As explained here Buddhism does no belong into pantheism because God can be interpreted no as oneness but a creation of the mind as the fourth aggregate explains (eg. "an invisible man who lives in the sky who is separated from you etc") that implies something separated from you. Nevertheless the third mark of existence "Anatta" tells you that there is no self that is to say the idea of you (ego) is illusory.

Is is right from a Buddhistic point of view to say that you and me are the same because there is only one consciousness playing different minds(egos, personalities, psychologies, etc) and bodies of all sentient creatures at the same time. Eg. "the same driver driving all the cars at the same time in present, past and future"

  • I'd say so. If we recognise Nagarjuna then he logically proves it. This unity would be our natural and intuitive source of empathy and compassion according to Schopenhauer, and how can God watch every sparrow that falls unless he is that sparrow? The knowledge claims of mysticism and the Perennial philosophy depend on a doctrine of Unity for their plausibility and it is the only solution for metaphysics that works. All distinctions and divisions would be creations of mind. But not all Buddhists agree about anything, so there will be some who would not endorse this view. .
    – user14119
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 12:25

5 Answers 5


OP: Is it right from a Buddhist point of view to say that you and me are the same because there is only one consciousness playing different minds (egos, personalities, psychologies, etc) and bodies of all sentient creatures at the same time. Eg. "the same driver driving all the cars at the same time in present, past and future"

No. That's a classic teaching of Hinduism.

According to the Hindu text Shvetashvatara Upanishad:

God, who is one only, is hidden in all beings.
He is all-pervading, and is the inner self of all creatures.
He presides over all actions, and all beings reside in Him.
He is the witness, and He is the Pure Consciousness

According to the Hindu text Bhagavad Gita 13.14:

Everywhere are His hands and legs, His eyes and faces, and He hears everything. In this way the Supersoul exists.

What did the Buddha teach? (from the Theravada perspective)

From MN 38:

"Just as fire is classified simply by whatever requisite condition in dependence on which it burns — a fire that burns in dependence on wood is classified simply as a wood-fire, a fire that burns in dependence on wood-chips is classified simply as a wood-chip-fire; a fire that burns in dependence on grass is classified simply as a grass-fire; a fire that burns in dependence on cow-dung is classified simply as a cow-dung-fire; a fire that burns in dependence on chaff is classified simply as a chaff-fire; a fire that burns in dependence on rubbish is classified simply as a rubbish-fire — in the same way, consciousness is classified simply by the requisite condition in dependence on which it arises. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the eye & forms is classified simply as eye-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the ear & sounds is classified simply as ear-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the nose & aromas is classified simply as nose-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the tongue & flavors is classified simply as tongue-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the body & tactile sensations is classified simply as body-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the intellect & ideas is classified simply as intellect-consciousness.

Think about it. How can the silent witness witness anything except through one of these media: eye, ear, nose, tongue, touch or mind? There was never a time, when there was consciousness being aware of something except through the eye, ear, nose, tongue, touch or mind. There is therefore no independent consciousness.

Consciousness is dependent on and conditioned upon these six media. It does not exist independently connecting all beings. The consciousness in every being may be of a similar type, but it's not the same consciousness.

For example, I can say that every candle has a similar flame, but it's not the exact same flame that appears on every candle. Each flame is different.

From Sabba Sutta (also see this question):

"Monks, I will teach you the All. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak."

"As you say, lord," the monks responded.

The Blessed One said, "What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – user2424
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 16:51
  • The vinnana of the teaching of the Buddha is different from that of the Consciousness of the Hinduism.
    – lprsd
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 17:15
  • @ruben2020 do the Buddha mention anywhere how does this Consciousness arise? I mean how does it come into being. Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 7:01

No, that's not the theravāda point of view. That's a fallacy or wrong view called, "He assumes consciousness to be the self", in twenty self-indentification-views.

Each arising aggregate is different from the other aggregates, different from e.g. other people's aggregates, past aggregates, far aggregates.

They all are the aggregates, but no one is the same.

Although there is a conditional relation which is called "Decisive Support" i.e. upanissaya (or in this clip that's translated as "Powerful Dependence"), so that past consciousness is a Decisive Support condition of present consciousness, but that is not the same as saying that the past consciousness "is" the present consciousness (i.e. the consciousness which it affects in the present).

Preceding states are related to subsequent states by the "Decisive Support" condition.

