What do you think about Ven Thanissaro's view on Anatta?

From what I’ve read in his books, it seems that Thanissaro’s interpretation about anatta as being a value judgment doesn’t really come from him, but I just used his name because I don’t know whose it is exactly, so I’m sorry for that. I also do NOT want to make this a personal criticism, but rather a discussion about his ideas.

The idea of anatta being a value judgement, instead of a metaphysical claim, can be found in his book, First things first:

When you see that the happiness isn’t worth the effort of the clinging, you realize that it’s not worthy to claim as you or yours. It’s not-self: in other words, not worth claiming as self. In this way, the perception of not-self isn’t a metaphysical assertion. It’s a value judgment, that the effort to define yourself around the act of feeding on those things simply isn’t worth it.

This interpretation is totally different from what I’ve read and heard from other Buddhists: that the Buddha taught that there was no self. Before reading Thanissaro’s books, I thought that anatta was simply denying the existence of a permanent self or self lasting through time, which is an interpretation that Thanissaro explicitly objects. In his book, Selves and not-self, he says:

One misinterpretation is that the Buddha’s not-self teaching is aimed specifically at negating the view of self proposed in the Brahmanical Upanishads — that the self is permanent, cosmic, and identical with God — but the Buddha is not negating the fact that we each have an individual self. In other words, he’s saying, ‘Yes, you have an individual self, but, No, you don’t have a cosmic/God self’.

The second misinterpretation is the exact opposite: The Buddha is negating the idea that you have a small, separate self, but he’s affirming the existence of a large, interconnected, cosmic self. In other words, he’s saying, ‘Yes, you do have a connected self, but, No, you don’t have a separate self’.

The third misinterpretation is similar to the first, but it introduces the idea that a self, to be a true self, has to be permanent. According to this interpretation, the Buddha is affirming that the five aggregates are what you are, but these five aggregates don’t really qualify to be called a self because they aren’t permanent. They’re just processes. In other words, ‘No, you don’t have a self, but, Yes, you’re a bunch of processes; the aggregates are what you are’.

None of these interpretations fit in with the Buddha’s actual teachings, or his actual approach to the question of whether there is or is not a self. They misrepresent the Buddha both for formal reasons — the fact that they give an analytical answer to a question the Buddha put aside — and for reasons of content: They don’t fit in with what the Buddha actually had to say on the topic of self and not-self…

I know it isn’t a universal interpretation, so I want to know what others think. Any objections or supportive arguments?

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IF we say that the Buddha does not claim about not-self, then I just wonder how can we explain the following sutta SN 35.85?

Then the Venerable Ānanda approached the Blessed One … and said to him: “Venerable sir, it is said, ‘Empty is the world, empty is the world.’ In what way, venerable sir, is it said, ‘Empty is the world’?”

“It is, Ānanda, because it is empty of self and of what belongs to self that it is said, ‘Empty is the world.’ And what is empty of self and of what belongs to self? The eye, Ānanda, is empty of self and of what belongs to self. Forms are empty of self and of what belongs to self. Eye-consciousness is empty of self and of what belongs to self. Eye-contact is empty of self and of what belongs to self…. Whatever feeling arises with mind-contact as condition—whether pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant—that too is empty of self and of what belongs to self.

“It is, Ānanda, because it is empty of self and of what belongs to self that it is said, ‘Empty is the world.’”

I am not sure how much more explicitly that we want the Buddha to claim about not-self in the above sutta? :face_with_monocle:

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In the Chinese text, you can also find this following sutta SA 105:

The Buddha said to Seniya: “Do not give rise to doubt! Because of uncertainty, one gives rise to doubt. Seniya, you should know that there are three kinds of teacher. What are the three?

“There is a teacher who has the view that [only] in the present world there truly is a self, and he speaks according to his understanding, yet he is not able to know matters of the afterlife. This is called the first [kind of] teacher that appears in the world.

“Again, Seniya, there is a teacher who has the view that in the present world there truly is a self, and he also has the view that in the afterlife there [truly] is a self, and he speaks according to his understanding.

“Again, Seniya, there is a teacher who does not have the view that in the present world there truly is a self, and he also does not have the view that in the afterlife there truly is a self.

“Seniya, the first teacher who has the view that in the present world there truly is a self and who speaks according to his understanding, he is reckoned as having the view of annihilation.

