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the one place where the Buddha was asked point-blank whether or not there was a self, he refused to answer. When later asked why, he said that to hold either that there is a self or that there is no self is to fall into extreme forms of wrong view that make the path of Buddhist practice impossible.

It seems to me, and I may be wrong, that the skandhas can be identified as a self, as long as they aren't then taken to be in any way unchanged from moment to moment

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Encyclopedia of Buddhism, By Damien Keown, Charles S. Prebish

  • So I was wondering if that above silence means that any dharma can fulfill the role of that empirical self.

An example would be: Adam tastes the apple

Supposing this "taste" can be considered a kind of self, then if Adam sees smells touches feels nothing, just tastes the apple, there is "continuity" and he's still Adam. But as long as he does have other senses, and from moment to moment, the taste of apple doesn't make him who is he.

I've never read any commentary which claims this is what the empirical self is in Buddhism, so would be really surprised that this counts as a categorical denial of substantial self.

  • I'm not sure about the premise (that "The Buddha claimed that the self neither exists nor doesn't exist"). Can you reference that quote? Might you be mis-remembering or badly paraphrasing it? Which school of Buddhism? Would it be a relevant answer, to just reference a sutta (i.e. SN 44.10) in which he said something sort of similar but rather different (in order to kind of 'refute' the question if that's not being rude)? It might be difficult to answer this question if it's based on a false premise. – ChrisW Jul 16 '16 at 23:50
  • @ChrisW would never think refuting me was rude... will find – user3293056 Jul 16 '16 at 23:50
  • yes please find the source for what you would like to discuss. if it is in the scriptures then it could be a great topic to ask about. in general, there are three marks of existence and one of them is selflessness (of all phenomena). – sova Jul 16 '16 at 23:52
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    please change the title of your question to reflect the edit – sova Jul 17 '16 at 0:02
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    The phrase is used in other suttas of the Avyakata Samyutta (SN44), for example in SN 44.6: "That too has not been declared by the Blessed One: 'The Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist after death.'" See also Tetralemma. – ChrisW Jul 17 '16 at 0:11

11 Answers 11

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Buddha kept silent in response to Vacchagotta’s question because answering it in either way, it would have been misunderstood. This nature of the self is beyond the level of understanding of Vacchagotta. He is not yet at that stage in his spiritual development. Buddha never denies the existence of the self. He rejects annihilationism. Read the Alagaddupama Sutta (MN 22), Yamaka Sutta (SN 22.85), Kalama Sutta (AN 3.65), Ananda Sutta SN 44.10. In fact Buddha explained this when asked by the Venerable Ananda about his silence regarding Vacchagotta’s question. He said that this would have lead Vacchagotta to misinterpret the answer in a way that would bring him further attachment.

With regard to self, the Buddha said to Ananda in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, to stay as those who have the self as island, as those who have the self as refuge, as those who have no other refuge. (DN 16). As per the scriptures existence is real, but it is transitory.

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    Dhamma is much more than a mere intellectual pursuit. It starts with the ‘Guna’ that is cultivating one’s innate nature through virtue and merit. Then only you can touch ‘wisdom’. Then you start seeing things in a different light. Then yours will be a positive kind of a withdrawal.... With metta. – Saptha Visuddhi Jul 17 '16 at 1:45
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    The Buddha taught in many places the 'self' is dukkha therefore how can the self be a refuge? Only Hinduism seeks 'The Self' as a refuge. DN 16 actually states: "seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge". Dhamma as a refuge means the suffering wrought deluded disease of self is given up (rather than embraced). DN 16 only uses 'self' in conventional language, meaning to not depend on others externally but to depend on the Dhamma internally. 'Self as refuge' means 'internal refuge' depending only on the Dhamma. – Dhammadhatu Jul 17 '16 at 5:22
  • I quoted only partially what Buddha said to get my point across, and now you are doing the same. So we are both right & wrong at the same time. But remember well that there are no contradictions in all of the 18,000+ Theravada Suttas. Every time that we go up the Path it is the same truths that we contemplate on, and get to see them in another light up until becoming an Arahant.. So it is time for you and I to put virtue and merit to the forefront and practice the little that we know and have confidence in what Buddha preached. Let us not argue on this matter any further. With metta. – Saptha Visuddhi Jul 17 '16 at 8:05
  • In DN 16, the Buddha taught his true disciples are to be expert at refuting those of other sects (rather than trying to accommodate the self-views of those from other sects & bring them into Buddhism). – Dhammadhatu Jul 17 '16 at 16:51
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    If you think the way that I see it is wrong, check what Arahant Kathiyana's interpretation of this was. His understanding was, "This process of birth and aging sweeps you away just as the deep waves of the great ocean. So make yourself a protective island that will bring happiness to your life, for there isn’t an external refuge for you." - Thera Gatha. You seem to be even wiser than an Arahant, @Dhammadhatu. So who am I to comment on your insights. So this is my very last comment to you, until you see otherwise. With muditha. – Saptha Visuddhi Jul 17 '16 at 17:10
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You should not believe or hold a view that:

  • there is a self
  • there is not self

But whatever you consider as self is not worthy of being called self as:

  • you cannot control it to your will
  • it is impermanent

Since if you take a being as parts in terms of the 5 aggregates or 6 faculties each part which constitute a being is not self. E.g. the eye is not self, what you see is not self, what you feel is not self, your corporeal body is not self, etc.

3

Adam tastes an apple. If this "taste" can be considered an ephemeral (short-lived; transitory) self, then supposing Adam sees smells touches feels nothing, only tastes the apple, there is a continuity and he's still Adam. But as long as he does have other senses, the taste of apple doesn't make him who is he.

The taste does make Adam 'who' 'he' believes 'he' is because there is no (self) 'becoming' without sense experience.

Thus kamma [Adam believing "he" is eating the apple] is the field, consciousness [tasting the apple] the seed and craving the moisture. The consciousness of living beings hindered by ignorance & fettered by craving is established in/tuned to a lower property. Thus there is the production of renewed becoming in the future.

AN 3.76

There is no real ephemeral 'self' in Buddhism. In Buddhism, 'self' is a 'view' or 'idea' born of ignorance. It is considered to be a 'disease' or 'suffering'.

...assumes form to be the self. That assumption is a fabrication. Now what is the cause, what is the origination, what is the birth, what is the coming-into-existence of that fabrication? To an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, touched by that which is felt born of contact with ignorance, craving arises. That fabrication is born of that.

SN 22.81

It is not Adam that tastes the apple but consciousness & the nervous system of the tongue, brain, etc, that taste the apple. To quote:

"Who, O Lord, has a sense-impression?"

"The question is not correct," said the Exalted One.

"I do not say that 'he has a sense-impression.' Had I said so, then the question 'Who has a sense-impression?' would be appropriate. But since I did not speak thus, the correct way to ask the question will be 'What is the condition of sense-impression?' And to that the correct reply is: 'The sixfold sense-base is a condition of sense-impression, and sense-impression is the condition of feeling.'"

SN 12.12

More relevant quotes below:

This world is burning. Afflicted by contact, it calls disease a 'self.'

Ud 3.10

~~

Why now do you assume 'a being'? Mara, have you grasped a view? This is a heap of sheer constructions: Here no being is found.

Just as, with an assemblage of parts, The word 'chariot' is used, So, when the aggregates are present, There's the convention 'a being.'

It's only suffering that comes to be, Suffering that stands and falls away. Nothing but suffering comes to be, Nothing but suffering ceases.

SN 5.10

~

By & large, Kaccayana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings & biases. But one such as this does (with right view) not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on 'my self.' He has no uncertainty or doubt that just stress, when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view.

SN 12.15

~~

'I am' is a construing. 'I am this' is a construing. 'I shall be' is a construing. 'I shall not be'... 'I shall be possessed of form'... 'I shall not be possessed of form'... 'I shall be percipient'... 'I shall not be percipient'... 'I shall be neither percipient nor non-percipient' is a construing. Construing is a disease, construing is a cancer, construing is an arrow.

MN 140

  • i have accepted this answer on the grounds that if it's right then i'm no buddhist. what good news. cheers – user3293056 Jul 17 '16 at 0:58
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    No problem. Now you can realise for yourself why the Buddha remained silent. – Dhammadhatu Jul 17 '16 at 0:59
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I'm not a Pali scholar but "wrong" sounds like a wrong translation.

It is "something that leads one to suffering" to believe that the self exists, or that it doesn't?

The view or belief that there is a self is the most fundemental idea that leads beings to suffering on an individual scale and is the separator of us all.

2

Poor translations often lead to unnecessary questions.

The Pali in SN 44.10 is & poorly translated as follows:

kinnu kho bho gotama, atthattāti...Kiṃ pana bho gotama, natthattāti

Is there a self? Is there no self?

The words 'atthattāti' & 'natthattāti' also appear in the Kaccaayanagotto Sutta, again, poorly translated, as follows:

The world in general, Kaccaayana, inclines to two views, to existence (atthitañceva) or to non-existence (natthitañca). But he does not go along with that system-grasping, that mental obstinacy and dogmatic bias, does not grasp at it, does not affirm: ‘This is my self.’ He knows without doubt or hesitation that whatever [self-view that] arises is merely dukkha that whatever [self-view that] passes away is merely dukkha and such knowledge is his own, not depending on anyone else. This, Kaccaayana, is what constitutes right view.

‘Atthi’ appears to mean “to be” or “to exist” & related to the word ‘asmi’ (“I am”). ‘Atthitā’ is said to mean ‘state of being’ (where ‘ta’ means ‘state’) and to be an abstact of ‘atthibhāva’. The word ‘natthi’ naturally has the opposite meaning.

Therefore, in SN 44.10, Vacchagotta probably asked the following questions (in order to illicit the response of the Buddha to Ananda):

  1. Am I a self? Do I have a self?

  2. Am I not a self? Do I not have a self?

Since both questions are not free from the idea of being an 'I', they are bewildered questions.

When a mind ('person') believes it is a 'self' & tries to annihilate this self, in MN 102, the Buddha compared this to a dog chasing its own tail.

...through fear of identity & disgust with identity, keep running & circling around that same identity; just a dog tied by a leash to a pillar keeps running around that same pillar...

MN 102 - Bhikkhu Bodhi translation

2

There's a Dhamma talk titled "Selves & Not-self". The second part of it, Talk 2: Out of the Thicket and Onto the Path discusses the sutta that you're asking about.

That article is too long to quote but it's short enough to read.

The use of "the Thicket" in the title is presumably a reference to this passage in MN 2,

As he attends inappropriately in this way, one of six kinds of view arises in him: The view I have a self arises in him as true & established, or the view I have no self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self... or the view It is precisely by means of not-self that I perceive self arises in him as true & established, or else he has a view like this: This very self of mine — the knower that is sensitive here & there to the ripening of good & bad actions — is the self of mine that is constant, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and will stay just as it is for eternity. This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. Bound by a fetter of views, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is not freed from birth, aging, & death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. He is not freed, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

I think this passage (from MN 2 above) helps to explain why the Buddha wouldn't want to declare whether or not "there is a self".

I think it's saying that "I have a self" is a view, and "I have no self" is another view.

They are "fetters of views" (or become fetters) ... as opposed to "right view":

The well-instructed disciple of the noble ones... discerns what ideas are fit for attention, and what ideas are unfit for attention. This being so, he does not attend to ideas unfit for attention, and attends [instead] to ideas fit for attention... He attends appropriately, This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress. As he attends appropriately in this way, three fetters are abandoned in him: identity-view, doubt, and grasping at precepts & practices.

Further to that I think there's another sutta, I don't remember which sutta but the following is a quote from an article This is not me; this is not mine, I am not this by Bodhipaksa,

The Buddha did not teach, incidentally, that there was no self. The word “anatta,” which is often translated as “no self” is invariably used in the Buddhist scriptures in the context of saying “This is not myself. That is not myself.” It’s never used, as far as I’m aware, to say “there is no self.” And in fact when the Buddha was asked flat out if he taught that there was no self he refused to answer, and he also said that there was no view of self that would not lead to suffering: including the view that there is no self. I do sometimes say there is “no self” but what I mean by that is that there is no self that exists as we think it exists: separate and permanent. That kind of self doesn’t exist.


Edited to add: Bodhipaksa was paraphrasing paragraph 23 of the The Discourse on the Snake Simile -- Alagaddupama Sutta (MN 22):

  1. "You may well accept, monks, the assumption of a self-theory[27] from the acceptance of which there would not arise sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief, and despair. (But) do you see, monks, any such assumption of a self-theory?" — "No, Lord." — "Well, monks, I, too, do not see any such assumption of a self-theory from the acceptance of which there would not arise sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair."

Re. the question in the OP, whether "the skandhas can be identified as a self", the footnote [27] says,

Attavaadupaadaanam upadiyetha. While in most translations the term upaadaana has been rendered by "clinging," we have followed here a suggestion of the late Bhikkhu Ña.namoli, rendering it by "assumption" [see The Wheel No. 17: Three Cardinal Discourses of the Buddha, p. 19 (Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy)]. In this context, the word "assumption" should be understood: (1) in the sense of a supposition, (2) in the literal sense of its Latin source: adsumere, "to take up," which closely parallels the derivation of our Paali term: upa-aadaana, "taking up strongly." In this sense we have used it when translating the derivative verb upaadiyetha by "you may accept." Attavaadupaadaana is one of the four types of clinging (see Nyanatiloka's Buddhist Dictionary), conditioned by craving (ta.nhaa). This term comprises, according to Comy, the twenty types of personality-belief (sakkaaya-di.t.thi).

Quoting this passage of our text, the Ven. Dr. Walpola Rahula remarks: "If there had been any soul-theory which the Buddha had accepted, he would certainly have explained it here, because he asked the monks to accept that soul-theory which did not produce suffering. But in the Buddha's view, there is no such soul-theory..." (What the Buddha Taught, London, 1959; p.58).

The so-called "twenty types of personality-belief" are listed in MN 44 as well as in SN 22.1 i.e. four types of belief for each of the 5 khandhas:

  1. That the khandha is the self
  2. That the self possesses the khandha
  3. That the khandha is in the self
  4. That the self is in the khandha

Dharmafarer has a similar translation of MN 22:

  1. Bhikshus, you may well cling to the self-doctrine194 that would not cause sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair to arise in one who clings to it.195 But do you see any such possession, bhikshus?”

    “No, bhante.”

    “Good, bhikshus. I, too, do not see any doctrine of self that would not arouse sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair in one who clings to it.


Or perhaps you're asking whether it's OK to "consider" a khandha as self, as long as they're not taken to be unchanged?

Paragraph 23 of MN 22 says that you can't "cling to" (or "assume") a self-view that doesn't cause suffering.

Maybe your question hinges on whether you can "consider" (as it says in the question) or "believe" (as it says in the title) something (a belief or identification) that's impermanent? If so perhaps the answer is that words like "view" and "doctrine" and "belief" are taken to be somewhat fixed, not transient -- see for example the answers to this question, How are 'conceit' and 'identity-view' not the same?

I guess I need to leave it to you to decide whether your saying "skandhas can be as a self, as long as they aren't then taken to be in any way unchanged from moment to moment" matches something like SN 22.1,

Ven. Sariputta said: "Now, how is one afflicted in body & afflicted in mind?

There is the case where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person — who has no regard for noble ones, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma; who has no regard for men of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma — assumes form (the body) to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form. He is seized with the idea that 'I am form' or 'Form is mine.' As he is seized with these ideas, his form changes & alters, and he falls into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair over its change & alteration.

(as well as 'form', likewise for feeling, perception, fabrications, and consciousness)

And how is one afflicted in body but unafflicted in mind? There is the case where a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones — who has regard for noble ones, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma; who has regard for men of integrity, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma — does not assume form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form. He is not seized with the idea that 'I am form' or 'Form is mine.' As he is not seized with these ideas, his form changes & alters, but he does not fall into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, or despair over its change & alteration.

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    Correct. As I just posted in a new post, the problem is: "I have a self" is a self-view and "I have no self" is another self-view. They are both self-views. – Dhammadhatu Jul 17 '16 at 16:53
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There no contradiction. The opening post contains a serious misunderstanding.

There is one primary sutta where the Buddha remains silent. This was for the sole reason the listener (Vacchagotta) was unable to understand, i.e., 'bewildered'.

