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English is my second language.

If there's no "self', and "I am" is just a "flow" or "mix" of information (dharma, karma, etc.); and if, when I die, "I" (body, illusory self, soul) will die but this informational flow will keep going into another being, and then I no longer exist, think, feel or I will be different being, so this being will be living but not me, then why should I care about his life if I will no longer exist?

Or is it that there is a some kind of eternal selfless "self", the "watcher", that experiences this (and the next) existence and can think, feel?

How does this "informational flow" ("soul"), a conglomerate of functions, get into someone's body?

Is nirvana an "informational" suicide?

In short, please tell me, why should I care about the next "life" or "going to nirvana" if there's no self, no core and "I", "myself" will disappear after death? Maybe I would stop caring about it because "I" will stop being exist and I will stop feel, think, care straight after death?


PS:

And if the reincarnation is like an ocean water been poured into glasses and back, and there's no core self and individuality is just a mix of informational patters, then maybe it's pointless to try to stop existance, to go to nirvana, because someone will always remain here.

And if this Samsara is eternal then there can be eternal number of Buddhas, beings and they will be trying to get out of this Samsara eternally, then all their actions are pointless.

Thanks.

  • 2
    Imagine a person who speaks ill of others and harms others. Everywhere he goes he is not liked, not welcome, is received with hostility. Another person speaks kindly of people, generous. Everywhere she goes she is liked, welcome, and received as a friend. Now that information about those two people, is it stored within them or without them? – Kaveenga Wijayasekara May 6 '16 at 10:46
  • If there is an eternal self in you - then I think it will be bad karma if you care for the future only because of that... – Gottfried Helms May 12 '16 at 14:48

15 Answers 15

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Whether you believe in a 'self' or not, suffering is very real. You experience it on a daily basis. It is this suffering that makes beings look for an end to it. There's only one permanent end to suffering and that is Nibbana. That is why you should care about striving for it. Craving is what prevents you from accomplishing this. Ignorance is what causes craving to arise. The belief of a self is just one form of ignorance that you have to get rid of in order cut off craving.

Ignorance means not seeing things as they really are. So you cannot get rid of it just by changing your opinion or reasoning it out. You need to start seeing things as they really are.

  • If there is no 'self', who is suffering ?? – John Fonseka Jun 6 '17 at 8:42
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    @JohnFonseka. There is suffering but ultimately no sufferer can be found. There is doing but no doer can be found. This can only be understood through insight meditation. – Lanka Jun 6 '17 at 15:18
  • @Lanka, I think you and the answer-er of this question is falling in to Uccheda Ditthi. (Which is opposite of "Sakkaya Ditthi"). Lord Budhdha never preaches there is nor self nor there is self. Isn't it the correct way? – John Fonseka Jun 10 '17 at 13:49
  • @John Ucceda Ditti is believing that it all ends at death – Sankha Kulathantille Jun 11 '17 at 17:15
  • @SankhaKulathantille, my bad. I wanted to tell that Lord Buddha rejected both "there is a person" and "there is no person" views. Am I in a wrong understanding ? – John Fonseka Jun 12 '17 at 4:13
4

Good question. Buddhism does not talk about existance or non-existance of self(objectively). When the appropriate causes arise, belief of existence(self/world) arises. When the causes secede, everything secede. But the worldly/samsaric beings do not see this truth.

Whatever existence or thing that arises which is dependent on conditions is subject to cessation. This is the most fundamental law that the Buddha realized ("Yan kinchi samudaya Dhammam sabbantham niridha Dhammam"). This is known as Pratītyasamutpāda- the core of Buddhism. Start exploring from this perspective, and you will find the complete answer to your question; oneday.


Here is a canonical reference at Ananda Sutta SN 44.10 :

Then the wanderer Vacchagotta went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there he asked the Blessed One: "Now then, Venerable Gotama, is there a self?"

When this was said, the Blessed One was silent.

"Then is there no self?"

A second time, the Blessed One was silent.

Then Vacchagotta the wanderer got up from his seat and left.

