A wandering monk called Vaccha asked the Buddha if the Buddha would still exist after death. The Buddha replied:
"Vaccha, the idea that I would exist or not exist after death- such ideas lead to dense jungles and arid deserts, to entanglements as though caught by thorns. They bring about anger, delusion, and argument and they do not bring about peace, knowledge, or wisdom leading to enlightenment. I do not take up any of these ideas."
"Then has the Buddha any belief of his own?"
"Vaccha, I have nothing to do with belief or theories, but declare what I know. I declare the nature of form, how it arises and how it perishes; the nature of perception, how it arises and how it perishes. And because I have completely abandoned all fantasies, false ideas, and imaginings about the nature of self or anything to do with the self, I am freed from self."
"But," asked Vaccha persistently, "when one who has attained this emancipation of mind dies, where does he go, where is he reborn?"
"The word 'reborn' does not fit the case."
"Then is he not reborn?"
"To say that he is not reborn does not fit the case either. Nor should you say that he is both reborn and not reborn or, indeed, that he is neither reborn nor not reborn."
"I am totally bewildered, Buddha, and my faith in you has gone."
"Never mind being bewildered. This is a deep and difficult doctrine to understand. Imagine there is a fire in front of you. You see it burning and know that it can only burn if it has fuel. And then you see that it has gone out. Now, somebody asks you, to which quarter has the fire gone - east, west, north or south? What do you say?"
"I would say that such a question does not fit the case, Buddha. For the fire depends on fuel, and when there is no more fuel, the fire is said to be out through lack of nourishment."
"In just the same way, Vaccha, the body in which one can see the truth will die out, like a fan palm, without any future. But that which is the truth, that which is existence itself, is there although it is deep and infinitely hard to understand. Like the great ocean, one cannot fathom it. And so it does not fit the case to say that I will be reborn or will not be reborn."
- Digha Nikaya