Listener questions: no-self and universal Buddhism

Prompted by another listener question, we start off clearing up some issues about the “no self” or “anatman” doctrine in Buddhism. Does it mean “no soul”? Short answer, yes with an if; long answer, no with a but. In short, there is a world of difference between the question of a soul in a Christian worldview and anatman in an Indian religious worldview. Moving on from “no self,” we tackle the question of whether or not there’s one thing that unites different Buddhist traditions. Is it “the Buddha”? Or “karma”? Or some other basic tenet or practice that unifies all the various strands of Buddhism? We tackle it head on! By asking if there should be something that unites all Buddhisms? Or should we, to borrow a phrase, celebrate our diversity?

1 thought on “Listener questions: no-self and universal Buddhism”

  1. Hi Reverend Harry and Scott,
    Thanks for answering my simple minded questions. I didn’t expect a whole podcast answer and i appreciate it. You covered alot of ground, i would have been satisfied with a one-liner email answer.

    When i was listening to your complicated no-self podcast a while back, i just thought, Hey, maybe the Buddha was anticipating/explaining the idea of a soul in future/past religions and he was saying that there was no such thing (in a very complicated way). Anyway, you answered my question. No, he wasn’t. They are two entirely different concepts. Case closed. Thank you.

    My question about a basic, common thread uniting all Buddhist sects was prompted by another of your podcasts where you stated that Shinran hardly (or only once) mentioned the Four Noble Truths (or maybe it was the Eighfold Path). Anyway, that kind of blew me away since everything (which is not much) i had read/heard about Buddhism included those ideas as being the most important in Buddhist thought. As a matter of fact, when somebody asks what is Buddhism, you would start your answer by talking about Four Noble Truths, Eightfold path, etc. I should have asked this question specifically because your answers were much deeper and broader than what my question warranted. Basically, i think your answer was that
    it’s not necessary to have a basic principle that unites all Buddhists, it’s all good.

    I enjoy your podcasts, they’re free-wheeling, spontaneous and fun and i like it that you guys laugh alot, but at the same time i respect your knowledge and expertise and i’m learning alot from you.
    Thanks again,

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