Atma- analysis of Self


Yes there is suffering of the destruction or alteration of objects/people dear to us. This is easy to understand.

Harder to understand is the a different kind of impermanence- that of the five aggregates arising and passing away, moment by moment, which isn’t quite about an extant ontologically solid objects/people. It’s seeing this kind of impermanence that makes the experience of Nibbana probable, and not the impermanence of a Self-extant world. The latter is like holding on (to ‘reality’) on the one hand, and trying to let go, with the other.

With metta


Since these things may belong to you (as you said)…

You can check on your car battery if you wish. However, I have nothing to do with that battery.
The car is your car if you said so, and I have nothing to do with it.
The money is your money, and I have nothing to do with it.

However, if they are “yours”, then you will suffer if something wrong happen to them.

If I were an arahant (Of course, I am not!)

I do not have a car, so I do not worry about “my car” or “my battery”. There is no such thing as “my car” or “my battery” to me.

I do not have money so I do not worry about “my money” or if someone stole “my money”.

I do not have saving account, so I do not need to do anything with it.


The question is if the expression of
" I " and " my " will be excluded .
Not personally about you .


I already showed you how I excluded “I, my” from car and money as simple examples. However. this may not easy for you to see.


In order to show a bushman that a car works because of an engine and not because of being pushed by some mysterious spirit - is it required to prove him that the car was made in France ?

In the same way, the need of an unified theory of physics is not required in order to understand no self.


Oh ok , nvm. I see no different .


Which bushman you refer to ?


The organism made out of 5 aggregates that we conventionally call “a bushman”. Same as this computer in front of me, made out of metal, plastic, immaterial software, etc. is conventionally called “a computer”.

Neither one has a self inside. Nobody ever taught that a computer might have a self inside, yet everybody naturally believes that humans do have a self inside. Why is this so ? On what information and reasoning is this opinion based ? It is certainly based on something, otherwise it would not appear.


I agree, at least they are similar enough to wonder why they would appear in a triplet, separated by dukkha.

There is a slight difference still. While a-nicca means ‘not-constant’, vipariṇāma means a change - In Buddhist dictionaries also ‘change for the worse’, but not in sanskrit where it’s a neutral change.

The term is completely absent from pre-Buddhist literature which makes it suspicious, but I also can’t see which old typo this could have been. Also pariṇāma (that also means change) only appears in the epics 2-3 centuries later.

In the suttas it is mostly rooted in the SN, and there mostly in the SN 22, SN 24, and SN 35, i.e. where we also mostly find the anicca-dukkha-anatta triplet.

Psychologically the term makes sense. After all things usually don’t just fall apart and break away, but they rather change: a little bit of back pain, some more wrinkles. So especially when our bodies get older and good feelings fade away the resulting dissatisfaction is accurately described by vipariṇāma, as e.g. in SN 22.2.

In that sense the term vipariṇāmadukkha makes equal sense: suffering due to change (in SN 38.14, SN 45.65, MN 44, DN 33).

The triplet appears only (or mostly?) in the form of anicca-dukkha-vipariṇāmadhamma. And I have no clue what -dhamma is supposed to mean here: principle, law, teaching, thing, phenomenon?!?!

In most other cases the single word indeed appears close to anicca as a cause for dukkha, which of course makes more sense than the other way round (so in SN 22.43, SN 25.).

Or it appears close to another related term, aññathatta (also ‘change’), with some nice images in SN 22.80 (also SN 35.69, AN 10.29, MN 67)

All three change-terms, anicca, vipariṇāma, and aññathatta appear in SN 25 and SN 35.93.

Finally we have also a formula of the opposites, as the view of eternalists: "After death I will be permanent (nicca), everlasting (dhuva), eternal (sassata), and imperishable (avipariṇāmadhamma). So in SN 22.81, SN 22.94, SN 22.96-98, SN 22.152, SN 24.3, MN 2, MN 22, MN 146, DN 1, DN 24).

I don’t know how helpful this is, except that anicca and vipariṇāma are almost overlapping and that the triplet of anicca-dukkha-vipariṇāma doesn’t seem to make much sense to me.

Maybe @sujato has more insight in the matter?


As a suffix, -dhamma means “liable to, subject to, having the nature of”. I prefer “liable to change” as opposed to “subject to change” which suggests (to me) that there is an external force that “subjects” things to change.


Would not you think this is not a very good comparison ? Computer was made by human . Human appear out of where ?


And can you make sense out of the formula


in contrast to



It’s natural language. Things don’t have to map onto each other exactly. Leave that to the Abhidhammists!


Great response, with references abound — per usual :smile::+1:. Much more appropriate for this forum than most posts (including mine).

Not sure if you caught this but SN22.80 explicitly links the anicca-dukkha-vipariṇāmadhamma to anattā and liberation. Granted it’s only one sutta, but it’s SN with a full parallel in the SA and a partial parallel in the MA… perhaps there are other suttas that make the same connection. Personally, the linkage between the two concepts explicated in this SN22.80 makes sense to me:

What do you think, mendicants? Is form permanent or impermanent?” “Impermanent, sir.” “But if it’s impermanent, is it suffering or happiness?” “Suffering, sir.” “But if it’s impermanent, suffering, and perishable, is it fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, I am this, this is my self’?” “No, sir.” “Is feeling … perception … choices … consciousness permanent or impermanent?” … “So you should truly see … Seeing this … They understand: ‘… there is no return to any state of existence.’”


Thanks, I did’t have time to look into the individual suttas and hope that maybe the discussion surfaces some interesting ones, with good imagery and a plausible psychology…


I also found it interesting that the “view of the eternalists” in the suttas is almost a mirror of the anicca-dukkha-vipariṇāmadhamma formula.

One has to wonder whether this is the Buddhists flipping an existing eternalist phrase or retrofitting their own phrase onto a portrayal of eternalism as antithetical to the BuddhaDhamma.


So that is in your opinion the reasoning on which the opinion that there is/might be a self is based ?

Does the planet have a self ? Does the ecosystem have a self ? Do plants have a self ? Does the solar system have a self ?

Few people would argue for that. It’s a far less popular idea. Maybe the reasoning for this existence of a self is based on something else ?


That might be, but it also reads a little bit like a caricature of eternalists. Would be nice to have some of those suttas presenting a coherent view/logic.


I think it makes sense that, the Buddha would speak in words that would be understood by everyone, and even contrast his teachings against the prevailing norms, for the listeners to get a better understanding. Note that there was no written language that we know of and no educational system of schooling. People were unlikely to be making subtle distinctions between words and what they mean, hence we find the same word used broadly and then meanings become more context dependent. Also some repetition of the different words during discussion is apparent to emphasise their meaning. This makes more of an emotional impact therefore highlighting their meanings. Perhaps a common practice in less literary circles.

With metta


Disclaimer: I am very new to the practice of Buddhism. I have the enthusiasm of a new practitioner but the humility that I am still a beginning learner.

Having said that, I think part of the problem with thinking about the “Self” for those of us schooled in Western philosophy is that we are conditioned to think in Cartesian terms—I think therefore I am. I have thoughts therefore I must have an intrinsic Self.

I am learning that Buddhism teaches a very different notion of self, one important element of which is impermanence. We have a brain. Obviously. We have a body. Obviously. But the state of our brains and bodies is continuously changing. Those are states of impermanence. Furthermore, suffering is caused by clinging to states of impermanence as if they were part of a permanent Self.

The more we realize that what we take to be our permanent Self is actually a state of impermanence, the easier it is to release ourselves from suffering. I am reminded of some of the students I teach who define their “Selves” as “A students”. That is to say, they see themselves as intrinsically as a Self that always gets “A” grades. So the first time they get a B+ they suffer because their entire notion of their “Self” has been challenged. If only they were able to see that they are not defined by the grades they receive they would be able to acknowledge that the many “A” grades they have earned are not their “Self.” They are merely temporary evaluations of specific academic work they have done.

This concept applies to both aversions and desires. Most people are averse to the physical pain produced by a needle prick when getting a shot or having blood drawn. Yet their selves are not defined by that pain. It is impermanent. To identify a Self with it is to suffer when all they are experiencing is temporary pain.

The same is true for pleasure. In a previous post Mat talked about enjoying ice cream as a temporary pleasure. This is true. I had the most delicious ice cream dessert a week ago. I enjoyed every bite, but after the last bite I was not disappointed because I understand that I don’t attach a Self to it. I understand that it is a temporary pleasure and not a permanent state of being. Thus, I am not disappointed (I don’t suffer) when the dessert is gone. I am just moving on to another temporary experience. I will exercise the same mindfulness driving home from the restaurant as eating the delicious dessert. One is more enjoyable than the other, but neither define a “Self.” This realization helps me avoid suffering and disappointment.