The Self

A Thematic Compilation by Avi Sion

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2. Knowledge of Self


1.     Self or Soul

Nagarjuna, together with other Buddhists, denies the existence of a real “self” in man[1], i.e. that the “I” of each person is a soul or spiritual entity distinct from his physical body. This concept, referred to as the “atman”, was regarded in Indian (Hindu) tradition as “the feeler of sensations, thinker of thoughts, and receiver of rewards and punishments for actions good and bad”, something that “persists through physical changes, exists before birth and after death, and remains from one life to the other”, something “constant and eternal” and “self-subsistent”, which was ultimately “ontologically identical with Brahman, the essential reality underlying the universe” (i.e. God). The atman, or at least the ultimate Brahman essence of every atman, was considered as the most “real” of existents, because unlike the transient phenomena of experience, it was “permanent, unchanging and independent.”

  1. Nagarjuna attacks this view, arguing that if to be “real” means to be “permanent, unchanging and independent”, then the phenomena apparent to us would have to be regarded as “illusions”, since they are transient, changing and dependent. It would follow that transience, change and dependence – being only manifested by phenomena – are also not “real”. To Nagarjuna this seems “absurd”, because “moral disciplines would lose their significance and spiritual effort would be in vain.”
  2. Furthermore, he asks whether or not “changing phenomena”, i.e. “our bodies or physical appearances”, are “characteristics of the atman”, and if so, what the relation between the atman and its characteristics might be, are they “identical” or “different”? If they were “identical”, then atman would be subject to birth and death (and so forth) like the body, in contradiction to the definition of atman. If they are “different”, then the atman “would be perceived without characteristics”, which “it is not”, because “nothing can be perceived without characteristics”. On the other hand, if the atman is “without any characteristic”, it would be “in principle, indefinable and hence inconceivable”.
  3. Moreover, to the argument that “although the atman differs from the characteristics and cannot be perceived directly, its existence can be inferred”, Nagarjuna replies that “inference and analogy are inapplicable in the case of knowing the atman” because they are only “applicable among directly perceivable phenomena”. He therefore considers that “it is unintelligible to say that atman exists behind changing appearances.”

Nagarjuna thus comes to the conclusion that “nothing has selfhood” and “atman is empty”. This does not constitute a rejection on his part of a “conventional” idea of the self, as a mere “collection of different states or characteristics” such that “the self and characteristics are mutually dependent”. This artificial construct of a self, being entirely identified with the perceivable phenomena we attribute to it, is not “permanent, unchanging and independent”. Allow me now to debate the issues.

Let us start with argument (a). I would agree with Nagarjuna here, that reality and illusion should not be defined as his predecessors do with reference to eternity, constancy and causal independence or their negations. As explained earlier, “reality” and “illusion” are epistemological judgments applied to “appearances”. These two concepts arise first in relation to phenomena. Phenomena (perceived things) are considered, in practice and in theory, to be prima facie “real”, and then demoted to the temporary status of “problematic” if contradictions are apparent between two of them, until either or both of these phenomena is/are dumped into the category of “illusion”, on either deductive or inductive grounds. There is no concept of “reality” or “illusion” apart from appearance; they merely refer to subcategories of appearances.

At a later stage, these concepts are enlarged from perceptual appearances to conceptual and intuitive appearances. Both the latter appearances similarly have, as soon as and however vaguely they are conceived or intuited, an initial credibility, which we call the status of reality. But being less evident, more hypothetical, their effective status is closer to problematic, and they have to be immediately and repeatedly thereafter further defined, and tested for internal consistency, for consistency with empirical data, and by comparison to alternative theses. The answers to these questions determine the degree of probability we assign to concepts or intuitions. Eventually, if they are found contrary to experience, or inconsistent with themselves or a larger conceptual context, or less credible than their alternatives, they are relegated to the status of the illusory.

For us, then, all appearances are equally ‘real’ in the primary sense that it is a fact that they exist and are objects of consciousness[2]. Moreover, as earlier explained, with reference to inductive and deductive issues, pure percepts (concrete appearances, phenomena) are always ‘real’; but concepts (abstract appearances), including the conceptual admixtures in percepts, may be regarded as to various degrees ‘real’ (or inversely, ‘illusory’).

This analysis of reality and illusion as ontological qualifications based on epistemological considerations, shows that there is no basis for Hindu philosophy’s identification of them with eternity, constancy and causal independence or their negations. The latter seems to be a poetic drift, an expression of devotion to God: the presumed common ground of all selves is hailed as the only “real” thing, in contrast to which everything else is mere “illusion”. “Real” in that context means significant to the world, worthy of attention and pursuit – it is a value judgment of another sort.

If we look to the epistemological status of the concept of God, we would say that it is conceivable to some degree; but not to an extreme degree, because there are considerable vagueness and uncertainty in it (see the previous topic of the present essay). An appeal to revelation is not a solution, because revelations to prophets are for the rest of us mere hearsay; and anyway different prophets have conflicting visions, so that even if we grant that they had the visions, we have to regard some (and therefore possibly all) of them as having misinterpreted their respective visions. Faith is always involved and required with reference to God. But even supposing God is admitted to exist, and that He is one[3], eternal, invariant and completely independent, it does not follow that this is a definition of reality. The universe, which evidently exists, is also still real, even if it is but a figment of God’s imagination, even if it and all its constituents are transient, changing and dependent. A short-lived event may still be real; a flux may still have continuity, a caused event may still have occurred.

Thus, we may confidently agree with Nagarjuna’s rejection of the Hindu definition of reality. We may, nevertheless, doubt his argument in favor of that rejection, namely that “no evil person could be transformed” if the phenomenal world were illusory in the Hindu sense. Even agreeing with him that people can morally improve, we have to consider that concepts of morality, or of good and evil, come much later in the development of knowledge than the concepts of reality and illusion, and so cannot logically be used to define or justify them. Furthermore, concepts of morality depend for their meaning on an assumption of volition operating in a world subject to time, change and causality; morality has no meaning in a world with only determinism or chance, or in a static multiplicity or unity.

Let us move on to argument (b). The question asked here is what the relation between a soul and “its” body and other perceivable phenomena (such as imaginations and emotions) might be. In my view, and I think the view of many ordinary people and philosophers, the soul is a spiritual entity (i.e. one of some stuff other than that of the material body or of mental projections), who is at once the Subject of consciousness (i.e. the one who is cognizing phenomena and other appearances – i.e. the “feeler of sensations and thinker of thoughts” mentioned above) and the Agent of volition (i.e. the one who evaluates, who makes choices and decisions, who puts in motion acts of will, who has attitudes and tendencies, and who is within certain parameters free of determinism, though not unaffected by influences and motives – i.e. the “receiver of rewards and punishments for actions good and bad” mentioned above).

Thus, the relation of soul to other existents within the universe, according to this view, is that the soul is capable (as Subject) of cognizing to some extent concrete and abstract appearances, and (as Agent) of interfering to some extent in the course of natural events, influenced and motivated by them through his cognition of them, but still free to impose his will on some of them. To affirm powers of cognition and will to the soul does not, note well, imply such powers to be unlimited or invariable; one may be free to act within certain parameters and these parameters may under various circumstances widen or narrow in scope. By ‘influence’, I mean that the events external to the soul may facilitate or make more difficult its actions, to degrees below 100% (such extreme degree being the limiting case of deterministic causality, i.e. causation). This view leaves open the issue as to whether the soul is of limited duration (i.e. bounded by the lifetime of the body, which it would be if it is an epiphenomenon of matter clustered in living cells and the complex organisms they compose), or eternal (which it would be if it is a spark of God).

Returning now to Nagarjuna’s argument, we would say that soul is not “identical” with its perceptible “characteristics”. The soul may inhabit or be an epiphenomenon of the body, but is in either case something other than the body. The soul perceives and conceives the body (including visceral sentiments) and matter beyond it and mental phenomena within it (i.e. imaginations), through sensory and brain processes, but these processes are not identical with its cognition of their results. The soul acts on the body (or at least, the brain), and through it on the matter beyond it and on the projection of mental images, but this action (that we call will, a power of spirit over matter[4]) is a special sort of causality neither the same as mechanical causation nor mere happenstance. The “characteristics” of the soul are thus merely perceptible manifestations (sensations, movements, emotions) of deeper events (consciousness, will) occurring at the interface of matter and spirit and more deeply still within spirit.

This theory of the soul differs from the Indian, in that it does not imply that the soul is imperishable or that it does not undergo internal changes or that it is entirely causally independent. Nor does it imply that the soul is separable (though distinguishable) from the body, existing before or after or without its biological activity, in the way of a disembodied ghost. So Nagarjuna’s criticism that birth and death are contradictory to a concept of soul is irrelevant to this theory; for his criticism only applies to the specific Indian definition of “atman”. But even if the soul is granted to be eternal, I do not think Nagarjuna’s criticism is valid; for even an eternal spiritual entity may conceivably have momentary effects – as in the case of God, as we conceive Him, creating or interfering in the world. Note that we commonly regard the human soul, too, as acting on (the rest of) the natural world, without considering it necessarily eternal.

With regard to the second alternative of Nagarjuna’s argument, considering the possibility that soul be “different” from its perceivable “characteristics”, our reply would be, not only that they are distinct (though related as cause and effect, remember), but that we need not accept his claim that the soul’s imperceptibility implies it to be “inconceivable” and “indefinable”. We agree that the soul cannot be perceived, i.e. does not itself display perceptible qualities, i.e. is not a phenomenon with sense-modalities like shape and color, sound, smell, taste or touch aspects. But we may nevertheless to a considerable extent conceive and define it. The proof is that we have just done so, above; furthermore, if Nagarjuna did not have a concept and definition, however vague and open to doubt, of soul to work with, he would have been unable to discuss the issue at all. There is no epistemological principle that the imperceptible is inconceivable and indefinable; if there were, no concept or definition would be admissible, not even those that Nagarjuna himself uses, not even those involved in the statement of that alleged principle. Concepts are precisely tools for going beyond perception. Complex concepts are not mere summaries of percepts, but imaginative departures from and additions to perceptual knowledge, nevertheless bound to the latter by logical and adductive rules. Even simple concepts, purporting to be summaries, are in fact regulated by these same rules.

Which brings us to argument (c). Here, Nagarjuna contends that inferences and analogies from experience may be valid in specific cases, but not in the case of soul. He claims that we can for example infer fire indirectly from smoke, because we have previously seen fire directly in conjunction with smoke, whereas in the case of soul, we have never perceived it, so we cannot infer it from perceptible “characteristics”. We can reply that, though fire and smoke provide a valid example of inference, this is a selective example. Many other examples can be brought to bear, where we infer something never perceived from something perceived. For example, no one has ever directly sensed a magnetic ‘field of force’, but if you hold two magnets opposite each other, you feel the pull or push between them; you can also see a nail moving while a magnet is held close to it without touching it. The concept of force or field is constructed in relation to an experience, but is not itself an object of experience.

Nagarjuna’s discourse is itself replete with such ‘indirect’ concepts. For instance, consciousness is imperceptible, perception is imperceptible, and so on. One of his favorites, namely “emptiness”, is per se without perceptible qualities. So he is using a double standard when he denies such concepts, in support of his denial that soul is intelligible. Such concepts are constructed by imaginative analogy (e.g. I may draw a magnetic force as a line or arrow) and by verbal definitions and descriptions (using words referring to relations first conceived with reference to empirical events – for instance, “whatever causes this motion, call it a force” or “force equals mass times acceleration caused”). Such creative construction is merely a first stage; it does not in itself validate a concept. The proposed concept must thereafter be tested and tested again, with reference to the totality of other empirical knowledge and theory, before it can be considered as valid. Its validity is also a function of its utility, i.e. the extent to which it helps us to better understand and order our experience of the world.

I personally do not regard that the concept of soul can be entirely based on such construction from experience. It seems evident to me that consciousness implies someone who is being conscious, a Subject-soul, as well as something one is conscious of, an Object. But I am sensitive to the objections by many philosophers, including Buddhist ones, that this thought may just be a prejudice incited by grammatical habit. And, as already admitted, if one introspects and looks for phenomenal manifestations of a self being aware, one finds none. Some, including Nagarjuna, would say that the concept of consciousness is itself in doubt, that all one can empirically claim is appearance. As for the concept of volition, let alone that of soul as the Agent of will, many doubt or deny it, in view of the difficulties in its definition and proof.

But I think it is very important to realize that all Buddhist accounts (at least all those I have encountered) of how an illusion of selfhood might conceivably be constructed by a non-person fail to avoid begging the question. A theory is required, which answers all possible questions, before such a revolutionary idea as that of denial of real self in man can be posited with confidence; and no theory without holes or inconsistencies has to my knowledge been proposed. We may readily admit the existence of an illusory self (or ‘ego’), constructed and suffered by a stupid or misguided real self. But an aberration or delusion with no one constructing it or subject to it, seems like an absurd concept to me. It implies mere happenstance, determinism, without any consciousness, volition, values or responsibility.

Indeed, if you examine attempted such theories they always (overtly or covertly) describe an effective person (the pronoun ‘he’) constructing a false self. They never manage to escape from the sentence structure with a personal subject; typically: ‘he gradually deludes himself into thinking he has a self’. They do not provide a credibly detailed and consistent scenario of how unconscious and impersonal elements and processes (Nagarjuna’s “characteristics”) could possibly aggregate into something that has the impression (however false) it is someone! A machine (or robot with artificial intelligence) may ‘detect’ things (for us) but it has no consciousness; it may ‘do’ things (for us) but it has no volition; it may loudly proclaim ‘I’ but it has no soul.

There is also to consider the reverse process of deconstruction, how an ultimately impersonal artificial self (non-self) would or could go about freeing itself from illusion. Why would a non-self have any problem with remaining deluded (assuming it could be), and how if it has no personal powers would it intelligently choose to put in motion the prescribed process of liberation from delusion. A simple sentence like ‘to realize you have no self, make an effort to meditate daily’ is already a contradiction in terms, in my view.


2.     Self-Knowledge

Let us therefore consider how we might argue in favor of a soul, consisting of a Subject and his consciousness and an Agent and his will. If I do not mention feelings much here, it is only because I consider them derivatives of the other two powers of the soul; but the soul as author of evaluations (value-judgments, choices, affections) is intended here too.

As already stated, I agree that the soul has in itself no perceptible (i.e. visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory or tactile) qualities, comparable to those in or around the ‘body’ (matter) or in mental projections (imaginations, dreams). This can be taken to simply mean that it is not made of material or mental substance, granting that “matter” (in a large sense, here, including physical and imaginary concrete phenomena) is whatever has these qualities; for this reason, let us say that soul is made of some distinctive substance, call it spirit.[5] All we have done here is hypothesized, by analogy to the phenomenal realm, an entity (soul) of different stuff (spirit); this is logically legitimate, provided we go on and justify it further.

This concept of a soul is constructed to explain certain phenomena, on the basis of a mass of observations and theory-building. The soul is posited as the Subject of consciousness (or cognition) of, first, concrete phenomena (percepts) and, second, abstract appearances (concepts); and at a later stage as the Agent of will, the presumed cause (in a special sense) of certain perceptible actions of bodily organs (eye movements, speech, motions of arms and legs, and so on) as well as of intellectual organs (imagination, attention, thought processes, and so on). But if soul is reduced to such a conceptual construct, we only succeed at best in giving a general description of its powers and activities.

Such a theoretical approach leaves us without justification for our day-to-day propositions concerning our own particular thoughts and deeds at any given time. For conception cannot proceed from a single event; it is the outcome of comparisons and contrasts between two or more events. Whereas, statements about an individual person’s present situation are not made in comparison and contrast to other persons or situations. A general proposition can serve as major premise of a syllogism, but to obtain a particular conclusion, we need a particular minor premise. Indeed, to obtain the general proposition in the first place, we need to admit some particular cases of the same kind, which we can then generalize and apply to other particular cases (that is what syllogistic inference is all about).

That is, when we say, for instances, “I believe so and so” or “I choose so and so” or “I wish so and so”, we are evidently not referring to phenomena perceptible at the moment (belief, choice, wishing, have no immediate concrete manifestations, though they may eventually have perceptible effects), and we are evidently not conceptually inferring such propositions from any perceptual phenomena (i.e. what these propositions refer to are not abstract appearances). Yet these propositions are significant to each of us, and can fairly be declared true or false by us. Their truth or falsehood is, to repeat, not exclusively based on experience and on rational considerations, as Buddhists suggest, but is immediately, directly known by introspection.

This is what I would call ‘self-knowledge’; and since this type of cognition is neither perception nor conception, it deserves a special name – say, ‘intuition’. My use of this term should not be taken to imply acceptance of knowledge of other people’s souls, thoughts, wills or emotions (which is another issue, open to debate, solipsism not being excluded) – it is here restricted to self-intuition. I do not use the term ‘introspection’, because this may be used with reference to perceptible phenomena, such as one’s mental imaginations or bodily feelings.

Thus, in this view, the soul is cognized by three types of cognition: directly by intuition, and indirectly by conceptualization based on the soul’s perceptual effects and its intuited states and activities. Of course, ‘cognition’ is one and the same in all three cases; only the object of cognition differs in each case. If we limit our consideration only to perceptual effects and concepts derived from them, we can only construct a theoretical ‘soul’ and refer to ‘powers’ of soul. To obtain and claim knowledge of an individual soul and of its actual perceptions, conceptions, beliefs, intentions, acts of will, value-judgments, affections, etc., we have to admit a direct cognition other than perception, namely ‘intuition’.

Thus, we could refer to soul with several terms: the ‘I’ of my own intuitions, the ‘self’ when assuming that others have an ‘I’ like mine (on the basis of similar perceptible effects), and the ‘soul’ when referring to the conceptual construct based on my ‘I’, your ‘I’ and their perceptually evident (presumed) effects. Granting all this, it is no wonder that if we seek definition or proof of the ‘I’ in phenomenal effects, we will not find it!

Let us now return to these intuited propositions, for a moment. Consider this well. If I say to you “I believe (or disbelieve or am unsure about) so and so” – did I infer this from anything and can you deny me? Sure, I have to mean what I say to you, be sincere. Sometimes, too, I may lie to myself, and claim to believe something (e.g. some complimentary claim about myself, or some religious or political claim), when in fact I do not really believe it. The human psyche has its complexities, and we can hide and not admit things even to oneself. In such cases, the truth of the statement can be verified with reference to a larger context, checking if my feelings and actions are consistent with my claimed belief. But this does not mean that all such personal claims are known by reference to perceptible side-effects, as Buddhists claim. It only means that, just as in the perceptual and conceptual fields, appearances have an initial credibility but have to be faced off with other appearances, so in the field of intuition, an inductive process of verification goes on, through which some intuitions are found to be doubtful (due to their conflicts with other intuitions, and/or perceptible phenomena and conceptual considerations).

Furthermore, it should be stressed that not all statements of the form “I-verb-object” (object being optional) are based on intuition alone. Some have perceptual and/or conceptual basis only, or also. For example, “I am thinking that we should go there” involves perceptual factors, perhaps a mental image of our bodies (mine and yours) walking along in some direction, as well as conceptual factors, perhaps a reasoning process as to why we should go there. But some such statements are purely intuitive, e.g. “I believe so and so” is final and independent, whatever the reasoning that led up to the belief. Furthermore, such statements need not be verbalized. The words “I”, “believe” etc. involved in the statement are of course products of conceptualization; but the intent of the sentence as a whole is a particular intuition, which the words verbalize.

Also to note well is that a proposition like “I believe so and so” cannot be based on a coded message from the brain, to the effect that “so and so should be declared as ‘your belief’ at this time”, for the simple reason that we have no awareness of any perceptible message of this sort. Therefore, such a statement is not a translation in words of a special kind of percept (just as conceptual statements are not). Perhaps the statement “I believe so and so” itself is the perceptible message from the brain? If so, we would be justified in denying any intuition of soul and its states and activities. But it is evident from introspection that we know what we want to say before we put it in words. The words merely verbalize an object already cognized; and this cognition must be ‘intuition’, since it is neither perception (having no perceptible qualities) nor conception (since it is particular).

It seems justified, in conclusion, to hypothesize, in addition to perception and conception, a third source of knowledge, called intuition, a direct cognition whose objects are the self (I) and its actual cognitions (I know what I am seeing, hearing, imagining, thinking, etc., right now), volitions (I know what I choose, decide, want, intend, will, etc., at this moment) and affections (I know what I like or dislike or am indifferent to, what I hope or fear, etc., at this time). I know these most intimate of things – who can tell me otherwise, how would they know better than me what the imperceptible contents of my consciousness are? Soul and its presumed powers – cognition, volition, affection – cannot be conceived by comparison, since I do not see any souls other than my own; it can only be conceived by inference from perceptible and intuitive phenomena that we hypothesize to be its effects. The objects of intuition may be “empty” of perceptible qualities; but they may still have an existence of sorts, just as abstracts are not themselves perceptible but may credibly be affirmed.

Suppose, for example, I meditate, watching my breath; my random thoughts cause my attention to stray for awhile[6]; I drag my attention back to the object of my meditation, my breath. Here, the direction and intensity of my attention require an act of will. The straying away of attention from the breath is not my will; my will is what makes it return to the breath. Phenomenally, the attention on the breath and the loss of this attention (or rather the breath phenomenon and the lack of it) are on an equal plane. What allows me to regard the one as mine and the other as not mine, is the awareness that I had to make an effort in the one case and that no effort[7] was involved in the other case. This ‘effort’ is the intuited volition and that it is ‘mine’ signals intuition of soul. I may focus on the effort alone, or by an additional act of will focus on the fact that it is mine. There is no ‘reflexive act’ involved in this self-consciousness, because it is one part of me watched by the rest of me.

