5

Most of the English translation I read, Anatta is translated as not-self and Anicca as impermanence. However many Sri Lankan Buddhist monks do not agree with this translation. They say it is a miss translation by Buddhagosha. According to many Buddhist monks, it appears, Anicca means our inability to control the five aggregate. Anatta means the futile nature of the five aggregate. Is this true?

  • 2
    @SarathW, almost all see Anatta as not-self and Anicca as impermanence. It is only a handful of monks - a very few in Sri Lanka - who would see otherwise. – Saptha Visuddhi Mar 25 '17 at 11:35
  • 1
    I know where this idea comes from. It's from Waharaka school, which I think is baseless. I suppose you got this idea from walasmulle abhaya thero? – dmsp Mar 26 '17 at 11:06
  • 1
    The problem with this claim is, even though they reject impermanence and non self they themselves are not in agreement of what the correct meaning is. If you can provide the monk's name I might be able to give an answer to this question. – dmsp Mar 26 '17 at 11:32
  • 2
    @dmsp, Waharaka Abhayarathanalankara Thero, Walasmulle abhaya Thero & Meewanapalane Siri Dhammalankara Thero are giving these MESSED UP explanations (as I understand) to the Pali words & now there are many articles & Dhamma talks in the internet which pops up when someone searches for a meaning of a words like Anichcha or Annaththa. – Nalaka526 Apr 2 '17 at 13:36
  • 1
    @SarathW... I waited all this while to see which answer out of the five that is already posted that you would prefer. I am always interested in the answer that the owner would prefer. How those few monks interpret those two words is the truth. Even Bhikku Boddhi & Thanissaro Bhikku have gone with the long held belief. I will write more on this later as a separate post when time permits. – Saptha Visuddhi Apr 3 '17 at 0:05
6

It is 'anatta' that means our inability to control the five aggregate, as found in the Pali as follows, where the word 'anicca' is not found at all:

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.

Bhikkhus, form is nonself. For if, bhikkhus, form were self, this form would not lead to disease, and it would be possible to have it of form: ‘Let my form be thus; let my form not be thus.’ But because form is nonself, form leads to disease, and it is not possible to have it of form: ‘Let my form be thus; let my form not be thus.’

SN 22.59

It is 'anicca' that means the futile nature ('dukkha') of the five aggregates, as also explained in SN 22.59:

"What do you think of this, O monks? Is form permanent (niccaṃ) or impermanent (aniccaṃ)?"

"Impermanent (aniccaṃ), O Lord (O Bhante)."

"Now, that which is impermanent, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?"

"Unsatisfactory, O Lord."

"Now, that which is impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change, is it proper to regard that as: 'This is mine, this I am, this is my self (attā)'?"

"Indeed, not that, O Lord."

Anatta (not-self) is the recognition that conditioned things (such as the five aggregates) do not belong to you (i.e., are not "mine") and cannot be an intrinsic permanent "you" (i.e., are not "me") due to their impermanent (anicca) nature.

  • Can you explain (or prove) e.g. why anicca is translated as impermanence? – ChrisW Apr 3 '17 at 1:02
  • 1
    Why? Because the sutta says anicca means subject to change. Also refer to SN 22.97 suttacentral.net/en/sn22.97 where nicca is correlated with words such as stable, eternal, not subject to change, that will remain the same just like eternity itself. – Dhammadhatu Dec 17 '17 at 2:16
1

Anatta - non / not self is right. No self is wrong as it is an extreme view. See: Ananda Sutta

Anicca - impermanence. In ability to control comes because of impermanence but this is more to do with Anatta.

Anatta is also the in ability to control the 5 aggregates, 6 sense bases and their experience, not anicca.

Also see: Sutta references which Discuss Self and Not Self under Different Contexts

  • 2
    I don't think it's enough to merely give a definition, for this question. The OP expresses doubt about usual translations so I think they want something more (proof or reasoning, perhaps). – ChrisW Mar 25 '17 at 11:27
  • If there were something permanent, I'm as well unable to change it. So by the same logic even the permanent "is" anicca? (I don't really like the use of "is" etc in this context/expressions, thus I possibly do not apply it here "correctly", but just for the other contradiction in my comment.) – Gottfried Helms Mar 13 at 10:53
1

I am a bit suspicious about all those meanings due to following reasons.

  1. Buddha should have given these discourses in Magadhi language which was the language mostly used during that time in that area. Magadhi is not Pali, even though there are some resemblance between them.

  2. The Suttas were edited appropriately in the first Buddhist council for the purpose of preservation by oral tradition, by arahants. The discourses were delivered could have been resembled the modern day talks (for instance, the first sutta was delivered overnight, but if you chant it now, it will be finished before half an hour) so the arahants could have taken the core of the teachings and made it into something that could be chant-able.

  3. The fourth council in Sri Lanka paved the way to write them down and it was conducted without the patronage of the king at that time. The king Vattagamini-Abhaya was a sympathiser of Mahayana. Perhaps the monks were really concerned about the threats to the teachings by some people who were dealing with the king. There is no mention about arahants in the meeting and perhaps, only scholarly monks undertook the recitations and writings. Because the language of these monks is Sinhala and they had to learn Pali to understand (remember, Pali was not spoken in Sri Lanka, it used to be , even now, should be learnt), there is possibility that some of the meanings got lost with time.

  4. Still, there is a possibility of understanding the meaning of those words if the Sinhala commentaries were preserved. But as soon as Buddhagogha translated them in to Pali, all the Sinhala commentaries were burned. This should not be a problem if can have full faith in Buddhagosha's ability to translate. Unfortunately, no-one knows about his Sinhala skills as well as the grip on Buddhist teachings being a previous practinioner of Vedas. There are possibilities, that he tried to explain the terms the way he understood them through his knowledge in Vedas ultimately introducing vedic concepts unwittingly.

1

Nyom Sarath, and those with interest,

At(t)ma(n)-peap (my person, "I-ness", usually, polite and modest 3rd person adressing of oneself when speaking with householder as pabbajita "one gone forth", here where he dwells) followed the hard leaded discussion on many places of Dhamma-discussion a little, which was merely very un-welcome to many and sometimes "brutal" and ignorant approached, from my persons view, especially in scholar-spheres and where practicing is merely secondary matter, even unwished to be discussed.

Coming to this question, not as a linguistic scholar and also not as a script scholar, but from a practical use, also of language and of it's sense, in relation to the practice and aim.

Here in Cambodia, which maybe has the longest unbroken "oral only"-tradition, with less exchange to organised communities elsewhere and seemingly long unbroken lineage without much scholars, in a more modern way, and scripts very young, many pali and sanskrit words are living part of the countries language in daily use, and also general translations into Khmer (khema = land or person at peace) language are mostly often different to modern translation in living languages.

The word atthanay,for example, as part of common language, adjectivly used, means simply "makes no sense", "has nothing to hold on". Anicca is translated as min-deang or *min-dang (khmer), which means, not-knowable, not to see, not control-able, not in the sphere of control or foreseeable.

That would, independently of this "old" Sri Lankan approach, Sarath quoted,

Anicca means our inability to control the five aggregate. Anatta means the futile nature of the five aggregate.

fit well with each other. Practical in living language and meaning, as well practical in relation of the path, for the aim to get ride of suffering/stress, rather to find such as an "I" or destroy it.

At the heart - the sense stays actually (like also particly mentikned by Beginner her) the same with the usual words - it would, for a good and in line of the general context of the Dhamma, and ways conductive for the path, just fit better than use the modern/popular words, since speculations about, if there is a self or not, needs to be avoided, and are root causes of suffering (e.g. papanca).

But maybe the "problem", causing disputes, lies merely there, that the issue of at least emptiness, usually have not been taught to the untrained person (mind), and that people not free of sakkaya-ditthi, one of the lower fetter, self-view, self-believe, has simply a hard to work without self or not-self, therefore prever the use of one or another extreme and bend it here and there that it does not possible seem like eternal- or nihilism, but still is.

