Discourse 1 – Nicca, Sukha, Atta

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    • #13953
      Lal
      Keymaster

      This discussion topic is on the first desana on nicca, sukha, atta:

      Three Marks of Existence – English Discourses

    • #13973
      Anonymous

      Hello Everyone,

      Just prior to hitting the play button to this desana, a dizzying head rush occurred. A familiar precusor to a major perception change…and this desana was just that!

      The significance in this desana came with the example of the fly drawn to the light. It solidified the understanding of the dangers of normal sense pleasures easily and being stuck in the long and dangerous rebirth process.

      Lately, excessive sense pleasures (ie, cookies and chocolate, something given up after Christmas and then indulged in yesterday) are now creating instantaneous kamma vipaka both good and bad. In the case of cookies, nausea! It seems if you try to go backwards the suffering is fast and severe if it is not in alignment with attaining Arahanthood. This goes for not only actions, but speech and thought. It’s amazing how the process moves you along to walk the path!

      With metta,
      Donna :)

    • #13976
      y not
      Participant

      ‘Dizzying head rush’…pinpricks inside the brain, a ‘here we are’
      feeling….it happened to me on first coming across this website; and
      that was a week or two before or after, I do not remember exactly which,
      that I first came across a Theravada monk in this country.

    • #14018
      Akvan
      Participant

      Hi Lal,

      In most places aniccha, dukka, anaththa is referred to as the thilakkana, and you refer to it as three marks of existence.

      However, in most sutta’s aniccha, dukka, anaththa are referred to as sanna; signs or perceptions. I take mark (lakkana) to mean something that is inherent in the object, while perception (sanna) is a way that one will see it or a meaning that one will extract from it.

      For example, any object (sankatha) will deteriorate and this is something inherent to that object; vayo sankatha lakkanang. While an object is not inherently aniccha because for it to be aniccha (or niccha) one has to have a liking towards it. I cannot recall any sutta’s that say something like aniccha sankatha lakkanan or aniccha lakkana.

      I know that talking about whether it is a lakkana or a sanna will have no difference to the understanding of aniccha, dukka and anaththa. But can you share any sutta’s that refer to aniccha, dukka, anaththa as lakkana?

    • #14020
      Lal
      Keymaster

      Akvan said: “In most places aniccha, dukka, anaththa is referred to as the thilakkana, and you refer to it as three marks of existence.”

      I have used both “three characteristics of nature” and “three marks of existence” to translate the Pali word Tilakkhana to English. If you look at popular English translations, people have used both those translations.

      I also use just Tilakkhana at many places without translating too. That is the best, but one who is not familiar with the Pali word may get stuck. So, I have to use those common English translations too.

      Akvan said: “However, in most sutta’s aniccha, dukka, anaththa are referred to as sanna”. and “But can you share any sutta’s that refer to aniccha, dukka, anaththa as lakkana?”

      Different suttas have used both those terms. For example, Sabbasava sutta used “anicca sanna“. Anattalakkhana Sutta has “anatta lakkhana” in the title itself.

      We should not get hang up on words. As you said:”I know that talking about whether it is a lakkana or a sanna will have no difference to the understanding of aniccha, dukka and anaththa”. That is exactly right. One just need to comprehend what is meant. Understanding is deeper than just description by words. On the other hand we have to use words to convey the idea to others. As long as the idea gets across that is fine.

      Key Pali words like anicca and anatta cannot be translated word to word. They could be described in several (related) ways.

      This is why my description of anicca or anatta may vary somewhat from post to post. But they are all inter-consistent.

    • #14030
      Akvan
      Participant

      Hi Lal,

      Though it is commonly referred to as the antthalakkhana sutta https://suttacentral.net/pi/sn22.59, the actual pali sutta is named “Pancavaggiya Sutta”. And even in the sutta the word “lakkhana” is not mentioned.

      Or is there another anattha lakkhana sutta that I missed out?

    • #14031
      Lal
      Keymaster

      The link that you provided goes to “59. Anatta­lak­kha­ṇa­sutta”.

      On the sutta list under Khandha Saṃyutta at Sutta Central, it is also listed as “Pañcavaggiya [Anattalakkhaṇa]”.

      So, it could be also listed as Pañcavaggiya Sutta in some places. But this is a very famous sutta, which I had always known as the Anatta Lakkhana Sutta. I believe this is the sutta that Ven. Sariputta delivered to explain in detail the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. It explains the concept of anatta.

    • #14033
      C. Saket
      Participant

      Hii everyone

      May the blessings of the Triple Gem be with you always !

      I think this is a good reference :

      Anicca­lak­kha­ṇa­vatthu

      Sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā”ti,
      yadā paññāya passati;
      Atha nibbindati dukkhe,
      esa maggo visuddhiyā.

      Duk­kha­lak­kha­ṇa­vatthu

      Sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhā”ti,
      yadā paññāya passati;
      Atha nibbindati dukkhe,
      esa maggo visuddhiyā.

      Anatta­lak­kha­ṇa­vatthu

      Sabbe dhammā anattā”ti,
      yadā paññāya passati;
      Atha nibbindati dukkhe,
      esa maggo visuddhiyā.

      please see – Dhammapada 277,278,279

      MAY ALL BEINGS ACHIEVE NIBBANA !!!

    • #14112
      Akvan
      Participant

      Thanks Lal and Saket.

      I came across this problem when I was looking for the Anatthalakkhana Sutta in some pali and Sinhala tipitaka’s. For example in the Buddha Jayanthi Edition of the Tripitaka I couldn’t find a Anattha Lakkhana Sutta. What we refer to as the antthalakkhana sutta is actually the panca vaggiya sutta.

      It is the same with the Dhammapada references that Saket provided. The corresponding Dhammapada 277-279 in the Budhha Jayanthi version have no sub-headings like anicchalakkanavatthu etc., although such sub-headings are there in sutta central.

      I could not find any other place in the tripitaka where aniccha lakkana or the term “thilakkana” is explicitly mentioned. So if you do come across this please let me know.

      I did not want to write about this at the beginning but on further thought I thought it would be good to write something as it might help to distinguish between the differences in aniccha and anithya (impermanence). Again some might see this as simply word play and etymology but it helped me to understand it a bit better.

