I wanted to write about a recent experience i had and welcome any thoughts, reflection and feedback.
i spent last Friday through Sunday (staying both nights) in retreat at a local monistary (Pine Mountain Buddhist Temple) while participating in activities and lodging with resident monks. it was a sublime religious experience full of lengthy meditation and liturgy.
The three full-time monks at the temple are the Abbess & Rev. Master Phoebe, Rev. Master Seikai, and Rev. Leon. These monks are members of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives and are practitioners of the Serene Reflection Meditation Tradition of Soto Zen which is markedly different then Tibetan traditions in certain respects.
(FYI, I’m not a member of any Buddhist organization but nevertheless an appreciative member of the laity.)
During Sunday’s dharma talk, the Abbess made a passing remark I noted as significant. She was saying something about the ineffable essence that is greater than oneself and exists in the processes of karma and reincarnation and then quickly added this was not the “soul”.
Now to be honest I got a bit stuck there. It wasn’t a surprise to me that Buddhists do not believe in human souls because I’ve known they subscribe to the point in their cannon that claims Siddhartha Gautama looked long and hard for the self/soul and could not find it. This was reiterated by the Abbess when I asked her to clarify how one could be sure soul is not the essence of oneself.
Yet a question then begs to be asked here, is it untenable to ascribe this essence as being ‘soul’ in the process of karma and reincarnation?
It seems to me as if any metaphysically tautological claim (i.e. that we do not have ‘souls’) isn’t true just because a venerable and estimable luminary says so - i.e. they’ve done the searching for us and we don’t have to do anything towards looking for ourselves. N.b. I’m also aware the Buddha openly welcomed his followers to “look for yourself.”
Just to let you know how I look at it for myself, I don’t think of soul is a noun or some nouminal thing, but somewhat a dimension and a kind of verb - a process like having been, existing or ‘being’ and becoming.
I’m assuredly not as well informed as my ego wants me to think I am so I’m asking whether anyone has thoughts to share about this.