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In Timsa Sutta Buddha says:

"What do you think, monks? Which is greater, the blood you have shed from having your heads cut off while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time, or the water in the four great oceans?"

Furthermore he also says:

"The blood you have shed when, being water buffaloes, you had your water buffalo-heads cut off... when, being rams, you had your ram-heads cut off... when, being goats, you had your goat-heads cut off... when, being deer, you had your deer-heads cut off... when, being chickens, you had your chicken-heads cut off... when, being pigs, you had your pig-heads cut off: Long has this been greater than the water in the four great oceans."

Doesn't this mean that there is a soul in Buddhism?

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A literal reading of this translation brings the conclusion there is the same person transmigrating or reincarnating from life to life. Therefore, there will obviously be the impression of a permanent substance, such as a "soul", reincarnating from life to life. The Neo-Buddhists can argue until they are blue in the face that what transmigrates is a "re-linking consciousness" (which the Buddha did not teach) but, whatever it is called, it retains the characteristics of a soul (which is probably why Buddhism became extinct in India, given the common person could not distinguish between Neo-Buddhism & Hinduism).


Personally, I regard Chapter 15 of the SN to be either "fake dhamma" or, otherwise, mostly metaphorical language. For example:

  1. Literally, the word "saṃsāro" does not mean "transmigration". It merely means "continuance". SN 22.99 is a sutta using similar language to SN 15.13 yet describes samsaro as the ignorant mind, similar to a dog tied to a post, continually circling around & attaching to the same aggregates as "self".

  2. Literally, the word "satta" ("beings") does not refer to "sentient beings" but merely refers to a "self-view" produced by ignorance & craving (refer to SN 23.2 & SN 5.10, which define what a "satta" or "being" is). Therefore, what is continuing from an inconceivable beginning might be the production of self-views.

  3. Metaphorically, SN 47.20 uses the metaphor of a "head chopped off" for a loss of mindfulness. Therefore, when SN 15.13 refers to continually being beheaded, this may refer to continually lacking mindfulness.

  4. Metaphorically, suttas such as Lokapala Sutta refer to goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, dogs and jackals as representing sexual promiscuity (or unwholesome non-humane behaviours).

  5. Literally, similar to the Lokapala Sutta, SN 15.13 thus continues by referring to thieves, highway thieves, adulterers, which are unwholesome behaviours bringing punishment and even execution by the king. There are many suttas referring to the king cutting off the head of thieves, murderers & adulterers.

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  • Thank you for this answer. 22.99 is similar. – user17389 Jan 5 at 15:23
  • I read it again. Your answer seems to be true. Also I would like to add another point that, with every sexual thoughts and sexual misconducts there is a shift in human consciousness. Buddha's root knowledge depend upon controlling the lust and refraining self from sexual desire. Story of Mara is one example how he fought lust during the time of enlightenment. The beheading of consciousness, dogs or sheeps as metaphor for sexual misconduct and talking about adultery.. this all very much explains the moral situation we face. It's true once we are morally impure we wander on. That's the lesson. – user17389 Jan 5 at 15:53
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Samdhavata-Samsarata (translated above as "wander and transmigrate") literally means "continuously run or flow". It evokes an image of water in a river, carrying itself forward but never running out.

This is a reference to the stream of life in nature. In context of this sutta I would translate it as "reproduction". Generations of sentient beings derive their existence from previous generations and this cyclic process carries itself forward.

Children are born from parents, new plants grow from seeds of previous plants, and new ideas derive from old ideas. Action fruits as results. Old begets new. Here's your "transmigration".

You may call it "soul" but what it is, is information and transformation.

For further study, please read The Rice Seedling Sutra.

