An Apparent “Self” Is Involved in Kamma Generation

November 2, 2019; revised November 6, 2019; September 10, 2022; October 14, 2022; February 3, 2023


1. Here, we will discuss why someone with sakkāya diṭṭhi believes in a “self” (knowingly or unknowingly) and accumulates kamma with that wrong view.

  • In previous posts in this series, we discussed why there is no “Experiencer.” Thus, there is no need for the existence of a “self” to describe an INITIAL sensory experience.
  • However, anyone with sakkāya diṭṭhi has the wrong view of a “self” experiencing sensory inputs. Based on that mistaken view, steps are taken to maintain a “good experience” or to stop a “bad experience.” Therefore, we could say there is a wrong view of a “Doer” as long as there is sakkāya diṭṭhi. That is why it is incorrect to say that there is “no-self” either.
  • That does not mean we do not need to take action to prevent bad outcomes. The key idea is to realize the unfruitfulness of doing immoral deeds (including conscious thoughts and speech) in response to sensory inputs.
  • The Chachakka Sutta (MN 148) describes in detail what happens when a new ārammana (thought object) comes to the mind. The mind may “attach” (taṇhā) automatically to that ārammana via greed, anger, or ignorance. Let us briefly summarize those steps. It is critical to follow these steps.  All relevant posts are at “Worldview of the Buddha.” The main subsection is “Origin of Life.”
Posts on the Background Material

2. In earlier posts, we discussed that INITIAL sensory experiences DO NOT require a “self.” However, they do not happen arbitrarily or randomly either. Those sensory experiences have causes (or reasons); they are kamma vipāka.

  • Some kamma vipāka bring in suffering, such as injuries, sickness, etc., while other vipāka results in pleasurable experiences, such as good food, comfortable living, etc. Those are ALL experienced via the physical body (kāya.) They are NOT illusions. There is real suffering (and some pleasures too.)
  • All other INITIAL sensory experiences do not DIRECTLY lead to pain or pleasure. Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and recalling memories are “neutral” sensory experiences at that moment.

3. However, based on those sensory inputs, sōmanassa or dōmanassa vedanā arise automatically in mind. Those are “mind-generated” vedanā based on “kāma guṇa.” All humans (including Arahants) experience the sweetness of sugar or bitterness of some medicines. These are not “samphassa-jā-vēdanā.” However, for others, “samphassa-jā-vēdanā” arise due to such sōmanassa or dōmanassa vedanā. See “Kāma Guṇa – Origin of Attachment (Tanhā).”

  • Thus, based on sōmanassa or dōmanassa vedanā due to “kāma guṇa,” a given person may attach (taṇhā) to that particular sensory event (ārammana) and generate “samphassa-jā-vēdanā.” Only an Arahant is guaranteed not to attach.
  • That is the summary of about a fourth of the Pāli text in the Chachakka Sutta (MN 148). That completes the six sets of six.
No “Self” Involved in the Initial Sensory Experiences

4. As we have discussed, the next verse in the sutta is, “’Cakkhu attā’ti yo vadeyya taṃ na upapajjāti. Cakkhussa uppādopi vayopi paññāyati. Yassa kho pana uppādopi vayopi paññāyati, ‘attā me uppajjāti ca veti cā’ti iccassa evamāgataṃ hoti. Tasmā taṃ na upapajjāti: ‘cakkhu attā’ti yo vadeyya. Iti cakkhu anattā.”

Loosely translated: “If anyone says, ‘cakkhu is self,’ (or “seeing” is mine or “it is I who sees”) that is not tenable. An arising and ceasing of cakkhu (not the physical eye) is evident. If cakkhu is ‘self,’ that would imply the following: ‘my self arises and ceases’ OR ‘I come into being momentarily and cease to exist.’ That is why one cannot argue that ‘cakkhu is self.’ Thus cakkhu is ‘not-self’ or ‘anattā.” (“na attā” for “not attā” rhymes as “anattā,” just as “na āgāmi” rhymes as “Anāgāmi.”)

