Category Archives: M-Book

Emptiness and Self


Reference: Mindfulness Approach


The Buddhist concept of “emptiness” is described at Emptiness.

EMPTINESS is the ultimate reference point from which all phenomena can be understood objectively without any pre-conceived notion.

The Buddhist concept of “self” is described at The Structure of “I”

There is no unmoving mover behind the movement. It is only movement.

It is not correct to say that life is moving, but life is movement itself. Life and movement are not two different things. In other words, there is no thinker behind the thought. Thought itself is the thinker.

If you remove the thought, there is no thinker to be found.

Here we cannot fail to notice how this Buddhist view is diametrically opposed to the Cartesian cogito ergo sum: ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Buddhism is counter-intuitive, indeed.

So, in nirvana, self simply disappears into emptiness.

The self is simply a mock-up. It is however you mock it up. Underlying self is emptiness.

You stop mocking up the self, and you disappear too.

For most people that is terrible, indeed!

But the disappearance of “you” or “I” means the disappearance of the filters (fixed ideas, prejudices, assumptions) only that distort perception.

What remains is the universal viewpoint with no preconceived notion.

Buddhism is the only system based on the OBJECTIVITY of “emptiness”, and not on the SUBJECTIVITY of “self”.

Buddha said, “The Absolute Truth is that there is nothing absolute in the world, that everything is relative, conditioned and impermanent, and that there is no unchanging, everlasting, absolute substance like Self, Soul, or Ātman within or without.”

All systems of religion and philosophy (other than Buddhism) are based on the SUBJECTIVITY of “self”.

The basic-basic that Hubbard (of Scientology) was looking for is the idea of soul, self or thetan that installs an arbitrary pre-conceived notion as the reference point in one’s thinking.


Accessibility of Memory

Reference: Mindfulness Approach


This exercise helps practice mindfulness with respect to memory. The student may feel that a memory may be there, but then he determines rapidly whether that memory is accessible or not.

In this exercise the student reads an item from a list to see if it triggers a memory or not. If a memory comes up, he acknowledges its presence and looks at all the physical perceptions it contains.

If no memory comes up, he understands that the memory is not accessible at that time. He does not force the mind, or interferes with it in any way, to bring the memory up. He trusts the natural processes of the mind to provide him with the memories.

The exercise gives the person some familiarity with the Discipline of Mindfulness.


EXERCISE: Accessibility of Memory

PURPOSE: To recognize and respect the accessibility of memories.

PREREQUISITE:  Always go back to Discerning the Environment if you are having trouble doing this exercise.

GUIDING PRINCIPLE: The Discipline of Mindfulness


  1. Focus your attention randomly on an item from the following list. Contemplate it to see if it triggers a memory.

  2. If a memory comes up, acknowledge its presence and view the physical perceptions connected to that memory. Then see if there is another memory connected with that item.

  3. If no memory comes up, then acknowledge that memory is not accessible at that moment. Focus your attention on another item from the list.

  4. When there are several memories triggered by an item, then view them in the order naturally suggested by the mind.

  5. When a memory comes up that is too introverting or upsetting then go back to Discerning the Environment to extrovert the attention.

  6. Do not interfere with the mind. Let it carry out its functions in the most natural fashion.

  7. Do this exercise for at least 20 minutes. Then end it off at a good point.

The List:

  1. You were happy.
  2. You climbed a tree.
  3. You ate something good.
  4. You received a present.
  5. You enjoyed a laugh.
  6. You helped somebody.
  7. You threw a ball.
  8. Something important happened to you.
  9. You played a game.
  10. You jumped down from a tree.
  11. You won a contest.
  12. You laughed loudly.
  13. You met someone you liked.
  14. You flew on a plane.
  15. You were at a beautiful place.
  16. You jumped into a pool.
  17. You enjoyed a beautiful morning.
  18. You went for a walk.
  19. Somebody teased you.
  20. You sat in a coffee shop.
  21. You danced with joy.
  22. You raced with someone.
  23. You completed something important.
  24. You were pleasantly surprised.
  25. You met somebody after a long time.
  26. You were caught in a rain.
  27. You heard a thunder.
  28. Someone smiled at you.
  29. You played with a pet.
  30. You held someone’s hand.
  31. Someone picked you up.
  32. You were spinning around.
  33. You read a good book.
  34. You felt breeze on your face.
  35. You saw a beautiful flower.
  36. You smelled a rose.
  37. Somebody called you.
  38. You were in a play.
  39. You sang aloud.
  40. You watched a movie.
  41. Your team won.
  42. You rode with friends.
  43. You visited a beautiful garden.
  44. You played in water.
  45. The weather was stormy.
  46. Somebody gave you a hug.
  47. You liked somebody.
  48. You slid down a slide.
  49. You ran toward someone you liked.
  50. You enjoyed beautiful weather.



In mindfulness, the basic tool is the discipline of mindfulness. Apart from that a person is basically interested in the physical and mental objects that form up in the mind.

Physical objects in the mind are copies of physical objects perceived from the environment. Mental objects in the mind are distinct thoughts, emotions and efforts that can be clearly identified.

Mental computations are allowed to occur as automatic free associations in the background. The person does not get involved with the computations.


