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BillM

Non-Self Versus Loving Self?

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Some religions, especially those of the East, tend to focus on diminishing self or attaining some state where self no longer matters. How would this concept, which I think has some benefit, mesh with Jesus' teachings about loving one's self? Are these notions at odds or do they overlap?

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I approach this more from a scientific or philosophical point of view.

 

When we say self what exactly do we mean?

 

I am fairly convinced that the thing I consider self is made up of other reconstituted life forms which in turn are considered to be made up of bits and pieces that are generally non life. And these are made up stars that made up of stars that have gone supernova or whatever. We are stardust.

 

Evolution has imbued us with a capacity to have emotions of which we have love on a pedestal. Which is fine. Yet there is a fair amount of evidence that this love is chemically based (not just one but an amazing blend). In my experience we don't decide to love certain people we generally just do. I suppose some of us decide to try and manage to do it, but then their decision in turn is formed by past events.

 

I can't help thinking that I am an eddy in the cosmos which sucks in particles and spits them out again. Some see this in a fatalistic light, I find awe in this view.

Edited by romansh

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I think the following versus attributed to Jesus in the Gospels in some sense speak to the diminishing of self. I personally don't feel that we are to hate self or that self ( being the carnal mind that minds the things of the flesh more than the connectiveness that we can experience). But rather that when we count the things more important that are less identified with that self or as Paul put it, die to self daily, we enter a realm where our own selfish wants are diminished and we act out of a Spirit/energy/? that takes into account more than our self which is to perish anyway with the using. Wish i had better words but perhaps one can get the gist of what i am trying to say. Luke 9:23 , John 12:24 , John 15:1-27 , John 12:25 , Luke 17:33 , Matthew 18:1-35 , John 3:30 , Matthew 6:1-34 , John 3:1-36

Perhaps SOME of the reported writings of Paul might do a better job when it comes to this concept but there are parts of what he says that i think are changed to reflect the wishes of the church at the time. Yet the concept is still there.

 

Romans 8:13 , 2 Corinthians 4:16 , Philippians 1:21 , Romans 12:1 , 2 Corinthians 5:17 , Colossians 3:3 , Galatians 2:20

 

Joseph

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Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

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I'm not sure Jesus does encourage love of self in particular. He might say love others as yourself, but I see that more as don't do unto others what you wouldn't like them to do unto you. I've had a quick scan to see what you might be referring to but I don't really see much there of Jesus encouraging us to self-love. But maybe I am missing it?

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Yes, Paul, I was referring to Jesus' saying of the two greatest commands, "Love your neighbor as yourself." This seems to imply that we have some kind of self-love. Of course, as has been pointed out, other scriptures have Jesus say to deny yourself. Isn't the Bible fun? :)

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That being the case, I don't see either as opposite or overlapping, but rather different matters altogether.

 

I'm no expert on eastern religions that talk about diminishing self, but from what I understand it is more about diminishing ego, i.e. diminishing the point of view that the individual is somehow seperate from the herd. We're not.

 

Jesus on the other hand was talking about living a life true to the Jewish God, which meant, according to Jesus, as treating others like kindred in God and therefore treating them like a brother or a sister, or indeed as one's self.

 

So I don't think Jesus was hinting at "letting go of the ego" just as I do not think that eastern religions were encouraging us to drop our egos because that would lead us to living in harmony with one another.

 

I think both were on a different train of thought. IMO.

Edited by PaulS

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This thread points to what I think is an irreconcilable ontological difference between Christian and Buddhist doctrine.

 

Buddhism claims that all “things” are empty of inherent existence. Therefore, there can be no permanent “self”. Existence/ non-existence are contingent upon various causes and conditions manifesting in time. When these causes and conditions are exhausted, a thing no longer manifests.

 

Christianity, as its basis, posits an immortal “soul” which presumably survives physical death and is eternal. At least this is what I believe to be the orthodox Christian view.

 

Leaving that difference aside, one can still argue for both a Christian and Buddhist perspective that respects the existence/manifestation of entities within what we know as “reality”. For Christianity, that looks like “love thy neighbor as thyself”. Buddhism calls for honoring all things simply because they exist, and that existence, or manifestation, is considered a very rare and fortuitous occurrence.

 

Steve

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Non-self versus loving self,

 

What Jesus really said or didn't say i do not know.

 

But this i have seen. That which we may call i/self came from the Divine / One and is accepted / loved as it is in this moment of time. Hate is not a possibility when one realizes this connection except as long as the self seems to exist as separate. Self is in the process of returning to that which is sustaining it and whether it is 70 years, 700 years , 7000 years or 700,00 years or more in time i cannot say. But to me, self is temporal in that it is created and sustained by the One and is ever changing so that it is not the same as it was in time past. However, neither can i see self separate from the One / I. This is the paradox or conundrum of creation. None of this is provable in self terms but this i can say with a subtle experience of self certainty ... there was a time when i never existed but there was never a time when I was not.

