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  • Writer's pictureAnne Sweet

No separate self, no-self and non-self

As I understand it, 'no separate self' and 'no self' are two very different things.

'No separate self' occurs through the recognition and abiding in one's true nature/Self beyond the personal identity/narrative self. In 'no separate self' the ever self-concerned, conflicted 'me' falls into the background and what takes its place is the unchanging equanimity, peace, spaciousness and clarity of the Self. This is a profound shift of identity: there is no sense of limitation or lack, and there is a deep felt sense of connectedness, belonging and unification not only to life but to the deeper reality underpinning it.

The Buddhists teachings would completely disagree with this. Anatta or 'non-self' (as opposed to 'no-self') in Buddhism states 'that no unchanging, permanent self or essence can be found in any phenomenon'.

'No self' as I understand it, is the complete absence of the narrative self or 'me', leaving only experiencing with no person at all at the center of it, no landing place, no reference point to an "I". It is a radical (and due to the experience of annihilation or 'ego death' not always welcome) shift into a stark, pristine, impersonal state of consciousness.

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I was stunned when I realized that all my ideas about renunciation were mistaken. As I came to understand it, the renunciation of external things – sex, money, fame, comfort, was only a preparation:


German May
German May
Oct 22, 2021

Dear Anne, this is a courageous discussion of the question you raised about what these three have to do with each other. I give it a try.

I have nothing to add to the first paragraph.

The second paragraph is also coherent. But I don't see it as a complete contradiction to the first one. Why? Because also in the first one the dreamed (projected) falsely assumed self, ego is just that, not real. Only that the Buddhists - not all schools - then know no Brahman. It is enough for them to state the emptiness of a personal ego and a personally experienced world. (But somone or something has to be there to witness that, how would we otherwi…

Anne Sweet
Anne Sweet
Oct 26, 2021
Replying to

Thanks for your kind words, German. I'm glad my description helped, and many thanks for your input in the discussion.

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