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Necrosapien
January 15th, 2006, 12:25 AM
So I'm seriously looking into Buddhism. I came across the use of the term antatman, literally "no soul." I know that it means that nothing has a seperate existence and there is interconnectedness of all things...but I'm still a tiny bit confused. I've wondered if it litterally means that no soul exists, or if it's just what it means above. Same thing kind of goes with the concept of self. I understand that no one thing is the self...but is it just saying that or that there is no self at all? I've heard both answers for these...that there is no soul, and that there is...so that's why I'm a bit confused.

I had another question, but I don't remember what it was...I'll put it up here if I think of it...thanks guys!

Rin Daemoko
January 19th, 2006, 10:02 AM
It does literally mean that the soul does not exist. The Buddha rejected the idea of any permanent self. This is because the idea of any sort of permanent self as a discrete individuality is an illusion. This illusion arises because, misled by our bifuricating intellect (the sense of "knowing" something) into postulating the dualism of "myself" and "not-myself," we are led to think and act as though we were a separate entity confronted by a world external to us.

Thus in the unconscious, the idea of "I," or selfhood, becomes fixed, and from this arises such thought patterns as "I hate this, I love that; this is mine, that is yours." Nourished by this fodder, the ego-I comes to dominate the personality, attacking whatever threatens its position and grasping at anything which will enlarge its power.

This notion of "I" becomes very large and very domineering, and strives to make itself concrete and permanent. It achieves this by throwing our attention into the past and the future at the expense of the present moment, going so far as to create a post-death reality for itself so that it may live on forever even after we have died.

I found the following to be of help:


Well we tend to think of things as quite real. but what on earth do we mean by real? Often, when we say real, we mean that a thing is quite reliable. It is sort of fixed and unchanging and dependable. It's sort of there. It's real. But how real am I? Am I not changing all the time? I may have the same name, but that is just a loose label, taken on for the sake of convenience.

My body is constantly replacing itself. Imagine me at the age of three. Compare that three year old to me standing here now. Yes the three year old and I have the same parents; grandparents even, but I have been chemically replaced quite a few times since then.

I am like an old car that has had so many spare parts added, and even eventually the old chassis changed, that there is nothing remaining of the original vehicle. I still have the same registration number, but that's it. Okay, perhaps there's a bit of the original calcium still in me remaining and some other elements, but perhaps not.

And as for my mind. Well that's already changed since the beginning of this talk. Yes I am recognisable to old friends, but even then, some comment on my change of personality. Buddhism would say that there is no fixed unchanging part of me. There is no soul constant and immutable. I am in a state of flux. Even that sentence is inaccurate. For me to say "I am in a state of flux." Implies that there is an "I" there to be doing this "Flux" business. It would be more accurate to say "There is this flux business, and we'll loosely call that region of it over there Lalitaratna." But even that is dodgey.

What do I mean by "There is flux!" Shouldn't I just say "Flux" "Flux" "Flux is standing in the middle of flux! I stand here exchanging ideas with you. The way you respond to my words influences the way the rest of the talk will turn out. You breath out air, I breath it in. This whole process inter-relates: The building, you people here, the air, the fabric of the universe. Why discriminate and select out a little area of this constantly inter-relating flux and decide that it is real and separate from the rest of the universe. Because that is exactly what our minds do.

They separate ourselves out from the universe and see ourselves as real, independent, more important than any of the other things in the universe, and going back to the first characteristic of existence, our mind sees ourself as permanent.

http://www.soton.ac.uk/~buddsoc/talk6.html

Necrosapien
January 19th, 2006, 12:53 PM
That does bring clarification, although I must admit I'm disappointed. But that's only my feelings...I do admit that it makes sense in light of the philosophy. Well...I'm going to have to do some thinking about all of this. Thank you very much for your help. :)

Rin Daemoko
January 19th, 2006, 12:59 PM
I understand what you mean by disappointment. When I first heard the idea that there was no soul, nor eternal self, my first reaction was to reject the idea. Truly there must be something that survives after death, I mean look at all the incarnate masters in Tibet, look at the Dalai Lama!

While it's true that there is no eternal, unchanging self in buddhism, the idea of rebirth does exist. It differs from reincarnation in that reincarnation depends on an eternal self that moves from life to life. Since buddhism rejects this, rebirth relies on something completely different.

The idea is that you are not a fixed entity with a concrete existence. You are a convergeance of forces and form. After you die, these things separate and you, propelled by the force of your own karma are sped out into samsara. By "you" I refer to the forces and forms that make up "you." A helpful image is that of a series of dominoes. Each dominio is distinct and separate (each lifetime), but a single force is responsible for moving through them, and for a time, being them.

This force is in no way permanent, or substantial. It is not unchanging, and it doesn't "hop" from one life to another like a ghost or an actor changing costumes. Rather, it simply moves. This is one's consciousness, which is devoid of any sense of "self." Self is generated post-incarnation through other factors ("aggregates") which arise with the formation of a body and a mind.

