A friend recently shared an article titled “Eastern philosophy says there is no ‘self.’ Science agrees.
My intuitive response was, “It’s always fun to see how the oldest news in the universe takes today’s headlines as a scientific discovery.”
There are no discoveries of new phenomena; there aren’t such. The only “discovery” is a new mental frame through which the mind perceives and explains reality— what is— which cannot be bound to perception or language. Language is a comparison-based model; reality is wholesome without any dualistic qualities to compare.
Understanding reality isn’t a process of mind. It will not occur through mental frames, fundamental rules, or philosophical or scientific models.
“Understanding” reality is simply the end of needing to find any words, models, theories, reasoning, laws, etc., which in this case, isn’t much understanding because understanding, as we most commonly refer to, is also a process of mind.
Understanding simply implies being with reality without any mental thought-language-based process. In the same way, a tree, a river, an insect, or a bird are being withreality without that mental process. Yes, I know, it seems like this thing we named a human being is somehow more developed, evolved, or intelligent than the living organisms I mentioned before.
Yet, even being with is a metal frame and can suggest that there is one thing called reality and another thing that is being with it, which there isn’t. So language, including the one shared here, isn’t too helpful, I must say.
Any suggestion I make, please allow it to be erased from your mind in the next moment. It’s like looking at the Mona Lisa; you take a moment to look at it, perhaps you say, “It’s beautiful,” and then you move on. If you try to carry the fame with you, you’ll very quickly be captured by the guards. Any suggestion or frame I or anyone offers, enjoy it at the moment, then move on. If you try to carry the fame with you, you’ll very quickly be captured by the mind again.
“Why do you insist that the universe is not a conscious intelligence if it gives birth to conscious intelligence?”
As much as a human being (which is another mental frame) is an intelligent living organism, intelligence isn’t an individual property one person or species has. Intelligence is the natural process of Life, of all living organisms— Life is intelligence; intelligence is Life. Nobody owns it, and nobody has it; everything is it!
In the same way that your mind-body doesn’t have water, it’s not a property you developed and acquired yourself; it’s what the majority of any living organisms are made of. You cannot not be water, and you cannot be more or less water than someone else; the same with intelligence.
So, science agrees that there is no “self.” Great!
Can a no-self be a scientific finding?
If there is “no self,” who would find it, and what does science, or any model, has to do with it?
Can a “no self” or no-thing be discovered?
What are as the agreeing on exactly?
Within the dualistic perception, we look for definites and comparison-based views of reality; right or wrong, truth or false, good or bad, positive or negative, etc. Through these lenses, we will never be able to find “no self” or anything beyond another mental frame, as I mentioned at the beginning.
No self is another invitation to see the true nature of things; self, mind, universe, living organisms, nature, call reality whatever you’d like. “True,” in this case, doesn’t hold a dualistic view as true vs. false but True as— not as it appears through our sense organs and thinking.
To see through the true nature of things, not only accept how they appear, is a process of inquiry, not a process of comparison-based judgment.
“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper.
The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are… If we look at this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also on this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist…. And if we return these non-paper elements to their sources, then there can be no paper at all. Without ‘non-paper elements,’ like mind, logger, sunshine, and so on, there will be no paper. As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
Inquiring about the true nature of things is seeing everything in any “one” thing and any “one” thing as everything. Yet, this only refers to living organisms; what about that no self?
As we recognize that a mind-body is a living organism not different from any other living organism— tree, insect, or a sheet of paper— we can quickly notice that the mind-body organism doesn’t happen to anyone in the same way that a tree, river, or animal doesn’t happen to anyone.
The mind-body is a flow of energy in the same way that a river is a flow of energy. Added language-based commentary about a river doesn’t mean that a river is or happens to an individual entity we call me, I, or self in the same way that added language-based commentary about a mind-body organism doesn’t mean that a mind-body is or happens to an individual entity we call me, I, or self.
The suggested article is a well written piece, you can read it here – Eastern philosophy says there is no “self.” Science agrees