After years of abandoning Buddhism and becoming an agnostic, I somehow finally experienced/felt the Four Noble Truths yesterday, or at least the truth of the first three. Then the same thing happened with anatta.

What followed was mostly a relief. Then a sense of calmness, concentration, clarity and energy. But there was an ego struggle. I was scared, that I am giving up, who I am. That I won't care so deeply about things, that used to matter to me anymore. Right now I can kind of feel this... f.e. when I am listening to the music right now, I no longer consider it a part of my identity, nor do I connect so deeply with it in a sense, that its sadness nor joy resonate with my ego. The thing is, I liked being attached to it, I used to be an obsessive person - hobbies, people, music, ideas, beauty, art... Everything.

Today, I feel basically the same way, both a relief and a little fear, even though my ego fear is weaker.

So, I suppose, this is not a 100% realization of anatta. Is it possible to go fully back to my old attachments? :D Or is it possible to live somewhere in between?

Btw, yesterday it also occured to me, that samsara and bhavacakra are just metaphors for person's psychological development both throughout life and day... Similar with karma. (I remain agnostic regarding taking them literally. Just like with anything else, like God.).

I somehow feel like I will still be me. But without attaching to everything including my identity. Does that make sense?

It is also radically different from a discomfort of depersonalisation, that I had a chance to briefly experience in my life.

Still a little scared though.

Thanks for reading this.


2 Answers 2


The fear you are having indicates misunderstanding rather than a perception of things as they truly are. Understanding annata in a non-mistaken way would not lead to fear arising. Rather, it would bring the dissipation of fear. That is why the first bhumi is called the Very Joyous.

But there was an ego struggle. I was scared, that I am giving up, who I am. That I won't care so deeply about things, that used to matter to me anymore.

That itself is attachment. That itself is suffering.

The thing is, I liked being attached to it...

That itself is attachment.

So, I suppose, this is not a 100% realization of anatta. Is it possible to go fully back to my old attachments? :D Or is it possible to live somewhere in between?

When you 100% realize things as they really are it is not possible to unlearn this. With understanding comes knowledge. It is kinda like asking if you can believe in Santa Claus again :)

I suspect you might have manifested some doubt as to whether things have essence. Mind you, doubt is not the same thing as conviction and it is far, far, far away from seeing. Still, it is very, very, very good to have manifested this doubt. With that doubt the ego can be shaken. It can react in a frightened manner. That might be what you are experiencing.

Is it possible to turn back from your doubt? I doubt it. (pun intended) I suspect if you keep going you are going to start to feel some exhilaration when your ego complains. If you start to feel joyous at your ego's predicament, then you might know you are on the right path.

Hope this helps!

  • 1
    Hello, Yeshe. Yes, it did help, thanks! Yes, I must feel attached to my identity and it feels like it is protesting, as if it had its own will. :) I know, that the Self is a mere construct, both intellectually (neuroscience) and from experience too. It is like 30% of me is screaming "nooo"!, while the rest is relieved. Also, i do care more about others right now. I will give it some time and see how long I want to go on in this rat race. :D And be mindful in the process. Aug 14, 2018 at 14:52
  • Rejoice that you've found something that truly scares your ego! Rejoice that your ego is quaking at the powerful sword of the Dharma! Of course, your ego is just delusion so feel very, very, happy that you've found something that helps you get rid of this delusion that has caused you nothing but unhappiness since beginningless time. Glad to have offered some small measure of help :)
    – user13375
    Aug 14, 2018 at 14:55
  • @ShinrinYoku One more comment... if you wish to help solidify your doubt regarding essence reading this might help: wisdompubs.org/book/insight-emptiness
    – user13375
    Aug 14, 2018 at 14:58
  • Thank you!!! I am going to save this link. And then I am going to tremble with fear for few years and try not to think about it. :D Why is this so hard. Also. I feel like I need to be very careful with my mind. I suffered from severe depression, panic attacks, GAD and social anxiety. I still have to take medication. I never had psychosis. But I could have had it. It haunts me. Maybe that is like 50% of why i resist. I am afraid I might lose it, destroy my psyche after finally putting back together. It is not so uncommon in spiritual seekers to go mad after all. Aug 14, 2018 at 15:05
  • 1
    Fantastic comment. I used to be a nihilist, but in a sense, that I was depressed, that there is no intrinsic purpose in life. And when I look back, i took Buddhism too literally, that the ego does not exist. But I guess I was even more depressed about extinguishion of passions, being very passionate and driven person, till i got sick. I could not even meditate, as it may trigger psychosis. Then I abandoned Buddhism and re-built myself. In a lot of aspects I am completely different person now. And I am aware now, that I can look upon self in terms of provisional and ultimate truth. Aug 14, 2018 at 15:19

Yes the puthujjanas are obsessed with what they feel and phenomenology. Some even ask what does it feel like to be an arhant.