Another image is that of a candle and its flame, with a new candle being lit from the first candle, and the first one being extinguished. It is a completely new candle, and a new flame, nothing is really transfered, because there's no end to the original flame in the first place. Similarly, the flame itself is not a concrete thing that jumps from candle to candle. It simply "is." If anything, the candles are the hitch-hikers.

Necrosapien
January 19th, 2006, 04:54 PM
Yeah, it's really weird...I'm not sure what to think...it's a lot to swallow at once...and I'll be damned if it's not hard to understand. It makes sense...it just doesn't seem "right" for lack of a better term...why does it hurt so much to think that a philosophy such as Buddhism is right? I'm confused...as emontionally, I feel like crying. I don't know what to think...this has really thrown me for a loop and I don't even know why...

*sigh*

WandererInGray
January 19th, 2006, 10:42 PM
*hugs* Don't stress yourself out too much. Buddhism can actually be a very stressful, scary path - it doesn't deal much with illusions of comfort designed to keep us blind and asleep. Breaking through those illusions take a lot of work and can often be very painful.

Take things slowly, if the idea of "no soul" scares you, try researching other aspects of Buddhism like compassion or the idea of loving-kindness. :)

angulimala_75
January 19th, 2006, 10:52 PM
when i first descovered buddhism i had the same feelings, buts its just the ego hanging on and those thoughts means it's working! yay

Doctor Jeep
January 21st, 2006, 07:01 PM
Yeah, it's really weird...I'm not sure what to think...it's a lot to swallow at once...and I'll be damned if it's not hard to understand. It makes sense...it just doesn't seem "right" for lack of a better term...why does it hurt so much to think that a philosophy such as Buddhism is right? I'm confused...as emontionally, I feel like crying. I don't know what to think...this has really thrown me for a loop and I don't even know why...

*sigh*

I once read that we're disillusioned by the idea of not having a soul because we believe having one makes up special. The thing to realize is that we are special just as we are - not because when we die some seperate part of ourselves goes on to live forever and/or comes back again.

At least, that was the gist of it. I hope it makes sense. :)

mtpathy
January 21st, 2006, 07:42 PM
[QUOTE=Rin Daemoko]It does literally mean that the soul does not exist. The Buddha rejected the idea of any permanent self. This is because the idea of any sort of permanent self as a discrete individuality is an illusion. This illusion arises because, misled by our bifuricating intellect (the sense of "knowing" something) into postulating the dualism of "myself" and "not-myself," we are led to think and act as though we were a separate entity confronted by a world external to us.

Thus in the unconscious, the idea of "I," or selfhood, becomes fixed, and from this arises such thought patterns as "I hate this, I love that; this is mine, that is yours." Nourished by this fodder, the ego-I comes to dominate the personality, attacking whatever threatens its position and grasping at anything which will enlarge its power.

This notion of "I" becomes very large and very domineering, and strives to make itself concrete and permanent. It achieves this by throwing our attention into the past and the future at the expense of the present moment, going so far as to create a post-death reality for itself so that it may live on forever even after we have died.

its both beautiful and scarey all at the same time,no doctrine of a god to
depend on...meditate on it, not having a soul dosen't mean lack of
conciousness or self,only that there expressions of a dualistic nature.

Meabh23
February 3rd, 2006, 04:13 AM
I have noticed that this "no-self" idea tends to scare people, but it's what I grew up with and it made us all pretty happy no matter the circumstances. Their is freedom in realizing that the fixations you have about a soul or a self are simply your own perceptual trickery. The universe simply operates the way it does.

Like the scientists discovered that the sun doesn't revolve around the earth. The Buddhists discovered that life doesn't revolve around the "soul." In fact much of what we think of as a "soul" cannot be said to be stable or enduring. So you could say it really doesn't exist and be closer to the truth.

A saying I often heard growing up was "You are not what you think."

Dawa Lhamo
February 10th, 2006, 04:29 PM
I have noticed that this "no-self" idea tends to scare people, but it's what I grew up with and it made us all pretty happy no matter the circumstances. Their is freedom in realizing that the fixations you have about a soul or a self are simply your own perceptual trickery. The universe simply operates the way it does. Heck, it still scares me sometimes! ^_^

Actually, I've always felt a bit of ambivalence about anatman, but I didn't realise how much I actually believed it until I started reading this book "Journey of Souls" this past week. It just seemed so mucked up with what souls are and where they come from and soul, soul, soul.... and I was struck by how much sadder the thought of this kind of soul-reality was to me than a no-soul universe is. Hmmm....

Just musing...

Tashi delek!
Dawa Lhamo

Rin Daemoko
February 10th, 2006, 06:59 PM
Personally, I find the idea very liberating. If you're not tied down to being a permanent, fixed thing, then just imagine the kind of freedom and fortune that can afford you! :D

Meabh23
February 17th, 2006, 04:58 PM
Personally, I find the idea very liberating. If you're not tied down to being a permanent, fixed thing, then just imagine the kind of freedom and fortune that can afford you! :D

This is the good side of anatman.

It allows you to live from the perspective of infinite life (or life beyond the false boundaries we impose and call "lifespan").