Saṅkhārā vs. dhammā in the three characteristics

Hello all,

In the following:

• sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā
• sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhā
• sabbe dhammā anattā,

what is the difference between saṅkhārā and dhammā in this context (and in general too, I suppose) and why the specific qualification of dhammā as anattā and not saṅkhārā, or vice versa?

Thank you.

Kind regards,


You might find this discussion of interest, I’ve been slowly reading through it myself :relaxed::


Nibbana is a dhamma:

Gautama Buddha taught that all beings conditioned by causes (saṅkhāra) are impermanent (anicca) and suffering (dukkha), and that not-self (anattā) characterises all dhammas, meaning there is no “I”, “me”, or “mine” in either the conditioned or the unconditioned (i.e. nibbāna).”—Wikipedia

This often leads to the mistaken interpretation that non-self is more important than impermanence or suffering. In the Buddha’s definitive discourse on non-self, the Anattalakkhana sutta (SN 22.59), is stated that suffering and non-self are founded on impermanence. Knowledge of impermanence gives rise to understanding the other two characteristics. That’s why the order is “anicca, dukkha, anatta.”

This is regarding insight meditation.
dhamma is the static perspective of the meditation theme and sankara the dynamic.
dhamma is your chosen mindfulness topic - you comprehend ‘the topic exists.’ to the extend necessary for its knowledge. There is no arising or disbanding comprehension for dhamma. You don’t try to figure out its origination and its dissolution.
Sankara are the factors you contemplate on its arising and disbanding. Its origination and its stress. Note here you don’t assume ‘it exists’ which will block the contemplation on its origination or its fluctuation.

Same object can be contemplated in different session as dhamma or as sankara.

if you intuitively see an object 'it is just there.", You have a hard time to observe details about it is being disbanding, you should use anatta. otherwise anicca and dukkha.

i.e. Body is your dhamma. You establish your sati as ‘body is here.’ The sensation (or other factors you observe) in the body is your sankara.