The teachings of Ven. Waharaka Abhayaratanalankara Thero

A forum for Dhamma resources in languages other than English
Posts: 467
Joined: Thu Jun 23, 2016 11:39 am

Re: The teachings of Ven. Waharaka Abhayaratanalankara Thero

Post by Lal »

Pañca Upādānakkhandhā – Introduction

Pañca Upādānakkhandhā – Key Role of Upādāna

Pañca Upādānakkhandhā is normally translated as “five grasping aggregates.” That does not explain much.

1. The concept of Pañca Upādānakkhandhā plays a critical role in Buddha’s teachings. In his first sermon, “Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (SN 56.11),” the Buddha summarized dukkha (or suffering) in a single verse. That is, “Saṃkhittena pañcupādānakkhandhā dukkhā.” The translation appears in most English texts as, “in brief, the five grasping aggregates are suffering”.

- That translation does not convey the meaning of the verse until we understand what is meant by “pañcupādānakkhandhā.”
- It is easy to see that the word “pañcupādānakkhandhā” comes from the combination of the three words: pañca, upādāna, and khandhā. Here, “pañca khandhā” means “five aggregates” and “upādāna” means “the tendency to keep close.” As you will see, “keeping close” is a better translation than “grasping” used in most translations.
- Therefore, that verse indicates that suffering in this world arises due to our tendency to “keep close” certain parts of those five “aggregates.”
- We have already discussed some features of those “five aggregates.” See the previous few posts in this series.

Upādāna – Keeping Close “in the Mind”

2. Upādāna means “pulling something closer” (“upa” + “ādāna,” where “upa” means “close” and “ādāna” means “pull closer”).

- It is critical to realize that upādāna happens ONLY in the mind.
- Paṭicca Samuppāda describes phenomena that take place in the MIND. We can summarize Paṭicca Samuppāda simply as follows. Attaching to an ārammaṇa is taṇhā (gets “bonded” to it.) That leads to upādāna (keep it close in one’s mind.) That is the step, “taṇhā paccayā upādāna.” Also, see, “Difference Between Tanhā and Upādāna.”
- Furthermore, we saw that even the rupakkhandha is in the mind. Many people have the perception that rupakkhandha is “collection of rupa.” But we clarified rupakkhandha in the post “Difference Between Rupa and Rupakkhandha.”

3. In that post, we also discussed how some parts of rūpakkhandha become parts of rūpa upādānakkhandha or rūpupādānakkhandha.

- Therefore, “pañcupādānakkhandhā” means “keeping those five aggregates (rupakkhandha, vedanākkhandha, saññākkhandha, saṅkhārakkhandha, viññāṇakkhandha) “close to one’s mind.” Then, one will be thinking, speaking, and taking actions based on particularly appealing parts of the five aggregates.
- Again, all of rūpakkhandha, as well as other four khandhā in pañca khandhā, are associated with the mind.
- Thus, ALL of pañcupādānakkhandhā is associated with the mind. Those are what one thinks about and plan accordingly. A good example is to re-create a past sexual experience and to enjoy that. Another is to create a future expected experience in mind and to enjoy that. Both those activities involve pañcupādānakkhandhā.
- As we can see, pañcakkhandhā is enormous, infinite. It has all our experiences from a beginning that cannot be discerned. But pañca upādānakkhandhā is a very small part of that.

Diṭṭhi and Taṇhā – Root Causes of Upādāna

4. We tend to keep something close to us if we believe it will be beneficial for us to do so. On the other hand, if we think something will be bad for us and can bring suffering, we would try to avoid it and try to keep it far away.

- For example, if we know there is a bomb inside a beautiful object, we would try to get far away from it, even though it looks appealing.
- Sometimes, we do not see dangers hidden in “things that appear to be appealing.”
- An example that I often give is a fish biting a worm on a hook. The fish cannot see the hidden hook or the fisherman holding the pole that is attached to the hook with a string. But we can see all that and we know what will happen to the fish if it bites that tasty bait.
- However, we are unable to see the hidden dangers in sensual pleasures. Only a Buddha can figure out WHY attaching to sensual pleasures is dangerous, even if no immoral actions are involved. The question is, why sense pleasures are bad even if immoral actions (dasa akusala) are NOT involved. There are “hidden dangers” in sense pleasures. See, “Kāma Assāda – A Root Cause of Suffering.”
- Have you seen ants getting stuck in spilled honey? They start drinking it and get stuck. They don’t see the “hidden danger” in a pool of tasty honey either.