Anyway, since you care about what you feel, the only experience felt that you should care about is the jhanas, certainly not the sensual experience, and the of course in details it is piti, sukkha, samadhi and so on.

THe way to judge the result of your knowledge of the dhamma is certainly not to spend your energy writing about who you feel music or how you feel the taste of some food, or the scent of rubber . THe first famous step is the lack of doubt in the dhamma and of course the lack of ''sakkāya-diṭṭhi''.

If you want to know what the lack of ''sakkāya-diṭṭhi'' is all about, you can read https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.089.than.html and his statements like

"In the same way, friends, it's not that I say 'I am form,' nor do I say 'I am other than form.' It's not that I say, 'I am feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness,' nor do I say, 'I am something other than consciousness.' With regard to these five clinging-aggregates, 'I am' has not been overcome, although I don't assume that 'I am this.'

that's all there is to the lack of ''sakkāya-diṭṭhi'' . the lack of ''sakkāya-diṭṭhi'' is itself a label regrouping all the statements in this quote.

I you want to now what ''''sakkāya-diṭṭhi'''' is all about, since you are a puthujjana, you already naturally regards the ''5 aggregates'' as ''I am this'' and even more stupid from you, you turn that into a ''I am'', typically by regarding as and calling them ''mine''. You have been doing this for many years already, so no need to explain more. Once you no longer regard any aggregate as ''mine'' you can claim that you lack ''sakkāya-diṭṭhi''. So ask yourself

"Concerning these five clinging-aggregates described by the Blessed One — i.e., form as a clinging-aggregate, feeling as a clinging-aggregate, perception as a clinging-aggregate, fabrications as a clinging-aggregate, consciousness as a clinging-aggregate: Do I assume anything with regard to these five clinging-aggregates to be self or belonging to self?"'"

If you reply by yes, then you are a puthujjana.

If you reply by

"Friend, concerning these five clinging-aggregates described by the Blessed One — i.e., form as a clinging-aggregate... feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness as a clinging-aggregate: With regard to these five clinging-aggregates, there is nothing I assume to be self or belonging to self."

then you lack of ''sakkāya-diṭṭhi''.

Later on, you can wonder if you have a natural lack craving towards the senses and ill-will to see if you are at the next stage.

Here is the bad way to relate to the senses:

“While experiencing that same painful feeling, he harbors aversion toward it. When he harbors aversion toward painful feeling, the underlying tendency to aversion toward painful feeling lies behind this. While experiencing painful feeling, he seeks delight in sensual pleasure. For what reason? Because the uninstructed worldling does not know of any escape from painful feeling other than sensual pleasure. When he seeks delight in sensual pleasure, the underlying tendency to lust for pleasant feeling lies behind this. He does not understand as it really is the origin and the passing away, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in the case of these feelings. When he does not understand these things, the underlying tendency to ignorance in regard to neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling lies behind this.

“If he feels a pleasant feeling, he feels it attached. If he feels a painful feeling, he feels it attached. If he feels a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he feels it attached. This, monks, is called an uninstructed worldling who is attached to birth, aging, and death; who is attached to sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection, and despair; who is attached to suffering, I say.

-- From SN 36:6, cited in In the Buddha's Words

here is the proper way to relate to the ''world''

“Seeing thus, monks, the instructed noble disciple becomes disenchanted with the eye, with forms, with eye-consciousness, with eye-contact, with whatever feeling arises with eye-contact as condition—whether pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant; becomes disenchanted with the ear … with the mind … with whatever feeling arises with mind-contact as condition…. Becoming disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion [his mind] is liberated. When it is liberated there comes the knowledge: ‘It’s liberated.’ He understands: ‘Destroyed is birth, the spiritual life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming back to any state of being.’”

-- From SN 35:28, cited in In the Buddha's Words

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