Throughout history, there has been a variety of opinions and theories regarding the body and the soul. The two most common known philosophies regarding the body and the soul are Plato’s theories and Buddhism. Each have their own ways of viewing how the body and the soul connect to each other and how they function during a life. Buddhism, an old eastern religion that believes in no monotheistic creator and reincarnation. Buddhist’s also have their own notion that creates a connection between the soul and the body.
Despite the differences between the two philosophies, I will argue that there are greater similarities between Plato’s and Buddhism’s notions of the soul. Throughout this essay, the ideas of parallel interpretations of the soul, individual perspectives of the afterlife, and Plato’s dualism perspective comparing it to Buddhist’s view of the connection between body and mind will be compared to each other so that the similarities between the two will become evident. To begin, the basis of how Plato deciphered the soul is crucial to understand.
Plato had a representation of the soul called the Chariot Allegory. The chariot has two horses, one that represents appetites and the other which represents fears. “The appetites, which includes all our myriad desires for various pleasures, comforts, physical satisfactions, and bodily ease. ” The fears would be concepts such as death, sickness and sorrows. The best way to explain this theory of body and soul interaction would be to use the example of the behavior of animals in the wild. When animals see something appetizing (ex.
Lions hunting deer) they will go towards it. When animals are in fear (ex. The opposite, deer seeing lions) they will run away. The charioteer is the most pivotal component of this system. “Charioteer who is guiding (or who at least should be guiding) the horses and chariot. This is the part of us that thinks, analyzes, looks ahead, rationally weighs options, and tries to gauge what is best and truest overall. ” Plato talked about his belief that key to understanding the soul is to harmonize all three parts of the soul in order to have purity.
Plato also believed that contemplation of the soul is essential to the understanding the inner-self. This fathom of the inner-self allows for an individual to experience more, therefore becoming wiser and also develop an understanding of concepts eas that they could not grasp before the realization of the self. Plato believes that the soul is eternal, he believes our bodies our subjective to change and grow with age. Our souls however, do not change and will live past the death of our bodies make it eternal.
Consequently, Plato also has his own opinion of the afterlife and that the soul is eternal like Buddhists. He believes that our bodies are material. And eventually, they will die. He says “Who were the dead, for Plato? They were souls who had been released from their temporary embodiment. ” Meaning that he believes that humans should welcome death as it liberates the soul from being trapped within the body. If a person lives a good life with contemplation, after they die the soul will go to a “perfect universe” and will stay there until a baby is born.
Plato believes these new transferred souls are full of knowledge but are limited by their new body because a baby must grow up and re-learn the abilities that the soul already knows. This is the reason why Plato believes that the soul is “better off” after the body has died. Lastly, I am going to look at Plato’s view of dualism Plato believes in the connection between the body and the mind which is referred to as dualism. “Plato believed that the true substances are not physical bodies, which are ephemeral, but the eternal Forms of which bodies are imperfect copies. (Dualism Stanford). This means that it is what is inside of us that makes us who we are which is the mind. It is hard to explain Plato’s dualistic views because it is described on a metaphysical level. Plato does not specify how the soul binds with the body but believes there is a strong continuity between the two. Now talking about the beliefs of Buddhism, I will first talk about the ideas written by Buddha. When Buddha was faced with questions about the soul, he generally denied and never directly came up with a definition of what the soul is.
What he does define about the soul is that “if the soul were identical with the body, it would perish with it; if it were a distinct entity and an immutable Atman, it would not affected by conduct and there would be no use in leading a holy .” Buddha explains that the soul is eternal meaning it never dies. He also explains that if the soul was not connected to the person, the role of religion or abiding by the rules of Buddha would become pointless and would cease to be of significance. Buddha believed that there is a correlation between the soul and the life you live which is known as karma.
Karma is a key component of the Buddhist religion as for every action you take there are consequences. “Buddha’s solution is, there are not two things (1) An Atman and two the deeds performed by the Atman, but there is one thing- a soul-activity (karma), which operates by a continuous preservation of its deed forms or sameskaras” As a result of this concept of karma, Buddha believed you cannot define the soul through logic or reason. The true definition can be found within yourself.
