Sakkāya Ditthi and Tilakkhana

June 14, 2019

1. When one gets rid of sakkāya ditthi (together with vicikicca and silabbata parāmāsa), one becomes a Sotapanna and will never be reborn in the four lowest realms (apayas).

  • It is a change in one’s world view (dassanena pahātabbā) that leads to this enormous change.
  • It cannot be attained by just doing moral deeds (in fact, silabbata parāmāsa is the wrong belief that living a moral life by itself can liberate oneself).
  • Getting rid of sakkāya ditthi requires a deep understanding of how the nature works. Those basic principles are described by Tilakkhana or the Three Characteristics of Nature: anicca, dukkha, anatta.
  • Here we will examine this relationship, which will help getting rid of sakkāya ditthi.

2. Sakkāya ditthi is defined in the Dhammasaṅgaṇī of the Abhidhamma Pitaka: ­Dassa­ne­napa­hātab­baduka.

Katame dhammā dassanena pahātabbā? Tīṇi saññojanāni—sakkāyadiṭṭhi, vicikicchā, sīlab­bata­parāmāso.

  • Translation: “What are those dhamma that need to be removed via correct vision? Three saññojanā (samjyojana as commonly called today) – sakkāyadiṭṭhi, vicikicchā, sīlab­bata­parāmāso.

Tattha katamā sakkāyadiṭṭhi? Idha assutavā puthujjano ariyānaṃ adassāvī ariyadhammassa akovido ariyadhamme avinīto sappurisānaṃ adassāvī sap­purisa­dhammassa akovido sap­purisa­dhamme avinīto rūpaṃ attato samanupassati, rūpavantaṃ vā attānaṃ, attani vā rūpaṃ, rūpasmiṃ vā attānaṃ. Vedanaṃ … pe … saññaṃ … pe … saṅkhāre … pe … viññāṇaṃ attato samanupassati, viññāṇavantaṃ vā attānaṃ, attani vā viññāṇaṃ, viññāṇasmiṃ vā attānaṃ. Yā evarūpā diṭṭhi diṭṭhigataṃ … pe … vipari­yāsag­gāho—ayaṃ vuccati sakkāyadiṭṭhi“.

  • Translation: “What is sakkāya diṭṭhi? A person uninstructed in Dhamma, who has not associated with Noble ones, who is not well-versed or disciplined — assumes I am my body, my body is me, my body is in me, I am in my body‘. He perceives vedanā..sañña,..saṅkhāra,..viññāṇa in the same four ways (e.g., I am my viññāṇa, my viññāṇa is me, my viññāṇa is in me, I am my viññāṇa) that is sakkāya diṭṭhi.

This is exactly the same definition given in the “Cūḷa­ve­dalla Sutta (Majjima Nikaya 44)” that we discussed in the post, “Sakkāya Ditthi is Personality (Me) View?“. This definition of sakkāya ditthi is in many more suttas, including “Dutiya­isi­datta Sutta (SN 41.3)“.

3. The key is to understand what is meant by, “rūpaṃ attato samanupassati, rūpavantaṃ vā attānaṃ, attani vā rūpaṃ, rūpasmiṃ vā attānaṃ, vedanāṃ attato samanupassati” and similarly for vedanā, sañña, saṅkhāra, and viññāṇa. Thus, when one has sakkāya ditthi,one has four wrong perceptions each for the five aggregates.

  • This is called the 20-types of sakkāya ditthi (vīsativatthukā sakkāyadiṭṭhi).
  • First four factors are regarding just one’s own body. It turns out that those four wrong perceptions on one’s body arises in those who have uccheda diṭṭhi, i.e., that one is not reborn after death.
  • Then the same four factors are for the four “nāma” entities: vedanā, sañña, saṅkhāra, and viññāṇa. It turns out that those with wrong perceptions about these have the sāssata ditthi, i.e., that one ‘s attā (“self” or “soul”) is eternal or forever.
  • In the Brahmajāla Sutta (DN 1), the Buddha discusses 60 more wrong views, but those are variations of the above two. Therefore, getting rid of sakkāya ditthi leads to the removal of all wrong views about this world.
  • I will first provide the Tipitaka references for these two cases in the next post.

