The View of Continued Existence and The View of Non-Existence

Q. Buddhism denies the view that there is nothing after death. It also denies the view that a permanent (unchanging) soul continues after death. Write out the passage explaining this and name the sūtra in which this passage appears.

A. Due to the Law of Cause and Effect, there is no denying the existence of an afterlife. As there is no unchanging self, there is no permanent soul. (Āgama Sūtra)


Since seeds planted never fail to grow, the idea that “nothing remains after death” does not stand to reason. Since there is no unchanging self that is fixed, there is no way that “a permanent soul continues after death.”

At the time of Śākyamuni Buddha’s presence, there were 95 kinds of wrong teachings that go against the truth (Jp. gedō 外道). Those teachings can be roughly divided into two views:

1. The view of non-existence (Jp. danken 断 見): the view that one ceases to exist after death.

2. The view of continued existence (Jp. jōken 常見): the view that a fixed soul continues to exist after death.

The Buddhist view does not fall into either of the above views; in fact, it rejects both of them.

Explanation of the words

・Danken (断見): a view of non-existence ・ Jōken (常見): a view of continued existence ・ Ken (見): an opinion; a view; a way of thinking; a thought ・ Gedō (外道): teachings that go against the truth; teachings that are outside of the truth

The wrong view of non-existence (Jp. danken gedō 断見外道): Wrong teachings that hold that nothing remains after death. (Also called the view of nothingness [Jp. mu no ken 無の 見])

The wrong view of continued existence (Jp. Jōken gedō 常見外道): Wrong teachings that hold that after the physical body perishes, an unchanging fixed self (a permanent soul) will continue.

(Also called the view of existence [Jp. u no ken 有の見] or the view of the fixed self.)

Buddhism teaches of an eternal life force that runs through the three worlds and the ten directions. Our true self is not something that is fixed and permanent. As it carries all karmic energy that is generated by the deeds that we practice through the body, mouth and mind, our true self is constantly changing. It is compared to the intense flow of a waterfall that keeps changing second by second.

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #44 | 2014, The View of Continued Existence and The View of Non-Existence

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