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Book: Buddhism in Five Minutes

Chapter: 20. To what Extent does Buddhism "Deny the Self"? The Non-Self Teaching

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.40758


Buddhism has long been associated with the claim that it “denies the self,” and that this distinguishes it from all other religious traditions. The applicability of non-self teaching to contemporary ideas about human identity in the West—informed, for example, by comparisons to the findings of cognitive science—is an evolving field. In early Buddhism, the notion that things are non-self is a subtle one, very much born out of Buddhism’s Indian heritage, and is easily misconstrued. To understand the original context of nonself teaching, we must locate it in Indian literature, where we first find it expressed, in which the context is the Buddha’s attempts to explain experience, suffering, and also rebirth in a setting quite different from any twenty-first-century culture, Buddhist or otherwise.

Chapter Contributors

  • Christopher Jones ( - cjones1) 'University of Cambridge'