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Question
Dear Buddhist,
I understand that Buddhist believe in the "anatta" (non-self). It doesn't make sense to me that someone can beleive in something one doesn't beleive exists. Anatta is a term for something you don't even think exists. Why even use such a strange word?

Answer
Dear Andrew,

Thank you for your question.

Yes Buddhist do believe in Anatta.

Anatta is commonly translated as “not-self.” What this means is cessation of a “self” or being, cessation of existence in a conventional form, or that ownership cannot exist because all things including owner and object will cease to be.  

It is like we started a game, we assume this is me and that is you. We decide to say this now belongs to you and this belongs to me. Then we decide that you will be this and I will be that. All these things that we designate and create go to fill a self that doesn't actually exist. Through this self that we create (that is temporary, leading towards suffering and that doesn't really exist) we experience different things.

The knoweldge that these "self's" are fabricated and created is what we strive to understand. The opposite of self - is not self. However, this translation lacks the meaning it has in the original text of Pali. It refers to a state that is not created and temporary.

It is as if I had you write all the things you are and like on a blank piece of paper. Everything you wrote reflects who you are. Who you think you are. Who you want me to think you are. However, when I refer to not self, or no self, I am referring to the blank piece of paper. The paper has no identity (other than blank paper) and does not strive to create identity. It just is.

"It doesn't make sense to me that someone can beleive in something one doesn't beleive exists. Anatta is a term for something you don't even think exists."

I'm not sure what you mean by this. Are you saying it is weird that there is a term for something that doesn't exist?

This actually happens a lot.

The brontosaurus never existed, but we have a name for it.

Unicorns don't exist, but we have a name for it.

The "deathstar" doesn't exist, but we have a name for it.

Jedi's don't exist, but we have a name for it.

In the movie the Matrix, the real world was given a name, "the Matrix."

So, I'm not quite sure what your question is. Could you please rephrase?

I hope I have answered your questions, but if not, I would appreciate more clarification.  

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Anandapanyo Bhikkhu

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I can answer questions about Buddhist practice, Buddhist understanding and how to apply Buddhism to daily life. I can help analyze Buddhist sayings and teachings. In addition, I can help with questions Buddhism stories, fables and Vinaya(rules). I have meditated for over 10 years and can help you start with meditation. In addition, I can help provide insight into what to do when you feel that you have hit a wall with your meditation. My main area of expertise is how to think in accordance with Sammaditthi (the right view - and number 1 in the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path. If I cannot answer your question, I have many able teachers with over 20 years experience to help me, so chances are I will be able to find an answer for you.

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I have been practicing Buddhism since I was born, but as a serious practice since 2003. I started studying under various famous Thai Theravada masters. Finally, I met and studied under Phra Acariya Thoon Khippapanyo who has recently passed away on Nov 11, 2008 and is widely accepted as a great Arahant (fully enlightened) teacher of our time. In addition, I have personally read and studied much of the Buddhist scriptures and popular literature available. I have recently undertaken the ordination vows and have become a Buddhist monk in the theravada forest monk tradition. I reside at a temple with many dedicated practitioners and great teachers. I have been practicing training my mind to be aligned with right view (sammaditthi) for over 10 years. I have also been meditating for over 10 years. In my time spent with Acariya Thoon, I learned many things and was able to incorporate them into my life. In addition to practicing Buddhism within temples and my home, I used to own two restaurants and managed commercial real estate. I had to deal with many different and problems. I learned how to use Buddhism to fix my problems, both externally (my environment) and internally (within me).

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