SN.44.10. Ānandasutta ("With Ānanda")

Saṁyutta Nikāya ("The Linked Discourses")

Then the wanderer Vacchagotta went up to the Buddha and exchanged greetings with him. When the greetings and polite conversation were over, he sat down to one side and said to the Buddha:

“Master Gotama, does the self exist absolutely?” But when he said this, the Buddha kept silent.

“Then does the self not exist absolutely?” But for a second time the Buddha kept silent. Then the wanderer Vacchagotta got up from his seat and left.

And then, not long after Vacchagotta had left, Venerable Ānanda said to the Buddha:

“Sir, why didn’t you answer Vacchagotta’s question?”

“Ānanda, when Vacchagotta asked me whether the self exists absolutely, if I had answered that ‘the self exists absolutely’ I would have been siding with the ascetics and brahmins who are eternalists. When Vacchagotta asked me whether the self does not exist absolutely, if I had answered that ‘the self does not exist absolutely’ I would have been siding with the ascetics and brahmins who are annihilationists.

When Vacchagotta asked me whether the self exists absolutely, if I had answered that ‘the self exists absolutely’ would that have helped give rise to the knowledge that all things are not-self?”

“No, sir.”

“When Vacchagotta asked me whether the self does not exist absolutely, if I had answered that ‘the self does not exist absolutely’, Vacchagotta—who is already confused—would have got even more confused, thinking: ‘It seems that the self that I once had no longer exists.’”

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