Of course, this is all very mysterious. When we say: “I think this” or “I will that”, we have no idea where this or that event came from or how it popped up. Certainly the deep source and manufacture of a thought or will of the soul is unknown to us, so we cannot claim to wholly own it. We do not have a plan of action before the thought or will, through which we consciously construct the latter. Each thought or will, finally, just is. There are no steps or stages, we just do it. But it is still not just happenstance; there is an author, ourselves. We are able to distinguish, in most cases, between thoughts or wills that just ‘happen to us’, and others that ‘we author’; we may even identify them as voluntary or involuntary to various degrees.

All this to say that Nagarjuna’s critique of soul and its powers, and of the knowability of these things, is far from conclusive. Buddhists are justified in doubting and inquiring into the issues, but from a purely philosophical point of view the Madhyamika conclusion of “emptiness” may be considered too radical and extreme. It may be obviously valid from the perspective of someone who has reached some higher form of consciousness (which, I know, I have not), but their rational arguments are not decisive. Most important, as we have seen, Nagarjuna bases his denial on one particular theory of soul (the atman theory), and has not considered all conceivable theories. To rebut (or more precisely, to put in doubt) his arguments, it is therefore sufficient to propose one alternative theory (as above done) that he has ignored; the alternative does not need to be proved – if it is just conceivable (coherent, consistent), that is enough.

Nagarjuna does not, in my view, satisfactorily answer questions like ‘who is it that perceives, thinks, desires or acts?’, ‘who is it that meditates in pursuit of liberation or eventually reaches it?’, when he explains away the soul as a mere cluster of percepts or concepts, as something (illegitimately) inferred from perceptible phenomena by a presumed cause-effect relation.

In passing, it is worth noting that, although the doctrine of no-self is fundamental to Buddhism, not all Buddhists have interpreted it as a total rejection of soul (in some sense of the term). One Theravada school, known as the ‘Personalists’, dating back to about 300 BCE, whose adepts in the 7th century CE included almost one third of all Buddhist monks in India, “motivated by commonsense, maintained that in addition to impersonal events, there is still a ‘person’ to be reckoned with.”[8] According to the Abhidharmakosha, a Mahayana work by Vasubhandu (4th century CE), the Personalists interpreted the no-self doctrine of the Buddha as signifying simply that “something which is not the true Self is mistaken for the true Self”.

It is thus possible to understand the doctrine of not-self as a rejection, not of ‘soul’ (‘real or deep self’), but rather of ‘ego’ (‘conventional or superficial self’). The ego is a confused construct of ‘selfhood’ by the soul, due to the latter’s self-identification with delusive opinions (acquired by itself and through social influences), and consequently with certain attitudes and actions it engages in, in the way of a self-protective reaction. By predefining itself and its world, the soul imprisons itself in patterns of response appropriate to that definition. It is up to the soul to rid itself of the ego-centered viewpoint, by realizing the stupidity and avoidability of it.


Drawn from Buddhist Illogic (2002), Chapters 11 & 12.



[1]           For this topic, see Cheng, pp. 74-76. He there refers to MT IX, XVIII:1a,1b,6, XXVII:4-8, and to HT II.

[2]           Some might say, exist as objects of consciousness – but even that is existence.

[3]           This characteristic of God, one-ness, is not mentioned by Cheng, but philosophical Brahmanism is ultimately monotheistic, even though many Hindus are in practice polytheistic. It should be mentioned, however, that one-ness is not logically implied by eternity, invariance and independence; i.e. one could conceive two or more entities with these characteristics (certainly the first two, at least – independence would be open to debate). Perhaps Zoroastrianism is a case in point?

[4]           Granting the universality of law of conservation of energy, we would have to presume that spirit’s will somehow releases energy locked in matter, rather than inputting new energy into it. Perhaps volition affects the wave-form of energy without affecting its magnitude.

[5]           We can leave as an open issue, parenthetically, the possibility that matter and spirit are respectively coarse and fine manifestations of one and the same substance.

[6]           As we meditate, countless thoughts pop up, tempting us to follow them. Eventually, one manages to hook us, grabbing our interest and hurtling us through a series of associations. Thus totally absorbed, we forget our object of meditation for a while, until we realize we have been distracted.

[7]           The thoughts I strayed into may have involved voluntary processes, but my straying into them was involuntary.

[8]           According to Conze. See pp. 190 and 192-7.

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