Monkey Not Letting Go Even When the Life is in Danger

5. In the above example of the fish biting a “tasty bait” or the ants attracted to honey at least cannot see the “hidden danger.” However, look at what happens to the monkey in the following video (I am not sure how to open a new window for that video. So, please make sure to use the back button to get back to the post): ... autoplay=0
- The monkey could have let go of the grains in its fist, take its hand out, and run away when it saw the hunter coming. (Note; I have set the video to stop early to show only the relevant portion for our discussion. If you play it again, you can see the whole video. The hunter wanted to find where the monkey’s water source was. So, he fed the monkey with salty food and let it go, and followed it.)
- But it would not let go of the grains in its fist. It does not want to let go of its “tasty grains” even while seeing the danger. It is HOPING that it would be able to get the hand out WITH the grains.
- That is why even a Sotapanna has a hard time getting rid of the desire for sensual pleasures, even though he/she can SEE the dangers in them.
- However, a large part of upādāna has been removed for a Sotapanna. He/she would NOT engage in any immoral deeds to fulfill sensual desires. For example, he/she would not engage in sexual misconduct at any time. The desire for sensual pleasures will keep one bound to the kāma loka. But it is only IMMORAL DEEDS (dasa akusala) done to gain sensual pleasures that will make one eligible for rebirth in an apāya.
- In other words, a Sotapanna has not removed “kāma upādāna.” An Anāgāmi has removed “kāma upādāna.” Thus, the four types of upādāna need to be removed in stages.

Five Aggregates (Pañcakkhandhā) Fall into Two Main Categories

6. From our previous posts in “The Five Aggregates (Pañcakkhandha),” we know that the five aggregates can be separated out into two MAIN categories: past and present.

- There are 11 types of entities in each aggregate. See, “Difference Between Rūpa and Rūpakkhandha.” However, all of them belong to three time-frames: past, present moment, and future. The “present moment” is gone in a split second. The other categories (like internal and external or near and far) belong to each time-frame. Thus, effectively we have two MAIN categories in each aggregate.
- Those two are the “past aggregates” and “future aggregates.” Put in another way, the five aggregates encompass our “memories” and our ‘future expectations/hopes.”

[i]Pañca Upādānakkhandhā[/i] – Reliving Memories and Making Future Plans

7. Pañcupādānakkhandhā can be thought of as mainly the following. Significant “events” that happened in the past and also a set of events that we would like to see happen in the future. Put in simple terms, pañcupādānakkhandhā or “upādāna of pañcakkhandhā” means the following two cases.

- Our tendency to constantly think, speak, and act to re-create past experiences.
- In addition, we also do the same to fulfill future plans/hopes.
Those activities are done via mano, vaci, and kāya (abhi)saṅkhāra. We will discuss that in the next post.

Upādāna – Why Is It Easier to Recall Somethings Than Others?

8. Form our discussion so far in this series of posts, it is clear that records of ALL our past actions (and speech and thoughts) are “stored permanently” in “nāma loka.” You may want to refresh memory by reading “Memory Records- Critical Part of Five Aggregates.”

- However, we know that it is easier to recall some of the past events than most others. In fact, we cannot recall even some things that happened just yesterday!
- That is because there are events that we tend to “keep close” in our minds. That can happen out of greed, anger, or ignorance. If we eat tasty food, we would like to taste it again. If someone did something “bad,” we would like to remember that out of anger. We also tend to remember “funny things” of no significance (dirty jokes, for example) out of ignorance.
- In addition to just “a record” or “nāmagotta,” such “memorable” events leave energy in the “nāma loka.” Those are kammic energies and are in “kamma bhava.” They originate in kamma viññāṇa in javana citta. Such events involve abhisaṅkhāra.

The Difference Between “Nāmagotta” and “Kamma Bija

9. A record of any and all events go into “nāmagotta” as soon as that event is done. But some events involve “good” or “bad” strong kamma generated via abhisaṅkhāra. As we have noted, there are three types of abhisaṅkhāra: apuñña abhisaṅkhāra, puñña abhisaṅkhāra, and āneñja abhisaṅkhāra.

- Those are the types of abhisaṅkhāra in the “avijjā paccayā saṅkhārā” step in Paṭicca Samuppāda. See, “Kamma, Saṅkhāra, and Abhisaṅkhāra“ on Nov 24, 2019 (on p. 77): ... start=1140
- We can put it in another way by saying that such actions lead to the formation of kamma bija. They have the potential to bring kamma vipāka. Especially strong kamma vipāka can lead to rebirth.
- However, if such kamma bija do not get a chance to bring their vipāka, their energies run out over long times. At that point, they become just “nāmagotta” without any associated energy.
- A kamma bija, on its own, can bring us an ārammaṇa to the mind (i.e., bring back the memory of the event) even if we are not trying to recall it.
- While a kamma bija can bring an ārammaṇa to the mind on its own (due to its energy,) a “nāmagotta” NEEDS TO BE recalled. We will discuss that later.
- Furthermore, it is easier to recall those events associated with strong kamma bija. Such events are of importance to us, and thus, it is easy to recall them. Nāmagotta, on the other hand, are more difficult to recall. However, there are a handful of people who can do that in amazing detail (see below.

