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Echoes and Mirrors» Blog Archive

Buddhism is an atheistic religion, something of an anomaly from a Western perspective. There is no God. A distinction may be made here between the early Pali canon and Abhidhamma, and later more elaborated Buddhisms where Buddha is a godlike being, or the Pure Land Sect where chanting the name of the Bodhisatva of Compassion will assure one rebirth into a deva realm. However, even in these, Buddha is a supernatural teacher, not a mighty creator god and supreme judge. There is no need for a judge when kamma acts like a natural law, when the ‘judgment’ is already contained in the action. And even in the most elaborated Buddhism in the end there is just One. The world of a thousand and one things is illusion. This is expressed in the dependence of everything on everything else, expressed in the law of interdependent origination. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is separate and distinct ultimately. To believe so is to be deluded, and from a Buddhist perspective, the extreme reductionism of Western ways of seeing is delusion. Mind/body? Nature/nurture? Apollonian/Dionysan? Creator/Creation? Not so.

The sharpest and most challenging contention of Buddhism, though, is that we don’t have a soul. Phrased in more psychological terms, there is no self. This needs to be understood as a consequence of the Buddhist understanding of impermanence. Buddha made the astute observation that everything is impermanent. This is easy to understand from the perspective of contemporary Western science. Even the Himalayas once weren’t, until an island continent we know as India today crashed into Eurasia in much the same way Indian thought has smacked into the Western thought beginning the creation of who knows what sort of Himalayas of understanding yet to come. But it will be different.

Personality & Consciousness: Buddhist Psychology

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