“The second teacher who has the view that in the present world and in the future world there truly is a self, and who speaks according to his understanding, he has the view of eternalism.

“The third teacher who does not have the view that in the present world there truly is a self, and who also does not have the view that in the afterlife there [truly] is a self ― this is the Tathāgata, the arahant, the fully awakened one, who in the present has abandoned craving, become separated from desire, has made them cease, and has attained Nirvāṇa.”

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I would just point out that this passage is about holding a view, and not holding a view is NOT the same has holding the negating view, and that this is repeatedly, everywhere, pointed out in the EBT’s.

So saying that one does not hold the view that “there is a self” DOES NOT MEAN that one holds the view that “there is no self”.

Basically I think that Thanissaro’s instincts are spot on, The Buddha wasn’t denying you where there, or that the world was there, they where asserting that all our suffering about it arises because of clinging to views about it, and if we can let go of views about the self and the world we can be liberated from the suffering, anxiety and conflict that arises because of these views.

So in that sense the EBT’s are clearly “anti-metaphysical” and a lot of modern Buddhists are nihilists pure and simple, with a bunch of arm waving and denyalism thrown over it.

One especially egregious case of this are the people (often calling themselves “secular” Buddhists) who claim that the Buddha was just pointing out that the self is an illusion caused by the physical body, and therefore implying that when we die the illusion of self will be destroyed because our body is destroyed, this is very specifically repudiated in DN1

There are some ascetics and brahmins who have this doctrine and view:
Idha, bhikkhave, ekacco samaṇo vā brāhmaṇo vā evaṁvādī hoti evaṁdiṭṭhi:

This self is physical, made up of the four primary elements, and produced by mother and father. Since it’s annihilated and destroyed when the body breaks up, and doesn’t exist after death, that’s how this self becomes rightly annihilated.’
‘yato kho, bho, ayaṁ attā rūpī cātumahābhūtiko mātāpettikasambhavo kāyassa bhedā ucchijjati vinassati, na hoti paraṁ maraṇā, ettāvatā kho, bho, ayaṁ attā sammā samucchinno hotī’ti.

That is how some assert the annihilation of an existing being.
Ittheke sato sattassa ucchedaṁ vināsaṁ vibhavaṁ paññapenti.

So whatever is going on in the EBT’s it is 100 percent not advocating a simple physicalist metaphysics.

I would also like to say that at least in DN, it isn’t just the self that is called into question, it is the world too;

There are some ascetics and brahmins who theorize about chance. They assert that the self and the cosmos arose by chance on two grounds.
Santi, bhikkhave, eke samaṇabrāhmaṇā adhiccasamuppannikā adhiccasamuppannaṁ attānañca lokañca paññapenti dvīhi vatthūhi.

So the same trancendance of views argument is applied to Loka as well as Atta. The seems to get lost in discussions, as if it was only views about atta that where under question rather than all metaphysical views that reified concepts into substances.

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just as he didn’t teach that ‘there is a self’, the buddha also didn’t teach that ‘there is no self’.

the doctrine of anatta is one of an absence of intrinsic essence to any component / conditioned phenomena.

in MN2, he explicitly states that the view ‘no self exists for me’ (alt trans: ‘i have no self’) is inappropriate attention that keeps one trapped in samsara, lost in the thicket of views.

this is not the only place where the buddha declines to endorse ‘i have no self’ as what he teaches - he does this repeatedly throughout the suttas. his teaching is more subtle than this, and navigates a way between these two extreme views.

the buddha instead instructs us to look at the small parts of us, and everything that contacts body and mind: the aggregates, the sense bases, sense objects, the contact between them, craving - all impermanent, and without intrinsic essential nature, anatta.

my feeling is that ajahn thanissaro is saying something that aligns with the buddha’s teaching much more strongly than the view ‘i have no self’ does.

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Thanissaro discusses emptiness (including this passage) in his book, Purity of Heart:

The Buddha’s teachings on emptiness—contained in two major discourses and several smaller ones—define it in three distinct ways: as an approach to meditation, as an attribute of the senses and their objects, and as a state of concentration. Although these forms of emptiness differ in their definitions, they ultimately converge on the same route to release from suffering.

The Buddha describes this kind of emptiness [Emptiness as an Attribute of the Senses and their Objects] in a short discourse (SN 35:85). Again, Ananda is his interlocutor, opening the discourse with a question: In what way is the world empty? The Buddha answers that each of the six senses and their objects are empty of one’s self or anything pertaining to one’s self.