Proof That All Nāmagotta Remain Intact

10. Strong evidence is beginning to emerge that there is indeed a “complete record” of one’s past just like a videotape. These studies started with Jill Price, who contacted a team of scientists in the early 2000’s about her ability to recall anything from 1974 onward. Here is a video of her with Diane Sawyer on an ABC News program:

- Note that she says she can “see” in her mind what happened on any day from 1974. It is not like she is recalling a “summary” or the gist of what happened. She can actually recall the whole episode in detail. Even the day and date come out effortlessly.
- Note that she can remember ONLY those things SHE had EXPERIENCED. That means just the portion of HER pañcakkhandhā from 1974. For example, if she had not watched the TV series “Dallas,” she would not be able to say on which day “JR was shot.”
- Since then more people have provided similar accounts. See, “Recent Evidence for Unbroken Memory Records (HSAM).”
- This is why some children can recall their previous life. The ability to recall a previous life means that the memories could NOT have been in the brain, and were ‘stored” outside the physical body. See, “Evidence for Rebirth” and “Boy Who Remembered Pāli Suttas for 1500 Years.”
- Ancient yogis who could get to the eighth jhāna could see all past lives in the present eon or kappa. But the Buddha could see numerous eons within a short time.

Posts: 467
Joined: Thu Jun 23, 2016 11:39 am

Re: The teachings of Ven. Waharaka Abhayaratanalankara Thero

Post by Lal »

Five Aggregates – Connection to Tilakkhaṇa

In the next few posts, we will look at the relationship between the five aggregates and suffering. Within this discussion, we will be able to clarify the three key Pāli words anicca, dukkha, anatta. Those terms describe the Three Characteristics of Nature or Tilakkhaṇa.

Five Aggregates and Tilakkhaṇa – Introduction

The Five Aggregates describe any Living Being’s “World”

1. The five aggregates (pañcakkhandhā) represent any living being together with its “external world.” It is not correct to say that the five aggregates are in one’s own “physical body.” Everything about a living being, including ALL past experiences and future expectations, is embedded in pañcakkhandhā. Furthermore, one’s gati, anusaya, etc., are all in pañcakkhandhā. Please read the previous posts in “The Five Aggregates (Pañcakkhandha).”

- What I summarized in those few posts is the material in many suttā in the Khandha Saṃyutta in the Saṃyutta Nikāya. There are also relevant suttā in other parts of the Tipiṭaka.
- In those suttā, the Buddha describes any given living being in terms of pañcakkhandhā: rupakkhandha, vedanākkhandha, saññākkhandha, saṅkhārakkhandha, viññāṇakkhandha.
- Those are the five aggregates loosely translated as form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. As we have discussed, such translations are misleading. It is better to use the Pāli terms and learn their true BROADER meanings. For example, viññāṇa can be of two different types of kamma viññāṇa and vipaka viññāṇa.  See, "Mōha/Avijjā and Vipāka Viññāṇa/Kamma Viññāṇa."

Pañca Upādāna Khandhā (Five Clinging Aggregates) Is There Until Becoming an Arahant

2. We also discussed what is meant by pañca upādāna khandhā (loosely translated as “five clinging-aggregates”) in the section “The Five Aggregates (Pañcakkhandha).”

- Until attaining the Arahant stage, all living beings have pañca upādāna khandhā. A living Arahant has pañca khandhā but not pañca upādāna khandhā.
- An Arahant‘s pañca khandhā will also cease to exist at the death of the physical body. That means an Arahant will not be reborn anywhere in the 31 realms.

The Definition of an “Ignorant Living Being” or “Satta

3. The Buddha explained what is meant by a “satta” or a “living being” to Rādha in the “Satta Sutta (SN 23.2). “Rūpe kho, Rādha, yo chando yo rāgo yā nandī yā taṇhā, tatra satto, tatra visatto, tasmā sattoti vuccati. Vedanāya … saññāya … saṅkhāresu … viññāṇe yo chando yo rāgo yā nandī yā taṇhā, tatra satto, tatra visatto, tasmā sattoti vuccati
Translated (just the meaning): “Rādha, when there is desire (chanda), rāga, and a perception of high value (nandī) of material form (rūpa), there is clinging (satto), strong clinging (visatto) for form, and then an ignorant living-being (satto) is spoken of. Similarly, when there is desire (chanda), rāga, and a perception of high value (nandī) of vedanā … saññā … saṅkhāra … viññāṇa, then a living-being is spoken of.”

- Other translations at “Sentient Beings.”:
- Note that the Pāli word “satta” means “clinging” or “attach.” A strong version of clinging is “visatta.”
- In other words, as long as there is upādāna for pañcakkhandhā (i.e., as long as there is pañcupādānakkhandhā) there is an “ignorant living being” or a “satta.” That living being has not comprehended the “real nature of this world” or “yathābhūta ñāṇa.”

Difference Between a “Satta” and “Puthujjano

4. We also need to see the difference between the terms “satta” and “puthujjano.” The name “puthujjano” applies to a human being who has not heard and comprehended yathābhūta ñāṇa. The term “satta” applies to any living being (includes Devā and Brahmā who have not attained any magga phala.)

- I use the term “ignorant person” to differentiate an Ariya puggala (Noble Person) who is also a “person,” but has started cultivating yathābhūta ñāṇa.
- Assāda Sutta (SN 22.129) defines the word “puthujjano” as, “an ignorant person (“puthujjano) does not truly understand the pleasures, the drawbacks/dangers, and the liberation when it comes to the five aggregates.”
- An Ariya puggala overcomes the “satta” status at eight levels (Sotapanna Anugāmi, Sotapanna, Sakadāgāmi Anugāmi, Sakadāgāmi, etc.)
- Also, a Bodhisatta is still a “satta,” but proceeding towards “Bodhi” or the “Buddhahood.” We remember that a Bodhisatta can be born even in some higher animal species, but not in the other three apāyā.
- Note that “satta” pronounced “saththa”.) See, “Tipiṭaka English” Convention Adopted by Early European Scholars – Part 1″ and the second part referred to in there.

