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The thorny issue of anatta

anatta
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#157

Yes. I first noticed these progressions in DN33, which provides a progression of progressions from 5, 6 and 7. :open_mouth:

DN33:2.1.140: the perception of impermanence, the perception of suffering in impermanence, the perception of not-self in suffering, the perception of giving up, and the perception of fading away.
DN33:2.2.128: the perception of impermanence, the perception of suffering in impermanence, the perception of not-self in suffering, the perception of giving up, the perception of fading away, and the perception of cessation.
DN33:2.3.25: the perception of impermanence, the perception of not-self, the perception of ugliness, the perception of drawbacks, the perception of giving up, the perception of fading away, and the perception of cessation.

“Marks of existence” is shorthand for “marks of continued existence” where “continued existence” is used in the dependent origination sense. They are essentially Mara’s trade-marks. Perceiving impermanence leads us on a chase for permanence. Perceiving suffering leads us on a chase to non-suffering. Perceiving non-self leads us on a chase to self. Mara’s business is booming.

Looking at the progression of seven, in the middle we see “perception of drawbacks” which is the pivot point in our spiritual search. After that, we see three more perceptions ending in cessation.


#158

I don’t think this aspect is too mysterious. As we discussed there are the ‘philosophical’ suttas that state that e.g. the khandhas are 1. anicca 2.what is anicca must be dukkha 3.what is dukkha must be anatta.

The ‘perception suttas’ transfer the above 3-step-logic into a meditation practice: 1.the perception of anicca 2.the perception of dukkha in what is anicca 3.the perception of anatta in what is dukkha.

It just follows the same exact logic and puts it into the practice of perception-meditations, no?


#159

According to the major part of SN/SA, the Buddha never teaches the idea of “inherently unsatisfactory”.

Dukkha presented in the major part of SN/SA is closely linked to the self-view of craving/attachment. The teachings of anicca, dukkha, anatta in the major part of SN/SA centre mainly on practice and experience for overcoming dukkha in daily life (cf. Mun-keat Choong, Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism, pp. 53, 55 ff.).


#160

The standard formula in the suttas goes as follows, in reference to the aggregates: “What is impermanent is unsatisfactory, and what is unsatisfactory is not fit to be regarded as self”.
This appears to be a straightforward description, not subject to qualification.

Not seeing this, one does regard the aggregates as self, viewing them as me and mine - which then leads to clinging and personal suffering.
Seeing the unsatisfactoriness of the aggregates, one does not cling to them and regard them as self, leading to the cessation of personal suffering.

To me this a logical analysis, supported by the EBT. It does rely on dukkha having different meanings in different contexts (inherently unsatisfactory v. personal suffering), but it is the case that other terms vary in meaning, “sankharas” for example.


#161

I think the quotation you mentioned here does not clearly imply the idea: “inherently unsatisfactory”.

This is because the teaching, what is dukkha is anatta “not-self” (“is not fit to be regarded as self”), is clearly linked to the self-view of craving/attachment.

It means the origin of dukkha lies in craving, in self-view, in self-attachment to impermanent aggregates. The explanation of dukkha follows closely the first noble truth of suffering (SN 56.11 = SA 379) (cf. MK Choong, Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism, p. 236).

What is dukkha is anatta does not imply the idea: “inherently unsatisfactory”.

If one is rid of craving, then there is no dukkha. Hence, anicca is dukkha in the one who holds the self-view of craving.


#162

Sure, the origin of personal suffering lies in craving and clinging, which results from regarding the aggregates as me and mine (self-view). That’s the Second Noble Truth.

What I don’t understand is how you have gone from “what is unsatisfactory is not fit to be regarded as self” to “what is dukkha is anatta”.
Could you show your working on this?


#163

This is well within Buddhist logic, but then the formula
anicca - dukkha --> anatta
is not really hitting the point.

it should be
clinging - samsara - dukkha --> dispassion

Something like “Whatever you cling to, you will be reborn accordingly. But any rebirth is suffering. Therefore eradicate clinging. And here is the path to the eradication of clinging”.


#164

I’m still not seeing the logical basis of “what is dukkha is anatta”, given that dukkha results from the assumption of atta, ie self-view.
I’m still not seeing how “what is dukkha is anatta” derives logically from “what is unsatisfactory is not fit to be regarded as self”.
Also “what is dukkha is anatta” implies that what isn’t dukkha isn’t anatta, and that doesn’t sound right.


#165

No, that’s fallacious reasoning. If what is dukkha is anatta, then the proper contrapositive is that what is not anatta is not dukkha.

What you are saying would be like saying: Rain is wet, therefore what is not rain is not wet. This is silly though, because while it’s true that rain is wet, plenty of other things are also, such as showers, lemonade, soda, milk, the ocean etc.


#166

I did say that it didn’t sound right! I don’t understand your rain analogy, but no worries.
Do you have any thoughts on my other points above?


#167

My rain analogy was poorly written. To put it better I might say:

If it is raining, the front lawn is wet.

This is like saying:

If it is dukkha, it is anatta.

It doesn’t follow from the above that:

If it is not raining, the front lawn is not wet.

For example, the lawn could be wet because the sprinklers were on.

Anyway, as for the rest of your post, I also don’t see why something couldn’t be the substance of one’s person or self just because it is dukkha, except by definition. This is why it seems to me that the three characteristics culminating in anatta must be refuting some ancient Indian conception of Self that by definition was nicca and sukha.


#168

It’s that old question of what anatta is actually negating - Is it self-view, or Atman, or both? Though actually, having read the Upanishads, I suspect Atman would be seen as “beneath” the aggregates. In much the same way that Atman is viewed in the Upanishads as “beneath” the five koshas, or sheaths.


#169

From MN35

How does the good Gotama train disciples? And what are the divisions by which a great part of the good Gotama’s instructions for disciples proceeds?”

“Thus do I, Aggivessana, train disciples, and by such divisions does the great part of my instruction for disciples proceed: ‘Material shape, monks, is impermanent, feeling is impermanent, perception is impermanent, the habitual tendencies are impermanent, consciousness is impermanent. Material shape, monks, is not self, feeling is not self, perception is not self, the habitual tendencies are not self, consciousness is not self; all conditioned things are impermanent, all things are not self.’ Thus, Aggivessana, do I train disciples, and by such divisions does the great part of my instruction for disciples proceed.

But I, good Gotama, speak thus: ‘Material shape is my self, feeling is my self, perception is my self, the habitual tendencies are my self, consciousness is my self.’”

“Well then, Aggivessana, I will question you in return about this matter. You may answer me as you please. What do you think about this, Aggivessana? Would a noble anointed king, such as King Pasenadi of Kosala or such as King Ajātasattu of Magadha, the son of the lady of Videhā, have power in his own territory to put to death one deserving to be put to death, to plunder one deserving to be plundered, to banish one deserving to be banished?”

“Good Gotama, a noble anointed king, such as King Pasenadi of Kosala or such as King Ajātasattu of Magadha, the son of the lady of Videhā, would have power in his own territory to put to death one deserving to be put to death, to plunder one deserving to be plundered, to banish one deserving to be banished. Why, good Gotama, even among these companies and groups, namely of the Vajjis and Mallas, there exists the power in their own territories to put to death one deserving to be put to death, to plunder one deserving to be plundered, to banish one deserving to be banished. How much more then, a noble anointed king, such as King Pasenadi of Kosala or such as King Ajātasattu of Magadha, the son of the lady of Videhā? He would have the power, good Gotama, and he deserves to have the power.”

“What do you think about this, Aggivessana? When you speak thus: ‘Material shape is my self,’ have you power over this material shape of yours (and can say), ‘Let my material shape be thus”, ‘Let my material shape be not thus’?” When this had been said, Saccaka, the son of Jains, became silent.

This is not so, good Gotama.”

“Pay attention, Aggivessana. When you have paid attention, Aggivessana, answer. For your last speech does not agree with your first, nor your first with your last. What do you think about this, Aggivessana? Is material shape permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, good Gotama.”

“But is what is impermanent anguish or is it happiness?”

“Anguish, good Gotama.”

“But is it fitting to regard that which is impermanent, anguish, liable to change as ‘This is mine, this am I, this is my self’?”

“This is not so, good Gotama.”

What do you think about this, Aggivessana? Does he who is cleaving to anguish, attached to anguish, clinging to anguish regard anguish as ‘This is mine, this am I, this is my self’?—and further, could he comprehend his own anguish or could he dwell having brought anguish to destruction?”

“How could this be, good Gotama? This is not so, good Gotama.”

[“What do you think about this, Aggivessana? Are not you cleaving to anguish, attached to anguish, clinging to anguish regarding anguish as ‘This is mine, this am I, this is my self’?” “How could this not be, good Gotama? This is so, good Gotama.” ]

:pray::pray::pray:

Both Pali words Anicca and Anatta carry connotations beyond their simple English translations. Anicca has undertones of ‘undependable’ and of ‘being uncertain’ or ‘changing without warning’ in addition to “Impermanence”. Anatta has undertones of ‘lack of complete control’ and ‘without any ultimate essence’ over and beyond just “Not Self”.


#170

My ‘off the cuff’, one paragraph, attempt at causality with reference to Not Self and Dukkha.

