Buddhist doctrine of 'no-self', 'non-self', or 'no-soul'. Buddhist philosophy teaches that what is regarded as a person is really the confluence of five factors, called the Five Aggregates. They are, in no particular order:
In keeping with Buddhist
beliefs in impermanance
taught that within these five things, there is no unchanging and permanent object that might constitute a permanent soul
in the sense of the Hindu atman
. Sometimes misconstrued by well-meaning Western Buddhists
who've had rather more Zen
than they can handle to mean that one shouldn't use the first person singular pronoun
The doctrine of anatman is quite often misinterpreted in the West (and in the East, for that matter), and found to be somehow "depressing", or "dehumanizing". This stems from the collision of the somewhat non-denominational idea that the soul represents that which is divine or good in a person; the Buffy the Vampire Slayer notion that the soul is what gives a being conscience and humanity. Buddhist teachings regarding anatman do not say that humans somehow lack these qualities; rather, Buddhism teaches that these qualities are not distinct from the rest of the being. Compassion, morality, and humanity are ineperable, and not bound in some sort of semi-distinct etherial entity. Buddhism teaches that we do not have a soul because the Buddha recognized that a human being can be completely described without recourse to any such concept.
The doctrine of anatman is the result of the application of Occam's Razor to human existence; it represents the Buddha's revelation that within ourselves, we can identify no single property that is unchanging and eternal- only continuity of consciousness and experience.