"Good, good, Anuradha! Formerly, Anuradha, and also now, I make known just suffering and the cessation of suffering."
BB: This oft-quoted dictum can be interpreted at two levels. At the more superficial level the Buddha can be read as saying that he does no make any declaration about such metaphysical questions as an afterlife but teaches only a practical path for reaching the end of suffering. This interpretation, however, does not connect the dictum with the Buddha's previous statement that the Tathagata is not apprehended in this very life. To make this connection we have to bring in the second interpretation, according to which "Tathagata" is a mere term of conventional usage referring to a compound of impermanent formations, which are "suffering" [dukkha] because they contain no permanent essence. It is just these that stand while the Tathagata lives, and just these that cease with his passing away. The context in which the dictum occurs at
MN 22 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"Both formerly and now, monks, I declare only stress and the cessation of stress. ..."
also supports this interpretation.