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Small “s” self is Ego

  • Elliott
  • February 19, 2018
  • 0

Recently, I read a news article which stated something like this: “Scientists have shown that, contrary to popular, modern philosophy, there not only “is” a self, but it is measurable.” I did a short search for the article but was not successful in locating it.

The reason I bring it up, today, is because I started reading The Science of Enlightenment, How Meditation Works by Shinzen Young and was struck by this quote: “A central notion of Buddhism is that there’s not a thing inside of us called a self. One way to express that is to say that we are a colony of sub-personalities and each of those sub-personalities is in fact not a noun but a verb—a doing.”

When I read this, I flashed on the, reportedly scientific article, and two things popped into mind:

  1. I don’t think that Buddhism would insist that an intellectual self, or perhaps the idea of a self, is non-existent. We have all experienced this ego-based self, our concept of I am; but the Truth is this self is basically the personality, a construct, stored in mind, and made up of everything we remember from the past. Therefore, since it only exists in memory, it is of form. My interpretation would posit that any self, which only exists in form, cannot be a True Self, or the Awareness which witnesses the personality-based self.
  2. Secondly, I find articles which seek to point out that “I am right and you are wrong” (i.e.: Contrary to modern philosophy) are ego based and are therefore limited to the level of consciousness governed by said ego. Hmm, is that what I am doing here?


I strive to never write from a mind which is locked into a belief system controlled by my egoic self. While it probably happens, from time to time, particularly when I am feeling compelled to “be right,” it is never my intent.

So often, I find that two apparently opposing ideas have more common ground than what is realized at first. I think there is room for science to have its measurable self and Buddhism to insist that such a self is the key to all suffering. While I bristled when I first read the science article, I am now not convinced that the writers were attempting to disprove the philosophical observation that the existence of self is an illusion. I think that just because something is measurable does not mean that it is “real” it simply means that it exists in a world of form. Quantum Physicists are the first to tell us that everything in form is 99+% empty space, and all that we think is form is actually made up of energy, moving slow enough to appear as solid. This, I feel, is what the self is: thought upon thought that has convinced itself that it is real.

Of course, all of this is just my mind at play. I enjoy trying to bring ends together to create full circles instead of linear structures. I guess you could say I am more of a Round Earth type of guy than a Flat-Earther.

Disclaimer: When I say something is Truth, it is, of course, what I perceive to be Truth. I am not sure we can ever really speak to what Truth is. As many have suggested before me, the best we can hope to do is to point to Truth.

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