I think one of the reasons why people have a hard time accepting or even considering the Buddhist thesis on no-self (that the self does not exist) is that they don’t care enough about themselves in the first place in order to find out that it doesn’t finally exist upon Buddhist analysis.
This is ironic because it suggests that your appropriate response to the thesis of no-self should be to do exactly the opposite of what the thesis, when taken at face value, implies you should do: to directly look at yourself. Assuming that most people do not do this when faced with the thesis and in fact take it at face value, they (again ironically) do what the thesis seems to suggest we should do: to forget the self. They fall for the explicit connotations of the thesis which they reject, compelling them to ironically perform the very thesis they explicitly reject, while failing to appreciate the implicit denotations of the thesis which is ironically in consonance with what they would have actually appreciated.
So it’s not that a lot of people resist Buddhist truths because they suffer from an excess of attachment to themselves (as a lot of Buddhists like to teach), but because of exactly the opposite—they suffer from a deficiency of nurturing themselves, which presupposes a minimal level of attachment that is synonymous with sheer contact but which is yet to become the unhealthy clinging that “attachment” is usually associated with. Since many people are already averse to really touching themselves, they do not even know that there could be a space which is empty of self, which is why the Buddhist thesis of the emptiness of self does not register the significance it could have, like it does for those who are already intimately familiar with touching themselves.
In fact it can be said that those who are already touching themselves have an innate sense of the truth of selflessness that the Buddha taught, so are already predisposed to be receptive to the thesis that not only is it possible and good to touch oneself, but that one can touch oneself in such a way that one virtually loses sense of where the self starts and where it ends, but without actually eliminating the reciprocal co-arising of the toucher and the touched, of putting out and taking in. They’ve already been doing it on their own anyway.
But honestly, while those who do not touch themselves and hence cannot be properly receptive to the Buddha’s teachings (what the tradition calls “tirthikas” or “nonbelievers”) are born into unfavorable circumstances due to the fact that their mind has not ripened enough to be receptive to the teachings, no is in a more unfavorable circumstance than the one suffered by the Buddhist.
The Buddhist suffers from the irresolvable fault of turning the real heart of Buddhahood into a magisterial temple of sacred truths. By configuring dharma in terms of its exact opposite, Buddhists can simulate the pretense to having realized the truth of selflessness without ever needing to actually learn how to properly touch oneself, by using conceptually constructed idols as fetishistic mediums by which they try to touch themselves indirectly and incompletely.
Since the truth is never directly verified by oneself, the Buddhist defers the responsibility of authority to the Buddha, who is conveniently understood to also be one’s essential, inevitable being. Thus the Buddhist can infinitely defer the real need to touch himself to an ever-advancing future that never truly arrives yet whose mere promise affords him just enough time to merely speculate about the possibility of future profits while in the process securing the conditions for his continued renewal as a “Buddhist.”
The Buddhist forever stalls off nakedly touching himself or directly embodying his own Buddhahood, and then mistakes this fundamental lack within himself to be the ground of the means to himself, which ensures that he will never ever truly get to touch himself and that the harder he tries to be a “good” and “proper” Buddhist, the more he seals the deal for his own bankruptcy. This suggests that, ironically, the best of his Buddhism is also the worst of his Buddhism. However, the Buddhist does not see it that way, because he ironically takes his best (which is actually his worst) as proof of the value of his Buddhism, since he is ignorant of the fact that in order for him to maintain his self-identity as a Buddhist he must foreclose himself from his own Buddha-nature.
So it seems like Buddhism is not well received by tirthikas/non-believers because they do not care enough about themselves to verify the thesis that the self doesn’t exist. Their ignorance is innocent, for they are still developing the necessary prerequisites for giving them up to themselves, which itself is a requisite condition for being receptive to the dharma. For many people, the state of vulnerability that is required to truly let go of yourself to yourself is too close to the states of vulnerability associated with trauma, and so there is an instinctive tendency to be averse to approaching similar levels of vulnerability, as a function of self-preservation which nonetheless has the unintended and unfortunate consequence of making the person indirectly averse to themselves. Since they are not already familiar with touching themselves, they need the basic work of mundane psychotherapeutic treatment before the supramundane treatment of the heart of Buddhahood can do its essential work with maximal efficacy.
Arguably those who are already familiar with touching with themselves do not have any real need for Buddhism, since their intimate familiarity with touching themselves already naturally discloses to them the heart of selflessness that is the quintessence of the Buddha’s dharma. Buddhism might help them on this natural journey of self-developing and self-enveloping selfless intimacy, but this is only helpful in the way that changing to a faster car than your current one in the middle of the road is helpful: it makes the destination come sooner, but either way it was bound to come eventually, being only a matter of time.
To top it all off, the truth of the Buddha’s dharma is not well received even by the Buddhists, and that arguably and ironically, it is the Buddhists and not the non-Buddhists who have the worst possible reception of Buddhism, because they turn it into what it’s not while deluding themselves otherwise. Having turned the remedy of the selfless heart of Buddhahood into the self-cherishing mind of the Buddhist, the antidote itself becomes the very poison it was meant to counteract. There is no saving Buddhism at this point.
May the infinite loving-compassion and boundless luminous-vision of the uncountable multiplicity of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who pervade every duration of time and every extent of space in the entire manifold cosmos secretly conspire to lure the Buddhist to the unobstructed awakening of the indestructible heart of his selfless self, which can only be disclosed in the last instance by his resolve to renounce and to let go of his tendency to attempt at establishing himself as a Buddhist on a Buddhist path in pursuit of a Buddhist goal. Only with the complete cessation of basis, path and fruit can the consummation of the three be realized as a concrete unity within lived experience.
The end of Buddhism will never finally come, for Buddhism has never been truly established in the first place. By deferring the conditions for its cessation to an undisclosed future, Buddhism absolves itself of the need to comprehend itself in its totality, since it is not until something has ceased completely before we can begin to comprehend its constituent moments as an integral unity. Thus the actual existence of Buddhism is without real foundation, which is as good as being virtually non-existent and thus ultimately useless.
Buddhism is good for nobody and nobody can benefit from it. Buddhism promises everything but delivers nothing, especially not the indwelling, indestructible heart of perfect awakening that is the essence of mind itself, which resides in the core of every being radiating as luminous wisdom and overflowing as amorous splendor.
The only limit to Buddhism is Buddhism itself. Without relinquishing itself, it cannot even hope to realize what it has tirelessly labored and aspired to for incalculable eons:
om gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā!