The Buddha & the Self



More than 2500 years ago ancient Buddhism (but not the Buddha*) asked the question: Does an emerged thing, such as an human, have a self?**


The Buddha himself had observed 1. ‘things/phenomena that are born die’ (to wit, impermanence) and 2. ‘things/phenomena are born subject to conditions (i.e. fundamental physical forces conceived as rules) and die subject to conditions’ (to wit, non-substantiality, selflessness). It was the 2nd observation that later, i.e. when Buddhism’s unacceptable, hence unpopular ‘purely conditional arising’ hypothesis  was challenged by the popular atma (≈ essential self) hypothesis proposed in the later Upanishads, led to the conclusion that things/phenomena had no abiding self, that they are anatman.                                In this regard see: The Heart Sutra


It seems that the ‘things operate without a (permanent) self’ (Pali: anatta) hypothesis was proposed (with dodgy observation and logic) long after the Buddha’s death as the more acceptable, hence popular 1st characteristic of the 3 Characteristics Sutra wherein the lack of a self was deduced from 1. Dependency and 2. Lack of ownership, hence of control.


However, Buddhism’s conclusion that ‘things operate without a permanent (or essential) self’ (hence as transient  automaton) rattled the whole of ancient India. For, if there’s no permanent self (viz. soul, spirit, immortal essence) driving an arisen thing, such as an human, then what’s driving it and to what purpose (apart from the ending of driving). Moreover, if there’s no driver, who is responsible for the effects upon the world of driver-less things, i.e. automatons. Buddhism’s suggestion was that (abstract) conditions (read: forces ≈ rules) are the driver and turbulence what they act upon (as in wave interference patterns).


And the rattle yet continues and will get louder as the 21st century progresses.


 Modern Buddhism states: There is no abiding (i.e. intrinsic) self (i.e. soul, spirit or ghost) in the biological machine. The bio-machine, as automaton, happens as the outcome of basic and automatic (hence blind) self-regulation software (as conditions matrix). Or, to have a go at Spinoza et al, ‘God (the driver) is not a substance/essence but a set of rules’ (i.e. a Turing Machine operating as rules-as-conditions).


Since every machine, i.e. emergent thing, happens as manifestation (read: fractal elaboration) of a basic set of rules (i.e. of God as Turing Machine), every machine, biological or otherwise, is God relativized by local conditions/rules, to wit, a god clone or copy.


*… elsewhere called the Shakyamuni, meaning ‘the Scythian recluse’.

**… Not once in his 40 years of preaching did the Buddha define the term self = atman. So none really knows what he was talking about.