Sabbe dhamma anatta

Hi Martin,

There is experience of sa-upadisesa nibbāna dhatu, sukha and peace, while an awakened one is while alive – that is, while the senses and aggregates are still present. But since they’re conditional, they’re dukkha, so there’s still that remnant of dukkha that’s experienced.

This ends after parinibbāna, anupadisesa nibbāna dhatu, when all experience ceases. Hence, no dukkha.

We might say that instead of taking nibbāna as some “thing” to attain it’s more about extinguishment – of the defilements and then of all dukkha.
The extinguishment of defilements is the hetu of the peace and sukha of awakening, and the extinguishment of all conditions after parnibbāna is, as Sariputta said in AN9.34:

"Extinguishment is bliss!”
Sukhamidaṁ, āvuso, nibbānan’ti”

“But Reverend Sāriputta, what’s blissful about it, since nothing is felt?”
“kiṁ panettha, āvuso sāriputta, sukhaṁ yadettha natthi vedayitan”ti?

“The fact that nothing is felt is precisely what’s blissful about it.
Etadeva khvettha, āvuso, sukhaṁ yadettha natthi vedayitaṁ."

MN1 says:“He directly knows Nibbāna as Nibbāna"

So we do not have to doubt that Nibbana can be directly known.

But it is not known as we know a sense object. It is not known as a vedana or sensation that can be neutral, painful or pleasant. It is not that there can be sense contact with Nibbana as object.
The peace of Nibbana is nor a sukha vedana nor a somannassa vedana. It is no vedana at all. Peace is also never felt. Peace is not felt as a sensation, right? Peace is known but not felt as sensation.

I believe, Nibbana is what we know best. We all know best this element of stilling, emptiness, peace, dispassion, coolness in our lifes. But somehow we just are so much obsessed with all that is seen arising and ceasing, that the asankhata element just totally escapes our attention.
This element is not a khandha.

The idea that Buddha taught there are only khandha’s, only sankhata, is not supported by EBT but somehow people have developed this idea.

As simple as it may . Sankhara refers to formation and dhamma refers to all things .

1 Like

And this makes sense to you?

Mind sharing what makes sense to you ?

Nothing much makes sense to me, Max. And less as time goes on. I’m interested to know if asking the question and reading the answers actually made anything clearer for you. And I still can’t tell from your responses.

Dont know if this makes sense to you .
Each link in paticca-samuppada is itself a formation (sabbe sankhara) in which are impermanent and dukkha and everything (sabbe dhamma) that which arises are of not self .

The formula of the three seals often gives people trouble if they come at it with a literalist/substantialist view. They read the words and immediately start believing this to be a literal metaphysical description of the world; the question then becomes how to understand this literal metaphysical description of the world? But is it?

Let’s analyze this as a literalist description of the world starting with the first seal:

  1. sabbe sankhara anicca - all conditioned things are impermanent

Taking this literalist description to the extreme, we can pursue the maximum metaphysical interpretation of the are by understanding it as a mathematical equivalence relation between the referent of the words “conditioned thing” and “impermanent.” In pseudo-code:

for all (conditioned things T in things)
    assert(T == impermanent)

The ‘==’ here stands for an equivalence relation and thus it must satisfy three properties:

  1. reflexivity - in order to understand this in simple terms, take as an example the relation “is equal to” on the set of integers; this simply means that all integers are equal to themselves: {5 == 5, -2 == -2}. For our context, it means that the referent of the words conditioned thing must be equal to itself and that the referent of the word impermanent must be equal to itself.

  2. symmetry - in simple terms, this just means that not only must the referent of the words ‘conditioned thing’ be equal to the referent of the word impermanent, but also that the referent of the word impermanent must be equal to the referent of the words ‘conditioned thing.’

  3. transitivity - this means that for two referents of the words ‘conditioned thing’ {A, B), if A == impermanent and B == impermanent, then A == B.

With a little careful thought it is clear that this is problematic in the case of the first seal. While the reflexive relation might hold, the symmetrical and transitive relations decidedly do not. Moreover, in terms of type theory this equivalence is totally wrong. The referents under analysis here are clearly of very different types.

