When the Buddha taught annatta – no self, he did so to help free those he was speaking with from their misapprehension of a self where there is no self, never has been, and never will be. The ‘self’ we conceive of, of ourself, of others, and of objects in this world, is an invention, a fabrication, a complete fiction. Sometimes the wisdom teachings of the Buddha are referred to as having been given in ‘the First Turning of the Wheel’.
That the teachings worked for many of the men and women in the first centuries after the historical Buddha taught, shows itself in the spread not only of the teachings geographically, but also in terms of how they were expressed.
Sometimes the emphasis was placed on one part of the teachings, and sometimes new language was used to express those very same original ideas, to correct common mistakes, to make it easier to understand the Buddha’s intent, and to experience the results of practice.
A common mistake on hearing the no self teachings was to take them as being nihilistic, and so, as expedient means, first the Prajnaparamita, or Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, and then the Middle Way school developed. These are referred to as being part of the Second Turning of the Wheel.
They had (and have) the aim of delineating the wisdom teachings of the Buddha more clearly, so that both the errors of self grasping and of falling into the belief that nothing exists or matters could be corrected. The Prajnaparamita also emphasizes the importance of compassion, and the dedication to the well being of all that lives.
Then, what this moving beyond ego grasping makes abundantly clear is that we are more than we ever thought we were, and that others have a greater depth and potential than we ever realized they had. This brings us to the Nature of Mind, and the Third Turning of the Wheel, which is on Buddha Nature, and Pure Perception, which is also called Sacred Outlook.