In Buddhism, the term anattā (Pali) or anātman (Sanskrit) refers to the doctrine of "non-self", that there is no unchanging, permanent self, soul or essence in living beings. It is one of the seven beneficial perceptions in Buddhism, and along with dukkha (suffering) and anicca (impermanence), it is one of three Right Understandings about the three marks of existence.
Anattā is a composite Pali word consisting of an (not, without) and attā (soul). The term refers to the central Buddhist doctrine that "there is in humans no permanent, underlying substance that can be called the soul." It is one of the three characteristics of all existence, together with dukkha (suffering, unsatisfactoriness) and anicca (impermanence).
Anattā is synonymous with Anātman (an + ātman) in Sanskrit Buddhist texts. In some Pali texts, ātman of Vedic texts is also referred to with the term Attan, with the sense of soul. An alternate use of Attan or Atta is "self, oneself, essence of a person", driven by the Vedic era Brahmanical belief that the soul is the permanent, unchangeable essence of a living being, or the true self.
In Buddhism-related English literature, Anattā is rendered as "not-Self", but this translation expresses an incomplete meaning, states Peter Harvey; a more complete rendering is "non-Self" because from its earliest days, Anattā doctrine denies that there is anything called a 'Self' in any person or anything else, and that a belief in 'Self' is a source of Dukkha (suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness).[note 1] It is also incorrect to translate Anattā simply as "ego-less", according to Peter Harvey, because the Indian concept of ātman and attā is different from the Freudian concept of ego.[note 2]
The concept of Anattā appears in numerous Sutta of the ancient Buddhist Nikāya texts (Pali canon). It appears, for example, as a noun in Samyutta Nikaya III.141, IV.49, V.345, in Sutta II.37 of Anguttara Nikaya, II.37–45 and II.80 of Patisambhidamagga, III.406 of Dhammapada. It also appears as an adjective, for example, in Samyutta Nikaya III.114, III.133, IV.28 and IV.130–166, in Sutta III.66 and V.86 of Vinaya.
The ancient Buddhist texts discuss Attā or Attan (soul, self), sometimes with alternate terms such as Atuman, Tuma, Puggala, Jiva, Satta, Pana and Nama-rupa, thereby providing the context for the Buddhist Anattā doctrine. Examples of such Attā contextual discussions are found in Digha Nikaya I.186-187, Samyutta Nikaya III.179 and IV.54, Vinaya I.14, Majjhima Nikaya I.138, III.19, and III.265–271 and Anguttara Nikaya I.284.
The contextual use of Attā in Nikāyas is two sided. In one, it directly denies that there is anything called a self or soul in a human being that is a permanent essence of a human being, a theme found in Brahmanical (proto-Hindu) traditions. In another, states Peter Harvey, such as at Samyutta Nikaya IV.286, the Sutta considers the materialistic concept in pre-Buddhist Vedic times of "no afterlife, complete annihilation" at death to be a denial of Self, but still "tied up with belief in a Self". "Self exists" is a false premise, assert the early Buddhist texts. However, adds Peter Harvey, these texts do not admit the premise "Self does not exist" either because the wording presumes the concept of "Self" prior to denying it; instead, the early Buddhist texts use the concept of Anattā as the implicit premise. According to Steven Collins, the doctrine of anatta and "denial of self" in the canonical Buddhist texts is "insisted on only in certain theoretical contexts", while they use the terms atta, purisa, puggala quite naturally and freely in various contexts. The elaboration of the anatta doctrine, along with identification of the words such as "puggala" as "permanent subject or soul" appears in later Buddhist literature.
Anattā is one of the main bedrock doctrines of Buddhism, and its discussion is found in the later texts of all Buddhist traditions. For example, the Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna (~200 CE), extensively wrote about rejecting the metaphysical entity called attā or ātman (self, soul), asserting in chapter 18 of his Mūlamadhyamakakārikā that there is no such substantial entity and that "Buddha taught the doctrine of no-self". The texts attributed to the 5th-century Buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu of the Yogachara school similarly discuss Anatta as a fundamental premise of the Buddha. The Vasubandhu interpretations of no-self thesis were challenged by the 7th-century Buddhist scholar Candrakirti, who then offered his own theories on its importance.
Anattā (no-self, without soul, no essence) is the nature of living beings, and this is one of the three marks of existence in Buddhism, along with Anicca (impermanence, nothing lasts) and Dukkha (suffering, unsatisfactoriness is innate in birth, aging, death, rebirth, redeath – the Saṃsāra cycle of existence). It is found in many texts of different Buddhist traditions, such as the Dhammapada – a canonical Buddhist text. Buddhism asserts with Four Noble Truths that there is a way out of this Saṃsāra.[note 3][note 4]
While the concept of soul in Hinduism (as atman) and Jainism (as jiva) is taken for granted, which is different from the Buddhist concept of no-soul, each of the three religions believed in rebirth and emphasized moral responsibility in different ways in contrast to pre-Buddhist materialistic schools of Indian philosophies. The materialistic schools of Indian philosophies, such as Charvaka, are called annihilationist schools because they posited that death is the end, there is no afterlife, no soul, no rebirth, no karma, and death is that state where a living being is completely annihilated, dissolved.
Buddha criticized the materialistic annihilationism view that denied rebirth and karma, states Damien Keown. Such beliefs are inappropriate and dangerous, stated Buddha, because they encourage moral irresponsibility and material hedonism. Anatta does not mean there is no afterlife, no rebirth or no fruition of karma, and Buddhism contrasts itself to annihilationist schools. Buddhism also contrasts itself to other Indian religions that champion moral responsibility but posit eternalism with their premise that within each human being there is an essence or eternal soul, and this soul is part of the nature of a living being, existence and metaphysical reality.
1. identity view (Anatman)
up to seven rebirths in
once more as
4. sensual desire
once more in
6. material-rebirth desire
The Buddha emphasized both karma and anatta doctrines.
The Buddha criticized the doctrine that posited an unchanging soul as a subject as the basis of rebirth and karmic moral responsibility, which he called "atthikavāda". He also criticized the materialistic doctrine that denied the existence of both soul and rebirth, and thereby denied karmic moral responsibility, which he calls "natthikavāda". Instead, the Buddha asserted that there is no soul, but there is rebirth for which karmic moral responsibility is a must. In the Buddha's framework of karma, right view and right actions are necessary for liberation.
According to Peter Harvey, while the Suttas criticize notions of an eternal, unchanging Self as baseless, they see an enlightened being as one whose empirical self is highly developed. This is paradoxical, states Harvey, in that "the Self-like nibbana state" is a mature self that knows "everything as Selfless". The "empirical self" is the citta (mind/heart, mindset, emotional nature), and the development of self in the Suttas is the development of this citta.
One with "great self", state the early Buddhist Suttas, has a mind which is neither at the mercy of outside stimuli nor its own moods, neither scattered nor diffused, but imbued with self-control, and self-contained towards the single goal of nibbana and a 'Self-like' state. This "great self" is not yet an Arahat, because he still does small evil action which leads to karmic fruition, but he has enough virtue that he does not experience this fruition in hell.
An Arahat, states Harvey, has a fully enlightened state of empirical self, one that lacks the "sense of both 'I am' and 'this I am'", which are illusions that the Arahat has transcended. The Buddhist thought and salvation theory emphasizes a development of self towards a Selfless state not only with respect to oneself, but recognizing the lack of relational essence and Self in others, wherein states Martijn van Zomeren, "self is an illusion".
The Buddhist denial of "any Soul or Self" is what distinguishes Buddhism from major religions of the world such as Christianity and Hinduism, giving it uniqueness, asserts the Theravada tradition. With the doctrine of Anattā, stands or falls the entire Buddhist structure, asserts Nyanatiloka.
According to Collins, "insight into the teaching of anatta is held to have two major loci in the intellectual and spiritual education of an individual" as s/he progresses along the Path. The first part of this insight is to avoid sakkayaditthi (Personality Belief), that is converting the "sense of I which is gained from introspection and the fact of physical individuality" into a theoretical belief in a self. "A belief in a (really) existing body" is considered a false belief and a part of the Ten Fetters that must be gradually lost. The second loci is the psychological realisation of anatta, or loss of "pride or conceit". This, states Collins, is explained as the conceit of asmimana or "I am"; (...) what this "conceit" refers to is the fact that for the unenlightened man, all experience and action must necessarily appear phenomenologically as happening to or originating from an "I". When a Buddhist gets more enlightened, this happening to or originating in an "I" or sakkdyaditthi is less. The final attainment of enlightenment is the disappearance of this automatic but illusory "I".
The Theravada tradition has long considered the understanding and application of the Anatta doctrine to be a complex teaching, whose "personal, introjected application has always been thought to be possible only for the specialist, the practising monk". The tradition, states Collins, has "insisted fiercely on anatta as a doctrinal position", while in practice it may not play much of a role in the daily religious life of most Buddhists. The Suttas present the doctrine in three forms. First, they apply the "no-self, no-identity" doctrine to all phenomena as well as any and all objects, yielding the idea that "all things are not-self" (sabbe dhamma anatta). Second, states Collins, the Suttas apply the doctrine to deny self of any person, treating conceit to be evident in any assertion of "this is mine, this I am, this is myself" (etam mamam eso 'ham asmi, eso me atta ti). Third, the Theravada texts apply the doctrine as a nominal reference, to identify examples of "self" and "not-self", respectively the Wrong view and the Right view; this third case of nominative usage is properly translated as "self" (as an identity) and is unrelated to "soul", states Collins. The first two usages incorporate the idea of soul. The Theravada doctrine of Anatta, or not-self not-soul, inspire meditative practices for monks, states Donald Swearer, but for the lay Theravada Buddhists in Southeast Asia, the doctrines of kamma, rebirth and punna (merit) inspire a wide range of ritual practices and ethical behavior.