Overcoming the “Satta” Status With the Comprehension of Tilakkhana

5. Using the analyses of the five aggregates and the “five clinging-aggregates,” we can get some insights into Buddha’s explanation of “suffering inherent in this world of 31 realms.” That explanation comes via the understanding of the Tilakkhana or anicca, dukkha, anatta. We now look at the connection between the five aggregates and Tilakkhaṇa.

- The fourth characteristic of asubha appears in some suttā.
- However, in most suttā, only the three characteristics of anicca, dukkha, anatta are discussed.
- The essence of those characteristics is that craving for worldly things (rupa) with the perception of a “me” will only perpetuate the rebirth process leading to more suffering. We will discuss that in detail in upcoming posts.
- However, we can get an idea by just looking at the key concepts that we have learned. Let us briefly discuss anatta and anicca.

Does “Anatta” Mean “No-Self”?

6. The representation of any living being with the five aggregates makes it clear that a permanent “soul” or a “ātma” cannot exist.

- As we have discussed, none of those five aggregates has any “essence.” They all keep changing, even momentarily. In particular, they all undergo drastic changes when a living being moves from one realm to another. Such transitions have taken place an uncountable times in our deep past. We all have been born in the 26 realms (out of 31 realms, only Anāgāmis can be born in the five realms reserved for them.)
- All of us have been born in the highest nevasaññanasaññayatana Brahma realm as well as in the lowest niraya realm.
- If there were an unchanging “core” or “essence” as a soul was there, an Arahant would not be able to attain Parinibbāna. As we know, there is no trace of an Arahant in any of the 31 realms after Parinibbāna.
- However, until one reaches the Arahant stage, it is also NOT correct to say that a “self” or a “me” does not exist. There is an ever-changing “lifestream” thinking, speaking, and doing things based on the view and perception of a “me” or “self” with a set of ever-changing “gati.”
- Starting at the Sotapanna Anugāmi stage, one can begin to “see” that all those actions are based on Paṭicca Samuppāda. There is still a “self” with “gati” generating “abhisaṅkhāra” via “avijjā.” But that “avijjā” will decrease with higher magga phala. “Sammā Diṭṭhi” becomes complete, and the perception of a “me” goes away only at the Arahant stage.

Does “Anicca” Mean “Impermanence”?

7. It is quite common these days to see the Pāli word “anicca” translated as “impermanence.” We can see the error in such a translation by looking at a simple sutta.

- For example, the “Nandikkhaya Sutta (SN 22.51),” among others, state: “Aniccaññeva, bhikkhave, bhikkhu rūpaṃ aniccanti passati. Sāssa hoti sammādiṭṭhi.” or “A bhikkhu who sees rupa (form) as anicca has seen the anicca nature. He has Sammā Diṭṭhi.”
- Most English translations INCORRECTLY translate that verse as “A bhikkhu who sees form as impermanent has seen the anicca nature. He has Sammā Diṭṭhi.”
- Any reputable scientist knows that NO MATERIAL OBJECT in this world has permanent existence. See the following Scientific American article: “The Only Thing That Remains Constant Is Change.” : ... is-change/ Does that mean those scientists all have “Sammā Diṭṭhi” and have attained Nibbāna? Of course not. Therefore, it must be clear that “anicca” CANNOT mean just “impermanence.”
- We will discuss the real meanings of anatta and anicca in detail in this series in future posts.

The Need to examine the Tipiṭaka Without Biases

8. We need to be able to resolve such issues by using common sense rather than mechanically repeating such incorrect translations as “the truth.” Just because such statements are in “reputable books” or are “the opinions of reputable bhikkhus/scholars” does not mean they are compatible with the Tipiṭaka. We need to remind ourselves that Devadatta was a bhikkhu with abhiññā powers. Nagarjuna and Buddhaghosa are considered “scholars” by those who do not even believe in rebirth (and thus have micchā diṭṭhi.)

- Their intentions may be good, but one needs to be able to accept errors in one’s thinking when clarified with substantial evidence.
- It is dangerous to teach “wrong Dhamma” which will have corresponding consequences. Ignorance of mundane laws is not an excuse in a court of law. In the same way, ignorance of “the true teachings” is not an excuse, especially when the correct teachings are clear with evidence from the Tipiṭaka.
- “Impermanence” is only a small part of the broad meaning of anicca. A single English word CANNOT convey the meaning of the word “anicca.” One needs to understand the meaning of the Pāli word and use that word.

Why Do Living Beings Crave Sensory Pleasures?

