Sunday, 26 January 2014

JFL = Just F00king L00k!

Hey folks, this is a transcript of an old liberation I did back in the day on Skype. I seem to remember failing on this one but I do not have the original transcript unfortunately, and this guy was a hard case as you will see. I had copied and edited this up and then I moved house and never ended up posting it. I had asked this guy to do the tried and tested typing exercise. He had trouble getting a handle on what I meant by looking. Here is how I demonstrated the difference between looking and thinking to him. I hope this is useful for someone trying to get a handle on what we mean by looking when they are starting out on an investigation. 

ghost virus: Hi mate, hows things?
PW: Been better, but I'm getting there. How bout you?

ghost virus: All good tar, did you get my mail?
PW: I did mate. Just looking at it now actually

ghost virus: OK, do you get what I mean about looking? I want you to try the exercise again, and focus on looking this time. Don't worry everyone seems to want to be trying to work it out logically, there is no problem in doing that but the trouble is you won't get any traction working the angles like a puzzle
PW: To be honest, I find the looking bit hard. Can't stop the mind from jumping in!

ghost virus: The whole illusion rests on logical inference and assumption so if we work in those constraints we won't get anywhere apart from throw up the same conclusion over and over. Its true the mind seems as though its taking over, I know what you mean there but really that is the illusion of it all, the mind is taking over what?
PW: God knows. I'm confused!

ghost virus: No worries!!! That's normal, so lets focus on looking, try and do that typing experiment again and bear in mind what I said
PW: I honestly don't know if I can! I just don't get this stuff at all

ghost virus: That's the thing Paul there is nothing to get! There is no need to work anything out, it is really very simple, so look at the ceiling, you see that?
PW: Yep

ghost virus: Now imagine a unicorn and get a mental image of that do you see it?
PW: Think so

ghost virus: Can you imagine a mental image of a unicorn, or a memory, just something?
PW: Yeah

ghost virus: OK, I'm not patronising you btw, I'm just breaking it down simply
PW: Please do!

ghost virus: So we can establish that these mental phenomena exist, there is a world that we can perceive and an "inner world" that is represented in thoughts, with me?
PW: Yeah

ghost virus: Now how would you test for the existence of something in the room you are sat in... If I asked you is there a unicorn sat behind you, how would you test to see if that was the case?
PW: Turn round and have a look

ghost virus: Exactly right, so this is what looking is, now suppose I asked you to calculate 2+2+2+2=???
Paul Watt: 8

ghost virus: Right, how did you come up with that answer, did you look or think?
PW: Think. But looking without using eyes??? Hmmmm....

ghost virus: OK, lets not get too far ahead, we had to think about the answer, try 17 +58=?
PW: Erm 75
ghost virus: Right OK so we have a difference between looking for a unicorn and working out a mathematical truth.

ghost virus: Now....

ghost virus: What I want you to do is remember today, just watch the thoughts that arise about your day don't judge them or anything just watch them and describe your day to me non judgementally, it does not have to be in the correct order or anything, I just want you to focus on the images that pop in your memory, LOOK at them and just describe the mental pictures you see.
PW: What like eating my cereal, going for a coffee in Starbucks, driving the car, etc?

ghost virus: Yes, but rather than describe your day to me, look at the mental imagery that arises as you recall your day. Don't describe your day as such actually look at the mental sequence of pictures that arises in your awareness and just describe each picture to me non judgementally. Don't force the issue just relax.

ghost virus: LOOK at what arises in your awareness
PW: Sorry, but I'm from way up North mate. Spades a spade and all that. I just don't understand what your asking me to do

ghost virus: When you remember being in starbucks you get mental imagery and you can clearly and distinctly remember being in there?
PW: Yeah nice smells, noisy coffee machine, air conditioning too cold and so on
PW: Oops! That was judgemental wasn't it?

ghost virus: OK lets just stop a sec before we proceed. We don't need to complicate things, I'm not asking you to look in a special way or anything, I just want you to look at the mental imagery that arises in the same way that you looked to see if there was a unicorn in the room. Its just simple looking in that sense, there is nothing magic or anything like that, it is looking at thoughts in the same way that you look at a table, a cup, just looking and describing, really just basic looking of the common all garden variety.