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  • I have mistaken this concept. There is no soul. This term soul is misinterpretation of term "atta". Atta is very similar to soul, however it also does not exist if we carefully examine it through insight. "Sabbe Dhamma Anatta." All doings, phenomenon, existence is devoid of permanent essence. It looks like the term 'atman' also did not exist during the time of Buddha. Atta is similar but it is denoted for the core part of both living and non living entity. But this also do not exist if we look carefully. – user17389 Jan 9 at 11:08
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User17389, by soul you mean: the spiritual part of a person, believed to exist after death. You need to explain more in this matter otherwise,

don't bluntly use word soul for citta in buddhism.

In buddhism, it's the subconscious state (citta) that travels which is also impermanence. Unlike soul, it's parent is noone rather cause&conditions that gives rise to citta are due to Ignorance whereas in case of soul(hindu word) it's parent is God who takes birth in human form too and produce lots of kids through sexual intercourse.

If so called soul exists, it's already present everywhere, how can it be different in different person OR how can it be condensed inside one, 2, 3... bodies & not in nearby space?

Now, if somehow you try to prove that soul and citta are same then Whether it's soul or citta ,only ignorance goes for rebirth which is not a Noble way not a ,'bhagwat' - this word is specifically for Samyak Sam buddha, not for someone going through sexual intercource to produce kids.

Don't mess word soul with citta of buddhism and even soul word is contradictory in itself.

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  • Pali uses word 'bojjhanga' for awakening. We Nepali still use that word, little change, 'biujhine' for awakening. Buddha never said 'no self,' but he said 'not self' or 'not yours' as in all things are not self or all things are not yours. All things are anatta(not yours). Because you are atta. Atta is soul. Soul is you. Bodhi means Buddhi means you have faculty to think. Three marks of existence: Annica, Dukkha and Anatta. Means, there is Impermanence in the world, there is suffering in the world and there are things not yours in this world. – user17389 Jan 7 at 5:22
  • My last comment:: @user17389 because you are atta. Tell me when, where(with reference) did buddha said this, otherwise you are wasting my time now. 'not self' and 'not yours' are different, 'self' is ' seemingly I' here.you got english misunderstanding. – user17511 Jan 7 at 9:28
  • I have mistaken. There is no atta. – user17389 Jan 9 at 10:58
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Your 1st pair of shoes were 'your shoes' Your 2nd pair of shoes were 'your shoes' Your 3rd pair of shoes were 'your shoes'

Neither the 1st, 2nd nor the 3rd pair were the same pair of shoes but all three were in a qualified sense 'your shoes'.

So it is with that which is called mind or consciousness, which by day and night arises as one thing and ceases as another.

So it is with bodies which are worn out..

All of the above are grasped with wrong view as personal, self referrable or belonging to a self for this or that person as long as one is attached to a doctrine of self.

There are many ways of explaining this and making it apparent ie; Consider how that which is called 'experience of a being', while alive, constantly changes but doesn't really ever cease; as in that which is called 'experienced reality of a being' does not alternate between 'reality' and 'unreality' but rather appears to be apparently changing 'reality'; it is the same reality in a qualified sense but is not the same, just like the shoes are 'your shoes' in a qualified sense but aren't really the same, experience arises as one thing and ceases as another experience.

Now as one delineates classes of experience and requisite conditions according to demonstrable basis one can delineate the various elements and describe their function and characteristics. In this way one should delineate structures, consciousness, contact etc

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The Sutta addresses the reproduction of suffering through two of the “three poisons”: ignorance and craving (the third poison being aversion). It also specifies that we can’t know how this started:

A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving

Without going into semantics about what “soul” means, there is - as far as i know - nothing in Buddhism that corresponds to the idea of a soul.

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  • I too believe in your concept that nothing in Buddhism corresponds to the idea of soul, however the above mentioned point made me contemplate about it. Maybe there is certain translation error or author wants to prove his point of the existence of soul. Thank you for this answer, i wanted to know what other Buddhists think about it, because the written quote says something else. – user17389 Jan 5 at 9:53
  • Where is the word ”soul” being used in the translation? – Erik Jan 5 at 10:56
  • soul: the spiritual part of a person, believed to exist after death. – user17389 Jan 5 at 13:01

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