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The thorny issue of anatta

anatta
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#64

Thank you for the references :pray:
Also I keep suggesting people read the article by Ajahn Brahmali, it is very thorough using a large variety of sutta references. So that this discussion can be grounded in EBTs rather than just views :slightly_smiling_face:

Yes, I just chose to use other words as sankhara can be understood in many ways :slightly_smiling_face:
Metta


#65

I will definitely do it, but I have so much to look at with this discussion haha! Thank you all for your fascinating answers, real food for the mind. :pray:


#66

I feel a need - or should I say a need is felt - to consider the role of language much more thoroughly. It’s a truism that as human subjects we are confined within whichever langauge system(s) we happen to operate with. Whether it’s possible to think without language is a contested matter but to communicate without a semiotic system of some kind - and language is the most fine-tuned of all semiotic systems - isn’t possible.

So, what can I, we, one do? What can be done? The personal pronouns available to me in English (and the limited range of grammatical constructions available for avoiding them) condition how I understand and ask this question. Deep meditation is needed to get past them all.

That was a general comment on the discussion. I too am grateful for the ideas and references that have been contributed. :pray:


#67

SN 22:7. Anxiety Because of Grasping

At Sāvatthī.

“Mendicants, I will teach you how grasping leads to anxiety, and how not grasping leads to freedom from anxiety. Listen and pay close attention, I will speak.”

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

“And how does grasping lead to anxiety? It’s when an uneducated ordinary person has not seen the noble ones, and is neither skilled nor trained in the teaching of the noble ones. They’ve not seen good persons, and are neither skilled nor trained in the teaching of the good persons. They regard form as self, self as having form, form in self, or self in form. But that form of theirs decays and perishes, and consciousness latches on to the perishing of form. Anxieties occupy their mind, born of latching on to the perishing of form, and originating in accordance with natural principles. So they become frightened, worried, concerned, and anxious because of grasping.

They regard feeling as self …

They regard perception as self …

They regard choices as self …

They regard consciousness as self, self as having consciousness, consciousness in self, or self in consciousness. But that consciousness of theirs decays and perishes, and consciousness latches on to the perishing of consciousness. Anxieties occupy their mind, born of latching on to the perishing of consciousness, and originating in accordance with natural principles. So they become frightened, worried, concerned, and anxious because of grasping. That’s how grasping leads to anxiety.

And how does not grasping lead to freedom from anxiety? It’s when an educated noble disciple has seen the noble ones, and is skilled and trained in the teaching of the noble ones. They’ve seen good persons, and are skilled and trained in the teaching of the good persons. They don’t regard form as self, self as having form, form in self, or self in form. When that form of theirs decays and perishes, consciousness doesn’t latch on to the perishing of form. Anxieties—born of latching on to the perishing of form and originating in accordance with natural principles—don’t occupy their mind. So they don’t become frightened, worried, concerned, or anxious because of grasping.

They don’t regard feeling as self …

They don’t regard perception as self …

They don’t regard choices as self …

They don’t regard consciousness as self … When that consciousness of theirs decays and perishes, consciousness doesn’t latch on to the perishing of consciousness. Anxieties—born of latching on to the perishing of consciousness and originating in accordance with natural principles—don’t occupy their mind. So they don’t become frightened, worried, concerned, or anxious because of grasping. That’s how not grasping leads to freedom from anxiety.”
SuttaCentral

SN 22:99. A Leash

At Sāvatthī.

“Mendicants, transmigration has no known beginning. No first point is found of sentient beings roaming and transmigrating, hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.

There comes a time when the ocean dries up and evaporates and is no more. But still, I say, there is no making an end of suffering for sentient beings roaming and transmigrating, hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.

There comes a time when Sineru the king of mountains is burned up and destroyed, and is no more. But still, I say, there is no making an end of suffering for sentient beings roaming and transmigrating, hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.

There comes a time when the great earth is burned up and destroyed, and is no more. But still, I say, there is no making an end of suffering for sentient beings roaming and transmigrating, hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.

Suppose a dog on a leash was tethered to a strong post or pillar. It would just keep running and circling around that post or pillar.

In the same way, take an uneducated ordinary person who has not seen the noble ones, and is neither skilled nor trained in their teaching. They’ve not seen good persons, and are neither skilled nor trained in their teaching. They regard form … feeling … perception … choices … consciousness as self, self as having consciousness, consciousness in self, or self in consciousness. They just keep running and circling around form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness. Doing so, they’re not freed from form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness. They’re not freed from rebirth, old age, and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress. They’re not freed from suffering, I say.

An educated noble disciple has seen the noble ones, and is skilled and trained in the teaching of the noble ones. They’ve seen good persons, and are skilled and trained in the teaching of the good persons. They don’t regard form … feeling … perception … choices … or consciousness as self, self as having consciousness, consciousness in self, or self in consciousness. They don’t keep running and circling around form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness. By not doing so, they’re freed from form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness. They’re freed from rebirth, old age, and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress. They’re freed from suffering, I say.”
SuttaCentral


#68

Without getting too hung up on words is it possible to get a practical glimpse in to how seeing anicca, dukkha or anatta can lead to liberation? I think it is possible, especially when the mind is totally obsessed by the ‘nivaranas’ and a desire arises for some relief.