ghost virus: Look around your room and look at the different objects and then turn your attention to the thoughts that arise. That kind of observation is what we are talking about.

ghost virus: So, don't focus on describing your day to me, I want you to watch the mental imagery that you become conscious of, when you recall some of the things you did today and just describe exactly what you see

ghost virus: As it pops in your head, no judgements, no details, just what you see
PW: I'm looking at a bottle of water right now

PW: Curvy shape. See through. Shiny surface

ghost virus: You are looking at the properties of the bottle of the water, these are concepts
PW: Then I'm stumped

ghost virus: What is happening is you are analysing the bottle of water, you are thinking about the properties the bottle of water has. This is automatic, yes we do it all automatically, we cannot stop this as such, but what happens when you turn away and then LOOK at it. It is just an object that you pick up in your visual field, then what happens next??? Then the process of thinking happens, water, Curvy shape. See through. Shiny surface etc... do you see this?
PW: No. I'm just describing what I see. I never said plastic or water or anything conceptual, I think....

ghost virus: Try a few objects and watch what happens, literally LOOK at what happens in real life
PW: OK The room is full of colours and shapes and textures and areas of dark and light

ghost virus: No, that is a concept of what you think I want to hear. You are over thinking this, you were not describing what you see to me before, because what happens when you look at something. Try this. Look at each object in the room and LOOK at what arises. So if you turn your head and then you notice a bottle of water, what happens next? The concept water appears, then the concepts Curvy shape. See through. Shiny surface etc... Start to look at some other objects and then see what happens, can you LOOK at the mental phenomena that arises and describe it to me?
PW: No. I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about mate. Please explain further

ghost virus:
<<< you notice a bottle of water, what happens next? The concept water appears, then the concepts Curvy shape. See through. Shiny surface etc... Is this actually true to what happens in real life? Look at an object in the room, would it be fair to say this happens in your thinking > Look at object > name of object arises > property 1 > property 2 > property 3 > etc... Look at your direct experience of reality, don't think about what is happening observe the thoughts that arise and tell me if what I have said here is true or false.
PW: Why don't you tell me what you see, so I can get a flavour of this?

ghost virus: OK I look on the table > Red object > its a cup> it has a handle> its a large cup> I got it from a rizla promotion back in 01. OK this is basic stuff yeah, there is a process to the way we think about things, I just want you to notice if you can see a similar pattern in your thinking, does your thought follow a similar line upon seeing an object and comprehending it? That is basically all I am asking you, its not complex it is very simple. Does it follow this process: > Look at object > name of object arises > property 1 > property 2 > property 3 > etc...
PW: No, only if asked to describe it. I don't think about objects that deeply. If asked to specifically describe something, then I would say yes

ghost virus: OK, we are just looking at objects and in real life I don't think about objects that deeply either. However, if we stop and comprehend an object, our thoughts start to notice the attributes of that object, and it does it automatically for the most part, would that be a fair description?
PW: Spot on

ghost virus: OK good, notice here that we have investigated the process rather than scrutinised the contents?

ghost virus: We have observed a mechanism at work as such?
PW: Yes automatic

ghost virus: I am going to give you an example of what someone else wrote when I asked the to do the typing example that I asked you to do...

>>>> "I look at this sentence, the thought about what the heck am I supposed to look at come up, closely followed by the idea to write this down.
Thoughts take shape in unspoken words, words are dictated letter by letter as hands type them. I can hear the words pronounced in the tapping of the keys, punctuating every letter. An idea to sum it all up appears. It's all one big process without specific ends or boundaries. Reading it all again, checking if it made sense, triggered from the thing you asked before. Feelings changed in the mean time, from confused-aggressive to something calm-ish.">>>

ghost virus: That was what he wrote, notice how he was looking at the process itself rather than engaging in thinking

PW: Erm kind of

ghost virus: Don't worry about details but notice how he was looking in his direct experience this is what I want you get you to do next. I want you to try and do the same thing but only tell me what you are aware of. Don't try and judge the process with a label, I just want you to watch what happens in your thoughts and I want you to scrutinise and observe the mental process that happens when you type. Just give it a shot.

ghost virus: Don't copy what he wrote either just tell me what you see - only what you can directly observe yourself
PW: Wondering where all this is going. Fingers fumbling out words on iPad keyboard. Pause. What the hell am I doing? Typing continues. Pause. This will have to do. Wonder if he's pissed off with me. Pressing send

ghost virus: Not pissed off with you mate but you seem to think that this is a special kind of looking when we are talking about the simple act of looking at our thoughts.
<<< What the hell am I doing?>>>
OK, this thought arose, good you are telling me that you are noticing the thought arising that is a start! Perhaps you should do this exercise when you get on to a proper computer keyboard though.
PW: Why??

ghost virus: Probably a pain typing on an ipad lol!
PW: You're not wrong like

ghost virus: Anyways, this was a first effort, scrutinise the process again, I want you to look at what actually happens, I want you to focus on the mental phenomena that arise, perhaps you see images hear words?

ghost virus: What happens before you type out a word, do you visualise the word, perhaps hear it?
PW: I formulate a full sentence in my mind before I even begin to type it and then read it out word by word as I type (slowly!)

ghost virus: How do you formulate the sentence, is it represented visually, or perhaps you imagine it being spoken?
PW: Definitely spoken. No visualising at all

ghost virus: Ok excellent!!! Finally, you have looked at the mental processes that happen and described them, this is all I mean by looking. Rather than thinking, you had to look here to answer my question, this is all we mean when we say LOOK, it is literally this kind of looking

ghost virus: literally

ghost virus: So, try this one last time, describe the process of typing out a sentence to me, LOOK at the mental process that are involved in typing the sentence and then describe them to me
PW: Ok I'm thinking out this sentence in my mind and immediately my fingers spell out the words on the keyboard. Read it back to myself a few times, checking it doesn't sound too mental. Thinking, then typing "hope this is OK"

ghost virus: That's OK, lacking a bit in detail but never mind at least you have a vague idea of what we mean by looking now. You didn't have to think about how you did it, you looked at how it happened, do you get that part?
PW: Think so

ghost virus: OK good work, you have made a start at least anyway.
PW: Phew!

ghost virus: Really its not that difficult it is about looking instead of thinking, it really is a simple thing it takes 5 seconds to see but what happens is people get confused about thinking and looking, it is quite difficult to get a handle on it, I just wish there was some way of explaining it clearly!!
PW: Ditto!

ghost virus: I am going to call it a night now mate, but I will be online tomorrow in the day time so you should be able to catch me then. Get some rest or if you still want to hit this some more, LOOK at where the thoughts come from and tell me what you see tomorrow. OK, take it eezy catch yer 2moz :)

PW: See ya mate. Thank you so much for your time!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Burying the past

I did not want to spend too much time covering old ground but felt it necessary to put the past firmly behind me. I want to discuss the problems of the old approach and convincingly answer this question.

What is the difference between this approach I am now working on and that of Ruthless Truth & Truth Strike?”

Skeletons in the Closet

When I say “there is no you”, what I really mean is that there is no division between experiencer and experience.

It is perhaps more unpalatable but not so difficult to comprehend if we consider it in this way. What we think of as 'me' or 'ourself' is an entity that directs the bodies actions and thinking. However, this is an illusion as it actually happens automatically, life lives itself. There is no entity separate from experience calling the shots in what we perceive as our life. Our experience consists of a modelling process that allows the brain to think abstractly. This modelling process actually constructs what we call 'I' or 'ourselves' through language and other phenomena, and is simply a representation or 'self model' of a person.

What this actually means is the person that we think we are is simply a series of thoughts produced by the brain. In other words what you conceive of as 'me', or 'yourself', is nothing more than a thought.

