Anattà means `no self' and the doctrine of anattà is the Buddha's most unique and radical teaching. We usually assume that beyond our changing body, mind and experience is an unchanging and unique ego or self. Having identified this self as `me' we then identify other things as `mine'; `My spouse', `My property', `My religion', `My country', etc. This, according to the Buddha, is the cause of much of the distress and pain humans inflict upon themselves and others through greed, fear, ignorance, hatred and self-deception.
The Buddha said: `Body is not self, feelings are not self, perception is not self, mental constructs are not self and consciousness is not self When one sees this, one becomes detached from these things, being detached, the passions fade, when the passions have faded one is free, and being free, one knows one is free' (S.III,66-7).
It is sometimes said that the purpose of Buddhism is to destroy the self. This is not correct simply because there is no self to destroy. The Buddha taught that when the idea of a permanent metaphysical self or soul is seen to be an illusion, then one will cease to suffer and also cease to inflict suffering on others.