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  • Cited by 197
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
December 2009
Print publication year:
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Book description

This book seeks to explain carefully and sympathetically the Buddhist doctrine of anatta ('not-self'), which denies the existence of any self, soul or enduring essence in man. The author relates this doctrine to its cultural and historical context, particularly to its Brahmanical background, and shows how the Theravada Buddhist tradition has constructed a philosophical and psychological account of personal identity and continuity on the apparently impossible basis of the denial of self.


‘Steven Collins has written an admirable and fascinating book. It consists largely in the detailed discussion of certain Buddhist and, in particular, Theravada sacred texts and commentaries, and will doubtless become a necessary work for scholars working on the Buddhist doctrine of ANATTA (Sanskrit ANATMAN), or ‘not-self’, according to which the idea that we possess persisting (or permanent) souls or selves must be dismissed as, ultimately, total illusion. But it succeeds in its avowed aim of being a book entirely accessible to non-specialists, and will be of interest not only to students of the human sciences, but also to those who are students of themselves for other than, or at least for more than, academic reasons.’

Source: The Times Literary Supplement

‘This is an exceptional book in every way, one of the best studies of Buddhist soteriological thought to appear in recent times.’

Source: Queen's Quarterly

‘In Selfless Persons, Steven Collins has produced a rare work; a book that, on the one hand, renders the fundamental tenets of Theravada Buddhism not only intelligible but interesting to the uninitiated, and on the other, is unlikely to disappoint the academic specialist, since Collins' approach lacks neither originality nor sound research. This is a valuable addition to the corpus of Buddhist commentary which the scholar of Buddhism or religious history would be unwise to ignore.’

Source: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

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