The Original Thesis – Last Chapter


Dianetic and Scientology started with the publication of THE ORIGINAL THESIS by L. Ron Hubbard in 1948. There are useful insights in this thesis. I wish Hubbard had used scientific method to develop them further.
Here is the last chapter of this book with my comments (indented in different color) from the viewpoint of mindfulness.


By aberration is meant the aberree’s reactions to and difficulties with his current environment.

Aberrations spring from the discontinuities, disharmonies and inconsistencies in the mental matrix.

By somatic is meant any physical or physically sensory abnormality which the preclear manifests generally or sporadically in his environment, or any such manifestation encountered and re-experienced during auditing.

Somatics spring from the discontinuities, disharmonies and inconsistencies in the cellular matrix.

The aberration is the mental error caused by engrams and the somatic is the physical error occasioned by the same source.

The abnormalities in mental matrix lead to the abnormalities in the cellular matrix and vice versa.

The auditor follows the general rule that no aberrations or somatics exist in a subject which cannot be accounted for by engrams. He may ordinarily be expected to discover that anything which reduces the physical or mental perfection of the subject is engramic. He applies this rule first and in practice admits no organic trouble of any character. Only when he has obviously obtained a Clear and when he has observed and has had that Clear medically examined after a period of sixty days to six months from the end of auditing should he be content to assign anything to organic origin. He cannot be expected to know until the final examination exactly what somatic was not engramic. In other words he must persistently adhere to one line of thought (that the preclear can be brought to mental and physical perfection) before he resigns any mental or physical error in the preclear to a purely organic category. Too little is known at this writing of the recoverability of the mind and body for a dianeticist to deny that ability to recover. Since primary research, considerable practice has demonstrated that this ability to reconstruct and recover is enormous, far beyond anything previously conceived possible.

In mindfulness contemplation one should start with the idea that it is possible to clear most aberrations and somatics through this process.

Dianetics accounts for all faith healing phenomena on an entirely scientific basis and the dianeticist can expect himself to consort daily in his practice with what appear to be miracles.

In addition to knowledge of his subject, considerable intelligence and imagination, and a personality which inspires confidence, the dianetic auditor must possess persistency to a remarkable degree. In other words, his drives must be phenomenally high. There is no substitute for the auditor’s having been cleared. It is possible for an individual to operate with Dianetics without having been released and he may do so for some time without repercussion, but as he audits he will most certainly encounter the perceptics contained in some of his own engrams time after time until these engrams are so restimulated that he will become mentally or physically ill.

In psychoanalysis it was possible for the analyst to escape this fate because he dealt primarily with locks occurring in the post-speech life. The analyst might even experience relief from operating on patients since it might clarify his own locks which always had been more or less completely available to his analytical mind. This is very far from the case with the dianeticist who handles continually the vital and highly charged data which cause physical and mental aberrations. An auditor in Dianetics may work with impunity for a very short time only before his own condition demands that he himself be audited. While this is aside from the main subject of auditing, it has been too often observed to be neglected.

All one needs is the discipline of mindfulness.

Every engram possesses some quality which denies it to the analytical mind. There are several types. First there is the “denyer” engram which contains the species of phrase, “Frank will never know about this,” “Forget it!” “Cannot remember it!” and so forth. Second is the self-invalidating engram which contains the phrases, “Never happened,” “Can’t believe it,” “Wouldn’t possibly imagine it,” and so on.

Third is the “bouncer” engram which contains the species of phrase, “Can’t stay here,” “Get out!” and other phrases which will not permit the preclear to remain in its vicinity but return him to present time. A fourth is the “holder” engram which contains “Stay here,” “Hold still,” “Can’t get out,” and so on.

These are four of the general types which the dianeticist will find occasion him the greatest difficulty. The type of phrase being encountered, however, is easily diagnosed from preclear reaction.

Hubbard is categorizing his speculations about the difficulty in discovering engrams. All his difficulties really came from digging into the mind instead of letting it unwind.

There are many other types of engrams and phrases which will be encountered. There is the self-perpetuating engram which implies that, “It will always be this way,” and “It happens all the time.” The auditor will soon learn to recognize them, forming lists of his own.

An engram would not be an engram unless it had strong compulsive or repressive data contained in it. All engrams are self-locking to some degree, being well off the time track and touching it slightly, if at all, with some minor and apparently innocuous bit of information which the analytical mind disregards as unimportant. Classed with the denyer variety are those phrases which deny perception of any kind. The dianetic auditor will continually encounter perception denial and will find it one of the primary reasons the preclear cannot recall and articulate the engram. “Can’t see,” “Can’t hear,” “Can’t feel,” and “Isn’t alive” tend to deny the whole engram containing any such phrases.

See above. Force begets force.

As the engram is a powerful surcharge of physical pain, it will without any phrases whatsoever deny itself to the analytical mind which, in seeking to scan the engram, is repelled by the operating principle that it must avoid pain for the organism. As has already been covered, there are five ways the organism can handle a source of pain. It can neglect it, attack it, succumb to it, flee from it, or avoid it. As the entire organism handles exterior pain sources, so does the analytical mind tend to react to engrams. There is an exterior world reaction of the organism to pain sources then. This is approximated when the analytical mind is addressed in regard to engrams. There is an excellent reason for this. Everything contained in the reactive mind is exterior source material. The analytical mind went out of circuit and was recording imperfectly if at all in the time period when the exterior source was entered into the reactive mind.

