Anattā

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cooran
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Anattā

Post by cooran » Sat Jan 31, 2009 8:13 am

Hello all,

I've just been reading a booklet of Anattā - Collected Articles of the Most Prominent Scholars compiled and printed by Deparmtent of Research & Compilation, Sitagu International Buddhist Academy, Sagaing Hills, Sagaing, Myanmar.

Some Chapter Titles are:
No-soul by Dr. Silanandabhivamsa (Sayadaw U Silananda)
Soulessness by Bhikkhu Narada
No-Soul by Dr. W.P. Rahula
Impermanence, Suffering and No-Soul by by Sayadaw U Silananda

I note that in his writings Thanissaro Bhikkhu only refers to Not-self. This often gives readers the impression that though 'this' is not Self, somewhere out there, or in here, is 'something' or 'some experience' that continues onward even if ever-changing. But 'Hush, we never say that out loud - just hint, hint, wink, wink'.

Nyanatiloka, in his Dictionary of Pali Buddhist Terms, gives this definition of Anatta:
anattā - 'not-self', non-ego, egolessness, impersonality, is the last of the three characteristics of existence (ti-lakkhana, q.v.) The anattā doctrine teaches that neither within the bodily and mental phenomena of existence, nor outside of them, can be found anything that in the ultimate sense could be regarded as a self-existing real ego-entity, soul or any other abiding substance.
This is the central doctrine of Buddhism, without understanding which a real knowledge of Buddhism is altogether impossible. It is the only really specific Buddhist doctrine, with which the entire Structure of the Buddhist teaching stands or falls. All the remaining Buddhist doctrines may, more or less, be found in other philosophic systems and religions, but the anattā-doctrine has been clearly and unreservedly taught only by the Buddha, wherefore the Buddha is known as the anattā-vādi, or 'Teacher of Impersonality'.
Whosoever has not penetrated this impersonality of all existence, and does not comprehend that in reality there exists only this continually self-consuming process of arising and passing bodily and mental phenomena, and that there is no separate ego-entity within or without this process, he will not be able to understand Buddhism, i.e. the teaching of the 4 Noble Truths (sacca, q.v.), in the right light. He will think that it is his ego, his personality, that experiences suffering, his personality that performs good and evil actions and will be reborn according to these actions, his personality that will enter into Nibbāna, his personality that walks on the Eightfold Path.
http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/a/anatta.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I've heard people talk of Anatta, No Soul, No Self, Soullessness, Non-self, Not-Self, Self-lessness, egolessness, impersonality.

What did the Buddha actually mean?
Unlike Vacchagotta, I'm not going to faint if 'I' am just something like a sensor automatic door which opens and closes reacting to stimuli but has no personality or soul of its own, and doesn't go on to 'door-heaven' once it is impervious to further stimuli .... that is, if I am just a conglomeration of habits and fruits of kamma which, upon reaching 'nibanna', ceases completely.

Any clarity provided would be gladly welcomed.

metta
Chris
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Re: Anattā

Post by Jechbi » Sat Jan 31, 2009 8:50 am

Hi Chris,
Chris wrote:What did the Buddha actually mean?
I'm sure I can't tell you anything you don't already know. I'd like to point you toward some words found here:
Consciousness without feature,1
without end,
luminous all around:
Here water, earth, fire, & wind
have no footing.
Here long & short
coarse & fine
fair & foul
name & form
are all brought to an end.
With the cessation of [the activity of] consciousness
each is here brought to an end.
And this is the footnote:
1. Viññanam anidassanam. This term is nowhere explained in the Canon, although MN 49 mentions that it "does not partake in the allness of the All" — the "All" meaning the six internal and six external sense media (see SN 35.23). In this it differs from the consciousness factor in dependent co-arising, which is defined in terms of the six sense media. Lying outside of time and space, it would also not come under the consciousness-aggregate, which covers all consciousness near and far; past, present, and future. However, the fact that it is outside of time and space — in a dimension where there is no here, there, or in between (Ud 1.10), no coming, no going, or staying (Ud 8.1) — means that it cannot be described as permanent or omnipresent, terms that have meaning only within space and time. The standard description of nibbana after death is, "All that is sensed, not being relished, will grow cold right here." (See MN 140 and Iti 44.) Again, as "all" is defined as the sense media, this raises the question as to whether consciousness without feature is not covered by this "all." However, AN 4.174 warns that any speculation as to whether anything does or doesn't remain after the remainderless stopping of the six sense media is to "complicate non-complication," which gets in the way of attaining the non-complicated. Thus this is a question that is best put aside.
Whatever is meant by "anatta," I doubt it can be comprehended by whatever it is we assume to be "atta" at whatever level of (mis)understanding we presently find ourselves. I suspect we can only know what the Buddha meant at that moment when the veil is lifted. I realize that's probably not too helpful.

Metta
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But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
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Re: Anattā

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Jan 31, 2009 9:00 am

Greetings,

Anattā... one of my favourite subjects!

SN 22.59 - Pañcavaggi Sutta
I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Varanasi in the Game Refuge at Isipatana. There he addressed the group of five monks:

"Form, monks, is not self. If form were the self, this form would not lend itself to dis-ease. It would be possible [to say] with regard to form, 'Let this form be thus. Let this form not be thus.' But precisely because form is not self, form lends itself to dis-ease. And it is not possible [to say] with regard to form, 'Let this form be thus. Let this form not be thus.'

"Feeling is not self...

"Perception is not self...

"[Mental] fabrications are not self...

"Consciousness is not self. If consciousness were the self, this consciousness would not lend itself to dis-ease. It would be possible [to say] with regard to consciousness, 'Let my consciousness be thus. Let my consciousness not be thus.' But precisely because consciousness is not self, consciousness lends itself to dis-ease. And it is not possible [to say] with regard to consciousness, 'Let my consciousness be thus. Let my consciousness not be thus.'

"What do you think, monks — Is form constant or inconstant?"

"Inconstant, lord."

"And is that which is inconstant easeful or stressful?"

"Stressful, lord."

"And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: 'This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am'?"

"No, lord."

"...Is feeling constant or inconstant?"

"Inconstant, lord."...

"...Is perception constant or inconstant?"

"Inconstant, lord."...

"...Are fabrications constant or inconstant?"

"Inconstant, lord."...

"What do you think, monks — Is consciousness constant or inconstant?"

"Inconstant, lord."

"And is that which is inconstant easeful or stressful?"

"Stressful, lord."

"And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: 'This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am'?"

"No, lord."

"Thus, monks, any form whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every form is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: 'This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.'

"Any feeling whatsoever...

"Any perception whatsoever...

"Any fabrications whatsoever...

"Any consciousness whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every consciousness is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: 'This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.'

"Seeing thus, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness. Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion, he is fully released. With full release, there is the knowledge, 'Fully released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'"

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the group of five monks delighted at his words. And while this explanation was being given, the hearts of the group of five monks, through not clinging (not being sustained), were fully released from fermentation/effluents.
"Self" and "No-Self" are unverifiable speculative positions... neither of which the Buddha taught.... and he went out of his way to refute "Self". The Buddha was an anattavadin, teaching about anatta, "not-self".

Of any of the aggregates, of any of the sense bases or their subjects, of any citta etc. we must remember at all times the Buddha's injunction that it is "not self, not I, not mine". Nor of course is anything found outside of the five aggregates, as per the Buddha's teachings on the "world" as defined in suttas such as SN 12.44, SN 35.82 and AN 4.45. Therefore, whether a soul, atman etc. exists or doesn't exist outside of the five aggregates is an unprovable speculative view, although it may be inferred, though I see no necessity for doing so.

Only when we start to understand that everything is "not self, not I, not mine" is really possible to see the dangers of clinging and becoming and take genuine steps to renounce them.

Well that is how I understand it... I am open to correction of course if this is not consistent with the Classical viewpoint.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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Re: Anattā

Post by Jechbi » Sat Jan 31, 2009 9:15 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:... although it may be inferred ...
Could you elaborate?
:namaste:
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But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
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Re: Anattā

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Jan 31, 2009 9:29 am

Greetings Jechbi,

All Theravadins accept that the five aggregates, six senses (whichever framework you wish to use etc.) are not-self...

Some may infer that because there is no self to be found within, or without those frameworks that there is 'no self'. I don't think people should infer this because it is an unprovable speculative view. Contrast with the Puggalavadins who accepted anatta, but believed there was still some kind of self, though they couldn't tell you anything about it. Their view was an unprovable speculative view as well.

I look forward to someone being able to give clear guidance on what the Classical Theravadin perspective is with regards to "no self".

Metta,
Retro. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

Element

Re: Anattā

Post by Element » Sat Jan 31, 2009 9:38 am

retrofuturist wrote:"And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: 'This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am'?"

"No, lord."
My views is these types of discussions by Dr. Silanandabhivamsa, etc, emphasising soulessness, no-soul, etc, are missing the mark. These kinds of views are reactionary to Hinduism, where Hinduism teaches about a soul and Buddhism does not. Their flavour is still meta-physical.

