Anicca is not just impermanence, there are eight more to it

Take the idea of a dependent origination process, a kind of causal thread running between lives. I suppose the argument is not that such a thread doesn’t exist at all, but that this process isn’t worthy of the label “atta” (or “soul”) though some people might be inclined to attach that label to it.

Karunadasa does also argue that the idea of atta being something one should have full control does crop up in the sequence of the three characteristics, i.e. why does something being a source of dukkha necessarily imply it is anatta? :

In fact, it is this same idea of atta that comes into focus in the logical sequence or interconnection between the three signs of existence (tilakkhana), namely impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha) and anatta. How the first two characteristics lead to the idea of anatta is shown as follows:

"Whatever is impermanent is suffering (yad aniccam tam dukkham); whatever is suffering is anatta (yam dukkham tad anatta)"

The question that arises here is why the idea of anatta is said to follow as a corollary from the fact of dukkha or suffering. This should become clear if we examine the three signs of existence in their reverse order. When examined in this context, the following facts become clear: I cannot consider anything as my own or as belonging to me (=atta), because whatever I consider so, is a source of suffering (dukkha). Why is it so? Because what I mistakenly consider as my own does not behave in the way I want it to behave. Why is it so? Because whatever I mistakenly consider to be my own is subject to constant change (anicca).

Or going back to this thread/DO process:

What is denied in Buddhism is not the concept of person which is called puggala, but a self-subsisting entity within the puggala, which answers to the definition of atta. Therefore, Buddhism has no objection to the concept of puggala, if by puggala is understood, not an entity distinct from the sum total of the properly organized five aggregates, nor a substance enduring in time, nor an agent within the five aggregates. The puggala (person) is the sum total of the five aggregates combined according to the principles of dependent origination and which are constantly in a state of flux.

I suppose to clarify what is being negated/denied in the term anatta, it’s necessary know what exactly is positively meant by “atta” (perhaps not such a straightforward thing to do! :slight_smile: ).

This makes sense in the way Thanissaro Bhikkhu explains his choice of “inconstancy” rather than “impermanance” for translating anicca. He notes that nicca means constant, ongoing, stable, as well as, by extension, permanent.

As example he mentions that one knows that one’s automobile, for instance, is “impermanent”, as a rather distant abstraction. One expects, however, the car to be serviceable in the meantime. When it suddenly breaks-down at the point one really needs (and expects, desires) to use it – that’s the making of “suffering”.

You may have not read the article that @suaimhneas posted which elaborate on the issues of “Four Interconnected Senses of atta or anatta”. Please read the article “The Buddhist Doctrine of Non-Self, and the Problem of the Over-Self by Y. Karunadasa” (arrange in better format for reading with bookmark) and you will know that the word “atta” can be use as “self” (3rd sense) or “with control” (4th sense) where “anatta” will be “without control”.


Thanks, but that doesn’t answer the question I posed. Why does not having control over the aggregates mean there is no “soul”, given that a “soul” would be “beneath” the aggregates?

It’s an interesting interpretation, though it assumes the primary meaning of “anatta” is “not belonging to me”, and I don’t think that’s clear from the suttas.

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Ok, I have not understood you question.

Have you read the sutta “SN 44.10 With Ānanda – Ānandasutta” that I have put it in a file in the post " Attā and anattā real meaning reveal in the sutta " that the Buddha did not answer questions from Vacchagotta on whether “does the self exist absolutely?” or “does the self not exist absolutely?”.

That is to say that the Buddha did not approve of a “self” (in your case “soul”) and also did not disapprove of “no self”.

Your misunderstanding arise in post 25 with the question of “Why is atta equated with control?” The reply was that there are four interconnected senses of atta or anatta. If you have atta as “self” (sense 3) , you will not have “with control” and if atta is “with control” (sense 4), you will not have “self”. Both “self” and “with control” for atta do not exists at the same time.

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My favourite translation for anicca is “transient”.