The Anatta doctrine is key to the concept of nirvana (nibbana) in the Theravada tradition. The liberated nirvana state, states Collins, is the state of Anatta, a state that is neither universally applicable nor can be explained, but can be realized.[note 5]
The dispute about "self" and "not-self" doctrines has continued throughout the history of Buddhism. It is possible, states Johannes Bronkhorst, that "original Buddhism did not deny the existence of the soul", even though a firm Buddhist tradition has maintained that the Buddha avoided talking about the soul or even denied its existence. While there may be ambivalence on the existence or non-existence of self in early Buddhist literature, adds Bronkhorst, it is clear from these texts that seeking self-knowledge is not the Buddhist path for liberation, but turning away from what might erroneously be regarded as the self is. This is a reverse position to the Vedic traditions which recognized the knowledge of the self as "the principal means to achieving liberation".
In Thai Theravada Buddhism, for example, states Paul Williams, some modern era Buddhist scholars have claimed that "nirvana is indeed the true Self", while other Thai Buddhists disagree. For instance, the Dhammakaya Movement in Thailand teaches that it is erroneous to subsume nirvana under the rubric of anatta (non-self); instead, nirvana is taught to be the "true self" or dhammakaya. The Dhammakaya Movement teaching that nirvana is atta, or true self, was criticized as heretical in Buddhism in 1994 by Ven. Payutto, a well-known scholar monk, who stated that 'Buddha taught nibbana as being non-self". The abbot of one major temple in the Dhammakaya Movement, Luang Por Sermchai of Wat Luang Por Sodh Dhammakayaram, argues that it tends to be scholars who hold the view of absolute non-self, rather than Buddhist meditation practitioners. He points to the experiences of prominent forest hermit monks to support the notion of a "true self". Similar interpretations on the "true self" were put forth earlier by the 12th Supreme Patriarch of Thailand in 1939. According to Williams, the Supreme Patriarch's interpretation echoes the tathāgatagarbha sutras.
Several notable teachers of the Thai Forest Tradition have also described ideas in contrast to absolute non-self. Ajahn Maha Bua, a well known meditation master, described the citta (mind) as being an indestructible reality that does not fall under anattā. He has stated that not-self is merely a perception that is used to pry one away from infatuation with the concept of a self, and that once this infatuation is gone the idea of not-self must be dropped as well. American monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu of the Thai Forest Tradition describes the Buddha's statements on non-self as a path to awakening rather than a universal truth. Thanissaro Bhikkhu states that the Buddha intentionally set the question of whether or not there is a self aside as a useless question, and that clinging to the idea that there is no self at all would actually prevent enlightenment. Bhikkhu Bodhi has authored a rejoinder to Thanissaro with his "Anatta as Strategy and Ontonology" claiming "The reason the teaching of anatta can serve as a strategy of liberation is precisely because it serves to rectify a misconception about the nature of being, hence an ontological error."
Thanissaro Bhikkhu points to the Ananda Sutta (SN 44.10), where the Buddha stays silent when asked whether there is a 'self' or not, as a major cause of the dispute. Although Bhante Sujato, whose primary teacher is Ajahn Brahm of the Thai Forest Tradition, feels that Thanissaro misconstrues SN 44.10.
In Thailand, this dispute on the nature of teachings about 'self' and 'non-self' in Buddhism has led to arrest warrants, attacks and threats.
Nagarjuna, the founder of Madhyamaka (middle way) school of Mahayana Buddhism, analyzed dharma first as factors of experience. He, states David Kalupahana, analyzed how these experiences relate to "bondage and freedom, action and consequence", and thereafter analyzed the notion of personal self (attā, ātman).
Nagarjuna asserted that the notion of a self is associated with the notion of one's own identity and corollary ideas of pride, selfishness and a sense of psychophysical personality. This is all false, and leads to bondage in his Madhyamaka thought. There can be no pride nor possessiveness, in someone who accepts Anattā and denies "self" which is the sense of personal identity of oneself, others or anything, states Nagarjuna. Further, all obsessions are avoided when a person accepts emptiness (sunyata). Nagarjuna denied there is anything called a self-nature as well as other-nature, emphasizing true knowledge to be comprehending emptiness. Anyone who has not dissociated from his belief in personality in himself or others, through the concept of self, is in a state of Avidya (ignorance) and caught in the cycle of rebirths and redeaths.
The early Mahayana Buddhism texts link their discussion of "emptiness" (shunyata) to Anatta and Nirvana. They do so, states Mun-Keat Choong, in three ways: first, in the common sense of a monk's meditative state of emptiness; second, with the main sense of Anatta or 'everything in the world is empty of self'; third, with the ultimate sense of Nirvana or realization of emptiness and thus an end to rebirth cycles of suffering. The Anatta doctrine is another aspect of shunyata, its realization is the nature of the nirvana state and to an end to rebirths.
