Are Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta pre-Budhha's teaching?

Any person can reflect on life and realize to some extent that it is anicca, the most obvious manifestation being death. And knowing dukkha to an extent is obvious even without reflection. Don’t have to be a Brahmin for that.

But the Buddha taught about these characteristics comprehensively, to their fullest extent: sabbe sankhara anicca/dukkha. No one else I know of has done this. And anatta is not something I know of anyone else teaching to even a minor extent.

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Very important point here. Rather than just use a superficial and temporary solution, which breeds addiction, he sought the cause for the dukkha. He then got rid of the cause -of ignorance and craving.

Having removed the cause means it is an absence. That can be ‘permanent’, unlike a solution which is in existence which would be impermanent.

Being mindful, meditation etc can never on their own be the solution to Dukkha, but form the path to removing ignorance.

Ignorance/insight was never part of Brahmanism as I understand it.

A good source that looks into those matters is Alexander Wynne’s "The Origin of Buddhist Meditation."
Check out the table of contents.

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All schools of thought existed in the time of the Buddha from eternalism to annihilationism and everything in between, including materialism. [see here]

The Charvaka school denied the existence of the self (atman) and they were full on empirical materialist. So they also denied kamma and rebirth. They rejected all forms of metaphysical inference believing sensory perception to be the only source of real knowledge.

As for the words Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta. well, I’m sure the varied Śramaṇa views understood those words and used them in reference to some things. They are after all simply negations of the positive terms. But as a unified doctrine abut the nature of all conditioned phenomena, that was indeed the Blessed One’s unique contribution as expressed though DO.

'All exists’, Kaccana, this is one extreme. ‘All does not exist’ this is the second extreme. Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma by the middle ‘With ignorance as condition, volitional formations come to be; with volitional formations as condition, consciousness….

He also says

The world in general, Kaccaayana, grasps after systems and is imprisoned by dogmas. But he does not go along with that system-grasping, that mental obstinacy and dogmatic bias, does not grasp at it. He knows without doubt or hesitation that whatever arises is merely dukkha, that what passes away is merely dukkha and such knowledge is his own, not depending on anyone else. This, Kaccaayana, is what constitutes right view.

The full realisation of anicca results in full acceptance & thus peace. The suttas state the genuine perception of impermanence results in the abandonment of self-conceit.

Aniccasaññaṁ Rāhula bhāvanaṁ bhāvehi,
Develop the meditation, Rāhula, that is the perception of impermanence,

aniccasaññaṁ hi te Rāhula bhāvanaṁ bhāvayato
for, Rāhula, from developing the meditation that is the perception of impermanence

yo asmimāno so pahīyissati.
whatever (kind of) ‘I am’ conceit there is will be given up.

MN 62

But, ordinarily, any person can reflect on life, have some perception of impermanence but then generate fear & worry as a result. They develop religious beliefs about permanence, such as permanent life after death, permanent reincarnation, permanent eternal life and other views that mitigate the perception of impermanence.

As soon as most people perceive impermanence, they often do everything they can to avoid that impermanence by creating views of permanence.

I trust if this book provided an easy answer, as you seem to suggest, you would have simply posted the answer.

:seedling:

Could you kindly provide some detailed quotes for this (apart from Wikipedia generalisations), particularly from the EBTs, if possible.

Thank you

The sutta itself says ‘All does not exist’ is a view. So obviously that entails non-existence of self.

I doubt that. Otherwise anatta & sunnata would be wrong views.

SN 12.15 sets the view of ‘non-existence’ apart from the view of anatta.

The anihilist views in the suttas all include the belief that a ‘self’ (‘atta’) will cease.

For example:

The self, good sir, has material form; it is composed of the four primary elements and originates from father and mother. Since this self, good sir, is annihilated and destroyed with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death, at this point the self is completely annihilated.’

DN 1

How, bhikkhus, do some overreach? Now some are troubled, ashamed, and disgusted by this very same being and they rejoice in (the idea of) non-being, asserting: ‘In as much as this self, good sirs, when the body perishes at death, is annihilated and destroyed and does not exist after death—this is peaceful, this is excellent, this is reality!’ Thus, bhikkhus, do some overreach.

Iti 49

Regards :seedling:

ok let me find the pali :slight_smile:

This is the actual text :
“‘All exists’: Kaccana, this is one extreme. ‘All does not exist’: this is the second extreme.

Taken from here: sn12.15

Seems to be clear. All does not exist is a view , so it must entail atman does not exist.

It seems ‘atthitañceva’ & ‘natthitañca’ are both forms of grasping.

The world in general, Kaccaayana, inclines to two views, to existence (atthitañceva) or to non-existence (natthitañca). But he does not go along with that system-grasping, that mental obstinacy and dogmatic bias, does not grasp at it, does not affirm: ‘This is my self.’ He knows without doubt or hesitation that whatever [self-view that] arises is merely dukkha that whatever [self-view that] passes away is merely dukkha and such knowledge is his own, not depending on anyone else. This, Kaccaayana, is what constitutes right view.

Kaccaayanagotto Sutta

‘All does not exist’ means aggregates don’t exist either.
Anatta is aggregates aren’t Self.

With metta

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It is in this way, Kaccana, that there is right view. “‘All exists’: Kaccana, this is one extreme. ‘All does not exist’: this is the second extreme. Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma by the middle… sn12.15

Sounds reasonable. Thanks

Personally, I have always struggled with the language in this sutta.

I might start a thread about it. :seedling:

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I don’t think it’s quite as straightforward as this. While the Upanishadic tradition is most commonly characterized by a positive attitude, working by the method of affirmation, they also knew a negative method, and this is especially developed in the teachings of Yajnavalkya.

One of his most famous saying is neti, neti, “not that, not that!” What this refers to is his approach to the topic of the atman. He would go through a list of all the things that one might consider as self or be attached to, and deny that it was in fact the self. Eventually he would end up with “the unseen seer, the unheard hearer, the unthought thinker, the unknown knower”, i.e. the sheer mass of consciousness (vijnanaghanameva). Only that is worthy of being considered as the true atman.

So the idea of not-self as a method is already very highly developed. In fact, everything that is regarded as a self in other schools and philosophies is dismissed as being not self. But this is only in service of the ultimate revelation of the true self.

The Buddha took the next step and dismissed even that exalted and purified consciousness as the true self. So the difference is not that not-self as an idea and method did not exist, but that it was not fully applied to all things.

This is why, I think, the Buddha first wanted to teach his former teachers, who had probably been part of that Upanishadic tradition. Not only were they versed in samadhi, they had a philosophical background that had lead them to the very gates of awakening.

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@sujato

Could you kindly comment on the term ‘natthitañca’ and provide some examples of the kinds of views it may have been referring to in SN 12.15?

SN 12.15 gives the impression ‘natthitañca’ was a common view or doctrine therefore what exactly might have been referred to here since it is difficult to imagine explicit common views about ‘nothing exists’ (‘sabba natthi’; apart from arupa jhana, which would not be common). I get the impression ‘natthitañca’ might be more about the view that things, including a ‘self’, will ‘cease to exist’ rather than nothing inherently exists; however the later term ‘sabba natthi’ does not support my impression.

MN 117 gives some examples of ‘wrong views’ about certain things not existing. Could these also be ‘natthitañca’?

SN 12.15 begins with the statement:

This world, Kaccana, for the most part depends upon a duality—upon the notion of existence and the notion of nonexistence.

As SN 12.44 states, the term ‘the world’ refers to ‘suffering’ arising from dependent origination so can ‘natthitañca’ refer to certain self-views of annihilation?

Thanks :seedling:

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I always thought the net of views (brahmjala) were derived partly analytically (and partly from actually held views). There are also personal viewpoints in that spectrum. I thought this meant that the entire spectrum would need to be captured analytically and refuted. While it seems unlikely did anyone hold a view that nothing at all existed?

With metta

[quote=“Deeele, post:12, topic:4990, full:true”][quote=“cjmacie, post:10, topic:4990”]
A good source that looks into those matters is Alexander Wynne’s “The Origin of Buddhist Meditation.”
[/quote]

I trust if this book provided an easy answer, as you seem to suggest, you would have simply posted the answer. [/quote]

Suggested is simply a source, from a respected scholar, which goes into the evidence for the Buddha’s training, the given belief systems of the time, and his teachings in relation to them. It’s all by no means simple to answer.

I browsed the book quickly. My impression was Wynne was inconclusive on the matter but speculated the Buddha’s two teachers were of the warrior caste given one had the name Kalama.

Thank you :seedling:

It’s basically the same thing from the Indic perspective, but yes, it certainly doesn’t mean simple non-existence. I will revisit my translation of this passage after my more recent reflections, as in the following posts.

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Thank you. I have always found the translations of SN 12.15 difficult to discern/follow since they appear to make a discordant leap from the topic of ‘existence’ & ‘non-existence’ to the topic of not clinging & creating ‘self-views’.

I recall reading somewhere in a dictionary the term ‘atthi’ is related to the term ‘asmi’ (‘I am’) but could not relocate this.

For example, if SN 12.15 read as: ‘This world depends on a duality, that of I exist & I don’t/won’t exist’ and if it then moved on the topic of: “the one of right view does not create views about self”, it would flow more logically to me. But then the part about “all exists” and “all does not exist” would still remain difficult.

Regards :seedling:

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