Author Topic: Selflessness  (Read 3580 times)

Joe

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Selflessness
« on: August 08, 2009, 06:56:29 AM »
My DNA is unchangeable, it is 'bullet proof'. From this I suspect there are many inherited traits, and even mannerisms, that bubble up into my personality. How then can I be selfless? I understand that I am in flux and changing as a person all the time, but still the very roots of me -my DNA- is unchangeable?

Maybe I have misunderstood what selflessness is?

Matthew

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Re: Selflessness
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2009, 09:01:17 AM »
Hi Joe,

Firstly it appears your DNA is not fixed or bulletproof. Some of the latest scientific findings have indicated that on the fly beneficial changes in DNA can be mediated by chemical action in the body. Also cancer is DNA that has undergone a change that cause cells to stop dividing. Thirdly Gene therapies are becoming a reality.

There are undoubtedly "inherited traits" and instinctive actions embedded in our DNA - many of them. You do not have to think to make your heart beat, every human population worldwide uses that same facial expressions for joy, frustration etc.

The fight/flight/freeze responses of the ancient brain structures are Genetically encoded to override the rational conscious mind.

Your question really is related to the rational and existential knowledge we have that we are an individual in our own skin - and it is not the same skin as the guy over there is wearing. Therefore "I exist", so we think.

When discussing selflessness in this context it is related to the "I", the "Me" and the "Mine" - this inner sense we have of ourselves as an (almost) fixed being in time.

It is a natural part of the human brain to tell stories or relate stories, even "weave" them into the context of our personal history and sense of self. This sense of self becomes quite fixed. In meditation we start unbinding those fixations as we see the fluidity of "self" through greater calmness, awareness and particularly "insight" or inner awareness.

We see that the contents of mind we cling to and call "I" or "me" are just passing phenomena. We see that we have agglomerated many ideas, thoughts and habits around "I" - to give a meaning, a structure to our sense of self in time - and to give us an anchor so we know where we are.

Meditation cuts through to the root of those anchors and cuts the lines holding us back from being who we really are - the meaning of religion by the way - "to hold back" - religio (Latin) "to tie back".

That's why Buddhism is not really a religion when you examine it carefully as it does not contain the core feature of other systems which all rely upon belief type faith as their bedrock.

Buddhism relies on personal experience.

As you meditate you will start to see through layers of accumulated junk thinking and habitual patterns with which you identify as "me". The more you shed the easier it becomes. The more you shed the more awake you will become to reality as it unfolds in each moment.

The "I", the self, is not fixed - it is a story we make up out of habit. When we stop making up stories and start deconstructing the ones we are trapped in through the practice of sitting meditation and the insight it brings we quickly can see the relativity of this "I" or "me" - how it changes according to our circumstances.

On a deeper level as one progresses on the path there is a point at which one triumphs over the genetically encoded chemistry that all this sense of self is based on. The fundamental drives to reproduce, the overwhelming fear that chemicals can produce by the simple trigger of a gland in our brain - these things are no longer our masters but subject to the same awareness as any other phenomenon. You can totally overcome selfishness. You will still experience emotions, frustrations, joy and pain but they will no longer be experienced as being you, just some more ever changing stuff going on in the dance of life.

At the deepest level the Buddhist teaching of Anatman or "no-soul" / "no-self" says that we have no self-existing soul that passes from life to life. Everything in the universe arises in unison in a dance of energy and we are a part of that dance. The only thing standing between us and dancing with full abandon (and control) are the habits of our mind - including that very sticky one of "I, me and mine".

Letting go of ideas you may have cherished about yourself for a long time is therefore an essential part of the path - but this letting go can not be forced, only arrived at through experiential knowing that you can let go - because whatever you were clinging to or running from is merely a ghost.

You will not disappear off the face of the earth when you attain enlightenment. You'll still be here. In fact you will be more present every moment than you could imagine - because all that cultural and personal garbage we have gathered around ourselves filters reality and keeps it as appearing how we are comfortable with it. Meditation undoes this and let's you see your real face which has no mental context of "My face". Just a face in the mirror. A clean face, one that can see the world cleanly as it has seen cleanly through it's own confusions.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
« Last Edit: August 08, 2009, 09:04:13 AM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
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Joe

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Re: Selflessness
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2009, 06:07:32 PM »
Thanks for the reply Matthew.

