Truly Exist, dependently exist, dependently ceased, truly not existing

Here’s a thought of making it clearer on these 4 things: Truly Exist, dependently exist, dependently ceased, truly not existing

  1. Properties of truly exists: self, permanent.

  2. Properties of dependently existing things: impermanent, suffering, not self.

  3. Properties of dependently ceased things… depends, it’s a bit complicated.

  4. Properties of truly not existing things: not existing, cannot be characterized as this or that because it’s not existing in actuality. Unchanging.

This is just some rough mapping. If I made an error please feel free to quote a sutta to correct me.

2 and 3 is how things arises and ceases. When arising, they are at 2, when ceasing they go to 3. But causes at 2 would make things arise again from 3 to 2. Attainment of arahanthood is when all the causes at 2 ceases to become 3 and the causes for the causes also ceases at 3, and so on. Namely, ignorance, craving, clinging etc. Then when parinibbāna happens, the rest of the links in dependent origination ceases then it all becomes 3 from dependent cessation, where it doesn’t arise again forever.

The world is trapped in duality, meaning when people see 2, they project 1 onto the 2, thus thinking that what is impermanent to be permanent. Or when they see 3, like parinibbāna, they project 4 into 3, like parinibbāna is not possible? Well, I think it’s less of an issue to project 4 into 3, since there’s no arising in both 4 and 3 (parinibbāna). Perhaps there’s some objections?

Buddha said when arising is seen, the notion of non-existing is not there, so this means seeing 3 become 2 means one cannot project 4 onto 3. Seeing cessation, the notion of existing is not there. So seeing 2 becomes 3, one cannot project 1 onto 2.

Exception would be parinibbāna, where arising is not seen anymore, so there’s really no need to worry about the difference between 4 and 3 after parinibbāna. (Maybe someone has an objection to this?) Both 4 and 3 (for parinibbāna) has no experience.

Experience exists only at 2. When stream winner sees nibbāna, it is to see 2 ceases to become 3, and 3 doesn’t arises to become 2. It is using perception, consciousness etc existing at 2.

The notion of self is defined to be 1, independently truly existing. Mistaking 2 as 1 is the fundamental reason for 2 to continue to arise, as it’s part of the causes (ignorance, self view etc) which generates all the rest of the links in dependent origination.

The Buddha’s claim is that 1 doesn’t exist, no self exist. So self is actually at no. 4. Truly not existing thing. The property of seeing 5 aggregates as empty, foam, plaintain tree, bubbles, mirage, etc is to be applied to 2, not to no. 4 or 1.

Ultimate self is no. 4, which is no self.

Conventional self is no. 2, dependently existing, empty aggregates.

In MN2, no self exists absolutely as a view which is a thicket of views, maybe to refer to all 4 levels, no self. Which means it denys the no. 2 conventional self, or 5 aggregates as dependently existing, and thus lead to complete derangement, or moral breakdown, or simply misunderstanding what no self means.

I hope this is clear for conversation about these truly exisiting or not things.

Do people really see thoughts as permanent, an icecream, the body, happiness, a nice feeling, health, this very life? All in the surroundings? I doubt it. I think not even the sense of self that disappears every evening.

Maybe the very naieve persons see things as permanent but not that many i believe.
But ofcourse we can have different experiences with change. For some people it is very apparant that health not permanent but for some they live like health is permanent. But in general if you would ask people i think they will show to have an understanding of the impermanence .

It is not that people crave things because they have a perception of permanence and also not because they believe it makes them permanently happy. We all know that nice sounds, taste, tactile sensation are not permanent but still we crave them.

I feel the sutta’s are right about this…this is merely because we see and know no alternative. If we know no alternative happiness, ofcourse we crave for sensual pleasures. Even the Buddha did as long as he had no found an alternative happiness (jhana).

Theorectically, people can understand impermanence when you ask them about it.

Practically, to internalize this is not easy, not done by many.

Those who realizes impermanence of all except Nibbāna should feel meaninglessness of living a lay life, be it discovering the theory of everything in physics, becoming more famous than Einstein, or producing kids and live on in the memories for maybe 3 more generations, or even saving the earth from global warming, or become superman, and save the whole universe, none of these achievements lasts, in the super long run of many universe cycles.

Not even getting good kamma, be reborn in the highest formless realms lasts. Those who see impermanence this deep has only one logical choice. To practise for the attainment of Nibbāna. Nothing else is worth it.

