The Self in a Buddhist Perspective

The Self in a Buddhist Perspective


In order to understand Buddhist accounts of the person, one must first identify the object of negation-the thing whose existence is to be refuted. That is the atman, or the unchanging, partless core self that is distinct from mind and body, and is what is reborn. At the time of the Buddha, the orthodox position in India was that every person has such an atman. The Buddhist doctrine of no self-anātman-rejects that view. The Buddha argued that nothing is permanent or has an essence, and that persons, like everything else, are impermanent, constantly changing, partite, and exist only in dependence on causes and conditions, their parts and on mental imputation. This rejects the orthodox self, but does not reject the conventional, ordinary empirical existence of persons as dependently originated phenomena. Different Buddhist tenet systems have different ways of identifying the person. The Vaibhasika assert that the mind and body are the self. The Yogācāra assert instead that the person is the fundamental mind. Mādhyamikas argue that everything is impermanent, dependent, ultimately empty of true existence and only conventionally real. Prasangika Mādhyamikas say that while the body and mind are not the self, they are the basis for the designation, “self.” The conventional self on this view is imputed on this basis. The self on this view is an impermanent phenomenon but is neither material form nor consciousness.

  • Dialogue 30
    19 sessions
  • December 16, 2015
    Sera Monastery, Bylakuppe, India
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Professor Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe

Professor Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe was born in Lhokha, Central Tibet and became a monk of Drepung Loseling at the age of 13. He excelled in his studies, and eventually received his Rabjamba Degree in 1958, and later was awarded Geshe Lharam, the highest academic degree offered in the Geluk School of Tibetan Bud dhism at Drepung Monastic University. He served as a lecturer at the School of Buddhist Philosophy, Leh, Ladakh and at Sanskrit University in Sarnath. He is currently a professor of Mool Shastra (Indian Tradition of Buddhist Philosophy) at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, the only Tibetan university in India. Professor Thabkhe is regarded as one of the most eminent scholars of both the Madhyamaka tradition and the Indian Buddhist studies. His monumental works include translation of The Essence of Good Explanation of Definitive & Interpretable Meanings (Lek-Shey Nying-Po) by Tsong-kha-Pa into Hindi, as well as A Commentary on the Rice Seedlings (Salistamba) Sutra by Kamalashila. He has also facilitated the completion of numerous research works including a complete translation of Lama Tsong kha-pa's Lam rim chen mo Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment.