When pain occurs it occurs to me. Otherwise I would not merely feel pain. There is distance between myself and what I feel. --If I had no self--if there were no me--I would be the pain I feel, because there would be no distance between it and the part of my mind I call my self. I would be a room full of fire rather than a room lit by fire.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which means that the whole is something completely other than the sum of its parts. The self arises out of this. The Buddha said that if one breaks down a person's consciousness into its components he finds no self. That is beside the point.
You can transcend the self, or dissolve the self, but that is a lower state of consciousness (perhaps), not a higher one. In deep states of meditation Buddhist monks feel no physical pain. That's because they've shut off part of their brains. Lower cognizance equals lower consciousness, in a sense. But it could also open up the mind to a different dimension of awareness. A dimmer switch could actually make some things more visible.
I have felt, at fleeting moments, what may be referred to as nirvana--that is, complete clarity. But I don't know whether that made me more or less like a snail, more or less like a deer, more or less like a plant. I'm talking about awareness not intelligence.