Everything conditioned is impermanent, what is impermanent means that both suffering and happiness are out of control… (nothing is permanent). Wordlings have preferences (craving) and this drives intention and choices. The Will is activated to pursue the pleasant and avoid the unpleasant. When one realises that ‘oneself’ is insubstantial and unable to ensure only pleasurable (or any specified) states of being, one sees dukkha is inescapable (because one will, by necessity, have to endure the unpleasant). Ultimately, and at a minimum, every life cycle involves the suffering of sickness, old age, and death. This is much bigger inescapable Dukkha. But, having seen through the delusions of craving (for pleasure) (for self), then the realisation of the causes and conditions for liberation from suffering comes about. No self to crave. No craving to activate will and consciousness, to activate sankharas and sense of self… > Nibbana :smiley:

LOL :rofl:
I know the order of causality is a bit out of whack (see references DO DL articles above), but I hope you get the picture :wink:

I would take it as a kindness, if those with a better understanding of the words of the Buddha, would point out any errors/flaws of the above :pray: :dharmawheel:

Added: Additionally, because the mechanisms of craving lead to unskillful behaviours, they also increase and perpetuate the dukkha… so going down this path (of delusion) one generates more dukkha for ‘oneself’ (chasing things that will not lead to peace and happiness) …


#171

Here is SN 22.59.

"At one time the Buddha was staying near Benares, in the deer park at Isipatana. There the Buddha addressed the group of five mendicants:

“Mendicants!”

“Venerable sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“Mendicants, form is not-self. For if form were self, it wouldn’t lead to affliction. And you could compel form: ‘May my form be like this! May it not be like that!’ But because form is not-self, it leads to affliction. And you can’t compel form: ‘May my form be like this! May it not be like that!’

Feeling is not-self …

Perception is not-self …

Choices are not-self …

Consciousness is not-self. For if consciousness were self, it wouldn’t lead to affliction. And you could compel consciousness: ‘May my consciousness be like this! May it not be like that!’ But because consciousness is not-self, it leads to affliction. And you can’t compel consciousness: ‘May my consciousness be like this! May it not be like that!’

What do you think, mendicants? Is form permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, sir.”

“But if it’s impermanent, is it suffering or happiness?”

“Suffering, sir.”

“But if it’s impermanent, suffering, and perishable, is it fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, I am this, this is my self’?”

“No, sir.”

“Is feeling permanent or impermanent?” …

“Is perception permanent or impermanent?” …

“Are choices permanent or impermanent?” …

“Is consciousness permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, sir.”

“But if it’s impermanent, is it suffering or happiness?”

“Suffering, sir.”

“But if it’s impermanent, suffering, and perishable, is it fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, I am this, this is my self’?”

“No, sir.”

“So you should truly see any kind of form at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near: all form—with right understanding: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’

Any kind of feeling at all …

Any kind of perception at all …

Any kind of choices at all …

You should truly see any kind of consciousness at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near: all consciousness—with right understanding: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’

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.’”

That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, the group of five mendicants were happy with what the Buddha said. And while this discourse was being spoken, the minds of the group of five mendicants were freed from defilements by not grasping".

With Metta


#172

The Pali term for “unsatisfactory” (also “suffering”) is “dukkha”. The basic Pali term for “not fit to be regarded as self” is anatta “not-self” or anattaniya “not belonging to self”. Hance, I use this way: What is dukkha is anatta, and also, what is dukkha is anatta does not imply the idea: “inherently unsatisfactory”.

There are many terms for the notion of anatta “not-self” (See the MK Choong’s book pp. 57-60). One of the expressions is “this is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self” (n’etam mama, n’eso 'ham asmi, na m’eso attaa ti) (p. 58).

You may read SN 22.59 carefully, posted by Nimal, above.


#173

I doubt that SN 22.59 could represent the whole of anatta teaching. It’s an odd exceptional argument appearing only in this sutta, if I see correctly.

Still, if we accept it, the argument says “If my body was atta I could change it at will”. But then doesn’t the will-to-change represent the ‘self’ (as we commonly understand it) much more than the object ‘body’?

Or in other words: anything I can change at will simply cannot be my ‘self’. Who would mistake a lump of wet clay in my hands as their ‘self’? So either the argument is very wrong, or this exceptional content is somehow corrupt, or atta doesn’t mean ‘self’ in the way we usually understand it (i.e. an intuitive sense of self).


#174

Living beings have an inherent notion of a permanent entity residing somewhere in them. The commonest way that this notion is expressed is through the linguistic medium of “self”. “Will” IMO is nothing but an offshoot of the same notion.
The Buddha explains the lack of such a permanent entity as self or will by the above questioning. Simply stated, if there is a self in me I must have control over it. That means I should be able to say to my form " hey, be this way, and not that way". The reason why I cannot do so (or even if I say so, my form does not listen and it does whatever it wants which means sickness, old age and death) is because there is no such entity as self or will.
In short all living beings are just formations come to being due to causes and when the causes cease the formations cease. And Dependent Origination shows how this causal conditioning operates without a self or anything similar but with only suffering as a result.
With Metta


#175

Can you change your body at will?

Anything you (I) can change at will can simply be your (my) “self” indeed. But, can you change anything at will? Eg. can you at will change your ageing, unattractive body?


#176

But that is only a problem if you think of your body as being your self. If you view yourself as being other than the body, then what’s the problem?
Similarly, if you view yourself as being other than the aggregates (beneath the aggregates), then what’s the problem?
The whole argument seems rather contrived to me. Not very convincing.