      Aniccha is referred to as a sanna (sign or perception) that should be cultivated. This is the same for dukka, anaththa, asuba, pahaana, anicche dukka, dukke anaththa etc.

      Lakkhana (lakshsana) could be taken to mean a mark or characteristic and is different to a perception or a sign. For example there is a man standing in front of us and he has a few characteristics. His height and skin colour, hair colour, his clothes etc. are all characteristics. And these characteristics can be seen by anyone looking at the man and won’t change based on who is looking at him. However the sanna (perception) that different people will take from this man can differ. Some will see him as good or evil or intelligent, my father or friend etc. These are perceptions and are not something inherently in that man and will differ based on who is looking at the man.

      So how I understand this is; impermanence (addhuvang), change (viparinama), decay (vaya) etc are all characteristics of any object or person. For example that is why it is said “vayo sankatha lakkanang”. However aniccha, the fact that we cannot maintain anything to our liking, is not a characteristic of the object but a perception we create because of that object. So there has to be someone who sees that object as niccha or aniccha or asubha etc. Without that person seeing it that way there can be no aniccha in that object. So it is we who cultivate that niccha or aniccha perception of an object. Therefore aniccha is not a characteristic (lakkhana) because if it were a characteristic anyone looking at it will see it like that.

      This is the same with dukkha. If everything has the characteristic of dukkha there is no way out of dukkha until we eliminate everything in this world. However I don’t think dukkha is inherently in an object but it is created (brought on) by a person who doesn’t see the aniccha nature of it. That is why all though everything is said to be dukkha, there is a way out of all this dukkha. By seeing it or perceiving it differently.

      So in conclusion I would say that aniccha, dukkha, anattha, asuba etc. are all perceptions that we create and not something inherent in an object, while impermanence is something inherent in an object and can be seen by anyone observing it. So, it is not the impermanent characteristic that gives dukkha but how one perceives it, by perceiving it as niccha, subha etc. that brings about dukkha.

    • #14121
      Johnny_Lim
      Participant

      Hi AKvan,

      Interesting observation: “However aniccha, the fact that we cannot maintain anything to our liking, is not a characteristic of the object but a perception we create because of that object. So there has to be someone who sees that object as niccha or aniccha or asubha etc. Without that person seeing it that way there can be no aniccha in that object. So it is we who cultivate that niccha or aniccha perception of an object. Therefore aniccha is not a characteristic (lakkhana) because if it were a characteristic anyone looking at it will see it like that.”

      From SN 22.57

      ““And how, bhikkhus, is a bhikkhu skilled in seven cases? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu understands form, its origin, its cessation, and the way leading to its cessation; he understands the gratification, the danger, and the escape in the case of form.”

      It is evident in this sutta that the danger is Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta:

      “The pleasure and joy that arise in dependence on form: this is the gratification in form. That form is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change: this is the danger in form.”

      The last part of the sutta says…

      “And how, bhikkhus, is a bhikkhu a triple investigator? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu investigates by way of the elements, by way of the sense bases, and by way of dependent origination. It is in such a way that a bhikkhu is a triple investigator.”

      Agree with you that Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta is meaningful only when there is an ‘observer’ contemplating the phenomena. As illustrated above, the observer investigates by way of the elements and their derivatives (external phenomena), by way of the sense bases (via 5 khanddhas), and by way of dependent origination (the causal relationship between the first 2 entities).

    • #14122
      Lal
      Keymaster

      Hi Akvan, Johnny,

      Actually, anicca nature is INHERENT in the things in our world. It is rooted in the udaya (arising), vaya (destruction) of a sankata, and also the viparinama nature of a sankata in between udaya and vaya.

      This is why Udayavaya Nana is of importance for the Sotapanna stage; see, “Udayavaya Nana“. Those can be called characteristics of nature or marks of existence or Tilakkhana.

      Understanding those characteristics of all sankata are helpful in cultivating the anicca sanna. Reading about the anicca nature may help remove the ditthi vipallasa about anicca. But cultivating the anicca sanna needs a bit more work. This is what I will be discussing in the next desana.

      Pancakkhandha are mainly mental; see “The Five Aggregates (Pañcakkhandha)“.

      But those mental impressions arise from our interaction with those material things (sankata) out there in the world. Those material things (or each person’s pancakkhandha) do not have dukha in them. It is only when we make cravings (or upadana) those things (panca upadanakkhandha) that we become subjected to dukha (suffering). It is helpful to comprehend the udaya, vaya, and viparinama nature of sankata, in order to see the root causes of anicca nature.

      Pancakkhandha is like a bottle of poison sitting on a table. One gets into trouble only if one takes it and drinks from it (panca upadanakkhandha). An Arahant has pancakkhandha, but no panca upadanakkhandha.

      This is a deeper aspect of anicca that I will discussing in a future desana.

      Now, I do not want to scare people by saying that all these are requirements for the Sotapanna stage. These are just different ways of looking at the anicca nature. One may “see” anicca nature in many different ways, and understanding more ways is better to remove the sanna vipallasa of a nicca nature. it is also true that one can become a Sotapanna without even having read about Udayavaya Nana. But it depends on whether one has done those investigations in past lives. It is similar to the case where jhanas come easily to those who had cultivated them in previous lives.

    • #14124
      Johnny_Lim
      Participant

      Hi Lal,

      Agreed that anicca is a property of everything in this world and that Udayavaya is one of Anicca’s characteristics. Regardless of what we think of an object, it is going to change and eventually perish. It is just like 2 houses, one occupied by a puthujjana, and the other occupied by an Arahant. Both houses WOULD NOT because the puthujjana getting so attached to his house and the Arahant not being attached to the house at all, avoid being deteriorated. Both houses WILL still deteriorate at some point of time regardless of what both of them think. Many thanks for emphasising this point. The houses not having a mind of its own, of course will not feel dukkha. I’m sure if they have consciousness, they will be no different from sentient beings, and would be able to experience and voice out their dukkha!

