To understand the Buddhist doctrine of “no self” we need to discuss the Five Aggregates in Buddhism. These five constituents seek to explain our existence and they include:
- Form or “Rupa”, this constituent refers to physical features, which includes our bodies and is connected to our sensory receptors (tongue, nose, eyes, ears, body) and their corresponding senses of taste, smell, sight, sound and material objects.
- Sensation or “Vedana”, this constituent refers to our feelings and includes the three different experiences of indifference, pleasant and unpleasant sensations. This means all our feelings can be categorized within these three sensations.
- Perception, this aggregate refers to our ability to develop a concept or idea about an experience.
- Mental formation, this aggregate refers to our moral reasoning about the experiences we are exposed to. It also points to how we respond to these sensations presently and in future.
- Consciousness, this constituent refers to our level of awareness towards experiences and sensations and is associated with our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. The mind represents the sixth sense that is charged with reasoning.
To address the doctrine of “no self” Buddhists point to the inability of self to exist without the 5 aggregates and the understanding that no single aggregate can represent the self. The doctrine of “no self" is also supported by the fact that none of the 5 aggregates remains the same and time changes everything. The self depends on a variety of factors and it immediately ceases to exist when these factors are withdrawn so the idea of self becomes immaterial according to Buddhism.