Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta

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The Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta (Pali; S. *Anātmalakṣaṇa sūtra; C. Wuwo 無我) is traditionally said to be the second discourse of the Buddha, the first being Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. The title translates to the "Characteristic of Not-Self Discourse".

This text is also known as the Pañcavaggi Sutta (Pali), literally the "Group of Five Discourse", referring to the group of five (pañcavaggiyā), the first five disciples, to whom the Buddha is speaking within the discourse.[1]

In this discourse, the Buddha explains to the five disciples that the five skandhas (constituents of a person's body and mind) are each impermanent (anicca), subject to suffering (dukkha) and thus unfit for identification with a "self" (atta).[2]

Text

Pali Canon

This sutta is included the Samyutta Nikaya of the Pali Canon. The number given to the sutta depends on the edition of the canon.

  • "SN 22.59" (CSCD) is the most common reference[3]
  • "SN 21.59" (SLTP)[4]
  • "S iii 66" (PTS).[5]

There may be a parallel text with the Vinaya Pitaka of the Pali Canon.[6]

Chinese Canon

In the Chinese Canon, this sutra is found in the Samyukta Agama (SA 34).[6]

Translations into English

Translations from Pali:

Translations from Chinese:

Translation from SuttaCentral

This translation of the text Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta, SN 22.59 is published by SuttaCentral under license CC0 1.0. Translation by Bhikkhu Sujato. SuttaCentral icon square 170px.png


The Characteristic of Not-Self

At one time the Buddha was staying near Benares, in the deer park at Isipatana. There the Buddha addressed the group of five mendicants:

“Mendicants!”

“Venerable sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“Mendicants, form is not-self. For if form were self, it wouldn’t lead to affliction. And you could compel form: ‘May my form be like this! May it not be like that!’ But because form is not-self, it leads to affliction. And you can’t compel form: ‘May my form be like this! May it not be like that!’

Feeling is not-self …

Perception is not-self …

Choices are not-self …

Consciousness is not-self. For if consciousness were self, it wouldn’t lead to affliction. And you could compel consciousness: ‘May my consciousness be like this! May it not be like that!’ But because consciousness is not-self, it leads to affliction. And you can’t compel consciousness: ‘May my consciousness be like this! May it not be like that!’

What do you think, mendicants? Is form permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, sir.”

“But if it’s impermanent, is it suffering or happiness?”

“Suffering, sir.”

“But if it’s impermanent, suffering, and perishable, is it fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, I am this, this is my self’?”

“No, sir.”

“Is feeling permanent or impermanent?” …

“Is perception permanent or impermanent?” …

“Are choices permanent or impermanent?” …

“Is consciousness permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, sir.”

“But if it’s impermanent, is it suffering or happiness?”

“Suffering, sir.”

“But if it’s impermanent, suffering, and perishable, is it fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, I am this, this is my self’?”

“No, sir.”

“So you should truly see any kind of form at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near: *all* form—with right understanding: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’

Any kind of feeling at all …

Any kind of perception at all …

Any kind of choices at all …

You should truly see any kind of consciousness at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near: *all* consciousness—with right understanding: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’

Seeing this, a learned noble disciple grows disillusioned with form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness. Being disillusioned, desire fades away. When desire fades away they’re freed. When they’re freed, they know they’re freed.

They understand: ‘Rebirth is ended, the spiritual journey has been completed, what had to be done has been done, there is no return to any state of existence.’”

That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, the group of five mendicants were happy with what the Buddha said. And while this discourse was being spoken, the minds of the group of five mendicants were freed from defilements by not grasping.

  - Translated by Bhikkhu Sujato, SuttaCentral

See also

Notes

  1. While, due to its content, this discourse is widely known as the Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta (e.g., see Mendis, 2007, Ñanamoli, 1993, and CSCD SN 22.59), this discourse is also known as the Pañcavaggi Sutta (see Thanissaro, 1993, and SLTP SN 21.59). The basis for this latter title is that the Buddha is addressing his original "group of five" (pañcavaggiya) disciples, all of whom become arahants upon hearing this discourse (Mhv 6:47).
  2. Thanissaro (1993).
  3. "SN 22.59" denotes that this discourse is the fifty-ninth discourse in the 22nd group in the Samyutta Nikaya.
  4. Due to a different grouping of the SN suttas (e.g., in the SLTP, the CSCD's samyutta 13 is included as a final vaggo [chapter] in SLTP samyutta 12) , this is samyutta 21 of the SLTP redaction and samyutta 22 of the CSCD redaction.
  5. "S iii 66" denotes that, in the Pali Text Society edition of the Canon, this discourse starts on page 66 of the third volume of the Samyutta Nikaya. An example of this notation can be found in Thanissaro (1993).
  6. 6.0 6.1 SuttaCentral icon square 170px.png The Characteristic of Not-Self (SN 22.59), SuttaCentral; click down-arrow to view "parallel texts"

Sources


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