He states that, “he understood the soul, or atman, not through logic or opinion, but through his direct experience of meditation. Meditation lead to good karma meaning and his soul would not experience negative actions, avoiding bad karma. Buddha believed that everyday people are faced with choices where you must use reason and strength in life choices. The afterlife is a controversial topic because of the fact that there are competing theories and ideas about it. There is the belief that there is no afterlife, but if there is no afterlife, what happens to a person’s soul after they die? The Buddhist support this belief of cycle of lives, that when a person dies, they are reincarnated.
When a person is reincarnated, their soul must enter another body, but this body has to reflect their last life. In each life that is lived, an individual grows wiser due to their experiences that that have during that life. These experiences allow a person to become closer to reaching enlightenment in their inner-self. Buddhists believe your body is material and is subject to change meaning when you die, your body dies, but this is not the same for soul. The soul is immaterial meaning it cannot change. The body can grow and develop but the soul only gets wiser.
Buddhists believe a person keeps the same soul they just continue their journey into a different body, meaning the karma that they endured stays with their soul. This process continues until the soul has reached enlightenment. When the soul reaches enlightenment, it goes to a place called nirvana, which is believed by the Buddhists to be “a cycle of death and rebirth called samsara. Through karma and eventual enlightenment, they hope to escape samsara and achieve nirvana, an end to suffering. ” This shows the belief that our soul does have an end resting place.
Buddhist’s also have their own distinction of the connection between the mind and body. “The Buddhist portrayal of mind and body as two distinct aspects of a human being makes use of the mind-body distinction merely as a temporary conceptual tool to illustrate the formation of the blueprint of an individual. ” This means that Buddha denied that there is a connection between the mind and the body and that they are two separate concepts and should be thought of separately. As well, he does not agree with this materialistic view and believes that the two should be thought of from a nonmaterialistic perspective.
He thought of the mind as a part of the body, therefore it is material like the body. Buddhist’s do believe in the soul leaving the body after death, meaning their view of the connection between the body and soul a materialistic view. He believes the soul builds karma and that the karma will stay with the soul and will reincarnate into another material body, making Buddha believe in some sort of dualistic properties between the body and the soul. The chariot model and karma have a lot of similarities, as it seems they both have a difficult time defining the soul because there is an assumption that the soul is eternal.
There is also a similarity in the fact that both philosophies stated that you cannot directly define the soul, and both have created ways to better the soul and make it wiser through the actions of meditation/ contemplation. In relation to bettering the souls, both, Plato and Buddha believed it is important to “strengthen” our souls like it would be to exercise and strengthen the body. As well, they believed that as individuals we are faced with rational choices every day that force us to either preform good deeds or bad ones.
These choices are related back to the Chariot model because of the fact that like trying to find the balance between good and bad actions, people are challenged to find the balance between their appetites and their fears through reason in order to they must use reason to harmonize these two battling realities to have this purify the soul. Similarly, Buddhist have established the concept of karma, which is defined as the actions intended by an individual will be reflected back onto them. The idea of the chariot and karma are similar because of the end goal of harmonizing the soul in order to reach enlightenment.
There can be no accurate description of the afterlife because it cannot be experienced. People are then forced to believe in the ideas of “heaven” and “nirvana” because there is no scientific proof of an afterlife. No one wants to believe that after death there is nothing. These ideas give people hope to look forward to some form of existence after death. Not identical, but Buddhists and Plato have very similar outlooks on the afterlife. They both have the belief that our soul will continue living after our bodies die and that there is a process of rebirth known as reincarnation.
Similarly, they both have this notion of what is important about a human is not the material (body) but what is inside out bodies (soul). Where they differ in theories is the about the mind. “Buddhist theories of mind may thus be appealing because they resist straightforward materialism but also reject the view that the mind is an immaterial substance, since they repudiate the notion that there are substances quite generally, whether mental or material. ” This means that Buddhist’s did not believe in the unmaterialistic properties of the mind, he believes like the body, mind is also material and subject to change.
Although this distinct difference of the mind they both hold the same concepts of the fundamental principles of dualism and both agree around the soul and body. In conclusion, through the critical analysis of the chariot model versus atman, looking at the afterlife and comparing Plato’s dualism to the connection between body and soul to Buddhist, it has come apparent that although differences like the connection between mind and body and their differences in afterlife, it has become evident that Plato and Buddhism had similar notions of the body and soul.
Buddhist and Plato have a parallel outlook when it comes to the soul. They both believe in the primary fundamental dualistic principles, the higher power of the soul and the role of the soul has in the afterlife. It seems that they both hold constant to each other and have the similar fundamental principles around the soul.