This book explains the Buddhist doctrine of annatta ("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 Brahman background. He shows how the Theravada Buddhist tradition has constructed a philosophical and psychological account of personal identity on the apparently impossible basis of the denial of self. Although the emphasis of the book is firmly philosophical, Dr. Collins makes use of a number of academic disciplines, particularly those of anthropology, linguistics, sociology, and comparative religion, in an attempt to discover the "deep structure" of Buddhist culture and imagination, and to make these doctrines comprehensible in terms of the western history of ideas.
'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.' 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.' 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.' Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society