No-Self Language and the Individual

November Project: Question #1 The first question comes from Evan at

In no-self language is there a way to express our individuality?

He goes into the question a bit more:

Hi Takuin, I am a bit frustrated with no-self language. I’ve read your blog for a while but rarely comment.

I think our individuality is beautiful and worthy. (At the extreme the Buddha was different to his followers and this is good.) Different talents, styles, manners of doing and being . . . all beautiful.

The denial of the reality of ‘self’ (or ego or whatever) seems fair enough – but I don’t see how to express our beauty and uniqueness in this language.

You may not share my judgement (that these things are beautiful and valuable) or my perception (that these things are far more than delusion) I suppose.

Well, that kind of language can be confusing, if not frustrating. I am not really a fan of it myself, as it has just become the newest style to emulate; the current spiritual flavor of the week (although I am sure it has been going on in some form long before many of us can imagine).

In using language for dialogue, writing articles, or whatever, it is sometimes necessary to remove the story, so to speak; to remove everything other that what might be factually present. It is so easy for the mind to fall back on what it believes to be true, and this happens without warning, as it is so deeply carved into the people we believe ourselves to be.

In writing articles, if I may speak of myself for a moment, the great majority have been impersonal. That is because many of the subjects I have covered are not personal. Whomever I believe to be the best Presidential candidate, or the best footballer, or the best god, or that I am smart, or I am a good lover, or I have an answer other people desperately need, none of that is helpful as a base for liberation. It is after all, base-less and beyond pursuit.

But that is not to deny anything about how one might express themselves from moment to moment.

Really, if we can be honest here, the search for enlightenment is a detriment to living. It leaves the seeker floating on a sea of, let's call it, inaction. Everything they do is in reference to what they believe they do not have. So it is a life lived statically, relying on the words of others, the actions of others, the lives of others, to hopefully show one how to live. But if one gets into this, it is clearly nothing more than living in the past masquerading as the present. It is a life based on what someone else has given.


This world we live in is the world of the image, built by the image. And until the day we die, we will live here. We did not ask to be put into this world, but we are here. So one might ask, "How is one to live in freedom within this world of the image?" It is a good question, and one every human being should consider.

Some teachers would have you deny the image completely, all the while hoping you never notice they need the image to convey their message. ;) And other teachers can be so human in their messages while denying nothing, it defies description. But there are good teachers in all areas of life, and it is not simply limited to the ones we wish to use for our 'next step,' whatever that might be.

I think our individuality is beautiful and worthy. Different talents, styles, manners of doing and being . . . all beautiful.

Absolutely true. Any teaching worthy of your ear, will not deny human expression. As human beings, we should be interested in all other forms of life. To see how life grows, moves, lives, dies. To live beyond a second-hand story. But human beings are generally not very interested in this. If they were, this world would be transformed.

I think part of the problem - or perhaps, the entirety of the problem - is we think we need to be better, greater, more this, more that, to such an extent, we can not even come close to seeing the truth of our being or the nature of our functioning. But this has more to do with our desire to fill up something we feel is missing, and has little to do with Individuality as you have described it.

The Individual, as you have described it, is to be human. To express ourselves physically, verbally, or however we might do it. It can be a collective and complex expression, as in the various cultures, tribal rituals, and so on, or it can be as simple as the stroke of a brush on blank canvas. It is all a glorious example of what it means to be human.

But generally, human beings can see and appreciate those expressions only in a limited way, because it is viewed from one's own preferred viewpoint and culture. We tend to use cultural differences as a weapon, and it is the rare Individual that can sit with something alien to them, and see the beauty inherent in human expression.

To see, without the desire to change, is transformative action.


Thanks for your question, Evan. I don't know that I have answered it properly, but we can get deeper into it in the comments, if you like.

That goes for all other readers here, too. Feel free to comment, and give your own insights into Evan's question.

And for those of you that do not know, Evan runs the site, Living Authentically - Living from the core of who you are for lasting satisfaction. Be sure to stop by to his site and say hello!