Pain is force. A person may forcefully react to a source of pain as follows.



Flee…………………………… Bounce

Succumb……………………..Be Held


But a person may also let the mind unwind itself on a smooth gradient. This option is not considered in Dianetics.

An analytical mind when asked to approach an engram reacts as it would have had it been present, which is to say, in circuit, at the moment when the engram was being received. Therefore, an artificial approach to the engram must be made which will permit the auditor to direct the subject’s analytical mind into but one source of action: Attack.

The dianetic approach is to attack the source of pain (the engram).

The actual incident must be located and re-experienced. In that the analytical mind has five possible ways of reacting to the engram and in that the auditor desires that only one of these—attack—be used, the preclear must be persuaded from using the remaining four.

The person must be persuaded not to neglect, succumb, flee or avoid.

On this general principle can be created many types of approach to the problem of obtaining a Clear. The one which is offered in this manual is that one which has met with quicker and more predictable results than others researched at this time. It has given, in use, one hundred per cent results. In the beginning, at this time, an auditor should not attempt to stray far from this offered technique. He should attempt to vary it only when he himself has had extensive and sufficient practice which will enable him to be very conversant with the nature of engrams. Better techniques will undoubtedly be established which will provide swifter exhaustion of the reactive mind. The offered technique has produced results in all types of cases so far encountered.

There are three equations which demonstrate how and why the auditor and preclear can reach engrams and exhaust them:

  1. The auditor’s dynamics are equal to or less than the engramic surcharge in the preclear.
  2. The preclear’s dynamics are less than the engramic surcharge.
  3. The auditor’s dynamics plus the preclear’s dynamics are greater than the engramic surcharge.

When the preclear’s dynamics are entirely or almost entirely reduced, as in the case of amnesia trance, drug trances and so forth, the auditor’s dynamics are not always sufficient to force the preclear’s analytical mind into an attack upon the engram.

There must be enough of preclear dynamic that is further boosted by the discipline of mindfulness. A mindfulness counselor may be needed to assist a willing person when the person’s dynamic is very low.

The auditor’s dynamics directed against an engram in a preclear who has not been subjected to a process which will inhibit the free play of his reactive mind and concentrate it, ordinarily provokes the preclear into one of the four unusable methods of succumbing, fleeing, avoiding or neglecting the engram. Demanding that the preclear “face reality,” or “see reason,” or that he “stop his foolish actions” falls precisely into this category. The auditor’s dynamics operating against an awake preclear can produce an “insanity break,” temporary or of considerable duration in the preclear.

The person must understand the discipline of mindfulness before the mindfulness counselor can help him.

When the preclear is in reverie some of his own dynamics are present and the auditor’s dynamics added to these make a combination sufficient to overcome the engramic surcharge.

Reverie is not used in mindfulness, only an awareness of the discipline.

If the auditor releases his dynamics against the analytical mind of the preclear, which is to say, the person of the preclear, while an attempt is being made to reach an engram (in violation of the auditor’s code, or with some erroneous idea that the whole person of the preclear is confronting him) he will receive in return all the fury of the engramic surcharge.

Preclear’s dynamics are at least restraining the dramatization to some degree. This restraint is gone if preclear’s dynamics are opposed.

An engram can be dramatized innumerable times, for such is the character of the reactive mind that the surcharge of the engram cannot exhaust itself and will not exhaust itself regardless of its age or the number of times dramatized until it has been approached by the analytical mind of the subject.

In the absence of analytical awareness the engram dramatizes itself without weakening.

The additive dynamic drive law must be made to apply before engrams are reached. It is occasionally very necessary to change dianetic auditors, for some preclears will work well only with either a male or a female auditor, or with one or another individual auditor. This will not be found necessary in many cases. Three cases are on record where the preclear was definitely antipathetic toward the auditor throughout the entire course of auditing. The dianeticist was found to be a restimulator for one or more of the persons contained in the engrams. Even so, these persons responded. Greater patience was required on the part of the auditor. Closer observance of the auditor’s code was necessary and a longer time was required for auditing. It will be discovered that once the preclear understands what is desired of him and why, his basic personality is aroused to the extent that it will cooperate with any auditor in order to be free. It will suffer through many violations of the auditor’s code. Once a preclear has started his auditing he will ordinarily continue to cooperate in the major requirements to the fullest extent, no matter what apparent antagonisms he may display in minor matters.

Instead of the additive dynamic law, one should think in terms of the law of non-interference of the mind that allows the mind to unwind.

Reverie is a method that has been used with success. The analytical mind of the preclear, while reduced in its potential and under direction, is still capable of thinking its own thoughts and forming its own opinions. Implicit obedience to whatever the auditor suggests is not desirable as the preclear will inject extraneous material at the faintest suggestion of the auditor. Drugs inhibit the somatic and have no use in entering a case.

