The Middle Way of Not-Self
Ajahn Pasanno
Upāsikā Day, May. 27, 2015
Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in Redwood Valley, California
2 sessions, 29 excerpts, 51:17 total duration

Ajahn Pasanno leads a discussion about the meaning and purpose of the Buddha's teachings on not-self.

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Session 1: The Middle Way of Not-Self

Session 2: The Purpose of Not-Self

Session 1: The Middle Way of Not-Self – Ajahn Pasanno – May. 27, 2015 Download audio (1:04:10)

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1. [27:28] “What are the commentaries? How do they know stuff that isn't in the suttas?” [Commentaries] [Sutta] [History/Early Buddhism] // [History/Sri Lankan Buddhism] [Culture/Thailand] [Direct experience]

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2. [31:21] “What are mental formations and consciousness?” [Aggregates] [Volitional formations] [Consciousness] // [Sense bases] [Contact]

Sutta: MN 44: Cūḷavedalla Sutta

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3. [33:46] “The Buddha didn't answer the question, 'Is there a self?' But this question seems more important than other questions he didn't answer. How should we relate to not-self?” [Buddha/Biography] [Questions] // [Teaching Dhamma] [Feeling] [Relinquishment] [Self-identity view] [Four Noble Truths] [Views]

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4. [37:01] “Are the skillful means for dealing with not-self aas easy as know and let go?” [Mindfulness] [Relinquishment] // [Discernment] [Truth]

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5. [37:44] Comment: The question that occured to me was "If I take this as myself, where does it lead me?" [Discernment]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Suffering] [Self-identity view]

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6. [38:45] “I've heard the teaching that if you watch your kilesas in samādhi, they tend to subside. Sometimes you watch your sakkāya-diṭṭhi and it's not going away. What to do?” [Unskillful qualities] [Mindfulness] [Concentration] [Cessation] [Self-identity view] // [Impermanence] [Suffering]

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7. [40:59] “Why go through all the trouble to teach us how to not have a self and then refuse to tell us there is no self?” [Teaching Dhamma] [Middle Path] // [Relinquishment] [Suffering] [Questions] [Aggregates] [Sense bases]

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8. [43:04] Comments regarding the intellectual framework of the aggregates versus bringing it back to experience. [Aggregates] [Learning] [Direct experience]

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9. [44:29] “Is renting a good metaphor for not-self?” [Similes] // [Ajahn Chah]

Quote: “We only rent this house. We don't own it.”

Reference: "Our Real Home" in Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah, p. 145

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10. [45:31] “In regard to self and emotions, you acknowledge and embrace it but don't hold tightly?” [Emotion] [Clinging] [Relinquishment] [Middle Path] // [Discernment]

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11. [46:10] Comment: In the classes I teach, we use the acronym R.A.I.N. – Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Not-identify. I explain not-identify by asking my students, "If you say, 'I am angry,' when anger goes away, what happens to you?" [Teaching Dhamma] [Self-identity view]

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12. [48:05] “The Buddha asks us to look at the things we identify with as self and notice they are not who we are. But if there's nothing else but those things, there is no self, right?” [Buddha] [Middle Path] // [Teaching Dhamma] [Learning] [Liberation] [Suffering]

Follow-up: “Isn't there then an implication that there is something else that could be self?” [Views]

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13. [49:43] Comments regarding not-self. [Nature of the cosmos] [Kamma] [Self-identity view]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Buddha] [Teaching Dhamma]

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14. [51:38] Comment: I've found it helpful to recognize that for me there aren't any right answers, only right questions. [Culture/West] [Questions]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Self-identity view]

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15. [52:16] “Is the heir to my thoughts, words, and deeds me or some other guy?” [Kamma] [Rebirth] // [Becoming] [Cessation] [Self-identity view] [Direct experience]

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16. [53:47] “The fear that arises upon the realization that there's nothing there is so strong that it takes away from the awareness being able to stay with it. Any suggestions?” [Fear] [Knowledge and vision] // [Recollection] [Goodwill] [Gladdening the mind] [Suffering] [Cessation of Suffering] [Learning] [Faith]

