This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Anatta

Everything is subject to Becoming, and this includes the soul of man, which cannot be eternal because, frankly, it is not:

“What is meant, lord, by the phrase, The world is empty?”

“That it is empty, Ananda, of a Self, or of anything of the nature of a Self. And what is it that is thus empty? The five seats of the five senses, and the mind, and the feeling that is related to mind: all these are void of a Self or of anything that is Self-like.”[1]

This is to say that there is nothing substantial behind our mental states, and the soul is as imaginary as the ego identity that the ignorant man pretends to possess.

Our names, and the names we choose to call things, are concepts and therefore artificial having no reality of their own. The Buddha demonstrates this in detail and with analogies: if you take the Ganges and set apart the sand, the banks, and the water, which is to say if you reduce it to its component parts, where is the Ganges? If you reduce a chariot to all its part, where is the chariot? It was only a name we chose to call a coincidence of various things. In the same way, when consciousness itself is dissected, nothing remains.

We have the illusion of an identity in our thoughts because they have a kind of continuity from moment to moment. The ego-identity of man is like “a river which still maintains one constant form, one seeming identity, though not a single drop remains today of all the volume that composed the river yesterday.”[2]

When speaking of the complex human composite which experiences consciousness, Buddhism uses the pair Nama-rupa, or ‘name’ and ‘form.’ This pair, borrowed from the Upanishads, is employed with a particular meaning. Rupa is the physical body and not a philosophical concept as in other contexts, while Nama is mind.

There is also another formulation which is divided into five parts and lays greater emphasis on the mental factor, with the goal of more decisively closing the door to any external substance behind consciousness, such as a soul. This arrangement is called the Five Aggregates, or khandas. This second formulation includes rupa, with the same meaning as before, but the mental aspect of man is divided into four parts: vedana (feeling), sanna (perception), sankhara (will), and vinnana (awareness). We will not elaborate on these further, since the divisions are complex, and at any rate this classification was later replaced by a division into citta, mind, and cetasika, or mental properties.

This states the fundamentals of the Buddhist ‘Right Views.’

[1] Samyutta Nikaya, iv. 54.

[2] Anuruddha, Compendium of Philosophy. Introd. Essay by S. Z. Aung, p. 9.

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