Vacchagotta asked the question: "Is there a self (atta)? Is there no self (nanatta)"? (kinnu kho bho gotama, atthattāti...Kiṃ pana bho gotama, natthattāti.)

It was Vacchagotta that defined the words or terms used in the discussion (rather than the Buddha). Vacchagotta was not asking a question about Buddhism but asking a question based on certain non-Buddhist doctrines. Vacchagotta did not ask about the Buddhist 'anatta'.

Please carefully read the relevant sutta below:

"Ananda, if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self (atthattāti) — were to answer that there is a self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of eternalism [the view that there is an eternal, unchanging soul]. If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self (natthattāti) — were to answer that there is no self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of annihilationism [the view that death is the annihilation of the self]. If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self — were to answer that there is a self, would that be in keeping with the arising of knowledge that all phenomena are not-self?"

"No, lord."

"And if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, the bewildered Vacchagotta would become even more bewildered: 'Does the self I used to have now not exist?'"

SN 44.10

1

The Buddha referred to the four qualities of his existence: permanence, individuality, bliss and purity. A self that lacked these qualities would not be a good enough self so I infer that the Buddha teaches there is a Self, in the sense of the above-mentioned type of individual existence, and it is arrived at or realized by Awakening, hence the meaning of the word "Buddha".

We must acknowledge that we exist in the first place, otherwise we wouldn't have an opportunity for thought at all. So we must assume that the Buddha's teaching was never intended to be understood as a negation of being itself, but one that any right-minded person with the willingness to reason could fathom. The Buddha's teaching on the "skandhas" is that they are composites, and because of this they aren't real, they'll fall apart into their constituent elements, are inherently unreliable and therefore it's not wise to regard them as a self.

The body, like all physical structures in the universe, is no self, has no self, is not the Self, which is fine because having arisen it then must pass away, which would be inconvenient if it were the real You.

The mind is no self, has no self, is not the Self, again because it arises and passes away at each new perception, and because one doesn't see fit to attribute being to mere perception, which is only the mutually non-exclusive proliferation of differentiation and identification of things that aren't You. In the hypothetical case of the perception of two identical objects the mind would be baffled, yet one would know immediately that the knowledge of which is which is what's missing, and that knowledge could never be supplied by mere perception.

As for an "empirical" (measurable) or "substantial" self, it's impossible, since being in essence cannot be delimited as physical, nor as non-physical, nor mental, nor non-mental, nor both, nor neither nor any combination of these.

  • so I infer that the Buddha teaches there is a Self I haven't made that inference, instead I assumed that "there is a Self" was a pre-existing/contemporary belief (e.g. in Brahman), which he was contradicting or (if not contradicting) which he was addressing. – ChrisW Mar 25 '18 at 7:06
  • @ChrisW user's question was about the existence or non-existence of "a self" but Vachagotta's question was about whether or not the view of eternal, unchanging being was correct, and also whether or not the view that death is the annihilation of being was correct. User and V seem to come from opposite directions about the same issue: existence, rather than issue of identification/differentiation that "there is a self" - thinking of clarifying answer...thanks – Glint Mar 25 '18 at 21:48
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There is no right or wrong in Buddhism. As the saying goes "One man meat is another man's poison". That is why Buddha expounded 84,000 paths. All leads to Enlightenment.... Look for a good teacher!

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This seems to be a major point of conflict between not just Theravada and Mahayana but also Zen and other views of the west. The distinctions actually become rather pedantic and I believe that is the source of the Buddha's silence.

The word "shunyata" literally means emptiness. The ABSENCE of things. Space. If you make that space into an object ... that is the self in accord with many interpretations within the Mahayana tradition. They simply objectify the emptiness and give it a name and that name is "self".

It's not so different from the Theravada tradition. The 5 skandhas are said to make up the entire person with no "self" to possess them. Thus making any idea of self a delusion. So any ideas of a self are an illusion.

Imagine an empty box. Nothing is inside. But instead of nothing let's call it "self". There's plenty of nothingness, or "self", outside the box as well. In fact that's pretty much most of the universe. Now give that box some sensory organs like a pair of eyes and some ears and a nose. And now a brain to interpret the signals and save the results. All of these inputs create the illusion that the empty space is now different than it was (an individual identity), but it is still just some space. That is the self.

