London Lectures 2022-23

The First Person in Buddhism

Nilanjan Das (University College London) presents the next talk in the lecture series Expanding Horizons: The First Person in Buddhism.

In classical South Asia, most philosophers thought that the self (if it exists at all) is what the first-person pronoun “I” stands for. It is something that persists through time, undergoes conscious thoughts and experiences, and exercises control over actions. The Buddhists accepted the “no-self” thesis: they denied that such a self is substantially real. This gave rise to a puzzle for these Buddhists. If there is nothing substantially real that “I” stands for, what are we talking about when we speak of ourselves? In this lecture, I present one Buddhist answer to this question, an answer that emerges from the work of the Abhidharma thinker, Vasubandhu (4th-5th century CE).