Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2 (Agnosticism)

by David Turell @, Thursday, May 23, 2024, 20:00 (62 days ago) @ xeno6696

MATT: For example, when I'm focusing on writing code for work, there is no sense of self in my mind.
You also responded to David:
MATT: My argument is simply that if I'm not thinking about it or feeling it ALL the time, then it's not continuous.

The fact that you are not thinking about your “self” does not mean your “self” isn’t there, let alone that you must get rid of it! You don’t think all the time about your heart beating, but it is. We have now left the subjects of rebirth and Nibbana (both of which I think you have your own doubts about) and the vexed question of desirable and undesirable desires, and switched to whether there really is such a thing as self. I offered my own view on this:

If I say "I'm a fisherman," yet I spend only a weekend every few months fishing, we would agree that I'm not really a fisherman. In more vulgar terms, I spend most of my week as a programmer, it would be more accurate to say I'm that than it would be to say I'm a fisherman. For me, the self is the same thing. If I can reach a state of consciousness where I can recognize the self as 'other,' as 'intrusive,' then it means--and I've been consistent in how I phrase this throughout--that my original concept and experience of self as a continuous being is wrong and illusory.....

MATT: I mean it might be a false dichotomy, but it's an accurate description of the two main camps in Western psychology. I'm biased, but I'm for the constructivist approach. […] The sense of self as I have experienced it isn't a continuous phenomenon. This body of course, is always here, but I would be lying if I told you I experienced my self as anything but discontinuous, and that's even before I got more involved with Buddhism.

DHW: Your examples only relate to the discontinuity of your consciousness of your self. You have not commented on my description above, and I’d be interested to know if there is anything with which you disagree.

Matt: Consciousness is precisely--entirely--my whole point.

So, let me counter you with this question, if you interpret my words as "discontinuity of your consciousness of your self" how does that square in the scenario I provided just a little bit ago of where my 'self' sits when doing that spaciousness meditation? If my sense of self can be discarded like a snake shedding its skin, and I can point to where it is in that meditation, then what do you suggest is conscious and aware of THAT? The self is a state of consciousness that we discard whenever we don't need it. This doesn't reject me as an individual or a sentient being, but it does reject categories of what the self really is.

The Buddha said this: "It is far better to think of your self as this body than it is to think of the self as this mind." His context was aimed at the Brahmin idea of the mind as an eternal soul, but it's broadly applicable and I think directly relevant to this conversation.

I'm not to the first Jhana, but it's clear that it is far better for me to say that this microsecond 'bare awareness/executive function' is my self than it is my normal daily 'self' that I spend more time in. However, even that bare awareness has causes and conditions that you can get past, that's what progressively dissolves by the time you reach the fourth jhana and beyond.

DAVID: Self is not an illusion. It lives in my consciousness.
DAVID: I would say it is always there, waiting to be approached, so my attention to myself is intermittent, but as it is always available it is continuous. There are no gaps in that it always feels the same.

Matt: I totally agree that our attention is intermittent, but our self also lives in our unconscious or subconscious mind. I’d also say that although it feels the same because it’s always “you”, changes can be very substantial. I gave the example earlier of the bigot, but of course all forms of psychotherapy are based on efforts to change certain elements of the self. In THAT sense, one can say its nature may be discontinuous, but I agree emphatically with you that it is NOT an illusion.

Have you ever been accused of doing something, and you emphatically deny it only to have that person provide hard evidence that you're wrong?


Matt: Your denial was an illusion. It's the 'ego' or the self that drives those illusory impulses. It's the source of many distortions of reality. The 'illusory self' that I keep referring back to, is THAT thing. Once you gain an appreciation for what it feels like in your head, you can catch it. The 'truer you' is that executive function that allows you to say, "why do I so strongly feel I should deny this," check yourself because you know that this feeling is typically suspect, and then avoid the disavowal and get to the truth.

Matt: I bring up Phineas Gage yet again, and I would really like you to spend some time thinking slowly and carefully about this. If your entire personality can be rewritten by a chance blow through your brain, what does that say about your 'self' and your feelings of continuity?

I know his story. A damaged brain will not interpret self or consciousness properly.

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