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Anatta is the Buddhist teaching on the nonexistence of a permanent, independent self. It’s a notoriously puzzling and elusive concept, usually leading to such questions as, “If I don’t have a self, who’s reading this sentence?” It’s not that there’s no self there, says Rodney Smith. It’s just that the self that is reading this sentence is a configuration of elements that at one time did not exist and which at some point in the future will disperse. Even in its present existence, it’s more a temporary arrangement of components rather than something solid. Anatta is a truth the Buddha considered to be absolutely essential to his teaching. Smith shows that understanding this truth can change the way you relate to the world, and that the perspective of selflessness is critically important for anyone involved in spiritual practice. Seeing it can be the key to getting past the idea that spirituality has something to do with self-improvement, and to accessing the joy of deep insight into reality.
About the Author
Rodney Smith is the founding and guiding teacher of the Seattle Insight Meditation Society and a guiding teacher of the Insight Meditation Society, Barre, Massachusetts. He leads classes and retreats throughout the United States. He is also the author of Lessons from the Dying, a book that grew out of the many years he spent in hospice work.
“Acute insights…Smith’s examination of a profound teaching is thought-provoking.”—Publishers Weekly
“Smith successfully approaches the Buddhist doctrine of anatta (no-self), which is a concept that is most difficult at the best of times.”—The Middle Way: Journal of the Buddhist Society
“Every so often a book appears that revitalizes our understanding of who we are and what our lives are about. Stepping Out of Self-Deception is such a book. A wonderfully fresh and beautifully written investigation of the path of awakening, it also challenges many of our assumptions along the way.”—Joseph Goldstein, author of One Dharma and Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom
“The Buddhist doctrine of anatta (no-self) seems quite counterintuitive to the Western mind: we may not be sure of much, but aren't we sure we are here? Descartes says as much. Rodney Smith succeeds masterfully in laying bare the self/non-self doctrine and its many insidious misunderstandings that more often than not result in our using spiritual practice to reinforce the very pain we hoped it would liberate us from. He makes it clear that the Buddhist goal is not self-improvement or self-elimination but rather the radical recognition that we have never been isolated, we have always belonged. I am deeply moved by this intelligent, practical, and challenging look at the Buddhist path for our time and place.”—Zoketsu Norman Fischer, author of Sailing Home and Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up
“I found this book extremely clear and helpful. Rodney is able to explain concepts that are generally hard to comprehend, and make them readily accessible. His words are written from the heart, which is where this book resonates.”—Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience
“Rodney Smith humanizes the Buddhist path. He probes ‘no-self ’ but in so doing reveals himself to be honest, humble, and wise. His writing makes this most elusive concept come alive.”—Mark Epstein, MD, author of Thoughts without a Thinker and Going to Pieces without Falling Apart
“Rodney Smith’s terrific new book will help us step out of the vicious cycle of self-deception and into the illumined realm of self-knowledge and spiritual realization. His deep, long term of Buddhist practice and liberating wisdom combined with a vocation of service work in the field of death and dying has perfectly equipped him to bring together here the best of East and West in elucidating how we ourselves can explore and penetrate the inner dynamics of identity and self, no-self, transpersonal being, and discover the complete being of our innate Buddhaness, the radiant Buddha-nature.”—Lama Surya Das, author of The Mind Is Mightier Than the Sword and Awakening the Buddha Within