Doctrine of Anatta

This refers to the piece by Dr C Ratnatunga, a Consultant, published in the Sunday island recently. Among the important concepts enunciated by the Buddha, in his doctrine/philosophy as being universally valid, are dukka, anicca and anatta. The first two, state of unsatisfactoriness/sorrow and impermanence, are easy to understand, while the third ingredient of “no self” or the absence of a never changing soul or a stream of consciousness, defies comprehension to a non-Buddhist. Of course, it is a logical step arising from impermanence.

In biology/evolution we know that the rare beneficial effects of random mutations get accumulated in the genes and get passed down to the progeny. This is how evolution is supposed to operate. But this process operates with respect to matter though the theory of “memes” advocated by Richard Dawkins, a sort of cultural trait, implies that it operates in the non-material sphere, too. The evolution of the mammalian and human brain retaining the reptilian part deals with the material plane.

There is also the case where the effects of good and bad actions cause changes in the changing or evolving soul or the stream of consciousness in an individual when he “re-becomes” another individual at death. This matter is raised as a question put to the Buddha by a Ven. Monk as recorded in “What the Buddha taught” by the Rev Walpola Rahula (page 66 of the 1990 Reprint). The question posed by the monk is “… if there is no self or Atman who gets the results of the kamma?” The answer of the Master was “I have taught conditionality everywhere in all things”.

What then happens at the stage of rebirth? Is it that at the time of death the “atman” becomes permanent for an instant for the net balance of kamma to …read more

Source:: The Island