Then, not long after Vacchagotta the wanderer had left, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, "Why, lord, did the Blessed One not answer when asked a question by Vacchagotta the wanderer?"

"Ananda, if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self — were to answer that there is a self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of eternalism [the view that there is an eternal, unchanging soul]. If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of annihilationism [the view that death is the annihilation of consciousness]. If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self — were to answer that there is a self, would that be in keeping with the arising of knowledge that all phenomena are not-self?"

"No, lord."

"And if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, the bewildered Vacchagotta would become even more bewildered: 'Does the self I used to have now not exist?'"

  • I enjoyed your excellent post but for information sake, "Yan kinchi samudaya Dhammam sabbantham niridha Dhammam". This is known as "Anicca". Pratītyasamutpāda is known as - dependent origination - itself thus: ‘When this exists, that comes to be; with the arising of this, that arises. When this does not exist, that does not come to be; with the cessation of this, that ceases. "iti imasmiṃ sati idaṃ hoti, imassuppādā idaṃ uppajjati; imasmiṃ asati idaṃ na hoti, imassa nirodhā idaṃ nirujjhati"Natumhasutta – Shrawaka May 29 '16 at 8:32
  • I find it really hard to segregate. It's all interconnected. Anicca, Dukka, Anatta are characteristics of existence(Loka). These Three marks of existence which are inter-related as Yada niccam tam dukkam- yam dukkam tada natta – Sajeewa Welendagoda May 30 '16 at 20:51
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The questions are illogical. It was asked: If there's no "self'" then why should I care about his life if I will no longer exist?

The question is loaded with 'self', even though it claims there is no self. Just the small part of the question I quoted refers to a 'self' or 'I' twice.

If the mind actually has no self, there will be no motivation to either care or not care. All "I" thoughts have ended. Therefore, there is no "I" that wishes to live; there is also no "I" that wishes to die; there is no "I" to attain Nirvana. If there remains any belief in "I", this cannot be Nirvana.

What experiences Nirvana is the mind rather than a 'self'.

That is why 'liberation' in Buddhism is called 'liberation of mind' (rather than liberation of self).

In Buddhism, the belief "I will continue after death" is 'eternalism' & the belief "I will die at death" is 'nihilism'. Eternalism & nihilism, the same as the questions, are wrong views, because they all contain views about 'self'.

  • Maybe I am misunderstanding what you mean in one part:"If the mind actually has no self"? Shouldn't it be, "If not-self is understood"? Doesnt the mind always have not-self? :) – Lowbrow May 6 '16 at 13:25
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    Thanks. I was simply saying if the mind does not have any 'self' thoughts then why would it think about "my future life". The questioner keeps asking: "why should I care?". If there were no thoughts of "I", the issue about "I" or ""me" caring becomes redundant or illogical. – Dhammadhatu May 6 '16 at 22:54
  • @Dhammadhatu: I can understand what you trying to say in general. But not in deep. So, if you can send me this answer in Sinhala, that would be a great help. mail me: rsoft.ramesh@gmx.com – Ramesh-X Jun 12 '17 at 12:47
  • Sorry. English is my only language. Regards – Dhammadhatu Jun 12 '17 at 22:06
3

...when I die, "I" (body, illusory self, soul) will die but this informational flow will keep going into another being, and then I no longer exist, think, feel or I will be different being, so this being will be living but not me, then why should I care about his life if I will no longer exist?

We die many times in a second as the "informational" flow keeps going into another being. We are not the same being we were a fraction of a second ago. That being has died.

Do you see how experience goes on and on, moment by moment? We are always changing, moment by moment. We are always dying, moment by moment. It's the same thing. When the physical body dies, that is just another change. After that body dies we will see how experience goes on and on, moment by moment.

We don't really need to worry about nirvana as long as we are continuously practicing although we should care about nirvana as far as nirvana is Dhamma, if we care about our own freedom from suffering.

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I believe a good reference for this question is Stephen Batchelor's "Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening". He has spoken in many places of Buddhism without rebirth or reincarnation. I agree with him that Buddhism is about the here and now. Worries about an afterlife are evidence of a failure to come to grips with what Ernest Becker refers to as "The Denial of Death" (ISBN-13: 978-0684832401). A little over twenty years ago (1995) I did a simple meditation where i convinced myself that the mechanistic materialists were correct and that when I died there would be nothing left. Total annihilation was my inevitable outcome after death. It was frightening at first but eventually I went through all five of Kubler Ross' stages of grief as I attended my own mechanistic materialism funeral. I believe that all fear must be met head on if it is to be conquered. I decided to post this note because no one was doing the head on confrontation. Death as annihilation is a concept and from a Buddhist perspective(imho) has no independent reality. But the catch is that we all have our folk epistemology where death as annihilation seems to make commonsense. After all why should humans be so privileged but cockroaches and spiders have no hope of reincarnation(in Hinduism we have a different story). If you approach Buddhism as an "opiate of the masses" that is going to give you an "all life sucker" then you are really barking up the wrong tree(Bodhi Tree?). Take Ernest Becker's advice and grow up to the reality that annihilation is not all that bad. After all, think about never having to live in a world where George Bush could spend eight years as the president of the most militarily powerful nation on the planet. Think of nirvana as blowing out the candle as the reward of many lifetimes of diligent study merely to not be reborn then death as annihilation gives you nirvana for free. You don't have to do a damn thing to get it except die.

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    I enjoyed your excellent post but for information sake, in Buddhism, Nirvana occurs while living & a peaceful death is not called "annihilation". In Buddhism, "annihilation" refers to the wrong view that "I am" going to end at death. It is wrong view not because of the impermanence but because the idea or sense of "I" remains. In enlightenment, there is no "I" or "me" or "person" that dies or is annihilated. All that happens is the five aggregates (i.e., body-&-mind) end. – Dhammadhatu May 25 '16 at 20:08
  • I was contrasting what I refer to as the "mechanistic materialist" view with two versions of Buddhism. The mechanistic materialism view states that any events of import take place within a causally closed material framework. My intention was to point out that the original meaning of nirvana referred of a cessation of karma that would lead to rebirth and another cycle of suffering. The mechanistic materialists say that denial of rebirth comes for free except that you pay the price of nihilism, ie of total denial of any purpose to life and its logical consequence that there is no right or wrong. – Charlie_Oh Dec 3 '17 at 20:24
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The question still remains. if Nirvana can only be achieve in state of mind than that means we don't have much time then. Because there is no guarantee that the person in this present life will get the same understanding (having the given answers) in the next birth.

yet the mind of a buddha still exist in writings and not exist coz the body had return to universe or perhaps mixed with other beings. This is confusing because of "I" or self ???

Seems like Nirvana is like a blank screen in the mind or an illusory escape, a prescription on how not to be controlled by suffering which is life each self . A prescription for one lifetime at a time consider if we know

or to get to know our past life through practicing jhanas is just a mitos

or Perhaps all religions are the same, spreading indoctrination with each own platform just to bring order in the community ....

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If there's no "self', and "I am" is just a "flow" or "mix" of information (dharma, karma, etc.); and if, when I die, "I" (body, illusory self, soul) will die but this informational flow will keep going into another being, and then I no longer exist, think, feel or I will be different being, so this being will be living but not me, then why should I care about his life if I will no longer exist?

There are truths that are deep and hard to understand.

What are these truths?

You are everywhere.

You are everything.

You are deathless.

You are neither perfection, nor imperfection, nor anything in between.

That's pure bliss.

That's the "real you".

In order to be this "real you", your future "I"ies must cease to become.

In complete cessation of becoming, future "I"ies will not be born.

When "I" is not born, this "real you" remains.

And what is it that remains?

Undefined is the answer.

As soon as you give an answer, "I" arises and this "real you" becomes tainted with "I".

And what is the "I"?

It's limited with a body.

It's limited in space.

It's limited with death.

It's limited with imperfections.

That's the "I".

