Bhikkhu Bodhi

Anattalakkhana Sutta: The Characteristic of Nonself

Anattalakkhana Sutta: The Characteristic of Nonself

thus have i heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Baraṇasi in the Deer Park at Isipatana. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus of the group of five thus: “Bhikkhus!”

“Venerable sir!” those bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:

“Bhikkhus, form is nonself. For if, bhikkhus, form were self, this form would not lead to affliction, and it would be possible to have it of form: ‘Let my form be thus; let my form not be thus.’ But because form is nonself, form leads to affliction, and it is not possible to have it of form: ‘Let my form be thus; let my form not be thus.’

“Feeling is nonself…. … Perception is nonself…. Volitional formations are nonself…. Consciousness is nonself. For if, bhikkhus, consciousness were self, this consciousness would not lead to affliction, and it would be possible to have it of consciousness: ‘Let my consciousness be thus; let my consciousness not be thus.’ But because consciousness is nonself, consciousness leads to affliction, and it is not possible to have it of consciousness: ‘Let my consciousness be thus; let my consciousness not be thus.’

“What do you think, bhikkhus, is form permanent or impermanent?”—“Impermanent, venerable sir.”—“Is what is impermanent suffering or happiness?”—“Suffering, venerable sir.”—“Is what is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’?”—“No, venerable sir.”

“Is feeling permanent or impermanent?… Is perception permanent or impermanent?… Are volitional formations permanent or impermanent?… Is consciousness permanent or impermanent?”—“Impermanent, venerable sir.”—“Is what is impermanent suffering or happiness?”— “Suffering, venerable sir.”—“Is what is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’?”—“No, venerable sir.”

“Therefore, bhikkhus, any kind of form whatsoever, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, all form should be seen as it really is with correct wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’

“Any kind of feeling whatsoever … Any kind of perception whatsoever … Any kind of volitional formations whatsoever … Any kind of consciousness whatsoever, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, all consciousness should be seen as it really is with correct wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’

“Seeing thus, bhikkhus, the instructed noble disciple experiences revulsion towards form, revulsion towards feeling, revulsion towards perception, revulsion towards volitional formations, revulsion towards consciousness. Experiencing revulsion, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion his mind is liberated. When it is liberated there comes the knowledge: ‘It’s liberated.’ He understands: ‘Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more for this state of being.’”

That is what the Blessed One said. Elated, those bhikkhus delighted in the Blessed One’s statement. And while this discourse was being spoken, the minds of the bhikkhus of the group of five were liberated from the taints by nonclinging.


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About Bhikkhu Bodhi

Bhikkhu Bodhi is a Buddhist monk of American nationality, born in New York City in 1944. After obtaining a PhD in philosophy from the Claremont Graduate School, he came to Sri Lanka to enter the Sangha. He received the novice ordination in 1972 and the higher ordination in 1973, both under the eminent scholar monk, Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya, with whom he studied Pali and Dhamma.

He is the author of several works on Theravāda Buddhism, including four translations of great Pali-suttas, together with their comments. He was editor and president of the Buddhist Publication Society for many years.

He has been living at Chuang Yen Monastery since 2006 and in 2008, together with several of his students, Bhikkhu Bodhi founded Buddhist Global Relief, a non profit supporting hunger relief, sustainable agriculture, and education in countries suffering from chronic poverty and malnutrition. In May 2013 was elected president of BAUS.

You yourselves must strive, the Buddhas only point the way

Buddha, Dhp 276
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