For the reader who says that you can’t arrive at the position that the self doesn’t exist by argument, in fact the Gelug lineage of Tibetan Buddhists (the one in which the Dalai Lama belongs) believes that not only is logic helpful in this endeavour, it is essential. You must first convince yourself of the logic underlying the no self position before meditating on it. They liken it to taking a horse through a race course before a race. And the logic used, based on Tsongkhapa’s interpretation of Nagarjuna’s Introduction to the Middle Way, is extremely convincing. A great summary of it can be found in Guy Newland’s Introduction to Emptiness. The Dalai Lama’s How to See Yourself as You Really Are is a bit more bare bones.
However, I do agree with the reader that you and most of your other readers are misunderstanding what the absence of self infers. It doesn’t mean a zombie-like annihilation of personality. It simply means recognizing that the thought “me” refers to something that you believe to exist inherently, whereas nothing can be said to exist inherently. There is still a “me”, it’s just that it exists moment to moment. For a good discussion of this, listen to this Philosophy Bites podcast on a possible connection between Hume and Tsongkhapa. As to how the belief in an inherently existing self dominates our day-to-day existence, check out the YouTube video [seen above] by Sakyong Mipham, spoken word artist and son of Chogyam Trunkpa.
Another reader flags a recent podcast between Sam Harris and Joseph Goldstein:
Another practicing Buddhist:
The question of “does the self exist” troubled me for several years before I came to a place of peace. Buddhism says that nothing exists in a permanent state – the whole of reality is in a constant state of change. The English word used to describe this within Buddhist circles is Impermanence. Mountains erode, water evaporates, molecules change composition over time, and even the cells of our body are being replaced.
It was easy to see this when I looked at external things. My trouble was that I felt like no matter what my childhood memory was, “I” had always been there, and “I” would be here tomorrow too. After all, who is experiencing these things, if it’s not “me?” And so I struggled through meditation and reading the dharma, adhering to the Buddha’s advice to rigorously test every proposition put forth in the writings.
This impasse was finally broken when I began to realize that I was taking the first part – “not existing” – and ignoring the second part – “in a permanent state.”