The Discourse on the Non-Self Characteristic

Anatta-lakkhana Sutta: The Discourse on the Non-self Characteristic

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 aggregates that make up the self (skandha).

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

“Feeling (vedana), O monks, is non-self. If feeling were self, then feeling would not lead to affliction and it should obtain regarding feeling: ‘May my feeling be thus, may my feeling not be thus.’ And indeed, O monks, since feeling is non-self, therefore feeling leads to affliction and it does not obtain regarding feeling: ‘May my feeling be thus, may my feeling not be thus.’

“Perception (samjna), O monks, is non-self. If perception were self, then perception would not lead to affliction and it should obtain regarding perception: ‘May my perception be thus, may my perception not be thus.’ And indeed, O monks, since perception is non-self, therefore, perception leads to affliction and it does not obtain regarding perception: ‘May my perception be thus, may my perception not be thus.’

“Mental formations (samskara), O monks, are non-self. If mental formations were self, then mental formations would not lead to affliction and it should obtain regarding mental formations: ‘May my perception be thus, may my mental formations not be thus.’ And indeed, O monks, since mental formations are non-self, therefore, mental formations lead to affliction and it does not obtain regarding mental formations: ‘May my mental formations be thus, may my mental formations not be thus.’

“Consciousness (vijnana), O monks, is non-self. If consciousness were self, then consciousness would not lead to affliction and it should obtain regarding consciousness: ‘May my consciousness be thus, may my consciousness not be thus.’ And indeed, O monks, since consciousness is non-self, therefore, consciousness leads to affliction 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 perception permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, O Lord.”

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

“Unsatisfactory, O Lord.”

“Now, perception 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 mental formations permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, O Lord.”

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

“Unsatisfactory, O Lord.”

“Now, mental formations 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 reality, 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 reality, thus: ‘These are not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’

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

“Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever mental formations, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all those mental formations must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to reality, 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 reality, thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’

“O monks, the well-instructed noble disciple, seeing thus, gets wearied of form, gets wearied of feeling, gets wearied of perception, gets wearied of mental formations, gets wearied of consciousness. Being wearied he becomes free of passions. In his freedom from passions, he is emancipated. Being emancipated, there is the knowledge that he is emancipated. He knows: ‘Birth is exhausted, 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 delighted with the exposition of the Blessed One; moreover, as this exposition was being spoken, the minds of the monks were freed of defilements, without attachment.

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