The Buddhist Theory of Anatman



The Buddhist Theory of Anatman

The Buddhist theory of Anatma explains that a recognizable and definitive eternal “self” does not exist. It is based on Buddha’s teachings. Based on this theory, references such as “me” and “I” are based on ephemeral experiences. When King Milinda asked monk Nagasena how he is known and what his name is, he pointed out that there is no real person called Nagasena and this was just a mere name. Based on the theory, people experience the physical world they live as a result of five aggregates of the body or skandhas. According to the primary sources provided in class, there are three factors to be considered when analyzing the composition of what is primarily referred to as “I”. These are the mind, sense, and the body. According to Nagasena, his sense of distinct self is based on his 32 body parts in addition to the five skandhas, which are form, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures (Boisvert, 1995). Therefore, the theory advances the notion that soul or “self” does not exist. However, there is afterlife and rebirth.

In summary, the Buddhist theory of Anatman implies that the five aggregates mentioned above do not result in a permanent entity that can be referred to as “Self”. Instead, these are just temporary aggregates since when the “beingness” itself comes to an end; they cease to be or are destroyed. For a person whose background is in Abrahamic religions, the theory is improbable since if “self” does not exist, then it becomes questionable what takes rebirth. According to these religions, an eternal self or soul exists. Upon careful examination, however, the theory seems plausible. Our experiences are a product of interaction involving numerous sensory perception functions. Moreover, a collection of these functions is what results in our actions. No single agent is accountable for all the choices that people make. Therefore, an abstract core referred to as “self” that is responsible for people’s actions and experiences does not exist.The Buddhist Theory of Anatman



Boisvert, M. (1995). The five aggregates: Understanding Theravada psychology and soteriology (No. 17). Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press.