After attaining Nibbana, Buddha had realized that there is no self. However due to practical difficulties of communication, he had to use personal pronouns like 'I' , 'me' , 'myself' many times during conversation.

My question is: whether Buddha ever thought about himself? Because if he thought about himself then he must have had a self.

You can not think of yourself and simultaneously claim that there is no self.

In the book, Manual of Buddhism by Hardy Spence , it is written how Buddha thought about himself. From p 181 :

After the repetition of these stanzas, Budha thought thus : " I have attained the Budhaship ; I have overcome Mara ; all evil desire is destroyed ; I am lord of the three worlds ; I will therefore remain longer at this place, which has been to me so propitious." Thus reflecting, he remained in a sitting posture upon the throne for the space of seven days.

It is clear from the above translation that Buddha had a self because his thoughts bore witness to the self and declare that "I have attained Budhaship". This proves that personal pronouns used by Buddha were not just used for convenience but were honestly projecting the reality that there is a self. In thoughts there was no necessity to fake self for sake of communication.

8 Answers 8


Thế self Buddha mentioned in “ No self “ is a unchanged , everlasting , pẻmanent self . Thế self everybody are clinging is a temporary self . We have many lifetime , for each lifetime we have each self . So via many lifetime we have many different self depending on our past karma , our background of that life . Self is delusion , we have been reborn because we attache to our self . Immediately after enlightenment , the Buddha uttered this pane of joy : Through many a birth , I wandered in samsara , Seeking but not finding , the builder of the House Sorrowful it is to be born again and again

The architect was craving or attachment ( tanHà ), A sẽ Self- created force , a latent element in all . The rafters of this self-created house is defilement ( kilesa ) - the ridge pole that support the rafters is ignorance ( avijjà) , thế root cause of all defilements . The shattering of the ridge-pole of ignorance by wisdom results in complete demolition of the house . With the demolition of the house , the mind attains the uncondition which is Nibbãna

Oh house builder ! Thou art seen - Thou shall build no house again , All thy rafter aérea broken . Thy ridge - pole is shattered

My mind has attained the unconditioned . Achieved is the end of Craving .

  • "is a unchanged , everlasting , pẻmanent self"? Who said so and how would that fit to the Buddhas teachings, householder?
    – user11235
    Commented Jul 20, 2019 at 8:46
  • In his enlightenment , Buddha discovered 3 things : (1) He remembered his past lives (2) every sentient being was reborn in what situation depending on his/ her karma . (3) what he stated as “ this / that conditionality “ . From (3 ) he concluded “ there is no permanent Everlasting , unchanged self in every dharmas , or no self . Commented Jul 21, 2019 at 10:39
  • No- self or selflessness or emtyness . This is in contrary with what the Bramanism ( Hinduism ) believe . They believe everybody consists of 2 parts : an everlasting , unchanged , undestroyable called Atman . Commented Jul 21, 2019 at 10:48

Great question. In my opinion, he assembled a sense of identity as needed, to overcome doubts and accumulate energy.

In other words, he did not have a self, he was no longer a self, he artfully utilized a constructed form of self, out of wisdom and compassion for the students.

This is known as the Rainbow Body but it's purpose is not just to convince others, it is also a form of self-generation meant for self-empowerment.

  • i think it's a good question too! i think your answer "to overcome doubts" is too deep to be right, but thanks
    – user2512
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 5:00
  • Interesting!! I think your guess makes sense. Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 6:47

Assuming there is no self, and he had fully realised that and attained nirvana, then no, not in the sense of considering himself as a self. I'm sure he understood interlocutors that asked if he had a self, though.

And assuming we can talk about the Buddha "thinking" about "sense objects", he would think about the things that unenlightened persons consider to make up a self.

If you mean think about himself as in value himself over anyone else, I think no, Buddhas are meant to be entirely compassionate and altruistic,

Some Mahayana sutras teach that there is a Buddha self, one that Shakyamuni has fully realised. But given that there is nothing except the skandhas, and the skandhas are not a self, it's not at all obvious to me what that is.

  • Self arise by the cooperation skandhas. But there is no Absolute Self. Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 6:52

Buddhism does not argue with reality. When one is awake, one understands ones true nature, that's all. One still has body, feeling, mental formation, consciousness and perception. And yes one can still think of themselves, one still needs to eat and talk and move around and be nice to people. However when this life ends you know it will be the end. Awakening is simply understanding. You simply understand what you are and this greatly impacts they way you behave in the world. I'm sure in your life you have realised a lot of things about yourself, even as a child growing up. All these realisations inform the way you are and how you interact with others. Awakening is the ultimate realisation that's all, you still need to use the toilet and go to work.


While Andrei Volkov provided a very Mahayanist answer, I'll try to offer a more Theravadin answer.

In the Ayacana Sutta, we find that the Buddha did indeed think of himself.

Then, while he (the Buddha) was alone and in seclusion, this line of thinking arose in his awareness: "This Dhamma that I have attained is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, peaceful, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. ....."

In the Sabbasava Sutta, we find that both the views of "I have a self" and "I have no self" are wrong, according to the Buddha.

"As he attends inappropriately in this way, one of six kinds of view arises in him: The view I have a self arises in him as true & established, or the view I have no self.... This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views.

My analogy:

If you play a video game, you would be fully engrossed in the role of the character that you are playing. But when you decide to stop playing, you can immediately and instantaneously disassociate yourself from the character. You don't carry with you the identity of that video game character, or crave to become it.

To say that the video game character has a self or has no self, are both wrong views, because it depends on what frame of reference you would use to make that determination. Instead, I would say that in all parts of the game, it is empty of a self.

While the Buddha figured this out and stopped playing when the current "game round" is over, we are still stuck, and having the mistaken self-identity as the video game character, and craving its existence, thus coming back in future "game rounds" endlessly.

Just as in the Suñña Sutta:

Then Ven. Ananda went to the Blessed One and on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One, "It is said that the world is empty, the world is empty, lord. In what respect is it said that the world is empty?"

"Insofar as it is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self: Thus it is said, Ananda, that the world is empty. And what is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self? The eye is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Forms... Eye-consciousness... Eye-contact is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self.

"The ear is empty... "The nose is empty... "The tongue is empty... "The body is empty...

"The intellect is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Ideas... Intellect-consciousness... Intellect-contact is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Thus it is said that the world is empty."

  • I personally believe that there is no self. If a self is found then it is an error,illusion or like a dream. There was no self behind the thought which Buddha thought. Yet Buddha thinks "I have attained Buddhaship" because he had attained Nibbana with residue. Only with Nibbana with no residue that such thought cease. Commented Aug 22, 2017 at 16:11

Several theories.

  1. There's a sutta (MN 22) in which the Buddha says that, "I, too, do not see any doctrine of self that would not arouse sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair in one who clings to it". But what's quoted in the OP isn't a view-of-self nor a doctrine of self: instead it's a view of nibanna.
  2. The suttas say especially that it isn't proper to view the skandhas as self (but perhaps what's quoted in the OP isn't viewing the skandhas as self, for the same reason as 1. above).
  3. The usual/conventional grammar of language[s] requires a subject (i.e. a noun or pronoun) with a verb in a sentence. If you say (or write), "Buddhaship have attained." that sounds like an incomplete sentence fragment, ungrammatical -- the "I" is an artefact of communication.
  4. See here for explanations of "conceit". The Bhikkhuni Sutta mentions benefits of "conceit" in training:

    'This body comes into being through conceit. And yet it is by relying on conceit that conceit is to be abandoned.'

    Thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said? There is the case, sister, where a monk hears,

    'The monk named such-and-such, they say, through the ending of the fermentations, has entered & remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for himself in the here & now.'

    The thought occurs to him,

    'The monk named such-and-such, they say, through the ending of the fermentations, has entered & remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for himself in the here & now. Then why not me?'

    Then he eventually abandons conceit, having relied on conceit.

    'This body comes into being through conceit. And yet it is by relying on conceit that conceit is to be abandoned.'

    Thus was it said, and in reference to this was it said.

    Whenever the Buddha tells people about himself and his accomplishment (and given that we're hearing it, the phrase you quoted in the OP is a soliloquy, intended to teach), that allows his audience to compare themselves with him, in order to conclude that "I should practice as he did, to achieve the same result".

  • I disagree over the point no. 3. Awareness of "I have attained Buddhaship" was translated into thought in which the subject "I" arose. What was the need to think is such a way? Because "I" or the Self still existed in Buddha. Self does not vanish suddenly. Self vanishes gradually. After final Nirvana I guess his self totally vanished. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 16:26

The only reason he was thinking after his enlightenment was to teach others otherwise he would have just sat in meditation until parinibbana.

It's not that there is "no self", it's that there is "no self" to be found. The Buddha used pronouns as a convention and he did have a self in a conventional sense.

We have to understand our moment by moment experience to understand this teaching. Anatta isn't really so mysterious, it just gets us all were we live.

You wrote:In thoughts there was no necessity to fake self for sake of communication

This is a translation. Why do we think that the suttas are so PRECISE down to the pronoun? I think that sometimes we are appealing to scriptural authority too much. This authority requires a little wisdom on our part, doesn't it? I myself try not to be a stubborn skeptic, I mean sticking with a point of view because of various bad habits and wrong understanding.

It would be very unfortunate if we couldn't ever get past our stubborn opinions. We would be forever doomed to stay asleep while we continue sleepwalking around mindlessly bumping into each other.


there is a body and there is awareness of it................. by saying there is no self, that might mean there is nothing behind the naming of that self or the numbers assigned to it, there is only the awareness. This mind/awareness is a restless thing and has a tendency to establish some self for a thousand reasons. That doesn't make those reasons real or permanent. also, this so-called 'self' is gradually developed from birth by our surroundings, family and environment.............it is developed so we can interact more clearly for our survival and daily life. but in the reality of our existence, all these identifying characteristics of our 'self' are as fragile as anything else and only exist because of most everyone else buying into it.

You must log in to answer this question.

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