In this TED talk philosopher Julian Baggini adresses the question: “Is there a real you?” He expounds on the concept of a separate and fixed self and then refutes it. He proposes a shift in our thinking from ‘being a self which has a collection of characteristics’ to ‘being the sum of that collection of characteristics’ and in this he touches on two very important concepts from buddhism, impermanence (anitya) and selflessness (anatman).

According to buddhist doctrine a false sense of self, as a separate entity disconnected from the ‘external world’ is one of the main casuses of suffering (duhkha), the other being impermanence. It is actually the interplay of these two that creates suffering. We believe ourselves (and others) to have an unchanging inherent self and because of the changing nature of things, somewhere down the line this belief will be challenged which causes distress (suffering). Anyone will probably be able to relate to the conflict of ‘the person you think you ought to be’ and ‘the person you are right now’.

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Selflessness

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