Na ca so na ca añño, 'Neither he nor another'. This often-quoted dictum occurs in the Milindapañha somewhere, as the answer to the question 'When a man dies, who is reborn—he or another?'. This question is quite illegitimate, and any attempt to answer it cannot be less so. The question, in asking who is reborn, falls into sakkāyaditthi. It takes for granted the validity of the person as 'self'; for it is only about 'self' that this question—'Eternal (so) or perishable (añño)?'—can be asked (cf. PATICCASAMUPPĀDA, ANICCA [a], & SAKKĀYA). The answer also takes this 'self' for granted, since it allows that the question can be asked. It merely denies that this 'self' (which must be either eternal or perishable) is either eternal or perishable, thus making confusion worse confounded. The proper way is to reject the question in the first place. Compare Anguttara VI,ix,10 <A.iii,440>, where it is said that the ditthisampanna not only can not hold that the author of pleasure and pain was somebody (either himself or another) but also can not hold that the author was not somebody (neither himself nor another). The ditthisampanna sees the present person (sakkāya) as arisen dependent upon present conditions and as ceasing with the cessation of these present conditions. And, seeing this, he does not regard the present person as present 'self'. Consequently, he does not ask the question Who? about the present. By inference—atītānāgate nayam netvā   having induced the principle to past and future (cf. Gāmini Samy. 11 <S.iv,328>)[a]—he does not regard the past or future person as past or future 'self', and does not ask the question Who? about the past or the future. (Cf. Māra's question in line 2 of PARAMATTHA SACCA §1.)   (The Milindapañha is a particularly misleading book. See also ANICCA [a], PATICCASAMUPPĀDA [c], RŪPA [e], & PARAMATTHA SACCA §§8-10.)


[a] Dhamm'anvaye ñānam is knowledge dependent upon the inferability of the Dhamma—i.e. knowledge that the fundamental Nature of Things is invariable in time and can be inferred with certainty (unlike rational inference) from present to past or future. See Nidāna/Abhisamaya Samy. iv,3 <S.ii,58>. In other words, generalization without abstraction—see MANO [b]. [Back to text]