Reply To: Sachi Samidu – Excellent Dhamma Explanations by a Four-Year Old


Many months ago I read this thread and also watched the video. The analogy of the “shadow belonging to the finger” stuck with me after that, and recently I had thought about it again regularly. This was because Ven. Amadassana Thero used very similar examples in the recent Dhamma sermons. I want to explain how I understand the relation of this analogy to the anicca-Nature. In other words, I do think that there is an important link from this analogy that can be made, which I want to explain here.


As Lal has explained in his article on Vinnana, any defiled consciousness is always consciousness together with expectations. These are expectations based on avija, the non-understanding of the yathabuta-nana, or, another way to say it, ignorance of the Anicca, Dukkha and anatta nature.

We set expectations (“I want my favorite soccer team to win”) because we consider that certain events or sankhara as pleasurable and “can be managed to our satisfaction”.

Here is one example that is more subtle. When we walk into the room, we might see “a chair”. 

If we look at the chair with “nicca-sañña”, we perceive that there is a “fixed object” called a chair, and there are certain rupas that belong to this “entity” (the legs belong to the chair, the sitting surface belongs to the chair, the backrest belongs to the chair). So, we perceive “the existence” of a chair. Imagine we sit down on that chair and after 2 minutes, the wooden surface of the chair cracks, or the plastic surface cracks, and we fall down to the floor. We might become hurt physically but we might also get annoyed mentally. I would say that part of that mental annoyance or anger is, that we have “perceived” that we have “sit on a chair”, in other words “sitting is an action that can be done with a chair”, so we also attribute certain sankhara as “belonging to the chair”. 

So in this “misperception” we perceive “a fixed entity” that is more than the working-together of it’s component and the “manifestation of an effect”, we also perceive “actions or sankhara” as belonging to such “entities”. Then we have already created an expectation deep within, which is part of a defiled Viññana. Instead, one has to understand that “sitting is a process” and a process happens when it’s causes come together, for as long as it’s causes come together. Similar to “seeing is a process”. Does the plastic belong to the chair? If we remove the legs of the chair, where is the chair gone? Is it gone with the legs? 

So, we usually like to think that “seeing is a sankhara that belongs to entities/beings”. Although in reality it is a process that happens in a mind (mental process) when the appropriate causes are there. So, besides the process of matter and mind we perceive “this matter belongs to Daniel” (the body belongs to me, Daniel) and we say “yesterday I saw you” (perceiving internally that “seeing was something I did”). So, we believe that we can control these entities to our liking. And we also consider the “seeing process” as something that, because we perceive it as being as our liking, being pleasurable and “worth to belong to me”, “worthy to create self from”. So we see that it is worthy to exist together with it, and we don’t see the hidden suffering of maintaining it, it going against our expectation – e.g. when we don’t see what we like to see, and we believe that there are “beautiful things out there to see”.)

Here are some more examples:

->We say that “I am in a relationship”, so we perceive “an existing relationship” where certain actions belong to that relationship, such as “caring for each other”, “hugging each other”. In reality, “being hugged” is vipaka, so it is conditional. But we get into a relationship and if the other person does not hug us, we complain to him/her “don’t you know that hugging is part of relationship?”

So, because we don’t understand “being hugged ” as Anicca, we get angry. 

->We look at ourselves in the mirror and see the body, “that belongs to me”. Do the fingers belong to the hand? Does the hand belong to the body? And does the body belong to “me”? If we see a person in the street, with one finger cut off, which is lying on the floor, we might suffer mentally, because “this is not how it should be” because the finger should be on the hand, not on the floor!

Instead, one should try and understand that “finger is what manifests” due to causes giving rise to the effect “finger”. These causes are constantly renewing and as soon as causes change, result changes. 

-> Recently I walked into a toilet at work, and there were two doors. One showed a “red circle” (occupied) and the other a “white circle” (not occupied). So we tend to perceive that “a door with white sign belongs to an unoccupied toilet”, in other words we immediately expect that when we open the door, we see a toilet which is unoccupied. We would complain to the person “Why did you not shut the door and turn the knob?”

-> when we see a movie, we see “a family” living well and happily. “A family” consists of “mother”, “father” and “child”, i.e. “child belongs to the family”. Suddenly a criminal kidnaps the child. So, we feel distressed because our model of “what we think belongs together” is in conflict with reality. Here, “child” is just “child”, it does not belong to anything. Wherever it is is because of the causes manifesting.  

-> When we look at other people, we see “German people” (this person belongs to community of German people), “Italian people”, “Hungarian people”. So, we don’t see that bodies are the same, they are all Rupa. These Rupa don’t even belong to “someone” (in ultimate reality)

-> We say that “I won the game yesterday” and feel “a sense of pride”. Actually, the vipaka-“thought”  that “won” has already passed away. But we consider “that thought belongs to me” and that is how when the memory of the event arises, “it was me who won the game” and so we feel good about it. 

-> Waharaka Thero once gave a similar explanation about this with the example of “bicycle”. Link here:

So, when we perceive this “fixed entity of a bicycle” we don’t see that “cycling is Anicca” (a process that manifests with the right causes). We push the pedal and it does not move or the chain snaps. This might make us angry, because we expected to drive with it.

Here is the link to the sermon by Ven. Amadassana Thero:

Shape Shifters


I welcome your comments and I am happy to discuss for more details.