      The Universe does not have problems. We do. – Nick Lucid

      I like the above one liner from Youtuber Nick Lucid. His science asylum channel is quite interesting. Anyway, he said the universe does not have problems. We human beings do. That’s only half correct based on the observation above. We human beings like to label things as good and bad based on our likes and dislikes. But that does not free up the ‘inherent problems’ with things that we have no craving for. Just like the houses mentioned above.

    • #14125
      y not
      Participant

      Hi Johnny_Lim:

      Very relevant Lal’s: “But it depends on whether one has done those investigations in past lives” Some things are easy to grasp not by
      sheer coincidence, nor even because of intelligence, however phenomenal. Since my teenage years I remember ‘ticking mental boxes’ whenever I came across words like rebirth, reincarnation, past lives, sentient life on other planets, extraterrstrials ,the necessity that effects must follow causes even in the moral or ethical sense, not just in the material world around us. There was no need to reason out anything at all, just the KNOWING : yes, it IS so.
      Here on Puredhamma I am getting more of it.

      y not

    • #18869
      upekkha100
      Participant

      Before I can ever hope of truly grasping tilakkhana (pativedha), I want to make sure I at least have the basic intellectual understanding of it(pariyatti). This is my understanding, please let me know if I misunderstood anything:

      Some of the descriptions given for nicca are:
      -sense of safety
      -sense of predictability, stability

      Anicca would be opposite of those above.

      Other descriptions for anicca are:
      -without substance like bone without meat

      Everything that can be attributed to sabbe sankhara(no substance,bone without meat, no safety, no predictability/stability) can also be attributed to sabbe dhamma as well. Because while sabbe dhamma does not fall under sabbe sankhara, sabbe sankhara does fall under sabbe dhamma. Because sabbe dhamma means everything in this world including nama gotta, which is permanent thus anicca cannot apply to that.

    • #18872
      Lal
      Keymaster

      Upekkha100: Yes. You have grasped it well.

      However, regarding the last paragraph, this is not true: “Everything that can be attributed to sabbe sankhara(no substance,bone without meat, no safety, no predictability/stability) can also be attributed to sabbe dhamma as well.”

      • It is only “sabbe sankhara anicca”. Sankhara are like meat-less bones, only lead to suffering.
      • But nama gotta, which are not sankhara but are Dhamma, do not lead to any suffering. However, one can get to suffering by generating sankhara about nama gotta.

      • Sankhara are all mental. Nama gotta are memory records, and exist independent of one’s mind. Of course one can recall nama gotta.

      • Nama gotta are of course stable. But they are also of no use eventually, just as even Buddha Dhamma (which also does not change) needs to be given up to attain Nibbana (after the Anagami stage, in order to get to the Arahant stage).

      • On the other hand, all dhamma are not permanent. It just says, “Sabbe Dhamma anatta”; they are all of no use, ultimately, at the Arahant stage. But we do need nama gotta, as well as Buddha Dhamma, to get there.

      May be I did not fully understand that last part of your question?

    • #18876
      upekkha100
      Participant

      I made a mistake, I apologize. It should have been, everything that can be attributed to describe sabbe dhamma can be used to describe sabbe sankhara. Because sabbe dhamma means everything in this world, and sankhara is part of everything is this world.

      My confusion is in regards to the similar meanings given for both sankhara and dhamma. If I remember correctly, some of the descriptions like “without substance, no safety, meatless bones” for all sankhara, were also given for all dhamma. Since sankhara and dhamma are different, I thought how can both sankhara and dhamma share the common characteristic of “without substance/safety”, why was there a overlap. Wondering this, I came to the conclusion that it is because sabbe sankhara is part of sabbe dhamma. Is this incorrect?

    • #18877
      Lal
      Keymaster

      “My confusion is in regards to the similar meanings given for both sankhara and dhamma. If I remember correctly, some of the descriptions like “without substance, no safety, meatless bones” for all sankhara, were also given for all dhamma. ”

      Hopefully, the confusion can be resolved with the following example.

      Apple trees are also trees. But only an apple tree can produce apples. Just because apple trees belong to the category of trees, any other tree cannot produce apples.

      In the same way, sankhara are part of dhamma. But just because sankhara are of anicca nature (cannot be maintained to one’s satisfaction, like a meat-less bone, etc), other dhammas do not have such anicca nature. But sankhara also have anatta nature (without essence), because they are also included in Dhammas.

      In set theory, apple trees are a “subset” or “a part of” of the set of trees. The set of trees is the bigger set. The set of apple trees is a smaller set that is within the larger set of trees. Only apple trees can produce apples. But apple trees also have other characteristics of trees: roots, trunk, leaves, etc.

      Does that help?

    • #18879
      upekkha100
      Participant

      Yes, Lal. Thank you.The following paragraph made it clear. In case anyone had the same confusion as me, I highly recommend this paragraph be added to one of the essays on Tilakhanna(if something similar was not already written), it is too useful to get lost in the forum posts. Especially the part in bold:

      “In the same way, sankhara are part of dhamma. But just because sankhara are of anicca nature (cannot be maintained to one’s satisfaction, like a meat-less bone, etc), other dhammas do not have such anicca nature. But sankhara also have anatta nature (without essence), because they are also included in Dhammas.

    • #18880
      upekkha100
      Participant

      I’m trying to understand how each of the definitions given for anatta nature applies to everything, to clear any confusions. I know if one hasn’t even attained the Sotapanna stage, this would be unnecessary and jumping way ahead, but I’m curious for the sake of everything being consistent and having no contradictions.

      The meanings given for anatta are:
      -of no use, value, essence
      -The deeper meaning of “atta” is “in full control” or “the essence” or “the truth that is timeless”. Does not hold any ultimate truth.
      -Anatta: helpless” in case of a living being or “useless” in case of an inert thing. Provides no refuge/protection(thus becoming helpless)

      From what I understood so far, Tilakhanna is 100% true only for an Arahant. I want to focus on the phrase: sabbe dhamma anatta.

      There are things in this world that are of use/value/essence like punnabhisankhara, kusala kamma, nama gotta, jhanas, and Buddha Dhamma one needs and can use in order to advance on the Path. Only an Arahant would have no use for anything in this world.

