by K.G. Justin de Silva

The Doctrine of ANATTA (Non self)

(Samyutta Nikaya)

From the contents of this book one may virtually perceive the fact that , the formation of a being or an organic body is a permanent feature that does not change, which fact is largely believed by almost all on this earth.

However as the solar system, earth and the rotation of the earth keeps changing its phase, the formations owing to changing energies arising from them too changes in strength and if necessary in form.

Hence all beings subject to such energies have to keep changing. This I believe is the basis of Doctrine of Anatta.

Lord Buddha with his first Sermon to his former five associates and later his desciples , namely Vappa, Baddiya, Assaji, Kondanna & Mahanama. explained the facts of a changing self or that the belief in a permanent self cannot be accepted.

We feel that we exist. Yet what exists is a changing bundle of energies. This in other terms is a bundle of trapped energy. We must realize as the earth rotates this bundle of energies too keep changing each split second.

Hence we can realize that this bundle of energies comprising of a physical body and a non visual mind keeps changing from moment to moment, and this body and mind together which we call “self” cannot be a permanent feature on the earth.

This will extend to the fact that there is no “ME” “I’ or “MINE” in relation to this body and mind.

Lord Buddha in his sermon of ANATTA LAKKANA SUTTA, explained this fact and went on to explain that:

We exist and what exists is not “self” He went on to explain that:

Form is not self Feeling is not self
Perception is not self
Determination is not self
Consciounessness is not self ,
Thus explaining that five aggregates (Rupa, vedana, Sangna, Sankara and vingana) are not self.

As the above five aggregates keep changing or is not permanent , aggregates are impermanent. (These five aggregates are part and parcel of our thoughts and mind in momemt to moment or day to day living)

This impermanence of the aggregates is Dukka or suffering or painfulness. Clinging to the five aggregates with a belief of a permanent identity of self , itself is Dukka. Paticca Samuppada in the Buddhist texts explains the impermanence extremely well.

Paticca Samuppada:

  1. Corporeality-Mentality (Nama Rupa) gives rise to six bases (Aggregates or Eyes, Nose, Mouth, Ear, Body and mind)
  2. Six bases give rise to impressions.
  3. Impressions gives rise to feelings.
  4. Feelings gives rise to craving .
  5. Craving gives rise to Ignorance with Lobha ,Dosa
  6. Ignorance gives rise to clinging.
  7. Clinging gives rise to Karma formations
  8. Karma gives rise to process of re-becoming (re birth)
  9. Re-becoming ( re-birth) gives rise to old age and death.
  10. Old age and death will give rise to another re-becoming (re birth) which will continue as a cycle.

Hence there cannot be a permanent soul or a self as this bundle of energy keeps changing.

Now let us get to the fact of a non self and eternally emerging Dukka and the manner of escaping from this changing bundle of energies.

The Path to escape this “changing self” is explained as Arya Ashatangika Margaya or Noble eight fold path. The first of the Noble Eight Fold Path is “Samma Diththi” which means right understanding.

The opposite of Samma Ditthi is Sakkaya Ditthi which is “The belief of a permanent soul, or a personality creates, skeptical thoughts, addiction to rules and regulations, sensual desires and cravings, Aversion & anger or hatred , Craving to exist on the earth and other worlds, Pride restlessness, and ignorance”.

Once the doctrine of Anatta or non self is properly understood (Samma Ditthi), one eventually is lead to the Noble eight fold path, with a goal to a happy ending or to Nirvana. Between Samma Ditthi and the state of Nirvana, one can be assured of a life with lesser suffering.

Meditation which creates stillness or regulated patterns of energies in the energies surrounding bodies ( clusters of atoms, molecules and cells with multicellular organisms) the only way to successfully walk the way of eight fold noble path is meditation, and this unique while there is no other way

It is my effort in this chapter to explain, that the term “I’ or “Me” is a term to explain a mixture of Bundle of energies resulting as a triangle of forces. The centre of the triangle entraps energy to form a being , and will be entrapped as the five aggregates (mind and body) until clinging is driven out from this body. This body of form and mind exists as a unit of electro magnetic waves, subject to other field forces on the earth and outside the earth. The function of this “Bundle of energies” is to sustain the energies surrounding the earth to manifest energy for the correct use on the earth. It is our determination, as from five aggregates (Through Vingana or consciouness), that we can maintain a proper order of the energies surrounding the earth.

To make this matter simple, if we eat and drink for the nutriment of the body, and use sexual desires to enrich this earth to replace the dying bundles of energies (Beings), and share the available resources, for common and mutual usage of all beings, then we have understood, that we are not permanent “selfs” but are working together for the benefit of the earth and universe.

Further more one might be inquisitive as to when an organism or a “bundle of energy” originated. No body or no scientist can answer this question. An organism or “a bundle of changing energies” travels through time, for many millions of years and this span of life in Buddhism is termed as samsara. During the samsaric travel of an organism, the organism will have many millions of deaths and many births, with many re becomings from one birth to a next birth. During this cycle of samsara through many millions of years, suffering due to impermanence is a must, but will change for the better with wholesome Karma reached with good deeds, while getting on to the noble eight fold path, (Arya ashtangika Margaya).

Billions of organism travel through such samsara, in association with this earth or the universe. No organism (or a bundle of energies or aggregates) is in control of the path and conditions of travel through the many millions of years, but is decided by its own deed and Karma.

Such lives through the samsara or many millions of years by an organism, re becoming, living and dying is expressed by lord Buddha, as Dukka, Anicca, and Anatma, as it is an ever changing process.

While beings have to change and adapt to the changing environment of the earth, the earth too has to adapt the repercussions owing to the Karmic results of its related organisms.

Hence the term Kammana Vattathi Loko is valid again.

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