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
, 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.