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Yes, I have seen the similar questions. But they do not satisfyingly answer my own since my question is slightly different. Let me explain:

I was reading up on Emptiness, Samsara and so on and found out that there is no individual soul or energy that reincarnates. Rather, it is like a candle lighting another whereby the wax of the new candle is different and has nothing in common with the previous candle. And I see that this image does not contradict (if there is no soul how can there be rebirth?) the theme of rebirth when looked at it this way. But I was wondering about one thing:

If there is no individual, eternal essence (like the Atman in Hinduism) that is liberated wouldn't that mean that life would go extinct at a certain point? I mean if I understand the Buddha correctly we all return to the one "collective", true essence that he called the unborn, unchanging etc... Doesn't that mean that at the point where all beings were liberated life would cease to exist?

So my question is why did he teach to free oneself from rebirth when looked at it from the perspective I tried to describe? Come to think of it the Buddha seemingly never answered questions of the origins or the fundamental workings of the universe. For example I know he was once asked what would happen to a fully enlightened Buddha after death. To my knowledge he would answer questions like this saying that it was meaningless to ask such things.

Did the Buddha know something about the non-self or the universe that he purposefully never taught? Is the goal of a sentient being to join the "one soul/ground of being" that is the unborn? But why? Is it bliss to cease to exist and join a "homogenous mass of energy"?

Why is it important to sever the karmic cycle if it is obvious that this is the way in which the universe manifests itself? In my opinion the universe manifesting as this myriad life forms is a joyous loving act and the whole point of the cosmic energy. I'm confused since I read that part about the Buddha's teachings...

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The doctrine of non-self applies and is equally true and valid for all of the three times: the past, the present, and the future. Your questions presuppose that there is a difference in the manner and extent of the fact of rebirth from moment-to-moment in this very life vs from life-to-life. They also presuppose that the doctrine of non-self is similarly different in manner and extent from moment-to-moment in this very life vs from life-to-life.

You have the correct conception of the doctrine of non-self teaching that there is no soul or essence to be found in the person. While this is true, I think you've drawn the unwarranted conclusion that the self in this very life is therefore equated with the body. You believe that it is the body that continues in this very life from moment-to-moment and therefore with the death and the breakup of the body it is hard for you to understand how there can be further rebirth. However, the doctrine of non-self does not imply this conclusion. Equating the body with the self is diametrically opposed to the doctrine of non-self.

I would encourage you to first stop and think about this very life. The doctrine of non-self and rebirth both apply to your everyday momentary existence. Is it true, then, that your moment-to-moment existence is well characterized by, "Rather, it is like a candle lighting another whereby the wax of the new candle is different and has nothing in common with the previous candle?" Does your current momentary existence truly have nothing in common with your previous momentary existence??

So if the self is not to be equated with the body (how could it be since the body you have at birth has not one atom in common with the body you have as a dying old person?), then how does the self exist? Does it not exist?? If it does exist, then in what fashion? How is it that rebirth of this self happens from moment-to-moment in this very life?

There is a wealth of understanding to be had by seriously considering the above questions just focusing on this very life. I contend that if you truly understand the answers to these questions in an unmistaken manner, then your questions about rebirth and emptiness from life-to-life will no longer arise.


UPDATE: Some attempts to answer the questions directly:

"If there is no individual, eternal essence (like the Atman in Hinduism) that is liberated wouldn't that mean that life would go extinct at a certain point?"

No, it does not mean this. Just as life continues in this very life even though all of us lack an essential self, it will not go extinct upon the true recognition of this very fact.

"I mean if I understand the Buddha correctly we all return to the one "collective", true essence that he called the unborn, unchanging etc... Doesn't that mean that at the point where all beings were liberated life would cease to exist?"

No, it does not mean this. To the extent that we all have buddha-nature (which is what I assume you are trying to describe with talk of 'true essence'?) we all have it right now in this very instant. It is not something that is acquired. Thus, life will not cease to exist when this buddha-nature is cleared of all fabrications obscuring it.

"So my question is why did he teach to free oneself from rebirth when looked at it from the perspective I tried to describe?"

He taught the Holy Dharma out of compassion for all sentient beings stuck in this unsatisfactory cyclic-existence.

"Did the Buddha know something about the non-self or the universe that he purposefully never taught? Is the goal of a sentient being to join the "one soul/ground of being" that is the unborn? But why? Is it bliss to cease to exist and join a "homogenous mass of energy"?"

