Samsara without beginning or end?

Is there a sutta or suttas that says samsara is without beginning or end? I’m especially looking for a sutta that says samsara is endless. Thanks.

SN 15, but otherwise in the Uttiya Sutta (AN 10.95), the endlessness is left undeclared.

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SN 15 Anamataggasaṃyutta says that Samsara is with Unknown-End.

Commentary says, both Root-end and Top-end are unknowable and not delimitable.

anamataggo ti anu amataggo, vassasataṃ vassasahassaṃ ñāṇena anugantvāpi amataggo aviditaggo, nāssa sakkā ito vā etto vā aggaṃ jānituṃ, aparicchinnapubbāparakoṭikoti attho. saṃsāro ti khandhādīnaṃ avicchinnappavattā paṭipāṭi. pubbā koṭi na paññāyatī ti purimamariyādā na dissati. Yadaggena cassa purimā koṭi na paññāyati, pacchimāpi tadaggeneva na paññāyati, vemajjheyeva pana sattā saṃsaranti.

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Specifically SN 15.3:


AN10.95 is the answer.

In the same way, it’s not the Realized One’s concern whether the whole world is saved by this, or half, or a third. But the Realized One knows that whoever is saved from the world—whether in the past, the future, or the present—all have given up the five hindrances, corruptions of the heart that weaken wisdom. They have firmly established their mind in the four kinds of mindfulness meditation. And they have truly developed the seven awakening factors. That’s how they’re saved from the world, in the past, future, or present. Uttiya, you were just asking the Buddha the same question as before in a different way. That’s why he didn’t answer.”

It’s left undeclared.

If the Buddha were to say that everyone will eventually be freed and attain to nibbana, marking the end of sentient beings in samsara via no more rebirth, then it doesn’t matter if the physical universe goes on or not, no more consciousness to observe it. That’s the end of samsara.

But the practical aspect is that if he would had declared that, some people would be lazy. Since liberation is guaranteed, they rather not work now and get paid later, eventually.

If Buddha were to say that samsara has no end, then some people would think that “oh, I must be one of those people who can never attain to enlightenment. What’s the point of practising hard?” Then they don’t put in the work and become a self fulfilling prophecy.

The reply in the sutta makes sense to spur people to practice.

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I think this is one of those really interesting areas that touches on the philosophical aspects of Buddhism that often go unremarked or even obscured.

First point; the Buddha in the EBT’s is repeatedly shown as refusing to answer certain questions, one of which is the “eternal or not” question, for example in the above mentioned AN10.95

This is why it is important to be circumspect with words like “beginning-less” or “infinite” or “endless” and the EBT’s are, using locutions like “a beginning is not discernible”, because otherwise by imputing some positive property of “endlessness” you would have a complete contradiction where on the one hand the Buddha refuses to declare that the cosmos is eternal, but on the other hand says that it has an infinite past.

So I think that is an important point.

Secondly I think that the reason the EBT’s talk about past lives having no discernible beginning is because the EBT’s again repeatedly and explicitly recognize the difference between the past, present and future, and again are very careful in their language about what knowledge is possible in each case, so the Buddha does not claim to be able to see the future the way he can recall the past, he merely claims to be able to recall his past lives, see the passing away and arising of beings based on their kamma in the present, and know of the future that no state of being can arise because of the total destruction of the taints observable in the present.

So the Buddha and the EBT’s don’t say that the future is “endless” like the past because one can’t recall ones future lives to attempt to discern an “end”

Finally the Buddha definitely claims that there CAN be an end to samsara, i.e nibbana! so it would be strange for the Buddha to say that samsara is endless as it would mean that enlightenment is not possible.



I heard one of the monks says in his Abhidhamma Fundamental Lecture that there should be no beginning, otherwise it is against principles.
"If there is a beginning, it is against the cause and effect theory", he says.


AN 4.77

If you try to think about these things you will go mad or get frustrated.




Yes! but this is what we need to be careful of, every effect must be found to have a cause, no matter how many we look at, but we cannot then say that it is “endless” just that no end is found, because otherwise we would go from a statement about phenomena that is verifiable to an unverifiable metaphysical statement, since an infinite number of cases cannot be checked.

