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佛陀的启示 第六章 无我论 Chapter VI. The Doctrine of No Soul: Anatta
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Chapter VI. The Doctrine of No Soul: Anatta

第六章  无我论

What in generally is suggested by Soul, Self, Ego, or to use the Sanskrit expression Ātman, is that in man there is a permanent, everlasting and absolute entity, which is the unchanging substance behind the changing phenomenal world. According to some religions, each individual has such a separate soul which is created by God, and which, finally after death, lives eternally either in hell or heaven, its destiny depending on the judgment of its creator. According to others, it goes through many lives till it is completely purified and becomes finally united with God or Brahman, Universal Soul or Ātman, from which it originally emanated. This soul or self in man is the thinker of thoughts, feeler of sensations, and receiver of rewards and punishments for all its actions good and bad. Such a conception is called the idea of self.

一般用到‘灵魂’、‘自我’、‘个我’或梵文里的‘神我’( Atman)(编者注: Atman其实只是‘我’的意思,一般均译为‘神我’,沿用已久,但是否与奥义书及吠檀多之哲学相符,甚可置疑。)这些字眼的时候,它们所提示的意义是:在人身中有一恒常不变、亘古长存的绝对实体。这实体就是那千变万化的现象世界背后不变的实质。照某些宗教说,每一个人都有一个个别的灵魂,这灵魂是上帝所创造的。人死后,它即永久地生活在地狱或天堂里,而它的命运则完全取决于它的创造主的裁判。依另一些宗教的说法,这灵魂可以历经多生,直到完全净化,最后乃与上帝或梵天或神我合一,因为当初它就是从这里面流出来的。这个人身中的灵魂或自我是思想者、感受者、一切善恶行为所得奖惩的领纳者,这种的观念叫做我见。

Buddhism stands unique in the history of human thought in denying the existence of such a Soul, Self, or Ātman. According to the teaching of the Buddha, the idea of self is an imaginary, false belief which has no corresponding reality, and it produces harmful thoughts of 'me' and 'mine', selfish desire, craving, attachment, hatred, ill-will, conceit, pride, egoism, and other defilements, impurities and problems. It is the source of all the troubles in the world from personal conflicts to wars between nations. In short, to this false view can be traced all the evil in the world.


Two ideas are psychologically deep-rooted in man; self-protection and self-preservation. For self-protection man has created God, on whom he depends for his own protection, safety and security, just as a child depends on its parent. For self-preservation man has conceived the idea of an immortal Soul or Ātman, which will live eternally. In his ignorance, weakness, fear, and desire, man needs these two things to console himself. Hence he clings to them deeply and fanatically.


The Buddha's teaching does not support this ignorance, weakness, fear, and desire, but aims at making man enlightened by removing and destroying them, striking at their very root. According to Buddhism, our ideas of God and Soul are false and empty. Though highly developed as theories, they are all the same extremely subtle mental projections, garbed in an intricate metaphysical and philosophical phraseology. These ideas are so deep-rooted in man, and so near and dear to him, that he does not wish to hear, nor does he want to understand, any teaching against them.


The Buddha knew this quite well. In fact, he said that his teaching was 'against the current' (patisotagāmi), against man's selfish desire. Just four weeks after his Enlightenment, seated under a banyan tree, he thought to himself; 'I have realized this Truth which is deep, difficult to understand… comprehensible only by the wise… Men who are overpowered by passions and surrounded by a mass of darkness cannot see this Truth, which is against the current, which is lofty, deep, subtle and hard to comprehend.'


With these thoughts in his mind, the Buddha hesitated for a moment, whether it would not be in vain if he tried to explain to the world the Truth he had just realized. Then he compared the world to a lotus pond: In a lotus pond there are some lotuses still under water; there are others which have risen only up to the water level; there are still others which stand above water and are untouched by it. In the same way in this world, there are men at different levels of development. Some would understand the Truth. So the Buddha decided to teach it. [1]

The doctrine of Anatta or No-Soul is the natural result of, or the corollary to, the analysis of the Five Aggregates and the teaching of Conditioned Genesis (Paticca-samuppāda). [2]

We have seen earlier, in the discussion of the First Noble Truth (Dukkha), that what we call a being or an individual is composed of the Five Aggregates, and that when these are analysed and examined, there is nothing behind them which can be taken as 'I', Ātman, or Self, or any unchanging abiding substance. That is the analytical method. The same result is arrived at through the doctrine of Conditioned Genesis which is the synthetical method, an according to this nothing in the world is absolute. Everything is conditioned, relative, and interdependent. This is the Buddhist theory of relativity.