Instead of reverie one should practice non-interference of the mind. During this practice the person should be left alone to observe his mind.

The fact that the dianeticist is interested solely in what has been done to the preclear and is not at all interested in what the preclear himself has done to others greatly facilitates auditing since there is no social disgrace in having been an unwitting victim.

It is not a matter of what the person has done or what has been done to him. It is simply a matter of looking at the mind objectively without interference.

In reverie the preclear is placed in a light state of “concentration” which is not to be confused with hypnosis. In the state of alliance, therefore, the mind of the preclear will be found to be, to some degree, detachable from his surroundings and directed interiorly. The first thing that the dianeticist will discover in most preclears is aberration of the sense of time. There are various ways that he can circumvent this and construct a time track along which he can cause the preclear’s mind to travel. Various early experiences which are easily reached are examined and an early diagnosis can be formed. Then begins an immediate effort to reach basic, with attempted abortion or prenatal accident predominating. Failures on the first attempts to reach prenatal experiences should not discourage the dianetic auditor since many hours may be consumed and many false basics reached and exhausted before the true prenatal basic is attained.

In mindfulness approach, no interference with the mind is allowed either from the counselor or from the person himself. There is only objective observation of the mind. The mind will chart its own “time track”. The mind will decide how to approach the basic.

In this type of reverie the dianeticist can use and will observe certain apparently natural laws in force. They are as follows: The difficulties the analytical mind encounters when returned to or searching for an engram are identical to the command content of that engram.

In mindfulness we are not guessing at the content of the engram.

An aberree in adult life is more or less obeying, as restimulated, the composite experiences contained in his engrams.

Let the person come up with that conclusion by himself or herself through actual observation.

The preclear’s behavior in reverie is regulated by the commands contained in the engram to which he is returned and is modified by the composite of chronologically preceding engrams on his time track.

The person simply observes how the mind is unwinding.

The somatics of a preclear are at their highest in an engram where they were received and at the moment of reception in that experience.

When returned to a point prior to an engram, the commands and somatics of that engram are not effective on the preclear. As he is returned to the moment of an engram, the preclear experiences, as the common denominator of all engrams, a considerable lessening of his analytical potential. He speaks and acts in a modified version of the engram. All complaints he makes to the auditor should be regarded as possibly being verbatim from, first, the engram that he is reexperiencing or, second, from prior engrams.

Nobody is returning the person anywhere in mindfulness. The idea of returning in the dianetic procedure comes from hypnosis.

At the precise moment of an engramic command the preclear experiences obedience to that command. The emotion a preclear experiences when regressed to an engram is identical to the emotional tone of that engram. Excesses of emotion will be found to be contained in the word content of the engram as commands.

This does not happen during the unwinding of the mind in mindfulness.

When a preclear is returned to before the moment of reception of an engram he is not subject to any part of that engram, emotionally, aberrationally, or somatically.

This is an assessment based on the theory of hypnosis.

When the time track is found to contain loops or is blurred in any portion, its crossings or confusions are directly attributable to engramic commands which precisely state the confusion.

In reality there is no linear time track. There are only the relationships of the mental matrix.

Any difficulty a preclear may experience with returning, reaching engrams, perceiving, or recounting, is directly and precisely commanded by engrams.

This happens only when force is used to return the person, as in hypnosis.

An engram would not be an engram were it easy to reach or if it gave the preclear no difficulty and contained no physical pain.

Resolving a person’s case is like untying a knot.

The characteristic of engrams is confusion. First, the confusion of the time track; second, the confusion of an engramic chain wherein similar words or somatics mix incidents; third, confusion of incidents with engrams.

Yes, there is confusion, but the best way to navigate through this confusion is by letting the mind unwind naturally.

This confusion is occasioned by the disconnected state of the analytical mind during the receipt of the engram. Auditing by location and identification of hidden incidents, first rebuilds at least the early part of the time track, locates and fixes engrams in relation to one another in time, and then locates the basic of the basic chain and exhausts it. The remainder of the chain must also be exhausted. Other engrams and incidents exhaust with ease after the erasure of the basic or the basic of any chain (within that chain). Locks vanish without being located. A tone four gained on basic permits the subsequent erasure on the time track to go forward with ease. A whole chain may rise to four without the basic chain having been located.

The whole process is letting the unassimilated nodes assimilate back into the mental matrix.

Any perception of pre-speech life during reverie denotes the existence of engramic experience as far back as the time track is open.

When there is a mental-cellular matrix there is also perceptic experience.

If the individual’s general tone is clearly not tone four, if he is still interested in his engrams, another more basic chain than the one found still exists.

If the person is introverted, there are unassimilated nodes to be sorted out.

Engramic patterns tend to form an avoidance pattern for the preclear. From basic outward there is an observable and progressive divergence between the person himself and his returned self. In the basic engram of the basic chain and for a few subsequent incidents on that chain, he will be found within and receiving the experiences as himself. In subsequent incidents cleavage is observable, and in late engrams the preclear is found to be observing the action from outside of himself, almost as a disinterested party. This forms the principal primary test for the basic of the basic chain. Another test for basic is “sag.”

In mindfulness, the person should be fully experiencing the unwinding of the mind at every point.

