Analytical Buddhism: The Two-tiered Illusion of Self by M. Albahari

By M. Albahari

We spend our lives keeping an elusive self - yet does the self truly exist? Drawing on literature from Western philosophy, neuroscience and Buddhism (interpreted), the writer argues that there's no self. The self - as unified proprietor and philosopher of innovations - is an phantasm created by means of degrees. A tier of obviously unified cognizance (notably absent in average bundle-theory debts) merges with a tier of desire-driven recommendations and feelings to yield the influence of a self. So whereas the self, if actual, might imagine up the strategies, the suggestions, in truth, imagine up the self.

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This renders them unsatisfactory as a source of happiness that is completely free of potential dukkha¯. ha¯ for ‘becoming’ can mean, in Buddhist parlance, that one emotionally invests in being a particular kind of person, for example, as a person who is successful and accepted by one’s peers. One wishes to be this kind of person indefinitely, not to go out of existence by means of changing 26 Analytical Buddhism: The Two-Tiered Illusion of Self conditions including eventual death. ha¯ in this context feeds on praise, fortune, love and fame, nurturing what is colloquially known as an ego.

Ha¯, and hence any emotional aversion to the physical dukkha¯, the Arahant cannot harbour any mental dukkha¯ – that borne of wishing the situation were otherwise. She may thus feel the most excruciating physical pain, but will harbour no mental aversion to the pain; she will not wish that the pain would cease. She would become no happier (or less happy) if the pain were to cease. This is what it means to harbour no attachment to or tan. ha¯ in any states of affairs; such a mode of conscious existence would, by normal psychological standards, be quite extraordinary.

It involves emotional investment in such things as food (driven by the pleasant taste sensations), a satisfying career (driven by the pleasant sensations associated with mental fulfilment) and a relationship (driven by alluring emotional sensations of romance). ha¯ with respect to pleasant sensory objects can lead to dukkha¯ if the desired object is threatened, denied or withdrawn. The reason that objects of sense-desire are sometimes classed as being ‘dukkha¯ ’, even though they feel pleasant, is that their conditioned co-dependence assures them of a lack of immunity from change and decay.

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