If the self is an illusion - of little importance - where does that leave my relationships?

All the people I know, have a relationship with this 'fake self' of mine -- so the relationships are groundless? an illusion also?


You are asking something like "If superman is fictional, what happens to his relationship with Lois Lane?".

In ultimate reality, relationships don't exit. It's just craving/clinging arising in the mind for seeing, hearing, smelling, touching etc.

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    While this is good I prefer, “If Scooby-doo is fictional, what happens to poor Shaggy?” LOL in a tiny bit more seriousness, it can be said that Scooby-doo and Shaggy exist. They exist fictionally. It is not the case that Scooby-doo and Shaggy do not exist at all! – Yeshe Tenley May 17 '18 at 12:13

The person is not an illusion, it is like an illusion. It is like an illusion in that it does not appear the way it exists.

An illusory horse appears as if it was an actual horse while it is not. From a Prasangika viewpoint, similarly, persons and phenomena (such as relationships) appear as if they were inherently existent while they are not. In this respect, the person is like an illusion.

In a commentary to Je Tsongkhapa's middle-length Lam Rim, Geshe Gyaltsen says:

One will come to perceive the person as like an illusion when one has realized emptiness. Therefore one will know the illusory aspect of the person in that the person appears as truly existent, but does not exist as such.


All relationships are subject to impermanence, just like all illusions. Also, the way you perceive a relationship, will always differ to the other person within that particular relationship. The relationship is merely 'true' only within your perception, which is also impermanent, just like an illusion.


There is hope friend! Your question leads me to believe you might have misunderstood the meaning of anatta or emptiness and drifted toward nihilism. Take heart that this is just a misunderstanding and that the Virtuous Teachers have said emptiness and nihilism are completely different.

Emptiness or anatta is an extremely hard concept to wrap your head around and there is danger in misapprending it for nihilism like there is danger in mishandling a snake. Fortunately, we can use this warning as a handrail to support ourselves: when we recognize ourselves drifting towards nihilism then let’s happily put down that view knowing confidently that we have misunderstood.

Hope this helps!

  • Understanding anatta intellectually and experientially are two seperate shoes. If one is stuck in the former I doubt that it will have an effect in one's day-to-day behaviours. – Val May 17 '18 at 20:38
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    My teachers disagree and I do as well. If someone believes intellectually that emptiness means nihilism, they might then think karma doesn’t matter and the the results of our deeds don’t matter, etc. – Yeshe Tenley May 17 '18 at 21:47

As @Tenzin said relationships are not illusion. They are like illusion. They are ,as @ruben2020 ,said conditioned and impermanent. But they play a role in your evolution towards Anatta. Like wholesome and unwholesome qualities , relationship can be good or bad. When a relationship is good then it is like a medicine. For example you can have good relationship with Sangha or community or people with integrity. The purpose of medicine is to cure the disease of self and then the medicine is left. Many wholesome qualities like compassion , loving kindness etc also act like medicine. But when the relationship is bad you can leave it right away unless offcourse you want to improve it out of compassion. Realisation of Anatta is like Nirvana which is attained by developing various wholesome qualities and developing good relationships. Good relationships are vitally important.


Your relationships are simply conditioned and impermanent. Even your closest relationships may be subject to death, disputes and drifting away.

The Buddha praised admirable companionships in SN 45.2:

As he was sitting there, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, "This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie."

"Don't say that, Ananda. Don't say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.

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