Against no-ātman theories of anattā

Asian Philosophy 12 (1):5 – 20 (2002)
Suppose we were to randomly pick out a book on Buddhism or Eastern Philosophy and turn to the section on 'no-self' (anattā). On this central teaching, we would most likely learn that the Buddha rejected the Upanisadic notion of Self (Ātman), maintaining that a person is no more than a bundle of impermanent, conditioned psycho-physical aggregates (khandhas). The rejection of Ātman is seen by many to separate the metaphysically 'extravagant' claims of Hinduism from the austere tenets of Buddhism. The status quo has not, however, gone unchallenged. I shall join forces against this pernicious view, integrating some recent contributions into a sustained, two-pronged argument against no-Ātman theories of anattā. At the end it shall be suggested, in line with Thanissaro Bhikkhu, that anattā is best understood as a practical strategy rather than as a metaphysical doctrine.
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