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?
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).