Anatta-lakkhana Sutta

Anatman: not-self; one of the three characteristics (laksana or lakshana) of all things that appear to exist in the phenomenal world. The other two characteristics are impermanence (anicca) and unsatisfactoriness or producing pain (duhka). The Anatman doctrine is one of the central teachings of Bud­dhism. It says that no ego-self exists in the sense of an unchanging, eternal and independent being. Thus in Buddhism the ego-self is no more than a transito­ry personality, consisting of the five aggregates (skandha). (Wisdom Library)

The five skandha are the functions of the mind, which we mistake for our self. The first is rupa, form. Vedana are feelings or sensations. Samjna means knowledge of characteristics or differences. Samskara are one’s expectations: they are the causes which produce all events. Vijnana, consciousness, are the five sensory phenomena–that which is seen, that which is heard, etc. The sixth vijnana is thoughts, which are also phenomena of which we become aware. Thoughts and other sensory phenomena are no more than the repetition of patterns established over millennia.

 

Anatta-lakkhana Sutta: Discourse on the Characteristics of That Which is Not Self

(Or, “How to tell whether or not something is Self”)

Translated from the Pali by N.K.G. Mendis © 2007

Thus it was heard by me. At one time the Blessed One was living in the deer park of Isipatana near Benares. There, indeed, the Blessed One addressed a group of monks regarding the five skandha.

Form (rupa), O monks, is not Self. If form were Self, then form would not lead to passions, and it should obtain regarding form: ‘May my form be thus, may my form not be thus.’ And indeed, O monks, since form is not Self, therefore form leads to passions and it does not obtain regarding form: “May my form be thus, may my form not be thus.”

Feeling (vedana), O monks, is not Self. If feeling were Self, then feeling would not lead to passions, and it should obtain regarding feeling: “May my feeling be thus, may my feeling not be thus.” And indeed, O monks, since feeling is not Self, therefore feeling leads to passions, and it does not obtain regarding feeling: “May my feeling be thus, may my feeling not be thus.”

Knowledge (samjna), O monks, is not Self. If knowledge were Self, then knowledge would not lead to passions and it should obtain regarding knowledge: “May my knowledge be thus, may my knowledge not be thus.” And indeed, O monks, since knowledge is not Self, therefore knowledge leads to passions, and it does not obtain regarding knowledge: “May my knowledge be thus, may my knowledge not be thus.”

Expectations (samskara), O monks, are not Self. If expectations were Self, then expectations would not lead to passions, and it should obtain regarding expectations: “May my expectations be thus, may my expectations not be thus.” And indeed, O monks, since expectations are not Self, therefore expectations lead to passions, and it does not obtain regarding expectations: “May my expectations be thus, may my expectations not be thus.”

Consciousness (vijnana), O monks, is not Self. If consciousness were Self, then consciousness would not lead to passions and it should obtain regarding consciousness: “May my consciousness be thus, may my consciousness not be thus.” And indeed, O monks, since consciousness is not Self, therefore, consciousness leads to passions, and it does not obtain regarding consciousness: “May my consciousness be thus, may my consciousness not be thus.”

What do you think, O monks? Is form permanent or impermanent?

Impermanent, O Lord.

Now, it being impermanent, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?

Unsatisfactory, O Lord.

Now, form being impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change, is it proper to view it thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my Self”?

Indeed, not, O Lord.

What do you think, O monks? Is feeling permanent or impermanent?

Impermanent, O Lord.

Now, it being impermanent, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?

Unsatisfactory, O Lord.

Now, feeling being impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change, is it proper to view it thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my Self”?

Indeed, not, O Lord.

What do you think, O monks? Is knowledge permanent or impermanent?

Impermanent, O Lord.

Now, it being impermanent, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?

Unsatisfactory, O Lord.

Now, knowledge being impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change, is it proper to view it thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my Self”?

Indeed, not, O Lord.

What do you think, O monks? Are expectations permanent or impermanent?

Impermanent, O Lord.

Now, they being impermanent, are they unsatisfactory or satisfactory?

Unsatisfactory, O Lord.

Now, expectations being impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change, is it proper to view them thus: ‘These are mine, these I am, these are my Self”?

Indeed, not, O Lord.

Now what do you think, O monks? Is consciousness permanent or impermanent?

Impermanent, O Lord.

Now, it being impermanent, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?

Unsatisfactory, O Lord.

Now, consciousness being impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change, is it proper to regard it thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my Self”?

Indeed, not, O Lord.

Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever forms, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all those forms must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to the Dharma, thus: “These are not mine, this I am not, this is not my Self.”

Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever feelings, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all those feelings must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to the Dharma, thus: “These are not mine, this I am not, this is not my Self.”

Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever knowledge, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all of that knowledge must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to the Dharma, thus: “This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my Self.”

Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever expectations, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all those expectations must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to the Dharma, thus: “These are not mine, this I am not, this is not my Self.”

Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever consciousness, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all that consciousness must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to the Dharma, thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my Self.”

O monks, the well-instructed noble disciple, seeing thus, becomes wearied of form, becomes wearied of feeling, becomes wearied of knowledge, becomes wearied of expectations, becomes wearied of consciousness. Being wearied, he frees himself of passions. In his freedom from passions, he is emancipated. Being emancipated, there is the knowledge that he is emancipated. He knows: “Birth is no more, lived is the holy life, what had to be done is done, there is nothing more of this becoming.”

This the Blessed One said. Pleased, the monks were overjoyed with the discourse of the Blessed One; moreover, as this discourse was being spoken, the minds of the monks were freed of passions, without attachment.

3 thoughts on “Anatta-lakkhana Sutta

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s