9. To “enjoy” sensory pleasures, the following two conditions must be met.

- There must be a “me” or a “self” to “enjoy any pleasure.”
- There must be contacts with five types of external rupa via the five physical senses. They are rupa rupa or "vaṇṇa rupa" (material objects), sadda rupa (sounds), gandha rupa (odors), rasa rupa (tastes), and phoṭṭhabba (body touches.) Furthermore, those rupa must be stable to provide long-lasting pleasures.
So, the average human makes the very best effort (and undergoes suffering) in seeking out such pleasures.
- Those struggles only lead to more suffering, since both of the above assumptions are wrong in ultimate reality.

Both Those Assumptions Are Wrong Per Buddha

10. The Buddha pointed out the following regarding those two features.

- There is no “me” or an “unchanging self” in ultimate reality. Any living being has a limited lifetime and subject to unexpected changes during its existence. There is no “core” or “substance” to any existence (like a “soul” or a “ātma.”) A given lifestream can be a Brahma, a Deva, or a human in some existences and an animal, a hungry ghost, or a “hell being” in other existences. Where is the “core”?
- Any type of external rupa in this world also has a limited lifetime. It will also undergo unexpected changes during its existence. Thus, all those material “things” that we acquire with great effort do not last long. Furthermore, they become a burden since one needs to continually struggle to maintain them in good condition (think of houses, cars, one’s own physical body, etc.)
Therefore, both requirements for perceived happiness (an “unchanging self” and “stable external rupa“) are illusory.
- That is one way to state the “previously-unheard Dhamma” (“pubbe ananussutesu dhammesu“) that the Buddha taught.

“Self” and “External Rupa” Have a Common Name – Sankata

11. Sankata is a key Pāli word. It comes from “san” + “kata.” As with many critically important Pāli words, the root “san” is there. A sankata is prepared via “san” or our tendency to “accumulate” things that only have a transient existence. A living being and what it enjoys are both sankata.

- Both arise (the Pāli word for “arise” is “samudaya“) due to our fruitless actions based on those two wrong views about nature per #9 and #10 above. The key Pāli word “samudaya” comes from “san” + “udaya” or “arising due to “san.” You may want to refresh memory with “What is “San”? Meaning of Sansāra (or Saṃsāra)” and “List of “San” Words and Other Pāli Roots.”
- Both types of sankata arise (samudaya) via the universal process of Paṭicca Samuppāda, which starts with “avijjā paccayā saṅkhāra.”
- As we have discussed in many posts, the root cause of all suffering is abhi(saṅkhāra) that arise in our minds due to avijjā. Therefore, one way to explain the origin of suffering is ignorance (avijjā) of real nature or Tilakkhaṇa. That is the connection between the five aggregates and Tilakkhaṇa (and suffering.)

A Buddha Does Not Speculate on Anything

12. A Sammasambuddha, like Buddha Gotama, does not teach anything that he had not experienced/verified firsthand.

- Several suttā in the Tipiṭaka discuss that. See, for example, the Vīmaṃsaka Sutta (MN 47).
- There are many suttā in the Tipiṭaka that describe visits by the Buddha and some of his disciples to Brahma and Deva realms. I have discussed one of those, the “Brahmanimantanika Sutta (MN 49),” in the post, “Anidassana Viññāṇa – What It Really Means.”
- There are many aspects in the teachings of the Buddha that are not discernible to an average human (puthujjano). Many of these phenomena can be verified by those who make progress on the path. They are also consistent with new findings by modern science. I have discussed some of them in “Mystical Phenomena in Buddhism?“
- Many people do not see the uniqueness of a Buddha. For them, he is just another philosopher. That assumption is wrong. A Buddha does not speculate on anything. But of course, each person needs to verify that. That is why I make an effort at to show the self-consistency within the Tipiṭaka and with many new findings in science.

In upcoming posts, we will continue the discussion on the connection between the five aggregates and Tilakkhaṇa (and suffering.)
- I am going to save some time for me by not providing links for posts at The easiest way to find a given post is to just copy the title and enter that in the "Search" box at the top right of The first search result is normally the post in question. Furthermore, one can also see other relevant posts for those keywords. The "Search" function strips off irrelevant words like "and", "the" etc.
- Some of those posts have also been posted here at Dhammawheel.

Posts: 467
Joined: Thu Jun 23, 2016 11:39 am

Re: The teachings of Ven. Waharaka Abhayaratanalankara Thero

Post by Lal »

Icca, Nicca, Anicca – Important Connections

Icca, Nicca, Anicca

1. We will discuss the critical relationships among icca, nicca, and anicca. That will help us understand the true meaning of anicca.

- The pronunciations of those in that order:
[html] ... anicca.mp3[/html]

- It is important to note that the Pāli words in the Tipiṭaka are NOT written the way they are pronounced. See, “Tipiṭaka English” Convention Adopted by Early European Scholars – Part 1″ and “Tipiṭaka English” Convention Adopted by Early European Scholars – Part 2.”
- Very briefly, the meanings are as follows. Icca means desire. If we believe that it is possible to fulfill that desire and totally content, that is the perception of nicca. The opposite of nicca is anicca.
- Buddha taught us that our world is of anicca nature. That means we will never be content with “any existence in this world.” We may be able to fulfill some expectations in this life, but all that will have to be given up at death. Then we start all-over in new birth.
- We note that the word “icca” plays a key role in Paṭicca Samuppāda. The word “Paṭicca” comes from “paṭi” + “icca.” Future existences in the rebirths process have origins in “attaching to worldly pleasures with desire (icca).” See, “Paṭicca Samuppāda – ‘Pati+ichcha’ + ‘Sama+uppāda’.”

