The administrator of the Buddhist Forum, an Internet discussion group, introduces prospective discussants to Buddhism by writing stuff like this.
“The ancient Vedic society from which Buddhism emerged understood the self or ego as eternal and unchanging -- the true essence of the nonphysical body. But Gautama Buddha believed that nothing was permanent, and change was the only constant. Therefore, according to the Vedic definition of self, the Buddha concluded that the self could not exist. Buddhism has since then been strongly centered around the idea that there is no such thing as the self. The consequences of this one precept are multitudinous, and informs the entirety of the religion's canon.”
Is any of this true? Well, let’s find out. Regardless of the mention of âtman or self in the Vedas which, for example, could mean no more than breath in the Rg-veda, there is no explicit denial of the self by the Buddha in the Nikayas and the Agamas. On the other hand, there is no scarcity of negation by the Buddha when it comes to the Five Aggregates or pañca-khandhas. We are not to regard any aggregate as our self. The common refrain for each aggregates is invariably: This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self/na meso attâ. We might also think of the Five Aggregates as being the temporal or conditioned self whereas what is not the aggregates is the unconditioned, true self, which truly we are.
The problem the Buddha realized is not with the self but with what common people (puthujjana) imagine the self to be which is never other than impermanent which leads to suffering. This, we might say, is the self the Buddha tells his followers is not the self (anâtman), which is none other than the Five Aggregates, all of which belong to Mara the killer. According to the Buddha, the real self is the island and the refuge (D. ii. 100).
Next, did Gautama Buddha believe nothing was permanent; that even nirvana was impermanent? No he did not. Nirvana is transcendent reality. It is what lies beyond phenomena.
“Monks, there is a not-born, a not-become, a not-made, a not-compounded. Monks, if that unborn, not-become, not-made, not-compounded were not, there would be apparent no escape from this here that is born, become, made, compounded. But since, monks, there is an unborn ... therefore the escape from this here is born, become ... is apparent” (Udâna 80).
Nirvana is also changeless (anaññathâbhâvi) and immortal (amata). It does not rest on any other (appatittha); it is infinite (accanta).
What are we to conclude from all this? Beware of Buddhist forums. Often their bait appears to be Buddhism to those who have never studied Buddhism, but what is being taught is materialism. Also, keep in mind, too, that what is not the self or anâtman, cannot attain nirvana. Nirvana is only realized by the inmost self or in Sanskrit, pratyâtma. Said another way, conditioned reality will never uncover nirvana which is unconditioned.