I feel that in any discussion of the self, the definitions of what we mean by "the self" can always become muddled as we are still only in the frontiers of discovery regarding consciousness, what it is, or what it means to have consciousness, or be conscious. Therefore, as this essay deals heavily with ideas of the self, or the lack thereof, please be patient if definitions waver and employ some level of suspension of belief in order to better appreciate the overall ideas discussed.
The Buddha describes the self as the essence of a person. It is the part of a person that is non-changing, though the individual does change. The self is enduring and strives to continually endure, regardless of change in the individual, including that of death. However, the Buddha denies that there is such a self. In his book, Buddhism As Philosophy, Mark Siderits defines the Buddhist view of the self as, “the essence of a person—the one part whose continued existence is required for that person to continue to exist” (32). However, there is no one part of a person that seems to fall into this category. Take something like the human brain. While much research has been done in neuroscience, it is evident that the brain is continually changing (Pascual-Leone et al 383). Siderits goes on to say that it is likely that there is no part of an individual that must continually exist in order for that person to continue in existence (34). There is constant change. The Buddha tells us, however, that in order for there to be a self it must endure, or be eternal. However, there is no definition of what the self is, or can be—only what it cannot be through the idea of enduring. It then follows that something that can fit into the different skandha's that the Buddha lay's out—that of body, perception, ones volition, and conscious awareness—that that thing could be considered the self. This definition of the self then can be seen as the solver of Suffering, enlightenment. It can then be understood that what the Buddha discovered is correct, but his definitions were not. We can see the self through observing nature—or the universe—and its ability to allow things, essences, to endure. There are many ways the physical universe allows for this, through a scientific understanding of connections that can be made within existence.