4. A definition of sakkāya is in the “Sakkā­ya­pañhā Sutta (SN 38.15)“: “‘Sakkāyo, sakkāyo’ti, āvuso sāriputta, vuccati. Katamo nu kho, āvuso, sakkāyo”ti? “Pañcime, āvuso, upādā­nak­khan­dhā sakkāyo vutto bhagavatā, seyyathidaṃ—rūpupā­dā­nak­khan­dho, vedanupā­dā­nak­khan­dho, saññu­pādā­nak­khan­dho, saṅ­khā­ru­pādā­nak­khan­dho, viñ­ñāṇupā­dā­nak­khan­dho. Ime kho, āvuso, pañcu­pādā­nak­khan­dhā sakkāyo vutto bhagavatā”ti.”

Translated: “sakkāya is pañcu­pādā­nak­khan­dhā: rūpupā­dā­nak­khan­dha, vedanupā­dā­nak­khan­dha, saññu­pādā­nak­khan­dha, saṅ­khā­ru­pādā­nak­khan­dha, viñ­ñāṇupā­dā­nak­khan­dha”.

  • Therefore, we can deduce that sakkāya ditthi is the wrong vision that the five aggregates (pañcakkhandha) are good and beneficial.
  • The word “sakkāya” comes from “sath” + “kāya“, which rhymes as “sakkāya“. “Sath” means “good” and “kāya” means “a collection” or “an aggregate” (it could also mean “physical body”, which is also a collection of parts). Thus “sakkāya” means those five aggregates (including one’s own body) are fruitful.
  • That vision or mindset — sakkāya ditthi — is what leads to crave for them (u­pādā­na).

5. When one has the wrong vision of sakkāya ditthi, some parts of pañcakkhandha become pañcu­pādā­nak­khan­dhā (panca u­pādā­na khandha). Those are the parts that one likes based on one’s gati,

Therefore, one needs to comprehend that one gets attached to things based on one’s gati AT THAT TIME. One’s gati keep changing and can be very different especially in one is reborn. If one is reborn into a bad environment (conditions), one is likely to develop “bad gati“.

  • Kamma are done with one good/bad gati AT THAT TIME. They can bring vipāka much later, even in future lives under suitable conditions.
  • This is why we are subjected to both good and bad kamma vipāka.
  • This is also why we cannot speak about an “unchanging attā/soul/ātma“. A living being is a “lifestream” that just encounter good/bad vipāka based on what had been done in the past based on one’s gati at that time. Under suitable conditions, both kinds (good/bad kamma) bring vipāka.

6. What is discussed in #5 is succinctly stated in the “Catut­tha­abhab­baṭ­ṭhāna Sutta (AN 6.95)“.

Translation: “A Sotapanna (or one with higher magga phala) accomplished in view (diṭṭhisampanno puggalo) is unable (abhabbo) to fall back on the idea that pleasure and pain are made by oneself (sayaṃkataṃ), or that they are made by another (paraṃkataṃ), or that they are made by both (sayaṃkatañca paraṃkatañca). Nor can they fall back on the idea that pleasure and pain arise by chance, not made by oneself, by another, or by both (asayaṃkāraṃ adhiccasamuppannaṃ, aparaṅkāraṃ adhiccasamuppannaṃ, asayaṅkārañca aparaṅkārañca adhiccasamuppannaṃ).
– Why is that? It is because a person accomplished in view has clearly seen that phenomena arise due to causes and conditions (according to Paticca Samuppāda). Those are the six things that a Sotapanna (or one with higher magga phala) accomplished in view will not fall back to”.

  • There is no “attā” or a “soul” or an “ātma” doing those things that will lead to pleasure or pain (sooner or later).
  • Those kamma vipāka (pleasure or pain) materialize due to two things: (i) Causes were created in the past based on the “gati” of the lifestream AT THAT TIME, and, (ii) Corresponding vipāka materialize when suitable CONDITIONS become available (at a later time).
  • That process is described by Paticca Samuppāda.
  • This is why understanding “gati” is so important. One may have had “bad gati” in the past and those can bring “bad vipāka” now EVEN IF one has “good gati” now.
  • This is why even the Buddha had to bear bad kamma vipāka. Even though he had “no gati left”, he had to endure the results of past kamma done when he had “bad gati”.

