The Buddhist tradition argues that there is no ātman or self. They believe that concept of a self binds a person to the corporeal world and prevents them from reaching nirvāṇa. In the Buddhist tradition what people believe to be the self is really a collection of the five aggregates. These aggregates are the senses which we experience the world through and they give us a false sensation of individuality. If a person lets go of these aggregates they can achieve nirvāṇa and leave the cycle of rebirth. However, Buddhists do believe that something survives after death. This is reflected is the Buddhist belief that when someone dies they become reincarnated in one of the six realms based on their past karma. The soul however is not what is reincarnated; rather there is a stream of consciousness between one life to the next. The reincarnated being is neither completely the same nor totally different. The Buddha taught that a middle ground must be followed between eternalism and annihilationism.
Outside of the Buddhism the belief in an eternal self or a soul is a fairly common, this is called eternalism. Many religions including Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity believe in an eternal soul. This belief is in fact a central idea in their practitioners’ belief system. Without an eternal soul a Hindu cannot follow the cycle of birth, death and rebirth, a Christian cannot go to Heaven or Hell and a Muslim cannot go to Jannah or Jahhanam.
Another belief is that of annihilationism. The idea behind annihilationism is that upon death nothing survives. Both the body and the soul are destroyed and there is no form of rebirth or reincarnation. Annihilationism is a belief held by both materialists and some Christians. Materialists believe that nothing immaterial exists therefore upon death everything ceases to exist including consciousness or self. The Christian belief is that if not granted salvation by God the soul is sent to Hell upon reaching Hell the soul is destroyed permanently (Ragland ).
The Buddha taught that a middle ground between eternalism and annihilationism must be followed. The Buddhist sage Nagasena explained the Buddhist argument for anātman to the Indo-Greek King Milinda or Melander before converting him. Milinda asks Nagasena what his name is, he replies Nagasena is my name but Nagasena is just a sound, a concept not a person. By saying this Nagasena is saying that there is no self, but Milinda does not yet understand this. Milinda asks Nagasena are you your hair or the rest of your physical body, or perhaps the combination the physical with sensations and consciousness. Nagasena replies that none of this is him or his self. Milinda then exclaims that Nagasena must be lying since he claims there is no Nagasena yet in front him Nagasena stands. Nagasena asks King Milinda how he arrived at their meeting and Milinda tells him a chariot. So, Nagasena asks Milinda is your chariot the pole or the frame or wheels or a combination of these things....