In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

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SilaSamadhi
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In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by SilaSamadhi » Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:29 pm

Ananda, if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self — were to answer that there is a self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of eternalism [the view that there is an eternal, unchanging soul]. If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of annihilationism [the view that death is the annihilation of consciousness]. If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self — were to answer that there is a self, would that be in keeping with the arising of knowledge that all phenomena are not-self?
Ananda Sutta - SN 44.10

Am I misreading this? The Buddha here seems to reject both "there is a self" and "there is no self" as wrong views, and adds it to the list of questions (such as "when did samsara begin") that are not to be answered.

In fact, instead of stating the typical Buddhist view - "there is no self" - his closing argument is subtly different: that all (conditioned) phenomena are not-self.

Are there any clear quotes of the Buddha actually arguing that "there is no self"? Because this one seems to reject this position, so for Buddhism as a whole to hold that view, there has to be some very clear Sutta citation that supports it.

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by dylanj » Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:33 pm

What makes you think "there is no self" is the typical Buddhist view?
susukhaṃ vata nibbānaṃ,
sammā­sambud­dha­desitaṃ;
asokaṃ virajaṃ khemaṃ,
yattha dukkhaṃ nirujjhatī


Oh! extinction is so very blissful,
As taught by the One Rightly Self-Awakened:
Sorrowless, stainless, secure;
Where suffering all ceases


etaṁ santaṁ etaṁ panītaṁ yadidaṁ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭi nissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṁ

This is peaceful, this is excellent, that is: the stilling of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all attachments, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, extinction.

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by Circle5 » Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:35 pm

Have you read the end of the sutta to see why Buddha answered like that ? Why not read the sutta till the end ? :shrug:

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by dylanj » Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:37 pm

Anyway yes, I think there is not a problem with this sutta & the subtle difference is right. "All phenomena are not-self", "The world is empty of a self & anything pertaining to a self" are correct standpoints, if they can even be called that.
susukhaṃ vata nibbānaṃ,
sammā­sambud­dha­desitaṃ;
asokaṃ virajaṃ khemaṃ,
yattha dukkhaṃ nirujjhatī


Oh! extinction is so very blissful,
As taught by the One Rightly Self-Awakened:
Sorrowless, stainless, secure;
Where suffering all ceases


etaṁ santaṁ etaṁ panītaṁ yadidaṁ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭi nissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṁ

This is peaceful, this is excellent, that is: the stilling of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all attachments, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, extinction.

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by Circle5 » Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:42 pm

I had this unique buddhist experiment happening on STC forum. Would anyone be interested in doing it here ? It is strange people speak so much about what Buddha had no say about no self but never ever do what people in the suttas did: Debate weather there is a self or not.

Weathere there is a self or not, that idea should stand it's ground in a debate. I am willing to debate anyone who claims that there is a self using the same argument from the suttas. IF someone claims there is a self, he needs to prove that it is so and it's not just an imaginary idea of his, like claiming there is a giant spaggete monster. You can't just say "there is a self" and leave it like that, you need to explain what makes you think that there is a self.

The topic is here: https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/an ... forum/7387

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by dylanj » Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:49 pm

Circle5 wrote:
Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:42 pm
I had this unique buddhist experiment happening on STC forum. Would anyone be interested in doing it here ? It is strange people speak so much about what Buddha had no say about no self but never ever do what people in the suttas did: Debate weather there is a self or not.

Weathere there is a self or not, that idea should stand it's ground in a debate. I am willing to debate anyone who claims that there is a self using the same argument from the suttas. IF someone claims there is a self, he needs to prove that it is so and it's not just an imaginary idea of his, like claiming there is a giant spaggete monster. You can't just say "there is a self" and leave it like that, you need to explain what makes you think that there is a self.

The topic is here: https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/an ... forum/7387
go on dharmawheel & debate the true-self mahayanists
susukhaṃ vata nibbānaṃ,
sammā­sambud­dha­desitaṃ;
asokaṃ virajaṃ khemaṃ,
yattha dukkhaṃ nirujjhatī


Oh! extinction is so very blissful,
As taught by the One Rightly Self-Awakened:
Sorrowless, stainless, secure;
Where suffering all ceases


etaṁ santaṁ etaṁ panītaṁ yadidaṁ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭi nissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṁ

This is peaceful, this is excellent, that is: the stilling of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all attachments, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, extinction.

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by SilaSamadhi » Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:53 pm

Circle5 wrote:
Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:42 pm
You can't just say "there is a self" and leave it like that, you need to explain what makes you think that there is a self.
This is outside the scope of my question. I didn't ask for proofs or even arguments that the self does not exist. I asked what the Buddha has taught about it.

Moreover, can you really require "proof", in this case and others? What if the proof can't be stated conceptually at all? If we require "proof" that can be established via verbal argument, then clearly there is no way to establish the veracity of Nibbana.

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by Circle5 » Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:04 pm

SilaSamadhi wrote:
Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:53 pm
Circle5 wrote:
Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:42 pm
You can't just say "there is a self" and leave it like that, you need to explain what makes you think that there is a self.
Not sure what this has to do with the topic. I didn't ask for proofs or even arguments that the self does not exist. I asked what the Buddha has taught about it.
The only way to find out is to read the nikayas by yourself. If you don't do that, then you will only rely on random people to tell you what is written on them. You will then chose to agree with the ones that share the same ideas as you. By default, you believe there is a self since the no-self idea is the counter-intuitive one. There is really no way to find out what Buddha had to say about the problem without reading the nikayas. It is like taking a page out of the biology book and asking people if they teach evolutionism or creationism in there. Sure there will be people that claim they teach creationism in the biology book and there will be no way for you to tell which one is right.

As for the problem in question, a short answer is that Buddha pointed out that if he would have answered "there is no self", the brahnim would have understood that there was a self before that now is no more, while Buddha opinion was that there never was a self to begin with. This sutta is constantly brought up by true-selfers or "ajnanas" (eer-wrigglers), taken out of context and spinned to make a case for a self existing, completely ignoring the other 10.000 pages of the nikayas.
Moreover, can you really require "proof", in this case and others? What if the proof can't be stated conceptually at all? If we require "proof" that can be established via verbal argument, then clearly there is no way to establish the veracity of Nibbana.
I can say the same about the spaggete monster. Maybe there is a spaggete monster but we just can't state it conceptually and can't understand him. Or maybe there is a giant pink dolphin that we can never understand.

If one believes there is a self, on what is that opinion based ? A person might have the opinion that there is no self, another might have the opinion that there is a self. If you ask him "why do you have this opinion", he will answer that his opinion is based on the existence of a particular feeling.

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by DooDoot » Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:10 pm

SilaSamadhi wrote:
Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:29 pm
Am I misreading this?
You seem to be taking a very obscure sutta (spoken to a very confused person) very seriously. It is one sutta from hundreds yet you seem to be taking the one sutta more seriously than the hundreds, even though it contradicts hundreds of other suttas. I am suggesting, in your studies, such a sutta should raise a huge red flag. Thus, you need to examine:

1. Who was the person in the discussion.

2. Who spoke the words or terminology in the suttas?

3. Did the person get enlightened?

Therefore, it was Vacchagotta, a non-Buddhist, who asked the questions using his terminology. Then, if you examine the Pali, you will find the terminology initiated & used by Vacchagotta did not include "anatta". In short, imo, the sutta is very badly translated.

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by SilaSamadhi » Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:16 pm

DooDoot wrote:
Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:10 pm
You seem to be taking a very obscure sutta (spoken to a very confused person) very seriously. It is one sutta from hundreds yet you seem to be taking the one sutta more seriously than the hundreds, even though it contradicts hundreds of other suttas.
Can you perhaps quote a couple of good examples from these hundreds of suttas that do clearly state that the self positively does not exist? That should help clear the matter up.

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by DooDoot » Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:25 pm

SilaSamadhi wrote:
Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:16 pm
That should help clear the matter up.
The matter is cleared up by the sutta. Vacchagotta is the person talking in the sutta & you appear to be listening to the doctrine of Vacchagotta rather than to the doctrine of the Buddha. The Buddha was not interested in answering the questions of Vacchagotta, similar to if the Buddha was asked by a fundamentalist Xtian: "Does God exist? Does God not exist?" The Buddha ignored Vacchagotta but you seem to be taking Vacchagotta very seriously.
SilaSamadhi wrote:
Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:16 pm
Can you perhaps quote a couple of good examples from these hundreds of suttas that do clearly state that the self positively does not exist?
What about this?
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."

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
Last edited by DooDoot on Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by SilaSamadhi » Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:34 pm

DooDoot wrote:
Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:25 pm
The matter is cleared up by the sutta.
I submit that it is not. Nowhere in this sutta does the Buddha state that the self positively does not exist.
Vacchagotta is the person talking in the sutta & you appear to be listening to the doctrine of Vacchagotta rather than to the doctrine of the Buddha.
That is factually incorrect. Vacchagotta utters exactly two sentences in this sutta, and they are both short questions, and certainly not presentations of a "doctrine":
  1. "Now then, Venerable Gotama, is there a self?"
  2. "Then is there no self?"
The above is all that Vacchagotta says in this sutta. The person who speaks the most in this sutta is, in fact, the Buddha.

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by DooDoot » Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:36 pm

SilaSamadhi wrote:
Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:34 pm
I submit that it is not. Nowhere in this sutta does the Buddha state that the self positively does not exist.
The Buddha kept silent. :roll: Yet you are claiming the Buddha "stated" something.

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by DooDoot » Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:40 pm

SilaSamadhi wrote:
Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:34 pm
That is factually incorrect. Vacchagotta utters exactly two sentences in this sutta, and they are both short questions, and certainly not presentations of a "doctrine":
Vacchagotta spoke doctrine, namely, his 1st question was eternalist doctrine & is 2nd question was annihilationism doctrine. This is why the Buddha explained to Ananda:
Ananda, if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self — were to answer that there is a self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of eternalism . If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of annihilationism .
Therefore, as I suggested, you should examine the Pali to examine which words Vacchagotta actually used (which have obviously been poorly translated in what you are reading). The sloppy translation is shown by the final sentence, which shows what Vacchagotta was actually asking:
And if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, the bewildered Vacchagotta would become even more bewildered: 'Does the self I used to have now not exist?'"

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by SilaSamadhi » Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:53 pm

DooDoot wrote:
Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:25 pm
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."

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
This sutta states the world is "empty of self". Also, various other conditioned phenomena, such as the eye, eye-consciousness, and the intellect - are all empty of self.

This supports the view that the self cannot and should not be identified with any of these conditioned phenomena. For example, considering your intellect as pertaining to your self is wrong view.

This position is consistent with the position in the sutta I have quoted in OP. As there so here, nowhere in this sutta does the Buddha positively state that the self does not exist.

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by DooDoot » Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:12 am

SilaSamadhi wrote:
Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:53 pm
This sutta states the world is "empty of self".
Yes.
Also, various other conditioned phenomena, such as the eye, eye-consciousness, and the intellect - are all empty of self.
These phenomena appear to be included within the term "the world". They do not appear to be "other" phenomena.
This supports the view that the self cannot and should not be identified with any of these conditioned phenomena.
This sounds like a view of Vachagotta, which is probably why your mind is empathizing with Vachagotta. The above sentence appears to contain an inherent belief there is a self (that should not by identified with), similar to Vachagotta believing there is a self (that might not exist).
For example, considering your intellect as pertaining to your self is wrong view.
"Your" is merely a convention for communication. But, yes, the intellect is not a self. It is merely the intellect, like a CPU in a computer.
This position is consistent with the position in the sutta I have quoted in OP.
Yes consistent with the wrong view of Vachagotta, it appears.
As there so here, nowhere in this sutta does the Buddha positively state that the self does not exist.
The Buddha kept silent. :roll:

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by SilaSamadhi » Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:25 am

DooDoot wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:12 am
The Buddha kept silent.
He kept silent when Vacchagotta asked him questions. When Ananda later asked him related questions, he spoke quite eloquently.

Contrary to your claim, my goal here is not to affirm any preconceived view. Rather, I am trying to understand what the Buddha is teaching.

So far I haven't seen any sutta quote that clearly supports a position that the self does not exist.

The two suttas we've quoted above - Ananda Sutta and Suñña Sutta - both make only two clear claims:
  • Both the view that the self exists, and its opposite (that the self does not exist), are wrong.
  • All conditioned phenomena are not self.

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by DooDoot » Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:42 am

SilaSamadhi wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:25 am
He kept silent when Vacchagotta asked him questions. When Ananda later asked him related questions, he spoke quite eloquently.
Not true, since you have shown on this thread not comprehending what the Buddha spoke. How could it be "eloquent" if you can't understand it?
Contrary to your claim, my goal here is not to affirm any preconceived view. Rather, I am trying to understand what the Buddha is teaching.
I tried to explain what the Buddha teaching is. Vachagotta asked:

(1) Does my self exist (atthattā)?, which the Buddha told Ananda is an "eternalist" doctrine.

(2) Does my self not exist (natthattā)? which the Buddha told Ananda is an "annihilist" view doctrine.

Similar to your view, Vachagotta always had the view of "myself" in both of his questions.
So far I haven't seen any sutta quote that clearly supports a position that the self does not exist.
A sutta was posted.
The two suttas we've quoted above - Ananda Sutta and Suñña Sutta - both make only two clear claims:
  • Both the view that the self exists, and its opposite (that the self does not exist), are wrong.
  • All conditioned phenomena are not self.
Suñña Sutta says the world is empty or void of self. This cannot be said anymore clearly than that. :roll:

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:50 am

Greetings DooDoot,
DooDoot wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:42 am
Suñña Sutta says the world is empty or void of self. This cannot be said anymore clearly than that. :roll:
Yes, and as is explained by the sutta, "the world" in this context refers to the six sense bases and their objects. It is the same definition of "the world" which is used for "the all" in the Sabba Sutta.

In the Sabba Sutta, the Buddha says...
Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range."
Thus, categorical statements about "atman", other than that the six senses and their objects are devoid of it, are beyond range...

Statements which are beyond range, would be ontological propositions which pertain to existence or non-existence.
SN 12.15 wrote:"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings (sustenances), & biases. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on 'my self.' He has no uncertainty or doubt that just stress, when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view.
This, I believe, is the reason that the Buddha did not respond to Vacchagotta's ontological theorizing in the kind of categorical manner which was amenable to the wanderer in question.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: In Ananda Sutta, the Buddha seems to state that both "there is a self" and "there is no self" are Wrong Views.

Post by DooDoot » Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:50 am

DooDoot wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:42 am
Vachagotta asked:

(1) Does my self exist (atthattā)?, which the Buddha told Ananda is an "eternalist" doctrine.

(2) Does my self not exist (natthattā)? which the Buddha told Ananda is an "annihilist" view doctrine.
SN 12.15 states:
Dvayanissito khvāyaṃ, kaccāna, loko yebhuyyena—atthitañceva natthitañca

This world, Kaccana, for the most part depends upon a duality—upon the notion of existence and the notion of nonexistence.

atthi
as + a + ti
to be; to exist.

natthi
indeclinable
it is not; there is not.
Vachagotta's questions fall into the two wrong views above. This is what is clear. As for the translations of atthi & natthi, we are not exactly clear. But what is clear is the Buddha told Ananda that Vacchagotta's two questions were both wrong views.

An example of a 'annihilistic view' is found in Iti 49. Notice how the view still contains the view of self. It is annihilistic because it believes in a self that will be annihilated at death; similar to how Vacchagotta believed in a self that may not exist & similar to believing there is a self that should not be identified with.
How, bhikkhus, do some overreach? Now some are troubled, ashamed, and disgusted by this very same being and they rejoice in (the idea of) non-being, asserting: ‘In as much as this self, good sirs, when the body perishes at death, is annihilated and destroyed and does not exist after death—this is peaceful, this is excellent, this is reality!’ Thus, bhikkhus, do some overreach.

https://suttacentral.net/en/iti49
In Buddhism, the "assumption" or "disease" or "suffering" called "self" is something dependently originated & fabricated from ignorance. It is not real.
There is the case where 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 men of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma — assumes form to be the self. That assumption is a fabrication. Now what is the cause, what is the origination, what is the birth, what is the coming-into-existence of that fabrication? To an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, touched by that which is felt born of contact with ignorance, craving arises. That fabrication is born of that.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
This world is burning.
Afflicted by contact,
it calls disease/sickness a 'self.'
rogaṃ vadati attato

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

roga
masculine
disease; illness.
...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.

https://suttacentral.net/en/sn12.15

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