 

Just musing,

Joseph

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This thread points to what I think is an irreconcilable ontological difference between Christian and Buddhist doctrine.

 

Buddhism claims that all “things” are empty of inherent existence. Therefore, there can be no permanent “self”. Existence/ non-existence are contingent upon various causes and conditions manifesting in time. When these causes and conditions are exhausted, a thing no longer manifests.

 

Christianity, as its basis, posits an immortal “soul” which presumably survives physical death and is eternal. At least this is what I believe to be the orthodox Christian view.

 

Leaving that difference aside, one can still argue for both a Christian and Buddhist perspective that respects the existence/manifestation of entities within what we know as “reality”. For Christianity, that looks like “love thy neighbor as thyself”. Buddhism calls for honoring all things simply because they exist, and that existence, or manifestation, is considered a very rare and fortuitous occurrence.

 

Steve

So no karma, reincarnation, etc.? Buddhism leaves all that behind with its Hindu roots?

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Buddhism maintains the notions of karma and rebirth. Apparently they were commonly held beliefs among the people of the Indian sub-continent in the Buddha's day. For purposes of this thread however,it doesn't seem relevant.

 

My point was to illuminate the Buddhist belief in contingent existence, versus the Christian view of an enduring, individual "soul". Actually, many people, regardless of their particular religious views, including Buddhists, have a very hard time accepting contingent existence.

 

For those who tend toward literalism, I suppose karma and rebirth are hard pills to swallow!

Edited by SteveS55

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Steve, I don't know if the notion of an "immortal soul" is an orthodox Christian one or not (though it is a popular notion). But I also know that (somewhere) the Bible says, "The soul that sins, it shall die." The word "soul", in its original Hebrew meaning, did not mean an immortal part of the human makeup. It simply meant "life", no more, no less. In this sense, the Bible speaks of animals as souls because they, too, have life. When the word began to take on the idea that it is an immortal part of human componentry (body, soul, spirit), I don't know. We can, of course, reasonably assert the existence of the body and soul (as in "alive" or "not alive"). But claims that we have an immortal component (such as spirit) don't seem, at this point, to be scientifically verifiable. There are many superstitious and anecdotal claims, of course, but I wouldn't consider them to be hard evidence for some part of us that is immortal. Just from my studies.

Edited by BillM

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There is, of course, no hard, scientific evidence for a "soul", Bill. I don't happen to be an adherent of a view of soul myself. I was just pointing out a specific difference between Christian and Buddhist doctrine. Actually, the Buddhist perspective on this was a reaction to the notion of "Atman" in Hinduism, which roughly means "soul", or "self" as I understand it. I would say that most "Christians" probably have a notion of themselves as being comprised of both body and spirit, or soul. However, these days, and on a "Progressive Christian" website, it might be hard to find one who claims this is the case.

 

As a recovering Catholic, I can assure you this was Catholic orthodox doctrine, and it is also the case in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Among the various Christian denominations, I don't know. But I would be surprised if rebirth, or ultimate existential annihilation is part of their belief system.

 

I don't know what "immortal" means, nor do I know what "eternal" means. Those are both temporal reference points which apply only to our current mode of existence. But, Christianity seems to use these words a lot.

 

Steve

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So no karma, reincarnation, etc.? Buddhism leaves all that behind with its Hindu roots?

 

The whole point is not to be reincarnated ...

 

Don't get me wrong there are philosophies within Buddhism that I find not reconcilable.

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Growing up in evangelical Christianity, there is no doubt that that version held to the "going to heaven or going to hell" paradigm. My studies in Judaism led me to believe that the ancient Jews did not hold to this paradigm. For them, being in covenant with Yahweh led, not to immortality, but to having their own land, on earth. It wasn't until the Babylonian captivity that some (but not all) of them began to entertain notions of being resurrected to live on a renewed earth. The Sadducees, as we know, rejected this notion. And Christianity has almost always had, on the sidelines, the teaching of annihilationism, that the wicked stay dead, that only the righteous get immortality. I'm agnostic on the whole subject. I'm not a PC either to gain heaven or escape hell. I suspect that the "turn or burn" approach of Christianity came into the church via Greek Gentile influence.

 

Back to the self: To me, self-consciousness or self-awareness is both the product of our human evolution and a "gift from God". In my most mystical moments, when I sense or perceive that there is no separation between my self and God, I'm still aware of my self, but it doesn't impede my relationship with God. In fact, I'm not sure I could feel "at one" with God unless there was an "I" to feel this. Others experiences may be (and probably are) different. But, in this sense, I always wish the highest good for my self, which may indeed be opposed to popular "selfishness." This, to me, may be what Jesus meant by loving one's self. But I'm not sure.

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Reincarnation and karma do not make sense unless there is a durable 'self' which maintains its integrity after death.

 

My personal view is that these are folk beliefs which persist because they do a good job of explaining why life is not fair.

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I agree with you, Burl. Even within Judaism, the idea of the resurrection came about because, without it, God's promise to give faithful Jews their own land and kingdom seemed to fail. So the idea of the resurrection allowed them a certain amount of trusting that God would be "fair" in someday restoring them to their land, even if it was post-death.

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"In my most mystical moments, when I sense or perceive that there is no separation between my self and God, I'm still aware of my self, but it doesn't impede my relationship with God. In fact, I'm not sure I could feel "at one" with God unless there was an "I" to feel this."

 

Bill - There is at least one Christian mystic I know of who would say that your experience of "God", or "oneness with God" actually IS the self, and not "God". You can ponder that or not, but I throw it out as a possibility.

 

 

"Reincarnation and karma do not make sense unless there is a durable 'self' which maintains its integrity after death."

 

Burl - Buddhism does not accept the notion of a "durable self", and therefore there is no integrity of such a construct after physical "death". Then again, birth and death as we normally conceive of them are illusory. What is "real" is constant flux and transformation.

 

Steve

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"In my most mystical moments, when I sense or perceive that there is no separation between my self and God, I'm still aware of my self, but it doesn't impede my relationship with God. In fact, I'm not sure I could feel "at one" with God unless there was an "I" to feel this."

 

Bill - There is at least one Christian mystic I know of who would say that your experience of "God", or "oneness with God" actually IS the self, and not "God". You can ponder that or not, but I throw it out as a possibility.

 

 

"Reincarnation and karma do not make sense unless there is a durable 'self' which maintains its integrity after death."

 

Burl - Buddhism does not accept the notion of a "durable self", and therefore there is no integrity of such a construct after physical "death". Then again, birth and death as we normally conceive of them are illusory. What is "real" is constant flux and transformation.

 

Steve

In Christianity, the body and this physical world is our reason for being. Many other non-incarnate entities were created by God, but mankind holds a unique place because of our physicality.

 

The physical self is unique and absolutely central to our purpose. Is this not completely and undeniably obvious?

 

I do not believe death is the end of the self, but it is an absolute reality.

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In Christianity, the body and this physical world is our reason for being. Many other non-incarnate entities were created by God, but mankind holds a unique place because of our physicality.

 

The physical self is unique and absolutely central to our purpose. Is this not completely and undeniably obvious?

 

I do not believe death is the end of the self, but it is an absolute reality.

 

I think the world would be a more harmonious place if so many people were less certain of our 'reason for being' and accepted that none of us really know for sure what we may be here for, if for any reason at all. To me it seems undeniably obvious that 'certainty' around our reason for being has only resulted in war and separation from others. I prefer uncertainty myself and am very content with it nowadays.

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I couldn't agree more, Paul. I like Stephen Batchelor's agnostic approach to karma and rebirth. If we can neither affirm nor deny, then we are left with the "excluded middle", the middle path in Buddhism. The mystery remains, and we extinguish one more opinion. It is the more intellectually honest approach to these questions.

 

Steve

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I think the world would be a more harmonious place if so many people were less certain of our 'reason for being' and accepted that none of us really know for sure what we may be here for, if for any reason at all. To me it seems undeniably obvious that 'certainty' around our reason for being has only resulted in war and separation from others. I prefer uncertainty myself and am very content with it nowadays.

There are rumors of a Progressive Nihilist website somewhere, but no one can find the URL.

 

Personally, I am confident that I am my physical self. Cogito ergo zoom.

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There are rumors of a Progressive Nihilist website somewhere, but no one can find the URL.

 

Personally, I am confident that I am my physical self. Cogito ergo zoom.

 

I too am pretty comfortable with being confident that we do physically exist. I am much less comfortable with the various 'certainties' as to why we exist, if indeed there can even be a why. I guess "just because we do" is enough for me presently. Maybe that will change, maybe it won't.

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I don't think that current science can get us much past the point of "ashes to ashes, dust to dust." And maybe this fits with Jesus' teaching that we are to deny ourselves and pick up our cross. He was facing his own death, probably gazing into the unknown. So perhaps this is what it means to deny the self, to be aware that the self that we know, the self in our bodies, is doomed to perish.

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