For the deeper teachings it often takes me quite a while of reflection, and ‘accepting’ various facets of exposition, before a clear understanding results. Sometimes it can take years. Perhaps be a bit more gentle on yourself, and put aside the urgent need to know for the time being

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Though I assume that here “self” refers to self-view, rather than to “soul”?

Thanks, but it has been years, and I still don’t really get it. The explanations look a little too convoluted for my taste, and I see quite a lot of ambiguity in the suttas. Anyway, no problem, I will stop thinking for a while. :wink:


Perhaps also as used s/t referring to “homeless” people – involuntary renunciates, so to speak.

In that thread, you posted an absurd document that had this information on it:

How do you account for this very serious mistake of basic Pāli grammar? No one with a competent grasp of Pāli would produce this. “Attā” is not a plural for “atta”. What possessed you to write that it was?

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Just because dhamma can be pluralized to form dhammā, doesn’t mean you can arbitrarily rip the macron off of attā to produce a similar structure.

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You may be on to some thing. I found the following in one of the upanishads.

He who dwells in the seed, and within the seed, whom the seed does not know, whose body the seed is, and who pulls (rules) the seed within, he is thy Self, the puller (ruler) within, the immortal; unseen, but seeing; unheard, but hearing; unperceived, but perceiving; unknown, but knowing. There is no other seer but he, there is no other hearer but he, there is no other perceiver but he, there is no other knower but he. This is thy Self, the ruler within, the immortal. Everything else is of evil.’

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The seed is the kamma which follows the body (our so call self).

If we have full control over the body (self) and just know that what is seen, heard, smelt, tasted, touched, known as what the Buddha told Bāhiya, Nibbāna will be easily in sight.

“Bāhiya, when you see an object, be conscious of just the visible object; when you hear a sound, be conscious of just the sound; when you smell or taste or touch something, be conscious of just the smell, the taste or the touch; and when you think of anything, be conscious of just the mind-object.”

After hearing the above discourse, Bāhiya attained arahatship and he asked permission from the Buddha to join the Sangha. The Buddha told him to get the robes, the bowl and other requisites of a monk. On his way to get them, he was gored to death by a cow which was, in fact, a female evil spirit in the likeness of a cow. When the Buddha and the other monks came out after having had their meal, they found Bāhiya lying dead on a rubbish heap. As instructed by the Buddha, the monks cremated the body of Bāhiya and had his bones enshrined in a stūpa. Back at the Jētavana Monastery, the Buddha told the monks that Bāhiya had realized Nibbāna. He also told them that as far as speed was concerned in attaining Magga Insight (abhiññā) Bāhiya was the fastest, the best (ētadaggaṃ).

This sounds a little like “the one who knows”, as Ajahn Chah described it.:wink:


I thought the same thing. :slight_smile:

And This is the buddha himself

"Wander, monks, in what is your proper range, your own ancestral territory. In one who wanders in what is his proper range, his own ancestral territory, Mara gains no opening, Mara gains no foothold. And what, for a monk, is his proper range, his own ancestral territory? The four frames of reference. Which four? There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves… mind in & of itself… mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. This, for a monk, is his proper range, his own ancestral territory.”—-SN 47:6

I wonder if there are different explanations for what is essentially the same experience?

For my self, I think this is the case. Take a look at this from the upanishads

“And when the memory (of the Highest Self) remains firm, then all the ties (which bind us to a belief in anything but the Self) are loosened”

Does it not sound like to you the establishment of sati sampajanna described by Ajahn chah.

“Your mindfulness will gain a higher frequency, like water poured from a kettle. If we tilt the kettle just a little, the water comes out in drops: glug… glug… glug. There are breaks in the flow. If we tilt the kettle a little bit more, the drops become more frequent: glug-glug-glug. If we tilt the kettle even further the glugs disappear and the water turns into a continuous stream. There are no more drops, but they didn’t go anywhere. They’re so frequent that they’ve turned into a continuous stream of water. They’ve become so frequent that they’re beyond frequency. They meld into one another in a stream of water.”

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But of course buddhism takes it much further.