In SN 12.17, it is said:

Well now, good Gotama, is suffering caused by oneself?

No indeed, Kassapa," said the Blessed One.

Well then, good Gotama, is one's suffering caused by another?

No indeed, Kassapa.

Well then, good Gotama, is suffering caused by both oneself and another?

No indeed, Kassapa.

'He who performs the act also experiences [the result]' — what you, Kassapa, first called 'suffering caused by oneself' — this amounts to the Eternalist theory.

'One person performs the act, another experiences,' — which to the person affected seems like "suffering caused by another" — this amounts to the Annihilationist theory.

Alternate translation:

Kassapa, if one thinks, ‘The one who acts is the same as the one who experiences the result,’ then one asserts with reference to one existing from the beginning: ‘Suffering is created by oneself.’ When one asserts thus, this amounts to eternalism. But, Kassapa, if one thinks, ‘The one who acts is one, the one who experiences the result is another,’ then one asserts with reference to one stricken by feeling: ‘Suffering is created by another.’ When one asserts thus, this amounts to annihilationism. Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma by the middle: ‘With ignorance as condition, formations come to be; with volitional formations as condition, consciousness…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. But with the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance comes cessation of volitional formations; with the cessation of formations, cessation of consciousness…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.

Why are 'eternalism' & 'annihilationism' mentioned in SN 12.17 when SN 12.17 does not appear to be directly about reincarnation or about the denial of reincarnation?

  • In this sutta, "another" doesn't mean another being (conventionally) but the same being present at past (at the time the action for the present suffering has been done) (conventionally). So this sutta tells about anatta mark of existence. If one mark of existence is present, other two are also present. See how beautifully this Dhamma affirmed the teachings everywhere? Externalism says that there's eternal soul. Annihilationism says there's no one who feels the result for present deeds as the present being completely destroyed at this very moment.
    – Damith
    Feb 17, 2019 at 5:57
  • In Buddhism, it's taught that "No doer is there who does the deed, nor one there who feels the fruit" (Visuddhi Magga). So both externalism and annihilationism are rejected.
    – Damith
    Feb 17, 2019 at 7:21
  • you should post an answer . regards Feb 17, 2019 at 7:22

4 Answers 4


suffering caused by oneself=single relationship=easy to control=lord god=eternalism.

one's suffering caused by another=non relationship=hard to control=no avijjā&taṇhā to becoming/born=nihilism.

Those above all are impossible, so buddha taught paṭiccasamuppāda after denied acelaka kassapa's self view.

  • Very good answer. However, please notice reincarnation is not mentioned SN 12.17. Please notice how nihilism is not related to reincarnation. Regards Aug 11, 2017 at 2:13
  • one's suffering caused by another=one's suffering is calved by another. Every effect born by clause. Denied clause or effect equal to denied born. That is why buddha taught paṭiccasamuppāda (with born and becoming) in this sutta.
    – Bonn
    Aug 11, 2017 at 2:27

The eternalist view affirms self; believing the self (rather than the element of ignorance) causes suffering.

The annihilationist view both affirms & denies self, blaming another self (rather than the element of ignorance) for causing to suffering to oneself.

Both are self-views.

Eternalism & annihilationism are both self-views (rather than views about continuity of life).


They're two wrong views which the Buddha wishes to quash. Sometimes they're referred to as 'extremes', but I think the problem is simply that they're concepts which jump into our minds from time to time and usurp the reality lying before us.


I think this passage can be understood by recognising that the Buddha is speaking about the fruits of kamma (i.e. action, intention) across lifetimes. Think of 'He who performs the act' as a person in the present life, and 'he who experiences [the result]' as the next rebirth. So, the views boil down to i) "The person in this life [He who performs the act] remains identical, exactly the same person, following rebirth [also experiences the result]" i.e. Eternalism. And ii) "The person in this life [One person performs the act] ceases to exist following rebirth [another experiences]" i.e. Annihilationism. The Buddha dismisses both of these as false views, but does not spell out what actually happens. I guess one possibility, based on the implications of conditionality (Pratītyasamutpāda), is that some aspect of our consciousness is reborn (i.e. Annihilationism is false), but that it can change, evolve, based on previous kamma and can even be destroyed (i.e. Eternalism is not true). But this conjecture goes beyond the Buddha's words and it would seem that he avoided, or would not declare his position on, metaphysical speculation. With kind regards - Peter

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .