Rethinking Non-Self

A New Perspective from the Ekottarika-agama


  • Tse-fu Kuan Yuan Ze University



non-self, anattā, Ātman, Buddhism, Jainism, Ājīvika, Ekottarika Āgama


Scholars have pointed out that the arguments for everything being non-Self (anatta) recurring in the Buddhist texts clearly imply a refutation of the ‘Self’ (atman) in the Upanisads. The Buddha’s non-acceptance of ‘Self’, however, was not only pointed at Brahmanism, but also confronted various samana trends of thought against Brahmanism. This paper investigates the three extant versions of a Buddhist text which records a debate between the Buddha and Saccaka, an adherent of a certain samana sect, over the issue of Self. There exist divergences among the three versions in regard to the account of this debate. The account in sutta 35 of the Majjhima-nikaya (Culasaccaka Sutta) is generally consistent with that in sutra 110 of the Samyukta-agama in Chinese translation, whereas sutra 10 of Chapter 37 of the Ekottarika-agama in Chinese translation tells a different story, which seems to make better sense and could be closer to the original account. By comparing these three versions of the text, I also attempt to explore some important issues regarding the sectarian development of Buddhism, and to shed some light on the unique value of the Chinese Ekottarika-agama, which is, in terms of sectarian affiliation, significantly distant from the Pali Majjhima-nikaya and the Chinese Samyukta-agama that belong to two closely related schools.

Author Biography

Tse-fu Kuan, Yuan Ze University

College of General Studies, Assistant Professor


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How to Cite

Kuan, T.- fu. (2009). Rethinking Non-Self: A New Perspective from the Ekottarika-agama. Buddhist Studies Review, 26(2), 155–175.