The discourse gives no further explanation, but related discourses show that this insight can be put into practice in one of two ways. The first is to reflect on what the Buddha says about “self” and how ideas of self can be understood as forms of mental activity. The second way, which we will discuss in the next section, is to develop the perception of all things being empty of one’s self as a basis for a state of refined concentration. However, as we shall see, both of these tactics ultimately lead back to using the first form of emptiness, as an approach to meditation, to complete the path to awakening.

When talking about “self,” the Buddha refused to say whether it exists or not, but he gave a detailed description of how the mind develops the idea of self as a strategy based on craving. In our desire for happiness, we repeatedly engage in what the Buddha calls “I-making” and “my-making” as ways of trying to exercise control over pleasure and pain. Because I-making and my-making are actions, they fall under the purview of the Buddha’s instructions to Rahula. Whenever you engage in them, you should check to see whether they lead to affliction; if they do, you should abandon them.

If you learn to approach your I-making and my-making in the light of the Rahula instructions, you greatly refine this aspect of your education, as you find yourself forced to be more honest, discerning, and compassionate in seeing where an “I” is a liability, and where it’s a asset. On a blatant level, you discover that while there are many areas where “I” and “mine” lead only to useless conflicts, there are others where they’re beneficial. The sense of “I” that leads you to be generous and principled in your actions is an “I” worth making, worth mastering as a skill. So, too, is the sense of “I” that can assume responsibility for your actions, and can be willing to sacrifice a small pleasure in the present for a greater happiness in the future. This kind of “I,” with practice, leads away from affliction and toward increasing levels of happiness. This is the “I” that will eventually lead you to practice meditation, for you see the long-term benefits that come from training your powers of mindfulness, concentration, and discernment.

However, as meditation refines your sensitivity, you begin to notice the subtle levels of affliction and disturbance that I-making and my-making can create in the mind. They can get you attached to a state of calm, so that you resent any intrusions on “my” calm. They can get you attached to your insights, so that you develop pride around “my” insights. This can block further progress, for the sense of “I” and “mine” can blind you to the subtle stress on which the calm and insights are based. If you’ve had training in following the Rahula instructions, though, you’ll come to appreciate the advantages of learning to see even the calm and the insights as empty of self or anything pertaining to self. That is the essence of this second type of emptiness. When you remove labels of “I” or “mine” even from your own insights and mental states, how do you see them? Simply as instances of stress arising and passing away—disturbance arising and passing away—with nothing else added or taken away. As you pursue this mode of perception, you’re adopting the first form of emptiness, as an approach to meditation.

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Hi Mike,
You might find the discussion in these threads helpful:

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the google books link for the Bodhi piece is broken, try here instead.

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I think this is where advaita Hinduism and Buddhism differ, in advaita there’s positive confirmation of higher self they call it the unborn but Buddha said anything we associate as self would be otherwise

snp3.12
the One Well-Gone, the Teacher, said further:
“See the world, together with its devas,
supposing not-self to be self.
Entrenched in name-&-form,
they suppose that ‘This is true.’
In whatever terms they suppose it
it turns into something other than that,
and that’s what’s false about it:
Changing,
it’s deceptive by nature.
Undeceptive by nature
is unbinding
That the noble ones know
as true.
They, through breaking through
to the truth,
hunger-free,
are totally unbound.

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and just to agree with @IndyJ ;

The view: ‘My self does not exist in an absolute sense.’
‘natthi me attā’ti vā assa saccato thetato diṭṭhi uppajjati;

from MN2 is here perhaps (and I am no scholar) translated with just a little “side eye” to this controversy?

It is hard to find the Pali words meaning “in an absolute sense” in the sentence ‘natthi me atta’
I would have thought that ‘there is not a self for me’ was roughly what is there and “in an absolute sense” is sort of, well, not actually there, so it appears to me that the Buddha does in fact reject the view “I have no self” as wrong view, and that reifying the negation of a concept is just as much an attachment to a view as reifying it’s assertion.

Otherwise it is quite the head-scratcher as to why he didn’t just save himself a lot of trouble and instead of relentlessly analyzing phenomena as they are experienced in a way independent of metaphysics just declare:: “there is no self”

In fact I think that it’s pretty clear that reifying a concept, reifying the negation of the concept, reifying both the concept and its negation or reifying the negation of both the concept and it’s negation are ALL rejected by the Buddha at various points as being inherently metaphysical and attached to views, dependent on contact.

I think that sometimes in a rush to protect Buddhism from those who would like to sneak a self or soul or cosmic permanence into Buddhism by the back door (and I do think there are plenty who DO try to do that) , sometimes orthodox defenders of the faith somewhat overstep metaphysically speaking and imply a simple nihilism (there’s no such thing as self) when the position in evidence in the EBT’s, to my eye at least is much more subtle.

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i agree @josephzizys -

i wonder if that translation of ‘in an absolute sense’ is perhaps poetic.

the Buddha does in fact reject the view “I have no self” as wrong view

i’m not sure if ‘inappropriate attention’ is equivalent to wrong view. i don’t know - i also thought that was the case originally, but the translations don’t seem to indicate outright wrong view … not sure …

either way, i think it’s clear the buddha indicates that any view is going to keep someone trapped in samsara. it’s interesting that the metta sutta finishes with:

By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

and, additionally, what is broken on stream entry is self view. views are dangerous … :slight_smile:

i think you make excellent points about it being the case that if anatta was as simple as ‘there is no self’, then it should be sprinkled liberally through the suttas. that is not the case.

I also think your observation that ‘i have no self’ reifies an entity you purport to deny the existence of, is spot on. it’s a nonsensical statement if you think about it. my own observation is that this kind of thinking does end in nihilism and wrong practice - i.e., the confusion of: “if ‘i have no self’, then what does rebirth mean? i don’t actually exist, the buddha doesn’t exist … nothing exists …” this sort of confusion ends with the conclusion that death, and not the eightfold path, is the end of suffering.

i think we’re better off to leave aside questions of whether the self exists or doesn’t, and just practice as the buddha taught - see impermanence in all component / conditioned things: the aggregates, the sense bases, sense objects, sense contact, craving, the elements. if we see impermanence in everything in this way, we can’t fail to see the heart of what the buddha taught about anatta.

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Well I am sure:

When they attend improperly in this way, one of the following six views arises in them and is taken as a genuine fact.
Tassa evaṁ ayoniso manasikaroto channaṁ diṭṭhīnaṁ aññatarā diṭṭhi uppajjati.

The view: ‘My self does not exist.’ arises as true and established
‘natthi me attā’ti vā assa saccato thetato diṭṭhi uppajjati;

This is called a misconception, the thicket of views, the desert of views, the trick of views, the evasiveness of views, the fetter of views.
Idaṁ vuccati, bhikkhave, diṭṭhigataṁ diṭṭhigahanaṁ diṭṭhikantāraṁ diṭṭhivisūkaṁ diṭṭhivipphanditaṁ diṭṭhisaṁyojanaṁ.

An uneducated ordinary person who is fettered by views is not freed from rebirth, old age, and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress.
Diṭṭhi­saṁ­yojana­saṁyutto­, bhikkhave, assutavā puthujjano na parimuccati jātiyā jarāya maraṇena sokehi paridevehi dukkhehi domanassehi upāyāsehi;

They’re not freed from suffering, I say.
‘na parimuccati dukkhasmā’ti vadāmi.

from MN2

thanks @josephzizys.

i see what you mean, but i wonder whether there are views (which themselves keep us trapped in the thicket), and then there are wrong views that are a magnitude worse:

And what is wrong view? ‘There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no contemplatives or brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.’ This is wrong view.
Maha-cattarisaka Sutta: The Great Forty

actually i think this sutta may clarify:

Monks, there are these two conditions for the arising of wrong view. Which two? The voice of another and inappropriate attention. These are the two conditions for the arising of wrong view
Ghosa Suttas: Voice

in MN2 referred to previously, the buddha speaks of these views ‘i have no self’ etc as ‘inappropriate attention’. taken with AN2 above, that might suggest that such inappropriate attention can lead to wrong view …

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basically ‘micchādiṭṭhī’ in DN and MN is just used in the formula;