      I’m having trouble with the following:
      1) one of meanings: ” Does not hold any ultimate truth. ”
      Even for an Arahant, doesn’t Buddha Dhamma and nama gotta contain the truth, I understand they would be of no value/use anymore to an Arahant, but they would still be true nonetheless? So can anatta really be described as “not hold any ultimate truth”?

      2) Won’t even an Arahant have use for nama gotta, use it to see past lives. And have use for things like water, food, good air, clothes, medicine, and shelter to survive? Does “sabbe dhamma anatta” become completely true when attaining Nibbana or does it become completely true at Parinibbana? Because to me it seems, only at Parinibbana does all of this hold true in its entirety, until then even an Arahant has use for some things in this world to survive.

      3) The only definition for anatta that seems to apply(at least for me) to nama gotta, is that even if it may be permanent, useful and contain truth, it still however can not provide someone with permanent refuge/protection.

      4) Which brings me to another point, is this another way to look at anatta:
      If something cannot provide me with ultimate and permanent refuge/protection, then it is anatta. And because something can’t provide me with permanent refuge, then it is ultimately of no value/essence.

    • #18889
      Akvan
      Participant

      Hi Upekkha100,

      1) The meaning of anatta as “does not hold any truth” seems a bit confusing at the face of it. But in some cases it may make sense. It may depend on the context. For example if we look at scientific or philosophical theories we may be able to see that they may not hold any ultimate truth.

      2) When it is said that anatta becomes completely true for an arahanth, I think it means that only when a person reaches the arahanth stage does one fully comprehend anatta.

      4) Yes, this is another way of looking at it, and I think this has been explained by Lal in some of his posts as well. I guess when one looks at things from the point of “yan dukkan thadanatta”, if one brings dukka then it is anatta, we can come to the understanding that if something doesn’t bring us happiness then there is no permanent refuge or protection in it.

    • #18893
      Lal
      Keymaster

      Sorry. I had been busy and did not upekkha100’s latest comment.

      Tilakkhana (ti + lakkhana) are three major CHARACTERISTICS or properties of the real nature of this world. There are several other characteristics too: asubha (not beneficial), rogato (subject to disease), etc.

      These characteristics are understood gradually when one starts on the Path. Significant improvements (or jumps) in understanding happens at the stages of magga phala.
      – For example, at the Anagami stage one realizes Tilakkhana to a more deeper level where one’s mind has realized that engaging in activities for sense pleasures is meaningless.
      – However, one cannot get there without understanding Tilakkhana at a lower level at the Sotapanna stage.

      This is what was discussed in the recent post: “Is It Necessary for a Buddhist to Eliminate Sensual Desires?

      Another point is that there are many ways to describe each of anicca, dukkha, anatta characteristics. For a given person, one aspect of anatta may be easily understood than another aspect.
      – For example, “atta” can mean a state that is “unchanging (no death), no unexpected change (no viparinama), and is the ultimate happiness”. What the Buddha is said such a state DOES NOT EXIST in this world. Thus as long as one is bound to this world of 31 realms, one BECOMES “anatta” (helpless or subject to suffering).
      – Nibbana is THAT STATE and one needs to overcome the sansaric bonds to this world (ten samyojana) in order to get there. That is real “atta” state and one who gets there becomes a true “attā”.

      This post discusses that aspect: “Anatta – the Opposite of Which Atta?“.

      Akvan summarized what I said above: “2) When it is said that anatta becomes completely true for an arahanth, I think it means that only when a person reaches the arahanth stage does one fully comprehend anatta.”

    • #18903
      upekkha100
      Participant

      Anatta – the Opposite of Which Atta?

      ^That post cleared up some of my questions. Though, I’m still unclear about the following:

      From that above post:
      -“Anatta is a fact indicating there is no essence or truth to be had in this world of 31 realms.”

      -“therefore, one who is struggling to find such “ultimate truth in this world” is helpless.”

      The “ultimate truth that is timeless”, is this referring to Nibbana? Is this a case of transcendent truth as opposed to mundane truth?

      Mathematical facts(like 1+1=2), nama gotta records, and Buddha Dhamma contain unchanging and timeless truths, but all are still part of this world, thus are mundane truths. But compared to Nibbana, even those truths don’t hold the same truth as Nibbana, because Nibbana is not part of this world, it is transcendent, thus Nibbana is the only ultimate transcendent truth?

    • #18905
      SengKiat
      Moderator

      @upekkha100 said: “The “ultimate truth that is timeless”, is this referring to Nibbana? Is this a case of transcendent truth as opposed to mundane truth?”

      There are two kinds of truth, 1. Conventional Truth (sammuti sacca), and 2. Absolute (or Ultimate) Truth.

      In the suttas, the Buddha uses the language of common usage and refers to things as if they are real but do not exist in reality. Words such a “I” of “Self” or names of persons and things are used in the sense they are generally known to the people though their existence in an absolute sense are denied by the Buddha. Such statements are called Conventional Truths.

      Abhidhamma teachings are worded in specific language and deal with things which possess an intrinsic nature and exist in absolute sense. Things which appear as objects in the living world are turned into phenomena in Abhidhamma. Hence Truths that deal with concepts that exist in reality in an ultimate sense eg. consciousness (citta), mental factors (cetasika). aggregates (khanda) are Ultimate or Absolute Truths (Paramattha Sacca).

      In other words, the unchanging and indivisible nature of phenomena of all animate and inanimate things is called Absolute Truth.

      There are four types of Ultimate Realities or Paramattha taught in Abhidhamma. They are:
      1. Citta – consciousness – 01 (89/121 types)
      2. Cetasika – mental factors – 52
      3. Rupa – elements of matter – 28
      4. Nibbana – the supreme happiness – 01

      Nibbana is the only unconditioned element; it is not caused by conditions. Hence Nibbana is called Asankhata Dhatu and it is permanent. The other three are caused by conditions. They are called Sankhata and subject to change and decay.

    • #18906
      Lal
      Keymaster

      To add to what SengKiat stated, we can see it from another way.