To outline our conceptions, if we had our five senses and our visceral (felt) bodily experiences removed what would be left? Us westerners commonly like to think for the most part we are some entity, or thinking thing, that exists independently from the external world. This is known as dualism and most often we hold the belief that we are a soul of some sort, especially if we have developed our own particular belief through religious and spiritual channels. If you are a scientist like myself you might hold to a more materialistic explanation.

Given that 'no self' might be unpalatable for some people it is worth mentioning this is a widely accepted philosophical position given numerous support by philosophers and neuroscientists. A few books worth checking out here are 'The ego tunnel' - Thomas Metzinger, 'The Ego Trick' - Julian Baggini, and 'The Self Illusion' - Bruce Hood. There is also a book called the “User Illusion” - Tor Nørretranders which explores consciousness and the idea that it is a simulation. These go in to a lot of depth on the subject and dispense and replicate many of the counterarguments that I have used in the past, as well as present many new ones.

If your goal on this site is to realise Anatta, I would suggest that you don't fill your head with concepts as this makes exploring this phenomena more difficult. This is for the simple reason that you are more prone to conceptualise about the phenomena you experience. I realise that a degree of intellectual understanding is absolutely necessary, however, a balance needs to be achieved.
In an ideal world someone would come here naïve and pick up the tools to test the claim and then do the reading I outlined above. However, this is far from an ideal world and we need some degree of convincing that this insight is possible before we look in to the possibility. This takes us to a fundamental problem with the RT and TS methodologies, which I will highlight shortly.

The Pillars of the Acropolis

It was back in 2010 that a juncture was made between this conventional philosophy of self as illusion, and what came to be known as Ruthless Truth, and subsequently Truth Strike. A British philosopher called Ciaran Healy managed to find in his investigations that it was possible to recognise this illusion of self by looking deeply in to our direct experience. This is known properly as phenomenology in academic circles, we just called it 'looking'. Essentially, the idea of these sites was to facilitate an intense phenomenological investigation which could rapidly yield the insight of Anatta. There are various groups who still guide people through this process, such as Liberation Unleashed, and Hall of Mirrors which can be found on the web.

When this experience of Anatta was initially realised, it provided the means to disrupt negative thought patterns and bought great understanding to the nature of reality. At this point in time we genuinely believed Ciaran had discovered the psychological trigger for enlightenment and that we had become enlightened. From that point on we mistakenly believed we were responsible for waking the world up from its delusion. We believed we had discovered the key to ending suffering in the world and we had a duty to humanity to show this to everyone. However, we later discovered that this is what the Buddhists call an 'arising and passing' event, that is simply known in their doctrine as 'Anatta', which translates as 'not self'.

It is now pertinent to discuss why the RT and TS organisations failed, and investigate the premises that they relied on to assert their arguments and conduct their methodologies. The ethos of these organisations was to help seekers realise this same insight of Anatta. This was done through the process of introspection and getting the seeker to question the presuppositions that they logically held through a phenomenological investigation. While some people managed to complete the process, many others failed, and many more still, tried to argue about whether this insight was possible without even bothering to do any investigation.

It was the custom at the time to tear their arguments apart and make piercing attacks against their identity. This was known as harpooning because they could not leave the argument with their vanity intact and this trapped them in dialogue. This was a deliberate ploy to ensure that they could not escape as their vanity would not allow them. This allowed us to lance out their delusion and show how they were subject to incoherent thinking patterns, in the hope that they would actually notice them and realise they were deluding themselves. This was very effective when we used to troll forums and trapped people there in front of their peers. There was always someone who would take the bait simply on the principle that they could rubbish someones argument to make themselves look good in front of their peers. What happened was that it would end up in a real mess as they frantically tried to reinforce their delusion.

The illusion of self centres around how our self model is perceived by other people. By driving an iron stake right through their vanity, they could not bear to see their image shattered, and they would desperately fight to maintain this illusion to themselves and their peers. This would cause all kind of incoherent excuses to come out in desperation and they would always launch personal attacks against us. We would seize on this and highlight this to the victim and everyone on the forum. In this sense, there was no escape them as we tried to humiliate them into looking at the truth.