As I understand the teachings wandering (samsara) is neither without the begining nor without the end. It’s certainly endless if you don’t put effort to end it (I don’t think it’s stated anywhere but you can conclude that since there’s critique of the determinist view in the suttas), but if you heard or discovered the Dhamma you can end it. As for the begining it’s impossible to know it, but you can’t therefore conclude it didn’t had one.

Siema :slight_smile:

It can be like an ant, do ant can know things beyond ant-nature? Same with humans and this is what people often forget that humans have their limitations too in understanding - there is no way we will ever know anything beyond our nature, luckily Nibbana and our mind and how it works is inside of this limitation.

Anamatagga Saɱyutta

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Thanks for everyone who responded. It sounds like there might not be a sutta that specifically says samsara is endless. Just that it has no discernible beginning. Which seems to imply that it’s endless but not definitively.

Wishing that it ends in nibbana for you :slight_smile:

has no known beginning…Anamataggoyaṁ, bhikkhave, saṁsāro.

the world is beginning-less. the question of “a beginning” & thereafter “a creator” or the “primary cause” comes in mind due to our linear thinking. actually, the cause becomes effect and which in turn again becomes a cause in the cyclical beginning-less happening of things.

at the cosmic level - its all akin to infinity for our petty lives & mind. buddha pointed out the perennial suffering that continues on and on with continued rounds of birth-death and admonished us to act now to end the suffering.

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beginning-less & end-less samsara

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enquiry into all aspects of buddha’s wonderful dhamma is wonderful and should be encouraged but, finally, all of us who have been troubled by such questions need to understand that:

a) lokacinta acinteyya

b) vicikiccha is a nivarana which is subdued by samadhi and finally eradicated by panya (vipassana) bhavana. vicikiccha is one of the 3 fetters which is cut when one has his first nibbanic dip and becomes an ariya (sotapanna).

c) bhavanamayi-panya is supreme and lords over cintamayi-panya & sutmayi-panya.

d) the desire to seek an answer to a question is anicca too! if left alone - the doubt may go away over time or the question may not look so important after some time or the question itself may be forgotten! so, it is pointless to give undue importance to any question or even an answer. our perception & understanding of an answer / teaching of the bhagava too changes over time. it’s all a grand play of anicca and to be over-attached to anything anicca is bound to be dukkha and that is why we get so troubled by our nagging doubts.

with respect & much metta for all inquisitive minds with interesting questions,


Garavo ca nivato ca, santutthi ca katannuta,
Kalena dhamma savanam, etam mangala muttamam.

Khanti ca sovacassata, samananan ca dassanam,
Kalena dhamma sakaccha, etam mangala muttamam.

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Reviewing SN 41:3 With Isidatta 2nd today, which suggests that the question, Is samsara without beginning or end?" getting involved with views that cease once identify view ceases. For example, from 41:3:

“Venerable sir, concerning the various views that arise in the world—‘The cosmos is eternal’ or ‘The cosmos isn’t eternal’; ‘The cosmos is finite’ or ‘The cosmos is infinite’; ‘The soul and the body are the same’ or ‘The soul is one thing, the body another’; ‘A Tathāgata exists after death’ or ‘A Tathāgata doesn’t exist after death’ or ‘A Tathāgata both exists & doesn’t exist after death’ or ‘A Tathāgata neither exists nor doesn’t exist after death’; these along with the sixty-two views mentioned in the Brahmajāla [DN 1]—when what is present do these views come into being, and when what is absent do they not come into being?”

“Concerning the various views that arise in the world, householder… when self-identity view is present, these views come into being; when self-identity view is absent, they don’t come into being.”

Hope this is helpful:-)

Most religions have a creation story, an account of how everything began. It seems that Buddhism is an exception?

Depends on what you mean by everything. Roughly separating into 2 realms: physical and samsara (which is physical and mental combined).

Physically, cyclic multiverse is there. DN 27: Aggaññasutta—Bhikkhu Sujato (

Samsara wise, dependent origination posits ignorance, which is due to previous life’s ignorance, without discernable beginning.

Given the DN27, there’s beginning story for the cycles of universes.

Perhaps, which corresponds to one of the unique characteristics of the Dhamma – anatta: no enduring self. That said, of course, the Buddha taught about dependent origination but seems to avoid declaring whether there was a singular beginning or end.