Another level is deep direct insight via meditation to break the unconscious clinging onto things which are impermanent.

Imagine if smartphones are as disposable as papers. We don’t cling to paper notes as we know that it disappears fast enough somehow. So if smartphones are as impermanent as papers, we wouldn’t cling to it. Or tissue paper even. Whatever is impermanent and clearly seen as such, we have no clinging to it. Thus a person who deeply, truly sees impermanence in all conditioned phenomena would let go of the all.

To get there, we have to meditate deeply, get a calm mind, fulfill all the noble 8fold path, practise Vipassana, reflection, learn the dhamma etc.

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There is no meaning in giving or practicing metta? No meaning in corresponding on this website? The thread about climate change is worthless? Ordained people should give up on trying to help others or the world in general as it is all meaningless?

Quite a few folks criticize Theravada - rightfully or wrongfully - for such attitudes and I’ve seen many Theravada practitioners on this website wishing and working to change this perception with an open heart and full of loving kindness.


If these help for the goal, then it is helpful. For oneself or others.

But priority is for the goal. Eating only sustains this body for this lifetime, it doesn’t produce an immortal body, but we still need to eat to survive to do the work of liberation. Same thing can be said of helping to reduce carbon footprint. But one’s priorities should be for the deathless.

Metta is part of right thoughts.

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This is what I don’t understand with the mahayānā obsession with martyrdom. What matters giving or practicing metta if everything is insubstantial and empty? If there’s no fundamental distinction between anything, why bother? What substantial or eternal good is there in “helping others”?

From the Pāli suttas and exposition, I would say the greatest benefit of such practices is to help a mendicant cultivate a mind of detachment and not-selfness, an aid on the path of arahatship. At the absence of a substantial existence, all our processes should be functional and serve a purpose. One can spend an eternity saving beings from samsara and samsara can birth more beings and more confusion than we could ever save - this is the definition of samsara. Some infinities are larger than others (irrational numbers vs natural numbers).

Letting go should be about letting go of everything, the good, the bad, the ugly. Because in truth, there’s no good, no bad, no ugly; only dukkha. Some dukkhas are more useful, more functional, for the sole purposes of letting go of all dukkhas - but the point should remain to let go of all concepts, ideas, dhammas, selfishness, altruism.

Perhaps this should be a different thread or PM, but we’re all friends here so I thought it prudent to ask here, seeing how our conversations converge around these similar themes. :slight_smile:

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The only way to attain Enlightenment is to have the most Karuna that it is possible for one to have for others. It is not a question of mental gymnastics, but a question of your Love in regards to whether you are going to become an Arhat or a Buddha. In fact Buddhahood requires one to Love others constantly. Without that true achievement, one can’t even penetrate into a real understanding of Sunyata and Anatta, or know the real meaning of any Sutta. Without Love, understanding is just mundane, for mundane things, and not for the Holy Life.

Here on SuttaCentral I see seekers and aspirants with some of the greatest Love because Siddhartha’s Compassion is echoed in what they are learning. In reading a Sutta with an honest mind, Metta grows, and with that Metta, a critical understanding of the Teaching of the Buddha, the Dhamma, which we must take Refuge in as a part of the Triple Gem. So in a sense we are taking Refuge in true Love, and that’s why there is purpose in sharing it. That’s why the Dhamma is Love. Namaste.

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Hi friend, I don’t understand how you took my response as an example of mahayānā obsession with martyrdom. It seems I am viewed through the lens as primarily a mahayānā practitioner and this colors the interpretation of what I write.

I am also a student and devotee of the Pali canon and the Agamas and try to implement what I understand from the Teacher as related through them. The assertion was made that those who so study should feel the:

meaninglessness of living a lay life

Which seems in tension with many Theravada practitioners on this forum who are trying to dispel the association that Theravada is not interested in anything other than seclusion and personal development towards Nibbana. I don’t know that this has anything to do with “mahayānā obsession with martyrdom” other than I am associated with mahayānā and others are taking my words as an attack on Theravada from Mahayānā, but that was not intended.

Perhaps I should let others such as Venerable @sujato, @BethL, @Vaddha who have expressed a wish to dispel such associations with the Theravada to respond as it seems anything I say with regard to this will be treated as an outsider criticizing the group.


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Dhamma friends,

Theravāda practitioners are often critical of the Mahāyāna rhetoric of the “Lesser Vehicle,” or ‘Hīnayāna.’ They find it insulting to the Buddha and his early disciples, as well as arrogant on the part of the Mahāyāna texts or people advocating such a view.

