Saturday, January 23, 2010
Self-Hood and No-Self - or who's in there anyway?
It's raining, raining - turning all that snow into sullen gray mush. (It will all freeze solid tonight, though.) It's actually quite dangerous walking around out there, as some of the sidewalks are water on top of ice.
I've been thinking about "self-hood" and the idea of "no-self" in Buddhist thought. The aim of mindfulness training is to extinguish the illusion that we are someone in particular, rather than an endless series of conditioned actions and reactions. Coming to this awareness is coolness instead of heat, openness instead of constriction. But it doesn't feel all that appealing to me, or rather, flies in the face of the effort to find voice and establish a sense of personhood that many, especially women, have been engaged in. (And which is the sub-text of many blogs - why else the frequent memes of "25 secrets" and such?)
Perhaps we need to have a solid sense of self before we can let go of it?
Another stopping place in my mind for this Buddhist understanding is the insight from parenting that the person-hood of my children was there from the beginning - they never felt like unfolding buds of potential humanity, but as fully present selves at whatever stage they were. And it always seemed to me that they had a strong engine of internally-generated action, rather than being molded from the outside.
How can we love each other as random collections of conditioned action and reaction?
On this point, I rather prefer the Judeo/Christian/Islamic understanding of the creation of individuals as unique and lovable. There are other Western doctrines I'm not as fond of, certainly. (And I readily confess that this "no-self" concept is much more complex than I'm presenting it.)
At least Siddhārtha Gautama kept it clear that none of his doctrines were themselves actuality - just pointers to experiencing and understanding from the inside. That I can completely agree with.