The thorny issue of anatta

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Veni, vidi, persuasus


I don’t know what you mean, but I’m saying that I don’t agree that anatta is a strategy. Its a reality, and I might not be able to convince others.


Sorry, I thought you said consciousness was permanent. Fatigue.

With metta! :pray:


And what has convinced you?


Well Said. IMO those who say anatta is a strategy do not understand dependent origination.
With Metta


Again: What is your view based on? A gut feeling, another authority, or suttas?


It is based purely on Suttas.
With Metta


Well then, MN 2:

When they attend improperly in this way, one of the following six views arises in them:
The view: ‘My self (attā) does not exist in an absolute sense.’


Using one sentence from a complicated sutta, is really just presenting a few isolated words out of context… One really needs to look at the sutta as a whole.

Perhaps you could put your point in terms of the OP :slight_smile:
Remembering that the aim is not to win an argument but to gain greater understanding of the suttas :pray: :dharmawheel:


The short quote with the hyperlink was an invitation to do exactly that.


In that case I can’t understand the substance of your points. Are you disagreeing with something or presenting an alternative?


I guess my point is that a simple conviction regarding anatta based on the suttas is untenable. If someone is interested in what the suttas say about this matter they have to find a complex calculation, actively favoring some suttas and dismissing others.

A position like “the suttas say that there is no atta” is ignorant of the diversity of the suttas. I think eventually one needs to make decisions like “I’m siding with MN 22 against MN 2” with arguments like authenticity, internal consistency etc. - if one bases one’s position on the suttas.

I totally understand if someone says “I’m just following my teacher”, or “This is my dhamma intuition”, or “This is just how I practice and so far it’s successful”.

If anyone thinks that the suttas are simple and consistent, I recommend getting into the detailed research of Perez-Remon ( Self and no-self in early Buddhism), Jayatilleke (Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge), Wynne (The ātman and its negation), and others.


:slight_smile: Thanks for the elaboration. :slightly_smiling_face:


Thinking of anatta as a strategy can be beneficial in the sense that it helps us see why the dhamma can be misunderstood as nihilism, or why nihilism is not freedom from self view.

The counter argument which re-emphasizes ontology is beneficial in the sense that avoiding ontology by adopting a pragmatic view (a strategy) does not necessitate liberation considering that the nature of insight is to see that there was no self to begin with.

The two approaches/arguments, combined, can show the dilemma faced by the unenlightened. To begin solving any problem, one has to acknowledge it. To acknowledge it is to confirm it, and to confirm it is to ensure its continuity.

Sometimes you get the feeling that the main role of a dhamma teacher is to ensure that the wheel keeps on turning.


There is not necessarily a contradiction: perhaps the answer is supra-rational and the Buddha just destroys all forms of conceptual answers. A bit like Nagarjuna’s tetralemma with substance: neither being nor non-being, neither both nor neither. On the other hand, in order to progress to this ineffable absolute, the strategy of not-self is effective: for letting go of everything and attach to nothing.


Well, MN.2 is relevant. But I am referring to SN 12.11 and DN.15.
With Metta


It may be that there is some disagreement among us about the definition of “self” or “not-self”. Indeed, DN1 discusses vastly different definitions of a self and was in fact given as a Dhamma talk in response to incessant squabbling about such self/not-self issues. DN1 ends beautifully. It ends with abandoning the views:

DN1:3.73.5: In the same way, the Realized One’s body remains, but his attachment to rebirth has been cut off. As long as his body remains he will be seen by gods and humans. But when his body breaks up, after life has ended, gods and humans will see him no more.”

The views are all established by contact. They are established and really experienced in that way. Realized Ones abandon all attachment to such views no matter what they experience.


Now hereunder is the definitive statement regarding the ultimate nature of Self:

@££ £ &-£##@ @@ @** &£££ $$$$ %{∆ }\√π %[]¥$¢ !!!



Is it? Many Mahāyānika masters treat all the members of your list as synonyms, all different poetic allusions, different expressive ways, to say “nirvāṇa.” Saṁsāra is even a poetic name for nirvāṇa in Mahāyāna Buddhism. The ātma is also used as a name for nirvāṇa, because names are ultimately meaningless descriptors as empty as the dharmas they are attached to, and you could attach any to nirvāṇa and it would be equally descriptive of it, which is to say not descriptive at all of it. The signifier stands in place of the signified, so to speak, and the signified is nowhere to be found.

The seeker asks:

“Where is my signified? My signifier signified it, it should be around here somewhere. I swear I put it in my pocket earlier…”
-the Prajñāpāramitā (sort of)


I think not-self (anatta) is not a thorny issue at all, if one considers the following noteworthy details, according to, for e.g. the SN/SA suttas (cf. MK Choong, The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism, pp. 55, 60):

The reason “why impermanence (anicca) is suffering (dukkha)”
The various terms for the notion of not-self
The middle way in connection with not-self

Particularly one considers carefully the reason why “impermanence is suffering”, according to the suttas, e.g. SN 22.7 (= SA 43), SN 22.43 (= SA 36), SN 22. 84 (= SA 271).

If understanding clearly why anicca is dukkha, one is certainly able to understand anatta. Not-self is certainly not a thorny issue.

The teachings of not-self are in fact useful, practical, and effective for overcoming mental health issue in daily life.

Without understanding of anatta in a practical sense, it seems one cannot really know about Buddhism/Early Buddhism, I think.