Some times changing nature becomes clear and the mind stops paying attention to any signs and features it is obsessing after and a measure of calm arises. This might be a glimpse in to what is termed ‘Animitta Vimokkha’.

Sometimes it becomes clear the mind is simply bending this way and that, twisting itself up in to knots and it stops doing that a measure of calm arises. This might be a glimpse in to what is termed ’ Appanihita Vimokkha’.

Sometimes mental processes are seen simply as external, alien, empty, worthless a certain measure of calm arises. This might be a glimpse in to what is termed ‘Sunnata Vimokkha’.

Edit: The calm seem to arise due to a temporary measure of letting go. I think it is not too much of a stretch to imagine a complete and utter letting go all round everywhere leading to a permanent calming, Nibbana.

Having nothing,
clinging to no thing:
That is the island,
there is no other.
That’s Unbinding, I tell you,
the total ending of aging & death.

Those knowing this, mindful,
fully unbound
in the here & now,
don’t serve as Mara’s servants,
don’t come under Mara’s sway.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/snp/snp.5.10.than.html


#69

Vimokkha = liberation

I’m wondering if these occur as a list of three before the Visuddhimarga.
I’m not finding comparable references in the Suttas. But I’m not a Pali scholar.

The 3 liberations are:

    1. the conditionless (or signless) liberation (animitta-v.),
    1. the desireless liberation (apanihita-v.),
    1. the emptiness (or void) liberation (suññatā-v. ).

They are also called ‘the triple gateway to liberation’ (vimokkha-mukha; Vis.M. XXI, 66ff), as they are three different approaches to the paths of holiness. - See visuddhi VI, 8. Cf. Vis XXI, 6ff, 121ff; Pts.M. II. Vimokkha-Kathā.
The Wisdom Library

Narada Maha Thera also mentions them in notes in his Manual of Abhidhamma

  1. Suññata - devoid of a soul. Emancipation gained by meditating on soullessness (anatta) is called suññata-vimokkha.

  2. Animitta - free from the signs of permanence, etc. Emancipation gained by meditating on ‘impermanence’ (anicca) is called animitta-vimokkha.

  3. Appanihita - free from the hankering of craving. Emancipation gained by meditating on ‘suffering’ (dukkha) is called appanihita-vimokkha.


#70

Once again, friend Gabriel, you have rightly discerned the trap that awaits those who swing from clinging to “Self” towards clinging to “No Self”! But the Buddha has foreseen this movement of your mind…:rofl:

SN24.5

Mendicants, when what exists, because of grasping what and insisting on what, does the view arise: ‘There’s no meaning in giving, sacrifice, or offerings. There’s no fruit or result of good and bad deeds. There’s no afterlife. There are no duties to mother and father. No beings are reborn spontaneously. And there’s no ascetic or brahmin who is well attained and practiced, and who describes the afterlife after realizing it with their own insight. This person is made up of the four primary elements. When they die, the earth in their body merges and coalesces with the main mass of earth. The water in their body merges and coalesces with the main mass of water. The fire in their body merges and coalesces with the main mass of fire. The air in their body merges and coalesces with the main mass of air.

The faculties are transferred to space. Four men with a bier carry away the corpse. Their footprints show the way to the cemetery. The bones become bleached. Offerings dedicated to the gods end in ashes. Giving is a doctrine of morons. When anyone affirms a positive teaching it’s just baseless, false nonsense. Both the foolish and the astute are annihilated and destroyed when their body breaks up, and don’t exist after death’?”

And he has offered advice on further refining the emerging right view:
AN3.119

And what is accomplishment in view? It’s when someone has right view, an undistorted perspective, such as: ‘There is meaning in giving, sacrifice, and offerings. There are fruits and results of good and bad deeds. There is an afterlife. There is obligation to mother and father. There are beings reborn spontaneously. And there are ascetics and brahmins who are well attained and practiced, and who describe the afterlife after realizing it with their own insight.’

This is called ‘accomplishment in view’.

We need to keep in mind that the Buddha did not teach the principles of “No Self” or “Self”, but rather that of “Non - Self”… it is a tactic, not a metaphysical statement. It simply means realizing that this thing/principle/ view that I am clinging to, is causing me suffering, it is impermanent, not under my control, not me, not mine, not my Self.

SN12.15

Kaccāna, this world mostly relies on the dual notions of existence and non-existence.

But when you truly see the origin of the world with right understanding, you won’t have the notion of non-existence regarding the world. And when you truly see the cessation of the world with right understanding, you won’t have the notion of existence regarding the world.

The world is for the most part shackled to attraction, grasping, and insisting.

But if—when it comes to this attraction, grasping, mental fixation, insistence, and underlying tendency—you don’t get attracted, grasp, and commit to the notion ‘my self’, you’ll have no doubt or uncertainty that what arises is just suffering arising, and what ceases is just suffering ceasing. Your knowledge about this is independent of others.

This is how right view is defined.

