A question for the buddhists

: I have never been a formal student of buddhism, but have on occasion, especially in the past, read a bit about it and found it to best match my own understanding of life, etc. I have claimed it as my religion, when asked, if not for lack of a better answer.
The other night I found myself trying to explain buddhist thought to a born again friend, and was a little discouraged at my lack of cohesion so for the past few days I have been reintrocing myself to buddhism through online sources. I would appreciate any thoughts on the following:
Firstly, I have historically denied the existence of a soul to those who I have explained buddhism to. I tell them that the energy that fuels life is not separate from person to person or even person to animal or animal to plant etc. I have even gone so far as to say that the energy fueling these things is the same energy fueling the planets, solar systems, and cosmos in general. It is a singular energy with no separateness. The separateness is an illussion created by the body in which the energy finds itself. This alludes to the "oneness" so often spoken of in discussions of eastern thought. However, when I am asked about the idea of reincarnation, I have explained that it is really a misnomer, that the energy does not "travel" from one incarnation (as a human, etc) to another as it was never separate from that "other" in the first place. So basically, what we think of in our everyday waking life as our "selfs," ie our personalities or egos, is only a product of the brain-mind and ceases to exist as such after death.
Then, in explaining this I have misrepresented buddhism as essentially nihilistic. If what we think of as ourselves is an illussion and there is no self, then there is no accountability for our actions whatsoever because there is noone to be accountable. Karma is moot. Additionally, time and space are illusory as well, which is important to the reincarnation discussion as you will see.
My recent studies have made me rethink this stance. Apparently,buddhism holds that there is a self that has existed prior to this life and will continue into the next one, though in all incarnations it is in fact the same "self" and separate from other selves bouncing off each other throughout the universe. Further, one has lived in the Past and will be reborn in the Future. So time is an absolute, afterall. I am beginning to wonder where I picked up my previous ideas. For some reason I have attributed them to my past studies of buddhism. I am beginning to think that maybe they stemmed more from the insights I may have gained from my psychadelic experiences.
My question is, how does one reconcile this separate self with the idea of the uniformity of the ONE (which I believe in buddhism is refered to as the Ground of Being...Brahman, I want to say but I could be wrong.) I would appreciate any clarification on this matter, or directions to a place where I could find an anwer. Thanks and sorry for being so long winded.

Firstly, I have historically denied the existence of a soul to those who I have explained buddhism to.Good, 'cause that's just wishful thinking. I tell them that the energy that fuels life is not separate from person to person or even person to animal or animal to plant etc. I have even gone so far as to say that the energy fueling these things is the same energy fueling the planets, solar systems, and cosmos in general.Sounds good so far...go on. ;)It is a singular energy with no separateness. The separateness is an illussion created by the body in which the energy finds itself. This alludes to the "oneness" so often spoken of in discussions of eastern thought.Ahhh, this is not only taught in Eastern teachings. The teaching of the "Oneness of Being" is central to almost all of the mystical aspects of ALL religions. And yes, this includes Christianity. However, when I am asked about the idea of reincarnation, I have explained that it is really a misnomer, that the energy does not "travel" from one incarnation (as a human, etc) to another as it was never separate from that "other" in the first place. So basically, what we think of in our everyday waking life as our "selfs," ie our personalities or egos, is only a product of the brain-mind and ceases to exist as such after death.Yes, yes, go on. ;)Then, in explaining this I have misrepresented buddhism as essentially nihilistic. If what we think of as ourselves is an illussion and there is no self, then there is no accountability for our actions whatsoever because there is noone to be accountable.Actions still happen, there is simply no individual "do-er" which does them. Seeing that there is no individual self doesn't mean you simply become hedonistic and start raping and killing everyone in sight. It's a comical argument used by those who believe in God but it's simply based on ignorance and nothing more (and honestly, who would you have to keep more of an eye on: the person who says that they can be moral without God or the person that says that without God they would turn into animals and start killing and raping?). It's not that SUDDENLY there is no "self" to be held accountable. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A SELF FROM THE BEGINNING! Look around. What we deem as morality is already present WITHOUT A CONCRETE INDIVIDUAL SELF to be held accountable. This is the biggest misunderstanding of Buddhist teachings. When the illusory self is seen through, life goes on pretty much as it has up until that point. There is the realization that there has NEVER been an individual "self" and that what you consider "your life" is really the entire universe LIVING through you and all the good and bad things are part of that Universal Living. Karma is mootToo many New Age Idiots interpret Karma to mean "payback" or something. Karma, literally, means ACTION. OK. I'm off to see a movie. I'll get back on this thread when I get home. SCRAP

Apparently,buddhism holds that there is a self that has existed prior to this life and will continue into the next one, though in all incarnations it is in fact the same "self" and separate from other selves bouncing off each other throughout the universe.You might want to read the Diamond Sutra. The Buddha admonishes one of his disciples for believing in such a thing as "sentient beings" and other things. The concept of an individual self that is reincarnated is simply that: a concept. So time is an absolute, afterall."Time" does not exist without reference to past or future and is not an absolute. My question is, how does one reconcile this separate self with the idea of the uniformity of the ONE (which I believe in buddhism is refered to as the Ground of Being...Brahman, I want to say but I could be wrong.)The concept of the individual self arises in the Ground of All Being (which is what you truly are). This concept is a useful social fiction but nothing more than that: a fiction. Too often, we forget that words are merely concepts used in attempts to point the seeker towards that which cannot be conceptualized (Brahman, Ground of Being, God, Consciousness, etc) and in forgetting that these words are merely concepts, we listen to idiots who try to tell us that those things are really, really real. Does that help?SCRAP

It's about all of us finding and offering each other truth and having the courage to speak up so the system - of mind and family, media, politics, business and culture - can evolve into something less corrupt, something that embodies our true selves. It is about all of us developing the ability to lift ourselves out of our immersion in our own story, and society as a whole doing so, as well, to see it as a single pattern, from a sympathetic but critical distance.

Very good responses. I appreciate them. I have to go but I'll come back with more later.

I'm not a buddhist, but it I was I think I would argue with Scrap on a couple of points. But, again, I would not be doing so from a position of authority. I think you should just be aware that there would be communities of buddhists who don't agree on all these points, particularly the existance of a soul and reincarnation.

Nice discussion. I really enjoy budhist readings. They have given me a lot of peace of mind on spiritual matters over the last couple years.

If there's no soul in Buddhism what's that thing that gets recycled over and over in reincarnation?

Here's a good site:

www.buddhanet.net

There's lots of guides, papers, articles, etc.

Like I said, I'm not an expert. I would just caution anyone interested in Buddhism that there are many types, and that what is believed in some regions and at some periods in history - like reincarnation, gods, chants, etc. - has been demystified or secularized by some contemporary schools of Buddhism.

It always seemed to me that buddhist philosophy is trying to debunk the concept of "self" with another concept of "no-self".. I feel that taoism does this more accesibly and intuitively. (I consider myself following both philosophies) After all, by "no-self" they really just mean that the individual is a) perpetually changing and b) interconnected with all things. It's basically that simple. Buddhism comes from the Indian tradition that seems to love semantics

I also think westerners are ironically attracted to buddhism or 'secular' buddhism precisely because they are more 'egoistic' or 'individualistic' so to speak. They don't like a deity calling the shots

"After all, by 'no-self' they really just mean that the individual is a) perpetually changing and b) interconnected with all things."


That's not how I understand it.


"No-self", as you put it, means that what you regard as "I", doesn't exist. It is merely a concept imputed by your mind.


If you try to isolate the thing that you call "I", you will find that it isn't there.

LOL. Bludhall is correct.