Where are the converted annihilationist wanderers?

Is it just me, or do we find many examples of the Buddha converting various wanderers & brahmins, but nothing really related to annihilationist conversions? A common doctrine of theirs was said to be pretty close to dispassion; where are their conversion narratives?

AN 10.29:

(8) “Bhikkhus, of the speculative views held by outsiders, this is the foremost, namely: ‘I might not be and it might not be mine; I shall not be, and it will not be mine.’ For it can be expected that one who holds such a view will not be unrepelled by existence and will not be repelled by the cessation of existence. There are beings who hold such a view. But even for beings who hold such a view there is alteration; there is change. Seeing this thus, the instructed noble disciple becomes disenchanted with it; being disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate toward the foremost, not to speak of what is inferior.

So, maybe here is such a wanderer:

SN 36.21:

Moḷiyasīvaka: “Master Gotama, there are some ascetics and brahmins who hold such a doctrine and view as this: ‘Whatever a person experiences, whether it be pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant, all that is caused by what was done in the past.’ What does Master Gotama say about this?

Satisfied with a practical answer, he again approaches the Sangha:

AN 6.47:

Then Moliyasivaka the wanderer went to the Blessed One and exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One, “‘The Dhamma is visible here-&-now, the Dhamma is visible here-&-now,’ it is said. To what extent is the Dhamma visible here-&-now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the wise for themselves?”

A brilliant question, one that suits me as well. Others of this inclination of mind join, and the Buddha crafts a graded lesson for them:

SN 22.55:

At Savatthi. There the Blessed One uttered this inspired utterance: “‘It might not be, and it might not be for me; it will not be, and it will not be for me’: resolving thus, a bhikkhu can cut off the lower fetters.”

SN 35.31:

Bhikkhus, I will teach you the way that is suitable for uprooting all conceivings. Listen to that….

:confused:

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To me, this is the story of how the Buddha radicalizes the already radical annihilationist teaching even more. ‘You say there will be no self after you die? Guess what, buddy: there is no self even right now!’, at which point if the annihilationists accept it they stop being annnihilationists. Bu-u-u-ut the anatta doctrine allows for rebirth, which the annihilationists were possibly not happy with and, therefore, did not get converted.

Obviously, the change of the cognitive perspective from the annihilationist position to the anatta position is not as drastic as the abandonment of the eternalist point of view, it requires in fact just a little adjustment of ‘there will be no self’ to ‘there is no self’. However, don’t let us conflate the annihilationist views and the annihilationists themselves. I think you know it from your own experience that hardcore atheists like Mr. Hitchens or Mr. Lenin can be more persistent or even fanatical in their views than the religious folk (if you happen to be an annihilationist and / or atheist yourself please don’t regard it as a personal attack). So, when confronted with the challenging anatta (and, maybe, rebirth) doctrine they refused to admit its correctness.

Besides, there always were not that many annihilationist wanderers in India. Lokāyata / Cārvāka came to have a pretty bad reputation in later India, and I assume they were not in the highest esteem at the Buddha’s time as well. In other words, there quite possibly were many more eternalists, so that the Suttas could give more focus to the converted eternalists, occasionally mentioning the eternalist wanderers who didn’t convert. As for the annihilationists, there was no such wealth of choices.

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Indeed, in the Chinese SA 105, the Buddha has said about three kinds of teacher:

Seniya, you should know that there are three kinds of teacher. What are the three?

“There is a teacher who has the view that [only] in the present world there truly is a self, and he speaks according to his understanding, yet he is not able to know matters of the afterlife. This is called the first [kind of] teacher that appears in the world.

“Again, Seniya, there is a teacher who has the view that in the present world there truly is a self, and he also has the view that in the afterlife there [truly] is a self, and he speaks according to his understanding.

“Again, Seniya, there is a teacher who does not have the view that in the present world there truly is a self, and he also does not have the view that in the afterlife there truly is a self.

“Seniya, the first teacher who has the view that in the present world there truly is a self and who speaks according to his understanding, he is reckoned as having the view of annihilation.

“The second teacher who has the view that in the present world and in the future world there truly is a self, and who speaks according to his understanding, he has the view of eternalism.

“The third teacher who does not have the view that in the present world there truly is a self, and who also does not have the view that in the afterlife there [truly] is a self ― this is the Tathāgata, the arahant, the fully awakened one, who in the present has abandoned craving, become separated from desire, has made them cease, and has attained Nirvāṇa.”

More astonishing, this sutra has no Pali parallel, but it is quoted in the Kathavatthu (Kv 1.1) by the Theravadin to refute Puggalavadin doctrine!

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That’s interesting. Although it’s also fascinating how SA 105 strangely resembles SN 44.9.

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Yes, the situation for both is the same, but the content of the discourses is different…

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