How do you directly observe anatta?


SN22.85/SA104 doesn’t indeed say there is a ‘spiritual atta’, or whatever else there is. It simply says there is no atta inside the aggregates and no atta besides them -thereby concretely analytically ruling out there being an atta anywhere at all. Yamaka’s mistaken view was that there was an atta before and after death there will be no atta, and the Buddha proves to him that even now there is no atta (in the aggregates, or even outside the aggregates). Yamaka had been unwilling to give up his wrong view, hence the Buddha having to intercede and explain it to him.

Why do you say: ‘[As] I understand the Dharma taught by the Buddha, an arahant, with the influxes being eradicated, will not exist any­where after the body breaks up at the end of life’? Is that properly spo­ken?”

[Yamaka] replied: “No, venerable Sāriputta.” SA104

So the correct way to say it is…

Sāriputta] asked again: “Yamaka, if you are further asked: ‘Monk, as you earlier declared an evil wrong view, knowing and seeing what has this now all been completely removed?’ What would you answer?”

Yamaka replied: “Venerable Sāriputta, if someone comes and asks, I would answer in this way: ‘The bodily form of an arahant, with the in­fluxes being eradicated, is impermanent. What is impermanent, is dukkha . What is dukkha has become tranquil and become cool, it has for­ever disappeared. Feeling, perception … formations … consciousness is also like this.’ [If] someone comes and asks, I would answer in this way.”

Sāriputta said: “It is well, it is well, monk Yamaka. You should an­swer in this way. Why is that? The bodily form of an arahant, with the influxes being eradicated, is impermanent.

Dukkha arises, dukkha passes away.


No, that is not what Yamaka said. This is what Yamaka said:

Exactly so, friends. As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death.”

Yamaka wrong view is that there is annihilation, and no-existence after death.

That is not what Sariputta says. This is what Sariputta says:

SN 22.85

When the Tathagata is not apprehended by you as real and actual here in this very life, is it fitting for you to declare: ‘As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death’?”

SA 104:

In this way, Yamaka, the Tathāgata as existing truly here and now cannot be gotten at anywhere, cannot be designated any­where. Why do you say: ‘[As] I understand the Dharma taught by the Buddha, an arahant, with the influxes being eradicated, will not exist any­where after the body breaks up at the end of life’?

I think you have not understood the meaning of Sariputta’s previous questions. For they were meant to show to Yamaka that the Tathagata (or the Arahants,) cannot be apprehended (cannot be gotten at or designated anywhere,) as real and actual in this life.

These are textual facts.

As for dukkha is concerned, it will cease when the body of an Arahant will die. For there will be no more khandhas.
There will be no more arising and fading; which is the nature of the khandhas in this very life.


There is no need to cling to or, identify with, a so-called ‘material’ or ‘spiritual’ self - what a relief - nothing to be and nowhere to go.

Apparently, there are some who feel the need to cling to some kind of identity in this life or, a conception of a ‘self’ that transcends this life. May they be well and happy and find what it is they believe they are looking for. The problem may be related to an unwillingness to actually practice the Buddha’s teachings in order to ‘see’ the Dhamma that liberates.


That is not what the suttas are saying.

The suttas say that there is a spiritual self (SN 22.85/SA 104), and that you have to practice to reach it (N8fP), and not to keep coming into this life (aka liberation).

Maybe people will understand better this “annihilationism” thing, by considering the two meanings of the root of ucchijjati, which is √ छिद् chid, and that means either “split” (as in not continuous), as well as to “destroy” (“annihilate”).

I am practicing, and I find your comment pretty “inappropriate” to say the least - so I flagged you.

O gee, I “earned” a first flag. Is that some kind of a reward ?


I did not say anyone in particular is not practicing if, you are practicing, then that’s great. Who is advocating annihilationism? I said nothing about any kind of annihilation of a so-called ‘atta’. We have been discussing the absence of an ‘atta’. There is nothing to annihilate - destroy.

Is there a spiritual-self who would like to post a few spiritual selfies on this thread - it may prove useful. Then, we may get a clearer view of what (it) is - exactly. I think it just scuttled behind the refrigerator!


Doesn’t this clearly show there is no atta anywhere -not here not anywhere?

Adi Shankar, I believe taught a Brahma and non-duality between atma and brahma. Maybe this is closer to your belief, in thinking the Buddha taught a self elsewhere, other than the five aggregates?

with metta
ps- please don’t flag me, this my honest tone of voice!


People are welcome to believe in a spiritual-self if they feel the need. Is there something that we can actually find that corresponds to the term: spiritual-self? The OP asked the question: How do you directly observe anatta?

When something cannot be ‘located’ or observed anywhere - like a spiritual self - then why bother believing in (it) in the first place? The spiritual-self does not correspond to anything that can be identified or demonstrated.


Actually, Brahma is found in tales of rather mythical proportion, in Buddhism.

with metta


Brahma - any being in any state - is not-self.
An empty process rolling on!
The ‘Self’ is a mythical entity.
It features in the ‘personal story’ and beliefs about the great beyond. It ran out from behind the fridge and now its behind the cupboard.


then it might as well not exist.

with metta


But this is not what I quoted - and you truncated my quote, out of context.

What I have quoted is the following:

Note that SN 22.85 says “in this very life”.

Which means it cannot be gotten at anywhere, in this very life (in the here and now).

You are adding this “global anywhere” interpretation of yours.
This is not what the texts say.

And Sariputta adds how can you say that the arahant “does not exist any­where after the body breaks up at the end of life”.
And in this case, anywhere means “other than in this life”

That is the real context. When it is not truncated.


So are you saying the Buddha said atta doesn’t exist in this life, but then suddenly exists after death?

Then I also thought, if atta-braham existed after death, there would be something, someone to cling to- so suffering wouldn’t come to an end, right?

with metta


I am not saying anything.

I just quote Texts with parallels.
But I don’t truncate contexts.

What the Texts say, is that you cannot find a spiritual atta, impermanent and blissful, in the khandhas.
And there is something that exists (hoti, ) somewhere else, after the body breaks up.
That is what the Texts say.

I could care less about that atta-Brahma speculation.
These kinds of speculations are insane endeavours, says the Buddha.

No khandhas, no dukkha.


What does “SA 104” mean?

Navigating the Agamas

@greenTara It means Samyukta Agama (T.99) Discourse No. 104.

There are three main versions of Samyukta Agama: T.99 (SA), T.100 (SA2, BZA), and T.101 (SA3). Others are individual translations.

Navigating the Agamas


It refutes the idea that the death of a realized being means the annihilation of the realized one. The reason why it does not mean annihilation is that there is no truly existent referent for the term “realized being”. It is as empty of self as any other label we use for convenience. In other words, a search for “realized being” will come up empty. Since it doesn’t exist in a substantial way, but only as a conceptual convenience based on distinguishing between pre- and post-realization and imputing terms on this basis, it cannot be annihilated when death occurs.

This is much like the futile discussion of whether or not the universe is eternal. Searching for a substantial, truly existing referent for the term “universe” will turn up nothing. Consequently it is pointless to debate whether an it that cannot be found has a beginning or not.

The idea of a big spiritual self comes from misinterpreting the khanda consciousness as being truly existent. This can often result from deep meditative states, in conjunction with the lack of realization of the emptiness of consciousness, or simply from listening too much to advaita vedanta teachings.

There is no separate, unchanging, truly existing experiencer called consciousness. Consciousness is an abstraction, much like the word weather. The word weather refers to any kind of weather. Rainy, snowy, sunny, etc. While the term is abstract and can mean any kind of weather, actual weather will always be of a particular kind. The same is true of consciousness:

While consciousness refers to any kind of consciousness experienced in dependence on the six sense bases, the consciousness will always be of a particular kind. Pure consciousness is as meaningless as “pure weather”.


I am going to use conventional, normal, everyday language to communicate with people. There is no alternative. What you say about the driver in the driver seat could also be said about the seat, and indeed about any noun whatsoever.

If you insist that I should stop referring to “we”, “me”, “I”, “you”, although I am fully aware of how I am using the terms, then I insist you stop using nouns altogether and refrain from speaking. Obviously this will be quite impractical for you.

If I draw a line across a sheet of paper, dividing it into two halves, I may call the first half A and the second half B. How do I know what A is? It is not B. How do I know what B is? It is not A. This is how language works, extremely simplified. We make distinctions and impute words on the basis of such distinctions, and this distinction making is part of the khanda called perception. In everyday discourse, it is practical to distinguish the physical form typing these words from the rest of subjective experience, and so I do.

This does not imply belief in a self any more than the term “it is raining” implies belief in a substantial “it” that does the raining.


I’m not sure you can base this on the suttas entirely. Yes, there is a sixfold vinnana - but who says that in Pali ‘vinnana’ comprises everything we mean today with the multi-faceted ‘consciousness’ in all its abstractions?

jhanas for example are not well categorized by the suttas. The (unenlightened) experiencer of jhanas is not yet in arupa-ayatanas. Does it mean that jhana is a sal-ayatana experience? Or is an intermediate jhana-ayatana implied but not spelled out?

If it’s beyond the six sense faculties then there are more ‘consciousnesses’ than six (there are anyway as the arupas show - unless you squeeze any paranormal experience into manas). If jhana is within the salayatana then manas has a capacity that is not explicitly covered by the suttas we have.

And when the process of cessation is experienced, again: which ‘consciousness’ is experiencing it?

I’m afraid that only Abhidhamma covers these questions - because the suttas don’t (or at least not consistently). Which means we cannot easily say which ‘consciousnesses’ the suttas know and which not.


Doesn’t manas simply contact dhammas? How is jhana not a dhamma? How is the field of infinite space not a dhamma?

I don’t think we can infer that just because the experience of infinite space is referred to as an ayatana/field that we can’t say that it is contained within the manayatanam/mind-field. I think the word ayatana is a bit messier in its use.


I’m afraid there is nothing simple about it. Attempts so far have failed to show that there is a consistent logic behind the usage of manas, citta, and vinnana in the suttas - sometimes they mean similar phenonema, sometimes different, whereas citta and vinnana seem closer to each other than manas.

Somaratne writes here (p.185) that manas and vinnana are being “perfumed by citta” - as maddeningly poetic this is where we’d hope for clarity I’m afraid this really gets as concrete as the suttas are.

I don’t pretend to have a solution for that (because the suttas don’t), but understanding ayatana as locus of experience we cannot assume either that ayatanas are like babushkas: an ayatana within an ayatana within an ayatana. Nowhere do the suttas say that the endless-space-ayatana is within manayatana. A more simple reading (to me at least) is that leaving the salayatana results in reaching the ākāsānañcāyatana.

I don’t even want to go into the meaning of dhamma in this context. I am offended that the suttas use this word for the object of manas and don’t choose any other word from the rich Indian vocabulary :slight_smile: - the upanishads for example use the much clearer saṃkalpa, i.e. saṅkappa (e.g. in BU 1.5.3, BU 2.4.11, BU 4.5.12) …