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I'm a bit confused about "not self". How do you take responsibility for your actions if you don't see them as your actions but just a process happening? For example if you're an alcoholic part of the process of healing if you go down the AA route is the importance of admitting to yourself that you are an alcoholic and stand up in AA meetings and say "I'm an alcoholic"

But Buddhism would seem to say there is just alcoholism (or whatever the issue is) happening and it's not happening to a self. I'm just beginning to become aware of some very entrenched personal emotional issues regarding relationships stemming from childhood etc and in order to find a way to heal I need to admit I have a problem and seek help but wouldn't the Buddhist view be - it's just stuff happening, passing and arising and not self?

Sure it passes and arises but the same pattern of issues continue to pass and arise and definitely feel like they are happening to me for many many years causing a lot of havoc and unhappiness in my life. How do I integrate the Buddhist view into my life and take responsibility for what is occurring at the same time without kind of denying stuff by saying "it's not self"

  • Awareness reveals new options. More awareness -- more options. – user2341 Nov 17 '17 at 13:47
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How do you take responsibility for your actions if you don't see them as your actions but just a process happening?

A medical doctor has more than one medicine, for example one to make you vomit and another to stop you vomiting, one to make blood clot and another to stop blood clotting, and so on.

With various medicines which they can use, the point of being a doctor is knowing when to use them, how to use them skillfully, what (purpose and symptoms) to use them for.

Similarly I think there are several Buddhist doctrines, some maybe seem contradictory, and it's good to know when to use them.

Firstly I guess in Buddhism there's the notion of doing things "skillfully" -- see for example Does 'kusala' (skillful) also mean 'wholesome' and 'morally good'?

I assume that, broadly speaking, a "skillful" action (or view) is one which tends towards the cessation of suffering, whereas unskillful is the opposite (tends towards suffering).

If you were an alcoholic then I think you might think you have (cling to) several reasons for being alcoholic, for example:

  • I like alcohol
  • I am not alcoholic
  • I am an alcoholic
  • My mother and father were alcoholic
  • My friends are alcoholic
  • My being alcoholic hurts no-one but myself, it's my personal right to drink like this
  • Nobody else cares about me, I might as well drink like this
  • It makes me feel good

I think that any or all of these could be considered "views" or "self-views" (and/or possibly conceits).

If views like this are a reason why you're alcoholic (remain attached to alcohol), then Buddhist doctrine such as,

This is not mine,
This is not me,
This is not my self

... could be a helpful remedy (perhaps a prescription to take whenever you find views like the ones listed above).

More generally I think that Buddhism teaches than any "view of self" at all is a cause of dukkha -- How is it wrong to believe that a self exists, or that it doesn't?

Conversely though there's a lot of Buddhist doctrine which encourages "taking responsibility":

  • Everyone seems to recommend sila (virtuous behaviour) as the basis or first part of the Threefold Training (and, possibly, the only part of the training that's essential for laypeople).
  • The Buddhist doctrine of kamma teaches that each person is "heir to their own action":

    I am the owner of my actions (kamma), heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir'.

  • Schools of Buddhism tend to emphasise personal responsibility, in contrast with (for example) the notion of a saviour deity (some forms of Christianity, for example, might teach that people are "saved" by God and not by their own efforts).

  • Buddhism has Right Intention and Right Effort as factors of the Noble Eightfold Path
  • Suttas teach that one should "be islands unto yourselves":

    Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.

How do I integrate the Buddhist view into my life and take responsibility for what is occurring at the same time without kind of denying stuff by saying "it's not self"?

Obviously a teacher might help. I find it extremely helpful to interact with (to see and converse with, learn from) people who set a good example.

Without my being a teacher though, to try to begin to answer your question here and now, I think that Buddhist doctrine can be summarised as:

Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.

It's important to know that things cease ("things" including views, causes, and effects).

They arise and cease. Cease, and maybe arise again. Things arise because of causes, conditions. If that's a recurrent pattern (see also samsara) then you may want to change that by controlling the causes.

One of my friends had PTSD after (among other things) having been attacked, and bleeding in the shower. She subsequently had "flashbacks" (i.e. vivid unwanted memories, reliving the traumatic event), maybe dissociative disorders, and so on. The (non-Buddhist) therapy which she reported as having been most effective (antidote to flashbacks) was "mindfulness": e.g. when in the shower, remain conscious of being presently in the shower, of what you could see and feel now, and so on.

