Know Thy Self

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Know Thy Self

Postby Filibuster » Sat Sep 14, 2013 10:19 am

It is difficult to say where this topic should have been placed for it is dependent on the individuals
concept of Self. In relation to this forum, is Self a spiritual, philosophical, practical or sexual subject;
or is it all of the above?

It appears almost impossible to deny Self as one appears to know one is a Self, but is that Self an
illusion. Is Self an independent entity or is it just a part of a whole?

The subject of Self defines the essential qualities that make one person distinct from all others. The
Self is the idea of a being which is the source of consciousness. Moreover, this Self is responsible for
the thoughts and actions of an individual to which they are attributed. To another person, the Self of
one individual is presented in the conduct of that individual. The particular characteristics of the Self
determine its identity.

The spiritual goal of many traditions involves the dissolving of the ego, allowing Self-knowledge of
one's own true nature to become experienced and portrayed in the world. Knowing the Self is
enlightenment. Mastering the Self requires strength. Adi Shankaracharya, in his commentary on
Bhagavad Gita says, "Self-knowledge alone eradicates misery, Self-knowledge alone is the means to
the highest bliss and that absolute perfection is the consummation of Self-knowledge."

Avicenna, while he was imprisoned in a castle, wrote his famous "Floating Man" thought experiment
to demonstrate human self-awareness and the substantiality of the soul. His "Floating Man" thought
experiment tells its readers to imagine themselves suspended in the air, isolated from all sensations,
which includes no sensory contact with even their own bodies. He argues that, in this scenario, one
would still have self-consciousness. He thus concludes that the idea of the self is not logically
dependent on any physical thing, and that the soul should not be seen in relative terms, but as a
primary given, a substance. This argument was later refined and simplified by René Descartes when
he stated: "I can abstract from the supposition of all external things, but not from the supposition of
my own consciousness."

Ramana Maharshi said “The source or seat of "I" consciousness is the true Self. Self itself is the
world, Self itself is 'I', Self itself is God; all is the Supreme Self. Although his primary teaching was
Self-enquiry, he was also known to have advised the use of Self-surrender (to one's Deity or Guru) as
an alternative means, which would ultimately converge in to the path of Self-Enquiry.

Daniel Dennett has a deflationary theory of the "Self". Selves are not physically detectable. People
constantly tell themselves stories to make sense of their world, and they feature in the stories as a
character, and that convenient but fictional character is the self.

Please note that much of the material above was extracted from Wikipedia, but the content matches
my thoughts on the subject.
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Re: Know Thy Self

Postby Ghislain » Sat Sep 14, 2013 11:01 am

Filibuster, I can relate to the information in your post...

I have often wondered who the real me is, as when in different situations I act
differently, putting on a mask to suit the situation if you know what I mean.
Would I recognise the real me if I saw it or is the real me all the masks together?

When I look at these different personalities I portray and try to reveal the "real" me,
by stripping away the masks I create, then I get confused because I realise I don't know
who the real me is.

The illusions we create are real while we are using them and to demonstrate how easily
fooled we are I would like to use a pictorial image.


This is the checker shadow optical illusion published by Edward H. Adelson,
Professor of Vision Science at MIT in 1995

In the above image there are two squares marked A and B. Try as hard as you can to
see both those squares as the same shade of grey...can you do it?

I'm guessing that, as I cannot then there will be others that cannot too.

The next part takes a little effort on the part of the reader.

  1. Copy the image to your clipboard and post it into "MS Paint".
  2. Copy part of the image containing square B to your clipboard.
  3. Paste the copied image part close to square A.

Now it becomes clear that square A and B are the same shade of grey. The point here
is that we see what our perception allows us to see.

Try the first experiment again, looking at the whole image and try to realise that A
and B are the same; now that you know they are can you do it?

If your answer is still "no" then we know we have the "illusion" that A and B are different.
You have proved in the "Paint" experiment that A and B are the same, now ask yourself how
can we begin to know ourself when we have "self" wrapped up in multiple masks of illusion?

In the words of Daniel Dennett, "Selves are not physically detectable", so does that imply
that the self is spiritual or does it mean the self cannot be separated from its surrounding
as in the case of square A and B?

Also can we be sure that while searching within for the true self that we are not just creating
a new mask of how we would like to percieve our true self to be?

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Re: Know Thy Self

Postby johnnorsey » Wed Oct 02, 2013 9:37 am

In Buddhism

The root cause of samsara is ignorance (avidya)–belief in a single, independently-existing self. Ignorance gives rise to the three poisons, which lead to the creation of
karma, which leads to rebirth in the six realms of existence or six realms of desire.

Samsara is the continual repetitive cycle of birth and death that arises from ordinary beings' grasping and fixating on a self and experiences. Specifically, samsara
refers to the process of cycling through one rebirth after another within the six realms of existence. Each of these six realms can be understood as a physical realm
or a psychological state characterized by a specific type of suffering.

Dzongsar Khyentse wrote:If we need to judge the value of these six realms, the Buddhists would say the best realm is the human realm. Why is this the best realm? Because you have a choice... The gods don't have a choice. Why? They're too happy. When you are too happy you have no choice. You become arrogant. The hell realm: no choice, too painful. The human realm: not too happy and also not too painful. When you are not so happy and not in so much pain, what does that mean? A step closer to the normality of mind, remember? When you are really, really excited and in ecstasy, there is no normality of mind. And when you are totally in pain, you don't experience normality of mind either. So someone in the human realm has the best chance of acquiring that normality of mind. And this is why in Buddhist prayers you will always read: ideally may we get out of this place, but if we can't do it within this life, may we be reborn in the human realm, not the others.

There are a further four realms known as the noble realms which are Learning, Realization (or absorption), Bodhisattvahood and Buddhahood.
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