Firewns said: “When we think of an enduring ‘X’ which is still ever-changing, we risk conceptualising the self-identity as having a permanent core with only its outer aspects or manifestations changing.”
You are correct that, in the ABSOLUTE sense, there is no “permanent core”.
But ALL humans below the Arahant stage are operating AS IF there is a “permanent core”.
We can look at it this way: The sense of having a “permanent core” (which is best to be called “sense of me or self”) is very strong for a normal human. If one is not even aware of/ does not believe in laws of kamma, one could do strong immoral acts for the benefit of “me”.
By the time one gets to the Sotapanna Anugami/Sotapanna stages, one realizes that it is not worthwhile AND dangerous to do such “apayagami immoral actions” for the benefit of “me” (mostly for sense pleasures).
Then when one goes through the Sakadagami/Anagami stages, one realizes that even engaging in “harmless sense pleasures” is dangerous. By the Anagami stage, one AUTOMATICALLY loses craving for ALL sense pleasures.
– For a normal human, even this stage is hard to fathom, i.e., one cannot even believe that such a state will be possible. For many people, the question could be: “why would one want to lose craving for sense pleasures?”.
However, even an Anagami has the “sense of me”, and thus could be offended or at least perturbed (but not generate anger) by harsh criticism. One still wants to live in this world of 31 realms (actually only in mental states corresponding to those realms above the kama loka).
The fruitlessness AND danger in even that will only be realized at the Arahant stage. That is when one finally gives up the “sense of me” or the “permanent core”. This is even more worse situation than the Anagami stage in the minds of most humans: “Why would I want to do that? I always want to live”.
This is why I say that one needs to go step-by-step. Don’t even contemplate on the Anagami stage, until getting to the Sotapanna stage. It is likely that some of you CAN imagine the benefits of the Anagami stage, and may be getting there (or already there). In any case, one will KNOW when one gets there; no one else can know that.
Therefore, the bottom line is that we are far from actually BELIEVING that there is no “permanent core”. It is truly comprehended ONLY at the Arahant stage.
Put it in another way: Both views that “there is an unchanging self” and “there is no self” are wrong for any human who has not yet attained the Arahanthood. Only at the Arahant stage, that one truly realizes that “there is no point (and one will be subjected much suffering) in having a sense of self”. That “self” who undergoes suffering will cease to exist in this suffering-filled world of 31 realms at Parinibbana. Then that particular “self” will no longer exist in this world; he/she would be merged with Nibbana, which is permanent and without suffering.
I hope everyone will read the above carefully.