The Nature of self in Tibetan Buddhism. Freiburg 2015

James Low

Public Talk, Freiburg, 4th June 2015

The nature of the self in Tibetan Buddhism.
Buddhism is often taken as expressing the view that there is no self, yet here we are! So how can we understand the experience of being a self-less self?


In European culture, we take it for granted that some kind of self exists. That is to say, we exist. We exist as something. That’s the baseline. What we exist as can be described in lots of different ways. If we are not religious there may be the sense that when we die, existence moves into nonexistence; there will be nothing to continue. Religious people believe that something, which some call the soul, continues. Is the soul the same as the self? Some forms of theology say that the soul belongs to God and so the God part of us goes back to heaven. If, however, the soul has got too contaminated, too mixed up with things of this world, it sinks down into the lower realms. For most people nowadays it’s not quite clear what a soul would be; it’s something a bit nebulous that you can’t quite grasp, an invisible thing. The more that religious culture differs from the general present-day worldview, the more it is experienced as a kind of haunting.
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