      The ultimate truths are in the Four Noble Truths. The First Noble Truth says: As long as one is in this world, one will be subjected to suffering. The cause for that suffering is in the Second Noble Truth (cravings due to avijja), and the Third Noble Truth says that suffering can be ended by removing that cause (getting rid of both cravings and avijja), and the Forth Noble Truth explains the way to get there (the Noble Eightfold Path).

      Let us look at how the Buddha summarized the First Noble Truth about suffering in his first sutta: Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta:

      Idam kho pana, bhikkhave, dukkham ariyasaccam:

      jātipi dukkhā, jarāpi dukkhā, byādhipi dukkho, maraṇampi dukkhāṃ, appiyehi sampayogo dukkho, piyehi vippayogo dukkho, yampicchaṃ na labhati tampi dukkhāṃ—saṃkhittena pañcu­pādā­nak­khan­dhā dukkhā.

      Translated: Bhikkhus, What is the Noble Truth of Suffering?

      “Birth is suffering, getting old is suffering, getting sick is suffering, dying is suffering. Having to associate with things that one does not like is suffering and having to separate from those things one likes is suffering. If one does not get what one likes, that is suffering – Doing worldly activities (samkittena) to get all those things one craves for (pancupadanakkhandha) is suffering.

      When one attains Nibbana, all future suffering will be stopped.

      After explaining the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha declared that he has indeed attained that “ultimate unconditioned state of happiness” and the present life will be his last life:

      In the middle of the sutta: “Ñāṇañca pana me dassanaṃ udapādi: ‘akuppā me vimutti, ayamantimā jāti, natthi dāni punabbhavo’”ti.”

      Translated: “The knowledge and vision arose in me: ‘unshakable is the liberation of my mind. This is my last birth. There is no more renewed existence.’”

      That statement says the outcome of the discovery of that knowledge. The solution to future suffering. It is the ending of the rebirth process.

      In the next regular post, I will explain the importance of understanding pancupadanakkhandha (panca upadana khandha). When we crave for things in this world, that is pancupadanakkhandha. That is different from pancakkhandha.

      Of course, attaining Nibbana (Arahanthood) is not easy, and in fact sounds scary at the beginning (to stop existence?). But the point is that existence IN THIS WORLD is filled with suffering. Even if one get births in deva/brahma realms with mostly happiness, that will not last, and one WILL be born in the apayas filled with suffering. One needs to get to the unconditioned state (that without causes) in order to attain the ultimate death-less state. All four thing that are stated as suffering in the verse above (birth, getting old, diseases, and death) are not there; see, “Nibbana“.

      However, one needs to get there in a step-by-step way:Is It Necessary for a Buddhist to Eliminate Sensual Desires?“. Even though we should keep the ultimate goal in the back of our minds, our focus should be on making the next step in the Path. With each step in the right direction, we are getting closer to the ultimate happiness (and we can experience that too with niramisa sukha).

    • #18918
      upekkha100
      Participant

      1) “Hence Truths that deal with concepts that exist in reality in an ultimate sense eg. consciousness (citta), mental factors (cetasika). aggregates (khanda) are Ultimate or Absolute Truths.”

      2) “The ultimate truths are in the Four Noble Truths.”

      3) “Anatta is a fact indicating there is no essence or truth to be had in this world of 31 realms.”

      4) “therefore, one who is struggling to find such “ultimate truth in this world” is helpless.” “Does not hold any ultimate truth.”

      ^Does not 1 and 2 contradict 3 and 4?

      -1 and 2 says that ultimate truths are to be found in citta, cetasika, khanda, and Four Noble Truths.
      -The Four Noble Truths are part of Buddha Dhamma.
      -Citta, cetasika, khandas, Buddha Dhamma are all part of this world.
      -3 and 4 say there is no ultimate truth to be had in this world. Another meaning for “sabbe dhamma anatta”.

      So then my question is:
      is there ultimate truth to be found in this world or not? Because the above points are conflicting.

    • #18919
      Lal
      Keymaster

      upekkha100: Your first quote is not correct:
      “1) “Hence Truths that deal with concepts that exist in reality in an ultimate sense eg. consciousness (citta), mental factors (cetasika). aggregates (khanda) are Ultimate or Absolute Truths.”

      There are 4 ultimate realities: citta, cetasika, rupa, and Nibbana; see, “The Grand Unified Theory of Dhamma – Introduction“.

      The first 3 belong to this world, and the last one, Nibbana, is the ultimate truth.

      There are no contradictions.

    • #18935
      upekkha100
      Participant

      I think there may be some technical problems going on, maybe my full posts are not appearing and others’ comments are not fully appearing for me, I’ve seen others make similar comments before. That could explain some of the miscommunications and misunderstandings. I’ve noticed these kinds of peculiarities happen in my emails when contacting others too. Letting others know so they can be aware, and assume there could be the possibility of technical errors like that.

      And I also apologize for my writing style, I am not the most eloquent/articulate person and struggle to make structured coherent sentences and end up being redundant, perhaps it’s a trait due to bad kamma vipaka, I try to articulate the best I can, so please bear with me.

      The words “impermanence” for anicca and “no-self” for anatta do not make sense to me, however I want to make sure the alternative meanings do make sense to me, not just merely agreeing with it without contemplating on it.

      All this is not for the sake of a debate. You have asked others to point out any possible contradictions for the sake of consistency. So I’m trying to point out any that I think I may have noticed.

    • #18936
      upekkha100
      Participant

      Going back to the discussion:
      That first quote was not something I said. It was me quoting what SengKiat wrote. I should have made that clear, I apologize. I included that in my points because nothing was said about it, so I assumed you approved it.

      In addition, the very post above SengKiat, I had asked:
      “thus Nibbana is the only ultimate transcendent truth?”

      And Lal answered:
      “Nibbana, is the ultimate truth.”

      So it’s good that point has been made clear.

      But I still see a contradiction with the following 2 statements. :
      1) You had said there is no ultimate truth to be found in this world. You said:
      “Anatta is a fact indicating there is no essence or truth to be had in this world of 31 realms. “.
      2) But then you also said that: “The ultimate truths are in the Four Noble Truths”

      Someone could incorrectly come to the conclusion that Buddha Dhamma(Four Noble Truths, 5 Niyamas, Paticca Samuppada, Noble Eightfold Path, etc) is the ultimate truth. However Buddha Dhamma is still part of this world, and someone could conclude that ultimate truth can indeed be found in this world.

