Sakkāya Ditthi – Getting Rid of Deeper Wrong Views

June 22, 2019; revised October 23, 2019

Introduction – Two Types of Wrong Views

1. In the “Mahā Cattārisaka Sutta (Discourse on the Great Forty),“ the Buddha explained that there are two eightfold paths; also see, “Buddha Dhamma – In a Chart” and the post referred to therein. Therefore, there are two types of sammā ditthi, attained via the removal of two types of micchā ditthi.

  • First, one needs to follow the mundane eightfold path and get rid of the ten types of micchā ditthi. That is the necessary foundation needed to comprehend the nature of a broader world of 31 realms. One must realize the truth of kamma/kamma vipāka, rebirth process, that there is a paralōka where gandhabba lives, etc.; see, “Micchā Ditthi, Gandhabba, and Sōtapanna Stage.”
  • The more profound wrong views of nicca, sukha, atta can be removed, and one can then comprehend the real nature of this world of 31 realms (only after one gets rid of the ten types of micchā ditthi); see, “Three Marks of Existence – English Discourses.“
  • When that happens, one becomes a Sōtapanna Anugāmi and starts on the Noble Eightfold Path.

2. Removal of sakkāya ditthi is the basis of one’s start on the Noble Eightfold Path. It is really about getting a “new vision” about the true nature of this world of 31 realms.

  • That requires getting rid of the more in-depth wrong views (nicca, sukha, atta) about the nature of this world.
  • In this post, we will discuss how “20 types of sakkāya ditthi” is reached by getting rid of 5 types of wrong views on the five aggregates based on ucchēda ditthi and 15 types of wrong views on the five aggregates based on sassata ditthi.
Sakkāya as “Sath” + “Kāya”

3. In the previous post, “Sakkāya Ditthi and Tilakkhana,” we discussed how sakkāya ditthi is related to one’s cravings. Those cravings (upādāna) are for one’s own body and other material things of perceived value (rupakkhandha). They also include one’s mental constituents that define those cravings (kandha or aggregates of vēdanā, saññā, sankhāra, and viññāna).

  • As we saw in that post, 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.
  • These cravings for the five aggregates arise because of the wrong views of ucchēda ditthi or sassata ditthi or views in between those two (with different combinations), as we discuss below.
Two Main Ditthis (Deeper Wrong Views)

4. There are two main “ditthis” or “wrong views” about the world discussed in the “Brahmajāla Sutta (DN 1)“. Note that I always provide the Pāli version of a sutta, because sometimes the commonly available English translations have errors. I usually give a link to the Pāli version at Sutta Central. One can get translations to English — and even a few more languages — there by clicking on the “hamburger icon” (represented by three short parallel lines) at the top left.

  • One is the ucchēda ditthi, which says a “person” exists only until the death of the physical body; a “person” is nothing more than a collection of physical matter (molecules). When the “person” dies, that is the end of the story (uccēda means “cut off”).
  • The second is sassata ditthi — which is the exact opposite of the first (sassata means “eternal.”) It is the view that a “person” has a “mental body” that survives the death of the physical body: In Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), it is called the “soul,” which goes to either heaven or hell at death and will stay there forever. In Hinduism, it is called “ātma,” which merges with Mahā Brahma at some point and remains there forever.
  • In the Brahmajāla Sutta (DN 1), the Buddha discusses 60 more wrong views, but those are variations of the above two. We can see that most scientists have the ucchēda ditthi (that one’s physical body with its brain is all that is there.) Most religious people (in Abrahamic religions and Hinduism) have the sassata ditthi that one’s soul or ātma lives forever.

5. If ucchēda ditthi is the actual reality of the world, then suffering will end with the death of the physical body. Thus one may seek to “enjoy worldly pleasures” without paying attention to the harmful consequences of doing immoral deeds (when the temptation gets high enough).

  • If sassata ditthi is the actual reality of the world, then suffering will never end, because there is an “unchanging essence” that will survive the death of the body at any time. Even though the premise there is of a “suffering-less, joyful realm” (merge with the Creator), the Buddha said that there is no such existence. All existences are subject to suffering, simply because matter (rupa) is unstable. Any life with even a trace of tangible-matter is inherently unstable. Modern science has confirmed this fact; see, “Second Law of Thermodynamics is Part of Anicca!“.
  • In Buddha Dhamma, there is an entity (gandhabba, mostly “mental” with just a few suddhashtaka or smallest units of matter) that survives the death of the physical body. Any existence in this world is associated with such a “mental body.” The mental body of a human or an animal is a gandhabba.
  • Buddha Dhamma says a living being comes into existence due to six root causes, but all six disappear with the removal of three root causes (lōbha, dōsa, mōha). As long as those root causes are present there will be an associated life. And any being in this world has much more suffering than any short-lived happiness; see, “Six Root Causes – Loka Samudaya (Arising of Suffering) and Loka Nirodhaya (Nibbāna)” and
    The Grand Unified Theory of Dhamma.”

6. Therefore, the concept in Buddha Dhamma is in between those two extremes of ucchēda ditthi and sassata ditthi.

  • There is a mental-body with a trace of matter (gandhabba) that survives the death of the physical body, but that mental body is ever-changing, according to Paticca Samuppāda. 
  • Therefore, there is no everlasting “self” or a “ātma” or an “attā.” The denial of an eternal “attā” is called “anattā” (“na” + “attā“). That is the meaning of anattā; see, “Anattā in Anattalakkahana Sutta – No Soul or a Ātma.”
  • Since the death of the physical body is not the end of suffering, one will become helpless (anatta) in the rebirth process since births in the four lowest realms (apāyās) are unavoidable. That is another meaning of anatta (“na” + “atta“) or “without refuge or becoming helpless); see, “Anatta – No Refuge in This World.“ Here, atta means “with refuge.”
  • When one understands this world view of the Buddha, one removes sakkāya ditthi (together with vicikicca and silabbata parāmāsa) and attains the Sōtapanna stage.
Two Main Types of Character (Carita)

7. A revealing analysis of sakkāya ditthi in terms of one’s character qualities (carita, pronounced “charitha”) is in the “Nayasamuṭṭhāna section” of the Nettippakarana (a Commentary in the Tipitaka). It defines the Four Noble Truths in terms of “sakkāya“: “Tattha diṭṭhicaritā rūpaṃ attato upagacchanti. Vedanaṃ … pe … saññaṃ … saṅkhāre … viññāṇaṃ attato upagacchanti. Taṇhācaritā rūpavantaṃ attānaṃ upagacchanti. Attani vā rūpaṃ, rūpasmiṃ vā attānaṃ, vedanāvantaṃ … pe … saññāvantaṃ … saṅkhāravantaṃ … viññāṇavantaṃ attānaṃ upagacchanti, attani vā viññāṇaṃ, viññāṇasmiṃ vā attānaṃ, ayaṃ vuccati vīsativatthukā sakkāyadiṭṭhi“.

Translated: “A person with “characteristic wrong views” (diṭṭhicaritā) perceives “I am my body,” “I am my vēdanā,” “I am my saññā,” “I am my sankhāra,” and “I am my viññāna.” A person with “characteristic cravings for sense pleasures” (taṇhācaritā) perceives my body is me; my body is in me, I am in my body‘. He sees vedanā..sañña..saṅkhāra..viññāṇa in the same four ways (e.g., I am my viññāṇa, my viññāṇa is me, my viññāṇa is in meI am my viññāṇa) –  that is twenty types of sakkāya diṭṭhi.

  • Thus, there are five types of sakkāya diṭṭhi due to ucchēda ditthi and 15 types of sakkāya diṭṭhi due to sassata ditthi.
Diṭṭhicaritā With Uccēda Ditthi and Taṇhācaritā With Sassata Ditthi

8. From the same section of Nayasamuṭṭhāna of the Nettipakarana, we have two definitions for ucchēda ditthi and sassata ditthi.

Tattha ye rūpaṃ attato upagacchanti. Vedanaṃ … pe … saññaṃ … saṅkhāre … viññāṇaṃ attato upagacchanti. Ime vuccanti “ucchedavādino”ti.”

Ye rūpavantaṃ attānaṃ upagacchanti. Attani vā rūpaṃ, rūpasmiṃ vā attānaṃ. Ye vedanāvantaṃ … pe … ye saññāvantaṃ … ye saṅkhāravantaṃ … ye viññāṇavantaṃ attānaṃ upagacchanti, attani vā viññāṇaṃ, viññāṇasmiṃ vā attānaṃ. Ime vuccanti “sassatavādino”ti, tattha ucche­da­sassa­ta­vādā ubho antā, ayaṃ saṃsārapavatti.”

