "I" from applying the 4 Noble Truths. Just search backward from sufferings to the cause of the cause then to the original cause of sufferings. For example:
When a person gets angry, instead of looking for the cause at outside (not from outside), this person should look internally at himself in order to find his Tanha. After his Tanha is found, studied, and detached, there will be no Lobha, Raga, Dosa, and Moha. After that Avijja will be Vijja and he will not get angry again forever. Then he will find his "I". Please refer to my posting of "How Buddhist Stop Anger?" and apply the same approach.
Samatha is just a practice to hide the cause for a moment. Vipassana can empty the cause. But a person should make his own wisdom not just copy or learn from others. Only his own made-wisdom can win the cause of his sufferings. It is better not to copy the sutta to be one's own word but the one should apply the sutta to make one's own wisdom and understanding.
What should a person do to his "I"?
"I" has many states from fully attachment to fully detachment. "I" should be detached piece by piece from all attachments. Samatha is the source of mind power in fighting with Tanha. But Samatha can not win Tanha. Vipassana can but a person must make his own wisdom to fight with Tanha and other attachments. This process takes time so it is better to break Tanha to be many small sub-parts to fight with them easier. Please use the breakdown in the Buddha's teaching as a guideline.
Someone may see through my posting and someone may not or even disagree. Dhamma has more than 84,000 applications so my posting is just only one or new one of them. My teacher told me to make my own Dhamma when I want to get Dhamma. I have to keep practice and think as I wrote here as fast as possible to fight with Tanha immediately when it arises.
Re: About " I "
I thought of a couple of more Qutations from the suttas that I thought might be helpfull in understanding Anatta, and the "I". I also have a few thoughts I'll share. In the "Roots of Existence" sutta in the Majhima Nikaya the Buddha says that a well-trained noble disciple sees "earth as earth" and does not conceive "a self in earth, or apart from earth, or made up of earth." He repeats this formula for fire, water, air, space, all of the Jhanas, realms, states of being, divine beings, and then that a well-trained noble disciple does not conceive of a "self in Nibbana, or apart from Nibbana, or made up of Nibbana."
In other words, nowhere does the well-trained disciple conceive a self, inside or outside.The sutta states that when the Buddha gave this discourse, the bhikkus were not gladdened by the Buddha's words, but were displeased. This would be because they still craved for an eternal soul, something they could possess. But the Buddha said there was no such thing, no security outside of Nibbana, although even there they could would find no self. It is hard for us to imagine conceiving no self, since we (or at least I) have little Panna, and much "Vibhava-Tanha." It must have been hard for the Bhikkus who heard the discourse as well, since it displeased them.
Another thing I wanted to mention was in regards to your stating that you had experienced another body seperate from the body, and realised that your body was not self. It's wonderfull that you have experienced such insight into the selflessness of the body, which I have not yet. There is another quotation from the suttas that I think is relevant to your experience. In the Pothapadda Sutta in the Majhima Nikaya ( States of Consciousness Sutta) the wanderer Pothapadda approaches the Buddha with questions on consciousness and the self. The Buddha states that there is a "mind-made body" seperate from the body, "perfect in all its organs." The Buddha states that this is not a self, and also that there is a more subtle body that is formless, has no form at all, and that this not a self either. This is a very difficult Sutta but worth reading carefully.
As to your questions, I think that "atta" is the "I". What is the I if not something perceived, something you are conscious of, or something you mentally fabricate? Is it just an idea? I think that "I" is an idea added on to experience.
As far as explaining Anatta easily, this is hard to do, but I think the best thing would be to referr the person to a good book or teacher, or to explain using the direct words of the Buddha as much as possible, or to encourage them to find their own answers through practice and sutta study.
You mentioned the first step of Satipathana, the "body in the body". All of the teachers that I have read say that this means the body as it is, without any ideas, prejudices, with reference only to it itself, ":free from greed or distress with reference to the world." Is your understanding different ?
Re: About " I "
Thank you very much for sharing your Dhamma. Other readers may be still wondering what we are talking about. I had 4 books that I keep reading them again and again because I will find new viewpoints as if I never read them before. I would like to invite other practitioners to write down your understanding not only to this topic in order to learn from your wordings how well you understand and organize your wisdom. Although I find your Dhamma more difficult to understand than I read my own Dhamma but other readers may find it easy because it is closer to their paths.
: You mentioned the first step of Satipathana, the "body in the body". All of the teachers that I have read say that this means the body as it is, without any ideas, prejudices, with reference only to it itself, ":free from greed or distress with reference to the world." Is your understanding different ?
Satipatthana is a kind of Vipassana meditation. Vipassana is a way to make one's own wisdom or insight. Wisdom is from understanding. We can learn and understand from looking, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking. Wisdom from meditation comes from the same ways. However learning through looking by the spiritual eyes is not easy while learning from thinking or feeling process are easier to practice. In order to practice Satipatthana and see the body in the body, the practitioner must practice Kasina. Kasina is a Samatha meditation that sharpens the visioning.
In order to practice Death Simulation with Kasina, in stead of just thinking and contemplating on the corpse to think how bad and dirty of the body is, the meditator should practice Kasina by using his presumed dead body as an object to concentrate on. He should try to meditate as deep as he can or reach the forth Jhana then reverse back to a state of mind called Upacara-samadhi (access concentration or almost approaching Jhana state). Then practice Vipassana at this Upacara state. This state the mind will not inert while he is still gaining the power of concentration to activate in Vipassana.
Then the meditator should concentrate on the changing and decaying of his dead body as if he is looking from outside. He should not only see the picture clearly but also smell and feel as if he is really experiencing while he is not meditating. He should get the real fearfulness and strong desire not to be in this ugly, bad, and dirty body of human again. This result is from only Vipassana. Wisdom is not come from learning and thinking but he needs to see and encounter the real experience. After this learning he should see the fact of human body (bad, ugly, and dirty) that only the thin sheet of skin covers all dirty things. Human no matter of beauty and handsome will be seen and felt as a skin bag of dirty.
While you are reading my posting, you may see the picture but not smell and feel as I am pointing to you because our normal state of mind does not works with full strength.
: Is your understanding different?
There are very few books that explain all kinds of Dhamma applications completely. Readers have many levels of interest. In Thailand there are many and many books that were not translated. So my understanding is not different but I just have more chance to read Thai books more than you in this matter. Everyone can be the teacher to the others because each one should have more expertise in depth in his matter more than the others. You could be my teacher.
Back to my experience of the body beside my physical body. It is just a result from Samatha and I need more practice to apply it with Vipassana. I still see a beautiful women beauty for 2-3 seconds before I realize her to be a skin-bag of dirty. I need more practice.
Re: About " I "
I would like to recommend learning about "I" as the five groups of existence (the five aggregates or panca-khandha). Do not relate "I" with self (atta) because atta has many implications that may contradict in the word itself. In my life as a Buddhist, I have learned Dhamma and no need to learn anything with atta. Atta for me is higher Dhamma and it needs a lot of meditation experience and the eye of wisdom to see and understand it.
Please also be aware of how the word is using as adjective, adverb, or noun. Noun may be meaning either its existence or the state of its existence. So its existence is not comparable with its state.
"I" as an existence is divided in to body (rupa or matter) and mind (citta). The body means the physical body and/or form that we can see, hear, smell, taste, and sense. The mind does not mean formless or have no existence. The mind is feeling (vedana), memory and perception (sanna), mental formations (sankhara), and consciousness (vinnana). The mind also exists but it is more refinery state than the body.
Learning dhamma should advance step by step from rough to delicate dhamma. This topic of "I" is in a level of rough dhamma.
This is just my little understanding so it may not fully correct. Hope this helps.
There should be only one "I"
but which one is "I"?
In the first dream, I see myself walking along the pathway surrounds with all kinds of beautiful flowers.
In the second dream, I am walking along the pathway surrounds with all kinds of beautiful flowers. I am not seeing myself walking. I just know that I am walking in this dream.
In the third dream, I am sleeping and I know that I am dreaming and in that dream there are two possible dreams as the first and second dream.
I had been experiencing all of 3 kinds of dreaming. The third dream was rare but always similar to the process of meditating. However meditation has awareness and more control of the projection than dreaming. Let me raise another example:
I look at the mirror and I see myself inside the mirror. I know that "I" is the one who sees not the one who is seen. Then I raise my hand up in front of my face and look at my hand. I know that I am the one who raises the hand but the picture of the hand I have seen may not be the real hand of "I" as according to the concept of the picture in the mirror. Picture in my eye may be in equivalence with the picture in the mirror. "I" is always the one who sees so where is "I"?
"I" may be located at the heart or some school (Dhammakaya) say that "I" is located at the center of the body inside the navel area. "I" came to be a human firstly in one fertilized cell but now "I" has many millions of cells. "I" always stays at the first location inside the navel area since I was born as a human. Eyes are merely the receivers to transmit the picture pass the brain to "I".
The key here is that "I" should be always the one, who sees, feels, hears, thinks, or senses. Otherwise it is not real "I".
Do you know why Tibetan wears a small round mirror in the necklace? I just think that it may be a way in searching of "I".
There should be only one "I" but which one is "I"?
Indeed i have similiar types of dream but i do have one addition similiar to the third type. Since knowing it is a dream, being playful i changed/control the dream. There was once, noticing my dream has no colour (B&W) i just thought "hmm no colour? let put some" and with this discrimination, all a sudden colours filled the objects in the dream and i laugh out after observing how one thought can change things. When most of the time not knowing i am dreaming was affected by the dream. There are some other instances but as your said this kind of dream is rare.
This is quite an interesting topic on "I" which is discussed by Shakyamuni Buddha in the Shurangama Sutra when he asked Ananda who is seeing / where is the "I" to awaken Ananda on the true self after he failed Matangi test. Very interesting Q&A between Shakyamuni Buddha and Ven. Ananda on this. I leave it to this sutra for your reference. My saying will be worthless compare to the enligtened one.
A commoner "I" who sees, feels, hears, thinks or sees is the false I. In the dream the projected "I" do sees, feels, hears and thinks hence causing us to sweat, scare or happy according to the dream. But it is not the true self and never happen/real, this is why the Heart Sutra stated all these sees, feels and etc are not real. The true self have these but because of distortions from greed, hatred and attachment we mistaken the false as true. This is why Shakyamuni said commoners like me are upside down and confuse.