      But as it was pointed out by Lal, it is Nibbana that is the ultimate truth. Therefore not even Buddha Dhamma is the ultimate truth.

      The following is the conclusion I’ve come to after contemplating, I want to know if my conclusion is flawed:

      Even though Buddha Dhamma contains truth(the highest truth in this world/highest mundane truth) and can lead one to the ultimate transcandent truth that is Nibbana(specifically anupadisesa Nibbana as opposed to saupadisesa Nibbana, because saupadisesa Nibbana is attained while still in this world, whereas anupadisesa Nibbana is not of this world, it is transcendent), Buddha Dhamma itself is not anupadisesa Nibbana (the ultimate transcendent truth), Buddha Dhamma is the Path one takes to gain that ultimate transcendent truth(anupadisesa Nibbana). And that is why no ultimate truth can be found in this world.

      • #18953
        SengKiat
        Moderator

        @upekkha said: “In addition, the very post above SengKiat, I had asked:
        “thus Nibbana is the only ultimate transcendent truth?””

        Sorry for the confusion on the above post, the difference is the Ultimate or Absolute Truths (Paramattha Sacca) and Ultimate Realities (Paramattha). One is the Truth with (Sacca) and the other one is the Reality using only the word Paramattha without the word sacca.

        See the below on those highlighted words:

        The Ultimate or Absolute Truths (Paramattha Sacca) are those that deal with concepts that exist in reality in an ultimate sense eg. consciousness (citta), mental factors (cetasika). aggregates (khanda).

        In other words, the unchanging and indivisible nature of phenomena of all animate and inanimate things is called Absolute Truth.

        There are four types of Ultimate Realities or Paramattha taught in Abhidhamma. They are:
        1. Citta – consciousness – 01 (89/121 types)
        2. Cetasika – mental factors – 52
        3. Rupa – elements of matter – 28
        4. Nibbana – the supreme happiness – 01

    • #18937
      Lal
      Keymaster

      upekkha100 said: “I think there may be some technical problems going on, maybe my full posts are not appearing and others’ comments are not fully appearing for me, I’ve seen others make similar comments before.”

      I don’t think there are any technical problems. Please be specific.
      However, I noticed today that Siebe seems to have posted a comment in the “General Forum”, but no post is there. Did you delete the post, Siebe?

      If anyone has a problem in posting, please send me an email ([email protected]) with the post and I will post it myself.

      Regarding the “ultimate truth” point that upekkha100 is talking about:

      This could be a problem with expressing one’s idea about “ultimate truth in this world”, “ultimate solution to the problem of suffering in this world” and “ultimate happiness”. The first two involve “this world of 31 realms”. The last is the end result or Nibbana.

      upekkha100 said: “But as it was pointed out by Lal, it is Nibbana that is the ultimate truth. Therefore not even Buddha Dhamma is the ultimate truth”.

      It would have been better if I said “Nibbana is the ultimate solution. Buddha Dhamma is the ultimate truth in this world“.

      Nibbana is NOT in this world. We live in “this world”. To get to Nibbana, we need Buddha Dhamma, which is the ultimate truth in this world. But once one attains the Arahanthood, there is no need for Buddha Dhamma either. It has done its part.

      This is why the Buddha said that once one attains the Arahanthood, one should give up any attachment to Buddha Dhamma too. He said it would be like carrying the boat after crossing a river using the boat.

    • #18942
      upekkha100
      Participant

      Lal said:
      “Nibbana is the ultimate solution. Buddha Dhamma is the ultimate truth in this world.”

      ^Yes, this makes much more sense. I agree with it.

      So does this mean anatta’s definition of “does not hold any ultimate truth” could be said differently as “does not hold any ultimate happiness/ultimate solution”. The latter definition would make much more sense to me personally, and would not contradict with the idea that Buddha Dhamma is the ultimate truth that can be found in this world.

    • #18951
      y not
      Participant

      Or,for those who know what Dhamma and Nibbana are:

      the ultimate leads to the Ultimate.

    • #18954
      Lal
      Keymaster

      First, Siebe has written to me and confirmed that his post got deleted when he tried to revise it later. I think we had discussed this some time back. Please do not try to revise a post after about an hour. It WILL get deleted. That is how the forum is set up.

      Upekkha100 said, “So does this mean anatta’s definition of “does not hold any ultimate truth” could be said differently as “does not hold any ultimate happiness/ultimate solution”.

      Maybe it is time to take a step back and look at the big picture.
      Anicca, dukkha, anatta are characteristics of the EXISTENCE in this world of 31 realms. Whatever we do to seek happiness within this existence WILL NOT work, we will ALWAYS end up in suffering (in the long term), and THEREFORE one will only become helpless.
      – That last part is one version of the anatta nature: “one will only become helpless”.

      There is a second way to describe the anatta nature: At Buddha’s time, there were brahmins who believed that a human could get to the “atta” state, which basically meant a state that is ever-lasting, not subject to viparinama nature, and is the highest attainment. Some thought that such a state is there in the brahma world.
      – The Buddha explained that such a state does not exist anywhere in the wider world of 31 realms, “i.e., “na atta” or “anatta”. The only such state of “atta” is Nibbana, which is not in this world.

      We can state anatta in a third way: No matter what we do to attain a permanent happiness in this world, it will be fruitless at the end. Therefore, all those efforts were made without realizing the true nature of this world, or the TRUTH about this world. That is really what is meant by “does not hold any ultimate truth”. That statement refers to ALL ACTIVITIES humans do when Buddha Dhamma is not known: the truth is not known. When someone is doing a foolish thing, we say “What he is doing is useless. He does not realize the truth”. It is in that sense we say this world is of anatta nature.
      – Now, Buddha Dhamma can help one get to the “atta” state or Nibbana. But once it is attained, even Buddha Dhamma is of no use. Even though it is the only real truth, it has served its purpose. So, even Buddha Dhamma is without use AFTER attaining the Arahanthood.

      So, anatta nature is multi-faceted. One person may see one aspect, and another may see a different aspect.

      I am glad to see that upekkha100 is trying hard to “get to the bottom of it”. Those are good questions. But we need to keep in mind that it becomes much easier to grasp these concepts when one actually starts practicing. I am not sure whether upekkha100 has started on that, or where he/she is on the Path. I do not know about that aspect regarding many people who post at the forum.

      One’s practice starts with staying away from dasa akusala, and it is completed at the Arahant stage when one gets rid of micca ditthi (one of the dasa akusala) completely by fully comprehending Tilakkhana.
      – It is important also to realize that micca ditthi mentioned above does not belong to the 10 types of micca ditthi that one must get rid of first in the mundane eightfold path; see, “Mahā Cattārisaka Sutta (Discourse on the Great Forty)“.

    • #18955
      y not
      Participant

      I too had post deleted (or that did no show at all)in the past, but cannot remember whether it had been for trying to revise or for some other reason.

      Hpwever that may be, my tack since has been to write my posts in my mail draft folder, then copy and paste onto here.(There the post is automatically saved even as you write) That way, if the post does not show I can always go back to the saved draft and try to re-send later.

      Metta

    • #18960
      upekkha100
      Participant

      Thank you for that Lal, it has cleared things up.

      About the technical issues, I have not edited any of my posts, nor have any of my posts been deleted. Things seems to be fine now.

      Regarding where I am on the Path, I might email you about it or write a post on it sometime later in the personal experiences section so as not to digress from the topic here.

      And also thank you to Akvan, SengKiat, and y not for contributing to the conversation.

    • #35494
      raj
      Participant

      Yesterday I was looking at various topics out of curiosity, and fortunately happened to read about the three marks of existence and listen to two of the five talks given on the topic.
      In the past I never had problem of understanding anitiya (though now I understand it is not the same as anicca), and never had a problem of understanding dukkha (though now I understand that it is divided in two categories, for the first time in my life I have heard of dukkha with the extra kha which means to remove), but I always had problem understanding the concept of nonself and I am relieved that the Buddha never meant it that way.
      Being from India, in hindi the word ichha means desires, and it was easy to understand
      the concept of anicca.
      I can’t believe that a concept which can be understood easily was made so difficult with wrong interpretations.
      I just want to clarify and hope that I have correctly understood it now.
      Anicca means we act in a certain way to achieve a certain result based on our desires/iccha, but the law of nature is such that our desires are not satisfied and don’t produce our expected results (especially if we act out of ignorance) which results in the experience of Dukkha or dissatisfaction (ranging from minor irritation to severe suffering, in this life or in future lives) and Anatta means we have no control over this phenomenon. Anatta is our helplessness in our inability to stop our wanderings in the 31 realms, and anatta also means the whole process is
      useless or not worth our effort and in the Buddha’s teachings, the term Anatta has nothing to do with nonself.

      • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by raj.
    • #35497
      Lal
      Keymaster

      Raj wrote: “I just want to clarify and hope that I have correctly understood it now.
      Anicca means we act in a certain way to achieve a certain result based on our desires/iccha, but the law of nature is such that our desires are not satisfied and don’t produce our expected results (especially if we act out of ignorance) which results in the experience of Dukkha or dissatisfaction (ranging from minor irritation to severe suffering, in this life or in future lives) and Anatta means we have no control over this phenomenon. Anatta is our helplessness in our inability to stop our wanderings in the 31 realms, and anatta also means the whole process is
      useless or not worth our effort and in the Buddha’s teachings, the term Anatta has nothing to do with nonself.”

      That is great, Raj. You have the correct ideas.
      – Keep on listening to that set of audios.
      – Also read the posts in the new series: “Basic Framework of Buddha Dhamma

      Those two activities will help solidify your understanding.

    • #35509
      Aniduan
      Participant

      I might be wrong about this. Hope this does not distort the real meaning of Anatta and lead to confusion. If so please delete my reply.

      I try to think of Anatta in terms of Anartha which is a word in several Indian languages which means No-Artha(No-Meaning) i.e. futile, useless. It makes it easy for me to understand as I have sanna of that Hindi word. Also, when someone says “Anarth ho gaya” in Hindi it means a disaster has happened. The samsaric process is basically a Anartha (disaster). For me it’s just another way of understanding the Trilakshna.

      Of course the pali word Anatta is best to use but Anartha might make more sense to people from Indian background. Maybe Anartha probably originated from Pali language and Sanskrit speakers added the ‘r’ just like they added ‘r’ in karma, dharma etc. to make it sound more “posh”.

      • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by Aniduan.
    • #35512
      raj
      Participant

      Thanks to Lalji for the encouragement. I am listening to the remaining talks, but the first two
      were comparatively easier to understand. I will be listening to it multiple times, and studying the links till I can grasp the meaning. Are there more talks on other subjects or it is just these five talks recorded so far?
      Thanks to Aniduan for the anartha tip, it makes it easier, the more tips the better to counter all
      the wrong interpretations.

      • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by raj.
    • #35514
      Lal
      Keymaster

      Aniduan wrote: “I try to think of Anatta in terms of Anartha which is a word in several Indian languages which means No-Artha(No-Meaning) i.e. futile, useless. It makes it easy for me to understand as I have sanna of that Hindi word. Also, when someone says “Anarth ho gaya” in Hindi it means a disaster has happened. The samsaric process is basically a Anartha (disaster). For me it’s just another way of understanding the Trilakshna.”

      Yes. That is fine. Anatta has several related meanings. “Useless” (engaging/bonding with this world) is one of the meanings. This is what I mean by “fruitless” in several of my posts.

      Raj asked: “Are there more talks on other subjects or it is just these five talks recorded so far?”

      Those are the only talks specifically on Tilakkhana.
      – There are several others in the section on, “Living Dhamma” highlighted in blue.

    • #35531
      raj
      Participant

      It is mentioned in the first talk that once one reaches sakadagami stage one will not experience
      any physical discomfort because of the nature of their subtle bodies in the deva realms.
      I am wondering if these entities out of compassion, able to help and guide those in the lower stages to come out of their predicament?
      Can a arhant guide humanity if he/she wishes to do so, or do they cease to exist?
      I have also heard that the Buddha had made statements that it is wrong to say that an arhant exists or ceases to exist after arhanthood (it is neither).
      It is a general understanding in most major religions that the ones who have reached higher stages
      help others to progress.

      • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by raj.
      • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by raj.
    • #35534
      Lal
      Keymaster

      “It is mentioned in the first talk that once one reaches sakadagami stage one will not experience
      any physical discomfort because of the nature of their subtle bodies in the deva realms.
      I am wondering if these entities out of compassion, able to help and guide those in the lower stages to come out of their predicament?”

      – Yes. Devas do not feel physical discomforts.
      – No. Devas cannot help humans. Only humans (especially those with magga phala) can help other humans by teaching Dhamma. Devas cannot teach Dhamma to humans.

      “Can an arhant guide humanity if he/she wishes to do so, or do they cease to exist?”
      – An Arahant is not reborn in this world.
      – Of course, an Arahant can help others attain Nibbana (by teaching Dhamma) until their death.

    • #35615
      raj
      Participant

      For the past few weeks I have been learning to see and understand things from the correct perspective of annica, dukkha and anatta instead of anitiya (nonpermanent), dukkha and nonself.
      But I was wondering where (in which suttas) and how and in what context the Buddha deal on the subject of anitiya or the constant changing aspect of ourselves and our surroundings.
      Because anitiya or the constant changing aspects of ourselves and our surrounding is also an irrefutable factor of everything.

      • This reply was modified 1 month ago by raj.
    • #35617
      Lal
      Keymaster

      Anitya is not incompatible with anicca.
      – It is just that there is no Pali word “anitya.” The Pali word for impermanent is “addhuva”. The Pali word for permanent is “dhuva” and the Sanskrit word is “nitya.”

      The Buddha said that world things have both anicca AND addhuva (impermanent) characteristics.
      – See, “19 results for anicco AND addhuvo
      The addhuva (impermanent) nature is very easy to see, as you wrote. That is why most people think they understand Buddha Dhamma but really don’t.

      It is the anicca nature that is hard to see. For that one needs to understand Paticca Samuppada and realize that things happen ONLY due to causes and conditions (and not according to one’s wishes/wants).

      The other BIG problem is that most translators translate BOTH anicca and addhuva as “impermanent.”
      – You can see that in the reference that I provided above.
      – But here is a sutta where it is easy to see the problem with the translations:
      Nakhasikhā Sutta (SN 22.97)

      In the beginning, there is the verse, “atthi nu kho, bhante, kiñci rūpaṁ yaṁ rūpaṁ niccaṁ dhuvaṁ sassataṁ avipariṇāmadhammaṁ sassatisamaṁ tatheva ṭhassati?”

      It is translated as, “Sir, is there any form at all that’s permanent, everlasting, eternal, imperishable, and will last forever and ever?” in the first translation.
      In the second translation: “Is there, venerable sir, any form that is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, and that will remain the same just like eternity itself?”
      – So, you can see all three words permanent, everlasting, and stable mean the same thing: nitya (in Sanskrit) or dhuva (in Pali).

      They both mistranslate the CRITICAL Pali word “nicca” as “permanent”. That is the problem.
      – Furthermore, the Pali words “nicca” and “anicca” CANNOT be translated to any language as just one word. That is why I have had to write so many posts on this subject.

    • #35618
      TripleGemStudent
      Participant

      Hi Raj,

      In additional to what Lal shared.

      “in what context the Buddha deal on the subject of anitiya or the constant changing aspect of ourselves and our surroundings.”

      “Because anitiya or the constant changing aspects of ourselves and our surrounding is also an irrefutable factor of everything.”

      Whatever you or anyone take anitiya, anicca, impermanence, etc . . . as . . .

      From what I can understand what your asking . . . some things that you can look into are:

      #1. Sankata

      Additional

      Additional post

      #2. Paticca Samuppada.

    • #35632
      raj
      Participant

      Sincere thanks for all the helpful tips and links. I have some questions on Paticca Samuppada and was wondering if it would be okay to bring it up on the general section
      because I don’t see a forum on Paticca Samuppada.

    • #35633
      raj
      Participant

      I seem to have found most of the answers in the PS section. I don’t think I have any questions now, but may have some in the future, after studying the entire section. The Kusalamula PS section was very interesting (and some of my questions were pertaining to that).

    • #35636
      Lal
      Keymaster

      That is good to hear, Raj. May be I should open a new forum on Paticca Samuppada if you do have questions on it.

      As I mentioned earlier, the new section is also focused on Tilakkhana and Paticca Samuppada: “Buddha Dhamma – Noble Truths, Paṭicca Samuppāda, Tilakkhana

      Thanks to TripleGemStudent for providing relevant information.

    • #35642
      Lal
      Keymaster

      I just created a new forum, “Paṭicca Samuppāda, Tilakkhana, Noble Truths

    • #35721
      raj
      Participant

      Sir, this is in reference to comment 35534 where you mentioned that devas cannot help humans.
      I was thinking about the story of Mattakundali in the dhammapada story. His father was a miser
      and the son died after being ill and due to lack of care by his miserly father, and became an angel because he saw the Buddha just before he was going to die and paid homage to the Buddha in his mind.
      He came back as a angel and guided his father who was grieving for his dead son.
      Is the angel a different category and not considered a deva?

      • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 1 day ago by raj.
    • #35724
      Lal
      Keymaster

      “..where you mentioned that devas cannot help humans.”

      I meant to say that Devas (or any living being) cannot lead anyone to Nibbana. One has to learn the true and correct Buddha Dhamma to attain Nibbana.
      – Nibbana is attained by understanding the Four Noble Truths and then following the Noble Eightfold Path.
      – Understanding Tilakkhana and Paticca Samuppada will facilitate comprehending the Noble Truths.
      – The First Noble Truth is to see that suffering is present everywhere in this world of 31 realms. Births in the Deva and Brahma realms can lead to less suffering, but only until that existence lasts. There is no refuge anywhere in the 31 realms. That is what is meant by the “anatta nature of this world”.

      Devas can help humans in some ways.
      – Humans can also help Devas by offering the merits of punna kammas.

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