Any engram may be exhausted to a point where it will recede without reaching tone four. Although it is temporarily and momentarily lost to the individual and apparently does not trouble him, that engram which has been exhausted in a chain without the basic having been reached will “sag” or reappear within twenty-four to sixty hours. Basic on any chain will not “sag” but will lift on a number of recountings, rise to tone four and will remain erased. Another test for basic is whether or not it begins to lift with ease. If an engram does not intensify or remain static after many recountings, it can be conceived to be at least a basic on some chain. Locks will lift and disappear without returning as they are not fixed by physical pain. Large numbers of locks can be exhausted bringing an alleviation of the preclear’s difficulties and such a course may occasionally be pursued in the entrance of a case. The discovery and lifting of the basic to which the locks are appended removes the locks automatically.

Such considerations do not arise when the mind is unwound with mindfulness.

These rules and laws even if modified in their statement will be found invariable. Incompetent auditing cannot be excused by the supposed discovery of a special case or exception. A physical derangement must be in the category of actually missing parts of the organism which cause permanent disability, and instances of this are not common.

The dianetic procedure encounters many difficulties because it is digging into the mind using force. Force begets force in return. This does not happen in the mindfulness procedure where the mind is allowed to unwind naturally as it may.


The Quest for Certainty


Reference: Mindfulness Approach


Buddha declared.

“The Absolute Truth is that there is nothing absolute in the world, that everything is relative, conditioned and impermanent, and that there is no unchanging, everlasting, absolute substance like Self, Soul, or Ātman within or without.”

DEFINITION: Absolute means, “Viewed independently; not comparative or relative; ultimate; intrinsic.”

This postulate may appear self-contradictory to some, but it essentially says, “There are no absolute certainties; all certainties are relative.” This statement does not degrade any certainty we have. It simply means that one can always come up with a better certainty.

That is how science makes progress. Einstein declared the speed of light to be a universal constant. This is a certainty for now, but there possibly may be a wider context in which the speed of light is a special case.

Similarly, in the field of spirituality, we cannot be absolutely certain that self or soul is permanent. The phenomenon that is described as self or soul must be open to further investigation.

There is little progress possible for a person who believes his certainties are absolute. One can always improve upon a certainty one has by making sure it is based on truth.

Truth, as perceived, is never absolute. However, it shall proceed from one logical state to the next in a continuous manner. The truth in an area shall be harmonious, and it shall be reflected in the consistency of observations.

Thus the truth shall depend on the continuity, harmony and consistency of observations in an area. Determining the absolute truth may be an impossible task; but we shall definitely be able to restore truth in an area by resolving all discontinuities, disharmonies or inconsistencies.

The whole logical structure of the universe may be looked upon as a single truth. The universal truth may or may not be absolute, but it definitely acts as the context against which all other observation in the universe may be examined for truth.

Maybe if we start seeking continuity, harmony and consistency in everything, we may someday arrive much closer to the absolute truth, even if we never reach it. 





This is Chapter 6 of the Book: What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula


What in general is suggested by Soul, Self, Ego, or to use the Sanskrit expression Atman, 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 Atman, 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.

Buddhism stands unique in the history of human thought in denying the existence of such a Soul, Self, or Atman.  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 Atman, 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’ (patisotagami), against man’s selfish desires. 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 see, 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.

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-samuppada).

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’, Atman, 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, and 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 hod);

This arising, that arises (Imassuppada idam uppajjati);

When this is not, that is not (Imasmim asati idam na boti);

This ceasing, that ceases (Imassa nirodha idam nirujjhati).

On this principle of conditionality, relativity and inter-dependence, the whole existence and continuity of life and its cessation are explained in a detailed formula which is called Paticca-samuppada ‘Conditioned Genesis’, consisting of twelve factors:

  1. Through ignorance are conditioned volitional actions or karma-formations (Avijjapaccaya samkhara).
  2. Through volitional actions is conditioned consciousness (Samkharapaccaja vinnanam).
  3. Through consciousness are conditioned mental and physical phenomena (Vinnanapaccaja namaruparti).
  4. Through mental and physical phenomena are conditioned the six faculties (i.e., five physical sense-organs and mind) (Namarupapaccayd salayatanam).
  5. Through the six faculties is conditioned (sensorial and mental) contact (Salayatanapaccaya phasso).
  6. Through (sensorial and mental) contact is conditioned sensation (Phassapaccaja vedana).
  7. Through sensation is conditioned desire, ‘thirst’ (Vedana-paccaja tanha).
  8. Through desire (‘thirst’) is conditioned clinging (Tanha-paccaja upadanam).
  9. Through clinging is conditioned the process of becoming (Upadatiapaccaya bhavo).
  10. Through the process of becoming is conditioned birth (Bhavapaccaya jati).
  11. Through birth are conditioned (12) decay, death, lamentation, pain, etc. (Jatipaccaya jaramaranam).

This is how life arises, exists and continues. If we take this formula in its 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; through the cessation of volitional activities, consciousness ceases;… through the cessation of birth, decay, death, sorrow, etc., cease.

