Sabbe dhamma anatta

Hi ,

“sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara dukkha, sabbe dhamma anatta” , it seems here sankhara and dhamma refers to different aspects , maybe someone can help to explain how does both differs ?


According to “The Mirror of the Dhamma” Nārada Thera,

the Buddha used the term dhammā instead of saṅkhārā in order to include both conditioned things and the unconditioned ( = Nibbāna).

In my experience, sabbe dhammā is like ‘all things’, like conceptual objects not being self, as in “sights aren’t me, eye isn’t me” (in general).

While saṅkhārā means ‘all that arises’ as it happens to you:
All that arises is impermanent because it goes away.
All that arises is suffering as one attaches to it.

In my opinion, each of these 3 phrases link and support each other as well. Permanent things can’t be you because your experience is composed of what arises, and what arises can’t be you because they merely go away, and it’s worth giving up what arises because they are suffering.

For more insight, the full phrase is “sabbe etc.; when one realizes this with wisdom, suffering goes away - this is the path of purity.”


Hi , thanks . But it seems Nibbana itself is just a metaphor , it isnt a state that can be affirm as something permanently exist . Nibbana is a relative term referring to when someone still alive yet without asavas only . It isnt a “thing” or “object” isnt it ?

It’s only ontologically a thing. In reality, it’s really the (permanent) lack of things, but either way, nibbana is still not-self.


There’s an older essay on the topic which I found helpful.


It looks like the phrase “sabbe dhamma anatta” appear to be something irrational , unjustified and unnecessary just so to make way for the 3 characteristics to include nibbana simply because the five aggregates are the main theme of contemplation and not nibbana .

How do you know the intention was to include just nibbāna? The quote was just the author’s opinion, and the only other reference in the Pali canon to nibbāna being not-self is in one place in a Theravada text.

The honest answer is: It depends on which teacher you listen to, and which lineage you meet.

"That wise mendicant here
rid of desire and lust,
has found the deathless peace,
extinguishment, the imperishable state".

From the practice view it’s vital to hold the conceptual idea of nibbana as that enables a resort alternative from the suffering of samsara. This is recommended for example in Anguttara 11.13 where the lay beginner is exhorted to specific practices resulting in "a sense of the goal " which means cultivating a sense of nibbana.

“gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma.”

More experienced practitioners know you can take actions based on the permanency of nibbana, and observe the verifying results.

1 Like

“sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara dukkha, sabbe dhamma anatta”

Is this statement of words found in SN/SA suttas?

Reverend Channa, form,
“rūpaṁ kho, āvuso channa, aniccaṁ;

vedanā aniccā;

saññā aniccā;

saṅkhārā aniccā;

and consciousness are impermanent.
viññāṇaṁ aniccaṁ.

Rūpaṁ anattā;

vedanā …

saññā …

saṅkhārā …

and consciousness are not-self.
viññāṇaṁ anattā.

All conditions are impermanent.
Sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā;

All things are not-self.”
sabbe dhammā anattā”ti.

SN22.90 Channasutta

1 Like

This “sabbe sankhara dukkha” is not in the sutta SN 22.90.

They are here:
Dhp277 Dhp278 Dhp279

@thomaslaw @Max


He was asking for SN/SA

Discourse on Dukkha SA87

“Monks, is bodily form permanent or impermanent?”

The monks said to the Buddha: “It is impermanent, Blessed One.”

The Buddha said: “Monks, what is impermanent, is it dukkha?”

The monks said to the Buddha: “It is dukkha, Blessed One.”

The Buddha said: “Monks, what is impermanent, dukkha, of a nature to change, would a learned noble disciple herein regard it as the self, as distinct from the self in the sense of being owned by it, as existing within the self, or the self as existing within it?“

The monks said to the Buddha: “No, Blessed One.”

It’s in AN 3.136, full 3 sentences:

'sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā’ti
'sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhā’ti
'sabbe dhammā anattā’ti

in MN 35 and SN 22.90 only have 2 sentences:

'sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā’ti
'sabbe dhammā anattā’ti

in SN 44.10 only has 1 sentence:

'sabbe dhammā anattā’ti

Anyway, from anicca to dukkha is inevitable. So, even with 2 sentences, the meaning is still not different with 3 sentences.


Just asking some questions

If I crush a dough nut in to a dough ball does the hole perish? If I again make the dough ball in to a dough nut does the hole arise?.. Is it correct to say regarding the hole, ‘Uppajjitva nirujjanti’ ?

What if we say, ‘Sabbe dhamma anicca’ and someone else says Ah! That’s debatable, You can burn the tables but can you burn the idea of ‘table’ which the manayatana grasps? And not least, would it not clash with statements such like
‘Yavata, bhikkhave, dhamma sankhata va asankhata va, virago tesam aggamakkhayati’?

What if an outsider asetic for example manages to diagnose the vedayita lakkhana that is to say Vedana, and says, there certainly is a Diversity of experience but this quality of experiencing is never let aside, that is what I am?

1 Like

I analysed sabbe dhama annata in this thread:

Basically this phrase is late, contested in the material itself (i.e Anandas responsento channa) and therefore probably not from the earliest strata of tge teaching.

The problem is the predicate “All”.

The i think clearly earlier phrase is

“All that is subject to arising is subject to cessation”

Here the predicate has a scope, it works very naturally with conditionality.

If you can co about saying “all” in an unqualified way then you slip into an absolutism that is anathama to early Buddhism.

The phrase itself is harmless enough if one remembers to sort of mentally squeeze the “arisen” aspect before the “dhamma” term, but it seems people often forget to do that and therfore think they have found a “metaphysical anatta” in the suttas.

But by the abayakata we have

Not atta (anatta)
Not anatta (an-anatta)
Not both
Not niether

The linked thread has plenty of detail.

1 Like

With your background in philosophy could you please help with these questions below:

  1. From a statement “Self exists” (atthi atta), can we EVER logically come to such a conclusion as “Everything is not self” (sabbe dhammā anattā)?

  2. From a statement “Self does not exist” (natthi atta), can we logically STILL NOT come to such a conclusion as “Everything is not self” (sabbe dhammā anattā)?

1 Like

Hi , What is everything ? If you mean six senses experiences , logically speaking just some experiences . Neither experiences are self or not self . If it is everything that is beyond our experiences how would one know then isnt it ?