Anattā (no-self, without soul, no essence) is the nature of living beings, and this is one of the three marks of existence in Buddhism, along with Anicca (impermanence, nothing lasts) and Dukkha (suffering, unsatisfactoriness is innate in birth, aging, death, rebirth, redeath – the Saṃsāra cycle of existence).While the concept of soul in Hinduism (as atman) and Jainism (as jiva) is taken for granted, which is different from the Buddhist concept of no-soul, each of the three religions believed in rebirth and emphasized moral responsibility in different ways in contrast to pre-Buddhist materialistic schools of Indian philosophies.

When a Buddhist gets more enlightened, this happening to or originating in an 'I' or sakkdyaditthi is less.

The final attainment of enlightenment is the disappearance of this automatic but illusory 'I'.

It also appears as an adjective, for example, in Samyutta Nikaya III.114, III.133, IV.28 and IV.130–166, in Sutta III.66 and V.86 of Vinaya.

The ancient Buddhist texts present an extensive discussion and rejection of the Vedic concept of Attā (soul, self) – sometimes with alternate terms such as Atuman, Tuma, Puggala, Jiva, Satta, Pana and Nama-rupa – in order to provide the context for the Buddhist Anattā doctrine.

The second loci is the psychological realisation of anatta, or loss of 'pride or conceit'.

This, states Collins, is explained as the conceit of asmimana or 'I am'; (...) what this 'conceit' refers to is the fact that for the unenlightened man, all experience and action must necessarily appear phenomenologically as happening to or originating from an 'I'.

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The materialistic schools of Indian philosophies, such as Charvaka, are called annihilationism schools because they posited that death is the end, there is no afterlife, no soul, no rebirth, no karma, and death is that state where a living being is completely annihilated, dissolved.

Buddhism also contrasts itself with other Indian religions that champion moral responsibility but posit eternalism with their premise that within each human being there is an essence or eternal soul, and this soul is part of the nature of a living being, existence and metaphysical reality.

The Buddha criticized the doctrine that posited an unchanging soul as a subject as the basis of rebirth and karmic moral responsibility, which he called "atthikavāda".