Translated: “One with ucchēda ditthi (ucchedavādino) perceives “I am my body,” “I am my vēdanā,” “I am my saññā,” “I am my sankhāra,” and “I am my viññāna.”

“One with sassata ditthi (sassatavādino) perceives my body is me; my body is in me, I am in my body‘. He also perceives vedanā..sañña.. saṅkhāra.. viññāṇa in the same four ways (e.g., my viññāṇa is me, my viññāṇa is in me, I am in my viññāṇa)”.
Those with such extreme views are bound to the cycle of rebirths (saṃsāra)”.

9. This verse introduces dividing anariyas (puthujjano) into two categories: (1) ditthicarita or those with personalities dominated by the wrong vision of ucchēda ditthi. (2) tanhacarita or those with characters dominated by the wrong view of sassata ditthi. If you look at the definitions in #7 above, you will see that a ditthicarita is one with ucchēda ditthi, and a taṇhācaritā is one with sassata ditthi.

  • The last part says that the 20-types of sakkāya ditthi is the combination of ucchēda and sassata ditthis. Since all other 60 ditthis or wrong visions about the world are different combinations or variations of ucchēda and sassata ditthis, 20-types of sakkāya ditthi includes all the wrong views about “this world.”
Sōtapanna Stage – A New World View

10. Now we look at the last of the verse in #8 above, which gives another clue: “..tattha ucche­da­sassa­ta­vādā ubho antā, ayaṃ saṃsārapavatti.”

  • Here, “ucche­da­sassa­ta­vādā” results from the combination of ucchēda sassata ­vādā, i.e.,ucchēda ­vādā and sassata ­vādā, where vāda means “argument or theory,” or in this case “view.” It says those two are the two extreme views.
  • Then it says, “ayaṃ saṃsārapavatti.” That means those two extreme views lead to the continuation of the rebirth process! (saṃsāra pavatti, where “pavatti” means to “continue or sustain”).
  • That makes perfect sense. One removes sakkāya ditthi (and get to the correct world view) by getting rid of the two main wrong views about the world of 31 realms, i.e., ucchēda ditthi and sassata ditthi, and any combination of them.

11. If a living being does not cease to exist at the death of the physical body (ucchēda ditthi does not hold)  AND if there is no “permanent essence of a being” like a soul or a ātma (sassata ditthi does not hold), then what is the explanation?

  • Continuation of a lifestream NOT ONLY at the death of the physical body but at ANY MOMENT is explained via the principle of causes and conditions (Paticca Samuppāda).
  • One who gets to be a Sōtapanna comprehends this fact and realizes that there is nothing to be called “mine” because, in reality, there is absolutely nothing that can be under control of “oneself”; see, “Anattā in Anattalakkahana Sutta – No Soul or a Ātma.”
  • As long as one does not comprehend that, one will become helpless in the future, especially when one is reborn in an apāya; see, “Anatta – No Refuge in This World.”
  • That is why getting rid of Sakkāya ditthi REQUIRES one to get rid of any trace of ucchēda ditthi or sassata ditthi. 
  • That is not possible until one first gets rid of the 10 types of micchā ditthi and gets basic understanding of the broader world with 31 realms, laws of kamma, existence of a paralōka with gandhabba, and of course the validity of the rebirth process; also see, “Buddhism without Rebirth and Nibbana?“.

12. However, this is only a change of ditthi vipallāsa (getting rid of muddled or distorted vision). There are two more vipallāsa (saññā vipallāsa and citta vipallāsa or “distorted perceptions and thoughts.”) Their removal happen at higher stages of Nibbāna; see, “Discourse 3 – Distorted Perceptions or Saññā Vipallāsa” in “Three Marks of Existence – English Discourses.“

  • Therefore, getting rid of ALL wrong views starts at the Sōtapanna Anugāmi stage, and established at the Sōtapanna stage.
  • However, all types of vipallāsa wear out step-by-step and ultimately go away only at the Arahant stage; see the forum discussion “Sakkāya Ditthi and Tilakkhana.”
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