By Prof. G.RMalalasekara, Phd, D.
Courtesy Vesak Lipi
There is one doctrine in Buddhism which separates if from all other
religions, creeds and systems of philosophy, and which makes it
unique in the world's history. All its other teachings, such as
The doctrine of impermanence, the denial of a supreme, personal
God, the law of Kamma, its system of ethics and its practice of
meditation, all these are found, more or less in similar forms,
in one or other of the schools of thought or religions which have
attempted to guide men through life and explain to them the unsatisfactoriness
of the world. But in its denial of any real permanent Soul or self,
Buddhism stands alone. <
This teaching presents the utmost difficulty to many people and
often provokes even violent antagonism towards.the whole religion.
Yet, this doctrine of No-Soul or Anatta, as it is called, is the
bedrock of Buddhism and all the other teachings of the Buddha are
intimately connected with it. The Buddha is quite definite in its
exposition and would have no compromise. In a famous passage he
declares, "Whether Buddhas arise in this world or not, it always
remains a fact that the constituent parts of a being are lacking
in a Soul," The Pali word used for "Soul" being Atta.
DIVINE SOUL DENIED
Now, what is this Soul the existence of which the Buddha denied?
Without it there can be no reward in heaven or punishment in hell
no recompense for one's deeds.
Such, generally speaking, is the teaching of other religions, with
a few minor differences in detail. Buddhism, on the contrary, denies
all this and asserts that this belief in a permanent and a divine
soul is the most dangerous and pernicious of all errors, the most
deceitful of illusions, that it will inevitably mislead its victims
into the deepest pit of sorrow and suffering. It is in fact, says
Buddha, the rootcause of all suffering, because the belief in a
separate self breeds egotism and selfishness. Selfishness produces
craving for life and life's pleasures-tanha-which plunges beings
into the ocean of samsara-continues existence.
This doctrine of the denial of the Soul the Buddha arrives at by
analysis; ; Buddhism is, for this reason chiefly, called the Vibhajja
vada, the Religion of Analytical Knowledge. Man, says the Buddha
-for it is with man that we are mainly concerned- is composed of
two chief parts, the physical body-rupa-and the mind-nama.
Let us analyse these two components and see if we can find anything
permanent or divine in them. Let us begin with the body. At first
sight, the body would seem to be our own and continuous from our
first memory of childhood. But it is, really, not our own, because
we cannot control it. It grows old and is subject to disease and
finally it dies. Every instant parts of it are perishing ; the hair,
nails and skin for instance quite noticeably, but the millions of
cells within us not so palpably. The body is always decaying, some
parts of us are dead already; our survival is merely as sort of
balance between living and dead cells. Though we feel we are the
same persons, that our body continues to be the same, it really
is not so. The child becomes the youth, the youth changes into the
old man. Anyone who has lived to be 70 years old has possessed several
bodies completely different, no single atom of which was common
to any two of them.
What of the mind? The mind is even less permanent, for while the
body last for a bit, at least in appearance, the mind of what is
called the mind-for it is a compound of all sorts of things thoughts,
feelings, consciousness-the mind keeps perishing day and night,
always changing. A man's mind, his character, aspirations, must
change and they do, or there would be no possibility of his higher
development, progress and improvement. We know that character, mind
and emotions require the most constant care, diligence and energy
to direct and develop them, to hold them to the path of righteousness
and purity. It Is only by such constant care and vigilance that
any progress at all is realized. The same can be said of all mental