Icca and Anicca Sometimes Written as Iccha and Aniccha

2. The word “iccha” with the emphasis on the last syllable indicates “strong icca” or “strong desire.” In the same way, “aniccha” with the emphasis on the last syllable puts emphasis on the “anicca nature.”

- In the Sinhala language, the words icca, anicca, and iccha, aniccha are written as ඉච්ච, අනිච්ච, and ඉච්ඡ, අනිච්ඡ.
- In the Tipiṭaka, mostly iccha, nicca, anicca appear. Note that iccha is normally used in Pāli as “icchā.” Thus, the “strong version” is used only with iccha. But there are a few exceptions. We saw one such exception in “icca” in #1; another for “aniccha” in #14 below.
- The five words icca, anicca, iccha, icchā, and aniccha are pronounced:
[html] ... niccha.mp3[/html]

Icchā and Taṇhā Closely Related

3. The “Kalahavivādasuttaniddesa“ of the mahāniddesa of the Tipiṭaka states, “Icchā vuccati taṇhā” (see section SC88) or “Icchā means taṇhā.” That is because icchā leads to taṇhā.

- When we attach (taṇhā) to something due to our liking for it (icchā), we tend to keep it close in our minds (upādāna.) Paṭicca Samuppāda describes how that leads to future suffering. See, “Icchā (Cravings) Lead to Upādāna and to Eventual Suffering.”
- The use of many Pāli terms could be confusing to some. It may be helpful to print the relevant posts mentioned and refer to them as needed.

What Do We Desire (Icchā)?

4. Our desires belong to two categories. First, we would like to have a healthy and robust body (stay young forever!.) We would also like to have anything that we own or related to us to be similarly long-lasting and not subject to unexpected calamities.

- We have that perception that such desires (icchā) for “stability of long-lasting happiness” can be achieved. That perception is nicca.
- With that perception of a “nicca nature,” we work hard to acquire “things” that we perceive to provide sensory pleasures.
- While doing our best to achieve such pleasures, knowingly or unknowingly, we engage in activities that lead to future births filled with suffering.

Icchā – A Root Cause of Suffering

5. The Buddha’s described the Noble Truth on Suffering in his first discourse, “Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (SN 56.11).”

- The complete verse in that sutta is as follows. “Idaṃ kho pana, bhikkhave, dukkhaṃ ariya saccaṃjātipi dukkhā, jarāpi dukkhā, byādhipi dukkho, maraṇampi dukkhaṃ, appiyehi sampayogo dukkho, piyehi vippayogo dukkho, yampicchaṃ na labhati tampi dukkhaṃ—saṃkhittena pañcupādānakkhandhā dukkhā.”
- I have discussed the description in plain bold in the post, “Essence of Buddhism – In the First Sutta.”
- We discussed the verse, “Saṃkhittena pañcupādānakkhandhā dukkhā” in recent posts in “The Five Aggregates (Pañcakkhandha).” As explained there, the Buddha succinctly attributed future suffering to “upādāna” for the five aggregates (pañcakkhandhā.) We learned that “upādāna” means “keeping close in one’s mind.”
- Here, we will discuss how that “upādāna” relates to “icchā”, simply translated as “desire.” Then we will discuss the connection to anicca, which is often INCORRECTLY translated as “impermanence.” That connection is in, “appiyehi sampayogo dukkho, piyehi vippayogo dukkho,yampicchaṃ na labhati tampi dukkhaṃ.
- Let us discuss that verse in two steps.

Appiyehi sampayogo dukkho, piyehi vippayogo dukkho

6. That means: “having to associate with things that one does not like is suffering, and, having to separate from those things one likes is suffering.”

- One WOULD LIKE to keep the body of a young person (say, 15 to 25 years of age), without getting old or sick, and never die. But we will NEVER get it.
- Even with human birth, we have to suffer when we get old, when getting sick, and finally when dying. There is no way to dissociate from those things that we do not like.
- We have no choice but to associate with those three things that we do not like highlighted above.
- Worst of all, we will have rebirths in realms we do not like. That will happen until we comprehend anicca nature.

Yampicchaṃ na labhati tampi dukkhaṃMost Important Verse

7. “Yampiccam nalabhati tampi dukkhaṃ” captures the essence of anicca nature how it leads to suffering. It provides the key to understanding the Buddha’s message and led to the attaining the Sōtapanna stage by the five ascetics.

- “Yampicchaṃ na labhati tampi dukkhaṃ” is a shortened version of the verse is “Yam pi icchāṃ na labhati tam pi dukkhaṃ.”
- “Yam pi icchāṃ” means “whatever is liked or craved for.” “Na labhati” means “not getting.” “tam pi dukkhaṃ” means “that leads to suffering.”
- Therefore, that verse simply says: “If one does not get what one craves or likes, that leads to suffering.“

8. That is a more general statement and applies in any situation. What we discussed in #6 above is summarized in the short verse, “yampicchaṃ na labhati tampi dukkhaṃ.”

