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.

For further explanation, see Sho-bo-gen-zo and


Fiske, 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 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.

'The Destiny of Man,' p. 110.

'The Destiny of Man,' pp. 110, 111.

The Introduction Of The So-to School Of Zen The Law Of Balance facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail