How do you directly observe anatta?


Yes, correct.


Sorry, but I can’t seem to match your references to the points you are making.

By SC 23.1 you mean #sc23, sentence 1, right?

Or, for example, what you point to as SC 22.1 is SC 28 in my browser. Any idea what’s going on?


It seems the Buddha is negating all these… and by applying the same logic to the Thatagata (the four fold negation) he is applying to the Buddha and the Brahma, (the latter is my deduction), unless later redactors replaced Brahma with Thathagata.

This is the fetter of doubt (vicickicca) IMO. :wink:

It would be natural to ask this question in this manner- but assume for a minute that there was no atta. Then the question would make sense only if there was a atta. The Buddha suggests that it is possible to experience, without the need for an experiencer, or the nature of phenomena is to experience itself, and that phenomena gives rise to consciousness without the need of an experiencer intervening in this process. Hope this makes sense!

with metta


I think of this as analogous to physical processes. If water evaporates due to heat, I don’t ask ‘who or what’ is evaporating into heat, because I know it’s just water molecules playing out cause and effect.

Why treat the stuff that makes up my own first person experience any different?

To make that work I’d have to posit some metaphysical entity inside myself that is beyond or somehow not subject to the laws of nature.

But if I don’t posit a metaphysical entity, the conclusion is that cause and effect is running the show. Even the feeling of being an entity who is running the show, is only my experience for as along as the right causes and conditions are in place.

In other words, if “experience molecules” get exposed to the Buddha’s Dhamma for long enough, they extinguish. This is just “experience molecules” playing out cause and effect, in the same way as water molecules evaporate when exposed to heat.

In sum, this is an example of thinking about life without a ‘who’ to explain the various processes that are observed. I’m not saying it’s correct, just pointing out that we take it for granted that physical processes work without an inner agent, and that the same perspective can be used on our own experience :sun_with_face:


That makes good sense.

With metta


Let’s again proceed in order. First get rid of the “I am THIS” ; then of the “I am”.

Buddha is clear about speculating about what an Atman could be in the avyakata ( the undeclared). It is an insane endeavour.
Why ?
Because the causes for any worldly description of his fate would have totally ceased. SN 44. 11, SN 44.9 & Snp 5.7 (Upasīva­māṇava­pucchā).
(suci1’s personal note: does the idea of the fire remains, when the fire disappears; without no more words (saṅkhā/saṅkhyā [fr. saṁ+khyā]/samkhya: see Snp 5.7) and their ensuing concretism? Is the idea, the Ajo (the unborn)? - Is there something behind the Ajo ?- who cares anyway- This is an insane endeavour).

What is interesting is that Buddha does not take position on the fate after death, because he does not identify with the five aggregates (SN 44.9), or the six internal ayatanani (SN 44.8), as "self."
It’s “not yours”, says Buddha (SN 22.33 -
SN 35.138) - neither the five aggregates, nor the six internal ayatanani (see suttas reference in my other post - in other thread ?) .

Seeing the khandhas as self, is a determination/sankhara (SN 22.81). And questions about the fate after death, should not arise in those who have abandoned passion for the khandhas (SN 44.5).

What the Buddha means, is that as long as you don’t abandon the “I am this”, you can’t enter and understand the deatlhess (amata - अमृत amṛta >> the imperishable (RV. VS.) - the world of immortality , eternity (RV. VS. AV. ) - the collective body of immortals (RV.)) - which is the door of Nibbāna.
There was indeed, in Buddha’s time, the belief that there was a part of the “world” (as per Buddhist definition of “world” - SN 35.82 & SN 12.44), that was devoid of time (eternal) .
And to reach the deathless, you must leave the kama loka, to enter the spacetime element (5th jhana),

  1. sabbaso rūpasaññānaṃ samatikkamā,
  2. paṭighasaññānaṃ atthaṅgamā,
  3. nānattasaññānaṃ amanasikārā
  4. ‘ananto ākāso’ti
    ākāsānañcāyatanaṃ upasampajja viharati.
  5. with the complete overstepping of perceptions of form (matter),
  6. with the vanishing of perceptions (based) upon the organs of senses (viz. ajjhattikāni āyatanāni [including mano]),
  7. not striving with the mind (manasa/mano) to perceptions of manifoldness (lit. (what is) differently than one),
  8. aware that ‘space is boundless,’
    he attains and seizes distinctively, the field of boundless space.

And even leave the “spacetime” element.

No spacetime, no time.

“Get there, you’ll see”, I suppose the Buddha is telling us. “Leave the kama loka”.

What kind of person is one liberated-by-wisdom/discernment (paññāvimutto)? Here some person does not contact with the body and abide in those liberations that are peaceful and immaterial, transcending forms, but his taints are destroyed by his seeing with wisdom.
Katamo ca, bhikkhave, puggalo paññāvimutto? Idha, bhikkhave, ekacco puggalo ye te santā vimokkhā atikkamma rūpe āruppā te na kāyena phusitvā viharati, paññāya cassa disvā āsavā parikkhīṇā honti.
MN 70
SN 35.134

This, no maras would like you to do.
They live in, and crave for the kama loka.
But most of all, they hate humans that are the only creatures to escape this kama loka, this world of senses and beyond.

But to answer specifically your question. Buddha also says that there can’t be an Atman (spiritual atta) in the dharman that is paticcasamupada. Because everything is impermanent in paticcasamupada; therefore neither eternal, nor blissful, as a spiritual atta is supposed to be.

That is what anatta means:
There is nothing in the personal pronoun atta, that is a spiritual self; or something that belongs to a spiritual self.

This impermanence, you can see directly only when you have been rid of the “I am this”.

So to your question, I answer:

Buddha negates a spiritual self in paticcasamuppada.

But allows a (personnal pronoun) atta, that is not the khandhas, and the internal ayatanani; but who still has an element of initiating (SN 6.38/SA 459).
Note: if there was not this element of initiating, what would be the purpose to be made to “be felt”. SN 12.37).

See also SN 22.85

In the spirit of the:
not “by that”, nor not "in that"
in Ud 1.10 Bahiya or SN 35.95 Maluṅkyaputta suttas, we might reconsider the translation in SN 22.55:

" It might not be, and it might not be mine. It will not be, and it will not be mine"
no cassaṃ, no ca me siyā,
nābhavissa, na me bhavissatī’ti.

And propose the following translation:
Not of this, (nor) not present in me.
Not to become, (nor) not to become in me.

Of this - (here, “this” is namarupa nidana; the external khandhas.

(स्यात् syāt ] ( 3. sg. Pot. of √ अस् as) - live , exist , be present ; to take place , happen ; to abide , dwell , stay ; to belong to (ŚBr. Mn).

You’ll find that concept, later in Aristotle’s “Catégories”.


Its best to avoid the bewitchment of language - if possible. The way we ask a question can prevent us from finding an answer that works. Its good to recognise the hidden assumptions in the way we think and talk about the Dhamma.

When the power supply to a fan ceases the blades slow down and then they stop. When nibidda arises there is a natural disinterest in wanting, seeking to possess, self-seeking. There is no drive to possess - to gain anything - but there is still kindness and sensitivity to what is taking place (that which comes and goes). When there is no longer a vested interest in getting something the attention is released to see more clearly.

Attention is not-self - there can be no inclining towards something that has no location (Nibbana). There is no inclining towards extinction. There is the exhausting of that which is fuelling the process. The fire of craving is the energy supply that is driving the cyclic fan-blades of ‘samsaric’ existence (becoming). Nothing is inclining in any direction - up down left right in or out.

There can be no inclining from a ‘self’ - in any direction - that cannot be found. Nobody has ever been going anywhere at all. There is only empty phenomena rolling on.

There is nobody who lets go - it happens by itself when there is no more grasping and identification. The sense of self is ‘produced’ through grasping and identification. With sustained reaction-free attention all grasping and identification ceases.

