An interpretation of Anatta

In this post, I intend to share my current understanding of anatta, such that people can add fruitful insights and corrections. I previously apologize for any mistake and emphasize that my intention is to foster a wholesome discussion for everyone.

It’s better to start with what anatta is not. I believe the following very popular interpretation is not accurate according to the suttas: “anatta is the rejection only of a permanent self, but it still defends that there is an impermanent self, which is our stream of consciousness.” My objection will be divided in two parts: why the Buddha wasn’t rejecting only a permanent self and why the Buddha wasn’t defending that our stream of consciousness is our self.

The reasons why the Buddha wasn’t rejecting only a permanent self:

  • In the DN15, the Buddha speaks of views of the self that aren’t constant, which implies that anatta rejects much more than an unchanging self;

  • If anatta were just rejecting eternalism, then annihilationists would already understand anatta.

These are the reasons why the Buddha wasn’t defending that our self is our stream of consciousness:

  • A stream of consciousness wouldn’t be under our control, so, according to the anattalakkhana sutta, it can’t be our self;

  • A stream of consciousness would be inconstant, and, therefore, stressful. This implies that it can’t be our self, according to the anicca sutta;

  • If we were our stream of consciousness, then, at the moment of parinibbana, the Buddha would be annihilated; however, this is said to be an evil view according to the SN 22:85;

  • If it were the continuity of our stream of consciousness that assured our individuality, then the person who entered the state of the cessation of perception and feeling would differ from the person who left that state, since this meditative attainment is devoid of consciousness. In other words, this state would consist of a hole in the stream, which would make both streams different.

Even though most of my posts in the forum concern Venerable Thanissaro’s views, it’s worth emphasizing that I don’t aggree with him for three reasons.

Firstly, the refusal of the Buddha to answer Vacchagotta’s question in the SN 44:10 doesn’t mean that the Buddha didn’t believe that there was no self. As Bhikkhu Bodhi explains in the book “Investigating the Dhamma”

The proposition “there is no self” repudiated by the Buddha in these suttas is not offered as a possible formulation of the anattá-teaching, one that the Buddha is rejecting. As the discussion with Vacchagotta makes clear, the proposition “there is no self” was the position maintained by the annihilationists (ucchedavádin), the materialist philosophers who held that death marks the complete end of personal existence. The annihilationists assume that the existence of a self—a permanent átman—is a necessary condition for an afterlife and the operation of kamma; thus by denying the existence of such a self, they intend to reject any type of afterlife along with its corollary, the moral efficacy of kammic action.

When the Buddha refuses to accept the annihilationist thesis that “there is no self,” he refuses because he cannot consent to the consequences the annihilationists wish to draw from such a denial, namely, that there is no conscious survival beyond the present life.”

Secondly, the Buddha’s advice about not speculating about the self in the MN 2 makes more sense when analyzed under the context of DN 1, which explains how speculations about the present, present and future are related to views of the self. As Bhikkhu Analayo says in “Rebirth in Early Buddhism and Current Research”:

“The advice given to those who are disciples of the Buddha is that they should not waste their time by speculating about precisely what they were in the past and what they will be in the future. Such advice can be found in the Sabbāsava-sutta and its parallels, where it forms part of an encouragement given by the Buddha that his disciples should rather give attention to cultivating meditative insight and progress to stream entry.

What the Sabbāsava-sutta and its parallels consider as problematic is not the idea of having been someone else in the past as such but rather engaging in theoretical speculations. In contrast to the critical attitude evinced in the Sabbāsava-sutta and its parallels, the early discourses regularly commend recollection of one’s own past lives as one of the three higher knowledges, abhiññā. These three higher knowledges correspond to the realizations attained by the Buddha on the night of his awakening, mentioned above, covering recollection of one’s own past lives, the direct witnessing of the rebirth of others in various realms of existence, and the gaining of awakening through the eradication of the influxes, āsava. The Saṅgārava-sutta and its Sanskrit-fragment parallel report the Buddha identifying the epistemological foundation of his own realization of awakening to be precisely such higher knowledge, abhiññā.”

Thirdly, to say that the Buddha held no view about the ontological status of the self, but still defended that nothing should be taken as our self is contradictory since “there is nothing worth claiming as us or ours” is already an ontological claim. For if there were a self, how could such a perception be correct? Anatta can’t, therefore, be taken as a mere perception devoid of ontological implications. If anatta is right, there can’t be a self.

Until now I only discussed what anatta is not, so now I’ll explain my views. Anatta indeed means that there isn’t anything that we are identical to. However, anatta is not the ontological assertion, “there is no self.” It’s also the explanation for the following value judgement: there isn’t anything worth taking as you or yours. As it’s explained in the anicca sutta, what is anicca can’t be our self because what is anicca is dukkha, i.e. inconstant things are stressful, so they will lead to sorrow and grief if taken as our self or ours. Therefore, we should give them up and see them as they really are: not us, not ours, not our self.

Besides that, it simply makes no sense to hold ourselves to be identical to any of the aggregates, for how can you be identical to or be the possessor of something outside your control? As the anattalakkhana sutta explains, this is is not tenable.

Furthermore, if one takes something which arising or falling away is discernible, then how could they see that as their own self? (MN 148) If one is identical to something, they couldn’t exist before the rise of that same something, so its arising can’t be discernible.

Because of these and other reasons, identity-view is unreasonable. However, this doesn’t mean that we are nothing. For a long time, I’ve seen people stressing that “the Buddha said that there is no self,” but only after encountering Venerable Thanissaro’s works that I saw that the Buddha explained how there are beings.

In the SN 23:2, it’s said: “Any desire, passion, delight, or craving for form, feeling, perception, fabrication, or consciousness, Rādha: when one is caught up there, tied up there, one is said to be ‘a being.’” This might sound as if we existed insofar as there were desire and passion for the aggregates, but this would mean that the Buddha was annihilated in his awakening, which isn’t the case.

Instead of determining whether or not one exists, desire and passion determines how one describes themselves. When there is desire and passion for the aggregates, one holds them to be theirs, and so they move on to describe themselves as superior, equal, or inferior, according to how their aggregates are in relation to other’s. Since the Buddha had no desire and passion, he had no I-making nor mine-making, so he wouldn’t have any way of describing and defining himself. Being totally free from delineation, he couldn’t even be said to be a human being or a god:

"Brahman, the fermentations by which — if they were not abandoned — I would be a deva: Those are abandoned by me, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. The fermentations by which — if they were not abandoned — I would be a gandhabba… a yakkha… a human being: Those are abandoned by me, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising.”

AN 4.36; Dona Sutta

Being totally indefinite even in his lifetime, the state of the Buddha after death can’t be determined:

‘And so, my friend Yamaka—when you can’t pin down the Tathāgata as a truth or reality even in the present life—is it proper for you to declare, “As I understand the Teaching explained by the Blessed One, a monk with no more effluents, on the break-up of the body, is annihilated, perishes, and does not exist after death”?’

SN 22:85; Yamaka Sutta

While the Buddha was alive, though, people could describe him in terms of his aggregates, “the Buddha went to such and such a place to meditate” or “the Buddha is in the fourth jhana,” but none of them were identical to him, and “living being” would have only a conventional sense since there was no desire or passion.

What? Do you assume a ‘living being,’ Mara?
Do you take a position?
This is purely a pile of fabrications.
Here no living being
can be pinned down.

Just as when, with an assemblage of parts,
there’s the word,
even so when aggregates are present,
there’s the convention of
living being.

For only stress is what comes to be;
stress, what remains & falls away.
Nothing but stress comes to be.
Nothing ceases but stress.

SN 5:10; Vajira Sutta

In the same way, an arahat can speak of himself, but that would be only in a conventional sense:

“An arahant monk,
one who is done,
effluent-free, bearing his last body:
He would say, ‘I speak’;
would say, ‘They speak to me.’
knowing harmonious gnosis
with regard to the world,
he uses expressions
just as expressions.”

SN 1:25; Arahanta Sutta

Anatta implies that we aren’t identical to any of the aggregates, which makes us surpass identity-view. Although one is free from that, they are still bound to crave and cling to the aggregates, and this makes one describe and define themselves in relation to the aggregates. While there is this craving, there is conceit, and one is said to be a being. This being is not nothing, and the path doesn’t consist of just denying any form of self, for the own Buddha said in the MN 135, “Beings are owners of their actions, heirs of their actions; they originate from their actions, are bound to their actions, have their actions as their refuge. It is action that distinguishes beings as inferior and superior.” We do have responsibility for our actions, and any interpretation that clashes with the teaching of kamma is untenable. Moreover, the Buddhist path is essentially a search for happiness, and summarizing anatta as “there is no self” makes any decision making unreasonable: if there is no self, then my happiness is actually no one’s happiness, and what is the purpose of pursuing it if I’m disconnected from it? Therefore, “there is no self” does not summarize anatta well. Furthermore, after one gets rid of craving, this being is not annihilated, but rather becomes undefined. One is simply beyond description. After the cessation of the aggregates, the person doesn’t cease, but only their aggregates, which weren’t identical to the person, cease. Being beyond description, such a person can’t be said to exist, not to exist, both, or neither.