Unfortunately, so often, Theravāda practitioners can spread just as hostile, dogmatic, and arrogant ideas. Bhikkhu Anālayo has a book on this — one which, admiteddly, I have not read — called “Superiority Conceit in Buddhist Traditions: A Historical Perspective.” It may be helpful if you fall into either of these extremes, or if you would like to understand the conditions for the ideas and statements people hold to as “their own.” Ideas and dogmas are also dependently arisen! We shouldn’t take it too personally. :slight_smile:

The Buddha was not a Theravādin. He also did not practice Mahāyāna. The Buddha wanted us to purify our minds of greed, hatred, and delusion. He said we shouldn’t hold that any view, practice, teacher, or group is “supreme” and superior to other people. We should spend our energy there—encouraging one another in wholesome, virtuous conduct and Dhamma practice. Rather than spending our energy disputing and quarrelling over who’s dogma is superior.

I also do not know any place in the early discourses where the Buddha tells lay people their life is meaningless. He just points out that the happiness we rely on is unstable. But he teaches lay people how to be happy, enjoy wealth here and hereafter, live in family harmoniously, do wholesome deeds, and live a good life. And he had his monastics live in dependency on lay communities. His Saṅgha is not allowed to maintain strict vows of silence, are encouraged to live in harmony, kindness, and respect, and to spread the Dharma. The Buddha, as far as I can tell, was not arguing for things being meaningless. He was simply pointing out the different kinds of meaningful lives that we can live, and the benefits or drawbacks of them.



Dear friend, I was asking a very specific question of doctrine, I’m sorry if you took it as an insult or likewise.

I’ve seen you mention altruism in different topics, and Mahayānā is certainly focused on the Bodhisatta path, which is entirely built around a life of service (even in nirvana).

As a self-proclaimed student of Madhyamaka, who often talks about the insubstantial nature of everything, I was merely trying to sincerely understand why altruism or Bodhisatta path has any difference fundamentally, beyond whatever benefit they might offer to a mendicant as they seek the ultimate salvation.

Assuming a practitioner, living on an island, sustained with the fruits of the island, with no need to farm or kill, who has a copy of Pāli canon and all the time in the world.

They could, according to canon, seek and see the highest truth, proclaim: ‘My births have been ended, the religious practice has been established, and the task has been accomplished. I myself know that I won’t be subject to a later existence.’”

What matters if they become a Buddha, a teacher, anything, if their burden is laid down, their task is complete?

I understand if I upset you and you don’t want to discuss this any further, which, it wasn’t my intention to agitate in the first place.

I’m just pointing that perhaps, realisation that there’s “no beings to save” means “there’s no beings to save”, no reason to be selfish or altruistic, no reason to entangle with the mess of samsara anymore.

With metta!


There are absolutely no beings to save! That is exactly why it can be said that we must save all beings. :heart:

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It seems that you, and maybe others too, are motivated to practice Dhamma by a deep sense of the meaningless of life and wish to end it as soon as possible in the most radical way, a mere cessation.
But Buddha sought ultimate truth, a refuge, the not-desintegrating, stable, and not a mere cessation.

For you the prospect of mere cessation, apparantly, is what drives you, for the Buddha the prospect of finding asankhata. I feel this so extremly different.

What i believe is that people who cannot feel meaning in life (which ia always some lack of this and that and not some quality) always seek some higher motive for this. Everyone must see for him/herself what is really going on in the heart and be totally open and honest about this towards oneself.

Dispassion cuts the root of lust. Not the root of Metta; which must be cultivated in order to achieve Enlightenment.

@Dogen, I think we first should start by explicitly spelling out an assumption in your question:

  • That there exists some “Mahāyāna emptiness” in distinction to “Theravada emptiness”

I think this assumption is wrong. There are practitioners of Theravada on this forum (by tradition and also meaning the personal attainment vehicle) who seemingly share a very similar understanding of emptiness as to what I merely pretend to understand. There are practitioners of Mahāyāna who I’ve encountered (by tradition and also meaning the bodhisattva vehicle) who seemingly share a very similar understanding of emptiness as to what I recognize others on this forum put forth and which I think is incorrect.

The Madhyamaka (the Middle Way) was expounded by the Teacher and recounted in the Pali canon and the Agamas and I believe what Nagarjuna spelled out in his fundamental treatise on the middle way.

