One of the most important doctrines in Buddhism is anātman, which denies the existence of a self. However, if there really is no self, then how can we say that there are any wrongdoers? In turn, we could even question whether it makes any sense to repent of our sins, if there is no agent behind anything. This issue is particularly vexing from a Western philosophical standpoint, which generally emphasizes moral agency as an important aspect of ethics. However, the Korean monk Wŏnhyo (617–686) claimed that only on the basis of the doctrine of non-self and universal emptiness could we properly practice repentance while avoiding dogmatism and self-righteousness. In his view, liberation from suffering can only be achieved through a deep understanding of the nature of emptiness. This understanding can only be reached by rejecting the reality of the six sense-objects and therefore seeing the world as a kind of illusion. However, such a vision does not imply that we must step "outside" of the world—on the contrary, we must embrace illusion and reality as being the same. Understanding and accepting this radically non-dualistic metaphysical view results in an ethics where genuine compassion is generated spontaneously.


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pp. 31-46
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