Sample Essay on Self and Non-Self


Rebirth is one of the popular concepts discussed in various spiritual and religious teachings, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Souls can be reincarnated into different bodily shapes, celestial beings, humans, animals, insects or plants. The transmigration and rebirth of one’s souls, or atman, based on Hindu and Buddhist teachings, is determined by one’s karmic deeds and connections: the “law of karma.” Hindus and Buddhist believe that human interactions are interdependent and that one’s actions have ethical consequences. One’s face, development, and deterioration are nor random acts but based on one’s causal and karmic connection. For example, it is believed that within the Tibetan community, the rebirth of the Dali Lama, Karmapa and other spiritual teachers is connected to their past life and deeds.

Bhakti yoga is one of the four major practices that are believed to liberate the soul for rebirth. The major significance of this yoga is that it regarded as the main vehicle for neutralizing bad karma and, thereby, avoiding one or more otherwise karmicaly deserved unpleasant reincarnations. This is possible because in Hinduism the grace of gods is considered to be superior to the law of karma.

However, both Hinduism and Buddhism believe that terrestrial life inevitably includes some suffering that results from our desiring the sensuous pleasures found in terrestrial life, that such desires pull us back again and again to successive lives, and that final liberation from the “wheel of rebirth” comes only with the abandonment of such desires and the attainment of detachment from corporeal pleasures. This goal can be reached by various techniques, including right conduct and the assiduous practice of meditation that gradually lead to the extinction of the craving which promotes rebirth.

Buddha talks about No-self since there are a constant flux of desire, action, effect, and reaction, but no persisting soul. When a person dies, the accumulated effects of his actions set in motion a further train of events which leads to other consequences, one of which may be the terrestrial birth of another personality. If the first personality has achieved detachment from sensuous desires, a birth into another “plane” may occur instead of a new terrestrial birth. But this newly born personality will relate to the first one only as the flame of a candle can light another candle’s flame.

Buddha believe Bhakti yoga is useless since it has no proof that karma and rebirth are true the claim that most human suffering is due to past life sins is equivalent to unfairly blaming the victim for his suffering. The supporters of karma and rebirth try to counter this by saying that not accepting past life guilt merely leads to an illusion of innocence.

This karmic justification may have been acceptable prior to the development of modern biological science, but this is no longer true. All too often one hears things like that child was born with a genetic or birth defect because of some past life sin. Unless it is proposed that a soul seeking rebirth has control over the genetic material in a fertilized egg and chooses to sabotage its coming life by purposely deforming that material it is difficult to see a relationship between karma and genetic defects. In this case, however, that bad karma had nothing to do with the conception of the child so the child remains innocent.