Chapter 10: Thus Come, Thus Gone
The first question is from Anand Nirgrantha.
You say that Buddha would not speak of God because it cannot be proven. Yet in the next breath he speaks of other lives, and reincarnation. How does this fit into scientific fact?
A Buddha says there is no soul. What is it that remains after death? What is reincarnation? I vaguely understand that it can be the formless that remains, but can that have an individual entity? The same wave is not reborn.
The question is very significant. It is one of the most fundamental contributions of Buddha to human consciousness - the idea of no-self. It is very complex. You will have to be very silently alert to understand it, because it goes against all the patterns that you have been conditioned to.
First a few analogies, so you have a certain idea what he means by no-self. Your body is a bag of skin. The skin defines your body; it defines where you and the world starts. It is a demarcation around you. It protects you from the world, it divides you from the world, and it allows you only certain apertures to enter into the world or let the world enter in you. If there is no skin, you will not be able to exist. You will be losing your boundaries with all that surrounds you. But you are not your skin. And skin goes on changing.
It is just like the snake who goes on getting out of his old skin again and again. You also get out of your skin again and again many times. If you ask the physiologists, they will say, “If a man is going to live seventy years, then nearly ten times he will change his skin completely.” But the process is very slow, so you never become aware. Such a tiny part changes every moment that you cannot feel it; your feeling is not so subtle. The change is very subtle. The skin goes on changing and still you go on thinking to yourself that this is your body, the same body. It is not the same body, it is a continuum.
When you were in your mother’s womb, the first day you were just a small cell, invisible to the naked eye. That was your skin that time, that was your body. Then you started growing. After nine months you were born - then you had a totally different body. If suddenly you come across yourself just one day old, just born, you will not be able to recognize that this is you. You have changed so much. But still you think you are the same. In a way you are the same because you are the same continuity. In a way you are not the same because you have been continuously changing.