Is There a Self or Not?
“How, then, master Gotama, is there not a self?” For a second time the Exalted One was silent.
Then Vacchagotta the Wanderer rose from his seat and went away.
Now not long after the departure of the Wanderer, the Venerable Aananda said to the Exalted One:
“How is it, lord, that the Exalted One gave no answer to the question of the Wanderer Vacchagotta?”
“If, Aananda, when asked by the Wanderer: ‘Is there a self?,’ I had replied to him: ‘There is a self,’ then, Aananda, that would be siding with the recluses and brahmins who are eternalists.
“But if, Aananda, when asked: ‘Is there not a self?’ I had replied that it does not exist, that, Aananda, would be siding with those recluses and brahmins who are annihilationists.
“Again, Aananda, when asked by the Wanderer: ‘Is there a self?,’ had I replied that there is, would my reply be in accordance with the knowledge that all things are impermanent?”
“Surely not, lord.”
“Again, Aananda, when asked by Vacchagotta the Wanderer; ‘Is there a self?,’ had I replied that there were not, it would have been more bewilderment for the already bewildered Vacchagotta.
“He would have said: ‘Formerly indeed I had a self, but now I have not one any more.'”