No, the Buddha withheld no medicine from sentient beings. He did however prescribe different medicine for different individuals based on their particular manifestation of ailments. There is no cessation of existence! This is the view of annihilationism that the Buddha emphatically denounced!

"Why is it important to sever the karmic cycle if it is obvious that this is the way in which the universe manifests itself?"

This is explained as the first noble truth.

"I guess my question is what happens after the death of a fully enlightened being such as Shakyamuni? Since it was his last rebirth what happens after? Does he simply merge again with the unborn? Did the Buddha ever address himself to that?"

To some audiences he refused to answer or countenance such questions. This is because they were not ready for such powerful medicine. However, to other audiences, he did broach such questions and gave powerful medicine to sentient beings. The primary place you will find the answer to such things is in the Second and Third turning of the Wheel of Dharma. To take this medicine it is important that you have a very firm grounding in the foundations of Dharma practice and faith in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.

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  • You fail to answer my question entirely. Your answer to my post makes it clear that you seem to nurture a spiritual ego rather than extending help. My fundamental question remains: What does the Buddha intend to convey when teaching about the non-self? – Arbuiwer Jun 4 at 14:25
  • I'm sorry @Arbuiwer I was honestly trying to help! Was my answer seen as condescending because I claimed you didn't understand the doctrine of non-self? Was any of it helpful? I'm trying to figure out how to help so any more suggestions? I will try and think about the questions some more to see if I can come up with anything else that might help. – Yeshe Tenley Jun 4 at 14:28
  • Yes, the answer as a whole did indeed seem condescending and not taking me seriously. That was obviously not the case. For that, I apologize. – Arbuiwer Jun 4 at 14:33
  • The condescending tone was not intended and I hope my updated answers are helpful. Let me know anything else I can do to improve the answer(s)! – Yeshe Tenley Jun 4 at 14:41
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    Thanks Yeshe. I read your comment on the other question. Nothing wrong with your delivery. Thank you for your feedback. Some things are clearly out of my bounds. ;-) – NeuroMax Jun 5 at 16:25
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rebirth consists of new moments in our life being produced by previous moments functioned as causes.

the final moment of mind in this lifetime functions as a cause for the first moment of mind in the next life.

this process continues due to misapprehing an enduring self-sufficient self to your person.

persons exist. an impossible self does not exist.

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I was reading up on Emptiness, Samsara and so on and found out that there is no individual soul or energy that reincarnates. Rather, it is like a candle lighting another whereby the wax of the new candle is different and has nothing in common with the previous candle.

Your question is about the Buddha but the Buddha never taught the above. The Buddha taught:

Bhikkhu, just as an oil-lamp burns in dependence on oil and a wick, and when the oil and wick are used up, if it does not get any more fuel, it is extinguished from lack of fuel; so too when he feels a feeling terminating with the body…a feeling terminating with life, he understands: ‘I feel a feeling terminating with life.’ He understands: ‘On the dissolution of the body, with the ending of life, all that is felt, not being delighted in, will become cool right here.’

MN 140

What you have read about a candle flame are later-day superstitions.

And I see that this image does not contradict (if there is no soul how can there be rebirth?) the theme of rebirth when looked at it this way.

But it does contradict. A flame cannot exist with a body of wax therefore when the wax is gone, just as when the body is lifeless, no flame can exist independent of a body of wax for the flame passes onto another candle. The candle flame analogy makes no logical sense at all.

If there is no individual, eternal essence (like the Atman in Hinduism) that is liberated wouldn't that mean that life would go extinct at a certain point?

The Buddha taught "liberation" is the absence of the mental states of greed, hatred & delusion, which includes giving "birth" to the idea of "self". "Samsara" and its ending is explained as follows:

"Just as a dog, tied by a leash to a post or stake, keeps running around and circling around that very post or stake; in the same way, an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person — who has no regard for noble ones, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma; who has no regard for people of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma — assumes form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form.

"He assumes feeling to be the self...

"He assumes perception to be the self...

"He assumes (mental) fabrications to be the self...

"He assumes consciousness to be the self, or the self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in the self, or the self as in consciousness.

"He keeps running around and circling around that very form... that very feeling... that very perception... those very fabrications... that very consciousness. He is not set loose from form, not set loose from feeling... from perception... from fabrications... not set loose from consciousness. He is not set loose from birth, aging, & death; from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs. He is not set loose, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

"But a well-instructed, disciple of the noble ones — who has regard for noble ones, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma; who has regard for people of integrity, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma — doesn't assume form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form.

