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In Potthapada Sutta Buddha asks Citta similar question.

"Suppose they were to ask you: 'Did you exist in the past? Did you not not exist? Will you exist in the future? Will you not not exist? Do you exist now? Do you not not exist?' Thus asked, how would you answer?"

"... Thus asked, lord, I would answer: 'I existed in the past. I did not not exist. I will exist in the future. I will not not exist. I exist now. I do not not exist.'... That's how I would answer."

If I interpret it correctly Citta essentially says that he existed in the past , will exist in the future and that he is existing now. This conclusion contradicts the position that self is an error, illusion or is like a dream because when an error is corrected it vanishes(self is annihilated). Self has both origin and an end then how can Citta say that he is existing now, he existed in the past and that he will exist in the future? I am simply repeating the question Buddha asked to Citta because the answer looked contradictory to me. The questions are :

Did I exist ?

Am I existing?

Will I exist ?

  • Your conclusion is right. And you will know more if you connect it with paṭiccasamuppāda and 3 vaṭṭa. This sutta taught about paṭiccasamuppāda. – Bonn Aug 14 '17 at 2:19
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    Do your dreams exist? What proof do you have of your dreams? – User2333 Aug 14 '17 at 10:26
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The questions are :

Did I exist ?

Am I existing?

Will I exist ?

  • Conventionally speaking, yes to all three questions. The self is a concept, an idea, a mental formation, belong to the 4th aggregate of mental formations.

  • Ultimately speaking, no to all three questions. Concepts are not part of ultimate reality. Experience is. When writing this post, looking at the computer screen, there is definitely a "seeing" going on, but ultimately, no "seer" can be found.

There are Four Ultimate Realities; Rupa, Citta, Cetasika and Nibbana.

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"'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist': That is a second extreme. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.015.than.html

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If I interpret it correctly Citta essentially says

You did not interpret it correctly because Citta here is not expressing a Buddhist view. Read the sutta more carefully. Citta was not a Buddhist when he said what you quoted.

This conclusion contradicts the position that self is an error, illusion or is like a dream because when an error is corrected it vanishes(self is annihilated).

The sutta discusses the matter of "acquisition of self" (atta paṭilābhā), which is essentially "becoming" (bhava) & "birth" (jati), which is the "wrong path" (SN 12.3) .

For example, when you were a child, you identified yourself as being a "child". But one day, you met a woman & had a child and thus acquired a self or identity as a "husband" and "father". These subjective & conventional self-identities or labels are "acquisitions of self".

In the past, you were not a husband & not a father. Today, you are a husband & a father. In the future, your current wife may divorce you and you will cease to be a husband. These are the acquisitions of self the Buddha appeared to be discussing with the wanderers (non-Buddhists).

These acquisitions of self are wrong views in Buddhism, as follows:

This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?'MN 2; MN 38; etc


Mara the Evil One... approached her and addressed her in verse:

By whom has this being been created? Where is the maker of the being? Where has the being arisen? Where does the being cease?

Then the bhikkhuni Vajira, having understood, "This is Mara the Evil One," replied to him in verses:

Why now do you assume 'a being'? Mara, have you grasped a view? This is a heap of sheer constructions: Here no being is found.

Just as, with an assemblage of parts, The word 'chariot' is used, So, when the aggregates are present, There's the convention 'a being.'

SN 5.10

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