I hope this is useful.



Sounds logical.

The above seems to suggest the sense of self is different when an ordinary person (puthujjana) awakens from deep sleep.

To me, the above is unrelated to SN 44.10. If we read the end of SN 44.10, even though Vacchagotta asked about “natthattā” (“no self” or “non-existing self”), the Buddha replied Vacchagotta still believed in a self, as follows: “the wanderer Vacchagotta, already confused, would have fallen into even greater confusion, thinking, ‘It seems that the self I formerly had does not exist now.’” It seems suttas such as SN 12.17 use the term “ucchedavádin” in a manner that is not related to death.

The above idea sounds strange to me. Bhikkhu Bodhi seems to be equating annihilationists with nihilists. I’ve never read this in the suttas. Annihilationism is defined in DN 1 and three various nihilist doctrines are defined in MN 60. These respective four definitions appear different. Since in at least one sutta the Buddha said the annihilationist view is the foremost/most beneficial of outsider views (because it would be expected an annihilationist develop some dispassion) it seems not all annihilationists automatically would deny the moral efficacy of kammic action. If annihilationists automatically denied kamma, the Buddha would probably have not given any praise whatsoever to the doctrine of annihilationism & utterly condemned it. For me, Bhikkhu Bodhi is promoting &/or upholding a common confusion among Buddhists who are unable to distinguish between annihilationism and nihilism.

Whilst the above 2nd sentence sounds plausible or reasonable, it seems AN 3.136 (at SC) may possibly support an ontological assertion. I recall being taught years ago that self is both: (i) untrue; and (ii) causes suffering. Therefore, it seems anatta can be both ontological and soteriological.

Very enjoyable to read. Well written also. Any silence from me is consent/approval. :slightly_smiling_face: Thank you.

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Are you taking a being as self here?

Whereas the teachings says nothing is to be regarded as self.

The easiest classification which avoids needless misunderstanding would be to use the ultimate vs conventional truth.

For those who would reject this usage of ultimate vs conventional, I would refer you to AN2.25: SuttaCentral

“These two don’t misrepresent the Realized One. What two? One who explains a discourse in need of interpretation as a discourse in need of interpretation. And one who explains a discourse whose meaning is explicit as a discourse whose meaning is explicit. These two don’t misrepresent the Realized One.”

Even if the exact wording ultimate vs conventional are not in the sutta, it’s clear that the Buddha didn’t always says discourse at only one level only. I map discourse in need of interpretation as conventional truth, and discourse whose meaning is explicit as ultimate truth. Since self doesn’t exist, and conventional truth uses self, the self there in conventional truth language is to be interpreted as merely conventional, mere expressions, not designating an essence.

Ultimate truth: no self. 5 aggregates are not denied to not exist. They just are not self.

Conventional Truth: using self as mere expressions. The beings are the owner of their own kamma sentences are in this conventional truth language. Any morality teachings which needs kamma, rebirth is much easier said in conventional truth language. I was this or that in a past life, due to this actions, got reborn here and there.

It’s possible to speak in ultimate truth, which avoids referencing the (nonexistent) self, but it’s cumbersome. It’s the Abhidhamma model of speaking.

This statement is merely a summary of the first part, referring to ultimate truth, no self; second part referring to conventional truth, a self as convenient designation.

Ontology usually is what most people would map to ultimate truth, so “there is no self” as ontology is not unreasonable. It’s only misused when it’s taken to the realm of conventional truth.

Let me classify some of your quotes in which truth you happen to jump to think in.

Conventional truth

Ultimate truth.

Conventional truth, normally one would just say that the 5 aggregates of clinging is called a being. If you don’t use the 2 truths model, and flat out say: 5 aggregates are not self, but self is not not existent (self exist), and self is not nothing, then there’s a projection of self as something apart from the 5 aggregates, even if it’s something spooky, undefinable, etc. The point of seeing the 5 aggregates as not self is also to know that there’s no self apart from the 5 aggregates, thus there’s no self to be found anywhere at all.


Self is either the 5 aggregates or self is something beyond the 5 aggregates. Since 5 aggregates and something beyond the 5 aggregates covers all possibilities, there’s no such thing as self, since 5 aggregates are not self, and self doesn’t exist apart from the 5 aggregates.

This logic above is done in ultimate truth level analysis. If you switch it to use it on conventional truth to think that there’s no self, means denying kamma, rebirth etc, that’s a mistake in misuse of truth levels.

AN2.24 SuttaCentral

“Mendicants, these two misrepresent the Realized One. What two? One who explains a discourse in need of interpretation as a discourse whose meaning is explicit. And one who explains a discourse whose meaning is explicit as a discourse in need of interpretation. These two misrepresent the Realized One.”

This is misusing ultimate truth of no self onto the subject of morality which is the domain of conventional truth. Since the enlightened ones are moral beings, it’s clear that realisation of ultimate truth of no self doesn’t deny conventional truth of morality.

It’s not easy to analyse this whole thing if you’re taking the sense of self as self. One should at the very least be like Spock, cold hard logic to analyse the statements above without being influenced by what the sense of self trying to tell us what self is. Then at least clear intellectual knowledge of no-self can be obtained. Experiencial knowledge needs meditation.

If one (conventional) takes the 5 aggregates as self (wrong view), then when presented with: there’s no self (ultimate), one (conventional) might mistake it to mean there’s no 5 aggregates (wrong view), thus no morality. Since 5 aggregates are not self, saying that there’s no self doesn’t deny that the aggregates exist (conventionally speaking).

Be careful with the wordings and meanings. This might indicate a subtle eternalist view, as long as the “person” there can be clung onto.


“Sabbe dhamma anatta” seems unambiguous to me, given that Nibbana is also a dhamma.

Nibbana is the cessation of dhamma ‘dhammaana.m nirodha.m’ according to SN/SA suttas (SN ii, pp. 14-16, 129-130: SN 12.13-14, SN 12. 71-81 = SA 352-354). See p. 180, note 129, in Choong Mun-keat’s Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism.

MN 115 refers to the “asankhata dhatu” (“uncondtioned element”). Iti 44 refers to the Nibbana-Dhatu.

It seems SN 12.13-14 simply refers to “these dhammas”, namely , the twelve unwholesome dhammas of dependent origination.

They understand these things, their origin, their cessation, and the practice that leads to their cessation.

Ime dhamme pajānanti, imesaṁ dhammānaṁ samudayaṁ pajānanti, imesaṁ dhammānaṁ nirodhaṁ pajānanti, imesaṁ dhammānaṁ nirodhagāminiṁ paṭipadaṁ pajānanti.


That is, the four noble truths. The cessation of dhamma is nibbana.

I belief it is easy to get lost in philosophy about self and not self, but what does it all mean in a normal psychological human sense?

I tend to see it this way that when anatta is completely understood, we do not take up things personally anymore. Not exited when things go well, nor depressed when things not go well. Not offended by harsh words, nor cheerful by nice words. Not longing for compliments. Not longing to be seen as wise, loving, a great person. Not holding on to any status. Without any ideas of being less, more or equal to others. Not anxious and dark when we meet suffering. Not seeing suffering as punishment nor happiness as a reward. Not fearing death, not fearing birth. Such things.

The more we take up things personally the more we lack real understanding of anatta. I think that’s where it come down to in a practical psychological sense.

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I feel that any discussion of Anatta is premature until we first have a firm grasp on the meaning of Atta. :grin:

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@Mike_0123 I summarize here the points you mentioned. I also put comments whether that I agree or disagree. For the points that I disagree, I will also tell you the reasons and my suggested explanations.

Category 1: What anattā is not

  • You disagree that “anatta is the rejection only of a permanent self, but it still defends that there is an impermanent self, which is our stream of consciousness.”:

I agree with you because I also disagree with above statement “anatta is the rejection only … our stream of consciousness.”. Your logical arguments in this category are mostly okay.

Category 2: What anattā is

I disagree with you about the above part.

It appears to me that: you still consider “being” or “the Tathāgata” or “self” as something that exists in absolute sense.

  • This leads to doubt and worry as “if there is no self, then my happiness is actually no one’s happiness, and what is the purpose of pursuing it if I’m disconnected from it?”.

  • This also leads to your speculated theories such as “being is not annihilated” or “being becomes undefined, beyond description/determined”.

The Yamakasutta SN 22.85 that you mentioned in your own post should help you in this situation. You should instead focus on this part:

What do you think, Reverend Yamaka? Do you regard the Realized One as form?”
“No, reverend.”
“Do you regard the Realized One AS feeling … perception … choices … consciousness?”
“No, reverend.”

“What do you think, Reverend Yamaka? Do you regard the Realized One as in form?”
“No, reverend.”
“Or do you regard the Realized One as distinct from form?”
“No, reverend.”
“Do you regard the Realized One AS IN feeling … or distinct from feeling … as in perception … or distinct from perception … as in choices … or distinct from choices … as in consciousness?”
“No, reverend.”
“Or do you regard the Realized One as DISTINCT FROM consciousness?”
“No, reverend.”

“What do you think, Yamaka? Do you regard the Realized One as POSSESSING form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness?”
“No, reverend.”

“What do you think, Yamaka? Do you regard the Realized One as one who is WITHOUT form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness?”
“No, reverend.”

Pay attention to the parts: “as”, “as in”, “distinct from”, “possessing”, “without”. You should realize that, not only “the Tathāgata” but any other being such as Mr. Biden, Mr. Putin and Mr. Zelenskyy, a dog, a cat, a mouse, etc. :sweat_smile: also can’t be found “as”, “as in”, “distinct from”, “possessing”, “without” the 5 aggregates.

In conclusion, my suggested explanation is, you should see that: Those words “being” or “the Tathāgata” or “self” are nothing more than words, used in conventional language to ease the communication process. Seeing that way, the above mentioned doubt and worry will not arise, the above mentioned speculated theories will not arise either.

If you (or anyone else here) think that such a view presented above will bring suffering, please reply and explain in details. Thank you. :pray:


Hi, Bhante Paññādhammika! Thank you for your reply.

I see that most of your reply is based on the notion of two truths. I had thought a lot of whether or not I should comment on that in my original post, but ended up deciding not to. Basically, I don’t believe it to solve anything honestly. It used to sound like a wonderful solution, until the moment I realized that two contradictory truths can’t be both true at the same time: they are either both consistent (and therefore aren’t really two truths, but rather one single bigger one) or at least one is wrong.

On the suttas that you quotes, like AN2.25, they might not refer to the doctrine of the two truths. Actually, they might simply mean that there are suttas that need deeper interpretation to be grasped correctly and others, if you dive too deeply, seeing connections and stuff, will be grasped wrongly.

Self and being seem different both in usage and meaning. For example, I may say, “my self,” but “my being” sounds weird. Both are also different in meaning in so far as there is nothing that we can see as our self, but there are still beings around, who, according to the SN 23:2, are defined as desire and passion for the aggregates. In conclusion, there is no self, but there are beings (not as some sort of essence though).

Indeed this might sounds as an eternalist view, but the same can be found in the suttas as well. Things like, “the Tathāgata is not found in the aggregates. With the cessation of the aggregates, only dukkha ceases. The Tathāgata is not annihilated. He can’t be said to exist, not to, both, or neither in parinibbana.” By person, I meant an awakened being, but by “being” I mean only conventionally, just for the sake of being understood, for a being can’t be said to exist when there is no desire and passion.

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Thank you for your reply!

I believe that there is no self (in the sense of something that we can identify ourselves with), but I take “being,” at least when said in the context of SN 23:2, as something referring to our sense of personhood in the world, which doesn’t necessarily involve identifying oneself with the aggregates. In reality, conceit and mine-making can make us have this sense even after overcoming identity-view. However, when “being” is used to refer to an awakened being, then it’s said in a completely conventional sense, since they have no delight and passion, as it’s said in the SN 5.10:

What? Do you assume a ‘living being,’ Mara?
Do you take a position?
This is purely a pile of fabrications.
Here no living being
can be pinned down.

Just as when, with an assemblage of parts,
there’s the word,
even so when aggregates are present,
there’s the convention of
living being.

For only stress is what comes to be;
stress, what remains & falls away.
Nothing but stress comes to be.
Nothing ceases but stress.

Instead of defining “being” as something related to desire and passion, the nun says that a being exists only conventionally in relation to the aggregates, which might sound contradictory with SN 23:2. Given the context of the nun’s answer, namely that Mara was “wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in her, wanting to make her fall away from concentration,” the whole sutta seems to be connected with fear of annihilation in parinibbana. In this case, it indeed sounds reasonable that a being would be just conventional. This mere convention, however, is not enough to justify kamma, but since an arahant doesn’t need to worry about it, it’s not much of a problem.

