In this article, the writer of the article claims, purports or alleges that Bhikkhu Thanissaro and Bhikkhu Bodhi state that the Buddha NEVER said that there was no self. The Buddha NEVER said that there is no soul.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are contrary to many response given in this platform, for example response given for one of the most frequently vised question here is described as fatalism and NOT Buddhism.

The question is, is the view presented widely accepted view in Buddhism or is it a new development?

  • This question was misrepresenting Bhikkhu Thanissaro and Bhikkhu Bodhi because they did not write the article. I edited to the question to make it clear the views do not belong to Bhikkhu Thanissaro and Bhikkhu Bodhi but belong to the author of the article. Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 23:13
  • Thanks for the correction, I did know that the writes publish the article without the Bhikkhus consent.
    – user10552
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 23:20
  • In MN 61, the Buddha taught he that tells a deliberate lie, there is no evil he cannot do. Therefore, I would take care with the article. Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 23:28
  • This seems to have a duplicate here which has answers that may also be helpful.
    – lly
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 0:42

4 Answers 4


In Buddhism if you take part by part (organ by organ, aggregate by aggregate, faculty by faculty, the mind or body, the world) there is nothing worth identifying as self or soul. What ever place or part you look there is no self, but also taking the view there is no self is also an extreme. In essence the best way to put this is not self or nonself than no self, as whatever you take is not self.

Any thought or view about a self (including no self) will never be in touch with reality and result craving and aversion ultimately leading to suffering.

Also see: Alagaddupama Sutta


The Pali suttas unambiguously state the entire universe is void of self (SN 35.85).

When the deluded idea of 'self' is born (SN 22.81) in the human mind, according to the Pali suttas, it is not a real 'self' but merely a 'view' (SN 5.10), merely a verbal convention (SN 1.25; MN 98), merely the arising of suffering (SN 5.10; SN 12.15), merely a disease (Ud 3.10) & a cancer (MN 140) or, in short, neurosis.

This world is burning. Afflicted by contact, it calls disease a 'self.'

This world, overcome by contact, is tormented, It speaks of a disease as the self,

Udana 3.10

Also, it is a mistake to refer to SN 44.10 & insist the Buddha did not take a position on the question of whether or not there is a self. In SN 44.10, the Buddha kept silent because the questioner Vacchagotta was confused & befuddled.

  • How do your relate your response to Bhikkhu Thanisso description here [link] (accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/notself2.html) he clealry say that the view of no-self should be avoided and the anatta teaching is not a doctrine of no-self, but a not-self strategy for shedding suffering by letting go of its cause, leading to the highest, undying happiness. At that point, questions of self, no-self, and not-self fall aside. Once there's the experience of such total freedom, where would there be any concern about what's experiencing it, or whether or not it's a self?
    – user10552
    Commented Jan 15, 2017 at 14:57
  • Bhikkhu Thanissaro sounds like he is posting his own ideas. I have posted from the suttas. Regards. Commented Jan 15, 2017 at 21:03

This is a very sensitive point for understanding Buddhism imo. The Buddha, through the whole of the Pali Canon, explains in many ways how an Essential 'self' or 'soul' is not evident within perceived experience (Dhammadhatu's post is better for links to this!) - an unchanging constant for 'things' is not evident within what we perceive. The Buddha also asks, in the Brahmajala Sutta (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.01.0.bodh.html), for the follower not to speculate within the 'metaphysical sphere' - speculation beyond that which can be directly experienced.

The combination makes for a delicate point. The Buddha definitively stated that within perceived experience (the 5 skhandas) the Noble Truth of suffering - that each and every construct is impermanent - is imminently evident and true.

However, the Buddha was always careful to warn against speculation, therefore he never explicitly denied the 'self' or 'soul' in whole, if only because that which is beyond experience can neither be experienced nor denied (nibbana doesn't count here - it is to be known by the wise etc).. Experience and evidence (Nagarjuna, science) agree with the Buddha's Noble Truths, beyond that - the thicket of views is all that is left.

(logically then, the answer is a simple yes - because no rational attempt at describing/explaining/analyzing 'that which is beyond experience' is possible!)

Read this for some good insight! https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/buddha/#NonSel


As I'm dealing with the Anatta-Lakkhana Sutta (which caused the issue with not-Self and volition) and the Chinese version of it in another post I noticed the subtle differences between the words applied in the Sutra. Anatta translated as not-Self/ non-Self in English, another concept is "no Self", they are clearly different in the Chinese version. When I'm attempting to translate the Chinese Sutra to the English I found these words related to the "Self" applied:

  • 有我 = has Self
  • 非有我 = not has Self
  • 無我 = not-Self/ non-Self
  • 是我 = is me
  • 異我 = non-me/ others (異 means different)
  • 非我.非我所 = not-me. not my dwelling (非 means no, antonym of 是 yes)

In the Chinese to English Sutra I translated:

  • Form has no Self {色非有我}
  • Because form is not-Self... {以色無我故...}
  • "Well-learnt venerable disciple can he from this take into that this is me, non-me, any quality (lakṣana) in it?" {多聞聖弟子寧於中見是我.異我.相在不} this: form
  • those all are not-me, not my-dwelling. {彼一切非我.非我所} those: the attributes of the forms such as coarse or fine, good or bad...
  • in these five aggregations realize the not-me, not my-dwelling {於此五受陰見非我.非我所}

It appeared that when said "Form has no Self", ie, I do not dwell in form, there is not a part of me that's "mixed" into form, ie, if one of my limbs chopped off, I'm still I'm, intact, although my body is not intact. "Because form is not-Self", ie, since form is not self-existed, independently existed without a subject (me), the rest of the Sutra goes as: "therefore, suffering... I want to make it the way I like..." The other sentences dealt with the aggregations and emphasized the not-me, non-me, not my-dwelling我所 (means objects I possessed therefore are attributes to me, similar to "not mine", but not exactly).

Therefore, I'm more agreed with the article writer. That many of the issues arise because somehow it's misunderstood that not-Self is no Self, and not-Self is used in place that is no Self, or not-me, or non-me, or not mine. Therefore "I" is not-Self since the five aggregations and everything is not-Self... therefore I can't have any volition.

Anatta in Chinese translated as 無我, if "no Self" is "not has Self" it is 非有我, here Self = 自(己)(我), 我 this character can mean "subjectivity", I, self; 自 this character can mean self, imply self-exist, self-dependent, therefore another Buddhist term Niḥsvabhāva (without-self-nature, without-intrinsic-nature) translated as 無性.

The question is, is the view presented widely accepted view in Buddhism or is it a new development?

As I have read the article and understood, most of it agreed with what I've learnt, excluded the opinion of the Bhikkhus and about the soul I have no comment. I won't say this author discovered a new view since there is no issue as such in my tradition, ie, learnt all my Dharmas from Chinese Classic Sutras and some Chinese articles. Instead I was stuck when reading questions related to not-Self therefore no volition, or "uncontrollability". This kind of question will never come into my mind. I do observe that there is subtle differentiation in the English translation of this Anatta-Lakkhana Sutta that is contradictory to the Chinese version produced the not-Self therefore "uncontrollability" issue. I'm still working on cross-checking the different versions of Chinese Sutras and the English ones.

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