Some 1st-millennium CE Buddhist texts suggest concepts that have been controversial because they imply a "self-like" concept. In particular are the Tathāgatagarbha sūtras, where the title itself means a garbha (womb, matrix, seed) containing Tathagata (Buddha). These Sutras suggest, states Paul Williams, that 'all sentient beings contain a Tathagata' as their 'essence, core or essential inner nature'. The Tathagatagarbha doctrine, at its earliest probably appeared about the later part of the 3rd century CE, and is verifiable in Chinese translations of 1st millennium CE. Most scholars consider the Tathagatagarbha doctrine of an 'essential nature' in every living being is equivalent to 'Self',[note 6] and it contradicts the Anatta doctrines in a vast majority of Buddhist texts, leading scholars to posit that the Tathagatagarbha Sutras were written to promote Buddhism to non-Buddhists.
The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra explicitly asserts that the Buddha used the term "Self" in order to win over non-Buddhist ascetics. The Ratnagotravibhāga (also known as Uttaratantra), another text composed in the first half of 1st millennium CE and translated into Chinese in 511 CE, points out that the teaching of the Tathagatagarbha doctrine is intended to win sentient beings over to abandoning "self-love" (atma-sneha) – considered to be one of the defects by Buddhism. The 6th-century Chinese Tathagatagarbha translation states that "Buddha has shiwo (True Self) which is beyond being and nonbeing". However, the Ratnagotravibhāga asserts that the "Self" implied in Tathagatagarbha doctrine is actually "not-Self".
According to some scholars, the Buddha-nature discussed in these sutras does not represent a substantial self; rather, it is a positive language and expression of śūnyatā "emptiness" and represents the potentiality to realize Buddhahood through Buddhist practices. Other scholars do in fact detect leanings towards monism in these tathagatagarbha references. Michael Zimmermann sees the notion of an unperishing and eternal self in the Tathagatagarbha Sutra. Zimmermann also avers that 'the existence of an eternal, imperishable self, that is, buddhahood, is definitely the basic point of the Tathagatagarbha Sutra'. He further indicates that there is no evident interest found in this sutra in the idea of Emptiness (sunyata). Williams states that the "Self" in Tathagatagarbha Sutras is actually "non-Self", and neither identical nor comparable to the Hindu concepts of Brahman and Self.
The Anatta or Anatman doctrine is extensively discussed in and partly inspires the ritual practices of the Vajrayana tradition. The Tibetan terms such as bdag med refer to "without a self, insubstantial, anatman". These discussions, states Jeffrey Hopkins, assert the "non-existence of a permanent, unitary and independent self", and attribute these ideas to the Buddha.
The ritual practices in Vajrayana Buddhism employs the concept of deities, to end self-grasping, and to manifest as a purified, enlightened deity as part of the Vajrayana path to liberation from rebirths. One such deity is goddess Nairatmya (literally, non-soul, non-self). She symbolizes, states Miranda Shaw, that "self is an illusion" and "all beings and phenomenal appearances lack an abiding self or essence" in Vajrayana Buddhism.
Anatta is a central doctrine of Buddhism. It marks one of the major differences between Buddhism and Hinduism. According to the anatta doctrine of Buddhism, at the core of all human beings and living creatures, there is no "eternal, essential and absolute something called a soul, self or atman". Buddhism, from its earliest days, has denied the existence of the "self, soul" in its core philosophical and ontological texts. In its soteriological themes, Buddhism has defined nirvana as that blissful state when a person, amongst other things, realizes that he or she has "no self, no soul".
The traditions within Hinduism believe in Atman. The pre-Buddhist Upanishads of Hinduism assert that there is a permanent Atman, and is an ultimate metaphysical reality. This sense of self, is expressed as "I am" in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.1, states Peter Harvey, when nothing existed before the start of the universe. The Upanishadic scriptures hold that this soul or self is underlying the whole world. At the core of all human beings and living creatures, assert the Hindu traditions, there is "eternal, innermost essential and absolute something called a soul, self that is atman." Within the diverse schools of Hinduism, there are differences of perspective on whether souls are distinct, whether Supreme Soul or God exists, whether the nature of Atman is dual or non-dual, and how to reach moksha. However, despite their internal differences, one shared foundational premise of Hinduism is that "soul, self exists", and that there is bliss in seeking this self, knowing self, and self-realization.
While the Upanishads recognized many things as being not-Self, they felt that a real, true Self could be found. They held that when it was found, and known to be identical to Brahman, the basis of everything, this would bring liberation. In the Buddhist Suttas, though, literally everything is seen is non-Self, even Nirvana. When this is known, then liberation – Nirvana – is attained by total non-attachment. Thus both the Upanishads and the Buddhist Suttas see many things as not-Self, but the Suttas apply it, indeed non-Self, to everything.— Peter Harvey, An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices
Both Buddhism and Hinduism distinguish ego-related "I am, this is mine", from their respective abstract doctrines of "Anatta" and "Atman". This, states Peter Harvey, may have been an influence of Buddhism on Hinduism.
