Buddhism Buddhism Anatta And Rebirth

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Jun 1, 2004
Buddhism teaches that their is no unchaning soul, with out a soul then what expierences rebirth. Buddhism teaches kharma and rebirth, but it also teaches that we have no soul. How does this work


Jul 13, 2004
The way I understand Buddhism of the Old School (Theravada) is that there is no "self" or "soul". ‎We consist of "collections of aggregates". On dying, these collections are dispersed and are ‎reassembled in other collections, having no direct relationship with the former collection. It is ‎like when you light a candle with another candle. The newly lit candle does not arise from the old ‎one, but is another candle. For discussions, however, it is convenient to speak of "self" and "I" etc.‎

What kind of beings that emerge on this reassembling is determined by our present lives. Every ‎deliberate action (karma) bears fruits, bad fruit from bad actions and good from good. From good ‎fruit emerges a being in a better situation, while bad fruit may cause an animal. The new ‎individual is the result of previous actions, not a "soul" taking on a new existence.‎

In spite of this, I think that most Buddhists believe that the new-born being in some way is ‎identical to the old one and a continuation of the old one.‎

This has puzzled me for a long time. If there is no relation between "me" and the resulting being, ‎why should I bother about my actions? I suppose that the answer is, that we out of compassion ‎should avoid causing beings with miserable lives to emerge.‎


Jan 8, 2005
I've always liked the candle analogy when trying to understand these concepts. Let's say you have a circle of unlit candles. You light the first one, with that one you light the one beside it and blow out the first candle. You continue doing this, lighting a candle and blowing out the other, until you've made around the circle and you're back to the first candle. You light it. Is it the same flame? No, it has changed, but the essence of the first flame is still there and effects all the candles lit after it. Everything we do in this lifetime effects those after us. As anders said, it is out of compassion that we want to act justly as to not negatively impact those people.


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
I read the previous posts a few times, thinking Yes, there is a Soul in Buddhism. There is no individual soul, a spiritual precipitate of the qualities of an individual human being. The Soul in Buddhism is the universal Atma. The qualities of the individual at death fade back into universal energy. These same qualities are not the soul.

So I decided to check and found an interesting explanation of this by Kenneth Cole, with references from Buddhist scriptures. There were other interesting explanations of how -- if there is no soul, one could still be reborn.

Expert: KennethLee
Date: 11/17/2004
Subject: buddhism -rebirth

when rebirth is mentioned, like, being reborn in your next life, what is it exactly that gets reborn? with the whole ego-less thing i dont really understand what 'part' of 'you' would be reborn...

"citta (will/mind) recollects past lives"-----Digha 1.81 (original presecular scriptures of buddhism).

ego-less, a purely modern concept is absent in actual Indian buddhist doctrine, its purely a Freudian term of modernity not found in original buddhism.

Buddhism, contrary to modern nonsense at no point denies the Soul (atman, Pali Attan), it only denies that: "any of these khandhas (aggregates, forms,feelings,perceptions, impulses, consciousness) is the Soul (attan)."---MN.

At no location in buddhist sutta is there a denial of the Soul, despite many commentarial works written to the contrary.

Only that the psycho-physical self (namo-rupa, corporeal, 5-khandhas) is not the actual true Transcendental Self/Subject (atman/attan). Or as addage goes "dost thou confuse the self (corporeal) with thy Self (soul)?"--------

"The Soul is the dearest beloved" [AN 4.97]
"The Soul is the refuge that I have gone unto" [KN Jatakapali 1441]
"To be fixed in the Soul is to be flood crossed" [Mahavagga-Att. 2.692]
"The Soul is Svabhava(Self-Nature)." [Maha'vagga-Att. 3.270]
"The Soul is the refuge to be sought" [Suttanipata-Att. 1.129]
"Having become the very Soul, this is deemed non-emptiness (asuñña)" [Uparipanna'sa-Att. 4.151]
"Steadfast-in-the-Soul (thitattoti) means steadfast in ones True-nature (thitasabha'vo)" [Tikanipa'ta-Att. 3.4]

Best summed up from original buddhist doctrine thusly:

"What do you suppose, followers, if people were carrying off into the Jeta grove bunches of sticks, grasses, branches, and leaves and did with them as they wished or burned them up, would it occur to you: These people are carrying us off, are doing as they please with us, and are burning us? No, indeed not Lord. And how so? Because Lord, none of that is our Soul, nor what our Soul subsists upon! Just so followers, what is not who you are, do away with it, when you have made done with that, it will lead to your bliss and welfare for as long as time lasts. What is that which is not who you are? Form, followers, is not who you are, neither are sensations, perceptions, experiences, nor consciousness." [MN 1.141] ----Gotama.

there is no part of 'this' self which reconnects with another life, just as light (citta/will/mind/ie Soul) passes from one form (mere self/corporeal) to another that there is no passing of any part of one form to another, only THAT which brings illumination to that form.

the 'light' (citta) passes from form to form , recollecting events of said form, but of course there is no part of form passing from form to form.

Citta is the only thing which is said to be the basis/medium for the recollection of past lives: “directs his mind (citta) to the recollection of past lives” [DN 1.81].

Link to the above article is here http://en.allexperts.com/q/Buddhists-948/buddhism-rebirth.htm

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