Suppose an aristocrat were to kill living creatures, steal, and commit sexual misconduct; to use speech that’s false, divisive, harsh, or nonsensical; and to be covetous, malicious, with wrong view. When their body breaks up, after death, they’d be reborn in a place of loss, a bad place, the underworld, hell. Would this happen only to an aristocrat, and not to a brahmin?
khattiyova nu kho pāṇātipātī adinnādāyī kāmesumicchācārī musāvādī pisuṇavāco pharusavāco samphappalāpī abhijjhālu byāpannacitto micchādiṭṭhi kāyassa bhedā paraṁ maraṇā apāyaṁ duggatiṁ vinipātaṁ nirayaṁ upapajjeyya, no brāhmaṇo?

then in the later parts of MN and in SN it is simply used as the opposite of sammādiṭṭhi as in

When you understand wrong view as wrong view and right view as right view, that’s your right view. Micchādiṭṭhiṁ ‘micchādiṭṭhī’ti pajānāti, sammādiṭṭhiṁ ‘sammādiṭṭhī’ti pajānāti—sāssa hoti sammādiṭṭhi.

The wrong view formula you quote from MN117 is not really the wrong view, it is just the “mundane” wrong view that opposes the “mundane” right view of

And what is right view that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment?
Katamā ca, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi sāsavā puññabhāgiyā upadhivepakkā?

‘There is meaning in giving, sacrifice, and offerings. There are fruits and results of good and bad deeds. There is an afterlife. There are duties 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.’
‘Atthi dinnaṁ, atthi yiṭṭhaṁ, atthi hutaṁ, atthi sukatadukkaṭānaṁ kammānaṁ phalaṁ vipāko, atthi ayaṁ loko, atthi paro loko, atthi mātā, atthi pitā, atthi sattā opapātikā, atthi loke samaṇabrāhmaṇā sammaggatā sammāpaṭipannā ye imañca lokaṁ parañca lokaṁ sayaṁ abhiññā sacchikatvā pavedentī’ti—

This is right view that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment.
ayaṁ, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi sāsavā puññabhāgiyā upadhivepakkā.

So more often than not “wrong view” in the EBT’s just means plain wrongheaded nastyness, not anything particularly philosophical or profound, while the “thicket of views” is what keeps even the meditating pacifist shackled to the round of rebirth :slight_smile:

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I think anicca, dukkha and anatta are all skilfull contemplative ways to weaken our passion. Skillful means, sanna’s to develop and cool down the fire in the mind. Weaken it’s obsessions.

Because the arising of those obsessions, these passions, are also related to seeing value (seeing things as very important, as attractive, as a refuge, as a rescue, as happiness, as Me) it can be expected that the meaning of anatta is also related to value, i.e. seeing less value in conditioned phenomena. Expressions like empty, void, hollow do express that. One can take those meanings philosophically but how does ‘the absence of an inner essence’ in an icecream, in nice food, the body of a man or woman, make it less attractive? That does not do the work, at least not for me. It is much too philosophical and does not lead to dispassion.

So I think Thanissaro is, indeed, spot on. All those tilakkhana are about value, i.e. seeing things in a way they devalue. And that is the way the obsessions in us weaken and passions cool down.
I do not think we must see it as ‘characteristics of the world’ but as three aspects that color our perception. The perceptions of nicca, sukha, atta, subha are all related to the arising of passion. The counterparts anicca, dukkha, anatta, asubha lead to cooling down.

Those perceptions cool down the mind when those settle over time. It is not that one will be dispassionate immediately, is my experience, but it is more like ones view of life gradually ripens. Emotionally one begin to ripen.

I do not belief the Budddha taught there is no essence at all, nothing stable, nothing that is trustworthy, nothing reliable, no refuge. But I belief he taught that this is final ultimate total detachment. In the end this cannot be expressed and is very subtle. In other words, when the Buddha in many sutta’s says: rupa, vedana, sanna, sankhara and vinnana is ‘not Me, not mine, not my self’ , I belief, he expressed the wisdom of detachment. How can one describe this state, when it is detached from rupa, vedana, sanna, sankhara and vinnana. It is beyond it.

View is also about seeing nicca/anicca, sukha/dukkha, anatta/atta, subha/asubha. How we perceive things. Seeing anicca, dukkha and anatta is right view connected with Nibbana and called noble right view in MN117 and is different from mundane right view. Noble right view is seeing things in a way you do not become full of passion, i.e. as anicca, dukkha an anatta.Viewing things wrong (as nicca, sukha, atta, subha) passion arises.

anicca, anatta, and dukkha are truths. they are permanent, inviolable aspects of the universe. the buddha didn’t invent these - they are properties of nature, of the universe, of all things - truths that he saw.

sanna, perceptions, are impermanent, transient. they are part of the world, so obey the same three characteristics.