7. In the “Sakkā­ya­diṭṭhi ­Sutta (SN 22.155)“ it is stated how sakkāya diṭṭhi arises:

Kismiṃ nu kho, bhikkhave, sati, kiṃ upādāya, kiṃ abhinivissa sakkāyadiṭṭhi uppajjatī”ti? “rūpe kho, bhikkhave, sati, rūpaṃ upādāya, rūpaṃ abhinivissa sakkāyadiṭṭhi uppajjati. Vedanāya sati … saññāya sati … saṅkhāresu sati … viññāṇe sati, viññāṇaṃ upādāya, viññāṇaṃ abhinivissa sakkāyadiṭṭhi uppajjati”.

Translated:Bhikkhus, because of focusing on what, attaching to what, and clinging to what leads to the arising of sakkāya diṭṭhi? It arises due to focusing on rupa (forms: things and people), attaching to forms, and clinging to forms. It arises similarly due to vedanā, saññā, sankhāra, and viññāna“.

Buddha explains:Taṃ kiṃ maññatha, bhikkhave, rūpaṃ niccaṃ vā aniccaṃ vā”ti? “What do you think Bhikkhus, can rupa be maintained to one’s satisfaction?’.
Aniccaṃ, bhante”. “They cannot be, bhante“.
Yaṃ panāniccaṃ … pe … api nu taṃ anupādāya sakkāyadiṭṭhi uppajjeyyā”ti? “Understanding that if something cannot be maintained to ones’ satisfaction, if it undergoes unpredictable change and is destroyed, would one get attached to it and generate sakkāya diṭṭhi?
No hetaṃ, bhante”. “No reason for that, bhante“.
and the same for the other four aggregates:Vedanā … saññā … saṅkhārā … viññāṇaṃ niccaṃ vā aniccaṃ vā”ti?
“Aniccaṃ, bhante”. “Yaṃ panāniccaṃ … pe … api nu taṃ anupādāya sakkāyadiṭṭhi uppajjeyyā”ti? “No hetaṃ, bhante”. “Evaṃ passaṃ … pe … nāparaṃ itthattāyāti pajānātī”ti.”

8. Thus, one gets attached to the five aggregates and considers them to be one’s own, only if one does not see the anicca (and dukkha and anatta) nature of those entities. When one sees that such attachments invariably (without exception) lead to suffering (because none of them can be maintained to one’s satisfaction), one loses craving for them.

  • This understanding by itself first leads to “loss of craving”to the extent that one would NOT be able (abhabbo) do those immoral kamma that makes one suitable for rebirth in the apayas. When one loses such upadana, one would also not grasp such thoughts at the cuti-patisandhi moment.
  • This word abhabbo is not correctly translated in many translations. It does not just mean “one would not do”, but one “is incapable of doing”. The enforcement is AUTOMATIC; one does not need to think about whether such an action is immoral. When certain types of gati are removed PERMANENTLY (with magga phala), one’s mind WOULD NOT be CAPABLE of doing such immoral actions.
  • When one cultivates such “bad gati“, one would upadana (and be born) to bad births; that is what is meant by “needing suitable conditions to bring kamma vipaka“, In the “Kukku­ra­vatika Sutta (MN 57)” (English translation there: “The Dog-Duty Ascetic (MN 57)“), the Buddha explains how those “dog gati” that Seniya was cultivating would lead to him to be born a dog.
  • On the reverse, when one gets rid of such “bad gati” permanently, one would NOT be born in such bad realms. This is what is meant by the verse, “Catūhapāyehi ca vippamutto, Chac­cābhi­ṭhānāni abhabba kātuṃ” (“(an Ariya) is free from the four apayas because he/she is incapable of doing six highly immoral acts”) in the “Ratana Sutta (Snp 2.1)“.

9. Now, it is important to figure out what is meant by “attā” in the description of sakkāya ditthi.

The “Paṭipadā Sutta (SN 22.44)” describes the way to get rid of sakkāya ditthi: “Katamā ca, bhikkhave, sakkā­ya­nirodha­gāminī paṭipadā? Idha, bhikkhave, sutavā ariyasāvako ariyānaṃ dassāvī ariyadhammassa kovido ariyadhamme suvinīto, sappurisānaṃ dassāvī sap­purisa­dhammassa kovido sap­purisa­dhamme suvinīto, na rūpaṃ attato samanupassati, na rūpavantaṃ vā attānaṃ; na attani vā rūpaṃ, na rūpasmiṃ vā attānaṃ. Na vedanāṃ attato … na saññaṃ … na saṅkhāre … na viññāṇaṃ attato samanupassati, na viññāṇavantaṃ vā attānaṃ; na attani vā viññāṇaṃ, na viññāṇasmiṃ vā attānaṃ. .”.

  • Translated: “And what, bhikkhus, is the way leading to the cessation of identity with the five aggregates (sakkāya diṭṭhi)? Here, bhikkhus, the instructed noble disciple … does not regard form as attā … nor vedanā as attā … nor saññā as attā … nor saṅkhāra as attā … nor viññāṇa as attā … nor attā as in viññāṇa..”.
  • See #2 above for the full translation of the verse.

10. Let us compare the above definition to the following verse in the “Anatta­lak­kha­ṇa Sutta (SN 22.59)“: “Rūpaṃ, bhikkhave, anattā. Rūpañca hidaṃ, bhikkhave, attā abhavissa, nayidaṃ rūpaṃ ābādhāya saṃvatteyya, labbhetha ca rūpe: ‘evaṃ me rūpaṃ hotu, evaṃ me rūpaṃ mā ahosī’ti. Yasmā ca kho, bhikkhave, rūpaṃ anattā, tasmā rūpaṃ ābādhāya saṃvattati, na ca labbhati rūpe: ‘evaṃ me rūpaṃ hotu, evaṃ me rūpaṃ mā ahosī’ti.

  • Translated: “Bhikkhus, form (physical body) is anattā (or not attā). For if, bhikkhus, if one’s body is attā, one would have full control over it, and it would be possible to say: ‘Let my body be like this; let my body not be like this.’ But because the body is anattā, it is subjected to decay and disease, and it is not possible to have it the way one desires: ‘Let my body be this way; let my body not be this way”.
  • The recent post,Anattā in Anattalakkahana Sutta – No Soul or an Ātmaexplained the reality that there is no attā or a “soul” or an “ātma” that can be associated with either one’s physical body or its four mental aggregates.

11. Again, from the “Anatta­lak­kha­ṇa Sutta (SN 22.59)“: “Taṃ kiṃ maññatha, bhikkhave, rūpaṃ niccaṃ vā aniccaṃ vā”ti? “Aniccaṃ, bhante”. “Yaṃ panāniccaṃ dukkhaṃ vā taṃ sukhaṃ vā”ti? “Dukkhaṃ, bhante”. “Yaṃ panāniccaṃ dukkhaṃ vipari­ṇāma­dhammaṃ, kallaṃ nu taṃ samanupassituṃ: ‘etaṃ mama, esohamasmi, eso me attā’”ti? “No hetaṃ, bhante..”.

Translated: ““What do you think, bhikkhus, can form be maintained to one’s satisfaction?”—“No, bhante”—“Something of such nature which is destroyed eventually would lead to suffering or happiness?”—“Suffering, venerable sir.”—“Is it prudent to regard such a thing thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’?”—“No, bhante”.


Tasmātiha, bhikkhave, yaṃ kiñci rūpaṃ atītā­nāgata­pac­cup­pan­naṃ ajjhattaṃ vā bahiddhā vā oḷārikaṃ vā sukhumaṃ vā hīnaṃ vā paṇītaṃ vā yaṃ dūre santike vā, sabbaṃ rūpaṃ: ‘netaṃ mama, nesohamasmi, na meso attā’ti evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya daṭṭhabbaṃ”.

Translated: “Therefore, bhikkhus, any kind of form whatsoever, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, all form (these are 11 types of rupa in rupakkhandha) should be seen as it really is with correct wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’

  • The same argument would hold for other four mental aggregates as well.

12. Therefore, sakkāya ditthi is permanently removed when one comprehends the real nature of this world: anicca (inability maintain rupa, vedanā, saññā, sankhāra, viññāna in the way one likes to), thus one would be subjected to suffering, including in the apayas (dukkha); see, “Anicca – True Meaning“.

  • Therefore, one is truly helpless in this rebirth process (anatta); see, “Anatta – No Refuge in This World“. This is the same as not having full control (“na” + “attā” or anattā); see, Anattā in Anattalakkahana Sutta – No Soul or an Ātma“.
  • Existence (bhava) in this world and corresponding births (jāti) filled with suffering arise because one tries to go against the true nature and generates sankhāra (due to avijjā). This is Paticca Samuppāda.
  • When one comprehends that, one would stop generating sankhāra, starting with the worst kind: apunna abhisankhāra (leading to immoral deeds). That is how a Sōtapanna starts on the Noble Path.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email