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If possible could someone provide me with references to sutras where the Buddha broaches such topics? In my previous question I asked about it generally and a kind user told me that information could be found in the second and third turnings of the Dharma wheel. Since I am fairly new to Buddhism, could you tell me where exactly to find answers to above question?

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I will constrain my answer to the second turning of the wheel of dharma - which is held to be of definitive meaning while the first and third are said to be of interpretive meaning - and answer from Nagarjuna's seminal Fundamental Verses for explaining the Prajñāpāramitā the Buddha's teachings from the Second Turning of the Wheel of Dharma.

This exact question is brought up in Chapter 22, verse 13 and page 448-451 of Tsongkhapa's, Ocean of Reasoning: A Great Commentary on Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika:

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The following explanation is given:

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Just in case you think the story is different for the Buddha and sentient beings we have:

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To put a very fine point on it, the topic is brought up again in the Chapter on Nirvana, page 529:

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The pithy answer is that the Tathagata continues in the same essenceless existence after his passing away as he did before he passed away and this is similarly true of all sentient beings. We all exist free of essence.

Hope this is helpful!

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  • Yes, very much so. Thank you
    – Arbuiwer
    Jun 4, 2021 at 16:47
  • I must admit it's very hard to wrap one's head around this coming from a western background. I honestly can't see the difference to nihilism. To exist without essence seems to contradict existence itself. I can't seem to figure out how one can exist as the same entity without having an essence. Same with rebirth. How can one remember one's past lifes in the moment of enlightenment if one's true nature is devoid of self? But thanks to you I have plenty to read now. The rest, the true understanding and the gist of what I was trying to comprehend today will probably take me many years to come...
    – Arbuiwer
    Jun 4, 2021 at 17:04
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    The reply is that the exact opposite is true: to exist with essence would necessarily contradict our everyday ordinary existence. It is only by virtue of the fact that things do not have essence, that our everyday ordinary existence can be! Good luck with your reading and study. Feel free to ask more questions that might come up and hopefully someone can help :)
    – user13375
    Jun 4, 2021 at 17:09
  • "It is only by virtue of the fact that things do not have essence, that our everyday ordinary existence can be!" I believe you, but that's just incredibly hard to understand. Admittedly, I am not advanced enough on the spiritual path to understand that yet.
    – Arbuiwer
    Jun 4, 2021 at 17:12
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    If you want to know how to begin to try and understand it you could ask another question perhaps :)
    – user13375
    Jun 4, 2021 at 17:20

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