Before we go into the question of Anatta proper, it is useful to have a brief idea of the Conditioned Genesis. The principle of this doctrine is given in a short formula of four lines:


When this is, that is (Imasmim sati idam hoti);
This arising, that arises (Imassuppādā idam uppajjati);
When this is not, that is not (Imasmim asati idam na hoti);


This ceasing, that ceases (Imassa nirodhā idam nirujjhati). [3]
On this principle of conditionality, relativity and interdependence, the whole existence and continuity of life and its cessation are explained in a detailed formula which is called Paticca-samuppāda 'Conditioned Genesis', consisting of twelve factors:








Through ignorance are conditioned volitional actions or karma-formations (Avijjāpaccayā samkhārā).
Through volitional actions is conditioned consciousness (Samkhārapaccayā viňňānam).
Through consciousness are conditioned mental and physical phenomena (Viňňānapaccayā nāmarūpam).
Through mental and physical phenomena are conditioned the six faculties (i.e., five physical sense-organs and mind) (Nāmarūpapaccayā salāyatanam).
Through the six faculties is conditioned (sensorial and mental) contact (Salāyatanapaccayā phasso).
Through (sensorial and mental) contact is conditioned sensation (Phassapaccayā vedanā).
Through sensation is conditioned desire, 'thirst' (Vedanāpaccayā tanhā).
Through desire ('thirst') is conditioned clinging (Tanhāpaccayā upādānam).
Through clinging is conditioned the process of becoming (Upādānapaccayā bhavo).
Through the process of becoming is conditioned birth (Bhavapaccayā jāti).
Through birth are conditioned (12) decay, death, lamentation, pain, etc. (Jātipaccayā jarāmaranam…).

This is how life arises, exists and continues. If we take this formula in reverse order, we come to the cessation of the process: Through the complete cessation of ignorance, volitional activities or karma-formations cease; through the cessation of volitional activities, consciousness ceases; … through the cessation of birth, decay, death, sorrow, etc., cease.



It should be remembered that each of these factors is conditioned (paticcasamuppanna) as well as conditioning (paticcasamuppāda). [4] Therefore they are all relative, interdependent and interconnected, and nothing is absolute or independent; hence no first cause is accepted by Buddhism as we have seen earlier. [5] Conditioned Genesis should be considered as a circle, and not as a chain. [6]

于此应该明白熟知的是:这缘起法则的每一部分,一方面是由众多条件(缘)和合而生( conditioned缘生的),另一方面又同时构成其它部分生起的条件(condition-ing 缘起的)。[注四]因此,它们之间的关系,完全是相对的、互为依存的、互相联结的。没有一事一物是绝对独立的。所以,佛教不接受最初因,这在前文已讲过。缘起法则是一个首尾相接的环,而不是一条直线的链子。[注五]

The question of Free Will has occupied an important place in Western thought and philosophy. But according to Conditioned Genesis, this question does not and cannot arise in Buddhist philosophy. If the whole of existence is relative, conditioned and interdependent, how can will alone be free? Will which is included in the fourth Aggregate (samkhārakkhandha), like any other thought, is conditioned (paticca-samuppanna). So-called 'freedom' itself in this world is not absolutely free. That too is conditioned and relative. There is, of course, such a conditioned and relative 'Free Will', but not unconditioned and absolute. There can be nothing absolutely free in this world, physical or mental, as everything is conditioned and relative. If Free Will implies a will independent of conditions, independent of cause and effect, such a thing does not exist. How can a will, or anything for that matter, arise without conditions, away from cause and effect, when the whole of life, the whole of existence, is conditioned and relative? Here again, the idea of Free Will is basically connected with the ideas of God, Soul, justice, reward and punishment. Not only so-called free will is not free, but even the very idea of Free Will is not free from conditions.


According to the doctrine of Conditioned Genesis, as well as according to the analysis of being into Five Aggregates, the idea of an abiding, immortal substance in man or outside, whether it is called Ātman, 'I', Soul, Self, or Ego, is considered only a false belief, a mental projection. This is the Buddhist doctrine of Anatta, No-Soul or No-Self.


