No self and reincarnation

Good day everyone...I encountered this very interesting doctrine about "no self," so I need a help on how to explain this to others as it would seem to contradict with the doctrine of reincarnation. Reincarnation would sound to me like there is self that is existing that would reincarnate. Thank you so much for your assistance.

Phung Nguyen's picture

No self

Hi everyone,

Please allow me to chip in and thanks for this kindness

1- I really think the word "no self" has been over used and caused much confuse. I read somewhere that this term should be changed to non-self. We just borrow the word self to express or illustrate some scenarios in conventional world such as to talk about "this entity" is not "that one".
We do not accept the term "self" because no phenomenon, entity exists on/by/with its own substance/self substance as per the doctrine of dependent origination, thus, they are all "empty". Anything that can be defined or described by words is conditioned,co-dependent on other (others), empty including time.
2- If there is no self, we may ask what will be transmitted from one life to the others in samsara? Well, I would like to recommend you to read doctrine of bardo in Tibet tradition. I am searching for this one as well. However, in the other literature, it is the store consciousness that creates the continuity.

Hope what I am saying here will help and please correct me if you see the unfit as I am very new to Buddhisms actually.

with much mehta

Chieu Khai Thanh

Wong Fook Ming's picture

Reincarnation if there is self , Liberation if there is no self

Our existence or all existence are like an instant flux. Its a momentariness. A moment ago you and me are totally different entities, or the whole universe are totally different. As our cells died and new cells are born, the thoughts and feelings are different, the environment and the universe are different.
So, what is the 'self'?. It is the grasping of permanent entity.
But if there is no permanent entity, the mind understand the insight of no permanent self. Once this insight is developed, there is no grasping of permanent entity, including time.

If time is understood as perception which is not a permanent entity, then one will be liberated. Beyond time, beyond reincarnation. Because reincarnation is assumed when time is believed to be a real entity/phenomena.

Correct me if I'm wrong.

Alejandro Cardeinte's picture

Thank you so much

Thank you so much for your insights. I appreciate you taking the time to share these very useful ideas. Worth pondering.. The title alone just blow me away..."Reincarnation if there is self, Liberation if there is no self.."


Due to impermanence, there is ‘no self’.

Just like water straight from a polluted river, one might get ill if they consume from it. However, if the contaminated water goes through a treatment centre to be filtered, processed and placed in a clean container, then the chances of one getting ill after consumption is low. Question arises as is this still the same water? Therefore, just like the water, ‘self’ depends on the conditions one is in. Rebirth or reincarnation, they are both just different ways of saying the previous life has ceased and a new life begins. There is mostly no guarantee of any memory of previous lives; except for very few cases such as if one is an enlightened being.

One ought to stop clinging on to the ‘self’ because it does not help to accelerate liberation. This is a chance for everyone to start fresh. It is up to one to make full use of this life.

Alejandro Cardeinte's picture

Beneficial insights

Beneficial insights. Thank you so much. At first glance the doctrine of "no self" is like a denial of our reality. Your contribution clarifies that.


I find the example of the candle (wax, wick, burning) used to light another candle (wax, wick, burning) and thus passing on that something that travels from rebirth to rebirth purging karma.
It is not that there is "no self": it is that the "self" is not as important as let believe.
Rebirth is not a "brain transplant" kind of thing, whereby you die but "your self" wakes up tomorrow as Elvis Presley.