I agree that the same reasoning can be applied to all these living beings. What I don’t hold is that “being” can be taken as wholly conventional. Any being indeed won’t be identical to any aggregate, and the sutta’s questions are intended to approach precisely identity-view. Nonetheless, SN 23:2 gives a way more precise definition of what “being” means.

The fact that we don’t exist as, as in, distinct from, possessing, or without form, feeling, perception, volitions, or consciousness means just that the cessation of the aggregates won’t consist of our annihilation. This doesn’t solve the fact that not seeing certain things as you and yours makes rational decision making impossible. This doesn’t mean that a being exists in an absolute sense either. We could say that anatta would be a sort of an strategy to deal with our sense of being, and the straightaway denial of any possession (including one’s own happiness) is, not only detrimental, but also incorrect.

In summary, the ultimate goal is to free ourselves from this sense of personhood, selfhood, and being something. The first step must be at the level of our views, for if I believe to be identical to something, I won’t give up my sense of self. After giving up identity-view, I still have to cling to my actions and see my kamma as mine in order to free myself from the remnant forms of this sense of self (I- and mine-making). I can’t just deny the existence of anything that is mine, like my own happiness, because I actually still take things to be mine, and so they are “mine.” If I stubbornly repeat to myself, “there is no self in absolutely anything,” thinking to have fully comprehended anatta, then I might be unable to notice this subtle sense of being in my mind, which will ultimately make me unable to progress.

Maybe this way of rephrasing my views show it better that I don’t take beings in a somewhat absolute sense, which indeed seemed to be the case in my original post.

Are you saying that anatta doesn’t apply to Nibbana? I don’t think the suttas support the idea of Nibbana being a self.

Nibbana is referred to as both a dhamma and a dhatu in the suttas. But I don’t think Nibbana is described as a self, and I don’t think it is exempt from “sabbe dhamma anatta”.

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The Third Noble Truth describes the cessation of craving, not the cessation of dhammas generally.
The cessation of dhammas (phenomena) generally would amount to the cessation of all experience.

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I think the most important thing is to do a reality check all the time. We can be able to explain things in a apparantly very coherent clever way, consistent, clear, logical, supported by texts, thinking we catch the real meaning of the teachings and feel Dhamma-experts, but still emotionally and psychologically function like we have no real understanding of these topics at all. Right?

We must not delude ourselves and others. All that mental cleverness does it really uproot the asava, tanha and anusaya’s or does it even makes it worse?

I often feel it is the last because one tends to develop the idea one understands Dhamma while if one sees truly, one is just a very ordinairy person with identity view, strong cravings, anxiety, a lot of mana, and a very big ego.

Not ‘can’ but ‘will’! Though identity view is the first fetter, the subtle sense of Self is the final fetter to be overcome (SN22.89).

AFAIK, the nun in question was an Arahant and is responding on the basis of the ultimate truth ‘there is Nothing’. Mara on the other hand, has posed the question of a ‘living being’ which is a conventional truth - true only within the framework of the aggregates to the extent that craving produces the illusion of a living being (which would be compatible with SN23.2). The moment this illusion is clung to, there is becoming… Birth, old age, Death, suffering and also kamma all come to be (DO).

AFAIK, for an Arahant, there is nothing in the ultimate sense- its all an empty shell. The aggregates are simply natural processes, all experience and consequent responses are arising and ceasing on the basis of natural law (the Dhamma of Idapaccayata). There are no defilements present to cause idiosyncratic ‘Self’ based responses to occur. That is why there can be no kamma.

A very good insight indeed!

MN 106
“Sir, take a mendicant who practices like this: ‘It might not be, and it might not be mine. It will not be, and it will not be mine. I am giving up what exists, what has come to be.’ In this way they gain equanimity. Would that mendicant become extinguished or not?”

“One such mendicant might become extinguished, Ānanda, while another might not.”


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Incorrect, according to the mentioned SA/SN suttas. The dhammas are the factors themselves of the ‘conditioned arising’ (paticcasamppada).

I don’t agree. In the context of “sabbe dhamma anatta”, dhamma refers to phenomena generally. The nidanas of DO are a category of dhamma (phenomena), but dhammas are not limited to DO.

One category of dhammas are sense-objects like sights and sounds, and presumably sense-objects do not cease for the Arahant.

The sense spheres are simply empty. See SN 35.197 = SA 1172; SN 22.95 = SA 265 (see also pp. 92-93, 54 in Choong Mun-keat’s Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism).