Anatta is beautifully described here. The following quote sums up the idea of no self:

"Mere suffering exists, no sufferer is found; The deeds are, but no doer of the deeds is there; Nibbāna is, but not the man that enters it; The path is, but no traveler on it is seen."

Extending the above analogy, can I say that,this question exists but no questioner is found?

Can I also say that, choice to answer this question exists but no choice maker will be found?

If you answer the above questions then haven't you yourself made the choice ?

EDIT: Some people have raised doubt over the validity of the quote above saying that this is not the mainstream Buddhist thought.

To further support the argument that there is no sufferer I quote from the book Buddha: His Life ,His Doctrine ,His Order BY Dr. Hermann Oldenberg(page 253):

A seeing,a hearing, a conceiving, above all a suffering, takes place : but an existence, which may be regarded as the seer, the hearer,the sufferer, is not recognized in Buddhist teaching.

  • I see one answerer put the blame on Buddhaghosa, why not investigate the Eng. translator if he did understand Buddhaghosa and he was well-learnt in the Buddhist Dhamma and have at least certain achievement in the Jhana training before he laid hand to dab a great Buddhist Monk's work? I see too many translators in suspicious of fame seeking translating something we laymen can't read, well, no one knows it's correct or not... Pali is in more danger since Pali only used for Pali Canon, only a handful scholars. As far as I read I found Ven. Thanissaro most faithful, havn't encountered others yet. Aug 27, 2017 at 6:10
  • @Mishu米殊 I haven't found which translator gave the translation quoted in the OP above. A (different) widely-used English translation is The Path of Purification by Nanamoli Bhikkhu, which (on page 529) translates this as, "For there is suffering, but none who suffers; Doing exists although there is no door [sic]. Extinction is but no extinguished person; Although there is a path, there is no goer." So far as I can see, Ven. Thanissaro hasn't published a translation (of the Visuddhimagga).
    – ChrisW
    Aug 27, 2017 at 7:25
  • @ChrisW Thx. I would trust more of Ven. Nanamoli, I did save a copy of his Vis. But hvn't time to read yet. From your quote I can discern certain meanings from his trans. So... mahhh... so unfair for Ven. Buddhaghosa to take all the blames. No wonder the ancients are so wise less keen to leave a name for fame, since name is just composed letters when they truely realized Anatta. ;) Aug 27, 2017 at 9:31
  • What's the final verdict ? Whatever I have quoted in the question above is right or not ? Aug 27, 2017 at 12:00
  • Buddhaghosa spoke non-sense such as 12-fold-voidness. The suttas define dependent origination as "the wrong pathj" (SN 12.3) and define voidness as empty of self & empty of ignorance & becoming (MN 121)., Since dependent origination is the arising of becoming & self-identity views, it is not a 12-fold-voidness. Instead, it is a 12-fold-ignorance. This shows how confused Buddhaghosa was about Buddha-Dhamma. Aug 27, 2017 at 23:05

5 Answers 5


can I say that, this question exists but no questioner is found?

I think that people can say anything they like: but that merely "saying" it isn't enough to make it arya or wise, useful in practice.

Saying "no questioner is found" reminds me of this Zen story, Nothing Exists -- which I recommend, because I think it's a good illustration of this topic:

Yamaoka Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one master after another.

He called upon Dokuon of Shokoku.

Desiring to show his attainment, he said: "The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no realization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be received."

Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the youth quite angry.

"If nothing exists," inquired Dokuon, "where did this anger come from?"

Can I also say that, choice to answer this question exists but no choice maker will be found?

Maybe not. The Buddha famously found a house-builder (Dhammapada Verses 153 and 154):

  1. I, who have been seeking the builder of this house (body), failing to attain Enlightenment (Bodhi nana or Sabbannuta nana) which would enable me to find him, have wandered through innumerable births in samsara. To be born again and again is, indeed, dukkha!

  2. Oh house-builder! You are seen, you shall build no house (for me) again. All your rafters are broken, your roof-tree is destroyed. My mind has reached the unconditioned (i.e., Nibbana); the end of craving (Arahatta Phala) has been attained.

  • 1
    Yeah, I was tempted to reply to the question by saying, "Who wants to know?"
    – user2341
    Aug 31, 2017 at 21:31

"Mere suffering exists, no sufferer is found; The deeds are, but no doer of the deeds is there; Nibbāna is, but not the man that enters it; The path is, but no traveler on it is seen."

This quote is 3/4 false. This is not a quote from the Buddha but by a 5th century scholar named Buddhaghosa. It is not beautiful. It is nihilism.

Suffering can only exist due to the idea of a sufferer. Suffering ends when the idea of self ends. Therefore suffering is the same as the delusion of a sufferer. To quote from SN 12.15:

This world, Kaccana, is for the most part shackled by engagement, clinging, and adherence. But this one with right view does not become engaged and cling through that engagement and clinging, mental standpoint, adherence, underlying tendency; he does not take a stand about ‘my self.’ He has no perplexity or doubt that what arises is only suffering arising, what ceases is only suffering ceasing

If there was no 'sufferer', why did the Buddha teach to abandon the idea of 'self' in order to end suffering? While the sufferer is an illusion, it is this illusion that creates suffering. Suffering can never be separated from the idea of a sufferer (upadana; jati; sakkaya ditthi; asmi mana).

Deeds only exist due to the idea of a doer. This is why the teachings about good & bad kamma teach it is "a being" ("satta") that reaps kamma. (Note: "a being" is also merely an illusion. Refer to SN 23.2 & SN 5.10). For example, if there was no idea of self, deeds would not be done (unless they were the selfless compassionate deeds of a Buddha to help other realise not-self). This is why it is said kamma ends when not-self is realised by the eightfold path (AN 6.63). Therefore, kamma depends on the idea of the doer (self); just as suffering depends on the idea of a self.

Just this noble eightfold path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration — is the path of practice leading to the cessation of kamma. AN 6.63

The mind travels the path, therefore there is a traveller, which is the mind (but not a self). The Dhammapada states:

274. This is the only path; there is none other for the purification of insight. Tread this path, and you will bewilder Mara.

275. Walking upon this path you will make an end of suffering. Having discovered how to pull out the thorn of lust, I make known the path.

276. You yourselves must strive; the Buddhas only point the way. Those meditative ones who tread the path are released from the bonds of Mara.

The writer who wrote this quote did so so he could be reincarnated in a Brahmanistic (Hindu) heaven. He did not understand Buddha's teachings. The writer believed in self & wrote philosophy for the purpose of personal fame:

By the performance of such merit As has been gained by me through this And any other still in hand So may I in my next becoming Behold the joys of Távatimsá.

Page 747

  • If there was no 'sufferer', why did the Buddha teach to abandon the idea of 'self' in order to end suffering? Aug 26, 2017 at 21:45
  • Why has what I have written been repeated here? Thanks Aug 26, 2017 at 21:51
  • By mistake I pressed enter and message went away. Here is my actual comment:If there was no 'sufferer', why did the Buddha teach to abandon the idea of 'self' in order to end suffering? Because unless we abandon the idea of false self we won't see that there is no self and the suffering won't end. Therefore suffering exists due to false self. When the truth is realized that false self must be given away then the suffering ends. But all along while there was suffering the subject did not exist. The subject had the false idea of self. Self is an error, illusion or is like a dream. Aug 26, 2017 at 21:57
  • The Buddha did not teach there was no sufferer. The quote you have posted is not by Buddha. it is by a man named Buddhaghosa. Aug 26, 2017 at 23:57

In the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, the Buddha advised:

"Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.

How can you be a refuge unto yourself if your "self" doesn't exist at all?

In this answer, Ven. Yuttadhammo wrote:

In Theravada Buddhism we recognize two levels of truth; conventional truth (sammuti-sacca) and ultimate truth (paramattha-sacca). Conventional truth relies on a spatio-temporal paradigm, in which there exist people, places, and things. It is the level on which "you" and "I" exist, and it is the level on which a "person" becomes "enlightened". None of this has anything to do with the characteristic of non-self, which works on the level of ultimate truth. Ultimate truth relies on an experiential paradigm, in which there exists only the momentary experience of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, or thinking.

Ven. Thanissaro said in his series of talks:

"If there is no self, what does the action and what receives the results of the action?" ... this question is misconstrued in two ways.

The first is that the Buddha never said that there is no self, and he never said that there is a self. The question of whether a self does or doesn't exist is a question he put aside.

The second reason for why the question is misconstrued is because it has the framework backwards. It's taking the teaching of not-self as the framework and kamma as something that's supposed to fit inside the framework. Actually, the relationship is the other way around. Kamma is the framework, and the teaching of not-self is meant to fit in the framework. In other words, the Buddha takes the teachings on skillful and unskillful kamma as his basic categorical teaching. Within that context, the question on self and not-self becomes: When is a perception of self skillful kamma, and when is a perception of not-self skillful kamma? And when are they not skillful?

So to get the most use out of the teachings on self and not-self, we have to approach them with these questions in mind. The Buddha is not trying to define what you are. He's not trying to fit you into a box. He's more concerned with helping you. He tries to show you how you define yourself so that you can learn how to use that process of self-definition in a way that leads to the ultimate goal of his teaching: the end of suffering and the attainment of ultimate freedom, ultimate happiness. In this way the teachings on self and not-self are part of the answer to the question, "What when I do it will lead to my long-term welfare and happiness?"

  • How can you be a refuge unto yourself if your "self" doesn't exist at all? Here 'yourself' is identified with your true nature which leads to the state of Nirvana. Aug 26, 2017 at 15:47
  • 2
    In this context, taking refuge in yourself means rely on your own effort and determination. There's nothing metaphysical that is implied.
    – ruben2020
    Aug 26, 2017 at 17:49
  • Upvote for the Ven. Thanissaro quote, thx Aug 27, 2017 at 6:15
  • @DheerajVerma the idea of a "true self" just kicks the can down the road. Saying "true nature" could be an appeal to the same thing (there is another interpretation also).
    – user2341
    Aug 31, 2017 at 21:35

"Extending the above analogy, can I say that,this question exists but no questioner is found?"


"Can I also say that, choice to answer this question exists but no choice maker will be found?"


"If you answer the above questions then haven't you yourself made the choice ?"


Now I ask:

Is there an I (a choice maker) that made the choice?


Is there a choice?


Is there a question?


How could that be?!

Firstly there is an I, there is a choice and there is a question. Secondly, there is no I, no choice and no question.

How could that be?!

With decision (volition) there arises the I. With decision (volition) there arises the choice. With decision (volition) there arises the question.

That which arises with decision (volition) is not truth ... is like a dream ... like a lie.

It is like taking clay and forming a vase claiming "This is a vase", and not seeing that it is not a vase but just clay.

How can I prove that?

I cannot.

How can I explain it to you so that you will see this?

I cannot.

It is like you asking me "What is below the basement of my house?" and me replying "There is immense gold. Hundreds and thousands of gold, emeralds, coins. Tons and tons and tons! So immense in value that the whole universe could be made wealthy with it!" and you not even digging under your house to check my claims.

How can I explain what the "clay" is?

I cannot.

It is like you asking me "What is the taste of this fruit?" and me replying "Delicious! Soo good!" and you not even taking a bite to taste the fruit yourself to see the taste yourself.


Prajñāpāramitā sutra:

"You should look upon everything as an illusion, a transformation, a dream, a bubble, or a shadow — as unreal."

"Subhåti, all dharmas are spoken of as no dharmas. Therefore they are called dharmas."

