My interest largely turned from Christianity to Buddhism about 8 months ago, even though I still posted a few posts on Christianity. But the main thing I’ve been thinking about recently is the claim by modern/secular Buddhists that Buddha taught there is no self / no soul. I don’t find this in the Dhammapada or the suttas in general. It seems to me to be a misinterpretation. Below I give one simple logical argument that I think goes a long way to demonstrating the absurdity of thinking he taught there is no self / no soul.
Did Buddha teach suicide or the eight-fold noble path as the means to liberation [from suffering]? If the body is all there is then liberation comes merely from death and enlightenment is not necessary, everyone on their deathbed is liberated, arhat [i.e. fully enlightened] or not. You could not come up with a better way to undo the entire dhamma! A self beyond the body is required to make enlightenment/arhatship necessary for liberation. [Yet, Buddha taught that only arhats, those who are fully enlightened, achieve liberation.] Therefore, its impossible that Buddha did not teach a self.
That is easily backed up with Dhammapada 153-154 “Through many a birth in samsara [i.e. physical world] have I wandered in vain, seeking the builder of this house. Repeated birth is indeed suffering! O house-builder, you are seen! You will not build this house again. For your rafters are broken and your ridgepole shattered. My mind has reached the Unconditioned; I have attained the destruction of craving.”
The house is clearly a metaphor for the body, the house builder whatever creates the body. The “I” is the soul that controls the body.
Now how did “I” wander through many lives when “I” according to modern Buddhism is only the body (i.e. the house) which is destroyed at the end of each life? Obviously “I” here is the unconditioned self / soul. Unless someone wants to argue that houses live in houses. The metaphor of the house requires that the “I” be distinct from the house, ergo the “I” is not the body.
Now that the “I” has seen the house-builder (reached Enlightenment/Awakening) there will be no more house (body, 5 aggregates) built, but the “I” here continues, just without a house. So the body that is obliterated with each death is not the self, but there is an unconditioned self, which alone is the true self, because the body is not the self but merely the “house” and not a real self it’self’.