The term niratman appears in the Maitrayaniya Upanishad of Hinduism, such as in verses 6.20, 6.21 and 7.4. Niratman literally means "selfless". The niratman concept has been interpreted to be analogous to anatman of Buddhism. The ontological teachings, however, are different. In the Upanishad, states Thomas Wood, numerous positive and negative descriptions of various states – such as niratman and sarvasyatman (the self of all) – are used in Maitrayaniya Upanishad to explain the nondual concept of the "highest Self". According to Ramatirtha, states Paul Deussen, the niratman state discussion is referring to stopping the recognition of oneself as an individual soul, and reaching the awareness of universal soul or the metaphysical Brahman.
The Greek philosopher Pyrrho traveled to India as part of Alexander the Great's entourage where he was influenced by the Indian gymnosophists,  which inspired him to create the philosophy of Pyrrhonism. Philologist Christopher Beckwith has demonstrated that Pyrrho based his philosophy on his translation of the three marks of existence into Greek, and that adiaphora (not logically differentiable, not clearly definable, negating Aristotle's use of "diaphora") reflects Pyrrho's understanding of the Buddhist concept of anatta.
"Monks, this Teaching so well proclaimed by me, is plain, open, explicit, free of patchwork. In this Teaching that is so well proclaimed by me and is plain, open, explicit and free of patchwork; for those who are arahants, free of taints, who have accomplished and completed their task, have laid down the burden, achieved their aim, severed the fetters binding to existence, who are liberated by full knowledge, there is no (future) round of existence that can be ascribed to them. – Majjhima Nikaya i.130 ¶ 42, Translated by Nyanaponika Thera (Nyanaponika, 2006)
Anātman in Sanskrit means that "which is different from atman" or "non-self". In Hinduism, the former definition is found in some texts, while in Buddhism, anātman or anattā means non-self.Anattalakkhana Sutta
The Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta (Pali) or Anātmalakṣaṇa Sūtra (Sanskrit), is traditionally recorded as the second discourse delivered by Gautama Buddha. The title translates to the "Not-Self Characteristic Discourse", but is also known as the Pañcavaggiya Sutta (Pali) or Pañcavargīya Sūtra (Skt.), meaning the "Group of Five" Discourse.Brahmā (Buddhism)
Brahmā is a leading god (deva) and heavenly king in Buddhism. He was adopted from other Indian religions such as Hinduism that considered him a protector of teachings (dharmapala), and he is never depicted in early Buddhist texts as a creator god. In Buddhist tradition, it was the deity Brahma Sahampati who appeared before the Buddha and urged him to teach, once the Buddha attained enlightenment but was unsure if he should teach his insights to anyone.Brahma is a part of the Buddhist cosmology, and lords over the heavenly realm of rebirth called the Brahmaloka – the most sought after realm for afterlife and reincarnation in Buddhist traditions. Brahma is generally represented in Buddhist culture as a god with four faces and four arms, and variants of him are found in both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist cultures.Buddhism
Buddhism (, US also ) is the world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists.
Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on original teachings attributed to the Buddha and resulting interpreted philosophies. Buddhism originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars: Theravada (Pali: "The School of the Elders") and Mahayana (Sanskrit: "The Great Vehicle").
Most Buddhist traditions share the goal of overcoming suffering and the cycle of death and rebirth, either by the attainment of Nirvana or through the path of Buddhahood. Buddhist schools vary in their interpretation of the path to liberation, the relative importance and canonicity assigned to the various Buddhist texts, and their specific teachings and practices. Widely observed practices include taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, observance of moral precepts, monasticism, meditation, and the cultivation of the Paramitas (virtues).
Theravada Buddhism has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia such as Myanmar and Thailand. Mahayana, which includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Shingon and Tiantai (Tendai), is found throughout East Asia.
Vajrayana, a body of teachings attributed to Indian adepts, may be viewed as a separate branch or as an aspect of Mahayana Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism, which preserves the Vajrayana teachings of eighth-century India, is practiced in the countries of the Himalayan region, Mongolia, and Kalmykia.Buddhism and Jainism
Jainism and Buddhism are two ancient Indian religions that developed in Magadha (Bihar region) and continue to thrive in the modern times. Mahavira and Gautama Buddha are generally accepted as contemporaries (circa 5th century BCE). Jainism and Buddhism share many features, terminology and ethical principles, but emphasize them differently. Both are śramaṇa ascetic traditions that believe it is possible to attain liberation from the cycle of rebirths and deaths (samsara) through spiritual and ethical disciplines. They differ in some core doctrines such as those on asceticism, Middle Way versus Anekantavada, and self versus no-self (jiva, atta, anatta).Gautama Buddha in Hinduism
In Vaishnava Hinduism, the historic Buddha or Gautama Buddha, is considered to be an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. Of the ten major avatars of Vishnu, Vaishnavites believe Gautama Buddha to be the ninth and most recent incarnation.Buddha's portrayal in Hinduism varies. In some texts such as the Puranas, he is portrayed as an avatar born to mislead those who deny the Vedic knowledge. In others, such as the 13th-century Gitagovinda of Vaishnava poet Jayadeva, Vishnu incarnates as the Buddha to teach and to end animal slaughter. In contemporary Hinduism, state Constance Jones and James D. Ryan, Buddha is revered by Hindus who usually consider "Buddhism to be another form of Hinduism".Impermanence
Impermanence, also known as the philosophical problem of change, is a philosophical concept that is addressed in a variety of religions and philosophies.Indian philosophy
Indian philosophy refers to ancient philosophical traditions of the Indian subcontinent. The principal schools are classified as either orthodox or heterodox – āstika or nāstika – depending on one of three alternate criteria: whether it believes the Vedas as a valid source of knowledge; whether the school believes in the premises of Brahman and Atman; and whether the school believes in afterlife and Devas.There are six major schools of orthodox Indian Hindu philosophy—Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā and Vedanta, and five major heterodox schools—Jain, Buddhist, Ajivika, Ajñana, and Cārvāka. However, there are other methods of classification; Vidyaranya for instance identifies sixteen schools of Indian philosophy by including those that belong to the Śaiva and Raseśvara traditions.The main schools of Indian philosophy were formalised chiefly between 1000 BCE to the early centuries of the Common Era. Competition and integration between the various schools was intense during their formative years, especially between 800 BCE and 200 CE. Some schools like Jainism, Buddhism, Yoga, Śaiva and Vedanta survived, but others, like Ajñana, Charvaka and Ājīvika did not.
Ancient and medieval era texts of Indian philosophies include extensive discussions on Ontology (metaphysics, Brahman-Atman, Sunyata-Anatta), reliable means of knowledge (epistemology, Pramanas), value system (axiology) and other topics.Lynn de Silva's theology
Lynn de Silva's theology began at an early stage in Lynn de Silva's ministry, when his interest in Buddhism and its culture began to increase. He believed that the credibility of Christianity depended on its ability to relate to Buddhism, which was the faith of the majority of the Sri Lankan population. His objective was to develop a richer appreciation of the similarities between Buddhism and Christianity, in particular, to communicate the Christian message in a manner that the Sri Lankan culture understood, and to construct a theology that is focused towards the Buddhist cultural environment. To this end, he used Buddhist concepts to communicate Christian beliefs in a language understood from the Buddhist context, and he aimed at extending Christian theology with Buddhist concepts in order to gain a more thorough understanding of Christianity. In his book The Problem of the Self in Buddhism and Christianity, de Silva states the following:
There is a growing body of opinion within Christianity that its theology is shop-soiled and needs drastic revision in order first, to re-root it in the basic biblical teaching, secondly, to bring it into harmony with new insights and modes of thought coming from other faiths, ideologies and modern science and thirdly, to relate it to social realities... What I have attempted is to help this process of transformation in Christian thinking. However, theological thinking in order to be meaningful and relevant must be contextual. The context of this book is Buddhism.
