A Former Buddhist Tells His Story

Is there any point in being Buddhist? For Paul Williams, a former Buddhist, the answer is no.

Many people know that Buddhism teaches reincarnation and that one’s good and bad deeds in this life (i.e. karma) will affect the next life. What is less well known is that Buddhism states there is no such thing as a “soul” that lives on after death. What then is reincarnated? Buddhist’s teach that there is only a causal effect from one life to the next (in terms of karma) but nothing (i.e. a soul) is actually reincarnated. This has led some to question the whole point of practising Buddhism in the first place.

It was this issue, as well as a number of factors that led Paul Williams, Emeritus Professor of Indian and Tibetan Philosophy at the University of Bristol, to reject Buddhism. In his book, The Unexpected Way, he writes,
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I began to think that if Buddhism were correct then unless I attained enlightenment or something like it in this life, I – Williams, the person I am – would have no hope. For the rebirth of Williams that follows from my not attaining enlightenment would not be the same person as Williams. Clearly I was not going to attain enlightenment in this life. So I (and I suspect all my friends and family) must have in themselves finally no hope.

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