Self vs Soul

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
arijitmitter
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Self vs Soul

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Jul 07, 2013 7:17 am

I could not answer a question my sister asked me yesterday. What is the difference between the Self and Soul. Her question was Non Self anattā ( Pali ) anātman ( Sanskrit ) already contains the word attā and anattā is negation of attā which is accurately translated as soul

[ attā / ātman = soul has been checked over and reviewed by several hundred British scholars who learned Sanskrit and several hundred Sanskrit scholars who learned English - so any answer which tries to say attā / ātman does not translate to soul will not be accepted ]

I understand anattā means not clinging to " I " or " mine ". But why Self ? How is Self differentiated from soul ?

[ my sister who is an atheist History professor is of the opinion that Buddha wanted to in a way differentiate his religion from Hinduism and using the word soul ( ātman ) which is there in every alternate line of Hinduism in some form will have made it very hard for him to sustain a group of followers willing to break away from Hinduism. To differentiate his religion he chose the word Self in place of soul. Also using the word soul could have led to the word Higher Soul and ultimately someone will have coined Divine Soul - which Buddha wanted to avoid since he did not want to make any reference to Divinity ]

Second question - if Self is not soul then are we soul less ? [ edit - explained more in the paradox stated in reply # 3 ]

:namaste: Arijit
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reflection
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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby reflection » Sun Jul 07, 2013 8:58 am

Hi,

I think soul is also a good translation, because 'soul' seems to me the modern day equivalent of the word 'atta'. We could look at ancient literature for how it translates, but words such as this change their meaning dependent on the society they are in. So to ask what is the difference between self or soul is dependent on how people see those terms. In my eyes, they refer to the same concept, a sort of entity or 'final being' inside of us. But such a thing does not exist and so the soul or self also don't exist.

With metta,
:anjali:

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby Holdan » Sun Jul 07, 2013 9:52 am

arijitmitter wrote: my sister who is an atheist History professor is of the opinion that Buddha wanted to in a way differentiate his religion from Hinduism and using the word soul ( ātman ) which is there in every alternate line of Hinduism in some form will have made it very hard for him to sustain a group of followers willing to break away from Hinduism. To differentiate his religion he chose the word Self in place of soul.

Your sister's opinion is reasonable. I myself would support this theory. Nama-rupa is possibly another example of differentiating & redefining a Hindu concept. The first words spoken by Buddha about this seem to fall on the side of 'self', i.e., 'non-identification', 'non-possessiveness', 'non-ownership', 'relinquishment', etc, as they address 'I', 'me' &, particularly, 'mine'. The very fact that Buddha did not explicitly negate the existence of a soul but, instead, referred to the five aggregates as things ignorantly clung to & misunderstood, again seems to support Buddha was concerned with 'self' rather than 'soul'.

Now, that which is impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change, is it proper to regard that as: 'This is mine, this I am, this is my self'?

Anatta-lakkhana Sutta

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Jul 07, 2013 11:25 am

Holdan wrote:
The very fact that Buddha did not explicitly negate the existence of a soul but, instead, referred to the five aggregates as things ignorantly clung to & misunderstood, again seems to support Buddha was concerned with 'self' rather than 'soul'.


It is interesting to read Walpola Rahul's interpretation of Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta https://sites.google.com/site/rahulawha ... of-no-soul

and the paradox - if there is no soul or no Self what is then reincarnated - http://visitunderthetree.com/philosophi ... t-paradox/

:namaste: Arijit

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby Martin Po » Sun Jul 07, 2013 11:46 am

As i understand:
- there is no soul, or, in other words : form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness are conditioned manifestations.
- self (as peronality) is memory
- is not some of 5 khandhas that reborn, but action, kamma.

:roll:

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Jul 07, 2013 12:22 pm

Martin Po wrote:
As i understand:
- there is no soul, or, in other words : form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness are conditioned manifestations.


As far as I understand Buddha rejects Self. But Buddhism does not deny existence of a non bodily component that may continue after death [ which for sake of convenience we shall call soul ].

Buddha carefully chose words that avoided atman - samvattanika-viññana [ evolving consciousness ] and viññana-sotam [ stream of consciousness ].

So to summarize " no Self " means non attachment to " I " and " mine " and soul is carefully referred to as evolving consciousness. He was asking us to let go of ego but there was no equal term for ego back then and being silent and thus allowing for existence of soul.

:namaste: Arijit
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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby acinteyyo » Sun Jul 07, 2013 12:25 pm

arijitmitter wrote:I could not answer a question my sister asked me yesterday. What is the difference between the Self and Soul. Her question was Non Self anattā ( Pali ) anātman ( Sanskrit ) already contains the word attā and anattā is negation of attā which is accurately translated as soul

[ attā / ātman = soul has been checked over and reviewed by several hundred British scholars who learned Sanskrit and several hundred Sanskrit scholars who learned English - so any answer which tries to say attā / ātman does not translate to soul will not be accepted ]

I understand anattā means not clinging to " I " or " mine ". But why Self ? How is Self differentiated from soul ?

[ my sister who is an atheist History professor is of the opinion that Buddha wanted to in a way differentiate his religion from Hinduism and using the word soul ( ātman ) which is there in every alternate line of Hinduism in some form will have made it very hard for him to sustain a group of followers willing to break away from Hinduism. To differentiate his religion he chose the word Self in place of soul. Also using the word soul could have led to the word Higher Soul and ultimately someone will have coined Divine Soul - which Buddha wanted to avoid since he did not want to make any reference to Divinity ]

Second question - if Self is not soul then are we soul less ? [ edit - explained more in the paradox stated in reply # 3 ]

:namaste: Arijit

Hi Arijit,

I think your sister's argument is invalid because from what we can tell the Buddha didn't use the word "soul" neither did he use the word "self". These are english words, modern interpretations to translate the pali according to modern concepts. In the palicanon the word "attā" and "anattā" is used. Now if we assume that the people in the time of the Buddha spoke a dialect more or less similar to pali then we can easily see that the Buddha decided to use the word attā on purpose particularly to go against the view of the Brahmins, openly and in public. The Buddha picked many words and terms up and reinterpreted or redefined them according to his understanding and we can find many discussions and disputes between the Buddha and the Brahmins in the palicanon where the Buddha used the moment to expose the delusion in the views of the Brahmins.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Jul 07, 2013 12:41 pm

Hi Acinteyyo,

My interpretation - maybe correct maybe incorrect -

Attā is soul. That cannot be contested [ check OP ]. But by speaking of anattā Buddha was asking us to let go of ego and was silent on soul [ thus allowing it's possibility ]. It is unfortunate for us that he used the same word to describe ego that was usually used to describe soul - attā or atman. Let us put it down to a confusion in his discourse he did not clarify fully [ because then he would have to rewind his second discourse to include a new word in place of anattā ].

If there is no soul then what is reborn ? How can Kamma be reborn without a common carrier through centuries. Kamma alone combined with Skandhas cannot create a new body. Kamma is ever changing. Kamma encapsulated in a soul combined with Skandhas can be reborn as a new human being. And carefully avoiding the word soul [ atman ] Buddha spoke of it as samvattanika-viññana [ evolving consciousness ] and viññana-sotam [ stream of consciousness ].

:namaste: Arijit

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby reflection » Sun Jul 07, 2013 12:58 pm

The Buddha said all kinds of consciousness are part of the aggregate. So a 'soul' or 'self' consciousness he left no place for.

All consciousness, coarse or fine internal or external, in the past, future and the present, inferior or superior, far or near, that is the mass (aggregate) of consciousess.
http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pit ... ama-e.html


So when speaking about the stream of consciousness, or any other way of referring to consciousness, is included in the aggregate.

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:43 pm

reflection wrote:
The Buddha said all kinds of consciousness are part of the aggregate. So a 'soul' or 'self' consciousness he left no place for.


A beam of light has several rays of light which are inseparable down to one ray. He left no place for self consciousness [ that is a ray of light is not allowed to be separated ] but that does not negate the existence of a ray.

if I am not self conscious then why do I choose to meditate instead of murder. Who takes the decision of greater skill [ or lesser skill ]. Conventional understanding is my self consciousness takes the decision. If my self consciousness is at a higher plane it chooses to meditate; if at a lower plane it chooses to take part in earthly pleasures and sins. And the Kamma of my actions decided on by my self consciousness results in what happens to my soul; where and how it is reborn.

If there is no soul then when I die, I die [ ucheda-vada ]. But clearly in his conversation with Vacchagotta [ see above Walpola Rahula's link ] Buddha did not subscribe to ucheda-vada.

I am not saying a conscious soul survives death. Maybe a soul is just a packet of energy.

