The thorny issue of anatta

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Simply, Dhamma is the Law of the Nature and the nature of the Law of Nature, as I understand.


So the world didn’t know that (for example) aging is difficult before the Buddha - is that what you mean? Seeing the first wrinkles is not nice, yes, also that I’m not as attractive as ten years ago. It’s a valid insight, but quite trivial, any senior can tell you about this ‘wisdom’. But the sutta is also wrong in its simplicity. It doesn’t phase me a bit that I’m thinking something else than two hours ago. It doesn’t throw me into existential despair so that I have to become a monk. Same with feelings.

Also the idea that the secret to anatta lies hidden in five suttas is not convincing. It would be extremely unwise for a spiritual tradition to transmit hundreds of anatta suttas and then hope that five suttas ‘make it’ through the vagaries of history.


Meditation, explanations and suttas (vipassana, paratogosa, yonisomanasikara).


So, it is not belonging to you (na tumhaaka.m); thus, you should ‘put it away’ (pajahatha) (SN 22.33-34 = SA 269).

Simplicity? You may first try to read all the suttas in the collection, SN 22 Khandha Samyutta, about anicca is dukkha, and also see the connection between anicca, dukkha, anatta.

No, it will not throw you into that! :innocent:

I think no ‘secret’ idea in anatta hidden in the suttas.

Which five suttas are for that ‘spiritual tradition’ ‘through vagaries of history’?:fu:


In your post above you refer to Choong as he tries to lay out why anicca is dukkha. This argument is found in SN 22.1, SN 22.7-8, SN 22.43, and MN 138. These five suttas make the following case:

They regard form as self… But that form of theirs decays and perishes, which gives rise to sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress… Anxieties occupy their mind, born of latching on to the perishing of form. So they become frightened, worried, concerned, and anxious because of grasping. [same for the feeling, perception, sankhara, and vinnana].

So my appearance changes and I become anxious - trivial.
My feelings change and I become anxious - only sometimes true
My perception changes and I become anxious - not true
My sankhara and vinnana change - I don’t know exactly what that is, so let’s say sometimes true.
There is an argument but it’s oversimplified, and in this form not correct. Since these are the suttas which, according to Choong and you, explain why anicca is dukkha, I don’t see why I have to “first try and read all the suttas in SN 22”.
Where do the suttas make a better argument of why anicca is dukkha? It’s not a very good one.


Why is Anicca to be regarded as Dukkha? Why should we make an attempt to see the Anicca - Anatta nature of the World we perceive… to understand that Anatta is the universal nature of everything- of others, of our own body, our senses, our feelings, mental formations and even our own consciousness?
The activity of the 5 skhandas is ultimately only Dukkha- not because of Anicca and Anatta (that is just the actual nature of things) - the cause of that Suffering is the Craving we all have for permanence, for control, to be able to hold on forever to what we find dear… and the only way out is to LET GO

This is what came to mind when I saw this video of a woman interacting with her dead daughter in VR… (WARNING - EMOTIONALLY DISTURBING!)

Are we any different when we cling to our impression of our own loved ones… and to ourselves? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

In dependence on the eye and forms there arises eye-consciousness. The eye is impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise; forms are impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. Thus this dyad is moving and tottering, impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise.
Mind-consciousness is impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. The cause and condition for the arising of mind-consciousness is also impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. When, bhikkhus, mind-consciousness has arisen in dependence on a condition that is impermanent, how could it be permanent?


But this is not the argument from these suttas and oversimplification is done on your part.


At least I quoted the suttas. Perhaps you could describe the correct argument of the suttas then?


The argument goes something like this: if there’s anything which is related in any way to what one thinks he trully is, then decay of that thing brings suffering born of that relation.


And the change & alternation (Bodhi) or decay & perishing (Sujato) of the mental khandhas is… Alzheimers, or a daily/momentary phenomenon?
So, according to these five suttas, is the problem that humans cannot deal with getting old, or is it a description of what happens daily?


Theft, enslavement, separation, broken leg, alzheimers, stroke, coma, old age, death…


I hear a beep. A machine is out there.
I hear a beep. A machine is out there.
I hear a beep. A machine is out there.

So how not true?


Hello @Gabriel and all.

I agree with you say (quoted below) that the Suttas do not always make a good case for why something that is anicca is necessarily dukkha. I think that anicca is only understood to be dukkha or soon lead to dukkha in the presence of craving or clinging. However, I haven’t found a clear statement of that in the EBTs.



The simple declaration is stated as one would a law of physics, a given:

MN146:6.20: “Yaṃ panāniccaṃ dukkhaṃ vā taṃ sukhaṃ vā”ti?
MN146:6.20: “But if it’s impermanent, is it suffering or happiness?”

MN146:6.21: “Suffering, sir.”

Reading this, one would not hold onto anything that causes suffering, i.e., impermanence. Knowledge of why isn’t required to end suffering. :man_shrugging:


I think you may need to read the suttas (or the Choong’s book pp. 55-56) carefully regarding why anicca is dukkha.

It is correct to say craving (ta.nhaa) leads to the arising of dukkha.

Craving here is closely connected to self-attachment/self-view. Cf. “(2) Various terms for the notion of “not-self”” in the Choong’s book pp. 57-60.

Read the suttas (or the Choong’s book pp. 55-56) carefully regarding why anicca is dukkha.

Remember to follow ‘right speech’ (sammaavaacaa) for the discussion.


Perhaps look at the sequences of cause and effect in Dependent liberation. This is a good place to start :slight_smile:

So from a perspective of causes and conditions one comes to a place where basically Impermanence > No self > No craving…

I’m not sure if the logical links are clear in this cut and paste - but a direction for you to explore some more anyway :slightly_smiling_face:


So it’s a dogma then, and the monastics answering are indoctrinated. At least that’s a better answer than ‘read the suttas’.

The claim of the five suttas (plus SN 22.84) is that when someone is attached to the khandhas and these khandhas change, this creates suffering. Choong doesn’t add anything else to the argument.

Ok then, I take it literally: I’m attached to perception, and the traffic light changes from red to green --> suffering? I’m attached to feelings, never liked Citizen Kane, suddenly come to like it --> suffering?

Apparently “I’m holding it wrong”, so @Piotr says under bad circumstances (disease, tragic events) the change in the khandhas causes suffering.

But that changes the whole argument of the suttas, doesn’t it? unpleasant anicca --> dukkha. Which would be as tautological as it can get.

But how does DO explicitly touch the question raised of anicca --> dukkha?


When I studied physics, nobody explained why gravity works. Physics is dogma. Even Richard Feynman said quite bluntly:

Why can we use mathematics to describe nature without a mechanism behind it? No one knows.

But even though we can’t explain the why of gravity, we can indeed apply the law of gravity and get results. Physics is reproducible and independently verifiable.

That same principle of independent verification applies to anicca and suffering. We can observe that grasping impermanence is futile and leads to suffering. A simple example is binge-watching TV shows–after the last show everybody feels let down. It’s over. :frowning:

  • Before I read the EBTs, I was indoctrinated. I thought relishing was possible without suffering.

  • After I read the EBTs, I changed my indoctrination. Now I know relishing leads to suffering.

Come jump in the stream with us. :wink:


This is mainly about “craving” or self-view, self-attachment to “anicca” phenomena (body-mind) leads to the arising of dukkha. 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.


Logical thinking can only take one so far, at least in my experience. Hence the importance of meditation/contemplation/insight… For subjects that elude the thinking mind, my approach is to set up the conditions (through ongoing sila and Dhamma contemplation) then just let all the ‘knowledge’ go and meditate - put the mind in ‘neutral’, that is disengage it from thinking and the senses, and let it do it’s own thing. It might be quick, it might take ages :slight_smile: So don’t stress and enjoy the ride :smiley: :sunflower: :bug: :butterfly::hatching_chick::pray:

PS I know you’ve been doing this for a long time - so I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new :wink: