How do you directly observe anatta?


Impermanence means things are unsatisfactory- especially when noting anicca in a continuous way. Then analytically some people come to understand that this means there is no everalisting or satisfactory Self. It might be theoretical understanding or arising while meditating- an insight. Watching anicca goes beyond that, into giving rise to nibbida, dispassion and Cessation. It means khandas stop being objects that can be clung to.


Though there is no reason why a mundane self should be satisfactory or everlasting. That would only apply to Atman, and it seems that in the EBT anatta is more a negation of mundane self.

And who or what stops clinging to the khandhas? Who or what regards the khandhas as me and mine, identifies with them, and clings to them?


Khandas experience themselves.

Or if we get rid of this insistence of needing and observer and an observed - khandas are experience itself

there’s only experiencing…

that experience can also Cease completely.


We can give ourselves the task to observe impermanence. This addresses our conscious capabilities and can observe the objects we are aware of. But what about the aspects of our experience we are not aware of and that we therefore cannot include in our observations of impermanence?

For this we need the support of unconscious faculties as well. When these are activated they will direct the conscious and half-conscious observation powers to places they have not been yet before.

For example, for many beginners in meditation they can observe the obvious flow of thoughts and feelings. But they are surprised to find out after a while that there was a subtle ‘background mood’ they never included in their observations. If keeping this mood unattended it will continue to co-create certain thoughts, memories, feelings.

So what is the force that made the previously invisible ‘mood’ suddenly available to observation? If it would have been something I knew, the conscious mind would have gone there all along. Since it’s a new group or ‘place’ the unconscious must have been involved somehow.

I think, therefore, that part of the job of the meditator is to create a benevolent attitude towards the unconscious and to invite its cooperation. For that we cannot have a rigid mindset and extend an invitation to the unconscious to support our cause.

This is obviously not Buddhist vocabulary, but we can find it here and there. For example ‘impermanence’ is there on at least three levels - 1. practice (which largely addresses the consciousness), but then also as 2. truth/ditthi and 3. teaching/dhamma. 2 and 3 are more dogmatic, and depending on how seriously one takes it, are directed at the unconscious fabric of the mind and will make us see things we were not conscious of previously.


I think we should find ways to make this clearer. Because, as discussed many times already, the statement that ‘everything is impermanent’ is incredibly trivial. Drunkards in a bar discussing a divorce can come up with this. “eh, everything is impermanent, what to do”.

And, again, just because the texts repeatedly say ‘impermanence --> unsatisfactoriness’ doesn’t make it true. We have to make it clear to ourselves and others what is exactly meant by that. Because, in itself, this is not a fact at all. - People experience sensual pleasure (food, sex, power, etc.), and they enjoy it, for them this is real pleasure, not fake. And all of these are impermanent. In fact, they have to be in order to be experienced as sensually pleasant - a permanent orgasm would fry our brain quite quickly.

So, under which circumstances, or based on which assumptions, is the logical statement ‘impermanence --> unsatisfactoriness’ invariably and factually true? This needs to be contextualized (e.g. on the background of endless rebirth, etc.)


I don’t see how the khandhas can experience themselves, since they represent experience.

It might be true to say that there is “only experience”, but the sense of me seems to be a part of that experience.

There is also the function of sati to consider here, “the one who knows” as Ajahn Chah put it. Perhaps not an actual observer, but the activity of observation and paying attention.


Yes, I see. You could say this is making the unconscious conscious, I would describe it as noticing more subtle things. Here its noticing states of mind and moods, as per the third frame of satipatthana, which I think takes some experience.
Obviously if you’re actively looking for impermanence (say) then you will notice it more. But it seems there is no way of directly looking for anatta.


Well this shows that we are noting the impermanence of that which is now conscious. To make the us conscious of the khandas samadhi is required.

To say that everything is impermanent, is true, but not transformative. That requires developing sila, samadhi and the Right view that everything is impermanent and at least on a existential level, pointless. Then letting go of rebirth (and craving) requires watching anicca (or technically the anicca sanna).

If the truth and ditti are the same , there’s no problem. The only issues is one of verification. Therefore to accept the theory some faith is required. After verification there’s unshakeable confirmation of it.