The self exists, but temporarily?


The Buddha considers that all phenomena are non-self.

Some say that by this the Buddha means that no compound phenomenon can be considered as an eternal self, because compound phenomena are impermanent, and that even if compound phenomena cannot be considered as an eternal self, they can be considered as an impermanent, unstable self, which changes from moment to moment.

What do you think about it?

Thanks in advance

“Now, the one who, when delineating a self, delineates it as possessed of form & finite, either delineates it as possessed of form & finite in the present, or of such a nature that it will (naturally) become possessed of form & finite [in the future/after death/when falling asleep], or the thought occurs to him that ‘Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.’ This being the case, it is proper to say that speculation about a self possessed of form & finite obsesses him." (DN 15)

1 Like

A Self in the EBT is by definition that which is permanent/ unchanging, free of Dukkha and completely in/under control, hence whatever is impermanent and unstable cannot be considered as Self (as per EBT definitions).

But if it’s impermanent, suffering, and perishable, is it fit to be regarded thus:
‘This is mine, I am this, this is my self’?”
“No, sir.”

What you are referring to might, IMO be better considered as the conditioned phenomenon of “Personality”. :thinking: It is impermanent, unstable and often the source of much dukkha, when it doesn’t live up to the ideals we have set it. :wink:

Monks, just as two hands coming together produce sound, so, conditioned by eye and visible forms arises eye consciousness, and these three things together are contact. From contact arise feeling, perception, and volition.

“All these phenomena are not-self, impermanent; they are without a permanent self, not eternal, not stable, changing. Why is this so?

“Monks, these have the nature of birth, ageing, death, ceasing, and rebirth. Monks, all compounded things are as an illusion, a flame, ceasing in an instant; being not real they come (arise) and go (cease).

“Therefore, monks, with regard to all empty compounded things you should know, rejoice in, and be mindful of (awake to) this:

“All empty compounded things are empty of any permanent, eternal, lasting, unchanging nature; they are empty of self and of belonging to self”.


I believe a better way of going about these issues is offered by Ajahn Thanissaro.


the buddha’s words on this:

Whatever is agreed upon by the wise as not existing in the world, of that I too say, ‘It doesn’t exist.’ Whatever is agreed upon by the wise as existing in the world, of that I too say, ‘It exists.’

And what is agreed upon by the wise as not existing in the world that I too say, ‘It doesn’t exist’?

Form that’s constant, permanent, eternal, not subject to change is agreed upon by the wise as not existing in the world, and I too say, ‘It doesn’t exist.’ [same for other aggregates]

And what is agreed upon by the wise as existing in the world that I too say, ‘It exists’?

Form that’s inconstant, stressful, subject to change is agreed upon by the wise as existing in the world, and I too say, ‘It exists.’ [same for other aggregates]

SN 22.94

in this sense, considering any conditioned thing as ‘existing’ in any permanent unchanging sense would be incorrect, but, sensibly, considering that conditioned things ‘exist’ in a momentary instant, arising and immediately passing away, would be acceptable. we know this to be true in modern science for matter - the electron is always in motion. we know this to be true in mind as well from our own experience. there is no permanent unchanging atta (essence) to anything - there is only momentary arising and passing away.

1 Like

The point is that due to sakkayaditthi puthujjana sees himself as a self. This is an upadana, and with upadana as a condition - bhava. So there is a person (sakkaya) which exist in space and time, in the world.

But perhaps it isn’t proper to say that such being is temporarily one, since however far he steps back to the past, he will always encounter his being. In other words it is proper to say that avijja is impermanent, but such impermanence doesn’t exclude stability. Avijja on pre-logical level in the form of asmimana is always present, the same with sakkayaditthi (at least as underlying tendency to it) .

So structure of ignorance is very stable. Only certain particular self-identification 'I am this, this is my self" is rather temporal. So as to existence of the subject:

But care is needed; for, in fact, the division subject/object is not a simple negative/positive division. If it were, only the positive would be present (as an existing phenomenon) and the negative (the subject) would not be present at all—it would simply not exist. But the subject is, in a sense, phenomenal: it (or he) is an existing phenomenal negative, a negative that appears; for the puthujjana asserts the present reality of his ‘self’ (‘the irreplaceable being that I am’). The fact is, that the intention or determination ‘mine’, pointing to a subject, is a complex structure involving avijjā. The subject is not simply a negative in relation to the positive object: it (or he) is master over the object, and is thus a kind of positive negative, a master who does not appear explicitly but who, somehow or other, nevertheless exists.[c] It is this master whom the puthujjana, when he engages in reflexion, is seeking to identify—in vain![d] This delusive mastery of subject over object must be rigorously distinguished from the reflexive power of control or choice that is exercised in voluntary action by puthujjana and arahat alike.
Attā - Ñāṇavīra Thera Dhamma Page

1 Like

Nothing exists. But it does not have to exist thanks to the Event Horizons coming every moment to progress the Aspect of Emptiness for Perception. There is a Higher Metta.

1 Like

@Bodhisattva, this sounds very confused …

It’s not what the Buddha teaches in the Pali canon …


As an AI language model, I don’t have personal beliefs or opinions, but I can provide information on the Buddhist concept of non-self (Anatta).

In Buddhism, the concept of non-self suggests that there is no permanent, unchanging self or soul within an individual. According to Buddhist teachings, all phenomena, including the self, are impermanent and constantly changing. The self is seen as a mental construct that arises due to the interaction of various mental and physical factors, but it does not have an independent or inherent existence.

