Self vs Soul

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Self vs Soul

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:36 pm

reflection wrote:
Apart from each other, as in separate them.


If one photon traveled from A to B it will not be a sustained ray of light [ like from a torch ] but it will be a ray of light nevertheless [ like a flash gun ].

acinteyyo wrote:
No one knows the precise workings behind the kamma-process and it's one of the 4 incomprehensible things.


correct and it leaves me a lot of wriggle room for my following comment

arijitmitter wrote:
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.


Thank you all for a lively Sunday discussion. I depart now,

:namaste: Arijit
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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:38 pm

Martin Po wrote:
Can i ask you, why do you need some self


I do not need self. The discussion arose since my sister asked me difference between Self and Soul [ see OP ]

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby Martin Po » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:48 pm

arijitmitter wrote:
Martin Po wrote:
Can i ask you, why do you need some self


I do not need self. The discussion arose since my sister asked me difference between Self and Soul [ see OP ]

:namaste: Arijit


Oh, i'am sorry, i forget.

Buddha teaching can not answer on this question because there is no any view on this statement in buddhism. There is rejection of all possibles and impossibles view about self.

If your sister want any answer from the buddhist point of view, you shoul reply thus: "Form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, consciosness are impermanent and conditioned feomenas, attachment to what is impermanent brings dukkha, what is dukkha have no self, what is conditioned and impermanent have no self." There is no other answer IMO.
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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby reflection » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:55 pm

arijitmitter wrote:
reflection wrote:
Apart from each other, as in separate them.


If one photon traveled from A to B it will not be a sustained ray of light [ like from a torch ] but it will be a ray of light nevertheless [ like a flash gun ].

A single photon is not a ray because a single photon does not behave in the same way as a ray. It does not have to travel in a straight line, for example. It takes many photons to in average give the behavior of a ray. But you keep arguing the simile instead of the point and that's really going nowhere. So I ask you to forget about the ray for a minute and reread my post.

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Jul 07, 2013 3:14 pm

reflection wrote:
But you keep arguing the simile instead of the point and that's really going nowhere. So I ask you to forget about the ray for a minute and reread my post.


Agreed. I abandon that analogy of light.

Finally I reach this conclusion [ maybe after 20 years of study and meditation I will change ]

Buddha was silent about God [ which according to prevailing belief was Brahman ]. Hence he was also silent about atman [ which according to prevailing beliefs was part of Brahman ]. Like he said having belief in God or not believing in God does not in any way affect a human being and is irrelevant; I believe he similarly held believing in soul or not believing in soul also does not matter. A Buddhist may believe in a soul or might not. But believe in Kamma he must.

When he said anatta he actually meant to give up ego [ I am taller than you, I am richer than you train of thought ] since only by being ego-less can one proceed on the path of Dhamma. Whether you believe in soul or not does not add or subtract from your goal. So an individual Buddhist may believe in soul; there are no doctrinal challenges to it.

:namaste: Arijit
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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby reflection » Sun Jul 07, 2013 3:18 pm

What you refer to as ego is what the Buddha called conceit, not anatta.

But I think your view is not necessarily an unproductive way to look at things from a practical perspective, so if it helps you, good.
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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Jul 07, 2013 3:22 pm

reflection wrote:
What you refer to as ego is what the Buddha called conceit, not anatta.


I should have expanded the list - I am thirsty, I am hungry, I am ugly, I am poor and so on. I am bunching anything with " I " or " Mine " under ego [ not perhaps a perfect Freudian definition of ego ]

Oxford Dictionary defines ego as " part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity ". Buddha asked us to get rid of this.

Also type in " what is ego " in Google and it automatically shows synonym as Self

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby Martin Po » Sun Jul 07, 2013 3:40 pm

arijitmitter wrote: Whether you believe in soul or not does not add or subtract from your goal.

Yes, it substract from the one's goal, if the one's goal is Nibbana.

arijitmitter wrote:So an individual Buddhist may believe in soul; there are no doctrinal challenges to it.

Yes, there is.
There is no soul in/out of form, feeling, perception, mental formation, consciousness.

With ignorance as condition there is craving, with craving as condition there is consciousness, with consciousness as condition there is mentality-materiality, with mentality-maeriality as condition there is consciousness etc.

Ignorance is about not seeng or understanding 4 Noble Truth, and not seeng/understanding impermanence, suffering, and not-self of fenomena. These three are actualy the same through different point of examination.

Sabbe sankhara anicca
Sabbe sankhara dukkha
Sabbe dhamma anatta
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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Jul 07, 2013 4:12 pm

Hi Martin,

I quote a Theravada Buddhist from the internet -

Upasakha Jason wrote:
But did the Buddha teach not-self? Or did he teach no-self? The Canon, as far as I've studied it, does not mention the Buddha ever once saying that there is no Atman, or Atta. What he DID say, over and over again, was that those five aggregates of clinging are anatta, or not-self. The Buddha very carefully avoided making a definitive claim of there not being an Atman. A person can identify rather easily with that, and it becomes an object of clinging--a view of self, which is one of the lower fetters. However, it's very difficult to form a sense of self around the negation of this sense of self with the aggregates.

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index ... 806AAd1SxZ

He has put into a nutshell what I was trying to convey

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby reflection » Sun Jul 07, 2013 4:30 pm

, "Monks, whatever contemplatives or brahmans who assume in various ways when assuming a self, all assume the five clinging-aggregates, or a certain one of them.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

So those proposing a self do so in terms of the aggregates, whether they are aware of it or not. Even somebody saying there is a self outside of the aggregates, according to the Buddha, defines it within the aggregates. So it takes no big mind to at least intellectually conclude this means the Buddha left no place for a self, and that anatta means no self in everything, that the aggregates cover everything. Which I've already pointed at before when quoting the sutta that says all consciousness is considered part of the aggregate.

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby Martin Po » Sun Jul 07, 2013 4:44 pm

arijitmitter wrote:Hi Martin,

I quote a Theravada Buddhist from the internet -

Upasakha Jason wrote:
But did the Buddha teach not-self? Or did he teach no-self? The Canon, as far as I've studied it, does not mention the Buddha ever once saying that there is no Atman, or Atta. What he DID say, over and over again, was that those five aggregates of clinging are anatta, or not-self. The Buddha very carefully avoided making a definitive claim of there not being an Atman. A person can identify rather easily with that, and it becomes an object of clinging--a view of self, which is one of the lower fetters. However, it's very difficult to form a sense of self around the negation of this sense of self with the aggregates.

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index ... 806AAd1SxZ

He has put into a nutshell what I was trying to convey

:namaste: Arijit


Hi Arijit,

All phenomenas are conditioned, impermanent and suffering. 'All phenomenas' not mean 'some phenomenas', 'all fenomenas' mean 'ALL phenomenas'
What ever fenomena you can imagine have no-self and not-self.

Where is self/soul if form, feeling, perception, mental formations, consciousness are conditioned, impermanent and suffering? You should answer your sister by impermanence and conditioned manifestation of 5 khandhas. There is no other answer possible.

We can imagine all kind of possiblities, but it's only imagination, only mental formations, and not the way that things are.

I hope you can understand what mean conditioned, impermanent and suffering.
I can not tell something more about your sister's question.

With metta
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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby Holdan » Sun Jul 07, 2013 10:11 pm

arijitmitter wrote:As far as I understand Buddha rejects Self.

I would be very careful here with your underlying assumptions because the Buddha did not say 'self-thinking' or 'self-identification' does not exist. Buddha taught the mistaken view of 'self' does arise when produced by ignorance. Anatta = not-self. Natthattā = no self.

arijitmitter wrote: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.

He rendered 'soul' as irrelevant since he regarded only suffering & it cessation as relevant. He inferred the common conception of atta did not exist.

arijitmitter wrote:Buddha spoke of it as samvattanika-viññana [ evolving consciousness ] and viññana-sotam [ stream of consciousness ]

Are you sure Buddha spoke these words? Is this Wikipedia? Please reference the Pali sutta where these words are found & the context of their use? Thanks

arijitmitter wrote: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.

There are different sutta that mention different doctrines of uchedavada. They were wrong view to Buddha because they all include 'self-view', such as "I will end at death'. This sutta mentions uchedavada. It does not mention death.

The one who acts is the one who experiences [the result of the act]' amounts to the eternalist statement, 'Existing from the very beginning, stress is self-made.' 'The one who acts is someone other than the one who experiences' amounts to the annihilationist statement, 'For one existing harassed by feeling, stress is other-made.' Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition....

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Jul 07, 2013 11:50 pm

I was wrong and all of you are correct.

I thought and contemplated long into the night regarding Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta and I find Buddha indeed believed / taught no soul. I had interpreted it as to understand that there is a subtle soul and he asked us to let go of " I " and " Mine " by Anatta.

The idea of soul is so deeply ingrained in any religion [ other than Buddhism ] and human psyche that it is very hard for any convert to completely let go of the idea. That is why I had understood it as no soul when I read Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta at first but then my mind changed it's form around a bit to suit my need for a soul.

Thank you all for being so kind and helpful in clearing this fundamental concept,

:namaste: Arijit
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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby Jason » Mon Jul 08, 2013 2:55 am

arijitmitter wrote: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 ].


I think the Pali equivalent of atman, atta, often translated as 'self,' can also be translated as 'soul' in many contexts. Atta, in the philosophical sense as opposed to it's conventional usage, is defined as that which is "permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change" (SN 24.3). Our sense of self, the ephemeral 'I,' on the other hand, is merely a mental imputation, the product of what the Buddha called a process of 'I-making' and 'my-making' ((ahankara-mamankara). Personally, when it comes to the teachings on not-self, I agree with Thanissaro Bhikkhu that "the anatta teaching is not a doctrine of no-self, but a not-self strategy for shedding suffering by letting go of its cause, leading to the highest, undying happiness."

The view that there is no self and the view that there is a self are both forms of self-view. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on you how you look at it), the Buddha refused to directly answer whether or not there is a self, stating that he didn't see "any such supporting (argument) for views [of self] from the reliance on which there would not arise sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair" (MN 22). Instead, he focuses on events in and of themselves, as they are experienced, bypassing the question of self altogether. The Buddha essentially says "Who suffers" isn't a valid question, and suggests the alternative "From what as a requisite condition comes suffering" (SN 12.35 in an effort to re-frame these questions in a way that's conducive to liberation, i.e., in terms of dependent co-arising. Hence, my understanding is that the teachings on not-self are ultimately pragmatic, soteriological methods rather than strictly ontological statements.

In the simplest of terms, the Buddha taught that whatever is inconstant is stressful, and whatever is stressful is not-self—with the goal being to essentially take this [analytical] knowledge, along with a specific set of practices such as meditation, as a stepping stone to what I can only describe as a profound psychological event that radically changes the way the mind relates to experience. That doesn't mean, however, that the teachings on not-self are understood to deny individuality (MN 22) or imply that the conventional person doesn't exist (SN 22.22). The way I understand it, they merely break down the conceptual idea of a self — i.e., that which is satisfactory, permanent, and completely subject to our control — in relation to the various aspects of our experience that we falsely cling to as 'me' or 'mine' (SN 22.59).

So in essence, the Buddhist teachings on not-self aren't merely assertions that we have no self; they are a method for deconstructing our false perceptions about reality, as well as an important tool in removing the vast net of clinging that gives rise to suffering.

This may be a bit of nonsense, but in one of the ways I like to look at it, the conventional viewpoint (sammuti sacca) explains things through subject, verb and object whereas the ultimate viewpoint (paramattha sacca) explains things through verb alone. In essence, things are being viewed from the perspective of activities and processes. This, I think, is incredibly difficult to see, but perhaps what happens here is that once self-identity view (sakkaya-ditthi) is removed, the duality of subject and object is also removed, thereby revealing the level of mere conditional phenomena, i.e., dependent co-arising in action. This mental process is 'seen,' ignorance is replaced by 'knowledge and vision of things as they are' (yatha-bhuta-nana-dassana), and nibbana, then, would be the 'letting go' of what isn't self through the dispassion (viraga) invoked in seeing the inconstant (anicca) and stressful (dukkha) nature of clinging to false refuges that are neither fixed nor stable (anatta).

arijitmitter wrote:HIf 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 ].


The question often arises, If Buddhism doesn't posit a soul, what gets reborn? From the Theravadin point of view (or at least from the point of view of those in Theravada who accept the idea of postmortem rebirth), rebirth is viewed as the continuation of a process—nothing 'remains,' nothing 'transmigrates,' there are merely fleeting phenomena that condition other fleeting phenomena in the interdependent process we call life.

One way to look at it is that a casual process can be self-sustaining, with causes creating effects, and effect acting as causes, creating feedback loops, which is where kamma comes in. And if you admit the possibility of immaterial causes and not just material ones (e.g., intentions), assuming that a clear distinction between the two can even be made, then the continuation of said process isn't limited by or to a single material body. And if you believe Bertrand Russell, the more we understand about matter (i.e., energy), the more the word itself becomes "no more than a conventional shorthand for stating causal laws concerning events" (An Outline of Philosophy).

Here, consciousness isn't seen as a static things going from life to life, but simply as one link or event in a complex causal chain, i.e., moments of consciousness arising and ceasing in rapid succession, with the last consciousness of a being at the time of death immediately conditioning the arising of a new consciousness due to the presence of craving (kind of like 'spooky action at a distance' where two entangled particles communicate with each other instantaneously, even over great distances). It's almost better to think of it as a transmission of information rather than the transmigration of some thing.

Thus, in Buddhism, there can theoretically be continuity between lives without having to posit some type of permanent, unchanging consciousness or soul that travels from life to life. That's why the Pali term vinnanasota or 'stream of consciousness' is often used to describe the flow of conscious events, even when presented within the context of rebirth. (Similarly with terms like bhavangasota (stream of becoming), found in Snp 3.12, and samvattanikamvinnanam (evolving consciousness), found in MN 106.)

Unfortunately, there are no suttas that give a detailed explanation of this process, and the detailed workings of this process are to be found in the Abhidhamma and Pali commentaries. While many people reject the Abhidhamma and commentaries as reliable sources of information regarding what the Buddha taught, I don't think the views of the Buddha and the ancient commentators such as Buddhaghosa are necessarily mutually exclusive.

As for the teachings on not-self (anatta), the basic idea is that whatever is inconstant (anicca) is stressful (dukkha), and whatever is stressful is not-self, since whatever is inconstant, subject to change, and not fully under our control isn't fit to be called 'me' or 'mine' (SN 22.59). Practically speaking, to hold onto anything that's inconstant, subject to change, break-up and dissolution as self is a cause for mental stress and suffering; therefore, the teachings on not-self are designed to help one let go of what isn't self (i.e., the five aggregates) in order to free the mind from the suffering engendered by clinging to ephemeral phenomena.

Just my two cents, at any rate.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby SarathW » Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:44 am

Mere suffering exists, no sufferer is found;
Actions are, but no actor is ever found;
Nibbāna is, but no being exists that enters it;
The path is, but no traveler is seen.

http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... dic3_a.htm
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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby Aloof » Mon Jul 08, 2013 5:19 am

Self and Soul ...both are an illusion.

Self is a small illusion
and Soul is a large illusion
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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Jul 08, 2013 7:07 am

After the Buddha taught the Dhammacakka Sutta the group of five ascetics became Stream-winners and thus eradicated self-view (atta-diṭṭhi) or personality-view (sakkāya-diṭṭhi). However, it was only after listening to to the Discourse on Not-self that they all became Arahants, abandoning all forms of cling to self such as pride and conceit.

Four Kinds of Clinging to Self
There are four kinds of clinging to self arising out of the belief in a self or soul.

  1. Clinging to Self as the Master (Sāmi Atta)
  2. Clinging to Self as an Abiding Soul (Nivāsī Atta)
  3. Clinging to Self as the Doer (Kāraka Atta)
  4. Clinging to Self as the Experiencer (Vedaka Atta)
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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby arijitmitter » Mon Jul 08, 2013 2:04 pm

As far as I understand Buddha said nothing is permanent except Nibbana. He is silent about knowledge. Is knowledge eternal ?

Such as go to any corner of the Universe and it holds true that perimeter of a circle [ circumference ] holds to it's diameter a constant ratio 22 / 7.
Even if there is a new Universe that will hold true. It is a small example of eternal truth. There are many more.

So Buddha's assertion that what originates in the mind from vedana, sanna, cetana, phasso, manasikaro is impermanent does not hold true. And that is a very big " does not hold true ".

Therefore I personally have decided that I will accept the moral structure, 4 Noble Truths and 8 Fold Path and in general his observations about the human condition but I will not accept the Pali Canon or entire Buddhism as truth. To a lay rationalist like me who is not very learned it failed a test with few hours of thought. A trained and well educated rationalist can find perhaps bigger gaps in his teachings.

If C = 2 pi * R is eternal and it was something which occurred in nature but was deduced by human mind - other facts believed by human mind about nature such as existence of soul can be eternal as well [ along with Nibbana ].

Thankfully concept of blasphemy does not occur in Buddhism.

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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Jul 08, 2013 2:25 pm

Sutasoma Teaches the Dhamma to Porisāda
‘To associate with the wise, even only on one occasion is of great advantage;
to associate with the foolish even on many occasions is of no benefit.’

‘One should associate with the wise and listen to their teaching;
one who does will become noble-minded,
no harm comes from learning the teaching of the wise.’

‘The splendid royal chariots, once so beautiful, grow old and decay,
but the teaching of the wise is ageless and never changes,
this is what the wise talk about among themselves.’

‘The sky is very far from the earth, and the earth is very far from the heavens,
but farther apart than these are the teaching of the wise and the teaching of the foolish.’
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Re: Self vs Soul

Postby Jason » Mon Jul 08, 2013 2:26 pm

arijitmitter wrote:Such as go to any corner of the Universe and it holds true that perimeter of a circle [ circumference ] holds to it's diameter a constant ratio 22 / 7.


That only holds true for circles drawn on a flat surface, not warped space. A circle drawn on a sphere, for example, with have a shorter circumference than one drawn on a flat sheet, and one drawn on the surface of a saddle will have a longer circumference even though they all have the same radius (e.g., see The Elegant Universe, pp 64-65).

arijitmitter wrote:Even if there is a new Universe that will hold true. It is a small example of eternal truth. There are many more.


That's not necessarily true. A new universe could theoretically have entirely different laws and constants.

Just somethings to ponder.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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