To obtain the necessary background in Sri Lankan Buddhist practices, de Silva consulted reputed Buddhist monks and scholars, visited Buddhist places of worship, and consulted written sources on Sri Lankan Buddhism. Although most of his studies were completed in English, he took a special effort to master Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan culture. Furthermore, he became proficient in Pali, the language of the Buddhist scriptures. His findings eventually led to his most popular work, the book titled Buddhism: Beliefs and Practices in Sri Lanka (de Silva 1974). In the early 1980s, this book was considered unparalleled as an introduction to Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and also considered the most complete, thorough and sensitive book on Buddhism in Sri Lanka, resulting in it generally being recommended by professors and monks as a standard book on Buddhist practices in Sri Lanka.Middle Way
The Middle Way or Middle Path (Pali: Majjhimāpaṭipadā; Sanskrit: Madhyamāpratipada; Tibetan: དབུ་མའི་ལམ།, THL: Umélam; traditional Chinese: 中道; ; Vietnamese: Trung đạo; Thai: มัชฌิมาปฏิปทา) is the term that Gautama Buddha used to describe the character of the Noble Eightfold Path he discovered that leads to liberation.Navayana
Navayana (Devanagari: नवयान, IAST: Navayāna) means "new vehicle" and refers to the re-interpretation of Buddhism by B. R. Ambedkar. Ambedkar was born in a Dalit (untouchable) family during the colonial era of India, studied abroad, became a Dalit leader, and announced in 1935 his intent to convert from Hinduism to Buddhism. Thereafter Ambedkar studied texts of Buddhism, found several of its core beliefs and doctrines such as Four Noble Truths and "non-self" as flawed and pessimistic, re-interpreted these into what he called "new vehicle" of Buddhism. This is known as Navayana, also known as Bhimayāna after Ambedkar's first name Bhimrao. Ambedkar held a press conference on October 13, 1956, announcing his rejection of Theravada and Mahayana vehicles, as well as of Hinduism. Thereafter, he left Hinduism and adopted Navayana, about six weeks before his death.In the Dalit Buddhist movement of India, Navayana is considered a new branch of Buddhism, different from the traditionally recognized branches of Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Navayana rejects practices and precepts such as renouncing monk and monasticism, karma, rebirth in afterlife, samsara, meditation, enlightenment and Four Noble Truths considered to be foundational in the Buddhist traditions. It radically re-interprets what Buddhism is, revises the original Buddha teaching to be about class struggle and social equality.Ambedkar called his version of Buddhism Navayana or Neo-Buddhism. His book, The Buddha and His Dhamma is the holy book of Navayana followers.Nirvana
Nirvāṇa ( neer-VAH-nə, -VAN-ə, nur-; Sanskrit: निर्वाण nirvāṇa [nɪɽʋaːɳɐ]; Pali: निब्बान nibbāna; Prakrit: णिव्वाण ṇivvāṇa, literally "blown out", as in an oil lamp) is commonly associated with Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, and represents its ultimate state of soteriological release, the liberation from repeated rebirth in saṃsāra.In Indian religions, nirvana is synonymous with moksha and mukti. All Indian religions assert it to be a state of perfect quietude, freedom, highest happiness as well as the liberation from or ending of samsara, the repeating cycle of birth, life and death.However, Buddhist and non-Buddhist traditions describe these terms for liberation differently. In the Buddhist context, nirvana refers to realization of non-self and emptiness, marking the end of rebirth by stilling the fires that keep the process of rebirth going. In Hindu philosophy, it is the union of or the realization of the identity of Atman with Brahman, depending on the Hindu tradition. In Jainism, it is also the soteriological goal, it represents the release of a soul from karmic bondage and samsara.Prajñā (Buddhism)
Prajñā (Sanskrit) or paññā (Pāli) "wisdom" is insight in the true nature of reality, namely primarily anicca (impermanence), dukkha (dissatisfaction or suffering), and anattā (non-self). In addition, Abhidharma and later Mahāyāna text may include suññatā (Skt; Eng: emptiness).Reality in Buddhism
Reality in Buddhism is called dharma (Sanskrit) or dhamma (Pali). This word, which is foundational to the conceptual frameworks of the Indian religions, refers in Buddhism to the system of natural laws which constitute the natural order of things. Dharma is therefore reality as-it-is (yatha-bhuta). The teaching of Gautama Buddha constituting as it does a method by which people can come out of their condition of suffering (dukkha) involves developing an awareness of reality (see mindfulness). Buddhism thus seeks to address any disparity between a person's view of reality and the actual state of things. This is called developing Right or Correct View (Pali: samma ditthi). Seeing reality as-it-is is thus an essential prerequisite to mental health and well-being according to Buddha's teaching.
Buddhism addresses deeply philosophical questions regarding the nature of reality. One of the fundamental teachings is that all the constituent forms (sankharas) that make up the universe are transient (Pali: anicca), arising and passing away, and therefore without concrete identity or ownership (atta). This lack of enduring ownership or identity (anatta) of phenomena has important consequences for the possibility of liberation from the conditions which give rise to suffering. This is explained in the doctrine of interdependent origination.
One of the most discussed themes in Buddhism is that of the emptiness (sunyata) of form (Pali: rūpa), an important corollary of the transient and conditioned nature of phenomena. Reality is seen, ultimately, in Buddhism as a form of 'projection', resulting from the fruition (vipaka) of karmic seeds (sankharas). The precise nature of this 'illusion' that is the phenomenal universe is debated among different schools. For example;
Some consider that the concept of the unreality of "reality" is confusing. They posit that, in Buddhism, the perceived reality is considered illusory not in the sense that reality is a fantasy or unreal, but that our perceptions and preconditions mislead us to believe that we are separate from the elements that we are made of. Reality, in Buddhist thought, would be described as the manifestation of karma.
