In this question, the OP asked:

In the context of the four stages of enlightenment would it be right to say that, without identity-view, there's no such thing as an "enlightened person": instead there are maybe "enlightened moments" or moments of enlightenment?

The Buddha in the MN 26 quote below, declared "I, the unexcelled teacher. I, alone, am rightly self-awakened ... I am a conqueror (of evil qualities)."

However, as the enlightened one, we can be sure that the Buddha did not have identity view (sakkāya-diṭṭhi) and also did not have conceit (māna).

So, how could a declaration like "I am the unexcelled teacher" or "ahaṃ satthā anuttaro" be made without identity view and without conceit?

Could it be possible that it is OK to use personal pronouns and also stating truthful facts relating to one's person, without identity view and without conceit? How?

In MN 26:

"Then, having stayed at Uruvela as long as I liked, I set out to wander by stages to Varanasi. Upaka the Ajivaka saw me on the road between Gaya and the (place of) Awakening, and on seeing me said to me, 'Clear, my friend, are your faculties. Pure your complexion, and bright. On whose account have you gone forth? Who is your teacher? In whose Dhamma do you delight?'

"When this was said, I replied to Upaka the Ajivaka in verses:

All-vanquishing,
all-knowing am I,
with regard to all things, unadhering.
All-abandoning,
released in the ending of craving:
having fully known on my own,
to whom should I point as my teacher?

I have no teacher,
and one like me can't be found.
In the world with its devas,
I have no counterpart.

For I am an arahant in the world;
I, the unexcelled teacher.
I, alone, am rightly self-awakened.
Cooled am I, unbound.

To set rolling the wheel of Dhamma
I go to the city of Kasi.
In a world become blind,
I beat the drum of the Deathless.'

"'From your claims, my friend, you must be an infinite conqueror.'

Conquerors are those like me
who have reached fermentations' end.
I've conquered evil qualities,
and so, Upaka, I'm a conqueror.'

"When this was said, Upaka said, 'May it be so, my friend,' and — shaking his head, taking a side-road — he left.

up vote 4 down vote accepted

SN 1.25

[Deva:] He who's an Arahant, his work achieved, Free from taints, in final body clad, That monk still might use such words as "I." Still perchance might say: "They call this mine." ... Would such a monk be prone to vain conceits?

[The Blessed One:] Bonds are gone for him without conceits, All delusion's chains are cast aside: Truly wise, he's gone beyond such thoughts. That monk still might use such words as "I," Still perchance might say: "They call this mine." Well aware of common worldly speech, He would speak conforming to such use.

As I have seen times and again in many Mahayana texts, as well as heard in person from my Zen Master, understanding of Emptiness has two aspects:

1) Form is Emptiness. This is when you understand that identity is illusion, self does not really exist, all entities are imputations or abstractions, agent is a perspective etc. From this perspective, reification is the root of all evil and cessation of reification leads to cessation of suffering.

2) Emptiness is Form. This is when you understand that, despite being inaccurate and misleading, entities/labels/identities/agents naturally emerge -- because that's the easiest and most compact way to represent the world in context-bound thought and speech.

In light of #1, you abandon naive fascination with entities/identities/labels/abstractions and taking them at their face value. In other words, #1 is freedom from (the dictate of) Form.

In light of #2, you abandon aversion to forms and fear of using forms. You understand pragmatic value of forms without getting fooled by them. You can delineate new forms and use them according to the needs of the context, but you never forget anymore that forms are conventions and not the actual realities. In this sense, #2 is freedom to use Form.

Since Buddha fully understands how "Emptiness ≡ Form", it is said that Buddha can freely fabricate an identity as required to communicate Dharma to the audience.

The #1 implies that Samsaric mind with its ignorant tendency for reification is the problem and cessation of reification is the way to achieve the peace of suchness. #1 assumes a perspective according to which the regular mind is imperfect and the mind of Buddha is perfect. According to #1, Samsara and Nirvana are separate.

The #2 implies that regular mind is Buddha, that things are perfect as they are, that Enlightenment is self-existent, and that Samsara and Nirvana are not separate.

The #1 is called "Dharma-eye" (seeing things from the perspective of Dharma); The #2 is called "Buddha-eye" (seeing things from the perspective of Buddha).

Could it be possible that it is OK to use personal pronouns and also stating facts relating to one's person, without identity view and without conceit?

Exactamundo. There is no problem using conventional language for enlightened persons. Not the slightest problem at all. The idea that absence of identity-view relegates one incapable of using personal pronouns is profoundly silly and indicates a major misunderstanding :)

Enlightened persons and you and I exist. We all exist. The doctrine of Anatta or Shunyata do not contradict this at all. Believing that they do is falling into nihilism and very silly. Don't make this mistake! The question is not whether we exist... the proper question is how we exist.