- We can see that in our daily lives. We like to hang out with people we love, and it is a stress to be with people that we do not like.
- The more one craves something, and the more suffering one will endure at the end. That is because we tend to do immoral deeds to “get what we crave.” But kammic energies that we generate in such wicked deeds lead to rebirths that we do not like.
- Thus, we end up with two types of suffering. Our expectations are not fulfilled (whatever happiness gained is temporary.) Furthermore, we end up getting unfortunate rebirths.

Icchā Keeps One Bound to “This World”

9. There are many suttā in the Tipiṭaka that discuss icchā. The “Icchā Sutta (SN 1.69)” summarizes the importance of icchā. One time, a deva came to the Buddha and asked:

Kenassu bajjhatī loko, “By what is the world bound?
kissa vinayāya muccati; By the removal of what one is freed?
Kissassu vippahānena, What is it that one must abandon
sabbaṃ chindati bandhanan” ti. To cut off all bondage?”

The Buddha replied:

Icchāya bajjhatī loko, “By cravings, one is bound to the world;
icchāvinayāya muccati; By the removal of desire one is freed
Icchāya vippahānena, Craving is what one must give up
sabbaṃ chindati bandhanan” ti. To cut off all bondage.”

Our Actions Based on Iccha (Taṇhā) Lead to Suffering

10. Paṭicca Samuppāda process describes how our actions based on icchā (taṇhā) leads to future births and suffering. We have discussed that in detail in two main sections. See, “Paṭicca Samuppāda” and “Paṭicca Samuppāda – Not ‘Self’ or ‘No-Self’“

- In brief, the Buddha pointed out that our perception of a “nicca nature” where we can fulfill our desires is an illusion.
- No matter how much we strive, it is not possible to attain long-lasting happiness in the rebirth process. If one believes that there is no rebirth process, then one may not worry about any such suffering beyond the present life.
- That is why one first needs to get rid of the ten types of wrong views (micchā diṭṭhi) before trying to comprehend the fact that our perception of a nicca nature is not correct.
- Thus, the reality of this world is not “nicca,” but the opposite. that is anicca.

Inability to Fulfill Iccā/Icchā Means Anicca/Aniccha Nature

11. The inability to get what one desires is the opposite of “icca” or “na icca” or “anicca.” That is the same way that “na āgāmi” becomes “Anāgāmi” (“na āgāmi” means “not coming back”; but in the context of Anāgāmi, it means “not coming back to kāma lōka or the lowest 11 realms. Both these are examples of Pāli sandhi rules (connecting two words).

- In some suttā, like the “Girimānanda Sutta (AN 10.60),” we see the word aniccha, as we will discuss below. As we mentioned above, icchā is a strong version of icca, and the words niccha and aniccha are the corresponding strong versions” of nicca and anicca.
- Other than in such specific cases, we will stick to the words nicca and anicca.
- The intrinsic nature of this world is “anicca,“ i.e., we will never get what we crave for, and thus at the end (at least at death), we will leave all this behind and suffer, that is dukkha.

Impermanence Is a Significant Part of Anicca

12. Anicca does NOT mean just “impermanence” is clear in the definition of anicca in many suttā. For example, the “Anicca Sutta (SN 22.12)” states: “rūpaṃ, bhikkhave, aniccaṃ, vedanā aniccā, saññā aniccā, saṅkhārā aniccā, viññāṇaṃ aniccaṃ.”

- The English translation at Sutta Central “12. Impermanence” is: “form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness are impermanent.”
- Is it not evident that especially the mental qualities (vedanā, saññā, saṅkhārā, viññāṇa) are impermanent? They change even moment-to-moment. That is a BAD translation. Of course, the other translation at Sutta Central and in many other texts is the same.
- Correct translation is to say that all five of those entities are of anicca nature, i.e., that they cannot be maintained to one’s expectations.
- There is no single word in English that can express the meaning of anicca. Impermanence is just one aspect of anicca nature.
- The Pāli words for permanence and impermanence are dhuva and addhuva. For example, the “Vepullapabbata Sutta (SN 15.20)” says, “Evaṃ aniccā, bhikkhave, saṅkhārā; evaṃ addhuvā, bhikkhave, saṅkhārā; evaṃ anassāsikā, bhikkhave, saṅkhārā” meaning, “saṅkhārā are anicca AND impermanent, they should not be taken in (“na“+ “assāsikā.”) By the way, this also shows that “assāsa” does NOT mean “breathing in.” For details, see, “Is Ānāpānasati Breath Meditation?“

Girimānanda SuttaAnicca Nature of Saṅkhāra

13. In the “Girimānanda Sutta (AN 10.60)” the Buddha described the perception of anicca nature to Ven. Ānanada as follows. ” Katamā ca Ānanda, anicca saññā? Idha Ānanda, bhikkhu araññagato vā rukkhamūlagato vā suññāgāragato vā iti paṭisañcikkhati: ‘rūpaṃ aniccaṃ, vedanā aniccā, saññā aniccā, saṅkhārā aniccā, viññāṇaṃ aniccan’ti. Iti imesu pañcasu upādānakkhandhesu aniccānupassī viharati. Ayaṃ vuccatānanda, aniccasaññā."

