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The Creative Force Of Nature And Humanity
The innate tendency of self-preservation, which manifests its...

The Usual Explanation Of The Canon
An eminent Chinese Buddhist scholar, well known as Ten Dai Da...

The Method Of Instruction Adopted By Zen Masters
Thus far we have described the doctrine of Zen inculcated by ...

There Is No Mortal Who Is Purely Moral
By nature man should be either good or bad; or he should be g...

Idealistic Scepticism Concerning Religion And Morality
Similarly, it is the case with religion and morality. If we ...

Difficulties Are No Match For The Optimist
How can we suppose that we, the children of Buddha, are put a...

The Law Of Balance
Nature governs the world with her law of balance. She puts t...

Man Is Not Good-natured Nor Bad-natured But Buddha-natured
We have had already occasion to observe that Zen teaches Bud...

The Breathing Exercise Of The Yogi
Breathing exercise is one of the practices of Yoga, and somew...

Life And Change
Transformation and change are the essential features of life;...

The Fifth And The Sixth Patriarchs
Tao Sin transmitted the Law to Hung Jan (Ko-nin), who being e...

Life And Change
A peculiar phase of life is change which appears in the form ...

Zazen And The Forgetting Of Self
Zazen is a most effectual means of destroying selfishness, th...

The Third Step In The Mental Training
To be the lord of mind is more essential to Enlightenment, wh...

Change As Seen By Zen
Zen, like Hinayanism, does not deny the doctrine of Transienc...

Missionary Activity Of The Sixth Patriarch
As we have seen above, the Sixth Patriarch was a great genius...

The Examination Of The Notion Of Self
The belief in immortality is based on the strong instinct of ...

The Errors Of Philosophical Pessimists And Religious Optimists
Philosophical pessimists[FN#214] maintain that there are on e...

The Great Person And Small Person
For these reasons Zen proposes to call man Buddha-natured or ...

The Characteristics Of Do-gen The Founder Of The Japanese So To Sect
In the meantime seekers after a new truth gradually began to ...




The Irrationality Of The Belief Of Immortality








Occidental minds believe in a mysterious entity under the name of
soul, just as Indian thinkers believe in the so-called subtle body
entirely distinct from the gross body of flesh and blood. Soul,
according to this belief, is an active principle that unites body and
mind so as to form an harmonious whole of mental as well as bodily
activities. And it acts through the instrumentality of the mind and
body in the present life, and enjoys an eternal life beyond the
grave. It is on this soul that individual immortality is based. It
is immortal Self.
Now, to say nothing of the origin of soul, this long-entertained
belief is hardly good for anything. In the first place, it throws no
light upon the relation of mind and body, because soul is an empty
name for the unity of mind and body, and serves to explain nothing.
On the contrary, it adds another mystery to the already mysterious
relationships between matter and spirit. Secondly, soul should be
conceived as a psychical individual, subject to spacial
determinations--but since it has to be deprived by death of its body
which individualizes it, it will cease to be individuality after
death, to the disappointment of the believer. How could you think
anything purely spiritual and formless existing without blending
together with other things? Thirdly, it fails to gratify the desire,
cherished by the believer, of enjoying eternal life, because soul has
to lose its body, the sole important medium through which it may
enjoy life. Fourthly, soul is taken as a subject matter to receive
in the future life the reward or the punishment from God for our
actions in this life; but the very idea of eternal punishment is
inconsistent with the boundless love of God. Fifthly, it is beyond
all doubt that soul is conceived as an entity, which unifies various
mental faculties and exists as the foundation of individual
personality. But the existence of such soul is quite incompatible
with the well-known pathological fact that it is possible for the
individual to have double or treble or multiple personalities. Thus
the belief in the existence of soul conceived by the common sense
turns out not only to be irrational, but a useless encumbrance on the
religious mind. Therefore Zen declares that there is no such thing
as soul, and that mind and body are one. Hwui Chung (Ye-chu), a
famous disciple of the Sixth Patriarch in China, to quote an example,
one day asked a monk: Where did you come from? I came, sir, from
the South, replied the man. What doctrine do the masters of the
South teach? asked Hwui Chung again. They teach, sir, that body is
mortal, but mind is immortal, was the answer. That, said the
master, is the heterodox doctrine of the Atman! How do you, sir,
questioned the monk, teach about that? I teach that the body and
mind are one, was the reply.[FN#183]


[FN#183] For further explanation, see Sho-bo-gen-zo and
Mu-chu-mon-do.

Fiske, [FN#184] in his argument against materialism, blames the
denial of immortality, saying: The materialistic assumption that
there is no such state of things, and that the life of the soul ends
accordingly with the life of the body, is perhaps the most colossal
instance of baseless assumption that is known to the history of
philosophy. But we can say with equal force that the common-sense
assumption that the life of soul continues beyond the grave is,
perhaps, the most colossal instance of baseless assumption that is
known to the history of thought, because, there being no scientific
evidences that give countenance to the assumption, even the
spiritualists themselves hesitate to assert the existence of a ghost
or soul. Again he[FN#185] says: With this illegitimate hypothesis
of annihilation the materialist transgresses the bounds of experience
quite as widely as the poet who sings of the New Jerusalem with its
river of life and its street of gold. Scientifically speaking, there
is not a particle of evidence for either view. This is as much as
to say there is not a particle of evidence, scientifically speaking,
for the common-sense view of soul, because the poet's description of
the New Jerusalem is nothing but the result of the common-sense
belief of immortality.


[FN#184] 'The Destiny of Man,' p. 110.

[FN#185] 'The Destiny of Man,' pp. 110, 111.






Next: The Examination Of The Notion Of Self

Previous: Enlightenment Implies An Insight Into The Nature Of Self



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