  • Then the next fourth of the Pāli text in the Chachakka Sutta (MN 148) states that the above conclusion holds for all 36 entities ( “six sets of sixes”) involved in the initial sensory experience. Six internal āyatana, six external āyatana, six classes of (vipāka) viññāṇa,  six classes of phassa, six classes of vēdanā, six classes of taṇhā.
  • See “Chachakka Sutta – Six Types of Vipāka Viññāṇa” for details on that.
  • Then we discussed the following verse in the sutta, starting with, “Ayaṃ kho pana, bhikkhave, sakkā­ya­sa­muda­ya­gāminī paṭipadā..
Attā Translated as “Self” Is Not Correct

5. The Pāli word “attā” does not mean “self,” even though I used that translation above. That translation is quite common these days. We will go with that until we finish discussing Paṭicca Samuppāda because it does help to get the idea of sakkāya diṭṭhi across below. If I try to discuss the real meaning of attā right now, that could lead to confusion.

That is why the Buddha refused to answer Vacchagotta’s question about whether or not there is an “attā.”  See “Ānanda Sutta (SN 44.10).”

  • Vacchagotta comes to the Buddha asked “kiṃ nu kho, bho gotama, atthattā” ti?” OR “Master Gotama, is it correct to say that there is an “attā”?”.
  • Note that “atthattā” is “atthi attā” where “atthi” means “exists.” Vacchagotta meant, in this case, “attā” to be “self.” Thus, Vacchagotta meant: “Is it correct to say that a “self” exists?”
  • The Buddha remained silent, and Vacchagotta asked the question in the negative form. The second time, he asked: “Kiṃ pana, bho gotama, natthattā” ti?” or, “Master Gotama, is it not correct to say that there is a “self”?”. The Buddha refused to answer his question, so Vacchagotta got up and left.
  • Note that “natthattā” is made up of three words: “na atthi attā,” which negates  “atthattā.”Just as these days, many people are confused about the Pāli word “attā” and the Sanskrit word “ātma.” The latter meaning is closer to a “soul.”
  • I will discuss this sutta when I will discuss attā” in detail after discussing Paṭicca Samuppāda. By the way, Vacchagotta understood the concept later on and became an Arahant too. 
The Origin of the Wrong View of Sakkāya Diṭṭhi Sakkāya Samudaya

6. The sutta then states that the wrong view of sakkāya diṭṭhi arises BECAUSE one does not realize the above facts. Without knowing those facts, one tends to BELIEVE that a “self” is experiencing those first sensory events.

  • Then, if it were a “good experience,” one would try to maintain that pleasant experience and also plan to experience it again in the future. In the case of a “bad experience,” one would do the opposite to avoid such “bad experiences.”
  • The more one engages in either activity, the wrong VIEW of a “self” (sakkāya diṭṭhi) grows.

7. That explanation is in a short verse starting with, “Ayaṃ kho pana, bhikkhave, sakkā­ya­sa­muda­ya­gāminī paṭipadācakkhuṃ ‘etaṃ mama, esohamasmi, eso me attā’ti samanupassati; rūpe ‘etaṃ mama, esohamasmi, eso me attā’ti samanupassati; …”

Next Verse in the Chachakka Sutta – Sakkāya Nirodhaya

The verse in #7 above explains how sakkāya diṭṭhi ARISES. The new verse below explains HOW sakkāya diṭṭhi WILL STOP FROM ARISING.

8. The next verse in the Chachakka Sutta (MN 148) starts with, “Ayaṃ kho pana, bhikkhave, sakkā­ya­nirodha­gāminī paṭipadācakkhuṃ ‘netaṃ mama, nesohamasmi, na meso attā’ti samanupassati. Rūpe ‘netaṃ mama, nesohamasmi, na meso attā’ti samanupassati…”

The word Nirōdha comes from “nir”+”udaya,” where “nir” means to stop and “udaya” means “arise.” Thus nirōdha means to prevent something from arising.

  • Gāmini means “path.” Patipada means an “action plan” or one’s behavior. Thus, sakkā­ya­­nirodha­­gāminī paṭipadā means “the behavior that leads to STOPPING the arising of sakkāya diṭṭhi.”
  • Then it says, that will happen when one “SEES” that “cakkhu is NOT mine, cakkhu is NOT what I am, cakkhu is NOT my “self.” Here, “netam” means “na” + “etam” or “it is not.”
  • That is because, in reality, there is no “self” or a “soul” or a “ātma” that is associated with a living being. The sensory experiences arise due to past causes. Yet, we cannot explain the response of an average human to those sensory experiences without the assumption of a “self.” The response of an average human to such sensory inputs can only be explained by taking into account his/her mindset of believing in a “self.”
  • (Once we discuss Paṭicca Samuppāda, it will become clear why future suffering arises BECAUSE of that wrong view of sakkāya diṭṭhi. That is how sakkāya diṭṭhi can be removed.  Only then can we also understand the real meaning of atta/attā (and anatta/anattā.) I do not want to get into that issue right now because that will confuse many people.)

9. The sutta repeats that for all other five entities associated with “seeing.” They are rūpacakkhu viññānacakkhu samphassa, cakkhu samphassa-jā-vēdanā, and taṇhā (that results from cakkhu samphassa-jā-vēdanā.)

  • Then it is repeated for the other five internal āyatanasōta, ghāna, jivhā, kāya, and manō. Please go through those verses.
  • However, it may NOT be easy to “see” that no “self” is involved in sensory experiences. We have had the wrong view of sakkāya diṭṭhi virtually forever! That is why we are in this never-ending rebirth process.
  • To remove that strong diṭṭhi, we need to see the “true nature,” i.e., we need to cultivate “yathābhuta ñāna.” A big part is realizing that there is no “unchanging experiencer” (like a soul), as we have discussed in detail using the movie analogy. There are only causes and results. But, of course, the feelings are real; any suffering is real. But those results are according to the causes AND conditions at the time of bringing the results. That is Paṭicca Samuppāda. See “Vision Is a Series of “Snapshots” – Movie Analogy.”
  • We will focus on that in detail in upcoming posts. However, this sutta briefly states the primary process.
Sakkāya Nirodhaya Starts With Vēdāna

10. The key to arriving at that UNDERSTANDING is stated in the following verse of the sutta, starting with, “Cakkhuñca, bhikkhave, paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjāti cakkhuviññāṇaṃ, tiṇṇaṃ saṅgati phasso, phassapaccayā uppajjāti vedayitaṃ sukhaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vā aduk­kha­ma­su­khaṃ vā.”

Translated: “Bhikkhus, dependent on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises; then the mind makes contact with “san gati“; that contact with “san gati” leads to the arising of “mind-made” feelings felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant.”

Getting Attached to Vēdāna Leads to the Growth of Anusaya

11. Then, the subsequent verses introduce a critical word, anusaya. Based on sukha vedanā, dukkha vedanā, and adukkhamasukha vedanā, three corresponding types of anusaya result: rāgānusaya, paṭighānusaya, and avijjānusaya.

  • Let us start with the verse that explains the origins of rāgānusaya: “So sukhāya vedanāya phuṭṭho samāno abhinandati abhivadati ajjhosāya tiṭṭhati. Tassa rāgānusayo anuseti.
  • Translated: “When one experiences a sukha vedanā, if one delights in it, welcomes it, and thinks and speaks highly of it, gets absorbed in it, then the underlying tendency for rāga (rāgānusaya) gets stronger (i.e., rāgānusaya will grow).”
  • Here, rāgānusaya comes from “rāga” + “anusaya.” Now we need to get an idea about the meaning of anusaya first.
What is Anusaya?

12. Anusaya is usually translated as “latent tendencies.” That does give the basic idea. Such “latent tendencies are in our gatiAnusaya and “gati” are closely related. See “The Law of Attraction, Habits, Character (Gati), and Cravings (Āsavas)” and “Āsava, Anusaya, and Gati (Gati).”

  • Everyone has a set of gati (habits/character qualities). Each person has his/her own set of things/activities that she likes and dislikes. Some of these are not moral or immoral.
  • But we also have moral (ethical) gati and corrupt (bad) gati. Here moral/immoral have a wide range, and we will discuss that later. But those deeds have kammic consequences. Those are the gati that are relevant.

13. By the way, notice that now we are talking about a “person” or a “self” who has sakkāya diṭṭhi (and gati and anusaya)! That is why it is incorrect to say that there is “no-self” either.

  • When we keep doing what we are used to, that habit will only GROW. That also means anusaya will grow, and that growth due to the activity is “anuseti.” See “Anuseti – How Anusaya Grows with Saṅkhāra (with chart #13).”
  • Arahants do not have moral/immoral gati but kammically neutral gati (habits). Such practices include doing things in specific ways.
Raga Anusaya Grows by Getting Attached to Mind- Made Sukha Vēdāna or Somanassa Vēdāna

14. What the sutta states in verse #10 are the following. When a “pleasing ārammana” comes to mind, it may delight in that ārammana. If so, it will welcome that ārammana and “get absorbed in it.” That means the person would think highly about it, speak highly about it, and act on it to sustain that ārammana.

