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Exploring The Dhamma. Anatta - The Doctrine on No-Soul. "All phenomena (dhammas) are without Self; when one sees this with Insight-wisdom, one becomes weary of dukkha. This is the Path to Purity.” - Dhammapada verse 279. Anatta – The Doctrine on No-Soul.

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Anatta -

The Doctrine on No-Soul

"All phenomena (dhammas) are without Self; when one sees this with Insight-wisdom, one becomes weary of dukkha. This is the Path to Purity.” - Dhammapada verse 279


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Anatta – The Doctrine on No-Soul

Both Christanity and Islam have the notion of an individual soul. Hinduism has the idea of Atmam.

This soul or self in man is the thinker of thoughts, feeler of sensations and receiver of rewards and punishments for all its action good and bad.

Buddhism argues that the idea of self/soul is an imaginary, false belief which has no corresponding reality, and it produces harmful thoughts of “me” and “mine”, selfish desire, craving, attachment and other defilements, impurities and problems.

This false view can be traced as the cause of all evils in the world from personal conflicts to wars between nations.


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Why was the idea of Self created?

Two ideas are deeply rooted in man:

Self-protection

Self-preservation

For self-protection, man created God, on whom he can depend for his own protection, safety and security.

For self-preservation, man conceived the idea of an immortal Soul or Atman, which will live eternally.

In his ignorance, weakness, fear and desire, man needs these two things to console himself. Hence he clings to them deeply and fanatically.


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Anatta – The Doctrine on No-Soul

The Buddha’s teaching does not support this ignorance, weekness, fear and desire but aims at making man enlightened by removing and destroying the ignorance and desire.

The Buddha realised that the idea of self is so deep rooted and not many people are willing to hear any teaching against them.

Four weeks after His enlightenment, He thought to himself: “I have realized this Truth which is deep, difficult to see, difficult to understand….. Comprehensible only by the wise…..Man who are overpowered by passions and surrounded by a mass of darkness cannot see this Truth, which is against the current, which is lofty, deep and subtle and hard to comprehend.”


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Anatta, the Five Aggregates and Paticca-samuppada

The doctrine of Anatta or No-soul, is the natural result of, or the corollary to, the analysis of the Five Aggregates and the teaching of Conditioned Genesis (Paticca-samuppada).


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Five Aggregates - Panca Khandha

The Buddha taught that the human being is made up of five aggregates (Panca Khandha) - Nama (feeling; perception; mental formations; consciousness) and Rupa (matter).


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Five Aggregates - Panca Khandha

1st Aggregate – Aggregate of Matter (Rupa)

The 1st Aggregate includes the Four Great Elements (extension; cohesion; heat; motion) and the Derivatives of the Four Great Elements.

The “Derivatives of Four Great Elements” include our 5 material sense-organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body) and their corresponding objects in the external world (ie visible form, sound, odour, taste, and tangible things and also some thoughts or ideas or conceptions which are in the sphere of mind-objects).

The whole realm of matter, both internal and external, is included in the Aggregate of Matter.


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Five Aggregates - Panca Khandha

2nd Aggregate – Aggregate of Consciousness

Consciousness is a reaction or response which has one of the 6 faculties (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind) as its basis and one of the 6 external phenomena as its object.

For example, the visual consciousness has the eye as its basis and a visible form as its object.

Mental consciousness has mind as its basis and idea or thought as its object.

Consciousness does not recognise an object. It is only a sort of awareness – awareness of the presence of an object.


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Five Aggregates - Panca Khandha

2nd Aggregate – Aggregate of Consciousness

For example, when the eye comes in contact with a colour (say blue), visual consciousness arises which simply is awareness of the presence of a colour; but it does not recognise that it is blue.

There is no recognition at this stage. It is Perception Aggregate that recognises that it is blue.

The visual consciousness is hence “seeing without recognizing”. So are the other forms of consciousness.

The Buddha also explained that Consciousness depends on matter, sensation, perception and mental formations and that it cannot exist independently of them.


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Five Aggregates - Panca Khandha

The Mind

In Buddhism, the mind is regarded as an organ like the eye or nose. It can be controlled and developed like other faculty.

The difference between the eye and the mind is that the former senses the world of colours and visible forms, while the latter senses the world of ideas and thoughts and mental objects.


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Five Aggregates - Panca Khandha

3rd Aggregate – Aggregate of Perception

It is perceptions that recognise objects whether physical or mental.