The aggregate is the Conditional Relation and Dependent Origination. Every relation has more than one cause and more than one effect, so don't find "the one" in Buddhism because it's self view.

  • 1
    Would it be correct the reword the paragraph as, "Although there is a conditional relation which is called "Decisive Support" i.e. upanissaya, the Decisive Support conditions past consciousness, but that is still not the consciousness which it affects in the present"? That rewording would be more grammatical and therefore easier for me to understand, but I'm not sure whether that is what you meant to write (e.g. because I don't know what upanissaya means or how it's relevant).
    – ChrisW
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 12:57
  • 1
    This clip has an english subtitle. Please, help me to modify it. Thank you. Upanissaya paccaya is the vanished aggregates maybe a long time ago but it still is able to cause the present effect to arise. It's like a habit because the present effected aggregates is able to look similar to its causes, upanissaya paccaya, but the upanissaya paccaya has vanished a long time ago, while its effect is arising, so they are not the same one.
    – Bonn
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 13:29

From Mahayana perspective:

"We are all one" is a simplified step in the right direction - but ultimately is not true. It can be used as a stepping stone from the mainstream primitive materialism, but must be transcended eventually.

In Mahayana we recognize that things are interconnected and interrelated. In this sense, yes, every thing (implicitly) has (hidden relationships with) all other things in it, including sentient beings, so in this sense "we" (sentient beings) are "one" (interconnected).

This non-dual perspective is a lot more virtuous than the usual worldly ethics based on the materialistic assumptions like "Winner takes all", "Man vs nature" etc. It leads to more harmonious relationships through greater awareness of the big picture. It reduces the risk of Tragedy of the commons.

However, and my Zen Master was exceedingly clear about it, even this perspective must be transcended ("get over it!") on the way to complete Enlightenment.

This is because, at the end of the day, self-identifying with "All" is still a prison. It's a very tightly controlled prison too - where everything works strictly in accordance with the Law. As you yourself said "same driver driving all the cars at the same time in present, past and future".

Instead, what Buddhism proposes (and Mahayana is very vocal about it) is freedom of perspective, or freedom from all fixed positions. This means getting rid of attachment to concepts like "I am a sentient being" or "We are sentient beings" or "We are this Universe" etc. and even transcending the concepts like "Mind", "Matter" and "Universe".

At the end, there is understanding of how things work, without putting it into any dualistic boxes and without thinking that "You" are that or any part of that.

As my Zen Master used to say:

From the perspective of All, "God bless you" - but from the perspective of Enlightenment: you bless God.

Meaning, when you're out of the cosmic prison, you're free to choose your perspective, you "got over" the non-dualism, you got over "you", and even got over "Enlightenment" and "Nirvana". As the Buddha character says in my novel:

There is an infinite number of ways to see reality, each valid from its own side, each incompatible with the others, but each having its own internally consistent logic. Every one of these different views leads to corresponding decisions, corresponding actions, and corresponding results. You must decide for yourself what to believe in and how to see the world. Do not let anyone force their judgements on you, however rational and experience-based they might seem. Do not assume anything to be obvious and not requiring critical consideration - even your own thoughts! This is because, having assumed a thought, you pick your path and not only yours.

You can choose to think thoughts that would bring suffering to both yourself and to others. Or, you can choose to look at things in a way that brings peace. However, there is no single point of view that would fit to all situations in life. Point of view is like a tool - there's right tool for each job.

Remember: by picking your point of view, you change your future. Not just your own, the future of the entire world depends on your choice of perspective. Choose your reality well!


I think the last paragraph isn't quite right, because it implies:

  • I exist and you exist
  • We're the same because we are consciousness and there is one consciousness
  • There are several cars, each car has a driver, every car has the same driver, the same driver persists across past, present, and future

I think Buddhism has a different emphasis, e.g. that, "consciousness is dependently originated, impermanent, and non-self" -- also, speaking of cars, that there is "no chariot" and only "an assemblage conventionally called a chariot".

I think I've seen the Dalai Lama say that "we are not different", though, that he is "like" everyone else, and that if were to see himself as a unique -- e.g. as "the Dalai Lama" or "the Nobel Laureate" -- then that view-of-self would be a "prison".

I think Buddhism also uses it as an argument for compassion and ethics, e.g. ...

All tremble at violence; all fear death. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.

... whereas, in my opinion, the Bhagavad Gita maybe doesn't say that.

Also to the extent that "we are one" is a view which may attempt to erase conventional distinctions, perhaps that's identified as one of the wrong views.