‘All exists’: this is one extreme.

‘All doesn’t exist’: this is the second extreme.

Avoiding these two extremes, the Realized One teaches by the middle way:

‘Ignorance is a condition for choices. Choices are a condition for consciousness. … That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.

In fact, the Buddha has already foreseen all 62 kinds of metaphysical views which could logically be held about the Self and the Cosmos, and he has rebutted them, pointing out again and again that the issue is not what actually exists or doesn’t … the real issue is that Suffering arises in all of us due to incorrectly understanding our experience and clinging to various views about it.

DN1

When a mendicant truly understands the six fields of contacts’ origin, ending, gratification, drawback, and escape, they understand what lies beyond all these things.

All of these ascetics and brahmins who theorize about the past or the future are trapped in the net of these sixty-two grounds, so that wherever they emerge they are caught and trapped in this very net.

Used correctly, the tool of Anicca- Dukkha- Anatta will help you build your raft to the far shore!

SN22.95

Form is like a lump of foam,
Feeling like a water bubble;
Perception is like a mirage,
Volitions like a plantain trunk,
And consciousness like an illusion,
So explained the Kinsman of the Sun.

However one may ponder it
And carefully investigate it,
It appears but hollow and void
When one views it carefully.

A bhikkhu with energy aroused
Should look upon the aggregates thus,
Whether by day or at night,
Comprehending, ever mindful.

He should discard all the fetters
And make a refuge for himself;
Let him fare as with head ablaze,
Yearning for the imperishable state.

Thank you for this discussion - it helps me further refine my own understanding … I hope my replies do the same for you. :pray::grinning::pray:


#71

Hi! You could see MN43.
The three different kinds of liberation are discussed towards the end.

They are also mentioned partially in many other suttas… SN43.4 and the suttas that follow it, MN121, SN41.7, SN40.9… there is still one more which discusses these liberations in depth (I remember it from Ajahn Amaro’s excellent book on Nibbana - the Island) but as usual, I can’t find any trace of it using search on SuttaCentral…:face_with_raised_eyebrow::grimacing::rofl:
EDIT- Found it…it was staring me in the face all along. SN41.7 :smile:


#72

Decades ago I sat in front of my Zen Roshi and declared, “there is no me”.

The Roshi reached out and tapped my knee with his stick, asking, “then what is this?”

MN121:12.4: They understand: ‘This field of perception is empty of the perception of the defilements of sensuality, desire to be reborn, and ignorance. There is only this that is not emptiness, namely that associated with the six sense fields dependent on this body and conditioned by life.’ And so they regard it as empty of what is not there, but as to what remains they understand that it is present.


#73

Does stream entry eliminate view of the self; understandings of the self as “Me” or “I” ?


#74

No. But wait, there’s more:

AN6.97:1.3: You’re bound for the true teaching. You’re not liable to decline. You suffer only for a limited period. You have unshared knowledge. You’ve clearly seen causes and the phenomena that arise from causes.


#75

So what keeps the view?


#76

The lessening of suffering that accrues by not clinging to the assumption that the self exists and is inviolate. The consideration of others and the fruit of that. Directly knowing the gravity of kamma we let go of the delusion of floating alone in ourselves. A skillful sense of direction emerges. Then we walk uphill, doggedly as if forever, casting off our remaining burdens.

MN22:16.2: They regard form like this: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’

MN44:10.2: “The noble eightfold path is conditioned.”


#77

Stream entry eliminates the identity view (Sakkāyadiṭṭhi). Then what exaclty the part of self view that they eliminate when they eliminate identity view?


#78

Are you saying that there is an unconditional Self outside the aggregates?


#79

Identity is none other than the five grasping aggregates:

MN44:2.3: “Visākha, the Buddha said that these five grasping aggregates are identity.

The grasping aggregates feed upon themselves via craving, the grasping in that. What is relinquished is the assumption that self-preservation is axiomatic. Continued existence of identity is not axiomatic. It can be relinquished:

MN44:8.3: They don’t regard form as self, self as having form, form in self, or self in form. They don’t regard feeling … perception … choices … consciousness as self, self as having consciousness, consciousness in self, or self in consciousness.

Or even more briefly, understanding the nature of delight:

MN1:171.4: Because he has understood that relishing is the root of suffering,

Understanding that relishing is the root of suffering, the futility of separating the two becomes obvious and pointless. The underlying tendency to continue existence relaxes and falls away. Yet barnacles of identity remain to be undone, those pesky conceits of “I am-ness”.


#80

I said no such thing. I am still studying DN1 and it hurts my head. Your answer would be there.


#82

Then what is the difference between identity view (Sakkāyadiṭṭhi) and view of the self (attānudiṭṭhi)?


#83

At this point the discussion gets fuzzy because you’re asking for a specificity that is tied to semantic understandings of specific words. I won’t be able to quote the EBTs but will need to wave my hands clumsily, so please do take the following as clumsy:

There is a difference between an assertion and a hypothesis. Commonly one asserts identity. Alternatively, one can understand identity as a hypothesis created to satisfy a craving.


#84

What are the fetters directly correlated to the view of self?