Dhammavuddho, Bhante

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Luang Por Dhammavuddho (Sept 28, 1947 – Dec 22, 2019) was the founder and abbot (1998 – 2019) of Vihara Buddha Gotama. He was Malaysian, of Chinese descent. As a layman he graduated from the University Malaya in 1971, and worked as an Electrical Engineer with the Public Works Department for 12 years before renouncing the home life. His interest in religion led him to study the world’s major religions for a few years before meeting the Buddha’s teachings in 1976.

In 1983, he went forth into the homeless life in the Mahayana tradition. Three years later, he was reordained in the Theravada tradition in Thailand. Thereafter, he spent about 10 years living the solitary lifestyle in quiet places.

He has written numerous booklets on Buddhism, e.g. Return to the Original Buddha’s Teachings, Message of the Buddha, Buddhist Monk’s Precepts, Liberation: Relevance of Sutta-Vinaya, Only We Can Help Ourselves, etc. His talks in English, Hokkien/Fujian, Cantonese, span the years 1988 – 2013. The 5 Nikayas in English, Hokkien Anguttara Nikaya, Samyutta Nikaya, Majjhima Nikaya; as well as other talks have been recorded in audio and video. In 1998, through donations collected by his supporters, a 15-acre piece of land outside Temoh, in Perak, was purchased to establish the Vihara Buddha Gotama.


Bhante Dhammavuddha has argued that true early Buddhism does not reject the concept of soul.

In at least 8 public talks, including those given in Singapore and in Athens, Greece [see below], Dhammavuḍḍho explains how he views the “soul”-idea and how we should understand it in accordance with the suttas.

(1) OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY He quotes the OED (Online): “A soul is the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being regarded as immortal.” Dhammavuḍḍho stresses that early Buddhism does NOT say that it is “immortal” but simply see it as the “immaterial part of us.”

Dhammavuḍḍho then gives 6 teachings relating to the idea of that “immaterial part of us” that we can call a “soul” in the sutta sense. He carefully quotes the relevant suttas by their reference numbers.

(2) GANDHABBA (“being-to-be-born”) M 38 (§26) and M 93 (§18) speak of the 3 conditions for CONCEPTION: 1. coitus between parents, 2. the mother’s fertile period and 3. the GANDHABBA or “being-to-be-born” (that is, the rebirth consciousness).

Once the gandhabba descends in the womb (he uses “the egg”), gestation starts. His point is that there is such an external “immaterial” being. This we can call a “soul.” [SD 7.10; SD 40a.2.]

(3) D 28 (§5) mentions 4 MODES OF REBIRTH, that is, how one 1. descends into the womb unknowing, stays unknowing, is reborn unknowing; 2. descends knowing, stays unknowing, is reborn unknowing; 3. descends knowing, stays knowing, is reborn unknowing; 4. descends knowing, stays knowing, is reborn knowing.

This means that there is an external “immaterial” being, which we can call a “soul.” [See SD 14.14; also D 14, SD 49.8; M 123, SD 52.2. Also SD 52.1 (]

(4) The Dhānañjāni Sutta (M 97,6-15) relates how “hell wardens” drag bad-doers to hell. The point of this story of facing one’s karma, Dhammavuḍḍho points out: it is not the physical body that suffers hellish pains, but an “immaterial” being that we can call a “soul.” [SD 4.9]

(5) S 44.9 (§15) speaks of A BEING that has “laid down the body” but not yet reborn into another body. This “being” can be called a “soul,” and the Sutta adds that it is “fueled by craving.” [SD 23.15]

(6) Finally, Dhammavuḍḍho refers to the sutta teaching of THE 5 REALMS [such as in A 9.68]: The hells, animal, pretas, humans and the devas.

Of these, only 2 are physical (humans and animals). The other 3—the hells, pretas (departed ghosts) and the devas—are “spirit” [immaterial] beings, not of flesh but with a “fine” body. This can be called a soul. Dhammavuḍḍho adds that these are the 4 MENTAL AGGREGATES (feeling, perception, formations, consciousness). [SD 2.20]

See also