Session 2: The Purpose of Not-Self – Ajahn Pasanno – May. 27, 2015 Download audio (1:07:00)

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1. [27:47] Comment: With the analogy of the scent and the flower (SN 22.89), it sounds like it [the sense of self] is relational and there is an effect. But it gets tricky... [Conditionality]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Self-identity view]

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2. [28:35] “Does everything point back to the third satpaṭṭhāna (mindfulness of mind)?” [Mindfulness of mind] // [Aggregates]

Sutta: Dhp 1

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3. [29:44] “Ajahn Mun taught Ajahn Chah to distinguish between the mind and mind objects. Is the mind that distinguishes between these a development of ordinary mind or a larger mind that we tap into as we develop wisdom?” [Ajahn Mun] [Ajahn Chah] [Heart/mind] [Moods of the mind] [Nature of mind] [Discernment] // [Conditionality] [Liberation] [Direct experience]

Response: Both of these are wrong. [Proliferation]

Sutta: MN 11 Cūḷasīhanāda Sutta

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4. [32:47] Comment about working with not-self in direct experience in relation to discomfort and awareness of embodied release. [Direct experience] [Feeling] [Suffering] [Impermanence] [Mindfulness of body] [Relinquishment] [Fear]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Proliferation]

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5. [35:06] “I wanted to confirm that we're also not putting this self on other objects like the redness belonging to the rose.” [Proliferation]

Quote: “It makes me suffer when those roses turn black and they're still on the shrine...which happens all the time!” [Ajahn Pasanno] [Abhayagiri] [Devotional practice] [Impermanence]

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6. [36:43] “Things change. But can't that be part of its nature that things change?” [Impermanence]

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7. [46:44] “Could you say that attavādupādāna is that very trying to say 'Is it self or is to no self?'” [Doctrine-of-self clinging]

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8. [53:59] “Do you think it's enough to just be aware of the suffering that's caused by the clinging to self?” [Suffering] [Clinging] [Self-identity view] [Dispassion] // [Characteristics of existence] [Cessation] [Ignorance] [Knowledge and vision] [Release] [Proliferation]

Quote: “The most efficacious investigation comes from a still mind.” [Concentration] [Calming meditation] [Insight meditation]

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9. [58:20] Comment: What you said reminds me of 'da resin.' [audio unclear]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno: "It's that sticky bit that creates the problems." [Clinging] [Self-identity view] [Views] [Becoming] [Present moment awareness]

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10. [59:52] Quote: “One of the things I often attend to is the juxtaposition of stillness and movement. It's not that one is right and the other wrong. We can be still and really dull or the mind can move with clarity and acuity. But stillness and movement, what's generating it, what's pushing it? That bhavadiṭṭhi/vibhavadiṭṭhi is the engine behind it and the force behing the arising of a sense of self, a sense of me.” [Ajahn Pasanno] [Insight meditation] [Calming meditation] [Right Concentration] [Clear comprehension] [Nature of mind] [Conditionality] [Craving not to become] [Views] [Self-identity view]

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11. [1:01:06] Comment: Before I get to all that [deep reflection on not-self], in the meantime I thing of Luang Por Sumedho's saying, 'Every time I think of myself, I get depressed.' [Ajahn Sumedho] [Self-identity view] [Depression]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Five Precepts]

Quote: “It's difficult but it's not that complicated. The Buddha's teachings go against the grain of our conditioning and habits, but the essence of it is quite simple.” [Proliferation] [Right Effort] [Craving] [Simplicity] [Practicing in accordance with Dhamma]

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12. [1:03:40] Comment: I notice how the mind defends suffering because it's so closely related to that idea of self. But if I let go of defending, what am I? [Clinging] [Self-identity view] [Relinquishment]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Practicing in accordance with Dhamma] [Learning] [Cessation of Suffering]

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13. [1:05:12] “Is bhavadiṭṭhi the same word as cultivation (bhāvanā)?” [Becoming] [Views] [Meditation] [Pāli] // [Etymology]