05 July 2015

Buddhism and No Self

My last post about Ramana and Buddha set off a storm of angry disagreement from some, suggesting that any criticism of these great ones is pure arrogance, and that I ought to kiss their feet as do they, and worshipfully quote Buddha or Ramana when they want to make a point.

However, this attitude is representative of the Indian way to regard teachers.  You find it in all the Buddhist Sutras which begin by endlessly praising all Buddhas and Bodhisatvas.  It is also found in all works about Ramana, speaking endless praise and devotion.  But such can get in the way of clear seeing.  It is a position of total dependency on external truth rather than self-discovery of one’s own nature.

Some, like Ramana Spencer, really believe Buddha was self-realized and call me arrogant for saying contemporary spirituality has gone way beyond Theravadin Buddhism and the original Buddhist teachings, for now a days we recognize self. Buddha’s teachings were of not-self or no self as opposed to the Vedic belief in an Atman, or unchanging divine self within all beings.

However, so many of my critics have never read even one of the original Theravadin Sutrasand may have read one or more, or heard explained one of more Mahayana Sutras and think they understand Buddhism.

But take a look at this one link about Theravadin and Mahayana Buddhism and the Self, or no-self.  Buddha was not at all concerned about self or Self.  That was not where he was at nor part of his teachings.  He taught the Fourfold Noble truth of transcending suffering and finding peace and happiness in Nirvana, or blowing out of desires.

The Fourfold Noble Truth of the original Buddha only talks about Suffering: There is suffering; there is a cause of suffering; there is a way to end suffering; and that end is following the Noble Eightfold Path.

There is no mention of self or no-self in the Fourfold Noble Truth or the Eightfold path.

However, the Pali Canon does talk about the threefold marks or characteristics of all phenomena, the last of which is anatta or no-self:

Anatta (not-self): all dhammas lack a fixed, unchanging 'essence'; there is no permanent, essential Self. A living being is a composite of the five aggregates (khandhas), which is the physical forms (rupa), feelings or sensations (vedana), perception (sanna), mental formations (sankhara), and consciousness (vinnana), none of which can be identified as one's Self. From the moment of conception, all entities (including all living beings) are subject to a process of continuous change. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theravada)

However, both Zen and the original Pali scriptures emphasize that at some point you have to get rid of all the scriptures and see into your own nature and what you find for yourself.

In Zen this POV is stated as, “If you meet the Buddha on the Road, kill him!”  This means you do not cling to your mental picture of the Buddha as being other than a man, or his teachings, which in the Pali Canon, emphasize analysis and contemplation of one’s inner and outer experiences.

The original Buddha said, “You must become a lamp onto your self.”

In other words, after contemplating his teachings, after a while, you have to let go both of him and his teachings, and walk your own path and develop your own perspective from your own unique experiences and understanding.

But what I have met on Facebook, is the anger of puppets, those who worship the images of Buddha and Ramana they have created in their own minds, which  have nothing to do with the real Buddha or real Ramana.  These puppets images are their own delusions born of dependency on external sources to support their own opinions.  But when you have penetrated all teachings deeply, and have found either the manifest Self of Atman, or the transcendent beyond of the Witness, Parabrahman, then you forge your own way, create your own teachings and path.


  1. Maybe Buddha was just trying to say that Self is not an entity (and obviously not eternal) but a process. But it exists, for sure... Or maybe he was just trying to move people beyong the mental-observer... Who knows...

    Anyway I love this brave Edji... Brave and sincere...

  2. Edji - It seems any honest seeker would find the self.. it is almost undeniable ..so i am not sure if its possible for someone like budhha or any ernest seeker to overlook the self. But i wholeheartedly agree, it does not matter what others found / experienced.. what matters is one's own discovery. This whole FB worshipping attitude is a byproduct of misguided bhakti

  3. Thank you Sri Edji for helping us drop the veils created by our minds and the minds of others. You are showing us True Purity without all the constraints, rules and human/god imposed guidelines.

    Most Teachers/Guru's seem to want to establish some control over their flock, your only interest is to set people free, not reign them in.

    I must say in the past couple of weeks you have managed to affect people's sense of safety in the world and unleashed tidal waves of existential anxiety throughout the spiritual community....freeing many!
    Guess that is called, 'rocking the boat'.