Buddha makes the claim that self does not exist. He states that there are five aggregates which are form, perception, feeling, mental formation, and consciousness. They are all about a person. It is stated that those five aggregates are impermanent and cannot be controlled. Thus, he claims self does not exist. I agree with the statement due to 2 reasons. Firstly, nothing remains the same, nothing is permanent. Secondly, we cannot control ourselves. We cannot control 5 aggregates. We inter-be and there is not separate self.
My first reason to believe that there is no self is that nothing is permanent. As indicated in the second Dharma Seal, nothing remains the same. Every feeling, every emotion is changing. Our perception is changing with the new information we learn, with the new experiences we live. Our form is changing day after day. Our bodily shape is changing due to age, the food eaten, due to the air pollution, etc. So does the consciousness. You most probably heard the saying of Heraclitus “We could not step into the same river twice” From the point of view of time, everything is impermanent.
For instance, let’s assume you cling to an opinion and you are the supporter of the government, party A. And let’s assume your friends is supporting the opponent B. Politics is one of the topic that people are fanatic about. And in the end a hot debate has started and you wind up arguing with your friend. You explain why that group should not be supported and what the disadvantages are. You can list good things about the A. 10 years have passed. And you read a lot about politics, you learn lots of information. Then you change your idea. You start to support the party B instead of A. our ideas are defining ourselves and you are who you are since you have a specific point of view and you have likes and dislikes. You hang out with people similar to your world view. Let’s turn to our story and in 10 years lot has changed. Previously we were defining you as supporting idea X and thus supporting party A. But now you changed and you like party B. At a point of time, you define yourself as something, now you are something else. So you are different than before. In order to be able to define something, it should stay the same in time and in space. It should be permanent. Otherwise your definition is changing each and every infinitesimal time. You are not same. So there is no self. Self does not exist. Self changes and you cannot control it. This brings us to our second reason that we cannot control anything.
Self does not exist. We inter-be and there is no separate self. Nothing can exist itself alone. Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk states that everything depends on every other thing. He calls this inter-being. Paper does not exist alone. The paper inter-is with the sunshine and with the forest. It has to inter-be with soil, rain, weeds, insects and everything in the cosmos. It depends on the universe. When we say let there be a paper, does paper appear? No. We don’t have such magical powers. To have the paper sun rises, it rains, forest grows, people find old trees and cut them. With the industrialization, plants are established and they are processing trees into paper… At each step, there are innumerable factors, how the tree is processed, how much it rained, how many trees are left. Each question contains a different story in itself. We cannot control them. As Robert Wright mentions during the course there is no doer, there are deeds.. A A person has a similar story. We have our feelings, perceptions, mental formations, form and consciousness. But we cannot control them. They depend on lots of other things happening around. If there is a Self, then we could control it and we could make it as we like. We could say let me be slim, let me be enlightened. Unfortunately, we are not capable of doing such things. We cannot control the self. It is impossible to talk about a self. Self does not exist.
Thich Nhat Hanh states that “the Buddha has to inter-be with everything. Interbeing and nonself are the objects of our contemplation. We have to train ourselves so that in our daily lives we can touch the truth of interbeing and nonself in every moment. You are in touch with the clouds, with the rain, with the children, with the trees, with the rivers, with your planet, and that contact reveals the true nature of reality, the nature of impermanence, nonself, interdependence, and interbeing.”