Now, that assumption aside, you ask:

What matters giving or practicing metta if everything is insubstantial and empty? If there’s no fundamental distinction between anything, why bother? What substantial or eternal good is there in “helping others”?

To which I’d answer that it is precisely because things are insubstantial and empty and that there is no fundamental distinction between anything, that we should bother! There is no substantial or eternal good in “helping others” but there is no substantial or eternal good in seeking personal Nibbana either! There is no thing that is substantial nor eternal.

Mistaking emptiness or the middle way for nihilism or the belief that just because entities don’t substantially exist that all is pointless or fruitless is to mishandle the snake of emptiness! Someone who thinks that this is what emptiness means should put down the snake right away lest they be bitten to disastrous consequence!

The Nile river is a convention. It is completely empty and insubstantial and non-eternal. It is dependent and can only be posited and labeled upon a groundless and ephemeral void of essence. Yet, just because it is a convention does not mean that you cannot drown in it. The wise understand that just because things are empty of essence it does not mean that all is fruitless and meaningless.

This is not what emptiness means to me.

Yes, we should let go of substantialist thinking! Letting go of the idea that concepts and ideas have substantial existence including the concept that, “all is dukkha!”

I hope this addresses your questions friend. :pray:


I didn’t think I made such a distinction, but perhaps it came across that way. I was just using emptiness in general.

This is precisely my argument for being pragmatic with altruism - Nile river is samsara, dukkha, insubstantial and empty yet source of suffering. Nibbāna, in contrast, is the absence of the river, absence of samsara, absence of suffering. All kamma is ultimately dukkha, and the teacher explains the way to cessation of kamma.

A truth proposition doesn’t have to be substantial to be true. None of teacher’s arguments have a substantial soul, yet they are true. :slight_smile:

Otherwise, we can run into some weird paradox statements. For example: If insubstialness of things as a truth proposition, being insubstantial itself, should be let go, it’ll result in the proposition that things do have a substantial nature. Hallelujah, Moses was right! :smiley: Then there’s an eternal soul, things are permanent, evil deeds can result in good fruits, one should cultivate a heart of hatred for nibbāna, so on and forth.

Thanks for entertaining my query, I guess we’re just not going to see eye to eye on this. :slight_smile: I would enjoy discussing this elsewhere if you cared, we’re probably stealing the topic with this here.

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I apologize if I misread your post to include this assumption. Glad we’re on the same page now.

The word ‘ultimately’ makes me think you are saying that either kamma or dukkha has substantial existence. You probably didn’t intend that, but these words to me signify something going on in the mind that drifts towards substantialist thinking. At least that is what I recognize in myself.

That’s true! A truth proposition is insubstantially true. For the god it is true that the liquid is ambrosia. For the human it is true that it is water. For the hungry ghost it is true that it is pus and blood. Truth is dependent and conditional and a convention. It has no substantial existence. Even mathematical truth is like this! It depends upon the axioms of the mathematical system which have to be assumed in order to arrive at truth. No mathematical system is capable of proving the truth of itself.

This relies upon the Law of the Excluded Middle to arrive at that paradox. The Law of the Excluded Middle is an assumption that does not need to be assumed.

You’re very welcome and again I apologize for misunderstanding you or misreading you. If you want to talk about this further I’d be happy to, but like you said we should find a dedicated thread I guess.



the pleasure in what is good and beauty, being aligned with the Dhamma law.

In the generation of Reality and beings there two main energies: one is trying to keep the beings inside the machine and experiencing dukkha. The other tries to take them of out so they can have freedom from that Wheel. And even if we think that all together is like a dream, one should do the right thing because the good dreams are good while the nightmares are bad.

this is just a wrong view, quite propagated in this internet board.
The Buddha taught that here is dukkha and there is sukha, and to distinguish the presence of both. Also he taught there is nibbana, which is the higher and unconditioned happiness.

These 3 can be manifest while one is alive. Therefore, “only exist dukkha” is just a dogmatics for an intellectual thought, without any real basis in the experience.

The cult of death and annihilation is a very old thing in the world which arose inside the main great religions at some point. This doesn’t affect only Buddhism but also to Christianity and other great religions. Probably to whatever spiritual path.

This is clearly a Mara preaching whatever notion we can have about that energy to keep beings inside the machine. This is spreaded mainly in unconscious and non-intentional ways. However, many people become Mara parrots without being aware of.
This is referred to the distortions of the Buddha teaching about parinibbana to connect it with that cult of death and annihilation.

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sorry but I had the feeling to watch one of those billiard shots in where no ball goes to some hole.