My intention was to reply earlier, but your post was another body blow to my worldly being  :D. There is still some resistance, but I don't suppose such a dramatic shift in the mental perspective of "self" will occur overnight.

I will assimilate your post some more.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2009, 06:09:05 PM by Joe »

Joe

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Re: Selflessness
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2009, 08:59:33 AM »
I feel like I have moved forward.

I was thinking that the identity that I am call 'me' stems from my DNA, and because that DNA was unchangeable, the roots of my personality were fixed.

However, I now understand that my own view of myself, is only a perception that stems almost entirely from my mind. A group of thoughts that I have selected for myself (how kind), and used as my identity.

This was a body blow, because I no longer trusted the perception that I had of 'me'. Which lead (this morning) to the large question of: who am I?

A: (in my own words): Now, I understand that I am selfless (as explained above), I recognise the impermanence of everything around me, and that I've just started down a path of not chasing unsatisfactory things that lead to worldy feelings like desire, greed, anger etc- relying instead on insight, which is cultivated through meditation.

The sentences below were also a big help in overcoming my selflessness problem. From page, 144 & 145 of 'Mindfulness in Plain English':

"... And finally, mindfulness sees the inherent selflessness of all phenomena. It sees the way that we have arbitrarily selected a certain bundle of perceptions, chopped them off from the rest of the surging flow of experience, and then conceptualised them as separate, enduring entities..."


« Last Edit: August 10, 2009, 11:17:28 AM by Joe »

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
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A Poem
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2009, 01:03:22 PM »
The Net Effect

I can’t be angry or even cry
Though time is passing quickly by.
Each day I wonder how to try
And try to wonder where am I?
Who am I and what am I?
A person passing quickly by?

Seeing nothing quite so strange,
Each and every waking day.
As weapons burn and break the babes,
And children, children waste away.
And anger, still she stays at bay,
Not letting me feel that this day.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Selflessness
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2009, 01:04:35 PM »
A: (in my own words): Now, I understand that I am selfless (as explained above), I recognise the impermanence of everything around me, and that I've just started down a path of not chasing unsatisfactory things that lead to worldy feelings like desire, greed, anger etc- relying instead on insight, which is cultivated through meditation.

Well said. :)
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Hazmatac

  • Member
Re: Selflessness
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2009, 11:07:53 AM »
Now, I understand that I am selfless (as explained above), I recognise the impermanence of everything around me, and that I've just started down a path of not chasing unsatisfactory things that lead to worldy feelings like desire, greed, anger etc- relying instead on insight, which is cultivated through meditation.

What do you mean by "not chasing" "unsatisfactory" things? I hope you don't mean abandoning what you genuinely want simply to avoid emotions. I would say things like smoking, drinking, and heroine might be "unsatisfactory" due to the effects they have on your body. But I certainly hope for your own sake that you don't classify things like a family, cars, hobbies, or a good job as unsatisfactory because they are impermanent. And if you do, you are acting against the requirements of life and therefore genuine happiness.

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Selflessness
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2009, 11:56:11 PM »
Rob

How do you know "what you genuinely want" when your mind is cluttered with years of what society crammed into you?

You do not.

Unless you have seriously followed the path of meditation to some conclusion "what you genuinely want" is all smoke, mirrors and dreams.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Hazmatac

  • Member
Re: Selflessness
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2009, 03:51:47 AM »
I'm sure its not too hard to determine what you genuinely want. You generally want that which makes you happy, brings joy into your life. That which you enjoy doing or having.

Aside from that, what do you mean by "cluttered," and exactly what is being crammed into you by society.

And I disagree that what you really want without meditation is an illusion. However, since you are making the assertion, the onus is on you to say WHY what you want without meditation is an illusion.

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Selflessness
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2009, 07:54:12 AM »
It is very hard to determine what you genuinely want.

What is being crammed into you by society? you ask:

Beliefs about who you are, what it means to be human, other people's "knowledge" about truth, life, the universe and everything, thought systems that are incorrect, history that consists of lies, religion that consists of lies. I'll stop there.

And yes, this mental CLUTTER gets in the way of seeing things as they really are.

This includes your concept of self, "I".

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Hazmatac

  • Member
Re: Selflessness
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2009, 11:13:37 AM »
I would like to restate what I want to say to the origonal poster. It is not about what you "genuinely want" because you may value things that are actually DIS-values to you, and are actually harmful to you. What I suggest to you is decide what is best for you not based on avoiding desire, but on value to your life and happiness.