"He doesn't assume feeling to be the self...

"He doesn't assume perception to be the self...

"He doesn't assume fabrications to be the self...

"He doesn't assume consciousness to be the self, or the self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in the self, or the self as in consciousness.

"He doesn't run around or circle around that very form... that very feeling... that very perception... those very fabrications... that very consciousness. He is set loose from form, set loose from feeling... from perception... from fabrications... set loose from consciousness. He is set loose from birth, aging, & death; from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs. He is set loose, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

SN 22.99



I mean if I understand the Buddha correctly we all return to the one "collective", true essence that he called the unborn, unchanging etc... Doesn't that mean that at the point where all beings were liberated life would cease to exist?

No. The word "unborn" means to not conceive thoughts of "self", as follows:

Bhikkhu, ‘I am’ is a conceiving; ‘I am this’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall not be’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be possessed of form’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be formless’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be percipient’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be non-percipient’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be neither-percipient-nor-non-percipient’ is a conceiving. Conceiving is a disease, conceiving is a tumour, conceiving is a dart. By overcoming all conceivings, bhikkhu, one is called a sage at peace. And the sage at peace is not born, does not age, does not die; he is not shaken and does not yearn. For there is nothing present in him by which he might be born. Not being born, how could he age? Not ageing, how could he die? Not dying, how could he be shaken? Not being shaken, why should he yearn?

MN 140



So my question is why did he teach to free oneself from rebirth when looked at it from the perspective I tried to describe?

The Buddha never taught to free oneself from "rebirth". There is no word spoken by the Buddha that means "rebirth". The Buddha taught to free the mind from "birth". "Birth" means to conceive & produce ideas of "self" and "beings", as follows:

"And what is birth? Whatever birth, taking birth, descent, coming-to-be, coming-forth, appearance of aggregates, & acquisition of [sense] media of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called birth.

SN 12.2



Come to think of it the Buddha seemingly never answered questions of the origins or the fundamental workings of the universe.

The Buddha said he only taught about suffering & the cessation of suffering (Alagaddūpama Sutta).

For example I know he was once asked what would happen to a fully enlightened Buddha after death. To my knowledge he would answer questions like this saying that it was meaningless to ask such things.

"Death" does not occur to a Buddha because a Buddha does not have the idea "I will die".

Did the Buddha know something about the non-self or the universe that he purposefully never taught? Is the goal of a sentient being to join the "one soul/ground of being" that is the unborn? But why? Is it bliss to cease to exist and join a "homogenous mass of energy"?

The Buddha never spoke the above, which sounds like Hinduism.

Why is it important to sever the karmic cycle if it is obvious that this is the way in which the universe manifests itself? In my opinion the universe manifesting as this myriad life forms is a joyous loving act and the whole point of the cosmic energy. I'm confused since I read that part about the Buddha's teachings...

The Buddha taught the end of suffering. Ideas of "self" and "my kamma" causes suffering.

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  • Thanks for clarifying. Seems I still have lots to learn. I will certainly read the texts from the links you referenced – Arbuiwer Jun 5 at 14:14
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OP: I mean if I understand the Buddha correctly we all return to the one "collective", true essence that he called the unborn, unchanging etc... Doesn't that mean that at the point where all beings were liberated life would cease to exist?

Is the goal of a sentient being to join the "one soul/ground of being" that is the unborn? But why? Is it bliss to cease to exist and join a "homogenous mass of energy"?

No. The above describes Hindu ideas about the individual self merging into the Supreme Self aka Absolute Truth aka Ultimate Reality, like a drop of water merging with an infinite ocean. This is not Buddhism.

OP: So my question is why did he teach to free oneself from rebirth when looked at it from the perspective I tried to describe?

Well, the objective of Buddhism is not freedom from rebirth. It's simply the cessation of suffering. Please read about the Four Noble Truths.

Suffering at a superficial level is about pain, disease, death, separation from what is liked and encountering what one dislikes.

Suffering at a deeper level is about unsatisfactoriness or discontent that happiness is not permanent, and unhappiness is not permanently avoidable.

OP: Come to think of it the Buddha seemingly never answered questions of the origins or the fundamental workings of the universe. For example I know he was once asked what would happen to a fully enlightened Buddha after death. To my knowledge he would answer questions like this saying that it was meaningless to ask such things.