A ) Jack Kramer a 6 feet 4 inch basketball player and accountant from Ohio maybe reborn as Akio Yamamoto a 5 feet 1 inch farmer in Japan. Jack's soul will never have been Jack or Akio. It is just a phase of birth in several births [ an episode let us say ]. And that soul was reborn as Akio with what Kamma it had accumulated in Jack's and Jack's previous lives.

B ) What is the other explanation - a balance sheet of Kamma is born as Jack and reborn as Akio.

Very very hard to understand but it is a basic leg of meditation. I wish someone with deep doctrinal knowledge will throw some light on A and B.

Literally unless one understands this leg or foundation it is impossible to proceed.

OR

It may be like he was silent on existence of God he was purposefully silent on this point also; leaving the follower to choose A or B because something at end of the path or along the path will reveal to the follower which is correct. But I am quite sure he asked us to abandon ego when he spoke of anattā [ this car is mine, my television is bigger than your television ] but explicitly did not ask us to abandon soul.

:namaste: Arijit
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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby reflection » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:58 pm

Well, the basic wrong assumption lies in the assumption that there is a thing that exists. You say a ray exists, but a ray of light does not exist. It is a concept. More accurate is to say light is made of individual particles. But then one can try to define these particles and find nothing substantial in them also.

Similar, you assume something must exist that is like the real "Jack", or the essence of Jack, to differ him from Akio. But is the Jack of 2 year old the same Jack as when he is 60? Only on a conceptual level, but in reality it is more like the wind. Like the ray, the wind is also a concept. It is not a thing, really, it just describes a process. Why does the wind blow west instead of east? It needs no self to do this. You can meditate instead of murder without the need for a self to do that.

Also saying: "if no soul exist I will die", is in itself assuming there is a thing which can die.. which is exactly this concept self the Buddha tried us to see beyond. To think rebirth can't exist without a soul is missing this point. And the proposed paradox by one essay you gave is just that, just a paradox, which means it is only an intuitive contradiction but in reality it is not.

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby acinteyyo » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:59 pm

arijitmitter wrote:Hi Acinteyyo,

My interpretation - maybe correct maybe incorrect -

Attā is soul. That cannot be contested [ check OP ]. But by speaking of anattā Buddha was asking us to let go of ego and was silent on soul [ thus allowing it's possibility ]. It is unfortunate for us that he used the same word to describe ego that was usually used to describe soul - attā or atman. Let us put it down to a confusion in his discourse he did not clarify fully [ because then he would have to rewind his second discourse to include a new word in place of anattā ].

If there is no soul then what is reborn ? How can Kamma be reborn without a common carrier through centuries. Kamma alone combined with Skandhas cannot create a new body. Kamma is ever changing. Kamma encapsulated in a soul combined with Skandhas can be reborn as a new human being. And carefully avoiding the word soul [ atman ] Buddha spoke of it as samvattanika-viññana [ evolving consciousness ] and viññana-sotam [ stream of consciousness ].

:namaste: Arijit

I think its easier. In the old vedic religions the highest goal was to find your true attā whereas the Buddha realized that nothing in the world (loka) can be truly considered to be your true attā. Since there is no way to talk about what lies beyond range and anything beyond the All is beyond range, the Buddha pointed out that one has to realize that everything in the world is not-attā, anattā. So in opposition of looking for your true attā like in the historic vedic religions you should train yourself in seeing that nothing in the world is to be considered as attā.

"If there is no soul then what is reborn?" is a wrongly formulated question which only leads to confusion.
Furthermore kamma is not reborn. Kamma simply is volitional action.
AN6.63 wrote:"Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect.

A being's action leads to future birth explained by dependent origination.
SN12.2 wrote:From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth.


A "being" is born as a "being" again due to it's actions, but not as one and the same "being". There is no need for a permanent core which is in possession of actions. It's a dynamic process where action bears fruits.
No one knows the precise workings behind the kamma-process and it's one of the 4 incomprehensible things.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:04 pm

reflection wrote:
Well, the basic wrong assumption lies in the assumption that there is a thing that exists. You say a ray exists, but a ray of light does not exist. It is a concept. More accurate is to say light is made of individual particles. But then one can try to define these particles and find nothing substantial in them also.


Ray of light does exists [ disregarding it's wave particle duality; it is both matter and energy at same time; let us ignore that aspect of light and quantum physics ].

If I made a light gun to emit a steady stream of photons travelling one at a time consecutively between point A and B like ----------------------------------- that is a ray of light. Although such a ray can never be seen it is of course theoretically possible to create a single ray of light.

:namaste: Arijit

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby reflection » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:06 pm

What I mean is the ray has no essence to it. If you take the photons apart, the ray is not there. So we only speak of a ray by means of other things. So in that sense it doesn't really exist by itself. It is a concept we use to describe an group of photons with a certain direction.

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:08 pm

acinteyyo wrote:
No one knows the precise workings behind the kamma-process


If there is no precise doctrinal answer then my answer is as possible / plausible as any other answer.

acinteyyo wrote:
"If there is no soul then what is reborn?" is a wrongly formulated question which only leads to confusion.
Furthermore kamma is not reborn. Kamma simply is volitional action.


if there is no precise doctrinal answer then how is it determined a question is wrong ? if there is no right there can be no wrong.

:namaste: Arijit

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby Martin Po » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:11 pm

arijitmitter wrote:
Martin Po wrote:
As i understand:
- there is no soul, or, in other words : form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness are conditioned manifestations.


As far as I understand Buddha rejects Self. But Buddhism does not deny existence of a non bodily component that may continue after death [ which for sake of convenience we shall call soul ].

Buddha carefully chose words that avoided atman - samvattanika-viññana [ evolving consciousness ] and viññana-sotam [ stream of consciousness ].

So to summarize " no Self " means non attachment to " I " and " mine " and soul is carefully referred to as evolving consciousness. He was asking us to let go of ego but there was no equal term for ego back then and being silent and thus allowing for existence of soul.

:namaste: Arijit


I can suggest you to read DN1, in this sutta Buddha explain or/and reject all possibles views. :namaste:

DN 1 PTS: D i 1
Brahmajāla Sutta: The All-embracing Net of Views


76. "They proclaim: 'The self is immutable after death, percipient, and:

A.
1. material
2. immaterial
3. both material and immaterial
4. neither material nor immaterial
B.
1. finite
2. infinite
3. both finite and infinite
4. neither finite nor infinite
C.
1. of uniform perception
2. of diversified perception
3. of limited perception
4. of boundless perception
D.
1. exclusively happy
2. exclusively miserable
3. both happy and miserable
4. neither happy nor miserable.'

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:16 pm

reflection wrote:
What I mean is the ray has no essence to it. If you take the photons apart, the ray is not there.


You cannot take a photon apart. It is both a wave and a particle at same time. Which is what makes it so interesting. But discussing that will be digressing from the topic and the Forum.

:namaste: Arijit

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby reflection » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:19 pm

arijitmitter wrote:
reflection wrote:
What I mean is the ray has no essence to it. If you take the photons apart, the ray is not there.


You cannot take a photon apart. It is both a wave and a particle at same time. Which is what makes it so interesting. But discussing that will be digressing from the topic and the Forum.

:namaste: Arijit

Apart from each other, as in separate them.

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby acinteyyo » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:20 pm

arijitmitter wrote:
acinteyyo wrote:
No one knows the precise workings behind the kamma-process


If there is no precise doctrinal answer then my answer is as possible / plausible as any other answer.

acinteyyo wrote:
"If there is no soul then what is reborn?" is a wrongly formulated question which only leads to confusion.
Furthermore kamma is not reborn. Kamma simply is volitional action.


if there is no precise doctrinal answer then how is it determined a question is wrong ? if there is no right there can be no wrong.

:namaste: Arijit

What is unthinkable is the precise working out what kind of fruit a particular action bears. One cannot say that one particular action always leads to one and the same particular result. This is what cannot be thought.
The teachings do make clear that there is no attā to be found. To ask: "If there is no soul then what is reborn?" tells two things. The first is, that this question assumes that logically the soul is what is reborn. The second thing is, that this question still asks for a thing to be reborn. But there is no permanent thing which is reborn, so the question is useless and only leads to confusion.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby Martin Po » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:29 pm

arijitmitter wrote::namaste: Arijit


In some sutta Buddha said that it is impossible that one practitioner can be free from suffering if he keeping self-view.
Can i ask you, why do you need some self? And can you give some logical or doctrinal argument on this statement?
:thinking:

MN 22 PTS: M i 130
Alagaddupama Sutta: The Water-Snake Simile

...
Abandoning Possessions & Views
...
"Monks, where a self or what belongs to self are not pinned down as a truth or reality, then the view-position — 'This cosmos is the self. After death this I will be constant, permanent, eternal, not subject to change. I will stay just like that for an eternity' — Isn't it utterly & completely a fool's teaching?"

"What else could it be, lord? It's utterly & completely a fool's teaching."


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