It's because of these truths that your current "I" should strive to realize these truths so that no future "I"ies will ever arise.

Or is it that there is a some kind of eternal selfless "self", the "watcher", that experiences this (and the next) existence and can think, feel?

The "real self" is the eternal selfless "self". The "watching", experiences, existence, senses, knowledge and everything else arise because of ignorance - not knowing this "real self".

How does this "informational flow" ("soul"), a conglomerate of functions, get into someone's body?

As long as "I" arises, the view that a "soul" gets into a body can arise.

Does a "soul" get into a body?

Given the right conditions, it does.

Does a "soul" not get into a body?

Given the right conditions, it does not.

Does a "soul" exist?

Given the right conditions, it exists.

Does a "soul" not exist?

Given the right conditions, it does not exist.

Does a "soul" exist and not exist?

Given the right conditions, it does exist and does not exist.

...

There are many views. Neither of them lead to nirvana.

The letting go of all views is the path towards nirvana.

Is nirvana an "informational" suicide?

There is neither suicide nor no suicide nor both nor not both in nirvana.

And if the reincarnation is like an ocean water been poured into glasses and back, and there's no core self and individuality is just a mix of informational patters, then maybe it's pointless to try to stop existance, to go to nirvana, because someone will always remain here.

There are many views:

Nobody is here.

Somebody is here.

Nobody remains here.

Somebody remains here.

There are no "I"ies or "selfs" or "souls".

There are "I"ies or "selfs" or "souls".

...

All views, given the right conditions, can be true or not true or both.

All these views are just your "real you" tainted with ignorance.

The letting go of all views is the path towards nirvana.

And if this Samsara is eternal then there can be eternal number of Buddhas, beings and they will be trying to get out of this Samsara eternally, then all their actions are pointless.

Samsara and its beings can be eternal or not eternal or both. All these views, given the right conditions, are correct.

No action is pointless. They all lead to nirvana.

Every action has good, bad or neutral consequences.

Every consequence, can give rise to new knowledge.

Every future "I" is reborn based on the knowledge the current "I" has.

It's because of these truths that every "I", on a long term, consistently increases his knowledge.

When knowledge increases enough, the truths are realized and future births are stopped.

No action is pointless. They all lead to nirvana.

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There is no substantial self. Buddhism is not nihilist. It is always said that there is not self, nor no-self.

There is still a "self" so-to-speak--a collection of factors that is migrating from life to life with no core. It would not be inaccurate to say that you are that core and you have that responsibility of waking up to the truths and powers of Buddhism so that you can save the "others"--who are also not self nor non-self. It would be more accurate to say that we are that core--we the universe are experiencing you. Nothing is forgiven, all that is done (and not done) has weight and trying one's enlightened best is in the best interest.

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Let's try to keep this simple. Buddhism encourages no-self or no-ego. This does not mean that "I" do not exist, but rather that "selfless" requires that I think of that which benefits all sentient beings as driving force in life. It is a process of diminishing selfishness. Samsara is suffering, and Nirvana is happiness. We are surrounded by both. However, Buddhism seeks not temporary happiness, but the attainment of permanent happiness by following the path. When we die, a reincarnation brings forward our mind consciousness into a new body, so that in truth we never die. However, the current life that we lead will determine the manner of our rebirth, so lead a good life. When viewed properly all of the above can be a genuine basis for joy.

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My rep is not enough to comment. I've no reference, So this answer may not be good for you.

I can confirm you that your feeling, memory, thinking in next life still there.

But your exist body today are void.

Even you reached Nirvana your memory, thinking also still there.

But that's the feeling of Arahant. You can talk or go to everywhere even in this earth with Nirvana's divine body but no more greediness, angriness, sensuality.

When ever you are in this rebirth circle. You've a possibility to go to hell.

That's the only problem that we have to reach Nirvana.

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The short answer is that you should care because, unlike human beings and animals, hell beings, ghosts, asuras, and devas do remember their past lives (this is clear from the suttas). Since it is not automatic that you will be reborn as a human being, there is a real chance that you will end up as a suffering being with full memory of your past lives. Therefore it is not quite true to say that "you" will disappear. This "you" of course is not a permanent thing, but rather a continuity of conscious states. Nonetheless, the memory of your past lives will give you an "identity" which will include your current identity (but also larger, clearly). You should also care because karma does not merely affect your future rebirth. Your karma affects you right now, right here, depending on your circumstances. This is the Buddha's argument called the Four Assurances.

  • "Hell beings, ghosts, asuras, and devas do remember their past lives (this is clear from the suttas)." Could you kindly provide references for some of these suttas? Thank you – Dhammadhatu May 29 '16 at 18:36
  • I haven't collected these. Let me see if I can find some examples. – user4970 May 30 '16 at 1:54
  • Example: In DN 18, the yaksha Janavasabha says that he remembers his last 14 rebirths. Janavasabha is Bimbisara, king of Magadha, reborn in the realm of the Four Great Kings. This establishes that devas remember their past lives, and that their memory is contingent on the level of their spiritual development. The Buddha, of course, remembers all of his past lives. Still checking for examples of asuras, ghosts, and hell beings. – user4970 May 30 '16 at 12:57
  • With respect to ghosts, the Peta-Vatthu, found in the Khuddaka Nikaya of the Pali Canon, contains descriptions of petas or pretas (ghosts, sometimes referred to as "hungry ghosts") who recount the evil deeds in their previous lives that led to them being reborn as a ghost. This implies memory of at least one previous rebirth by petas. – user4970 May 30 '16 at 14:16
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    For all practical purposes, any question about the Buddhavacana is a question about the Pali Canon, since no one can ask the Buddha or identify what the Buddha said and did apart from the suttas. The Petavatthu is part of the Pali Canon. The Pali Canon is the Buddhavacana. Therefore the Petavatthu is Buddhavacana. Anyone can redefine the canonical suttas in any way they please, but such a decision goes beyond the purview of the question. Without a textus receptus, there is no basis for coming to any sort of conclusion about anything. Without common ground, there is no basis for discussion. – user4970 May 31 '16 at 4:33
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I think in Buddhism, all beings are in reality one infinite being which has been shattered into infinite number of pieces So even if one piece( your physical being) out of infinite pieces of you) ceases to exist , other uncountable beings (Pieces of yourself) continue to exist and new ones keep being created and so your goal is thru Nirvana, you as one piece out of infinite pieces can come back and help all other pieces to reach nirvana since all of you needs to be liberated from existence, not just one small shattered piece that you think is you that attained nirvana

  • Of course, our purpose here in reality is impossible to explain in words but since we see life is suffering, we must meditate and that will give us the answer to everything one seeks. So no questions since no one alive can explain it, thus meditate as Buddha taught and get your answers yourself – rob digma Jul 11 at 18:16
  • "reality one infinite being which has been shattered into infinite number of pieces", it's not so good to answer if not informed, knowing, householder. – Samana Johann Jul 11 at 23:12
  • Samana, it seems all you have done is read other people’s thoughts and since mine don’t agree with them, you call mine uninformed. Surprising you and me are one being but still so different, like buddha is from you – rob digma Jul 12 at 23:58
  • Go on and inform yourself, householder Rob. It's not of any's benefit to spread nonsense. – Samana Johann Jul 13 at 1:54
  • I'm not sure I've heard Buddhism described in quite that way before ("all beings are in reality one infinite being"). It's said that a "good answer" on this site is based on something: based a "reference" (to scripture) or based on experience ("something that happened to you personally"). This answer might be better if you e.g. added a reference to scripture. It's vaguely familiar e.g. it's like the Matta Sutta but other bits (e.g. "infinite pieces of you") sound quite unfamiliar, even contrary to what seems usual to me. – ChrisW Jul 13 at 12:08
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Very good and logical question, If I try to summarize your question,

Why should I care about my next life, as when I die there's no more I to worry about, though that information flow will continue.

