The Conundrum of Continuity


I live. I perform actions and have experiences. I die. I am reborn. The actions that I perform affect the quality of my rebirth. I can escape from this cycle. These statements, while highly simplistic, are a broad reflection of the teachings of both the ancient Indian Brahmanical religion - the forerunner of what we now call Hinduism - and of Buddhism, as well as of other ancient Indian faiths. Indeed, the doctrine of karma and rebirth is “of near universal pervasiveness” in Indian religious thought, accepted, with some variations, by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains alike (Tull 2004: 318). Where these faiths differ radically, however, is over the question of who or what it is which has these experiences, who or what it is which is eventually reborn, and who or what it is which is able to escape from the cycle. This essay will explore some of the challenges which the Buddhists faced when answering these questions, and will look briefly at some of the ways

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