By: David Xi-Ken Astor, Sensei
One of the core principles of Buddhism that is accepted by all traditions is that of no-self (anatman). It is an essential teaching of Buddhism that states that there is no permanent enduring substance within any entity. The Buddha taught that the notion of a self is just an idea. In our contemporary language when we consider “who we are” we encounter the term psychophysical personality that introduces us to all kinds of interpretations. No matter the complexity surrounding coming to terms with no permanent self, we also must reconcile that this impermanent universal nature is also of a non-dual nature too. When we say we have no permanent self we are rejecting the notion of a metaphysical-self which presents a problem that man has two distinct entities in the form of mind and matter. The Buddha was skillful in not speaking of man’s having a dual nature. This is not always clear when we read many of the legacy teachings, especially when they seek to explain how conscientiousness interacts with the psycho-physicality or what it means to be human.
What is clear though, is that the Buddha was not willing to consider that a mind can have independent existence. When he spoke of human nature, he did so by always associating the body and mental capabilities as making up a single physical personality; there could be no consciousness unless it was associated with a living physical entity. He said that consciousness is nothing more than the act of being conscious. Both at the time of the Buddha, as it is now in our time, there was/is a universal tendency to look upon the mind and the body as two distinct entities both existing independently. Based on the Buddha’s personal experience he came to consider this notion to be unsubstantiated. To take the opposite view would be to surrender to an unknown faith that “something” is of a permanent nature in each of us that is hidden to scientific investigation. Continue reading