In terms of symmetry, it simply isn’t the case that the valid basis for designation of ‘car’ for instance is the same thing as valid basis for designation of ‘impermanent’ which might also be designated as ‘temporally limited’. We can’t replace the word ‘car’ with ‘temporally limited’ in each and every context and hope to make sense when speaking to the world at large, “How did you get to work today? Oh, I drove my temporally limited.” :joy:

It also isn’t the case that mathematical transitivity works with the first seal. ‘Car’ and ‘dog’ are not equivalent even though they are both ‘temporally limited.’

So I hope you can see that taking the maximal literalist approach of interpreting that ‘are’ in the first seal as representing mathematical equivalence does not work. A little more careful thought and it is fairly easy to see that the same is true for the other two seals.

Which leaves us with the question: what kind of work did the Teacher intend in his usage of the verb are in describing the three seals? To what extent should we use a literalist reading? How should we understand this verb are in these three contexts? Is he trying to describe a metaphysical equivalence?

I’m trying to point out that not only should we ask ourselves what the Teacher intended as the referent of the word ‘sankhara’ and ‘dhamma’ and why he seemingly changed it up, but also what did he intend by using the verb are? Why are we so sure this was intended as a metaphysical description of the world? We’ve seen that the maximalist work that ‘are’ could be put to renders the seals non-functional. Interpretation is required.

It is my hypothesis that by concentrating on analyzing what was intended by the verb are, that the mysteries of what was intended by ‘sankhara’ and ‘dhamma’, may also be clarified to some extent. It is my further hypothesis that the Teacher had zero interest or intent to describe a metaphysical description of the world or anything in it.

If not a metaphysical description of the world and not a literalist interpration, what happens if we focus on the intent behind the words? An illustrative example that might shed light might come from SN 22.136 where we get another example of the Teacher using the verb are:

At Sāvatthī.
“Mendicants, form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness are burning chaff.
Seeing this, a learned noble disciple grows disillusioned with form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness.
Being disillusioned, desire fades away. When desire fades away they’re freed. When they’re freed, they know they’re freed.
They understand: ‘Rebirth is ended, the spiritual journey has been completed, what had to be done has been done, there is no return to any state of existence.’”

SN 22.136

It is pretty easy to accept a non-literalist reading of this sutta :joy: The Teacher did not intend a mathematical equivalency relation between the five aggregates and burning chaff. Form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness are not literally burning chaff. The reason the Teacher used these words to describe the five aggregates was to inspire disillusionment with respect to these aggregates.

I contend that a similar intent was behind the declaration of the three seals, not a metaphysical description of the world. The Teacher was not interested in metaphysics or mathematical equivalences etc. He was interested in inspiring sentient beings to make an end of suffering by making an end of desire, greed, hatred, craving, and the defilements.

Hope this might be of some use.


But why, if they’re not dukkha? :thinking:


1 Like

Because craving after them leads to dukkha arising :slight_smile: :pray:

1 Like

Craving and ignorance lead to the arising of the senses and aggregates, that is, “to dukkha arising.”

:slightly_smiling_face: :pray:

Hope you’re well, my friend. :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

I know we disagree my friend :slight_smile: Just like the aggregates are not literally burning chaff they are not literally suffering. When my body shivers from contact with the crisp beautiful morning air that is not suffering literally shivering. Suffering doesn’t shiver :slight_smile: It is a typing mistake to believe that suffering can shiver. Craving after the aggregates and desiring them does lead to suffering though. :pray:

So shivering itself is not dukkha ! Are you saying shivering causing mental distress and that distress is dukkha ?

No. It doesn’t make sense to me. And I find it interesting that you think what you’ve just written does make sense.

But, suppose, a Buddha literally knows (directly knows) that when there is nothing sensed nor felt, i.e. when there are no sense-vinnana’s arising and no vedana’s that accompany them,he knows this as the bliss of the most ultimate peace. Not the peace of being unconsciousness (@Jasudho holds the view that when there is no sensing one must be unconscious) but just peace, dispassion, the stilling of all formation, cessation. Being one, as is it were, with the asankhata element. A state of non-aggregation. Emptiness. That is what is hard to see and described here:

This Dhamma that I have attained is profound, hard to see and hard to understand, peaceful and sublime, unattainable by mere reasoning, subtle, to be experienced by the wise. But this generation delights in attachment, takes delight in attachment, rejoices in attachment. It is hard for such a generation to see this truth, namely, specific conditionality, dependent origination. And it is hard to see this truth, namely, the stilling of all formations, the relinquishing of all acquisitions, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, Nibbāna

i believe this fragment says: a Buddha knows to elements perfectly
-sankhata, whatever has the nature to arise and cease and change, he knows this
-asankhata, whaterver has the opposite nature, he also knows that.