The Buddha's teaching above, quoted by Retrofuturist, is teaching about dispossession. Buddha is saying: "These things are impermanent. As such, they they have the capacity to promote suffering. As such, they are not worth clinging to as belonging to myself or regarding as myself". As Jesus said: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

The Na Tumhaka Sutta is useful for clarity.
"Suppose a person were to gather or burn or do as he likes with the grass, twigs, branches & leaves here in Jeta's Grove. Would the thought occur to you, 'It's us that this person is gathering, burning, or doing with as he likes'?"

"No, lord.

Why is that?

Because those things are not our self nor do they pertain to our self."

"In the same way, monks, the eye is not yours: let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit... The ear... The nose... The tongue... The body... The intellect is not yours: let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit... Whatever arises in dependence on intellect-contact, experienced either as pleasure, as pain, or as neither-pleasure-nor-pain, that too is not yours: let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit."
Last edited by Element on Sat Jan 31, 2009 9:41 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Anattā

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Jan 31, 2009 9:39 am

Well said Mahadhatu.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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Re: Anattā

Post by cooran » Sat Jan 31, 2009 9:40 am

Hello Retro, all,

Yes, I've read Thanissaro Bhikkhu's translation. Bhikkhu Bodhi uses 'non self'.
But I don't see anything there to help clarify the question asked in my post. It was actually Thanissaro who 'muddied the waters' for me, always seeming to skirt around the idea of a 'self'.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Retrofuturist said: Some may infer that because there is no self to be found within, or without those frameworks that there is 'no self'. I don't think people should infer this because it is an unprovable speculative view.

I've never heard you state this so clearly before - though I wondered if you were leaning that way. I don't believe that Classical Theravada understands the Buddha to have taught that there is a Self within or standing behind the Khandas - or that we are like dewdrops sinking into a Shining Sea after liberation - that is a Hindu belief as I understand it.

After spending a number of years visiting with Abhidhammika's in Thailand, it seems to me, that Annihilationism can only exist if a Self exists in the first place. But if there never was a Self, how can anything be annihilated?

metta
Chris
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Re: Anattā

Post by tiltbillings » Sat Jan 31, 2009 9:42 am

Chris wrote:Hello Retro, all,

Yes, I've read Thanissaro Bhikkhu's translation. Bhikkhu Bodhi uses 'non self'.
But I don't see anything there to help clarify the question asked in my post. It was actually Thanissaro who 'muddied the waters' for me, always seeming to skirt around the idea of a 'self'.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Retrofuturist said: Some may infer that because there is no self to be found within, or without those frameworks that there is 'no self'. I don't think people should infer this because it is an unprovable speculative view.


I've never heard you state this so clearly before - though I wondered if you were leaning that way. I don't believe that Classical Theravada understands the Buddha to have taught that there is a Self within or standing behind the Khandas - or that we are like dewdrops sinking into a Shining Sea after liberation - that is a Hindu belief as I understand it.. . .

metta
Chris
I don't think it is an unreasonable inference.

Monks, whatever contemplatives or priests who assume in various ways when assuming a self, all assume the five clinging-aggregates, or a certain one of them. - SN III 46.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: Anattā

Post by Dhammanando » Sat Jan 31, 2009 9:50 am

retrofuturist wrote:All Theravadins accept that the five aggregates, six senses (whichever framework you wish to use etc.) are not-self...

Some may infer that because there is no self to be found within, or without those frameworks that there is 'no self'. I don't think people should infer this because it is an unprovable speculative view.
Why "speculative"? Surely it's just straightforward logical entailment.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
“Keep to your own pastures, bhikkhus, walk in the haunts where your fathers roamed.
If ye thus walk in them, Māra will find no lodgement, Māra will find no foothold.”
— Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta

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Re: Anattā

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Jan 31, 2009 9:50 am

Greetings Tilt,

I guess the Puggalavadins came after the Buddha then... :D

Metta,
Retro. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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Re: Anattā

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Jan 31, 2009 9:58 am

Greetings bhante,
Dhammanando wrote:Why "speculative"? Surely it's just straightforward logical entailment.
I believe it has to be speculative because it involves that which is beyond this world... beyond what you or I can experience by way of the five aggregates, the six sense bases and so on. Hopefully an example will clarify.

I cannot know a tree outside of the five aggregates. There can be eye-consciousness containing the tree, there can be perception of a tree, there can be thoughts about a tree and so on but it is not possible to personally know for oneself a tree in any sense other than via the five aggregates which form our "world".