With the ending of grasping and identification all experience ceases. When all formations become still - the fan blades stop spinning - the sense of self ceases. There never was anyone in the drivers seat - its empty.

A practical example may be helpful:

Lets say, there is a ‘perception’ of an attractive human being - it remains as ‘just that’. There is no lusting after the beautiful perception - the perception of beauty.

When attention is freed from lust a clearer-seeing of that which is perceived may arise. A clearer - simpler - form of attention to the state of the ‘being’ that is perceived. There may be ‘suffering’ there in that which is perceived as beautiful?

When the ‘projection’ of desirability and repulsion is absent and, indifference, there is an opportunity to see and respond in a beautiful and selfless way to suffering.

The sensitivity and the kindness that has been freed from craving ‘responds’ to the suffering without seeking or desiring anything. When attention is free of wanting to have and, wanting to get rid of and, indifference, it’s reaction-free. A kind and loving ‘response’ is enabled through letting go of desire. This is truly liberating - the atmosphere of freedom.


We also develop compassion towards the aggregates as/or and they are not ‘beings’. This is still a perfectly valid exercise, as is sila or morality, despite there being no Selves.

with metta


When suffering is seen clearly kindness and compassion arise. Equanimity may arise when no skilful response is needed or possible. Joy may arise when the good, the wholesome, the beneficial appears on the scene.

Is there an ‘atta’ who is experiencing or ‘practicing’ sublime emotions? It’s simply perceived this way by the worldling - a deluded mind. The sublime emotions suffuse a liberated life.

If, on seeing dukkha, no sublime emotion arises then, it means: something that is not sublime is taking place. It could be indifference, aversion or, the desire for something other than dukkha - some kind of escapism.

When there is complete freedom - moksha - there is no need to try to ‘get’ anything or escape anything. What needed to be done, has been done - game over!

The life of a Buddha is suffused with unconditional loving kindness. There is nothing left that could impede the appearance and expression of the Brahma-Viharas when there is an awakening to the way things are.


This is not what the Buddha says in SN 6.38/SA 459).

What you are developing is some sort of modern Cārvāka philosophy, as below, but this is not Buddhism.
This is “materialism”, and this is definitely not what Buddhism is all about.

You are just advocating “bottom-up” emergent properties of mind (as conceived by the western world, viz. the brain).
Firstly, philosophical science has evolved; and secondly, this is not what Buddha says.

Let’s start by the late theory developed in the MIT:

  • There are other worlds ( there are other Dhammas says Buddha - DN 1).
  • the particularity of this world is matter (therefore energy). But there are other worlds with no energy; with no matter. (Buddha says the same).
    However it seems, says the MIT, that there can’t be worlds without information. In other words, the common denominator betwee all these different worlds, including ours (as paticcasamuppada), is information.

Now, let see about this emergent properties of brain, that could be somewhat equated with mano.
Where does Citta (mind/spirit) fits in the dharman that is paticcasamupada?
Isn’t citta existing before mano in the chain of nidanas?

You have to turn to a new philosophical and scientific concept called “information structures” (not the computer related stuff).

Emergence yes ! - but emergence with a purpose.
Purpose. (that good old predominant philosophical concept).
As in building something, able enough to provide housing and processes(es) for something else.
Like a computer program needs a machine, or some support to work on.

The old riddle is still not definitely solved, though . But science gets really closer towards Buddhism’s somewhat transcendantal idealism, than towards Cārvāka’s pure materialism.
The old, powerful, and all around scientific establishment, is about to lose its firm grip on this old-hat concept of “bottom-up” emergent properties, as a mere result of brain.
The grip is firm.

21st century, I suppose.


The Buddha Dhamma is not transcendental anything and its not a form of materialism. Its a middle-way between eternalism and nihilism.


It is not a middle way, as you conceive it. It is neither eternalism, nor nihilism.
In other words, things exist when they arise (eternalism), and don’t exist when they disappear (nihilism). This is actually what the suttas say.
This is the middle way. Just a “no necessary bickering”.
There is no “between”.

You are mixing things up.
The somewhat transcendantal idealism, has nothing to do with this eternalism/nihilism (no fuss) stuff.


The Buddha did not teach transcendental idealism - period. You may be thinking of the western philosophers mentioned in the following link when you refer to transcendental idealism:


O gee ! The dreaded (Jimmy’s short & so personal view) one page Wikipedia.

I’m not much for logorrhea either (which, by the way is a sickness, that sometimes can strike an entire nation, and which seems to be highly contagious) - therefore, I would suggest you to read the Prolegomena, which is a quite short read, (and that Russel considered as a must read) .
You might understand what I meant.

To put it simply, your Wikipedia page seems to address only the salayatana part of Kant transcendental idealism. Which, by the way seems a bit normal, when we know how close “jimbo” is to the sensual world.

May I add that I said “somewhat” transcendental idealism.

There are indeed, quite some similarities between Kant’s transcendental idealism, and the becoming of the world in Buddhism or Samkhya.


I like your sense of humour, best wishes with your practice. :heart_eyes:


My two cents:

You only ever truly observe anatta, since all dhammas lack self. However, the mind tends to add a subtle “identity-layer” to phenomena (and in particular what is interpreted as me/mine), in line with identity view. Mindfulness, for instance of body, may lead to this layer dropping away, causing you to notice for the first time what has always been that way. It will happen more easily if you have cultivated some inner stillness through concentration practice and living the precepts, but full blown jhana mastery is not needed for this insight, and having it does not make you an arahant. It may mark stream entry provided the other mental factors of the path have been cultivated such that liberation has become inevitable when the insight occurs.


These seem to be assumptions @Vidar.
But suttas do not deal with assumptions, but facts.

SN 22.85/SA 104 proves that there is a spiritual atta. Something different from the impermanent and empty body (Ka-iya).
Something different than impermanent matter.

Buddha never meant that the (personal pronoun) atta, could not be a (spiritual) atta - Anatta is just the error to identify with the khandhas, and to make this identification a spiritual atta; viz. permanent & blissful.
In other words, khandhas are not (spiritual) self. Khandhas are anatta (not-(spiritual) self).

This is what SN 22.85/SA 104 says clearly.
Clearly and Straightforwardly.

Buddha just never pronounced Himself on the nature of the Atta - the “big” Spiritual Self.
Because the avyakata is beyond words (Snp 5.7. Upasīva­māṇava­pucchā).

To see directly what anatta is, is to see the impermanence and the ensuing dukkha nature of the khandhas.
Viz. the second step of the eliminations.
The first step being the elimination of the “I am this”. Viz. the appropriation of the clinging khandhas as mine.


What do you mean by full blown jhana mastery? The same principle applies (see below):

The process of ‘observation’ is not-self. Like all ‘phenomena’ (dhammas*) it appears and disappears, comes and goes, arises and ceases.

Jhana is a ‘dhamma’ (a phenomena). As such, ‘jhanas’ (meditative absorptions) arise and cease. Therefore, jhanic states are wonderful and, unsatisfactory. They are a temporary solution to an ongoing problem (becoming). Cyclic existence is unpredictable - blissful and expansive ‘states’ do not last.

There is no ‘atta’ that observes anything. There is no ‘atta’ that has mastery of anything - period. Given the right causes and supportive conditions there is an impermanent display of phenomena - empty - without essence. There is nobody in the drivers seat and there is nobody in the passengers seat who is undertaking a journey to anywhere at all.

*“lit. the ‘bearer’, constitution (or nature of a thing), norm, law (jus), doctrine; justice, righteousness; quality; thing, object of mind (s. āyatana) ‘phenomenon’. In all these meanings the word ‘dhamma’ is to be met with in the texts.” - Wikipedia


While this is obviously true the mind of theravadins also adds a suble layer of anatta to phenomena.


Only if their knowledge is purely theory based -otherwise what atta in these forces of nature?! :smile:

with metta