This spectacularly backfired though. Most often we alienated ourselves by trying to impose our viewpoint on others. Most of the time their friends would rally round to try and support them. Even though we demolished their arguments, they would simply point out our aggressive tone and use this as a justification not to look. We used to justify this by calling it tough love and for those few we managed to free it seemed worth it initially. We believed that if we could free enough people from their false self, this movement would take on a life of its own and we could realistically end suffering in the world.

Lofty ambitions, indeed. However, this sent a massive wave of negativity through many spirituality forums, and throughout the internet. In this sense these organisations have a bad name and are infamous in many circles, as are the very people who used to run and operate them. This would include yours truly. Yes, I regret some of it but I think there are only positives to be gained from this point onwards, and I have only the desire to explore further and cast what we have discovered in to a tool set that anyone can pick up and use.

There was a problem underpinning the entire process of all these endeavours all along, that no amount of ad hominem attacks could cover over. Essentially, the premise of what we were doing was claiming to people that they could introspect in to their own minds, and gain a realisation that would allow them to get a handle on their suffering to a degree. This sounds like a rather miraculous happening and here it is plain to see that not only did it require a degree of belief in the concept of no self, it also required that there could never be any kind of objective proof whether this was possible. Not to mention that the idea of no self confounds peoples beliefs and runs contrary to the Advaitan teachings of true self.


'[N]o testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavors to establish.' (Hume, 1748)

To outline the first problem vividly we can start to look at the faults in this aspect related to what constituted a proof of the Anatta claim.

To start with the claim that there is no self sounds strange and when one starts extolling the said benefits this may sound to good to be true. In fact we could go as far as to claim it is somewhat miraculous. Now what evidence can we present to assert the proposition 'there is no you'?

All we can ever present is a demolition of arguments for the existence of the self, and a set of testimonies that this insight is possible. When we come to rest on testimony we are immediately in trouble. We can run Hume's argument against miracles here and effectively demolish any such notions of testimony ever being reliable. It would be no more absurd to suppose that on the third day Jesus arose from the dead by forming a belief based on the testimony of the apostles. Since much of the early work on these forums was not done with any methodology, this renders it invalid from a scientific perspective even if we were to produce phenomenological accounts from each person. There may be some value in revisiting this area but since I have no need to try and demonstrate it to anyone, it seems redundant to any pressing lines of enquiry I shall endeavour to follow in future.

We are naturally inclined to be suspicious of any testimony that is not agreeable with our experience and this is why RT and TS were always facing an uphill struggle. It is of little wonder we could only resort to ad hominem insults and trying to destroy peoples credibility when they would not look. This led us to try and shock people in to looking with brute force tactics. However, when you see people acting in such a manner you should be as concerned as when you have a pack of rabid Jehova's witnesses banging on your door to present you with the 'truth'. All this ad hominem stuff ever did was undermine any of the work we tried to do and failure was the only possible outcome.

The Belief in 'No Self'

'A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence' (Hume, 1739)

To compound matters further, in order for someone to investigate Anatta it is necessary that there is a belief in the possibility of realising it. It should be of little wonder that much of the work that had been done was founded on convincing someone they should investigate this area. Without a belief in at least the possibility that this insight can be realised, then it is clear that there would be no such investigation. This principle was highlighted many times by people who came to these forums with no intention of looking.

Of course, Buddhist's and other spiritual sources claim Anatta is possible, but again we are back on the shaky grounds of testimony. For this reason, we had this two pronged problem to deal with where we had to encourage the idea of possibility, and have only recourse to testimony and showing how common arguments for the existence of the self were false. After this point, it was only possible to reach a subjective truth of no self by looking, which is problematic in of itself. Ultimately this is not demonstrable in any objective capacity, unless you actually do the grunt work of looking. Then the problem becomes how do we know that this experience is possible?

Alas, words escape me here.

From my silence it is reasonable to conclude that I have no argument to support the former chain of reasoning. You may choose to examine your experience or turn your nose up at the idea of Anatta, safe in the knowledge that I cannot give you any logical justification for exploring the possibility. I have tried in vain to find a solution to logically explain Anatta in the past but I am afraid it is a fools errand. It seems all I can do is lay out all the arguments for the self that do not work, and then cast them as signs that mark out the wrong path.

