The Concept of No-Self in Buddhism
I read a really interesting Medium article yesterday. Emmanuel says he has recently become interested in Buddhism, but that he has one big problem with it. Buddhism teaches that the self is an illusion but, as he asks in his title, ‘The self is an illusion… but for who exactly? An illusion needs a deceived one, no?’. In the article he goes on to say: “Illusions, as I understand it, don’t exist outside of the perception of a subject”, and asks “who is deceived by this illusion?”
I’ve always had the same problem myself. I’ve read that Buddhism teaches that there is no permanent self because what we perceive as our self is in a state of constant change. I therefore wonder who or what is observing and recording these constant changes. Also, if the goal of Buddhism is to seek enlightenment through meditation, thereby freeing oneself from the illusion, who or what exactly has this wish? And if Buddhism believes in reincarnation (rebirth), who or what is experiencing this?
Emmanuel says that he doesn’t have any answers, only questions, and invites any specialists on Medium to help him understand. I most definitely am not a specialist, and I’m aware of others on Medium who are more knowledgeable on these matters than I am. However, I have given this issue some thought in the past and written several articles about it. The most relevant one is ‘Buddhism — Soul, Self and No-Self’, at the end of which are two links to responses from Medium writers more knowledgeable than me. Other articles of mine on this theme can be found on this list.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. I have written in the past about other topics, including spirituality, metaphysics, psychology, science, Christianity, politics and astrology. All of those articles are on Medium, but the simplest way to see a guide to them is to visit my website (click here and here). My most recent articles, however, are only on Medium; for those please check out my profile, including my lists.