And what is wrong view?

'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no brahmans or contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.'

This is wrong view.

You wrote, "playing different minds". I seem to remember reading that kind of doctrine (i.e. "playing") a long time ago, I'm not sure where -- in the kind of modern book which tries/tried to popularise Buddhism and Eastern thought in general. I don't think I've seen that in the suttas. I think it might have been a view that, "an immortal one God is playing at being mortal and being different people" -- perhaps that's a Hindu view, or something, I don't know? Or perhaps there is a Buddhist view a bit like that, somewhere? But I don't think I've met it since in any kind of canonical Buddhist text.

Yes here -- Lila (Hinduism)

Lila can be loosely translated as the "divine play". The concept of Lila is common to both non-dualist and dualist philosophical schools of Indian philosophy, but has a markedly different significance in each. Within non-dualism, Lila is a way of describing all reality, including the cosmos, as the outcome of creative play by the divine absolute (Brahman). In the dualistic schools of Vaishnavism, Lila refers to the activities of God and his devotee, as well as the macrocosmic actions of the manifest universe.

I'm not saying that Buddhism is always joyless, but I don't think I've read that particular kind of play is part of the Buddhist doctrine.


I quote from the article "Buddhism and Nondualism in Mahayana Buddhism"

According to the monk and scholar Bhikkhu Bodhi, Theravada Buddhism is neither dualistic nor nondualistic. "In contrast to the non-dualistic systems, the Buddha's approach does not aim at the discovery of a unifying principle behind or beneath our experience of the world," he wrote. The Buddha's teaching is pragmatic, and not based on some grand, speculative philosophical theory.

However, dualisms exist for Theravada Buddhism -- good and evil, suffering and happiness, wisdom and ignorance. The most significant duality is that between samsara, the realm of suffering; and nirvana, liberation from suffering. Although the Pali Canon describes nirvana as a kind of ultimate reality, "there is not the least insinuation that this reality is metaphysically indistinguishable at some profound level from its manifest opposite, samsara," Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote.

Nondualism in Mahayana Buddhism Buddhism proposes that all phenomena inter-exist; nothing is separate. All phenomena are perpetually conditioning all other phenomena. Things are the way they are because everything else is the way it is.

Mahayana Buddhism teaches that these interdependent phenomena also are empty of self-essence or inherent characteristics. All distinctions we make between this and that are arbitrary and exist only in our thoughts. This doesn't mean that nothing exists, but that nothing exists the way we think it does.

If nothing is separate, how do we count the myriad phenomena? And does that mean everything is One? Mahayana Buddhism often comes across as a form of monism or the teaching that all phenomena are of one substance or are one phenomenon in principle. But Nagarjuna said that phenomena are neither one nor many. The correct answer to "how many?" is "not two."

The most pernicious dualism is that of the subjective "knower" and an object of knowing. Or, in other words, the perception of "me" and "everything else."

In the Vimalakirti Sutra, the layman Vimalakirti said that wisdom is "the elimination of egoism and possessiveness. What is the elimination of egoism and possessiveness? It is the freedom from dualism. What is freedom from dualism? It is the absence of involvement with either the external or the internal. ... The internal subject and the external object are not perceived dualistically." When the dualism of subjective "knower" and object of "knowing" does not arise, what remains is pure being or pure awareness.

What about the dualities between good and evil, samsara and nirvana? In his book Nonduality: A Study in Comparative Philosophy (Humanity Books, 1996), Zen teacher David Loy said,

"The central tenet of Madhyamika Buddhism, that samsara is nirvana, is difficult to understand in any other way except as asserting the two different ways of perceiving, dually and nondually. The dualistic perception of a world of discrete objects (one of them being me) which are created and destroyed constitutes samsara." When dualistic perceptions do not arise, there is nirvana. Put another way, "nirvana is the nondual 'true nature' of samsara."

The Two Truths It may not be clear why the answer to "how many" is "not two." Mahayana proposes that everything exists in both an absolute and relative or conventional way. In the absolute, all phenomena are one, but in the relative, there are many distinctive phenomena. ​​

In this sense, phenomena are both one and many. We can't say there is only one; we can't say there is more than one. So, we say, "not two."


I wrote my opinion about this subject in another topic: https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/30402

Buddha rejected people's questions about the structure or origin of the universe, existance etc and he directed his disciples towards freedom from suffering/Nibbana.

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