Given what I assume was the predominant view of the time, I would not be surprised if there are many Suttas that deal explicitly with resurrection (as opposed to rebirth which seems to be a more recent word used to delineate the concept), but I am interested in finding out in which sutras did Buddha Shakyamuni deal explicitly with annihilationism (ucchedavāda) which, as I understand it, is the position of the dissolution of the self after death (of which materialism would be a subset).

I am aware of the following Suttas:

  • Brahmajāla-sutta -- which covers a large array of positions of wrong arguments against annhilationism, but doesn't seem to go into too much detail on how it is a wrong view.
  • Alagaddūpama-sutta -- in which The Buddha instructs on how to defend his position from being confused with annihilationism.
  • Pālileyya-sutta -- not sure exactly how to interpret this, but it seems to be about assuaging the fear of annihilation.
  • Achela Kassapa-sutta -- where the Buddha states the middle way between eternalism and annihilationism.
  • Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta -- where The Buddha separates his view from all conventional views.
  • Kalama Sutta -- where The Buddha explains the benefits of the path even if there is nothing after death.

Are there any glaring misconceptions here?

Are there any other Suttas dealing with this topic?

3 Answers 3


"Ucchedavāda" is the view "a self or existent being in annihilated at death" (DN 1; Iti 49; SN 22.85; etc). "Ucchedavāda"is not the view that consciousness ends at the termination of life. In other words, "ucchedavāda" is a "self-view" rather than a doctrine of impermanence or a denial of reincarnation.

"Ucchedavāda" is also used to refer to a view that "other selves" cause personal suffering (SN 12.17); thus a doctine of "self-denial" that still believes in "selves"; which is similar to SN 22.81 & SN 44.10, which are views of annihilation that still contains the view of "self" or "I" & "mine":

I might not be, and it might not be mine. I will not be, and it will not be mine.’

‘no cassaṃ no ca me siyā nābhavissaṃ na me bhavissatī’ti.

But that annihilationist view is just a conditioned phenomenon.

Yā kho pana sā, bhikkhave, ucchedadiṭṭhi saṅkhāro so.

SN 22.81

‘It seems that the self that I once had no longer exists.’

‘ahuvā me nūna pubbe attā, so etarahi natthī’”ti.

SN 44.10

In MN 22, while the Buddha was called a "venayika", the meaning was the same as "ucchedavāda":

‘The ascetic Gotama is an exterminator. He advocates the annihilation, eradication, and obliteration of an existing being.’

‘venayiko samaṇo gotamo, sato sattassa ucchedaṃ vināsaṃ vibhavaṃ paññāpeti

Why the Buddha was not an "exterminator" was because he taught there was no "existent being" (refer to SN 5.10).

The Kalama Sutta is not about "ucchedavāda". The Pali "natthi paro loko" in the Kalama Sutta is not related to "ucchedavāda".

In conclusion, "ucchedavāda" does not mean a denial of "reincarnation" or "rebirth". This common false idea found among Eternalist Buddhists slanders the Tathagatha & leads to hellish rebirth (because such Eternalist Buddhists are still devoured by "self-view" in the same way Annihilationists are devoured by "self-view").

Note: AN 10.29 says the "ucchedavāda" found in SN 22.81 is beneficially the foremost in non-Buddhist views because it is the closest to "loathsomeness".

This is the best of the convictions of outsiders, that is: ‘I might not be, and it might not be mine. I will not be, and it will not be mine.’

Etadaggaṃ, bhikkhave, bāhirakānaṃ diṭṭhigatānaṃ yadidaṃ ‘no cassaṃ, no ca me siyā, na bhavissāmi, na me bhavissatī’ti.

When someone has such a view, you can expect Evaṃdiṭṭhino, bhikkhave, etaṃ pāṭikaṅkhaṃ:

that they will be repulsed by continued existence, ‘yā cāyaṃ bhave appaṭikulyatā, sā cassa na bhavissati;

and they will not be repulsed by the cessation of continued existence. yā cāyaṃ bhavanirodhe pāṭikulyatā, sā cassa na bhavissatī’ti.


perhaps you will find what you want in the vagga about wrong views http://obo.genaud.net/backmatter/indexes/sutta/sn/03_kv/idx_24_ditthisamyutta.htm


Some people hold the common fatal wrong view -- see DN2 -- "fatal" because headed to hell, driving them more to make their believes real as only escape option having:

'Great king, there is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no brahmans or contemplatives who, faring rightly and practicing rightly, proclaim this world and the next after having directly known and realized it for themselves....Its eulogies are sounded only as far as the charnel ground. The bones turn pigeon-colored. The offerings end in ashes. Generosity is taught by idiots. The words of those who speak of existence after death are false, empty chatter. With the break-up of the body, the wise and the foolish alike are annihilated, destroyed. They do not exist after death.'

Even: "To be or not to be, is no question", Buddhadasa told seldom once wisely.

At large: vibhava-driven, desire for not being, becoming, is all more or lesser common with the self/actor-denying view.

Third, the way “self” (attā) is defined in the annihilationist views (51–57) shows that the concept of self in the Buddha’s time did not—contrary to what is often believed—always have to mean an eternally existing self. In each of these views, the self is defined in such a way that it will be annihilated at death.

As not willing to correct their habits, wishing that kamma will not fall on them, they are hoping that "‘I might not be, and it might not be mine. I will not be, and it will not be mine.’"

Otherwise they would really see them in big troubles, if causes may have effects on them, facing such even after the break-up of the body.

As the Brahma-net sutta gives, they are mostly eager to gain certain "sunnata" by practicing Jhana, if not simply holding the common view that they are here only because mother and father.

  1. “Another says to him, ‘There is, my good man, that self of which you speak. I don’t say that there’s not. But it’s not to that extent that the self is completely exterminated. There is another self where—with the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, ...(perceiving,) ‘There is nothing’—one enters & remains in the dimension of nothingness...[27] You don’t know or see that, but I know it, I see it. When this self—with the breakup of the body—is annihilated, destroyed, & does not exist after death, it’s to this extent that the self is completely exterminated.’

Or they mix it up (as very popular today under householders of various livelihho) with the Uposatha of the Jains, the no-self approach on sessions.

"I am nothing by anything or of anything. Thus there is nothing by anything or of anything that is mine."' Yet in spite of that, his parents know of him that 'This is our child.' And he knows of them that 'These are my parents.' His wives & children know of him that 'This is our husband & father.' And he knows of them that 'These are my wives & children.' His workers & slaves know of him that 'This is our master.' And he knows of them that 'These are my workers & slaves.' Thus at a time when he should be persuaded to undertake truthfulness, he is persuaded to undertake falsehood. At the end of the night, he resumes the consumption of his belongings, even though they aren't given back to him. This counts as stealing, I tell you.

It's the most common view under "modern/western" "Buddhists", this Annihilationists, some working on reaching such, some thinking that what ever doing, it will not fall to back on me, giving the fathers and mothers, or mother nature, the origin of causes of experiances (who ever might have them...).

...“There, where any of those contemplatives & brahmans who are annihilationists proclaim the annihilation, destruction, & non-becoming of an existing being on seven grounds: That they would experience that other than through contact isn’t possible... “But when a monk discerns the origination, ending, allure, drawbacks of, & emancipation from the six sense media, he discerns what is higher than all of this.

See also natthikaditthi, one of the evil views, taught by Ajitakesakambala and further recourse found there.

Good to take on the safe bet

(Not given for trade, exchange, stacks of short time benefit in this life, but for even the next and beyond)

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