The Buddha taught that clinging to the idea of a permanent self or identity can lead to suffering, as it can create attachment, aversion, and other negative emotions. By recognizing the impermanence and non-self nature of all phenomena, including the self, one can cultivate wisdom and compassion, and ultimately achieve liberation from suffering.

Some interpretations of the concept of non-self suggest that while the self may be impermanent and constantly changing, it is still a valid concept or mental construct. However, the ultimate goal of Buddhist practice is to transcend even this concept of self and attain a state of enlightenment or liberation.

(Unedited response of GPT-4, elicited by using OP as the prompt as part of an experiment to evaluate the utility of the engine)

1 Like

I agree with this, and some scholars would say that “atta/atman” should be translated as “(unchanging) self” and “anatta/anatman” as “not (unchanging) self”. So five aggregates are anatta means five aggregates which are regarded as self or personality is not (unchanging) self.

Here is the answer I asked to Bing AI with question from the OP:

Bing: As a search engine, I don’t have personal opinions or beliefs. However, I can provide you with information on the topic of non-self in Buddhism. Would you like me to search for more information on this topic?

Me: Yes please

Bing: In Buddhism, Anatta is the word for the principle of non-self. The idea is that if you pay close enough attention (typically through meditation), you will find no permanent or enduring essence to your nature¹³. The concept of “non-self” (or “anatta” in Pali) refers to the idea that all things, including human beings, do not possess an unchanging and permanent essence or self².

(1) How to Apply the Strange Buddhist Principle of “Non-Self … - Medium. How to Apply the Strange Buddhist Principle of “Non-Self” to Your Life | by Jeff Valdivia | Age of Awareness | Medium Accessed 3/21/2023.
(2) The Meaning of Non-Self in Buddhism - The Meaning of Non-Self in Buddhism - Accessed 3/21/2023.
(3) Understanding the Buddhist view of not-self - Buddhism for Beginners. Understanding the Buddhist view of not-self - Buddhism for Beginners Accessed 3/21/2023.
(4) Anattā - Wikipedia. Anattā - Wikipedia Accessed 3/21/2023.
(5) “There is no self.”: The Concept of No Self in Buddhism - Tricycle. "There is no self.": The Concept of No Self in Buddhism - Tricycle Accessed 3/21/2023.

Would you like more information on this topic?

Me: Yes please

Bing: While often interpreted as a doctrine denying the existence of a self, anatman is more accurately described as a strategy to attain non-attachment by understanding that no unchanging, permanent self or essence can be found in any phenomenon. Many Buddhists interpret the doctrine of not-self to mean that we have no fixed, inherent, unchanging self. In Mahayana scriptures, the concept is extended to include all phenomena in the universe.

Is there anything else you would like to know?

1 Like

I’m temporarily closing this thread while staff discusses the use of AI.


Following staff discussion, AI posts are permitted if they are clearly marked as such. For example:

I am ChatGPT, I am not a human

@moderators Can we keep the AI stuff limited to specific threads, please? I’m not coming here to discuss with AIs, suspect I’m not the only one. We can each go to the AI site if we want to do this, what is to be gained by bringing this everywhere?


Speaking as a moderator, AI is something we’ll keep an eye on and develop rules and policies as needed.

Speaking as an individual and user of SC and D&D, right now AI is novel and people are having fun, but I personally hope this trend abates quickly.


The sense of self arises dependent on consciousness (aliveness) which is trimodal in nature as mind, body and awareness. Consciousness/aliveness is apprehended through these three modalities and arises dependent on a specific combination of aggregates to arise.

The individual, the mind (mental-cognitive aspect of consciousness) makes an idea of itself, a mental samsakara, a mental image, and sees itself as only this sense of ‘I’ as well as the views, habits, opinions and behaviors that it has come to develop.

This creates the thicket of views and is the entanglements rooted in ignorance, attachment and aversion that give rise to stress.

The untrained mind takes this ‘I’ and what they attached to it to be all they are where as the learned one knows the difference between the ideological sense of self and what it is predicated on. Such a learned one understands the arising, utility, function of the sense of self, but is not entrapped or ensnarred by it and sees that this idea of themselves is not all that they are. They have apprehended the suchness of the mind in itself and then the minds idea about itself which serves for the foundation of a ‘self’. The idea of self is born of one’s awareness of one’s living predicament born of mind and the image of the body.

The sense of self, predicated on the mind, body and awareness has a utility. When someone calls ones name, such one turns their head because the function of the name is to gain the attention of the one who identifies with the label. The sense of self has a function and a utility but untrained people become lost in unhelpful habits of thought often pertaining to their sense of self; not yet recognising it’s arising, function, and cessation; seeing that one is more than that, and seeing what that idea is predicated on which is what one actually is.

This is Suchness.

Correct, but escape from self necessitates the unconditioned as an established concept from the earliest stage:

“He discerns that ‘This mode of perception is empty of the perception of village. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of human being. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of wilderness.’ Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: ‘There is this.’ And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.”

Majjhima Nikaya 121

Apprehension of the suchness of thought and then the function of thought. Apprehension of the function of a word/name and what it corresponds to in the flow of nowness as perceived via the senses.

There is the idea of fire and then witnessing one through the 5 senses in the flow of nowness.

Conditioned thought and then direct perception of the flow of life in nowness which conditioned thought is born of. Map and territory. The map has a function and that is to navigate the territory.

There is knowing the word.
There is knowing the word and what it corresponds to.
There is the formation of a word to name a phenomena witnessed in direct experience.

Traveller beware… the thicket of views lays in one’s wake!