This is an old post from ven. Dhammanando that i likedhttp://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... 3364&st=60
Citing the relevant suttas is unlikely to be persuasive to those who have fallen for Thanissaro's mystical drivel, for Thanissaro would simply interpret them differently or else would translate them differently so as to make them support his view. A good example of this is the following passage from the Alagaddūpamasutta, which is one of the starkest and most uncompromising assertions of the non-existence of self.... until Thanissaro gets his hands on it:
attani ca attaniye ca saccato thetato anupalabbhamāne
(MN. 22; also cited in the Kathāvatthu's debate on the puggalavāda, Kvu. 68)
And here are some extracts from an old article of mine discussing this phrase...
First I cite seven translations of it:
"...since in truth and reality there obtains neither self nor what belongs to self..."
"...since a self and what belongs to a self are not apprehended as true and established..."
"...where a self or what belongs to self are not pinned down as a truth or reality..."
"...But both soul and that which belongs to soul being in truth, and forever, impossible to be known..."
"But if Self and what belongs to Self, although actually existing are incomprehensible..."
"...meua attā lae borikhān neuang duai attā bukkhon theu ao mai dai, doey khwām pen khong jing, doey khwām pen khong thae..."
"...meua thang ton lae khong thii neuang kap ton ja yang hen mai dai, doey khwām pen khong jing, doey khwām pen khong thae..."
Then my comments:
Of the seven renderings above, those of Horner and Law are completely off the map, while the remaining five are more or less defensible so far as purely philological considerations go.
There are two key terms in the passage that give rise to disagreement: firstly, the participle "anupalabbhamāne"; secondly, the phrase "saccato thetato". How one conceives the meaning of these will determine how one interprets the passage; and how one interprets the passage will determine how one goes about translating it. The problem, of course, is that every translator's interpretation of the above phrases will be determined - or at least influenced - by his prior assumptions about the Buddha's teaching.
Let's start with anupalabbhamāne. This is the present participle of the passive form of the verb upalabhati, inflected in the locative case. In front of it is placed the negative particle na ('not'), which changes to an- in accordance with the rules of euphonic junction.
Upalabhati means to obtain, get or find. So in the passive voice it would mean to be obtained, gotten or found. With the addition of the negative particle 'na' the meaning would be "not to be found."
Here's one familiar example of the verb, to be found in every Indian logic textbook:
vañjhāya putto na upalabbhati.
"A son of a barren woman is not to be found."
(Or as western philosophers would phrase it, " 'Son of a barren woman' does not obtain."). Elsewhere the same will be predicated of "horns of a hare", "flowers in the sky", etc.
And here arises the first point of controversy among translators and interpreters of this sutta: does the phrase "not to be obtained" mean the same as "not exist"? Ñāṇamoli, Bodhi and myself would answer yes. A mystically-inclined monk like Thanissaro would answer no. Unsurprisingly Thanissaro has chosen a rendering ("not pinned down") that stresses the epistemic or cognitive, and would tend to imply that a self does (or at least might) exist, but one that is too inscrutable to say anything about.
To continue, when the verb na upalabbhati is made into a present participle, the meaning would be "non-obtaining" (or more precisely, a "not-being-obtained-ness"). When this present participle is inflected in the locative case, then various meanings are possible, and here arises the second point of controversy. What function does the locative have in this context? There are three possibilities:
Spatial or situational stipulative: "Where there is a non-obtaining of self..."
Temporal stipulative: "When there is a non-obtaining of self...."
Causative: "Because there is a non-obtaining of self..."
Ñāṇamoli, Bodhi and I of course favour the causative, for the other two would leave a loophole that there might be some time or place where self does obtain. Thanissaro of course favours a reading that will leave his mysticism intact. So here too it's a case of our prior assumptions determining how we translate.
Now for "saccato thetato". Sacca means true or a truth; theta means sure, firm, or reliable, or something that has these features. Adding the suffix -to turns these words into adverbs. Here I'm not really sure about the relative merits of the above translations, or even if there is a difference between "X does not obtain as a truth" or "X does not in truth obtain." Not that this matters greatly; the crux of the matter is obviously the word anupalabbhamāne. The difference between my old rendering and the Ñāṇamoli/Bodhi one is that I had taken saccato thetato to be an adverbial qualification of anupalabbhamāne, whereas Ñāṇamoli and Bodhi make it more like an adjectival qualification of "self and what belongs to self." I now think that their rendering is more likely to be correct. At least it seems to accord better with the Ṭīkā to this sutta.