I believe this second truth can really be seen, known, not intellectually, but directly. Nibbana, cessation, stilling can be directly known (MN1).

I believe, when it is known one also can say that the arising, ceasing, and the path to cessation of the khandha’s is known now. I think, compared the bliss of the stilling of all formation, a state with still formations arising and ceasing, such of the arahant while alive, is still a little bit disturbed (as MN121 also says).

In a logical way stilling of formations (i.e the element of asankhata) and formations (sankata) cannot go together but in an experiential way it can. In our lifes both elements are never absent, right, sankhata and asankhata. It is because we know what is not a formation subject to arising…that we can speak of formations subject to arising. Mindfullness can see greed arising (for example) but does never see all arising, that is also impossible. There must be something not arising to see all formations arising. But this can also been seen for oneself. This is no theory. There is no person in the entire world that can really valide and defend that he/shee sees all arising.

It is not that stilling and formations really exclude eachother. Or non-movement and movement Or the conditioned and unconditioned.

Yeshe is now really in awe :innocent:

Why dont you present something make sense .


I’d like to clarify, that “being unconscious” is not liberation, as the defilements are still present.
That’s why the word “cessation” is used.

With the cessation of consciousness, as in saññāvedayitanirodha, some practitioners assert that there is yet another “element” that can be experienced. This reifies asankhata into a “something” that has been labeled as “timeless citta”, “knowing”, “awareness beyond time and space”…

Others see "… cessation, Nibbāna (which means extinguishment), as the cessation/extinguishment which can be realized and enjoyed in life by awakened ones as the cessation of all defilements – this can clearly be known – and cessation/extinguishment after parinibbāna as the cessation/extinguishment of all dukkha.

It’s not just about being “unconscious.”

No, shivering is not dukkha. Shivering is one thing and suffering another. Dependent upon shivering, a mind experiencing shivering, aversion for that shivering, suffering may arise. Shivering and suffering are not metaphysically equivalent.

Shivering is an involuntary trembling of the body caused by muscle contractions.

Shivering is not a necessary nor sufficient condition to the arising of suffering.

However, that is not what I was trying to communicate when I mentioned shivering in the first place. The contention by another was that the body and suffering are metaphysically equivalent. That the body is literally suffering incarnate. My example of shivering was to counter this contention.

It is the body that shivers not suffering. Suffering does not shiver. Saying the body is metaphysically equivalent with suffering would imply that suffering literally shivers, but that isn’t the case.

Hope this clarifies.


My perception is like this: some people, some buddhist, just refuse to admit that also in their lifes and mind there is that element or aspect of what is not seen or known as arising, ceasing, changing.
Call it an aspect of emptiness, stillness, signless, peace that is not like a formation seen arising, ceasing and changing. For some reason they just refuse to admit that this asankhata element or aspect is part of their reality. They reduce reality to formations. This seems to be their conscious decision. I feel they are not really open towards what they really experience and know. For some reason, asankhata may not be part of that. Why not?

About vinnana and mind. You know, i know, that we cannot say that when there are no perceptions and feelings (no vinnana’s), there is no mind. You know that, i know that. But you refuse to accept that mind and vinnana cannot be the same. You keep insisting…no sense-vinnana’s…no mind.
Apparantly some theory is more liked?

The same with sannavedaytinirodha. There is no reason to believe that sensing something is the same as the basic knowing ability of the mind. No, that knowing ability is more subtle. It refers to the ability of mind to receive info. Its receptivity, its sensivitiy. Vinnana’s cannot arise without this basic function of the mind. Also in deep sleep, when there are are no sense vinnana’s arising, it is NOT that mind has lost its knowing ability or lost its basic function of sensitivity and receptivitiy. Likewise, there is also no reason to believe that in sannavedayitanirodha minds knowing ability ceases. It is much more likely, like teachers say, that mind is now absorbed in her own subtle knowing nature. It has become one with its sensitivity, and that show to be an ultimate peace and bliss. But do not think this about this as something experiences from a first person perspective.

It seems you didnt define suffering ie dukkha ?