There is the seeing of the arising of things with the knowledge of its no atta-existence. This was the position of the Buddha and arhants in the Suttas.

IMHO you believes the parinibbana is annihilation because you are bypassing completely the anatta characteristic of realities. You describe a reality with a conditional reality, or with the annihilation of reality. And you interpret that annihilation like the “end of dukkha”.
From here that you sometimes explain the nibbana is not “a true nibbana” but only at death there is the end of dukkha, same than theists and materialists.

No anatta. Missed.
This is caused by the error of keeping a polarity existence/non-existence explained by the Buddha. It isn’t?

IMHO the root of that error is in a misconception of the meaning of “cease” inside the Suttas, which is referred to the cease of atta instead to the annihilation of realities, the source of the experience. And then also you interpret the end of atta experience like annihilation, etcetera… From the same root arise is a long list of things which really doesn’t fit in the Buddha teaching.

Just my view, hope it helps.

Buddha explains existence/non-existence is the wrong duality, as it implies a substance. Instead he offers arising/cessation. So there are no things, there are processes. There is an end of processes (read the cessation of khandas, kamma, dukkha, loka in the suttas).

Saying that all such processes will come to an end is not the same as saying they will be annihilated. Annihilation implies existence; processes come to an end.

Realities are not annihilated, but they will end. How? By practising Noble Eightfold Path.

The cessation of the world has been understood by the Realized One;
Lokanirodho, bhikkhave, tathāgatena abhisambuddho,
and he has realized the cessation of the world.
lokanirodho tathāgatassa sacchikato. Iti112

Mendicants, I will teach you old action, new action, the cessation of action, and the practice that leads to the cessation of action.
“Navapurāṇāni, bhikkhave, kammāni desessāmi kammanirodhaṁ kammanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadaṁ. SN35.146

"What is the cause, Mister Gotama, what is the reason why these various misconceptions arise in the world? …”
“ko nu kho, bho gotama, hetu, ko paccayo, yānimāni anekavihitāni diṭṭhigatāni loke uppajjanti—
sassato lokoti vā, asassato lokoti vā …pe…
neva hoti na na hoti tathāgato paraṁ maraṇāti vā”ti?

“Vaccha, it is because of not knowing perception, its origin, its cessation, and the practice that leads to its cessation …”
“Saññāya kho, vaccha, aññāṇā, saññāsamudaye aññāṇā, saññānirodhe aññāṇā, saññānirodhagāminiyā paṭipadāya aññāṇā;
evamimāni anekavihitāni diṭṭhigatāni loke uppajjanti SN33.3

In various suttas, Four Noble Truths are repeated to explain the reality, origin, cessation and the path to cessation of: Dukkha, Five Aggregates, World, Kamma.

All these are told to come to an end, and noble eightfold path is the way to their cessation. Practising Noble Eightfold Path leads to the cessation of Kamma, Dukkha, World, Aggregates. This is crystal clear in suttas. :slight_smile:

Even in fourth jhana is sukha and dukkha both abandoned. Sukkha is another hindrance on the path. :slight_smile:

Buddha says so (dukkha doesn’t exist, but everything that arises is dukkha, and all that ceases in dukkha):

You’ll have no doubt or uncertainty that what arises is just suffering arising, and what ceases is just suffering ceasing.
‘Dukkhameva uppajjamānaṁ uppajjati, dukkhaṁ nirujjhamānaṁ nirujjhatī’ti na kaṅkhati na vicikicchati aparapaccayā ñāṇamevassa ettha hoti. SN12.15

The line in the sutta’s is that we see that we are in cyclic proces of birth, decay, death, because we delight in the khandha’s, have a desire for them, crave them. We crave certain feelings, mental states, etc etc. But this same desire, craving feeds the cyclic proces. So we must break this allure of the khandha’s. In practice: also see the danger in them, the escape, the origin, the cessation, the satisfaction. But in the end, we have to let go of the craving for the khandha’s.

It is not about philosophy, or knowlegde and vision, but Dhamma is really about arriving at that state without clinging, without any craving, desire, delight for the khandha’s, elements, sense-objects, etc etc.

Seeing khandha’s as dukkha is described as…seeing things as they really are…

I believe that you ignore that khandha’s really represent an element of dukkha. Which, i believe, can only be really known by seeing their cessation and knowing that when nothing is sensed or experienced that is bliss. Also meaning, when something is sensed and perceived there is an element of dukkha still present.