Non-self in Buddhism

Unlike it’s progenitor (Hinduism), Buddhism denies that such a thing as a soul exists. However, it does believe in re-incarnation. Which begs the obvious question  – if there is no soul, what is it that is reborn (In Hindu rebirth, it is the soul that returns in a new body)?

If there is no soul, what is it that ties a ‘person’ together – that gives it a personhood?

According to Buddhism, a ‘person’ is essentially an aggregate of five skandhas (forms):

  1. Physical Form (Body or matter)
  2. Sensations (feelings received by/from the body)
  3. Perception
  4. Mental State/Activity (thoughts, including rational thought)
  5. Consciousness

These are all present in shifting proportions – some days the craving for sensations may be higher than that of mental activity or vice-versa. In effect, a human being is simply a bonding together of these five skandhas.

Attachment (or craving) is what acts as the binding glue. The more the craving for thought, for example, the more the person is attached to the 4th skandha. In the end, all the skandhas (attachments to) need to be dissolved by persistent meditation and mindfulness.

Summary

Non-Self is a difficult concept to understand. If there is no self, what is it that is reborn? What is it that dies? Buddhism’s answers to these questions is a radical departure from all other religions’.

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