Atma- analysis of Self


I really don’t understand sorry. If in one sutta we had 1. suffering 2. its origin 3. potatoes 4. the path. Would you say these are the four noble truths? I wouldn’t.

So I don’t understand why you want me to read ‘anatta’ when the sutta says as a third aspect ‘vipariṇāma’. It’s just beyond me.

‘etaṃ mama, esohamasmi, eso me attā’ has of course to do with atta, but it’s not ‘the anatta-doctrine’. It’s a second formula with atta in a different context. But okay, maybe it’s time to stop repeating myself…


Any opinions on the difference between anicca and vipariṇāma? Seems to me they basically mean the same thing, no?


I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree, since I can’t make sense of the logic that for something to be about anattā it has to have the actual word anattā in it, not the more detailed negation of attā given in the numerous suttas I mentioned. But thank you for the interesting discussion, which has sharpened my understanding of, dare I say it, anattā. :sunglasses:


How do we know what anattā ‘is about’? It’s either the texts, other sources like teachers, or our own interpretation.

I’d say, it’s superior to ask the texts first. So I start with “I have no idea what this ‘anattā’ is about, but it seems to be very important. And I don’t want to be biased in my interpretations”.

So what I’m left with is a close reading, without pre-suppositions. Next I choose a text. Let’s take the beginning of SN 22.15 because we encounter this formula so often:

“Form/appearance is impermanent. What is impermanent is suffering. What is suffering is X.” This is such a difficult passage!

  1. “Form/appearance is impermanent.” I have to understand it as ‘individual appearances of daily life’ to be correct. Still there are stars in the sky, diamonds and steel that seem to be permanent. Also, in order to continue I cannot be a proponent of platonic eternal ideas . But okay, let’s say I’m on board - rupa is anicca.

  2. “What is impermanent is suffering.” Here the text lost me already. I know well that ice cream, sex, The Godfather II, a massage, inspiring philosophical discussions, my interpretation of the Buddhist teachings, and jhana experiences are impermanent. Why is it suffering?? No normal person would agree to this, you have to be a brainwashed Buddhist to say ‘yes’ to that.

We’re not even at the contested third limb yet. My problem is: The text pretends that 1 --> 2 is self-evident. Well, it’s not to me (the pleasure of ice cream is not suffering to me, sorry). To whom, to which interlocutor would this be a self-evident statement?

Either to a clinically depressed person, or to a fatalistic philosopher, or to someone who is a hardcore ascetic already, I would say. No?


Compared to us now, the Buddha would be one of these. However we do may not understand what they have realized, and our ignorance maybe not allowing us to see what is there to be seen. There’s nothing to say that a depressed person or a fatalistic philosopher cannot be right either.

The person with no wisdom eats ice-cream without mindfulness. However if he/she eats with mindfulness and he keeps eating it, he begins to see that the pleasure in eating it, changes each time she has another one, and begins to see that pleasure is a product of the mind, rather than a fixed feature of the ice cream. With the 5th or 7th ice cream, the pleasure has become less (gone from delight (nandi) to pleasant sensation (sukha vedana). After that it might become neutral (adukkhama sukha vedana) or even fall into aversion (patigha); all this showing how indeterminate the pleasure of eating ice cream is. They might even do a wise contemplation (yonisomanasikara) of whether cold ice-cream or hot ice-cream gives pleasure, showing the temperature has more (90%?) to do with the pleasure than the substance consumed. You then begin to see that ice-cream isn’t simple as once thought. It went from satisfactory (sukkha) to something real (which is unsatisfactory). If you did vipassana on the tongue sensations of ice-cream there would be the five aggregates arising. Each would be impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self. Once wrong views and hindrances are overcome vipassana becomes possible.

Sorry, if this spoils your dessert but you are on a Buddhist site. :ice_cream: !

with metta


Oh no, you broke my ice-joy! It’s kaputt :tired_face:

You’re making good sense of course. It’s ‘Buddhism-inspired’. But I’m actually still with the text and it’s understanding. Your sensible - and obviously practice-based - interpretation doesn’t touch the text in question much.

There is a wide methodological gap between understanding a text and interpreting it. Not that interpretation is bad, it’s just much better if it’s based on a thorough understanding. But that seems to be a difficult point to make here. Practitioners of anthropology and discourse analysis are habitually more careful to jump to conclusions, and they have brought distant cultures closer to us than a ‘soul-searching’ approach.


“I […] after seeing […] Nibbana, […]”

"Just as the destination of a glowing fire
struck with a [blacksmith’s] iron hammer,
gradually growing calm,
is not known:

Even so, there’s no destination to describe
for those who are rightly released
– having crossed over the flood
of sensuality’s bond –
for those who have attained
unwavering bliss." - Dabba Sutta

A good way to resolve the issue would involve practice?

We could practice the approach to self-inquiry taught by the Maharishi and see where it leads. He gave a lot of instructions on how to live a good life and practice his method of self-inquiry.

We could then apply ourselves to the 3-fold training and see where it leads. The Buddha gave a lot of instructions on how to live a good life and practice his path of inquiry.

When someone has completed these two undertakings could they please return to this thread and share their findings with us?



Though saying the aggregates are not Self is not the same as saying there is no Self.


I think this becomes clearer if we say “unsatisfactory” rather than “suffering”. So for example ice-cream is unsatisfactory because it melts …though admittedly it doesn’t get a chance to melt when I’m around. :yum:


Well it’s been defined in dictionaries and talked about a lot. Others have seen it through their practices, the presence or absence of, that is. One simply has to triangulate all these sources to understand what Attam and Anattam is pointing to.

Obviously. We don’t have to have a pre-formed opinion. Go in and learn, and depending on the sources we will arrive at a reasonably accurate description, if not a definition.

Sounds like a good plan.

So you need to either ask someone if this isn’t clear and/or read a good clear commentary around it. Having a group of friends who can help with it, is helpful assuming their understanding is acceptable.

Yes. It’s also important to see if the teachings are accurate too.

With metta


No it’s not, but pretty much amounts to the same thing. There would be no process of perception without the aggregates so nothing would be perceived that is identifiable as Self and anything beyond that isn’t relevant to me.

With metta


Though you could make a similar argument for Nibbana. In both cases it is something “beyond” the conditioned world, or something “beneath” the aggregates.


Because you introduced faith or trust into the discussion when you cannot produce or unable to present an acceptable explanation on how the working mechanism of rebirth and kamma .


The following makes good sense:

There is no need for this:

We are not the ultimate arbiters of relevance. We are not capable of making that call before awakening. The relevance - the profound significance - is part of the discovery.

What could be more significant, relevant and beautiful then a :heartbeat: set unconditionally free?

In the discovery the sense of self is irrelevant. That’s what makes it the greatest discovery of all. The sense of self is absent in the stilling of the :heartbeat:

The use of the word: Self may not be referring to some-thing. It may be a reference to the ending of identification with and, clinging to, all that is not-self.

The end of craving, clinging and, identification is liberation. It really does not matter what label we use to denote a heart set free.

Practice and realisation is all that matters when it comes to those who seek freedom.

A :rose: by any name emits a sweet fragrance. The taste of freedom is what we seek. The greatest recipe is not equal to a crust of bread.


What if you replace form/appearance to something that you identified yourself with it such as “my dear wife”, “my love son”, “my dear car”,… Are they permanent?

If “my dear wife” or “my love son” is dying or in trouble, will I suffer? If “my dear car” is wreaked or get lost, will I suffer?

Do we see that we are clinging to those? Do we see the “self (me, my)” in those? Do they really belong to us?


Aggregates are anicca, dukkha & anatta. (SN 22.12-14 / SA 1).

In SN 22.79/SA 46, aggregates are aggregates of clinging - for form, for instance, is afflicted by mosquitoes. We are therefore already in salayatana. Whatever impacts directly a satta (living being) is an aggregate of clinging.
Aggregates of clinging which are different from the mere aggregates, in that they are clingable (appropriated), and accompanied with mental fermentation (asavas) (SN 22.48/SA 55).

The questions are:

  • What kind of aggregates are we talking about ?
  • What about vitakkavicārā ?
  • What is perception ?
  • At what level does one places himself when talking about aggregates. The kama loka, the rupa loka or the arupa loka? - where does that “process of perception”, as you say, is taking place.
  • Nibbana being the stage where there is no more feeling/vedana and perception/sanna (last highest jhana) - or more accurately said, no more experience, and need to know more (vedana), and inquiry and assumptions (sanna) about these experiences - what kind of “perception” could that be. Would you “perceive” nibbana without “perception” anymore.

The definition of perception is not the same in SN 22.79 and SA 46. Which make these definitions of perception pretty doubtful.

I have already come up with a more accurate definition of “perception” (sanna [sorry for the diacritics]) as: “inquiry with assumptions”; which is much closer to the meaning in the Indian litterature of the time.

This is to say that, after you will muse on the above, you might change the way you consider your quote.

Also, for what I have understood from the Teaching, something made out of the khandhas cannot be self/Self, or have anything that belongs to a self/Self.

I would ask myself what are the qualities and real features of that self/Self, if it exists -
And if that self/Self does not exist, what are the qualities of that “stuff” that belongs to whatever is not self/Self.
But the Buddha says rightly, that this is a loss of time and sanity.
Get out of patticcasamuppada He says. It is dukkha.


Great point. Looking at the parallels in the agamas, essentially the same statement is found but it is clear that it is intended not as a statement of ultimate truth but rather as a practice:

Bodily form is impermanent, what is impermanent is dukkha, what is dukkha is not-self, what is not self is not mine. One who contemplates like this is reckoned to be contemplating truly and rightly. A noble disciple who contemplates like this becomes liberated from bodily form, liberated from feeling … perception … formations … consciousness. I say such a one is liberated from birth, old age, disease, death, worry, sorrow, pain and vexation - SA 10

I wonder if the pali version has lost some context.


What is mine ?

  • a Samkhya would say: “Purusha”.
  • a Charvaka would say “my inherent spontaneous nature”.
  • a Buddhist would say: “get out of this dharma (before it’s too late)”.


Well, I consider myself a Buddhist and I would say “what is not self is not mine” is part of a contemplative practice and “what is mine” isn’t part of it. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I refuse to go down that road of is there or is there not a self - so lucky for me, I don’t have to deal with these sorts of questions.