  • For example, if X sees an object that X likes, X will keep looking at it and start thinking about how good it is. X may tell another how good it is. Even later on, X may plan to experience that sight again. Those activities involve vaci and kāya saṅkhāra.
  • That is how the Paṭicca Samuppāda starts with “avijjā paccayā saṅkhāra” and “saṅkhāra paccayā viññaṇa.”
  • Here, avijjā is the ignorance of believing that there is a “self” experiencing that sensory input.
Those Viññaṇa Are Kamma Viññaṇa

15. We remember that there could be six types of viññaṇa in the INITIAL sensory event that takes place due to kamma vipāka. Those are cakkhu, sōta, ghāna, jivhā, kāya, or manō viññaṇa. They are ALL vipāka viññaṇa, which makes one aware of the sensory input.

  • However, viññaṇa in “saṅkhāra paccayā viññaṇa” in Paṭicca Samuppāda generates kamma viññaṇa. Such saṅkhāra are specifically abhisaṅkhāra. Such kamma viññaṇa can ONLY be mano viññaṇa, i.e., they involve only the mind. They have embedded energy because that person has decided to take further steps to enjoy that sensory experience again and again.
  • In the Abhidhamma language, abhisaṅkhāras have javana power. They create kammic energy for that kamma viññaṇa.
  • In other words, that “person” has to spend time and effort to enjoy that sensory experience again. He has now created a “kamma bija” or expects a specific outcome.

16. For example, if a person X saw and “attached” to an expensive item in a store, X would talk about it with the spouse and make plans to come up with the money to pay for it. Until X buys that item, that “viññāṇa” will be there. The critical point here is that X already HAD a rāga anusaya for it, and by engaging in those follow-up activities, X “added” more energy to that. That addition is “anuseti.”

  • Different people have different types of anusaya. That is why not everyone attaches to a given ārammana. Furthermore, each person’s levels of anusaya CAN change with time. That anusaya can be REMOVED too, which is the way to Nibbāna.
  • As you can imagine, the other two types of anusaya will “build up” the same way.  With a “bad” ārammana, dosa or anger arises, and paṭighānusaya (paṭigha anusaya) strengthens.
  • Finally, the avijjānusaya (avijjā anusaya) builds up when acting with avijjā. We will discuss more of that in the next post.
Difference Between Diṭṭhi Vipallāsa and Saññā Vipallāsa

I do not want to leave this post without clarifying the following point.

17. In the discussion forum at, a legitimate question was asked: “Since a Sōtapanna has removed sakkāya diṭṭhi, why is that a Sōtapanna would still value sensory pleasures and may even commit some immoral deeds?”

  • As we know, a Sōtapanna is incapable of doing ONLY “apāyagāmi” deeds that could lead to rebirths in the apāyā (plural of apāya.)
  • There is a difference between “SEEING” (diṭṭhi) the real nature of this world and having corresponding PERCEPTIONS (saññā) about that real nature. It is essential to understand what is meant by saññā; see “Saññā – What It Really Means.”
  • The Pāli word “vipallāsa” means “confusions” or “distortions.” Wrong views lead to diṭṭhi vipallāsa, and wrong perceptions lead to saññā vipallāsa. More details at “Vipallāsa (Diṭṭhi, Saññā, Citta) Affect Sankhāra.”
  • With that terminology, a Sōtapanna has removed diṭṭhi vipallāsa but still has saññā vipallāsa

18. In other words, the wrong views about a “self” (sakkāya diṭṭhi) go away at the Sōtapanna stage. But the perception of a “self” (asmi māna) goes away in stages and disappears only at the Arahant stage.

  • Saññā vipallāsa goes away at the Anāgami stage, and citta vipallāsa (together with asmi māna) is removed at the Arahant stage. See “Vipallāsa (Diṭṭhi, Saññā, Citta) Affect Saṅkhāra.”
  • That is also why we CAN NOT say that “there is no self.” Until the attainment of Arahanthood, there is a perception of a “self.”
  • The critical point is that It is wrong to approach the analysis of sensory experiences based on a “self” or “no-self.” Instead, we can explain everything regarding causes and effects or Paṭicca Samuppāda.
  • Then it will also become clear that the Pāli word “attā” does not really mean a “self” or a “soul” or a “ātma.
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