What would it take for you to believe you had a soul/self?

What would convince you that you had a soul/self?

If one has full psychic power, he could say, “may my rūpa be this way”. With this, it might be difficult to convince such a being he does not have full control over rūpa, however he will die and he cannot prevent that rūpa from dying to be everlasting. Same with the pyschic powers, and even states of mind, let alone sustaining a single mind moment. The same is true with psychic powers and the form created by them moment to moment. He would still know he is creating in momentary basis.

For myself, I don’t want the negativity to try to think of it, just like I would not want the negativity to try to think of killing a person.


Thank you, Venerable. I have pondered this self issue a lot, because I read a lot of ancient Indian texts. If I had all the powers you spoke of, and was immortal, too, I’d possibly believe I had a self, but, with the important caveat: I’d still have doubt.

The only thing about self I’m sure of is that the Buddha’s teaching on it is irrefutable, and inextricable from the topic. No matter what scenarios I can think of, it’s always true that there is no fully conclusive evidence for a self. Case in point: in the suttas devas and gods live for billions of years, and can control a lot, and think they have a self, and think, understandably with such a long life span, that they are immortal. But then, one day, they die. If they remember their past life as a deva or god, in their next lives, they realize how wrong they were.

I see no way to escape that problem: no matter how long you live, you can never know if you’re truly immortal, or have been fooled.

I think for even the long lived if the characteristic of the different elements are known then it should be seen that what was thought to be life is really only moments - and then doubt would really dissipate.


Certainly, you’re correct. However, in the hypothetical, you may be able to be made of something permanent. Even then, though, how could anyone really be sure this supposed permanence wouldn’t one day cease?

yes… i too had that in mind with my answer. It is important to know this momentary thing (which his disputed on suttacentral for some reason in his ebt handbook).

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The fact that I can’t stop myself from getting older, is enough to convince me that there is no permanence in this life. When there is no permanence, then it is bound to change and suffering follows, and when these happened as such, there is no ground for me to claim such as my self or soul. This is because it follows the nature of things (arises and ceases) and it will not be under my control. The body is not mine, me or my Self.


Agreed! Well said. So, if you stopped aging, and became permanent, and immortal, would you feel you have a self?

It is impossible to think so. Even if Devas don’t have signs of aging, they can’t escape death. Even rock will be weathered as time goes by.

Unless we are talking about imagined ultimate beings, which is a form of mental papanca.

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Yes, imagination. Hypothetical. Thought experiment. Pretend you’re in an alternate reality or something. Whatever lets you think freely.

Imagine you wake up one day, and you’re immortal. Now what? Do you have a self?