It should be clearly remembered that each of these factors is conditioned (paticcasamuppanna) as well as conditioning “(paticcasamuppada). 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. Conditioned Genesis should be considered as a circle, and not as a chain.

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, like any other thought, is conditioned. So-called ‘freedom’ itself is conditioned and relative. Such a conditioned and relative ‘Free Will’ is not denied.

There can be nothing absolutely free, physical or mental, as everything is interdependent 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 existence is conditioned and relative, and is within the law of cause and effect? Here again, the idea of Free Will is basically connected with the ideas of God, Soul, justice, reward and punishment. Not only is so-called free will 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 Atman, ‘I’, Soul, Self, or Ego, is considered only a false belief, a mental projection. This is 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. paramartha-satya). 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 Mahayana-sutralankara says: ‘A person (pudgala) should be mentioned as existing only in designation (prajnapit) (i.e., conventionally there is a being), but not in reality (or substance dravya)’.

The negation of an imperishable Atman 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.’

It is therefore curious that recently there should have been a vain attempt by a few scholars 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 Atman 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 Atman or self. Or one may even say that the Buddha was totally wrong in denying the existence of an Atman. But certainly it will not do for anyone 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 most 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 Atman, I shall be that after death, permanent, abiding, ever-lasting, unchanging, and I shall exist as for eternity”. He hears the Tathagata 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, Nirvana. Then that 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.’

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

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 is 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 reason is that the Buddha denied categorically, in unequivocal terms, in more than one place, the existence of Atman, 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 20 (or verses 277, 278, 279).

The first two verses say:

‘All conditioned things are impermanent'(Sabbe SAMKHARA anicca), and ‘All conditioned things are dukkha’ (Sabbe SAMKHARA dukkha).

The third verse says:

‘All dhammas are without self’ (Sabbe DHAMMA anatta).

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

The term samkhara denotes the Five Aggregates, all conditioned, interdependent, relative thing and states, both physical and mental. If the third verse said : ‘All samkhara (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 dhamma is used in the third verse.

The term dhamma is much wider than samkhara. 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, Nirvana. 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 Atman, not only in the Five Aggregates, but nowhere else too outside them or apart from them.

This means, according to the Theravada teaching, that there is no self either in the individual (pudgala) or in dhammas. The Mahayana Buddhist philosophy maintains exactly the same position, without the slightest difference, on this point, putting emphasis on dharma-nairatmya as well as on pudgala-nairatmya.

In the Alagaddupama-sutta of the Majjhima-nikaya, addressing his disciples, the Buddha said: ‘O bhikkhus, accept a soul-theory (Attavada) in the acceptance of which there would not arise grief, lamentation, suffering, distress and tribulation. But, do you see, O bhikkhus, such a soul-theory in the acceptance of which there would not arise grief, lamentation, suffering, distress and tribulation?’

‘Certainly not, Sir.’

‘Good, O bhikkhus. I, too, O bhikkhus, do not see a soul-theory, in the acceptance of which there would not arise grief, lamentation, suffering, distress and tribulation.

If there had been any soul-theory which the Buddha had accepted, he would certainly have explained it here, because he asked the bhikkhus to accept that soul-theory which did not produce suffering. But in the Buddha’s view, there is no such soul-theory, and any soul-theory, whatever it may be, however subtle and sublime, is false and imaginary, creating all kind of problems, producing in its train grief, lamentation, suffering, distress, tribulation and  trouble.

Continuing the discourse the Buddha said in the same sutta: ‘O bhikkhus, when neither self nor anything pertaining to self can truly and really be found, this speculative view: “The universe is that Atman (Soul); I shall be that after death, permanent, abiding, everlasting, unchanging, and I shall exist as such for eternity” – is it not wholly and completely foolish?’

Here the Buddha explicitly states that an Atman, or Soul, or Self, is nowhere to be found in reality, and it is foolish to believe that there is such a thing.

Those who seek a self in the Buddha’s teaching quote a few examples which they first translate wrongly, and then misinterpret. One of them is the well-known line Atta hi attano natho from the Dhammapada (XII , 4, or verse 160), which is translated as ‘Self is the lord of self’, and then interpreted to mean that the big Self is the lord of the small self.

First of all, this translation is incorrect. Atta here does not mean self in the sense of soul. In Pali the word atta is generally used as a reflexive or indefinite pronoun, except in a few cases where it specifically and philosophically refers to the soul-theory, as we have seen above. But in general usage, as in the chapter in the Dhammapada where this line occurs, and in many other places, it is used as a reflexive or indefinite pronoun meaning ‘myself’, ‘yourself’, ‘himself’, ‘one’, ‘oneself’, etc.

Next, the word natho does not mean ‘lord’, but ‘refuge’, ‘support’, ‘help’, ‘protection’. Therefore, Atta hi attano natho really means ‘ One is one’s own refuge’ or ‘One is one’s own help’ or ‘support’. It has nothing to do with any metaphysical soul or self. It simply means that you have to rely on yourself, and not on others.

