Neuroscience Learns What Buddhism Has Known for Ages: There Is No Constant Self

The word Buddha means The Awakened One, which derives from the Sanskrit root budh – ‘to wake’. He is a man who has woken to discover that suffering is over. Interestingly, the historical Buddha was not an ordinary man, but an exceptional one. This doesn’t mean that he was a God or a prophet, but rather a human being who found a way of achieving freedom, compassion, and wisdom from suffering.

The fundamental Buddhist doctrines include:

  • The Chain of Causation / The Twelve linked Chain of Causation ( Creating suffering brings suffering to ourselves and living a life that reduces suffering for all leads to liberation)
  • The Three Signs of Being (Change, Suffering, and no ‘I’)
  • The Four Noble Truths (The Noble Truth of Suffering,  The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering, The Noble Truth of Cessation of Suffering, and The Noble Truth of the Way leading to the Cessation of Suffering: The Noble Eightfold Path
  • The Noble Eightfold Path ( Right concentration, right mindfulness, right thought, right speech, right livelihood, right effort, right view, and right action.

Generally speaking, Buddhists value virtues like humanity, patience, giving, and kindness. The idea to cause no harm to animals, plants and the world in general is the foundation of their teaching.  Simply put, Buddhism is a religion whose aim is to help people live peaceful lives.

One of the most appealing aspects regarding Buddhism is the viewpoint Buddhists have on change. Namely, they believe that nothing in the world is permanent or fixed. We are not the same people, either mentally, emotionally, or physically, that we were a few years ago.  This goes to show that we, as shifting beings, are not capable of finding security.

Particularly this aspect of Buddhism was tackled in this article, as it is the only one to be scientifically proven as correct.  Recently, neuroscience has proven that the human body is changing all the time, meaning that there isn’t any stable self for any person.

The University of British Columbia’s Evan Thomson points out this idea when he says that from a neuroscience perspective, the brain and body is constantly in flux. There’s nothing that corresponds to the sense that there’s an unchanging self.”  Specifically, neuroplasticity holds the view that the brain is malleable, which means that it is capable of change and growth covering an extensive range.

While these ideas seem quite odd in the beginning, they show that anything is possible and that everyone is capable of achieving and accomplishing anything.  As much cliché as it sounds, you have probably also heard that “all human beings need to find themselves,” so these findings truly are both new and important.

Buddha states, “Nothing is permanent. Everything is subject to change. Being is always becoming,” which stressed out the importance of these insights.  Perhaps more elegant yet are Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron’s words: “Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality.”