Any kind of self that could exist outside of the five aggregates, such as that put forward by the Puggalavadins, is quite frankly none of our business because it's outside of our range... outside the world of phenomenological experience. It is of no benefit whatsoever, but it can be a view and it can be a view that we cling to, which can be the basis of suffering.

Likewise, it is beyond our "world" to know that the Puggalavadins were wrong and that there is "no self". Of course there is "no self to be found", because we can only find that which is in our world.... but to conclusively say there is "no self"... how could we ever put that down to anything but unfounded speculative view? And again... "no self", just like "self" is a speculative view we can cling to which can be the foundation for suffering.

Apologies if that was unclear... I'm trying my best.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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Re: Anattā

Post by cooran » Sat Jan 31, 2009 10:19 am

Hello Element,
Element said: In Pali, there are three words: (1) atta or self; (2) niratta or no self; and (3) anatta or not-self.
Could you give a link to your sources for the meaning you've stated?

My understanding from the Pali Text Society Dictionary is:
Niratta
Niratta1 (adj. -- nt.) [Sk. *nirātman, nis+attan] soulless; view of soullessness or unsubstantiality; thus interpreted (in preference to niratta2) by Com. on Sn 787, 858, 919. See foll.
Niratta
Niratta2 (adj.) [Sk. nirasta, pp. of nirasyati, see nirassati] rejected, thrown off, given up Sn 1098; Nd2 359. <-> Note. At Sn 787, 858, 919 the interpretation of Nd1 82= 248=352 and also Bdhgh assume a cpd. of nis+attan (=nirātman): see niratta1.
Nirattha
Nirattha (adj.) [nis+attha] useless, groundless, unpro- ficient, vain (opp. sāttha profitable) Sn 582 (nt. as adv.), 585 (niratthā paridevanā); Dh 41; J iii.26; PvA 18 (˚bhāva uselessness), 83 (=duḥ).
http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... ali.198496" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Anattā (n. and predicative adj.) not a soul, without a soul. Most freq. in combn. with dukkha & anicca -- (1) as noun: S iii.141 (˚anupassin); iv.49; v.345 (˚saññin); A
http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... .0.25.pali" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Re: Anattā

Post by piotr » Sat Jan 31, 2009 10:37 am

Hi,
Chris wrote:I note that in his writings Thanissaro Bhikkhu only refers to Not-self. This often gives readers the impression that though 'this' is not Self, somewhere out there, or in here, is 'something' or 'some experience' that continues onward even if ever-changing. But 'Hush, we never say that out loud - just hint, hint, wink, wink'.
I think that you're missing the point here. Just as māna ("I am worse, equal, better") can be sometimes useful concept in the practice:

  • There is the case, sister, where a monk hears, 'The monk named such-and-such, they say, through the ending of the fermentations, has entered & remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for himself in the here & now.' The thought occurs to him, 'I hope that I, too, will — through the ending of the fermentations — enter & remain in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for myself in the here & now.' — Bhikkhunī-sutta, AN 4.159


So it's sometimes useful to use concept of self (without pinning down the question: "Who am I?", etc.) for further development:

  • Searching all directions
    with one's awareness,
    one finds no one dearer
    than oneself.
    In the same way, others
    are fiercely dear to themselves.
    So one should not hurt others
    if one loves oneself. — Rājā-sutta, Ud 5.1


This is the point of bhante Ṭhānissaro's writings. Not that one can silently figure out some higher self:

  • Although this last passage indicates that there is a sphere to be experienced beyond the six sensory spheres, it should not be taken as a "higher self." This point is brought out in the Great Discourse on Causation, where the Buddha classifies all theories of the self into four major categories: those describing a self which is either (a) possessed of form (a body) & finite; (b) possessed of form & infinite; (c) formless & finite; and (d) formless & infinite. The text gives no examples of the various categories, but we might cite the following as illustrations: (a) theories which deny the existence of a soul, and identify the self with the body; (b) theories which identify the self with all being or with the universe; (c) theories of discrete, individual souls; (d) theories of a unitary soul or identity immanent in all things. He then goes on to reject all four categories. — Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu, The Not-self Strategy
Bhagavaṃmūlakā no, bhante, dhammā...

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Re: Anattā

Post by Dhammanando » Sat Jan 31, 2009 12:26 pm

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:I guess the Puggalavadins came after the Buddha then... :D
I think their position —that the puggala is indescribable and its relationship to the aggregates is indescribable— would be included in eel-wriggling.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
“Keep to your own pastures, bhikkhus, walk in the haunts where your fathers roamed.
If ye thus walk in them, Māra will find no lodgement, Māra will find no foothold.”
— Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta

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