Matthew Ricard (Happiness): THE SELF

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Rigorous analysis leads us to conclude that the self does not reside in any part of the body, nor is it some diffuse entity permeating the entire body.

We willingly believe that the self is associated with consciousness, but consciousness too is an elusive current: in terms of living experience, the past moment of consciousness is dead (only its impact remains), the future is not yet, and the present doesn’t last.

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How could a distinct self exist, suspended like a flower in the sky, between something that no longer exists and something that does not yet exist?

It cannot be detected in either the body or the mind; it is neither a distinct entity in a combination of the two, nor one outside of them.

No serious analysis or direct introspective experience can lead to a strong conviction that we possess a self.

Someone may believe himself to be tall, young, and intelligent, but neither height nor youth nor intelligence is the self.

Buddhism therefore concludes that the self is just a name we give to a continuum, just as we name a river the Ganges or the Mississippi.

Such a continuum certainly exists, but only as a convention based upon the interdependence of the consciousness, the body, and the environment.

It is entirely without autonomous existence.
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