An Analysis of the Buddha's Responses
to Questions About the Self
Focusing especially on the Sabbasava-Sutta, the paper explores the teachings of the Buddha regarding Self and Non-self.
Concerned far more with human suffering than metaphysical enlightenment, the Buddha's teachings are often cryptic and subject to misinterpretation. One such misinterpretation is that the Buddha identified the five skandhas as the Self. Another is that he taught a nihilistic doctrine of No-self.
Rejecting these as well as other options, the paper argues that the Buddha's teachings openly defy logic when logic seems inconducive to the task at hand. He empties without annihilating, demanding a conceptual framework which transcends the categories of Being, Becoming, and Non-being.
Avyakrtas and The Fire Sermon: On Not-Explaining
Why The Skandhas Are Not The Self
Beyond Eternalism and Annihilation
Presented at Ethics, Aesthetics and Ontology (Columbia University, October 1992). Based on ideas previously presented at the Fourth International Congress of Vedanta (Miami University, April 1992) and the 1991 New York Conference for Asian Studies (Cornell University, November 1991). Special thanks are due Russell Blackwood of Hamilton College for insightful comments and constructive criticism.