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If it's wrong view to say, "I am" then why isn't it also wrong view to say, "there is" since they both point to the same verb, "to be?" It is said that there are Four Noble Truths. Yet, somehow, these conditioned phenomena of words and mental formations (i.e. "truth" is merely a concept) are not subject to cessation.

All conditioned phenomena arise and cease, except for the "magical" mind stream that, somehow, from beginningless time manages to avoid cessation with the exception of its eternal annihilation at parinibbana (i.e., the extinction of all subjective experience which is said to be the "highest happiness"). If the mind stream is "just a process, not a person," then the same should be true of all phenomena, yet all conditioned phenomena are subject to cessation whilst the mind stream somehow dodges this immutable law until the manual intervention of practicing the path finally pushes this naughty rebel of conditioned phenomena into the annihilation machine of parinibbana.

I'm just trying to better understand the logic of this. I have some doubts and thus push hard on certain issues that don't make sense to me. Personally, I don't need the Buddha to be 100% correct about everything to find value in his teachings. However, I'm not even claiming that something is correct or incorrect, only that I have doubt, yet I still find value in many of the teachings.

  • i would say it's not necessarily wrong to say 'I Am'. It would depend on what we mean by 'I'. . . – PeterJ Nov 5 '19 at 14:05

11 Answers 11

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Existence is always existence of something. Existence without a "something" is a fun abstraction to talk about, but for practical purposes there is no existence unless it is an existence of something. We could say, existence is a quality of something - and as any quality, it does not stand by itself.

Once we have "something", we have boundaries and conditions for its ongoing existence. Outside of those boundaries and conditions, that "something" can no longer exist.

So "existence", "something" and "boundaries and conditions" always come bundled together.

Now, if we put any serious weight on that "something", if we lean on it for our own objectives or goals - then our objectives and goals become bounded and conditioned by the boundaries and conditions of "something". Boundaries and conditions are transitive.

So when you say "something is", you implicitly entering a contract. If you now think in terms of that "something" having existence, if you believe in its existence - which means you take its definition, its boundaries and conditions seriously - then those of your actions that are based on that "something" - are now subject to its boundaries and conditions.

This is true for any value of something, including "I". As soon as you take "I am" as something real, you are bound by its definition. Needless to say, "bound" is not "free".


The stream we are talking about is not a "stream" of individual person's mind. (The "stream" of individual person's mind is an optical illusion. It is a "something" we ourselves delineate, and moment to moment work hard to delineate again and again, connect with something in the past, in order to maintain the appearance of identity.)

The stream we are talking about is a stream of mind at large. And when we say mind, it is not what you think of as person's mind, but mind as a global dynamic process of integrated information exchange permeating all interactions whatsoever.

This process is what's known as The Law (i.e it is what's described by Dharma) and it is this very process is what develops into self-perpetuating confusion called Samsara. Understanding this process is what's required for liberation. Gaining peace that comes from realizing ontological reality of this process, sans confusion and boundaries of Samsara with its "somethings" and definitions, is what's known as attaining Nirvana.


As far as I can see, this process is made of quadrillions of spanning nested self-reinforcing tendencies.

There is no annihilation, no eternal existence either. Only individual "somethings" arise and end, because the underlying process keeps on unfolding and endlessly shifting.


The process itself is the Law. Whether "somethings" arise or cease, whether Buddhas arise or cease, the Law of self-reinforcing tendencies remains.

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“I am” causes suffering.

“There is” does not cause suffering.

The Buddha taught about suffering & it’s cessation.

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In a simple way

Nirvana just means you stop when you transcend anger, greed and not knowing. You stop grasping for stuff, you stop reacting. You neither want to be or not want to be You just do whatever is appropriate without any greed anger and ignorance.

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The only fault is building up of the "self". Let everything be something. Don't happen to see a real organism behind. It's something apparent only. The critical point of one's mind is also formed out of the basic building blocks of matter that experience change. The "self" is relative to time and its cause, simply a natural phenomenon that we have mistaken!

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No person being, just elements depending on each other's for surely vanishing.

Attachment, craving and clinging on the elements definitely cause suffering again and again forever.

Ignorant never know the elements' dependent originations.

Wrong view always misunderstand on dependent originations' relativities and thinking of wrong concept about the elements, person being.

Doubt again and again in wrong concept of wrong elements' relativities.

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If it's wrong view to say, "I am" then why isn't it also wrong view to say, "there is" since they both point to the same verb, "to be?"

The use of personal pronouns is not wrong view. The various speculative wrong views and a doctrine of 'a self' in particular are wrong views.

People speculate about phenomena existing and not existing. A person will say; 'this is what i call a car and a car to that extent exists'. Another to him says; 'all is of a dreamlike nature, nothing exists to that extent'

Both are speculating about what can be thought about and have arrived at these position by thinking yet neither has a complete and accurate understand of how that which is thought about comes to be, what are all the governing principles making it come into play, knowing what can be known one would go beyond speculation and be able to overcome false expectations, unrealistic expectations, sub optimal goal setting, sub optimal directing, delusion and ignorance in general.

Furthermore they use language differently, what person A means by existence and what he wants to convey are one and the same in meaning but how person B perceives it might turn out otherwise. Person B would have to explain exactly what he means by a dreamlike state to communicate the meaning of his expression to explain his position. They both are speculating and therefore arguing about it. A person with right view would not argue nor take a position for he relies on a demonstrable basis for inference and understanding, his understanding is without speculation and he can understand the positions of other people better than they themselves do.

all conditioned phenomena are subject to cessation whilst the mind stream somehow dodges this immutable law

The idea of mind stream is mind-made, it is like intellectual property, merely an idea and a convention, a philosophical principle conceived and perceived as a part of a model to understand how that which is thought about works.

Therefore it is not something that transcends impermanence because ideas are impermanent.

One thing that is imporant to understand is the concept of something 'arising as one thing and ceasing as another'

This points to two important circumstances to be discerned;

  1. If X has that property, then the cessation of X won't be discerned before 'Not X' is discerned. Otherwise one gets stuck in a variety of states included in X to be discerned.

  2. Based on the Sabba Sutta and what is called World in the pali discourses one can infer that as soon as any change is conceived and perceived to occur anywhere in the universe that means mindmade phenomena changed, a before and after can be delineated and cessation of past conditions can be discerned as a before and the coming into play of new conditions as an after. It is impossible to explain the change of mind in terms of the speed for this reason.

In this way id explain that cessation of conditioned phenomena isn't discerned on account of change as before & after ie after tomorrow or after breakup of the body or anything like that, but on account of discernment of the unconditioned, there could be no after for what is after is in the context of before and is also conditioned, there has to be a discernment of what isn't included in what is thought about as past, present and future.

That what can be thought about and understood is one thing and the understanding and thinking is another. If one thinks about what can be thought about as phenomena and grasps it with wrong view as a self, personal and self referable, only such person is said to adhere to a doctrine of self.

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    References on request, im on a phone so it's not convenient to substantiate every sentence but ask if something looks unfamiliar and i will give a reference and explain how it is inferred. – 116PУC Nov 5 '19 at 13:35
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I see you have some good pointers here, including your own response to the others, but perhaps this may also be helpful:

I would suggest that your problem here is not understanding the dividing line between conventional speech and the careful, precise speech needed when discussing Dhamma.

It is perfectly propper to say "I am", for example when speaking of going to the store. It is when discussing existence and non-existence that the idea "I am" becomes the statement of a point of view.

And there the Buddhist position is clear: There being no thing there that can qualify as a self when that qualification is that that thing is under one's own control, the statement "I am that" becomes a statement of an opinion, or point of view concerning existence and non-existence, and as such will always be partly wrong and not helpful when it comes to disassociating one's self from that 'that'.

Hence the frequently repeated:

"Is the eye permanent or impermanent?"

"Impermanent"

"Is that which is impermanent going to cause pain in the end or not?"

"It will cause pain."

"Is it proper to say of that which causes pain:

"This is Me", "This is my self", "This I am" ? "No."

The key to distinguishing when to use which is to ask yourself:

"Is what I am saying an opinion, a point of view, or is it just a statement of an observable fact."

Opinion: "There is no self"

Statement of an observable fact: "There is no thing there that is the self."

"But!" you object, to say: "There is no thing there that is the self," states an opinion about all things and all things are not observable to an individual. What's the difference?"

It is the statement of an opinion when it is being made by someone who does not perceive the essential nature of that which has come to be as being 'change'.

We can observe one thing which encompasses all the rest: That, by definition, that which comes into existence is subject to Time; that which is subject to time is bounded by a beginning, middle and end.

It's that "end" bit that is the troublemaker.

It is also that 'end' bit which allows one to say: "There is no thing there that is the self" because a 'thing' is a thing that has come into existence and will pass out of existence and we have established that a phenomena so bounded is not under one's control and cannot therefore justifiably be called 'the self' or 'belonging to self'.

That cannot be said of the statement: "There is no self" although that may seem like a logical conclusion to be drawn from the statement that 'There is no thing there that is the self." It isn't. To say: 'there is no' is to state an opinion about all things that has no basis in the observable. It would require being able to see all things at all times and that is beyond the power of even the Buddhas.

"Is this not just a lot of words amounting to nothing?"

Of course that depends on one's seriousness with regard to the problem the Buddha's Dhamma solves: Serious one will, sooner or later, work one's way to a serenity (samadhi) which will reveal one's attachment to a stream of 'lives' going back into endless time and moving on out into the endless future and one may see at that point the utter horror of that in its companion: endless aging and death, grief and lamentation, pain and misery and despair. At that point, having the opinion "There is no self" will not help you to escape; but seeing that "There is no thing there that is my self" will.

That is the point, say I.

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It is not considered wrong view in Buddhism to say I am within a sentence. After attaining Nibbana, the Buddha continued to use personal pronouns in many of his discourses and teachings. For example,

  • In the Anapanasati Sutta translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (2006) we find the Blessed One saying, “Monks, I am content with this practice. I am content at heart with this practice. So arouse even more intense persistence for the attaining of the as-yet-unattained, the reaching of the as-yet-unreached, the realization of the as-yet-unrealized. I will remain here at Savatthi [for another month] through the ‘White Water-lily’ Month…”.
  • In the Ogha-Tarana Sutta translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (1998) a devata went to the Blessed One and asked, “Tell me, dear sir, how you crossed over the flood[?]” And the Buddha replied by saying, “I crossed over the flood without pushing forward, without staying in place.”
  • In the Hatthaka Sutta translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (ND) Hatthaka of Alavi asked the Buddha, “Lord, I hope the Blessed One has slept in ease.” And the Buddha replied by saying, “Yes, young man. I have slept in ease. Of those in the world who sleep in ease, I am one.”

Therefore, I think we can safely assume that using words such as ‘I am” are not considered wrong view. There is no contradiction with the “to be” statements.

Next, the magical mind stream that you keep referring to will eventually cease. It is not like the atman (soul) which Hindu’s believe is permanent and unchanging. Instead, it is only the continuum of momentary consciousness and mental formations. Once the liberated person dies and enters Parinibbana all faculties which build the self (Consciousness and physical/mental formations) dissolve. The Buddha is re-absorbed into the Dharmakaya. Where they will play an active role in the awakening and alleviation of beings caught in the wheel of Samsara.

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Niether ,'I am' Nor , ' there is ' a Wrong view OR Right view ,because it depends upon the mental state of person who is saying these words.

When an enlightened person says , "I am Buddha , an enlightened one; I have destryoed all my enemies". Here ,' I am' is a state of pure awareness with NO-Self .

When an Ignorant or unenlightened person (like me :) ..) says ,' I am this, I am that ' or says ,"There is a Buddha present in this park ". Here , 'I am' refers to a state of feeling proud or depressed or attached-one. Even in this scenario ,'There is ' also represents to a state of ," I am with Buddha " along with ,may be , feeling proud , depressed ,attached-one etc. type of ignorance.

Regarding Mind's cessation :: Pay Attention

Process(Mind) is an abstract term ,it doesn't represent a device . If a particular result/fruit/reaction is coming within or outside our body ,it is due to that process.
Process remains alive till the machine(body) is there and factors(various types of ignorance) responsible for recreating the machine are there.
If there is only machine with NO-OLD-Factors(ignorance) , process will work till machine is lively with NEW-Factors(awareness & detachment ) .These new factors don't support clinging towards new body ,hence when machine(body) is destroyed or stops working , process vanishes forever.

This conversion of factors is also called as चित्त परिक्रमण (Chitta Parikrmana) in Pali & Hindi and Process(Mind) rectification in English.After this rectification one may re-encounter corruption(ignorance) ,therefore this new process needs protection ,as stated in 4th Noble truth elaboration ," Path to & MAINTAIN this annihilation of suffering within body" .It's completely logical and scientific.

Read about Chitta Parikrmana in Sallekh Sutta of Majjhim Nikaya (सल्लेख सुत्त , मज्झिम निकाय). This chapter deals with Process of Meditation.

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It is a mistake to treat this as ontology. The Buddhist metaphysic here is about relationships — being-for-self/others, not being-in-itself — and reducing it to an ontological question confuses the issue.

When I say "I am such" (e.g., "I am a doctor," "I am a spouse," "I am enlightened"), I am creating a relationship between myself and the active human world around me, and that relationship I have created is impermanent and subject to cessation. Even if the human world around me agrees with all of those assessments for a time (which it very well may not), I will eventually reach some point where it is impossible to maintain that relationship. That can cause misery for me or anyone who is attached to that relationship.

When I say "There is such" (e.g., "there is an apple on the table," "there is a million dollars in my bank account," "there is a truth beyond all truths"), I am also creating a relationship between myself and the active human world around me, and that relationship is impermanent and subject to cessation. The only real difference is that I am not as likely to identify closely with the relationship, and thus not as likely to be attached to it as a permanent feature of the world. Will I suffer much misery if I turn around and realize there is no longer an apple on the table? Depends on how much I like apples, I suppose...

The only thing that is not subject to cessation in this sense (at least, potentially, until the moment of death), is our sense of perception: our 'subject-ness', devoid of any identifications. "I am I" is a tautology that (if we focus on it) collapses into a non-self-reference. The goal of Buddhist practice is to collapse that self-reference, so that we can clearly see the "I am such" and "there is such" are superficial attachments, not self-references. That's how we end misery.

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What matters is your existential experience not the words ,if the words somehow made a connection with a realization of an experiential reality ,then that is ok(however still unreliable) ,but the teaching is beyond concepts and beyond the mind entirely .Its beyond intellect ,beyond what is right and what is wrong ,its purely subjective and from that pure subjectivity ,you are what you are .So if Iam is understood experentially as a feeling of a person existing and not as a permanent person that you actually are ,who needs to tackle life and is tackled by life then you have understood Iam correctly.

So don't rely on concepts ,just trust your experience of life ,see there will always be new tricks by your mind as long as you still have concepts on what is right ,the cycle will keep going till you completely surrender & the person who you think you are ,gets defeated and all his methods fail ,only then will you realize emptiness beyond its concept.

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