Why There Is No Self: A Buddhist Perspective for the West

Buddhism is famous for its doctrine of no-self (anātman).  Do Buddhists really believe that we have no self? Yes. Isn’t that crazy? No. Do you mean that none of us exist? No. But we don't exist as selves.  And to believe that you do exist as a self is a serious, albeit common, pathology. Let me explain.

The Buddhist doctrine of no-self is not a nihilistic denial of your reality, or that of your friends and relatives; instead, it is a middle way between such a nihilistic denial and a reification of the existence that you do have. That reification is instinctive, and then forms the basis for lots of bad religion and metaphysics, as well as for some really problematic ethical thought and conduct, all of which lead to a mass of suffering. Since Buddhism is all about the release from suffering (they call it nirvāṇa), and the belief in a self is regarded as

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