The difference between Eastern and Western concepts of the self

Can you explain the difference between Eastern and Western concepts of the self?

image ChatGPT:

"Certainly! The Eastern and Western concepts of the self differ in their underlying philosophies and approaches to understanding the nature of personal identity and selfhood.

  1. Eastern Concept of the Self: In Eastern philosophies, such as those found in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism, the concept of self is often characterized by non-dualistic and interconnected views. Key aspects include:

a) Non-Self or Anatta (Buddhism): According to Buddhism, the self is considered illusory and devoid of inherent existence. The doctrine of Anatta teaches that there is no permanent, unchanging self or soul. Instead, the self is seen as a collection of ever-changing, interdependent processes and elements.

b) Interconnectedness (Hinduism and Taoism): Hinduism and Taoism emphasize the interconnected nature of all beings and the universe. The self is seen as a manifestation of the universal consciousness or a microcosm of the larger cosmic order. The individual self (Atman in Hinduism) is believed to be fundamentally connected to the ultimate reality (Brahman) or the Tao.

c) Emphasis on Experience and Mindfulness: Eastern philosophies often emphasize direct experience and introspection as means to understand the self. Practices like meditation and mindfulness aim to develop self-awareness and insight into the impermanence and interconnectedness of phenomena.

  1. Western Concept of the Self: In Western thought, the concept of self has been influenced by various philosophical and psychological traditions. Key aspects include:

a) Individualism: Western thought often places a greater emphasis on individual identity, autonomy, and personal agency. The self is seen as a distinct, autonomous entity with individual characteristics, desires, and rights. This perspective can be traced back to the works of philosophers like René Descartes and John Locke.

b) Rationality and Reason: Western philosophy has often emphasized the role of reason and rationality in defining the self. Thinkers like Immanuel Kant proposed that the self is constituted by a transcendent, rational core that provides unity and coherence to personal experience.

c) Objective Observation: Western psychology, particularly influenced by behaviorism and cognitive science, has focused on studying the self through objective observation and empirical methods. It often seeks to understand the self in terms of cognitive processes, personality traits, and observable behavior.

It’s important to note that these are broad generalizations, and there can be variations and overlaps within each tradition. Additionally, contemporary thought often incorporates elements from both Eastern and Western perspectives, as cross-cultural exchange and dialogue have become more prevalent."

Which concept is winning popularity?

image ChatGPT:

"It is challenging to determine which concept of the self is “winning popularity” as it can vary depending on the context, cultural factors, and individual perspectives. However, it’s worth noting that in recent years, there has been an increasing interest in and adoption of certain Eastern philosophical and spiritual practices in Western societies. Practices such as meditation, mindfulness, and yoga, which are rooted in Eastern traditions, have gained popularity and recognition for their potential benefits to mental well-being.

This interest in Eastern practices suggests a growing openness and receptiveness to Eastern concepts of the self, particularly in terms of interconnectedness, mindfulness, and the exploration of subjective experience. Many individuals in Western societies have found value in integrating these practices into their lives, seeking a more holistic understanding of self and personal growth.

However, it’s important to recognize that Western concepts of the self, particularly individualism and a focus on rationality, continue to dominate many aspects of Western culture, including psychology, economics, and social structures. These concepts have shaped Western societies for centuries and continue to exert significant influence.

It’s also essential to remember that the popularity of different concepts of the self can ebb and flow over time. Cultural, social, and individual factors can all play a role in shaping the prevailing ideas about selfhood. Ultimately, the concept of the self is a complex and multifaceted topic, and there is no single “winning” or universally accepted perspective."


The essential difference between Eastern and Western views of the self lies in their perspectives on individuality. Eastern traditions emphasize interconnectedness, seeing the self as part of a larger whole. In contrast, Western perspectives focus on individual autonomy and self-identity as separate entities.

Self flows in the East,
Interwoven, part of all,
West finds self, alone.

Holding the ball…


" The human is not a unitary entity but a dynamic and interactive community of human cells and microbial cells. By current estimates, approximately half of the cells in our body are microbial [6]." How the microbiome challenges our concept of self : “Evidence shows that our resident microbes orchestrate the adaptive immune system, influence the brain, and contribute more gene functions than our own genome. The realization that humans are not individual, discrete entities but rather the outcome of ever-changing interactions with microorganisms has consequences beyond the biological disciplines.”


Beside second hand information about the ‘self’, the only investigation into one’s own would seem to be the only one that mattered, no? The awareness of how we escape from the nothingness of ourself through the words and concepts of others ?

Agreed. After years of self-exploration, cycling awareness through nothingness to the universal and back again, I find myself quite content with what is, and the microbiome may be a big contributor to that contentment.

Are you content with your conditioning, the content of consciousness that limits the brain?

Seeing “what is” and accepting (being content with) “what is” are breakthroughs. Being functional and responsive brings change when needed.

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Please elaborate. I’m not sure what you mean.

Being functional and responsive brings change when needed.

It depends on who/what defines “functional”. There are functional alcoholics, etc.

As for “responsive”, the conditioned brain is reactive - capable only of conditioned response. Though education and training can modify the brain’s conditioning to be less violent, brutal conditioned response, intelligent response is possible only when there’s freedom from the limits imposed by our cultural conditioning.

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Maybe the quotation marks will help, ‘Seeing “what is” and accepting (being content with) “what is” are breakthroughs. Being functional and responsive brings change when needed.’

For the conditioned brain, “what-is” is its reaction to actuality, which is to distort, deny, dismiss, or embrace, identify with or applaud, so seeing this reaction is realizing that I am bound to see what I’m conditioned to see. Why would I be content with that?

It could be that I don’t belong here. I love life and am happy. I don’t see the world like what you just described.

You don’t see your reactions to “the world”?

When you say you “love life and am happy”, aren’t you saying that you love your conditioned response, your reactions to life? Wouldn’t loving life be loving choiceless awareness rather than loving perception altered to accord with your beliefs?

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I love “what is” and am happy most of the time. I don’t readily adopt other’s perspectives, though I know something of a consensus is needed for communication and living without conflict.

What is “what is”? Isn’t it our altered perception of actuality? Isn’t it our horror of choiceless awareness? Aren’t we content with the contents of consciousness, our curated compilation of conclusions we choose to live by as an alternative to living with what actually is?

When we say we’re “happy”, aren’t we saying that our beliefs are holding up, maintaining and sustaining our confidence that we’re living in the world we imagine?

For a moment, looking back at the microbiome/self, I’m happy because the microbes in my gut are producing neurotransmitters like GABA, serotonin and dopamine. Happiness is neurological rather than belief-based.

Yes, I too am pleased that the body is functioning well enough to get on with my self-sustaining existence, giving me time to acknowledge and ponder what I’m actually doing.

If all your memories are taken away, what are you?” K, Mumbai, 1984


“The truth is that your left brain has been interpreting reality for you your whole life, and if you are like most people, you have never understood the full implications of this. This is because we mistake the story of who we think we are for who we truly are.”

We truly are liars making up reasons for doing what we do because we don’t know why we do what we do.

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