- The parts highlighted in bold say that all five entities “rupa, vedanā, saññā, saṅkhārā, viññāṇa are all aniccā“ and that “one lives contemplating the anicca nature of the ‘five clinging-aggregates’ (pañca upādānakkhandha.)
- The first part is the same that we discussed above. The second part is even more clear. As we know, pañca upādānakkhandha is all mental. See, “Pañca Upādānakkhandhā – Introduction.”
- There is nothing “permanent” there anyway. What the Buddha meant was to contemplate the “fruitlessness of clinging to one’s memories or to future expectations.”

14. In a subsequent verse in the sutta, the Buddha clarifies that “unfruitfulness” in vivid detail: “Katamā ca Ānanda, sabbasaṅkhāresu anicchā saññā? Idhānanda, bhikkhu sabba saṅkhāresu aṭṭīyati harāyati jigucchati. Ayaṃ vuccati ca Ānanda, sabba saṅkhāresu anicchā saññā."

- The first highlighted part in bold says, “all saṅkhāra make one tired at the end, just like a dog does not get any nutrition by chewing on a bone but only gets tired (aṭṭīyati.) One should be ashamed (harāyati) of engaging in such fruitless endeavors. One should reject them like feces and urine (jigucchati.) Note that the word “iccha” is in “jigucchati” which comes from “ji” +”gu” + “iccha” or “liking urine and feces.”
- I have discussed that verse in detail in “Anicca – The Incessant Distress (“Pīḷana”).” Other meanings of anicca are discussed at, “Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta.”
- Therefore, the word anicca has a much deeper and expansive meaning than just “impermanence.” The cause of anicca is related to impermanence, but anicca means a perception that needs to be cultivated. The above verse provides further aspects associated with the key idea of “inability to maintain anything to one’s satisfaction.”
- Impermanence is not directly connected to any of the three meanings of anicca in that verse.
- At the end of the verse, we see the word anicchā used to emphasize anicca nature.

Grasping of Anicca Removes Micchā Diṭṭhi

15. Grasping of anicca characteristic of nature requires getting rid of ALL of one’s wrong views.

That is clearly stated in the “Micchaditthipahana Sutta (SN 35.165)“: “Cakkhuṃ kho, bhikkhu, aniccato jānato passato micchā diṭṭhi pahīyati. Rūpe aniccato jānato passato micchā diṭṭhi pahīyati. Cakkhuviññāṇaṃ aniccato jānato passato micchā diṭṭhi pahīyati. Cak¬khu¬samphas¬saṃ aniccato jānato passato micchā diṭṭhi pahīyati … pe … yampidaṃ mano¬samphassa¬paccayā uppajjati vedayitaṃ sukhaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vā tampi aniccato jānato passato micchādiṭṭhi pahīyati. Evaṃ kho, bhikkhu, jānato evaṃ passato micchā diṭṭhi pahīyatī”ti.
We can make two critical deductions from this verse.

- First is that whereas only five entities are listed in # 12, this verse enumerates many more related entities, and they all have the anicca nature. Anything and everything in this world has the anicca nature.

16. Then the second part of the verse says the following. If one comprehends the anicca nature of all those entities, then one has removed micchā diṭṭhi. The first level of micchā diṭṭhi to be removed is the ten types of micchā diṭṭhi.

- Ten types of micchā diṭṭhi include not believing in the rebirth process. See, “Micchā Diṭṭhi, Gandhabba, and Sōtapanna Stage.” Therefore, IF anicca means impermanence, THEN one would have removed all wrong views IF one has understood that everything in this world is impermanent.
- As we discussed in the previous post, any scientist knows that nothing in this world is permanent. See, “Five Aggregates and Tilakkhaṇa – Introduction.”
- By that definition of anicca, those scientists SHOULD NOT have any of the ten types of micchā diṭṭhi. That is a contradiction since most scientists do not believe in rebirth.


17. Future suffering cannot be stopped until one’s cravings for worldly things (icchā, taṇhā, upādāna) are lost.

- Those cravings cannot be removed from one’s mind until one realizes the futility and danger (future suffering) associated with such cravings.
- Those cravings may be TEMPORARILY suppressed by engaging in the mundane “breath meditation.”
- However, via understanding the true anicca nature, one can realize the futility and danger (future suffering) associated with such cravings. A deeper analysis at, “Icchā (Cravings) Lead to Upādāna and to Eventual Suffering.”
- That is why comprehending the anicca nature is a REQUIREMENT for attaining Nibbāna. Furthermore, anicca is closely related to dukkha and anatta, as we will see in future posts.
- As always, anyone is welcome to correct me (with evidence from the Tipiṭaka.)

I am going to save some time for me by not providing links for posts at The easiest way to find a given post is to just copy the title and enter that in the "Search" box at the top right of The first search result is normally the post in question. Furthermore, one can also see other relevant posts for those keywords. The "Search" function strips off irrelevant words like "and", "the" etc.
- Some of those posts have also been posted here at Dhammawheel.

Post Reply