How do you directly observe anatta?

Is that not observing anicca?

1 Like

Yes, thatā€™s a tricky one. Being able to observe ( notice? ) without indulging the sense of being an observer. Do you have a practical solution to this?

Regarding the body as self; I like the simile of the cart - removing pieces of the cart one at a time. By the end of the process lets say that just a wheel is left - is that now the cart? No. The cart is just an aggregate of different elements. by diss-assembling it one piece at a time it becomes clear.

So as to ME, remove my arm, or my blood, or my limbs, my eyes, or hair, or bonesā€¦ what is me? ME doesnā€™t exist except for an aggregate for a finite time.

As to my mind, we can divide this into 2 concepts if you like; 1) the brain as processor of information and 2) as the abstract concept of some form of ā€˜directing energyā€™ or other meta-physical entity.

Regarding 1) the brain; basically the same simile of the cart applies, just start cutting away and removing bits etcā€¦
Regarding 2) The meta-physical entity. One can directly observe changes in thoughts, knowledge, opinions, personality, knowledge etc etc. My ā€˜mindā€™ is completely different than it was 40 years ago. Which was ME? this meta-physical mind is changing and evolving all the time - no permanent self. If you have ever had someone close to you get severe dementia, you can watch the memories disappear, knowledge disappearā€¦ were they the self? what is left now?

Have fun exploring! :grinning:


Do you see the difference between
the Focus on observing impermanent
itself and observing arising passing
of the aggregates ?

1 Like

Just to add
Observing anatta in others is far easier than to observe it in yourself. It is not a big stretch to realise that what applies to humans in general also applies to each of us individually. This is still direct observation.


Not really. The aggregates are anicca because they arise and pass.

Interesting point. I had a close relative with dementia, the sense of the person disappearing along with their memories.

1 Like

If I had a practical solution there would be nibbana :slight_smile:
But theoretically itā€™s simply not possible to observe without creating a dialectical observer. Where I think a solution is: One does not observe - dhamma observes. As one does not act, dhamma acts. Meaning, if the location of oneself is given up in favor of oneā€™s faculties being a tool of dhamma then I see a possibility of non-personal observation. Any thoughts?

1 Like

One could think of it like this:

  1. Observation is a selfless natural process.
  2. The act of attributing observation to an observer is an error.

Like how lightning is a selfless natural process, but attributing it to Thor (the god of thunder) is an error.

This way it is theoretically possible for there to be observation without an observer.

1 Like


Iā€™ve experienced it a few times for maybe 1-2 seconds each. At least I think Iā€™ve experienced something like it :slight_smile:.

Every time I experienced it, I wasnā€™t trying or even interested in experiencing it.

I would focus on doing sitting samatha, sitting vipassana, and where possible being mindful of your mind during your daily life. I think eventually you will just find that the train of your mind stops at that station unannounced.

I find that with strong mindfulness there can be a sense of the non-personal observing the personal.

But doesnā€™t observation necessarily involve a duality, an observer and that which is observed?

The wrong views on anicca and anatta translation is wheeling wider unless you take anicca as disintegrating, fickle, perishable, impermanent, subject to change, without existence, conditioned, worthless and subject to death and anatta as unfruitfulness, without refuge, helplessness or not in control.

In this world of 31 realms, there is nothing that can be maintained to our satisfaction in the long run (anicca) which will causes dukkha and there are 24 others of such suffering which leads us to helplessness or without refuge, not in control and unfruitfulness (anatta). Just contemplate on it and slowly it will make sense.

With metta.

Not under the assumptions of my previous post :slight_smile:

Is this Ven Waharaka Abayarathanalankaraā€™s outlier translation?

with metta

How about observing that things are happening by themselves, autonomously, without you willing them to happen? Especially things that are happening too quickly for you to consciously control.

1 Like

That is exactly what it is.

Arenā€™t the gods (devas) at the top of the Sensuous World (kama-loka), the paranimmita-vasavatti devas, enjoying sense pleasures created by others for them. (Mara, the personification of delusion and desire, lives here).

The error would be to let that in.

Now this is indeed the anatta part, whose dhammas does not belong to us, (and are also made of impermanent khandhas) .
This is the ā€œI am not thisā€ part (nayamahamasmÄ«ā€™ti).
But to make that anatta perfect, there is also the need to get rid of the ā€œI amā€ (asmÄ«ti) - as in SN 22.89.

Note: have I already say that this has the strong scent of the later Aristotleā€™s ā€œcategoriesā€. Viz. made in that, present in this ? _
Yeah, I did.

1 Like

Yes, partly. The complete understanding is based on the contemplation (anupassanā meaning removing defilements) of the Tilakkhana from the sutta which has 40 types of contemplation (10 aniccānupassanā, 25 dukkhānupassanā and 5 anattānupassanā).

Do you have the name of the sutta or a link?

With metta

Please see Paį¹­isambhidāmagga sutta - 3.9. Vipassanākathā at SC 20 to SC 23.

Please note that anatta may not be what you interpret as, as the other 4 anattānupassanā mostly point to empty, void or devoid.

Please see the commentary ā€œPaį¹­isambhidāmagga-aį¹­į¹­hakathā ā€“ Sariputtaā€ in Pali which confirmed that asāraka is aniccānupassanā.

With metta.