I mention that as an illustrative example because "mindfulness" (albeit maybe a different kind of mindfulness) is a feature of Buddhist "therapy" too.

I'm just beginning to become aware of some very entrenched personal emotional issues regarding relationships stemming from childhood etc and in order to find a way to heal I need to admit I have a problem and seek help but wouldn't the Buddhist view be - it's just stuff happening, passing and arising and not self?

Maybe?

I think my view is that if it's pathological, if it causes suffering, then you ought to (it's your responsibility to) do something about it if you can -- and so to seek help perhaps (as well as taking responsibility).

I think there's some dichotomy in the doctrine: on the one hand, Buddhism attempts the salvation of sentient beings, on the other hand an enlightened view avoids attachment to the view that there is "a being".

admitting to yourself that you are an alcoholic and stand up in AA meetings and say "I'm an alcoholic"

I think "I'm an alcoholic", meaning that I can view myself as a habit-forming creature. My view (my summary of my experience) is that if I start to drink alcohol then I'll tend to do the same (drink alcohol) again and then again; ditto if I start to smoke, start to read, start to bicycle, etc. (most any other activity).

Being alcoholic isn't "who I am" though: it's not essential, it's a habit I can change or get rid of, grow out of, be and do without, drop, put aside, or (hopefully) "make like a palmyra stump" as the suttas put it.

It's maybe part of "what I am" though (if I resumed the activity I expect I might find it habit-forming again): so when the occasion to think about it arises, then I now try to avoid it (and to the extent that that avoidance is now a "skillful virtue" that is maybe no longer a cause for remorse).

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I'm a bit confused about "not self". How do you take responsibility for your actions if you don't see them as your actions but just a process happening?

It is not just a process. It is a result of many interconnected processes that you habitually identify as your self. By seeing the way it actually is, instead of what you think it is, you can prevent yourself from actions that will not yield the expected results.

You can correct your actions or create changes in behaviour by taking responsibility for your actions. You can also bring about changes if you understand the processes behind them and see the connections that result in those actions.

It is different way of seeing things, not a denial, not abandoning of one's responsibilities. Ultimately every thing is connected by cause and effect, internally as well as externally. You can group certain causes that arise together and call it self, but then if you have to correct any effects arising from that group of causes - you have to tie the resulting effect to that group and try to bring about changes that will prevent the unwanted effect from happening. According to the concept of no-self that is not needed, you can tie the causes to its effects directly and bring about changes, if you realise the illusory nature of this grouping.

But Buddhism would seem to say there is just alcoholism (or whatever the issue is) happening and it's not happening to a self.

Seems like you are confusing non-identification and no-self here. Non-identification is like when you see anger happening and don't assume that you are getting angry. This is viewing with dispassion. Observation of anatta will certainly help, but it is not required for this to happen.

Sure it passes and arises but the same pattern of issues continue to pass and arise and definitely feel like they are happening to me for many many years causing a lot of havoc and unhappiness in my life.

How do things like these keep happening and yet pass under the radar ? Because a) one avoids the issue or justifies it, b) hence one doesn't find a proper solution and c) hence doesn't stick to a solution. How does taking responsibility address the issue ? a) It doesn't allow you to make a justification (by definition) b) It helps maintain the focus at the issue so that a solution can be identified and c) Helps sticking to the identified solution.

If you view the same issues with dispassion a) There is no need for justification since one doesn't identify with it and b) Frees up more mental resources for identifying a solution. Dispassion may not be of great help in applying the solution, you need to use right effort for that. Right effort includes development of skillful means for reduction of suffering.

How do I integrate the Buddhist view into my life and take responsibility for what is occurring at the same time without kind of denying stuff by saying "it's not self"

As pointed above, observing no-self or viewing stuff with dispassion is not same as denial. Things can be fixed by either taking responsibility or viewing things with dispassion and application of right effort.

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I'm a bit confused about "not self". How do you take responsibility for your actions if you don't see them as your actions but just a process happening?

When not-self is realised, the actions done are very limited since none of the actions are selfish or self-centred. A realiser of not-self will live according to the five precepts.

For example if you're an alcoholic part of the process of healing if you go down the AA route is the importance of admitting to yourself that you are an alcoholic and stand up in AA meetings and say "I'm an alcoholic"

The realisation of not-self cannot lead to alcoholism. This scenario is impossible.

But Buddhism would seem to say there is just alcoholism (or whatever the issue is) happening and it's not happening to a self.

According to Buddhism, an alcoholic must believe they are a self.

I'm just beginning to become aware of some very entrenched personal emotional issues regarding relationships stemming from childhood etc and in order to find a way to heal I need to admit I have a problem and seek help but wouldn't the Buddhist view be - it's just stuff happening, passing and arising and not self?

Obviously, in your case, there is self occurring in the mind.

In other words, if those past actions were viewed as 'not-self', all that would be remembered are sets of five aggregates performing actions in relationship with other five aggregates. SN 22.79 says when past dwellings (pubbe nivasa) are recollected with right view, only aggregates are recollected.

Sure it passes and arises but the same pattern of issues continue to pass and arise and definitely feel like they are happening to me for many many years causing a lot of havoc and unhappiness in my life. How do I integrate the Buddhist view into my life and take responsibility for what is occurring at the same time without kind of denying stuff by saying "it's not self"

You are obviously not viewing anything as "not-self", otherwise your mind would be free & enlightened. If the past was genuinely viewed as 'not-self', all that would be experienced are residual energies of defilement, such as anger, sadness, etc, rather than thoughts of "me" & "I". All that would be experienced are images of 'minds & bodies' rather than 'selves'.

  • Um ok. So I'm not enlightened like 99.999999% of humans. If I meditate daily and follow the dhamma etc and still I have no realisations or enlightenment just what is the point of any of it. What's the point of reading about the Buddhas teachings if you will never know whether it will ever make any difference? Whether or not you'll ever be enlightened? I don't get it. – Arturia Oct 24 '17 at 6:38
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    The Buddha did not openly teach anatta. It is something modern Buddhists do. As for the issues you have expressed in your question, anatta is not necessarily required to reconcile them because they generally are "ethical" or "moral" issues. Regards – Dhammadhatu Oct 24 '17 at 9:43
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The concept of self to which the Buddha objected is foreign to the modern scientific concept of self. Back then, the notion of self was that of an uncaused and undivided entity. Modern psychologists view the self as a complex and well-organized system of beliefs, values, motives, skills, abilities, and unconscious processes. The experience of self is now understood in terms of a self-concept, a social self, self-esteem, coherent thinking, and the like. To say that “I am an alcoholic” is to merely acknowledge I am a member of the group of alcoholics. To view oneself as a causal agent of mental and bodily actions is not viewing one as a self. Mahayana Buddhists are quite clear that we should not be confused by a language that refers to an “I,” “me,” “you,” or “person.”

To view oneself as an agent of one’s action, is to engage the concept of object causality, much in the way we would say that a baseball broke a window. To view one’s actions as caused by a mental process of forming a plan of action that in turn causes the performance of an action (in which case the notion of agent disappears like a rainbow as we approach it) is to engage the concept of process causality, as when we say the transfer of energy from the baseball to the glass caused the glass to shatter. As for the “very entrenched personal emotional issues regarding relationships stemming from childhood”—they are very real indeed.

In Theravadin Buddhism, the concept of responsibility is understood in terms of sankhara (schemata in the terminology of Immanuel Kant). It is by means of sankhara that we make sense of experience. There are three types of sankhara: (1) Innate sankhara that provide us with “core knowledge” (Elizabeth Spelke). (2) Sankhara that we learn through intellectual, emotional, and social development. And (3) sankhara desperately formed in response to harmful circumstances such as physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse during childhood. The second and third types of sankhara are formed by intelligent and mostly unconscious mental processes. Needless to say, we cannot be held responsible for learning sankhara that are formed under circumstances that are beyond our control. It is our sankhara that cause us to perceive, feel, and understand what we experience. Those of us who have experienced an abusive childhood generally suffer from emotional pain, low self-esteem, depression, unable to form loving relationships, rage, and/or debilitating mental disorders. Those who suffer in this way cannot be held responsible for their experiences. At best, they can be asked to avoid obvious ways of harming other people. The harsh reality is that such people have little chance of finding true happiness, although psychotherapy, medication, and mindfulness meditation can be of limited help. Those of us who have been lucky enough to have had loving parents and supporting circumstances have much more knowledge and the freedom of choice that such knowledge brings. We live in a harsh world. This is the truth of suffering.

  • I like your last paragraph, about sankhara that we are not responsible for. In a sense we can never be responsible for anything that is in the past, but we are totally responsible for what we do now. If a landslide buried my car, I am not responsible, even if I saw it coming and stopped the car and ran away. But I am responsible to get it unburied, even if all I have to dig with is a spoon. Whatever action I can now take to improve my situation and that of others, is mine to choose now and do, even if the action seems pitiful or unlikely to succeed. – user2341 Nov 17 '17 at 13:40
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Good investigated and good question, Arturia.

Forgetting, denying self and effects on it is the reason why bad deeds are done. Maybe even lesser as if holding it high and silly defent it. The solution lies how ever in the right approach. One has to develope the right notion of self and what is protective and harmful for it.

The Self is very needed for the whole path, not to speak about pleasant life in the world and it is nessesary to develop a good sense of Self. The Self is one of the governing prinziples. And needed to force one to act skillfyl. Even on high level, a life dedicated only for Nibbana.

How do I integrate the Buddhist view into my life and take responsibility for what is occurring at the same time without kind of denying stuff by saying "it's not self"

For a good understanding and how and when to one the notion of not-self, read: Selves & Not-self: The Buddhist Teaching on Anatta, which includes much practical advices.

For who can "self or emptiness" be virtuose and what might be a very wrong approach, read te teaching: Virtue without Attachment.

Neither "to be or not to be", "self or no self" are questions and useful objects for a good walk on to beyond of such notions at all.

One investigates and cuts of "just" what can not be regarded as Self, denying Self itself, is wrong view as well, and as you have investigated, lead fast to hell, acting on such view.

And "it's just stuff happening, passing and arising and not self", is right, but that stuff has (a) cause, and if leading to suffering of oneself or of others, means to avoid the cause. Effects on causes can not be changed, nor made undone, but yet play a importand rule to learn to give skillful causes.

Even today a broad done and beloved practice under the level of Buddha Dhamma, the practicing of a notion "there is no self", "I am nothing" is actually the cleaning (Uposatha) on the Jhains, a worthless practice of thiefs (wise say and known), and should always be rebuked:

"On the Uposatha day, they get their disciple to undertake the following practice: 'Here, my good man. Having stripped off all your clothing, say this: "I am nothing by anything or of anything. Thus there is nothing by anything or of anything that is mine."' Yet in spite of that, his parents know of him that 'This is our child.' And he knows of them that 'These are my parents.' His wives & children know of him that 'This is our husband & father.' And he knows of them that 'These are my wives & children.' His workers & slaves know of him that 'This is our master.' And he knows of them that 'These are my workers & slaves.' Thus at a time when he should be persuaded to undertake truthfulness, he is persuaded to undertake falsehood. At the end of the night, he resumes the consumption of his belongings, even though they aren't given back to him. This counts as stealing, I tell you. Such is the Uposatha of the Jains, Visakha. When this Uposatha of the Jains is undertaken, it is not of great fruit or great benefit, not of great glory or great radiance.

Muluposatha Sutta: The Roots of the Uposatha

(Thatjs like most medi sessions or meetings of "Buddhists", or? Maybe even your (certain readers) way, reading it? When etting go it' not just something one speaks of or hypocritical theory but visible in actions and real abonding of home at heart. The common Jhains-practice under western and modern Buddhist explains also why they are terrible denying such as responsibility, gratitude and duties, don't like it, and it's good, right from the beginning to avoid assosiation with people of wrong view.)

The proper cleaning of mind has afer the tipple gems as means for it, the good developed attributs and deeds done by oneself as means, like explained in the Sutta:

Developing, doing, encouraging and rejoicing in skillfull actions, deeds, speech an intentions. Asossiation and spheres where put into action, people of integrity, with a right notion of self, hard to find in this world. But possible when becoming, step by step, for oneself one, having entered or seek for the stream to unbond...

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gains by means of trade and exchange.]

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"No self, anattā", ultimate reality in chapter 1st - 1/2 of 8th of abhidhammatthasaṇgaha, not deny "myself/yourselves word", reality in communication, vijjamāna sadda paññatti. Because buddha and ariya still use ahaṃ/mamṃ/me word, after their enlightenment. So, "No self, anattā" deny just ultimate unreality, avijjamāna attha paññatti (attā arising of wrong view) and avijjamāna sadda paññatti (attā word of wrong view).

Definitely perfect description, this is the reason that why commentary said that abhidhamma is vipassanā focusing point, object. Because abhidhamma describing the whole reality and unreality whiteout any lacking to doubt, if the reader recited tipitaka much enough. But suttanta focusing on each personal knowledge of person who listening that sutta in front of buddha/ariyasāvaka, in the past.

  • No idea what you're talking about, very unclear – Arturia Oct 24 '17 at 6:34

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