I will point to the possibility of Anatta but I can only point to Buddhist doctrine and Metzinger et al's claims. I agree with the aspect of Anatta being realisable but I am not a subscriber to everything Bhuddhism says on the whole, since it is riddled with its own dogmas. I will be challenging arguments for the self which are grounded in fiction and I will also argue that qualitative methodologies such as phenomenology follow the scientific method and are valid methodologies. In this sense we are going to stay within the bounds of the scientific method but I realise the burden is on me to argue for the validity of phenomenological enquiry. This is not a position that is widely accepted although it has started making inroads in some circles of academia, especially in social psychology.

Of course, in the RT days we were enthusiastic about promoting Anatta regardless as there was no doubt in our minds about Anatta being true. However, we were working against these problems from the beginning. There is no doubt that without a solid logical argument to present this case it would always be suspect in the mind of a fair enquirer and this would mean people would be put off the idea. Many more were put off the idea when we remember the vile tirades that RT were famed for, and the negativity I bought to the table at TS. This was why many walked away or did not bother investigating. All we had really achieved was to put people off something that could become a force for good. That is why I have no desire to ever go back to any endeavour that is based on a format of 'liberating' people.

Argumentum ad ignorantiam

'The connection between these propositions is not intuitive. There is required a medium, which may enable the mind to draw such an inference, if indeed it be drawn by reasoning and argument.' (Hume, 1739)

Any arguments for the self, when conceived to be an independent entity from experience, are incoherent and based in circular logic. However, the conclusion 'no self' can be perceived to boil down to the argument from ignorance fallacy. In the same way that we cannot prove that God does not exist, we cannot prove the self does not exist. There is no way to prove the non-existence of some particular thing. Whilst no coherent argument can be formulated to argue for the existence of the self we cannot show somethings non-exsistence.

Whilst this apparent absurdity meant that many people challenged this idea of no self, from our perspective it was not a case of seeing that there was no self that existed which would be clearly absurd. I think this was one of the most misunderstood parts of any of our work. The realisation of Anatta meant 'no self' was simply a real consequence of our truly understanding this aspect of reality. To gain this insight is simply a matter of seeing the phenomena of what we would call 'me' or 'self' for what it really is, which is this.

An illusion propagated by language, and belief.

What this problem always boiled down to in our explanations and discourse, was simply a misunderstanding of language and its inherent tendency of creating dualistic notions of persons separate from the body. It was far easier and less confusing to transmit the message in the form of there is 'no you', or there is 'no self'. This meant there was no ambiguity and allowed someone to be laser focussed on their investigation. Any other conception clouds matters for seekers in my opinion, and for this reason we had many people attack us nihilists who denied our own existence. The one thing I can be certain of is that there is experience happening, and in this experience there is a self model that produces a real illusion of self.

The truth is, the appearance of self is simply constructed from a set of feedback processes that tricks the brain in to believing the conscious 'projection' or 'self model' is a thinking thing independent from the body. This trick makes the psychological experience of phenomena seem like it is happening to an entity independent of the sensory apparatus itself. I tricks us in to thinking the feeling of pain is happening to us, and we are an entity that has conscious volition over the body. In reality there is just the experience of pain and of a story about being responsible for the bodies actions before and after the manner.

The realisation of Anatta is simply a pattern interrupt to the faculties of thinking that maintain this illusion. This does not mean these patterns do not continue. It simply means that there is direct understanding of the illusory nature of the self, which cannot believed to be an entity separate from experience any longer.

The brains volition over the body, as you will discover if you investigate is mostly unconscious and we can demonstrate this scientifically through phenomenological investigation. However, this does not mean that conscious decision making does not feedback in to the process of volition. In fact this is one of the reasons why this illusion is so convincing.

It is clear that the degree of feedback involved with phenomena that we experience, and that of which we have no appearance of volition, is complex. Whilst I do not subscribe to an unconscious mind as traditionally conceived, it is evident that we are not conscious of many of the brains processes, and for this reason I have labelled it in this manner.

Thought, no doubt, does feedback in to these processes and we see this clearly evidenced with 'seeing as' influencing our perception. I wrote an article last year which treats of this phenomenon more fully, but a magic eye picture should serve as an example here. Given that thought clearly does influence the bodies faculties, it is here where we like to insert the thinker, which we refer to as 'I' or 'me'.

At this point, we believe we are some entity calling the shots that has concrete existence separate from these processes, however, this 'I' is completely illusory. When we investigate conscious mental processes, we see them actually happening of their own accord. These cannot be manipulated by a 'self' since when we investigate the conscious mechanisms of experience, we discover that they are autonomous from the illusory story of the self model. In this sense the phenomena of self hood is a real phenomenon that exists in real life, and is probably responsible for facilitating what we know as civilisation. However, it is certainly not 'you', nor is it a tangible, separate, object in reality that plays a causal role in driving the bodies actions or cognitions.

Like the water in the mirage is a real illusion, so is that which you call 'me'.

The internal dialogue, or internal chatter we are aware of that constructs our life story is simply a metaphor of human agency doing what it does best, which is living life. I do want to focus on how believing in this evolving metaphor of our lives can cause us problems but for now, we should be satisfied that this simple misunderstanding was the root cause of many arguments. To put it simply, realising no self is simply coming to the direct understanding that the mental phenomena that constructs our notions of being a person in the world, simply points to nothing tangible in real life, it is just a story. Life lives itself and it always has done We can wake up to this by investigating it or choose to ignore it.

From here, we could launch into arguments such as 'I' refers to the brain, 'I' refers to the body, and this is where we used to get people to look and investigate, in order to discover these counter arguments are false through experience. It is the quizzical nature we have to solve this puzzle that attracted people to the idea of no self, before the madness of RT & TS ensued.

The Great Eastern

“I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement”. (Hume, 1739)

We can also point to further problems here, when we consider the paradox of Eastern thinking. To outline this briefly I will simply state the apparent contradictions that the Buddhist doctrine of Anatta faces with Advaitan conceptions.

The claims 'no self' and 'true self' are contradictory at first glance.

However, upon investigating they are simply two different linguistic constructions of one and the same 'thing', or more appropriately 'no-thing'. In this sense, Advaiatan's subscribe to the conception that the true self is all that is, which is equivalent to Brahman or god. This is a fundamentally distinct conception of God and bears no resemblance to the monotheistic religions of Christianity and Islam etc as it is a pantheist conception of god. Since Advaita is a religion, they point to the expression of existence as divine and this is what they mean by true self. There are various derivatives of this line of thinking, such as 'I' is the universal consciousness experiencing itself, or 'I' is the intelligent awareness, or the knowing hereness, or whatever spiritual concept you prefer, if that is your inclination.

The Buddhist's conception in comparison seems to be more nihilistic. When we say no self, we seem to be implicitly denying that there is any being that exists. Here though, we would appear to be denying the existence of Brahman or all that is, and our spiritual concepts. However, if we take this to mean that there is no dualism between experience and experiencer, as I explained earlier in the post, then there is no reason to deny that that there is no expression of existence which manifests as our experience. Advaitan's refer to consciousness as the true self and Bhuddist's refer to there being no self separate from Buddha nature. In this sense there is no contradiction here, they are two different linguistic constructions of one and the same thing.

Bhudda nature and true self can be taken to mean one and the same thing, although they are conceived differently in their respective doctrines.

Whether these two doctrines agree about the existence of God seems to be a moot point here. What we can see is they are pointing at two different conceptions of the self, and really there is no paradox. However, what used to happen back in the days of RT and TS was that we used to have big arguments with Advaitan folks, about the status of the very proposition and the existence of self!

Considering we were both arguing about different things, it was little wonder that we found any common ground. The Advaitan doctrine implicitly presupposes true self, and it is of little wonder they found the no self proposition contrary to their religious beliefs. True self in Advaitan speak means universal consciousness, or God. So to say no self to them is inflammatory and contradictory, even though we mean something completely different with no self!

In this sense, it can be argued that both are relevant, they are the same thing for all intensive purposes. I certainly prefer the nihilistic conception to this day since it clearly delineates between how Westerners define the self as an 'individual agent', separate from the mental phenomena that appears in experience.

There are two choices that can be made here by a fair enquirer, when we look at spiritual and materialist doctrines. We can implicitly assume that reality is a divine expression, or we can point to a materialist doctrine which we know as science. Here, if we make a choice we are presupposing particular ontologies and we are in the grounds of metaphysics, which can only come from belief about the nature of reality.

I confess that I have no reason to believe one doctrine over the other in concrete terms, so in this sense, I am open minded until experience presents me with an impression to form a clear idea. Personally, I am satisfied that I will never have such an impression since this is forever beyond the realms of possible experience, and I can only ever form an obscure idea. We may come to know the properties or nature of reality but these are understandings derived from experience and not from the pages of any doctrine.

Having explained this conception, and the problems faced by these organisations I can now turn to the question I set myself at the beginning. How is what I am doing now any different?

Well, I hope that I have properly demonstrated the shaky grounds on which the RT and TS approaches were founded on. I cannot hope to build anything on the ruins of these approaches and as we abandon the ship wreck to rot away on the sands, we have a new world to explore. Clearly, I cannot present a logical argument for the insight of Anatta being realised, however, I can certainly provide the tools for the phenomonological investigation that we used. This represents the salvage from these stricken vessels, and then it is up to someone to take the steps afterwards to realise Anatta if they think it is something they want to do.

What have I just achieved here?

I have demolished any claim I might have to Anatta being demonstrable and relegated myself from a supposed teacher to an explorer of reality. Anything I do claim can be replicated on the solid grounds of experience and my claim to Annatta is simply my personal experience, which you are not required to agree or disagree with. I say the Buddhist's were correct in this aspect, it is up to you whether you want to explore the possibility beyond any phenomenological investigation you can do here. For my part, it is not an area I want to argue about any further as I am going to take it as a given that we are not an entity separate from experience.

I am just another fair enquirer on the bus of life, I feel all the bumps and discomforts, and the joys of stretching my legs and looking at the view when we pull over. I have my own delusion as does everyone else, I only hope that we can stay on the path and forge ahead to make new discoveries in human nature. There is no you in the conventional sense but you may feel free to call reality, life, or awareness 'I' if you really feel compelled to do so. There is no contradiction here and there never was a problem since it always boiled down to language.

We can construct different linguistic formulations for different purposes and there are many definitions that we can apply to the world 'self'. As long as we can agree on the formulation we are using in communication, we can avoid future problems. When I say 'self' you must take it to mean a thinking thing separate from, and pulling the strings of experience. Other people say the self is awareness, or consciusness. Some even say it is the intelligent knowing, or life itself. In whatever way you conceive these things it is very clear that these are something different to the common sense conception we have of being discrete causal 'selves' in the world which I am challenging here. We need not deny there is awareness, which is clearly the canvass upon which life unfolds, but equating this to something to identify with or our true self is a completely different project to what I have in mind here.

This is where much of the trouble arose from in the early days, I hope I have ironed this out to pave the way for future understanding, and rebuild the bridges we stormed over and destroyed by recklessly throwing fire and brimstone around the place.

The problem from the start in any of these endeavours was really in going about things with an ad hominem approach to make up for the shortcomings of the TS and RT foundations. This was where all the problems arose from, and clearly there is little point in arguing about 'no self' in this manner. I just hope that you make the journey and be sceptical of anything you see along the way, I am certain you will see what is true for yourself.

I guess the main field of exploration for me now is determining what does really exist. For instance, there is conscious intelligence, the experience of phenomena, and the appearance of being a moral person in world, whether or not we agree if this person is illusory or not. It is in these avenues we can explore and develop our understanding and endeavour to expand our insights in to human nature and the phenomenon of experience.

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