So there's really not a lot of distinction between there being a self (emptiness objectified) or there being nothing (hollow). Hence the Buddha's silence on the matter directly.

I know many here are interpreting English so I am not sure if this explanation as I write it will be completely understood in translation. Please don't immediately rule this explanation out just for that reason. Try to envision the box example.

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    let's call it "self" If the "self" is the "being-me" of a person, doesn't the "self" of an object (e.g. of a table) refer to the "being-a-table" or the "table-ness" of a table? I thought that Theravada anatta is about, like, emotional attachment to "self"; whereas Mahayana sunyata is about, like, experience being subjective not objective, objects being impermanent (and dukkha), object boundaries (names) being kind of arbitrary. See also here and here. – ChrisW Oct 27 '17 at 3:37
  • It doesnt have to be so esoteric Chris. If you look at each of our atoms we are mostly space. Depending on your perspective we might appear as a solid or a space. And of course all that space is connected and everywhere at once. All across existence. I appreciated the links. They were useful. – Kauva Aatma Oct 27 '17 at 5:09
  • I read in David Loy's book Lack and Transcendence that one interpretation of shunyata is not so much 'empty' as: "full of possibilities". I found that very helpful. Chogyam Trungpa also talks about 'space' and 'spaciousness' and how when we cling, the space becomes solid and we are no longer free within it. – user2341 Oct 30 '17 at 12:54
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This is question for pāli and abhidhamma, but no one answer it in pāli and abhidhamma. So, the people still doubt in self, because no one answered the whole story of "self" word.

Self of wrong view is attha-paññatti (paññatti/vijjamāna=unreality) that can be just avijjamāna-sadda-paññatti in conversation's context. So, the conversation must has some wrong causes and effects in it's context.

But self, atta-sadda, in pali language can be every (6) type of sadda-paññatti:

  1. vijjamāna-sadda-paññatti = vocabulary of reality refer to reality, such as "contact (mind-factor)" word.
  2. avijjamāna-sadda-paññatti = vocabulary of unreality refer to unreality, such as "self" word of wrong view.
  3. avijjamānena-avijjamāna-sadda-paññatti = vocabulary of unreality, and speaker use another vocabulary of unreality to refer to that unreality in conversation, too, such as "world-creator-self" word, world-creator=unreality, self=unreality, world-creator-self refer to self-unreality.
  4. vijjamānena-avijjamāna-sadda-paññatti = vocabulary of unreality, but speaker use another vocabulary of reality to refer to that unreality in conversation, such as "nibbāna-sphere" word of mahāyāna-nikāya)**, nibbāna=reality, sphere=unreality, nibbāna-sphere refer to sphere-unreality. This is called upamāpubbapada-visesanopama-kammadhāraya-samāsa in pāli.
  5. avijjamānena-vijjamāna-sadda-paññatti = vocabulary of reality, but speaker use another vocabulary of unreality to refer to that reality in conversation, such as "person-elements" word, person=unreality, elements=reality, person-elements refer to 4 element-reality. Or, such as "nibbāna-sphere" of theravāda, nibbāna=reality, sphere=unreality, nibbāna-sphere refer to nibbāna-reality. This is called upamānuttara-visesanopama-kammadhāraya-samāsa in pāli.
  6. vijjamānena-vijjamāna-sadda-paññatti vocabulary of reality, and speaker use another vocabulary of reality to refer to that reality in conversation, such as "mind-factor" word, mind=reality, factor=reality, mind-factor refer to mind's factor-reality.

Every sadda-paññatti can spoken by everyone, but each person maybe expect to refer to the difference meaning from another speaker, such as "nibbāna-sphere" of mahāyāna that is very difference from "nibbāna-sphere" of theravāda tipitaka.

So in pāli language, we specify mahāyāna's "nibbāna-sphere" word as upamāpubbapada-visesanopama-kammadhāraya-samāsa, but we specify theravāda's "nibbāna-sphere" as upamānuttara-visesanopama-kammadhāraya-samāsa.

P.S. kammadhāraya-samāsa = guṇa-samāsa in ancient pali canon.

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