Self, Ego, Identity, or the Lack Thereof in Buddhism…

Permanent self and immortal soul are a convenient fiction, but a fiction, nevertheless. And this is what the whole ‘no-self’ on ‘non-self’ debate is all about, or at least WAS. And if it’s disturbing enough that that principle is often misrepresented, it’s downright ridiculous that there is often even a debate over the preference or appropriateness of ‘non-self’ vis a vis ‘no-self.’ But the issue is very clear within the historical context of the competition and ongoing debate between the Brahmanists, Buddhists, and Jains way back some 2500 years ago.

And the reverb echoes even today when George Harrison opines during his last days that these souls go on forever, so death is essentially meaningless. And whatever qualms you might have about such a statement from a scientific viewpoint would hopefully be secondary to the hope and optimism that it might do for you in the short-term of this life span. But it’s very popular now amongst ‘non-dualists’ as much or more than Buddhists to claim that thoughts have no thinker and actions have no doer. They even claim that the Buddha said that, but if so, then I can’t name the sutra, and even if he did it was likely in a metaphorical usage.

Because Buddhism in general is nothing if not mental training, and so to conclude that there is nothing there, nothing at all, would seem counterintuitive. But that is the modern ‘non-dualist’ assertion, that any and all self-identity is detrimental to one’s spiritual well-being. And that may or may not be true, but I don’t think the Buddha said that, because it would render the Eightfold Path pointless. When you believe in yourself, don’t believe too much, just enough to accomplish what you need, not enough to inflate your ego. That’s the Middle Path between excess and lack…