Source: http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/prajparagen2.pdf

Diamond sutra:

"A shooting star, a clouding of the sight, a lamp, An illusion, a drop of dew, a bubble, A dream, a lightning’s flash, a thunder cloud—This is the way one should see the conditioned."


When I read the above, "everything" and/or "conditioned" I understand as everything that is experienced with the senses.

If you look at dependent origination https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prat%C4%ABtyasamutp%C4%81da#/media/File:Paticca-Samuppada.JPG, "everything" and/or "conditioned" arises from volitional activities (activities).

Thus, you get this statement:

"That which arises with decision (volition) is not truth ... is like a dream ... like a lie."

Be careful. I with the above statement do not imply that everything is not real. Nor do I imply that everything is real. Nor do I imply that something is real and something is not real, nor any combination of real/unreal. I know it doesn't make sense, but I think it is understandable enough for you to move you in the right direction. You must see it yourself.

  • Interesting. But can you please provide some link to your claim that "That which arises with decision (volition) is not truth ... is like a dream ... like a lie." Aug 31, 2017 at 13:01
  • Take a look at my edited answer.
    – beginner
    Aug 31, 2017 at 14:07
  • I looked up the meaning of Samskara.Samskara is translated as Activities in the picture. But Samskara has different meanings at different places. In Nepaul it is called illusion. In Tibet it is called notion. In Ceylon it is called discrimination. In China it is called action. If we accept Chinese interpretation then probably you are right. Aug 31, 2017 at 14:42
  • You should look at the meaning of the word by putting it into the right context. In the wheel of dependent origination samskara is basically a description of kamma - read here: buddha-vacana.org/gloss.html#sankhara Kamma is created by volitional/decision making activities. Also, in the sutta it states that "samskara fabricates fabricated things", thus samskara fabricates fabrications, hence not truths.
    – beginner
    Aug 31, 2017 at 16:07
  • Sorry, I gave wrong link. Here is the correct one buddha-vacana.org/sutta/samyutta/khandha/sn22-079.html .
    – beginner
    Aug 31, 2017 at 16:42

Follow to your quote, main idea is:

5 khandha exist, no attā is found.

Question and answer are not 5 khandha. They are just paññatti, that are imagined by consciousnesses. So no question and no answer are found, too.

See: Paññatti in Abhidhammatthasaṇgaha chapter 8

  • That is interesting. If no question and no answer are found then what is found? Are the 5 khandas found? Aug 26, 2017 at 15:58
  • If question base on khandha, khandha is found. If question base on micchādiṭṭhi, such as attā, there is nothing is found.
    – Bonn
    Aug 26, 2017 at 16:11
  • Consciousness does not imagine. It requires sankhara aggregate to imagine. suttacentral.net/en/sn22.62 Please improve your answers by quoting relevant passages from the links you provide. Aug 26, 2017 at 21:20
  • I often give you abhidhamma evidence, include this answer. Sāriputta often describe in many scripts: [6] katamaṃ tasmiṃ samaye cittaṃ hoti? yaṃ tasmiṃ samaye cittaṃ mano mānasaṃ hadayaṃ paṇḍaraṃ mano manāyatanaṃ manindriyaṃ viññāṇaṃ viññāṇakkhandho tajjāmanoviññāṇadhātu – idaṃ tasmiṃ samaye cittaṃ hotiฯ (Abhi.saṅ.)
    – Bonn
    Aug 27, 2017 at 1:10
  • Another buddha used many synonym words of "know" in each sutta like that to avoid the confusion of the listener. In some sutta, Consciousness defined as viññāṇa (81 lokiya-consciousnesses) to show ārammaṇa of vipassanā. Then in the same sutta, consciousness defined as citta (10 lokuttara-consciousnesses) to show vipassanā's success. So buddha can not use the same definition in this sutta because of confusion of the listener.
    – Bonn
    Aug 27, 2017 at 1:10

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