You don’t have a soul


“You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” – C.S. Lewis

Well, at least that was C.S. Lewis’s assertion and most people’s unquestioned assumption. But it is one of the basic tenets of Buddhism that there is no independent, continuous and unbroken ātman (self). Even our body is only a collection of aggregates. If this is the case, who goes to heaven or hell, or is reborn into another life, assuming there are such things?

Yogācāra Buddhism posits anātman (no self) but admits the existence of a part of consciousness called the ālaya-vijñāna (all encompassing foundation consciousness) that is uninterrupted and that firmly records and stores the aftereffects of all our thoughts and deeds. The ālaya-vijñāna flawlessly retains all our experiences, recognises and contextualises things as we cognise them. Our experiences, according to their depth and significance upon our lives, are difficult to remove.

As noted, Yogācāra posits no self, nonetheless the part of our mind that reconciles our identity is called the manas, a deluded awareness that secretly, ceaselessly attaches itself to the notion of a continuous and unbroken self. The manas transforms objects of cognition by a deep attachment to the self, and by the resulting tendencies to protect and further that self. This is the part of you that says, “This looks so good to me and I like it!”

This ālaya-vijñāna and the manas together form our deep consciousness. They are followed by the six surface levels including the visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, and mental consciousness, each is aware only of their own objects. It is only our ālaya-vijñāna, an incorporeal but ever ceasing and arising part of our deep consciousness that carries on from one life to another, not our soul, which in other religions and philosophies is the distinct, immaterial, but permanent entity of a human being which C. S. Lewis called “You”.

Written by Ven. Sakya Longyen
Huayen on Indra’s Net

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7 thoughts on “You don’t have a soul

  1. William wrote: “The so-called junk DNA’s which float around the double helix have records of all our past lives, so does our oversouls which are located in the stars. But all these oversouls or master souls are actually parts of one single soul.”

  2. William wrote: “Junk DNA or non-coded DNA (all named by ignorant and arrogant scientist who) is one way the current soul expresses itself in the physical realm. The current soul which comes from the master soul carries memories of past lives. For each incarnation, we are given a new soul, attached with fragments of the souls of our previous incarnations.The master soul carries all info, including the life scripts of our next incarnations. Our current life scripts were written hundreds of years ago in our previous incarnations. And yes, we all wrote our own life scripts ourselves. In a sense, we are all actors reading our lines.”

  3. It was understandable that C.S. Lewis used the word “soul” because he was a Christian apologist. I don’t want to get into any theological argument, so I used the word “self”, and stated that Yogacara categorically denied the existence of atman (self). Because of my ignorance, I can only understand junk DNA in this way. “Junk DNA or non-coded DNA, aka “self”, which floats around the double helix, is one way the current “self” expresses “itself” in the physical realm. The current “self” which comes from the master “self” or over “self” carries memories of past lives. For each incarnation, we are given a new “self”, attached with “fragments of the “selves” of our previous incarnations” or “over selves”, aka “master selves”, which are located in the stars. The “master self” carries all info, including the life scripts, aka junk DNA’s, aka “selves” of our next incarnations. And yes, we all wrote our own life scripts “ourselves”. In a sense, we are all actors reading our lines.”

    As noted before, the “self” is created, furthered, protected by the manas, a part of our deep consciousness, but it is the alaya-vijnana not the “self” that carries on from life to life.

  4. Dustin A’Hjz wrote: ‎”Yogācāra Buddhism posits anātman (no self) but admits the existence of a part of consciousness called the ālaya-vijñāna (all encompassing foundation consciousness) that is uninterrupted and that firmly records and stores the aftereffects of all our thoughts and deeds.”

    If one believes this “all encompassing foundation consciousness” to exist in a part of the mind, then how does one go about accessing this ” ālaya-vijñāna (all encompassing foundation consciousness)”?

  5. At least five ways: (1) following your breath as used in Yoga and anapanna-sati , (2) “koan” as used in Japanese Zen, (3) “hua-tou” as used in Chinese Ch’an, (4) repeatedly chanting the name of a Buddha, and (5) repeatedly chanting a mantra, as used in syncretic Ch’an-Pure Land Buddhism. For more info on the differences between koan and hua-tou, read http://www.hsuyun.org/chan/en/part4.html. These techniques release trapped energy and clear delusions in the manas. One must release all internal negativity before one can clear the delusions of the manas. A guru may use “kundalini” energy to speed up a student’s progress, thus removing barriers in his spiritual quest.

    When one can clear the deluded mind at will, or otherwise cease using the head, one will enter Samadhi. When the manas is totally at rest, one will be able to abide in his own primordial nature, the alaya-vijnana. A person in this state is known to be in Samadhi. Accomplished yogis and Buddhas in Samadhi can be at different places at the same time and travel long distances to change events in all periods of time, while his body remains still as a rock.

  6. William wrote: “In other words, when we enter and stay in the fourth state of consciousness, slowing down our brain wave from beta to alpha, to theta, and delta, we access the deep subconscious of our being which is as vast as the cosmos itself.”

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