It is very hard to determine what you genuinely want.

what is the difference between "genuinely" wanting something and just wanting something, and why is this important?

Quote
What is being crammed into you by society? you ask:

Beliefs about who you are, what it means to be human, other people's "knowledge" about truth, life, the universe and everything, thought systems that are incorrect, history that consists of lies, religion that consists of lies. I'll stop there.

This is not an issue, as long as you practice the moral principe of INTEGRITY. Integrity is "loyalty in action to ones convictions and values." The standard of a rational morality is life, so for you to actually have integrity, the convictions you have and are loyal to must be rational, and validated. Thus, if something conforms to reason, it is valid. If it defies evidence, it is irrational and thus inimical. Therefore, whenever you are confronted with a new idea such as "What it means to be human is 'X'," you don't accept it at face value, but think about it and see if it fits with the facts and logic. And if everything is good, you accept the idea and remain loyal to it. This is hardly gathering clutter. To the contrary, if the idea is true, then it is life-promoting when acted upon.

Take for example, two opposite assertions. One assertion says that to cure cancer, you should pray to god. Another assertion states, if you want to cure it, take chemotherapy. Now, what you ought to do is look at the facts, and determine which one is right. And upon doing so, should you ever get cancer, you can take that course. To act against your knowledge is bad for your life. So, ideas, facts, and societal assertions (if they are true) are good, and life promoting. Hardly clutter.

Quote
And yes, this mental CLUTTER gets in the way of seeing things as they really are.

Seeing *what* as it really is? Do you have any examples?

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Selflessness
« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2009, 04:17:59 PM »
I would like to restate what I want to say to the origonal poster. It is not about what you "genuinely want" because you may value things that are actually DIS-values to you, and are actually harmful to you. What I suggest to you is decide what is best for you not based on avoiding desire, but on value to your life and happiness.

It is very hard to determine what you genuinely want.

what is the difference between "genuinely" wanting something and just wanting something, and why is this important?

Quote
What is being crammed into you by society? you ask:

Beliefs about who you are, what it means to be human, other people's "knowledge" about truth, life, the universe and everything, thought systems that are incorrect, history that consists of lies, religion that consists of lies. I'll stop there.

This is not an issue, as long as you practice the moral principe of INTEGRITY. Integrity is "loyalty in action to ones convictions and values." The standard of a rational morality is life, so for you to actually have integrity, the convictions you have and are loyal to must be rational, and validated. Thus, if something conforms to reason, it is valid. If it defies evidence, it is irrational and thus inimical. Therefore, whenever you are confronted with a new idea such as "What it means to be human is 'X'," you don't accept it at face value, but think about it and see if it fits with the facts and logic. And if everything is good, you accept the idea and remain loyal to it. This is hardly gathering clutter. To the contrary, if the idea is true, then it is life-promoting when acted upon.

Take for example, two opposite assertions. One assertion says that to cure cancer, you should pray to god. Another assertion states, if you want to cure it, take chemotherapy. Now, what you ought to do is look at the facts, and determine which one is right. And upon doing so, should you ever get cancer, you can take that course. To act against your knowledge is bad for your life. So, ideas, facts, and societal assertions (if they are true) are good, and life promoting. Hardly clutter.

Quote
And yes, this mental CLUTTER gets in the way of seeing things as they really are.

Seeing *what* as it really is? Do you have any examples?

Rob,

That ^^^^^^ consists mostly of mental clutter:

What is being crammed into you by society? you ask:

Beliefs about who you are, what it means to be human, other people's "knowledge" about truth, life, the universe and everything, thought systems that are incorrect, history that consists of lies, religion that consists of lies. I'll stop there.

And yes, this mental CLUTTER gets in the way of seeing things as they really are.

This includes your concept of self, "I".


It's all mental clutter. As to seeing *what* as it really is I can give you some examples:

1) Your bodymind.
2) Everything else in the known universe.

Meditation is experiential and an important part of that experience is to totally destroy the linguistic-cultural matrix that has been pumped into you since birth, to escape it's influence on you, to become "your own man", free and awake.

Now please do not take offence but wordy responses won't get an in depth reply any longer. In your recent post about strange sensation in meditation it shows that when you sit you make progress.

Sit more than you think about sitting and you will make more progress. Think about your own practice more than abstract philosophical ideas and you will make even more progress.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~