The main point misunderstood in buddhism is I or self view. In buddhism it's said that don't glue your self to one end. So when someone think that I exist or I don't exist it's going to stick to one end. If I doesn't exist how buddha said about his previous life, how he met previous buddhas and stories.

So everyone who has not attain arhanth has this self view or I. This view is get uprooted when attaining arhanth, as it's a one of fetters called māna. (Note: Please note the first fetter called sakkāya-diṭṭhi is translated as belief in a self which is not correct, correct meaning is thinking external-world is worth) Until that everyone has the self view and that's why we should worry about that.

Practically when you face suffering you feel the suffer as it affects your self right? So this will continue in the next life as well. Going to next life happens as a flow (paticcasamuppada) but it has an owner which is you.

Ant until you are not arhant you will get a life after a life as a result of what you have done (good and bad). All these happens according to the paticcasamuppada.

  • "thinking out world is worth" ? maybe "thinking on/about world is worth", Upasaka? – Samana Johann Jul 12 at 7:17
  • @SamanaJohann that's also correct what I wanted to say is outer world, updated that with the word external-world Thanks 🙏 – follower Jul 12 at 7:23
  • Surely better, Upasaka. What about ideas and intellect, mostly regarded as inwardly, is this aspect of "world" included here? – Samana Johann Jul 12 at 8:02
  • it's a going deeper and deeper. I gave the light answer as world here. If we explain the world, it's five clinging aggregates. And based on the enjoyment we get from those we attached to the external world thinking those are worth. That's a bit deeper level of it. – follower Jul 12 at 8:05
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In Buddhism Anatta contrasts with Ātman:

  • In Buddism, a being dependently arises with cause and effect.
  • In contemporary views,
    • there is an essence which is either unchanging and receiver of all experiences or essence which controls the being.
    • or materialistic view that there is no self which also implies there is no interrelationship current state of existence and the future states are rebirths

The more correct translation of Anatta is not-self, i.e.,

  • any experience is not self or not worthy of been taken to be me or mine
  • one's corporal body and senses are not self or not worthy of been taken to be me or mine
  • etc.

Now, why you should seek liberation? Though there is no essence which receives all your experiences of pain and unsatisfactoriness there is a process which still results in unsatisfactoriness starting from birth to death cycling through eternity until it is broken. So the liberation is to break the cycle of dependent arising and cause and effect. Nirvana is beyond both dependent arising and cause and effect.

So even in theory, there is no essence which experiences in the process of dependent arising one feels pain, pleasantness and neutral feeling which are all unsatisfactory. So one should be motivated to get out of this process. The view that the essence within merging with some eternal being state which is pleasant, in the Buddhist perspective is the wrong view. Also, the future state of oneself arises from the current state. This is neither completely different nor the same, but related dependent arising and cause and effect. Also since the future self is not completely different this is motivation to liberate oneself. The view that the future self is totally unrelated or different, there is no future existence, the future person is the same as the current person is also a wrong view. Also taking the view there is no self or underlying dependently arisen process is also a wrong view.

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Granted there's no persistent identity one can label "self," and granted that there is no continuity of experience beyond death, the importance of narratives about becoming other things, contributing energies toward other lives, or being something else is as a metaphor for this life's experiences.

The best referent for nirvana is related to craving, clinging, and anguish. What is terminated is only a dysfunctional connection to the world.

A "next life" is the next transformation of consciousness in THIS life. We should care about this because experiential quality is real and changeable; decisions today about what we shall do in the present affect how we perceive and engage the world in subsequent present moments.

It is pointless to try to stop existence, to go anywhere other than to the present, to the now, because there is no persistent identity which may "go" anywhere, except to return to oneself and improve awareness.

There is nothing which is eternal (endless, outside of time); samsara is simply experience and existence without nirvana's arrival. The importance of sentient beings is that they, like us, experience samsara, and that a number of us are dedicated to moving beyond this condition out of compassion, bringing about experience without anguish, as this is optimizing. Insofar as these names (such as 'buddhas') have meaning, they merely help us to focus our attention on actions and principles of value.

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