The Buddha Taught How The Self Exists And It’s Not What You Think

As Alan Watts describes

“The doctrine of sunyata, or voidness, asserts only that there are no self-existent forms, for the more one concentrates upon any individual thing, the more it turns out to involve the whole universe.”

The path of a simple meditator is to turn your attention around and ‘look’ directly within yourself and see if you can find this separate self. Upon looking all that is found is a clear and open awareness but not a personality or something separate with boundaries.

The second method uses logical analysis. The parts of the self are intellectually separated and logical questions are asked like:  is the self the body alone? or is the self the mind alone? does the self own its parts? or is the self found in its parts? After logical reflection the self cannot be found as a separate entity or found within the individual parts. Upon conclusion the self does not exist in its parts or separate from its parts.

So where does that leave us? For a meditator this question is left wide open. Literally wide open without the need to come up with an intellectual answer but to simply remain present and mindful of passing experiences and not attaching to any thoughts about yourself or the world. This is the way of meditation, the ancient way of Zen or the position of ‘no position’. A simple and open ended way to live trusting in present centred awareness. Everything is transient, contextual and immediate. And it’s not even that because they’re all just more ideas and philosophy.

For a person using reason and logic or a scientific approach the best way to describe the self is interdependent. Logically speaking nothing exists apart from anything else. Everything is relational. The self is a contingent entity constantly in flux and always relating to other things. There is no self separate from the body, emotions or mind. The self is labelled dependant on those things which are constantly changing and never fixed.


To understand that everything arises depending on other things allows the wisdom that knows what’s good for the self and bad for the self to shine. Buddha taught to eliminate negative states of mind like anger, greed and selfishness and cultivate positive states of mind like empathy, love and patience. He taught these things because there is a self that depends on such positive states of mind to be happy and live a good life.

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