Other schools of thought in Buddhism (e.g., Dzogchen), consider perceived reality literally unreal. As a prominent contemporary teacher puts it: "In a real sense, all the visions that we see in our lifetime are like a big dream [...]". In this context, the term 'visions' denotes not only visual perceptions, but appearances perceived through all senses, including sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations, and operations on received mental objects.Rebirth (Buddhism)
Rebirth in Buddhism refers to its teaching that the actions of a person lead to a new existence after death, in endless cycles called saṃsāra. This cycle is considered to be dukkha, unsatisfactory and painful. The cycle stops only if liberation is achieved by insight and the extinguishing of desire. Rebirth is one of the foundational doctrines of Buddhism, along with Karma, nirvana and moksha.The rebirth doctrine in Buddhism, sometimes referred to as reincarnation or metempsychosis, asserts that rebirth does not necessarily take place as another human being, but as an existence in one of the six Gati (realms) called Bhavachakra. The six realms of rebirth include Deva (heavenly), Asura (demigod), Manusya (human), Tiryak (animals), Preta (ghosts), and Naraka (resident of hell). Rebirth, as stated by various Buddhist traditions, is determined by karma, with good realms favored by Kushala (good karma), while a rebirth in evil realms is a consequence of Akushala (bad karma). While Nirvana is the ultimate goal of Buddhist teaching, much of traditional Buddhist practice has been centered on gaining merit and merit transfer, whereby one gains rebirth in the good realms and avoids rebirth in the evil realms.The rebirth doctrine has been a subject of scholarly studies within Buddhism since ancient times, particularly in reconciling the rebirth doctrine with its Anatman (no self, no soul) doctrine. The Buddhist traditions have disagreed on what it is in a person that is reborn, as well as how quickly the rebirth occurs after each death. Some Buddhist traditions assert that "no self" doctrine means that there is no perduring self, but there is avacya (inexpressible) self which migrates from one life to another. The majority of Buddhist traditions, in contrast, assert that Vijnana (a person's consciousness) though evolving, exists as a continuum and is the mechanistic basis of what undergoes rebirth, rebecoming and redeath. Some traditions assert that the rebirth occurs immediately, while others such as the Tibetan Buddhism posits an interim state wherein as many of 49 days pass between death and rebirth and this belief drives the local funerary rituals.Saṃsāra (Buddhism)
Saṃsāra (Sanskrit, Pali; also samsara) in Buddhism is the beginningless cycle of repeated birth, mundane existence and dying again. Samsara is considered to be dukkha, unsatisfactory and painful, perpetuated by desire and avidya (ignorance), and the resulting karma.Rebirths occur in six realms of existence, namely three good realms (heavenly, demi-god, human) and three evil realms (animal, ghosts, hellish). Samsara ends if a person attains nirvana, the "blowing out" of the desires and the gaining of true insight into impermanence and non-self reality.Three marks of existence
In Buddhism, the three marks of existence are three characteristics (Pali: tilakkhaṇa; Sanskrit: त्रिलक्षण, trilakṣaṇa) of all existence and beings, namely impermanence (aniccā), unsatisfactoriness or suffering (dukkha), and non-self (anattā). These three characteristics are mentioned in verses 277, 278 and 279 of the Dhammapada. That humans are subject to delusion about the three marks, that this delusion results in suffering, and that removal of that delusion results in the end of suffering, is a central theme in the Buddhist Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path.
According to Thich Nhat Hanh, the three seals are impermanence, non-self and nirvana. He says in "The heart of the Buddha's Teaching" that "In several sutras the Buddha taught that nirvana, the joy of completely extinguishing our ideas and concepts, rather than suffering, is one of the Three Dharma Seals."Vipassanā
Vipassanā (Pāli) or vipaśyanā (Sanskrit), "insight," is prajñā "insight into the true nature of reality", defined as anicca "impermanence", dukkha "suffering, unsatisfactoriness", anattā "non-self", the three marks of existence in the Theravada tradition, and as śūnyatā "emptiness" and Buddha-nature in the Mahayana traditions.
Meditation practice in the Theravada tradition ended in the 10th century, but was reintroduced in Toungoo and Konbaung Burma in the 18th century, based on contemporary readings of the Satipaṭṭhāna sutta, the Visuddhimagga, and other texts. A new tradition developed in the 19th and 20th century, centering on bare insight in conjunction with samatha. It became of central importance in the 20th century Vipassanā movement as developed by Ledi Sayadaw and U Vimala and popularised by Mahasi Sayadaw, V. R. Dhiravamsa, and S. N. Goenka.In modern Theravada, the combination or disjunction of vipassanā and samatha is a matter of dispute. While the Pali sutras hardly mention vipassanā, describing it as a mental quality alongside with samatha which develop in tandem and lead to liberation, the Abhidhamma Pitaka and the commentaries describe samatha and vipassanā as two separate meditation techniques. The Vipassanā movement favours vipassanā over samatha, but critics point out that both are necessary elements of the Buddhist training.Ātman (Buddhism)
Ātman (), attā or attan in Buddhism is the concept of self, and is found in Buddhist literature's discussion of the concept of non-self (Anatta).Most Buddhist traditions and texts reject the premise of a permanent, unchanging atman (self, soul). However, some Buddhist schools, sutras and tantras present the notion of an atman or permanent "Self", although mostly referring to an Absolute and not to a personal self.
Topics in Buddhism