Like consciousness, perceptions are also of 6 kinds, in relation to 6 internal faculties and the corresponding 6 external objects.

A box of jewels!!


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Five Aggregates - Panca Khandha

4th Aggregate – Aggregate of Sensation

These are all our sensations or feelings, pleasant or unpleasant or neutral, experienced through the contact of physical and mental organs with the external world.

There are 6 kinds of sensations:

Sensations experienced through eye contact with a physical object; ear with sound; nose with odour; tongue with taste; body with tangible objects; mind with mind-objects or thoughts or ideas.

What precious jewels!!

I am going to be rich!!


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Five Aggregates - Panca Khandha

5th Aggregate – Aggregate of Mental Formations

In this group all included all volitional activities (both good and bad) or kamma.

Like the others, volition is also of 6 kinds, connected to the 6 internal faculties and the corresponding 6 external objects.

I must take it. Nobody is watching me..


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Five Aggregates - Panca Khandha

5th Aggregate – Aggregate of Mental Formations

Sensations and perceptions are not volitional actions and do not produce karmic effects.

It is only volitional actions – such as attention, will, confidence, concentration, energy, desire, hate, conceit, ignorance, idea of self, etc – that produce karmic effects.

There are 52 such mental activities which constitute the Aggregate of Mental Formations.

I must take it. Nobody is watching me..

BAD KAMMA


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Five Aggregates - Panca Khandha

What we call a “being” or an “individual” or “I” is only a convenient name or a label given to the combination of these 5 aggregates.

I am angry!!

These 5 aggregates are all impermanent and constantly changing. The Buddha said: “The world is in continuous flux and is impermanent. Whatever is impermanent is dukkha. The five aggregates of attachment are dukkha.”

One thing disappears, conditioning the appearance of the next, in a series of cause and effect. There is no unchanging substance in them.


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Five Aggregates - Panca Khandha

There is nothing behind them that can be called a permanent Self (Atman), individually, or anything that can in reality be called “I”.

I am angry!!

Everyone agrees that each of the 5 aggregates individually cannot be called “I”.

But when we combine these five physical and mental aggregates as a psysio-psychological machine, we get the idea of an “I”.

This is a false idea, a mental formation and is nothing more than one of those 52 mental formations of the Perception Aggregate, namely the idea of self (sakkaya-ditthi).


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Five Aggregates - Panca Khandha

Iam angry!!

These five aggregates together, which we call a ‘being’, are dukka itself. There is no other ‘being’ or ‘I’ behind these five aggregates, who experiences dukkha.

As Buddhaghosa says:

‘Mere suffering exists, but no sufferer is found The deeds are, but no doer is found.’

There is no thinker behind the thought. Thought itself is the thinker. If you remove the thought, there is no thinker to be found


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Conditioned Genesis – Paticca-Samuppada

According to this doctrine, nothing in the world is absolute. Everything is conditioned, relative and interdependent.

The principle of this doctrine is given in a short formula of 4 lines:

When this is, that is This arising, that arises When this is not, that is not This ceasing, that ceases

On this principle of conditionality, relativity and interdependence, the whole existence and continuity of life and its cessation are explained in a detailed formula which is called Paticca-Samuppada consisting of 12 factors.



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Conditioned Genesis – Paticca-Samuppada

It should be clearly noted that each of these factors is conditioned (paticcasamupanna) as well as conditioning (paticcasamuppada).

They are all relative, interdependent and interconnected. Nothing is absolute or independent; hence there is no first cause accepted by Buddhism.

According to this doctrine, the idea of an abiding, immortal substance in man or outside, whether it is called Atman, “I”, soul, self, or ego, is considered only a false relief, a mental projection.


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Anatta – The Doctrine on No-Soul

According to the Buddha’s teaching, it is as wrong to hold the opinion “I have no self” (annihiliationist theory) as to hold the opinion “I have self” (eternalist theory) because both are fetters, both arising out of the false idea “I AM”.

The correct position with regard to the question of Anatta is to try to see things objectively as they are without mental projections, to see that what we call “I” is only a combination of physical and mental aggregates, which are working together interdependently in a flux of momentary change within the law of cause and effect, and that there is nothing, permanent, everlasting and eternal in the whole of existence.


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The gift of Dhamma excels all gifts the taste of Dhamma excels all taste, the delight in dhamma excels all delights, The Craving-Freed vanquishes all suffering.

- Dhammapada verse 354

End of Lesson


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