Friday, 29 January 2016

Anatman and Karma

The well known conflict in Buddhism between the anatman doctrine and personal karma has been the focus of a discussion recently.
buddhism and merciful lies

On a rational level the paradox remains intractable but perhaps it is the result of a false dichotomy. If the theory arises out of a mistaken view of the vedic atma then the opposition to that other vedic core doctrine of karma might fade away. What they suppose atma to signify is not what the Upanishads hold.

Atma is not the ego or a constitutive identity that is an element of the personality. It does not act and it does not change. As is said in the Brhad.Up. “It moves as it were, it shakes as it were”. It is a mistake to identify it with the ego and the Buddhist motto ‘form is emptiness, emptiness is form’ is near to the essential vedic view. Consciousness that pervades the body, mind, and intellect is superimposed on them and becomes identified with them. Karma arises and is maintained by this and therefore liberation cannot come about through identification with personal action. Maya being the core of experienced reality the contradictions that ensue ought not to surprise or affright.

The corresponding paradox for the vedantin is the position that enlightenment is not personal.

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