How?

Enlightened beings use these personal pronouns in exactly the same manner and according to the same rules as ordinary beings: by worldly convention. This idea that the negation of identity-view necessarily negates the existence of persons is just wrong. It is a misunderstanding. Listen to the Buddha:

At Savatthi. “Bhikkhus, I do not dispute with the world; rather, it is the world that disputes with me. A proponent of the Dhamma does not dispute with anyone in the world. Of that which the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, I too say that it does not exist. And of that which the wise in the world agree upon as existing, I too say that it exists.

If you look as the Sutta continues he elucidates what does not exist:

And what is it, bhikkhus, that the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, of which I too say that it does not exist? Form that is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, and I too say that it does not exist.

And he elucidates what does exist:

“And what is it, bhikkhus, that the wise in the world agree upon as existing, of which I too say that it exists? Form that is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as existing, and I too say that it exists. Feeling … Perception … Volitional formations … Consciousness that is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as existing, and I too say that it exists.

What is the Buddha getting after here? He is talking about the coarse understanding of emptiness. That is that existing things are impermanent, non-unitary and utterly dependent. The doctrine of shunyata - both at its coarse level and its subtler levels like prasangika-madhyamaka - does not refute existence. Persons exist. Things exist. Entities exist.

Emptiness does not refute that things exist. It refutes that things exist permanently, unitarily, independently, substantially, in a self-sufficient manner, ... and most subtly, inherently.

Why is it so hard to understand this? Why do we always either undershoot and negate too little or overshoot and negate too much? Because most everything around us appears to exist permanently, unitarily, independently, substantially, and in a self-sufficient and inherent manner. It is hard for us to break through this apparent perception and see the reality underneath. We go from one extreme: believing in the appearance of true existence ... to the other extreme: believing that things don't exist at all! We are very foolish.

To understand how an enlightened being could use these pronouns without the slightest bit of identity view imagine a dream where you are completely aware you are dreaming. You look at your hand and you say, "This is my hand" and yet you have absolutely no doubt that this is not a real hand, but merely a dream conjuration. The appearance of your dream hand does not fool you at all. You acknowledge the existence of this dream hand, but have no doubt whatsoever that it is an illusion. For Arya beings I think every perception is like this.

In fact, that is how I conceive of what it might be like to have a direct perception of emptiness. To suddenly wake up in this very life - much like a sleeper wakes up in a lucid dream - and know without the slightest bit of doubt that my own hand is no more real than the hand that I once perceived in a lucid dream. To know that this very waking life is no more real than a lucid dream. Not that it is a dream mind you, but like a dream in the precise sense that neither is more real or less real than the other. Of course, that's probably just my romanticized notion of what the direct perception of emptiness is like. I'll let you know for sure when I experience it :)

If you'll accept a personal opinion, I've assumed that he was talking about the Dhamma.

For example if you needed a driver and I offered, "I can drive", that's less a statement about me and more a statement about the availability of the subject-matter.


Also there's an essay here: The Lion's Roar -- Two Discourses of the Buddha

I think it's relevant to your question:

The Pali Commentaries explain that there are two kinds of lion's roar: that of the Buddha himself and that of his disciples. The former is sounded when the Buddha extols his own attainments or proclaims the potency of the doctrine he has realized; the latter, when accomplished disciples testify to their own achievement of the final goal, the fruit of arahantship.

I don't know whether it explains why you wouldn't call that conceit.

Maybe it agrees with my saying that it's primarily about the teaching:

Each delivers in its own way an eloquent and inspiring testimony to the uniquely emancipating nature of the Buddha's Teaching and the peerless stature of the Teacher among the spiritual guides of humanity.


Also there are plenty of places where the Buddha approves of other people (i.e. other people's virtues).

Also I think this is not an example of literally "identity view", which I think means (literally) "view that the body is true", or, "view about the true body", or something like that: generally mistaking the aggregates for self or soul or maybe permanent and so on -- and, that is not what's happening.

As for conceit or pride, I don't know. Perhaps it matters when or in what circumstance, for what motive something is said. There's a sutta where the Buddha approves of someone's mentioning their attainment only when no white-robed lay-person was present.

And/or it's part of the right speech doctrine, i.e. "having a sense of the proper time" for saying something that's "true" and "beneficial".

Per the scripture, the Buddha's teaching is motivated "for the sake of" others, and after being asked to (originally asked by Brahma, or in this case in reply to a question put by Upaka).

The idea of conceit should resonate somewhere along the lines of: I am better, we are the same, I am worse.

But in the declaration, the Buddha was stating the facts, and does not indicate any marks of conceit. At least that is one way of interpreting it.

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