Another example of the attempt to introduce the idea of self into the Buddha’s teaching is in the well-known words Attadipa viharatha, attasarana anannasarana, which are taken out of context in the Mahaparinibbana-sutta. This phrase literally means: ‘Dwell making yourselves your island (support), making yourselves your refuge, and not anyone else as your refuge.’ Those who wish to see a self in Buddhism interpret the words attadipa and attasarana ‘taking self as a lamp’, ‘taking self as a refuge’.

We cannot understand the full meaning and significance of the advice of the Buddha to Ananda, unless we take into consideration the background and the context in which these words were spoken.

The Buddha was at the time staying at a village called Beluva. It was just three months before his death, Parinirvana. At this time he was eighty years old, and was suffering from a very serious illness, almost dying (maranantika). But he thought it was not proper for him to die without breaking it to his disciples who were near and dear to him. So with courage and determination he bore all his pains, got the better of his illness, and recovered. But his health was still poor.

After his recovery, he was seated one day in the shade outside his residence. Ananda, the most devoted attendant of the Buddha, went to his beloved Master, sat near him, and said: ‘Sir, I have looked after the health of the Blessed One, I have looked after him in his illness. But at the sight of the illness of the Blessed One the horizon became dim to me, and my faculties were no longer clear. Yet there was one little consolation: I thought that the Blessed One would not pass away until he had left instructions touching the Order of the Sangha.’

Then the Buddha, full of compassion and human feeling, gently spoke to his devoted and beloved attendant: ‘Ananda, what does the Order of the Sangha expect from me? I have taught the Dhamma (Truth) without making any distinction as exoteric and esoteric. With regard to the truth, the Tathagata has nothing like the closed fist of a teacher (acariya-mutthi). Surely, Ananda, if there is anyone who thinks that he will lead the Sangha, and that the Sangha should depend on him, let him set down his instructions. But the Tathagata has no such idea. Why should he then leave instructions concerning the Sangha? I am now old, Ananda, eighty years old. As a worn-out cart has to be kept going by repairs, so, it seems to me, the body of the Tathagata can only be kept going by repairs. Therefore, Ananda, dwell making yourselves your island (support), making yourselves, not anyone else, your refuge ; making the Dhamma your island (support), the Dhamma your refuge, nothing else your refuge.’

What the Buddha wanted to convey to Ananda is quite clear. The latter was sad and depressed. He thought that they would all be lonely, helpless, without a refuge, without a leader after their great Teacher’s death. So the Buddha gave him consolation, courage, and confidence, saying that they should depend on themselves, and on the Dhamma he taught, and not on anyone else, or on anything else. Here the question of a metaphysical Atman, or Self, is quite beside the point.

Further, the Buddha explained to Ananda how one could be one’s own island or refuge, how one could make the Dhamma one’s own island or refuge: through the cultivation of mindfulness or awareness of the body, sensations, mind and mind- objects (the four Satipatthanas). There is no talk at all here about an Atman or Self.

Another reference, oft-quoted, is used by those who try to find Atman in the Buddha’s teaching. The Buddha was once seated under a tree in a forest on the way to Uruvela from Benares. On that day, thirty friends all of them young princes, went out on a picnic with their young wives into the same forest. One of the princes who was unmarried brought a prostitute with him. While the others were amusing themselves, she purloined some objects of value and disappeared. In their search for her in the forest, they saw the Buddha seated under a tree and asked him whether he had seen a woman. He enquired what was the matter. When they explained, the Buddha asked them: ‘What do you think, young men? Which is better for you? To search after a woman, or to search after yourselves?’

Here again it is a simple and natural question, and there is no justification for introducing far-fetched ideas of a metaphysical Atman or Self into the business. They answered that it was better for them to search after themselves. The Buddha then asked them to sit down and explained the Dhamma to them. In the available account, in the original text of what he preached to them, not a word is mentioned about an Atman.

Much has been written on the subject of the Buddha’s silence when a certain Parivrajaka (Wanderer) named Vacchagotta asked him whether there was an Atman or not. The story is as follows :

Vacchagotta comes to the Buddha and asks: ‘Venerable Gotama, is there an Atman?’

The Buddha is silent.

‘Then Venerable Gotama, is there no Atman?’

Again the Buddha is silent.

Vacchagotta gets up and goes away.

After the Parivrajaka had left, Ananda asks the Buddha why he did not answer Vacchagotta’s question. The Buddha explains his position:

‘Ananda, when asked by Vacchagotta the Wanderer: “Is there a self?”, if I had answered : “There is a self”, then, Ananda, that would be siding with those recluses and brahmanas who hold the eternalist theory (sassata-vada).

‘And, Ananda, when asked by the Wanderer; “Is there no self?” if I had answered: There is no self”, then that would be siding with those              recluses and brahmanas who hold the annihilationist theory (ucchada-vada).

‘Again, Ananda, when asked by Vacchagotta: “Is there a self?”, if I had answered: “There is a self”, would that be in accordance with my knowledge that all dhammas are without self?’

‘Surely not, Sir,’

‘And again, Ananda, when asked by the Wanderer: “Is there no self?”, if I had answered: “There is no self”. Then that would have been a greater confusion to the already confused Vacchagotta. For he would have thought: Formerly indeed I had an Atman (self), but now I haven’t got one.’

It should now be quite clear why the Buddha was silent. But it will be still clearer if we take into consideration the whole background, and the way the Buddha treated questions and questioners – which is altogether ignored by those who discussed this problem.

The Buddha was not a computing machine giving answers to whatever questions were put to him by anyone at all, without any consideration. He was a practical teacher, full of compassion and wisdom. He did not answer questions to show his knowledge and intelligence, but to help the questioner on the way to realization. He always spoke to people bearing in mind their standard of development, their tendencies, their mental make-up, their character, their capacity to understand a particular question.

According to the Buddha, there are four ways of treating questions : (1) Some should be answered directly ; (2) others should be answered by way of analyzing them ; (3) yet others should be answered by counter-questions ; (4) and lastly, there are questions which should be put aside.

There may be several ways of putting aside a question. One is to say that a particular question is not answered or explained, as the Buddha had told this very same Vacchagotta on more than one occasion, when those famous questions whether the universe is eternal or not, etc., were put to him. In the same way he had replied to Malunkyaputta and others.

But he could not say the same thing with regard to the question whether there is an Atman (Self) or not, because he had always discussed and explained it. He could not say ‘there is self’, because it is contrary to his knowledge that ‘all dhammas are without self’. Then he did not want to say ‘there is no self’, because that would unnecessarily, without any purpose, have confused and disturbed poor Vacchagotta who was already confused on a similar question, as he had himself admitted earlier. He was not yet in a position to understand the idea of Anatta. Therefore, to put aside this question by silence was the wisest thing in this particular case.

We must not forget too that the Buddha had known Vacchagotta quite well for a long time. This was not the first occasion on which this inquiring Wanderer had come to see him. The wise and compassionate Teacher gave much thought and showed great consideration for this confused seeker. There are many references in the Pali texts to this same Vacchagotta the Wanderer, his going round quite often to see the Buddha and his disciples and putting the same kind of question again and again, evidently very much worried, almost obsessed by these problems. The Buddha’s silence seems to have much more effect on Vacchagotta than any eloquent answer or discussion.

Some people take ‘self’ to mean what is generally known as ‘mind’ or ‘consciousness’. But the Buddha says that it is better for a man to take his physical body as self rather than mind, thought, or consciousness, because the former seems to be more solid than the later, because mind, thought, or consciousness (citta, mano, vinnana) changes constantly day and night even faster than the body (kaya).

It is the vague feeling ‘I AM’ that creates the idea of self which has no corresponding reality, and to see this truth is to realize Nirvana, which is not very easy. In the Samjutta-nikaya there is an enlightening conversation on this point between a bhikkhu named Khemaka and a group of bhikkhus.

These bhikkhus ask Khemaka whether he sees in the Five Aggregates any self or anything pertaining to a self. Khemaka replies ‘No’. Then the bhikkhus say that, if so, he should be an Arahant free from all impurities. But Khemaka confesses that though he does not find in the Five Aggregates a self, or anything pertaining to a self, ‘I am not an Arahant free from all impurities. O friends, with regard to the Five Aggregates of Attachment, I have a feeling “I AM”, but I do not clearly see “This is I AM”.’

Then Khemaka explains that what he calls ‘I AM’ is neither matter, sensation, perception, mental formations, nor consciousness, nor anything without them. But he has the feeling ‘I AM’ with regard to the Five Aggregates, though he could not see clearly ‘This is I AM’.

He says it is like the smell of a flower: it is neither the smell of the petals, nor of the colour, nor of the pollen, but the smell of the flower.

Khemaka further explains that even a person who has attained the early stages of realization still retains this feeling ‘I AM’. But later on, when he progresses further, this feeling of ‘I AM’ altogether disappear, just as the chemical smell of a freshly washed cloth disappears after a time when it is kept in a box.

This discussion was so useful and enlightening to them that at the end of it, the text says, all of them, including Khemaka himself, became Arahants free from form all impurities, thus finally getting rid of ‘I AM’.

According to the Buddha’s teaching, it is as wrong to hold the opinion ‘I have no self'(which is the annihilationist theory) as to hold the opinion ‘I have self’ (which is the eternalist theory), because both are fetters, both arising out of the false idea ‘I AM’. The correct position with regard to the question of Anatta is not to take hold of any opinions or views, but to try to see things objectively as they are without mental projections, to see that what we call ‘I’, or ‘being’, is only a combination of physical and mental aggregates, which are working together interdependently in flux of momentary change within the law of cause and effect, and that there is nothing permanent, everlasting, unchanging and eternal in the whole of existence.

Here naturally a question arises: If there is no Atman or Self, who gets the results of karma (actions)? No one can answer this question better than the Buddha himself. When this question was raised by a bhikkhu the Buddha said: ‘I have taught you, O bhikkhus, to see conditionality everywhere in all things.’

The Buddha’s teaching on Anatta, No-Soul, or No-Self, should not be considered as negative or annihilistic. Like Nirvana, it is Truth, Reality; and Reality cannot be negative. It is the false belief in a non-existing imaginary self that is negative. The teaching on Anatta dispels the darkness of false beliefs, and produces the light of wisdom. It is not negative; as Asanga very aptly says: ‘There is the fact of No-selfness’ (nairatmyastita).