In order to avoid a confusion it should be mentioned here that there are two kinds of truths: conventional truth (sammuti-sacca, Skt. Samvrti-satya) and ultimate truth (paramattha-sacca, Skt. Paramārtha-satya). [7] When we use such expressions in our daily life as 'I', 'you', 'being', 'individual', etc., we do not lie because there is no self or being as such, but we speak a truth conforming to the convention of the world. But the ultimate truth is that there is no 'I' or 'being' in reality. As the Mahāyāna-sūtrālankāra says: 'A person (pudgala) should be mentioned as existing only in designation (prajňapti) (i.e., conventionally there is a being), but not in reality (or substance dravya)'. [8]


'The negation of an imperishable Ātman is the common characteristic of all dogmatic systems of the Lesser as well as the Great Vehicle, and, there is, therefore, no reason to assume that Buddhist tradition which is in complete agreement on this point has deviated from the Buddha's original teaching.' [9]


It is therefore curious that recently there should have been a vain attempt by a few scholars[10] to smuggle the idea of self into the teaching of the Buddha, quite contrary to the spirit of Buddhism. These scholars respect, admire, and venerate the Buddha and his teaching. They look up to Buddhism. But they cannot imagine that the Buddha, whom they consider the most clear and profound thinker, could have denied the existence of an Ātman or Self which they need so much. They unconsciously seek the support of the Buddha for this need for eternal existence-of course not in a petty individual self with small s, but in the big Self with a capital S.


It is better to say frankly that one believes in an Ātman or or Self. Or one may even say that the Buddha was totally wrong in denying the existence of an Ātman. But certainly it will not do for any one to try to introduce into Buddhism an idea which the Buddha never accepted, as far as we can see from the extant original texts.


Religions which believe in God and Soul make no secret of these two ideas; on the contrary, they proclaim them, constantly and repeatedly, in the eloquent terms. If the Buddha had accepted these two ideas, so important in all religions, he certainly would have declared them publicly, as he had spoken about other things, and would not have left them hidden to be discovered only 25 centuries after his death.


People become nervous at the idea that through the Buddha's teaching of Anatta, the self they imagine they have is going to be destroyed. The Buddha was not unaware of this.


A bhikkhu once asked him: 'Sir, is there a case where one is tormented when something permanent within oneself is not found?'


'Yes, bhikkhu, there is,' answered the Buddha. 'A man has the following view: “The universe is that Ātman, I shall be that after death, permanent, abiding, ever-lasting, unchanging, and I shall exists as such for eternity”. He hears the Tathāgata or a disciple of his, preaching the doctrine aiming at the complete destruction of all speculative views… aiming at the extinction of “thirst”, aiming at detachment, cessation, Nirvāna. Then than man thinks: “I will be annihilated, I will be destroyed, I will be no more.” So he mourns, worries himself, laments, weeps, beating his breast, and becomes bewildered. Thus, O bhikkhu, there is a case where one is tormented when something permanent within oneself is not found.' [11]


Elsewhere the Buddha says: 'O bhikkhus, this idea that I may not be, I may not have, is frightening to the uninstructed world-ling.' [12]


Those who want to find a 'Self' in Buddhism argue as follows: It is true that the Buddha analyses being into matter, sensation, perception, mental formations, and consciousness, and says that none of these things it self. But he does not say that there is no self at all in man or anywhere else, apart from these aggregates.


This position is untenable for two reasons:


One is that, according to the Buddha's teaching, a being is composed only of these Five Aggregates, and nothing more. Nowhere has he said that there was anything more than these Five Aggregates in a being.

The second reasons is that the Buddha denied categorically, in unequivocal terms, in more than one place, the existence of Ātman, Soul, Self, or Ego within man or without, or anywhere else in the universe. Let us take some examples.


In the Dhammapada there are three verses extremely important and essential in the Buddha's teaching. They are nos. 5, 6 and 7 of chapter XX (or verses 277, 278, 279).

The first two verses say:


'All conditioned things are impermanent' (Sabbe SAMKHĀRĀ aniccā), and 'All conditioned things are dukkha' (Sabbe SAMKHĀRĀ dukkhā).


The third verse says:


'All dhammas are without self' (Sabbe SAMKHĀRĀ anattā). [13]


Here it should be carefully observed that in the first two verses the word samkhārā 'conditioned things' is used. But in its place in the third verse the word dhammā is used. Why didn't the third verse use the word samkhārā 'conditioned things' as the previous two verses, and why did it use the term dhammā instead? Here lies the crux of the whole matter.


The term samkhāra [14] denotes the Five Aggregates, all conditioned, interdependent, relative things and states, both physical and mental. If the third verse said: 'All samkhārā (conditioned things) are without self', then one might think that, although conditioned things are without self, yet there may be a Self outside conditioned things, outside the Five Aggregates. It is in order to avoid misunderstanding that the term dhammā is used in the third verse.


The term dhamma is much wider than samkhārā. There is no term in Buddhist terminology wider than dhamma. It includes not only the conditioned things and states, but also the non-conditioned, the Absolute, Nirvāna. There is nothing in the universe or outside, good or bad, conditioned or non-conditioned, relative or absolute, which is not included in this term. Therefore, it is quite clear that, according to this statement: 'All dhammas are without Self', there is no Self, no Ātman, not only in the Five Aggregates, but nowhere else too outside them or apart from them. [15]