False Doctrines about the Soul
Who am I? and False Doctrines about the SoulQuestions like “Who I am?”, “What is my mission in this world?” and “Where am I?” have always troubled humanity. Buddhism provides us with interesting suggestions on what constitutes a human being and what constitutes a person.
The reading clarifies the fact that the concept of human being is perceived primarily as biological, but the concept of person cannot be viewed from biological perspective. Buddha is interested only in non-biological part of human entity, which is the soul. He draws the reader’s attention to the four major suggestions on the nature of the soul: 1) “my soul has form and is minute”; 2) “my soul has form and is boundless”; 3) “my soul is without form and is minute”; 4) “my soul is without form and boundless” (Kessler, 1992).
According to Buddha, there can be very many propositions on what the soul is and what its nature is. But it is almost impossible to perceive the concept of the soul in its all diversity and most of these suggestions turn out to be wrong.
For instance, one who thinks of the soul as of sentient is wrong because, in such a way, he thinks that soul is something impermanent in his life, just as human sensations are. However, the one who thinks of his soul as of something insentient proves to be even more wrong because if one has no sensations, one does not exist at all. At last, if someone thinks of the soul having sentience as property, he also is wrong. Thus, Buddha leaves us with an impression that the soul is something very hard, maybe even impossible to perceive. There is no self-doctrine in Buddhism in contrast to the Hindu philosophy, which supports the idea of Atman and anatta existing. If sensations constituted the soul, that the soul would be impermanent, meaning not eternal. In fact, it is impossible for the soul to be sensation, not to be sensation, or have sensation as a property.
One can come to the conclusion that these ideas should be rejected, because only in such a way one can reach Nirvana, what is the most important in Buddhism.
De Bary, William Theodore, ed. The Buddhist Tradition: In India, China and Japan. Vol. 696. Vintage, 1969.
Embree, Ainslie T. "Sources of Indian Tradition, 1: From the Beginning to 1800. 2d ed. Introduction to Oriental Civilization Series." (1988).
Kessler, Gary E. False Doctrines about the Soul. Voices of wisdom: A multicultural philosophy reader. Wadsworth, 1992: …