After having discussed why I believe that Buddhism is not a religion and ought to shed that mantle if it is to help in the progressive evolution of the human mind, now I’m considering the fascinating topic of the Buddha’s tenet of no-self, and the importance it has for our mental and social health, and for challenging the ‘new science of the mind’.
Historically it has proven one of the most controversial, anxiety-provoking and difficult to understand of all the teachings. That’s why Buddhists don’t talk much about it. Is the ‘self‘ a mere concept, a ‘consciousness’, or something ‘concrete’ and ‘real’? Does it matter either way? A lot of defining is required before answering those questions, doesn’t it?
If one wants to discuss ‘the self’, or no-self for that matter, it is imperative to discuss the human biology because humans don’t exist without a body, do they? And right there is your first stumbling block for finding your ‘self’. No one has been able to show a disembodied ‘self’. I haven’t heard any single ‘self’ talking to me without a body…only when I’m stressed out or having a mystical experience; but that doesn’t count, really. Or does it?
Where does your ‘self’ come from? If, as scientists teach us, two cells, female and male, are needed to create you, are you really you or a copy of two different beings together? For you are not just you; you are also whatever personal problems or gifts your parents passed on to you.
If your ‘self’ is not your body, what is then? The only non-material part of our ‘self’ is the mind, yet, it doesn’t work without a body. And finally, for the moment, we know that feral children, raised in the forest by beasts, tend to not have a sense of self , or self-consciousness. And transgender people also challenge the concept of ‘self’ with their ‘gender dysphoria’ and ‘sex reassignment’: who am I, what am I? they ask themselves.
It seems that the ‘self‘ is a construct of, depends on and can’t exist outside human society. I will leave it at that for the moment being.
There are three articles that I wish you would check before moving ahead here, New Theory on How The Aggressive Egg Attracts Sperm; The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-
Female Roles ; The journey of egg and sperm. They indirectly relate to the previous discussion. They deal with how scientists discoveries and explanations are not based on unbiased ‘scientific perception‘, but their perceptions are actually shaped with cultural believes, language and politics (of gender, class and economics, I would add).
The Buddha’s teachings were all about the process of perception and cognition. You don’t get to Nirvana, if that’s your goal, without controlling your thought process, that’s what he said, among many other things, of course. We know by direct experience about pleasure-and-pain, and we have morals because this experience allows us to know how another person’s body and mind feels when it hurts; it’s the basis for the golden rule – ‘don’t do into others…’ When the scientists of the mind talk about mind ‘uploading‘, they are talking about uploading experiences and perceptions, not brain cells. Now, ask yourselves, is that possible?
All of our good and bad ideas, feelings of depression, morals etc, start with the process of perception because they are all ideas, in our minds. Our bodies, with its five senses (six if you count ‘the mind’, which the Buddha included) are the mediators between the outside world and the inner. The world doesn’t exist for you if you are in a coma, and there is no beautiful dawn possible without eyes to perceive it. But that body is impermanent, isn’t it? So where are you now or when you die?
Mind science can’t possibly find the ghost in the machine, and it can’t make you immortal nor upload your mind into a computer. It can only delude itself into being god-like to do that, and convince you, with their false science, that you ought to submit the integrity of your brain and mind to them, for the benefit of a few.
They can’t upload something they can’t prove exists, the self.; only 0’s and 1’s.
Up coming next: the Buddha’s conception of the ‘self’.