When faced with the Covid-19 virus pandemic, is it more useful to find a vaccine and/or cure for it, or is it more useful to find out where it came from? Or who made it?

The Buddha was more interested in solving the immediate problem of suffering, and he was not interested in explaining the origin of suffering or the origin of the universe or the structure of the universe. You can read up on the Parable of the Poisoned Arrow.

The teachings of the Buddha are not metaphysics. They do not describe the ontology or nature of things, which the Buddha considered unconjecturable (please see the Sutta on Unconjecturables).

The teachings of the Buddha serve one purpose only - freedom from suffering. It's purpose is soteriological, not ontological.

OP: Did the Buddha know something about the non-self or the universe that he purposefully never taught?

He knew enough of it to know that it's not important. Please see the Parable of the Simsapa Leaves.

OP: Why is it important to sever the karmic cycle if it is obvious that this is the way in which the universe manifests itself? In my opinion the universe manifesting as this myriad life forms is a joyous loving act and the whole point of the cosmic energy.

Do you ever find that deep inside of you, there is a feeling of unsatisfactoriness and discontent, that manifests as either unhappiness or boredom, that there is no permanent happiness? Anything that makes you happy is impermanent, unstable and unreliable? Anything that makes you unhappy is never permanently avoidable? Do you seek entertaining or pleasurable distractions when encountering such feelings of discontent?

If the answer is "yes" to the above, then you can study Buddhism to find the permanent cessation of suffering.

If the answer is "no", then you don't need Buddhism at this time.

It's more useful to focus on the problem you have right now, than to focus on the idea of some obscure future rebirth in which you will not remember that you posted this question, and much less remember what the answers to it were.

OP: Why did the Buddha teach how to escape Samsara if there is > no soul?

The end of suffering is sought. Don't ask "sought by whom?" There is the problem of suffering, and it needs to be urgently solved and eliminated.

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I mean if I understand the Buddha correctly we all return to the one "collective"

I wouldn't have said that. I think the doctrine says that fabricated (conditioned or compound) things -- i.e. sankharas -- are impermanent.

Conversely nibanna is not impermanent -- not fabricated, not conditioned, and so on.

I think that "we" may be an example of identity-view -- a type of wrong or mistaken view.

Doesn't that mean that at the point where all beings were liberated life would cease to exist?

I think there's already a topic about that on this site -- but I won't search for it now because I don't think it's the main point of your/this question.

So my question is why did he teach to free oneself from rebirth when looked at it from the perspective I tried to describe?

I'm not sure that question is answerable. A better question might be, "why did he teach when looked at from the perspective he tried to describe?"

I think the answer might be "freeing onceself from rebirth" might be synonymous with "liberation from suffering":

Is it bliss to cease to exist and join a "homogenous mass of energy"?

I think it's bliss -- or fortunate rather than unfortunate -- to ...

  • Not identify with impermanent things -- e.g. call them "me" or "mine"
  • Not attach to things which are: a) impermanent; and b) unsatisfying
  • Moderate or eliminate unwholesome desire
  • Behave in a skilful/ethical way which doesn't cause suffering and remorse
  • Have good friends

... and so on.

But to be chasing bliss might be just another example of samsara, non-liberation.

"Bliss" gets a look-in here -- What’s the Purpose? (AN 11.1) -- apparently as a useful or undistracted state of mind, not as an end-goal.

But what’s the purpose and benefit of bliss?


Another answer -- as well as or apart from it's being about escape from dukkha -- is that it's about liberation.

There's a little essay about that here -- The Taste of Freedom

He is free from fear, from the chill of anxiety which even kings know in their palaces, protected by bodyguards inside and out.

It's freedom from kilesas -- painful emotions and cognitive obscurations -- and perhaps it's easy to see why that is a good thing, worth teaching.

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Buddha taught that the conception & perception of existence is inherently unpleasant due to the nature of pleasant feelings to change and their change being unpleasant.

He further inferred that it is inappropriate to regard that which changes & is unpleasant as a self.

He thus defined unpleasantness and through development of dispassion grew equanimous towards feeling & perception.

When the mind is established in the perception of unattractiveness then there is no resolve on experience of this or that on account of infatuation and with that there is a stilling of the directing of mind through giving attention.

This truth & possibility of such a stilling & cessation of the classes of unpleasantness is a truth & reality to be directly known & seen as it actually is and the cessation principle is said to have one taste as that of freedom wherein modes of being gain no footing.

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