My newest biweekly post is up at the Interdependence Project’s website. This week I take a look at “selflessness” and discuss how, in Buddhism, selflessness points to a fundamental attribute of reality, rather than a character or personality trait that can be developed. Here’s an excerpt:

The famed “three hallmarks” of the Buddhist teachings consist of the Buddha’s, and Buddhist traditions’, descriptions of the realities of suffering, impermanence, and selflessness. It can be helpful to remember that all three of these terms are translations, and that all translations come with inevitable shifts from the original languages’ words in terms of perspective, tone, and emphasis. For each of these translations, there are effective alternative translations, and there has been much beneficial discussion (discussion that should continue) around which English words are the best fit for each term (if indeed there is a single “best fit” for each one).

Each of these three topics can be a launching point for profound investigations. Today I would like to share a few brief paragraphs (as a very general overview) on “selflessness,” its main meanings in Buddhist thought, and, in particular, some misunderstandings that can arise through using this multifaceted word. The other two of the three hallmarks are equally important topics, though, so I hope to have an opportunity to focus on them separately in the future.

The basic gist of the Buddha’s teachings on selflessness is that, if we calm our mind and deeply examine our experience, we will find that there is really no single, solid, pinpointable “thing” that corresponds to the concepts of “I,” “me,” and “mine.” The proposition is that we can search through the entirety of our bodies and minds, and we won’t find anything that isn’t subject to change or dependence on a thought or concept in order to exist. The sense of “I” or “me” feels very real and solid, but it doesn’t seem to reveal itself in an earnest investigation.

Check out the full article by clicking here.

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