AbstractBuddhist philosophers have tried to work out the implications of the Buddha’s teaching of non-self (anattā). I characterise the teaching of non-self in the Pāli discourses, noting that, although the Buddha denied the existence of a ‘metaphysical’ self, he did not completely deny the ‘everyday’ self but presupposed the ‘I’ as a continuously identical moral agent. I go on to explain three attempts to explain the Buddha’s teaching. (1) Nāgasena in the Milindapañha uses the chariot argument to show that the self, like a chariot, is a conventional designation for a functional arrangement of parts. (2) The Yogācāra philosopher Vasubandhu argues that the self is a cognitive mistake and that in reality there is only non-dual awareness. (3) The Madhyamaka philosopher Candrakīrti argues that there is the appearance of a self but it does not exist in the way that it appears. I conclude that these ways of denying the self are distinct and that Candrakīrti’s way seems closest to the Buddha’s as recorded in the Pāli canon.
CitationJones, D. (2020). Three Ways of Denying the Self. Western Buddhist Review, 7, 19–43.
PublisherWestern Buddhist Review
JournalWestern Buddhist Review
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