@Green, you seem to be searching for an essence or self within a doctrine that teaches there is no such thing. there is certainly an unconditioned state, but it is characterised by the absence of conditions, so is necessarily devoid of any intrinsic self, identity, or essence. i believe this state is stable, trustworthy, reliable, and a true refuge, but in the absence of self and other, i imagine it just ‘is’.

best wishes to you.

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@josephzizys and @IndyJ, Along with MN2, there is MN 9 worth considering:

A noble disciple understands grasping, its origin, its cessation, and the practice that leads to its cessation …
Yato kho, āvuso, ariyasāvako upādānañca pajānāti, upādānasamudayañca pajānāti, upādānanirodhañca pajānāti, upādāna­nirodha­gāmi­niṁ paṭipadañca pajānāti—
ettāvatāpi kho, āvuso, ariyasāvako sammādiṭṭhi hoti, ujugatāssa diṭṭhi, dhamme aveccappasādena samannāgato, āgato imaṁ saddhammaṁ.
But what is grasping? What is its origin, its cessation, and the practice that leads to its cessation?
Katamaṁ panāvuso, upādānaṁ, katamo upādānasamudayo, katamo upādānanirodho, katamā upādānanirodhagāminī paṭipadā?
There are these four kinds of grasping.
Cattārimāni, āvuso, upādānāni—
Grasping at sensual pleasures, views, precepts and observances, and theories of a self.
kāmupādānaṁ, diṭṭhupādānaṁ, sīlabbatupādānaṁ, attavādupādānaṁ.
Grasping originates from craving. Grasping ceases when craving ceases. The practice that leads to the cessation of grasping is simply this noble eightfold path …”

Here, views and theories of self are definitely differentiated. Hope this is useful.
:pray:

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IMO Ven. Thanissaro’s views on anatta have to be understood in the context of the view that nibbana is an exotic form of consciousness outside the five khandas. Please anyone correct me if I am wrong, but Ven. Thanissaro seems to be a proponent of this view of nibbana.

Going by the suttas, if nibbana is a form consciousness it cannot be not-self, because if it were not-self it would “lead to affliction” (sn22.59).

If the Buddha said there’s metaphysically no self, then nibbana-as-consciousness must have the not-self property, and therefore lead to affliction.

‘Anatta as a strategy’ dissolves this contradiction. The way I interpret it, the purpose of Ven. Thanissaro’s views on anatta is to have an interpretation of the suttas that is coherent with the interpretation of nibbana as exotic consciousness.

Basically, it boils down to “yes, nibbana is a permanent blissful form of consciousness, but you’re not supposed to have an opinion about whether it is self or not”.

To me, the problem is that nibbana-as-exotic-consciousness is extremely at odds with what the Buddha teaches countless times in the suttas. However, if you give up nibbana-as-exotic-consciousness, you don’t need a fancy interpretation of anatta.

I.e., if nibbana is the end of greed, hatred and delusion in the mind for the living arahant, and when the arahant dies, nibbana is the dissolution of the five khandas, the cessation of the stream of consciousness, the end of rebirth – then anatta is just another way of explaining impermanence. There isn’t anything that lasts, everything conditioned must come to an end eventually.

This it how things appear to me (an unawakened person), in any case :slight_smile:

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that is useful @trusolo. thank you.

thank you @Erik_ODonnell.

i think your observation that “nibbana-as-exotic-consciousness is extremely at odds with what the Buddha teaches countless times in the suttas” is correct.

consciousness, as the buddha defines it, is a transient, conditioned state that is unsatisfactory. nibbana is the opposite of that - neither transient, nor conditioned, and certainly not unsatisfactory.

i also think you’re wise to focus on impermanence as a means of understanding anatta - this accords with what the buddha suggests for the attainment of stream entry (see SN 25.1 to SN 25.10 starting from following link):

https://suttacentral.net/sn25.1/en/sujato

anatta is just another way of explaining impermanence. There isn’t anything that lasts, everything conditioned must come to an end eventually.

i think your direction of reasoning here is correct, but if you take it a bit further, you will see that anatta is actually a consequence of the impermanence of conditioned things:

because they have no permanence, they are constantly in flux;
because they are constantly in flux, then have no permanent essence or definitive nature.

best wishes - stay well.

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