Perhaps the most difficult tenet of the Buddha’s teaching is that of anatta, which in Pali literally means “no-self.” This is the ultimate truth to which various skillful means of practice are pointing, and the key that will release us from our suffering. In this issue of Inquiring Mind we explore the notion of anatta, hoping to illuminate its importance and to dispell some of the confusion surrounding it. Joseph Goldstein opens the discussion by looking at the concept of self in relation to absolute and relative realities, and by pointing out the different flavors of anatta. Visionary teacher Joanna Macy reveals her own skillful means of moving beyond self and releasing us into action, while Tsultrim Allione, a Western woman teacher of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, describes some of the imaginative Tantric practices that are designed to cut through our attachments to our individual body and mind.
Stephen Batchelor offers his understanding of the correspondence between the concepts of anatta and shunyata, no-self and emptiness, and Mark Epstein explores how a meditative questioning of self might help eliminate the psychological sense of unworthiness prevalent in the West. In our conversation with psychologist James Hillman, we move away from the individual to explore the “psychological state of the nation,” taking a look at our “group self” and how we relate to the world as a culture. Finally, performance artist Nina Wise tells us a story about the time she met Carlos Castenada, revealing how identity can shift shapes in the most unusual ways.