How ever, to cut away a "dangerous" assuming that some might draw from it: that would not mean that Nibbana is self - making a dopple-chance in a thought line - it just would mean that Nibbana makes sense (attha), aside of all other phenomenas which do not (anattha), and it is no more not in the sphere of insecurity, niccha, secure. For whom or what, is no question in this sphere, cut off, made an end.

How ever, my person never come across a saying of "nibbana atta, nibbana niccaṃ" quoting the Buddha, ditectly. Maybe out of good reason as well, such was not said, since Nibbana is not an antidote to Samsara, but "simply" beyond.

But this "tiny" distinction fits also well into the "not-modern" translation, suggested here:

anattā

While in the case of the first two characteristics it is stated that all formations (sabbe sankhārā) are impermanent and subject to suffering, the corresponding text for the third characteristic states that "all things are not-self" (sabbe dhammā anattā; M. 35, Dhp. 279).

Hence: Nibbana "just" nicca: secure: might be possible valid to express, taken that sabbe dhammā anattā incl. Nibbana (for security to be not mistaken as "the Self")

So the answer here will again either stay food for not conductive thoughts for the path either, or possible lead even more "just" to practice and see (dang km) for "oneself" (kluan eing km).

May all able to, gain the best out of it and reach the stream till highest fruit.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for any commercial purpose or other wordily gains]

0

To understand anatta, you need to understand what is sasvata and what is uccheda very deeply.

For example, through samma ditti, one might be void of Sakkaaya Ditti, Vicikiccha, Silabbatha Paramasa, but unless you become an arhat, you won't understand Attawada (a consequence of not understanding anatta).

0

The best argument for wrong translation of Anicca come from SN 12.20, “Paccayasutta” which says,

Katame ca, bhikkhave, paṭic­ca­samup­pannā dhammā? Jarāmaraṇaṃ, bhikkhave, aniccaṃ saṅkhataṃ paṭic­ca­samup­pannaṃ khayadhammaṃ vayadhammaṃ virāgadhammaṃ nirodhadhammaṃ. Jāti, bhikkhave, aniccā saṅkhatā paṭic­ca­samup­pannā khayadhammā vayadhammā virāgadhammā nirodhadhammā. Bhavo, bhikkhave, anicco saṅkhato paṭic­ca­samup­panno khayadhammo vayadhammo virāgadhammo nirodhadhammo. Upādānaṃ bhikkhave … pe … taṇhā, bhikkhave … vedanā, bhikkhave … phasso, bhikkhave … saḷāyatanaṃ, bhikkhave … nāmarūpaṃ, bhikkhave … viññāṇaṃ, bhikkhave … saṅkhārā, bhikkhave … avijjā, bhikkhave, aniccā saṅkhatā paṭic­ca­samup­pannā khayadhammā vayadhammā virāgadhammāvirāga nirodhadhammā. Ime vuccanti, bhikkhave, paṭic­ca­samup­pannā dhammā.

Translated:

And what, bhikkhus, are the dependently arisen phenomena? Aging-and-death, bhikkhus, is impermanent, conditioned, dependently arisen, subject to destruction, vanishing, fading away, and cessation. Birth is impermanent … Existence is impermanent … Clinging is impermanent … Craving is impermanent … Feeling is impermanent … Contact is impermanent … The six sense bases are impermanent … Name-and-form is impermanent … Consciousness is impermanent … Volitional formations are impermanent … Ignorance is impermanent, conditioned, dependently arisen, subject to destruction, vanishing, fading away, and cessation. These, bhikkhus, are called the dependently arisen phenomena.

It appears that it is incorrect to say death is impermanent ... and therefore, anicca doesn't mean impermanent!


According to the following video, the Nibbana is Atta. This video is in the Sinhalese language.

https://youtu.be/ma81JD_LNeM?t=6084

  • I don't understand the first part of this answer, nor the second. – ChrisW Apr 2 '17 at 23:50
  • The second is an example of a link-only answer. Please summarize a bit more (in the answer) what the video says, especially since the video isn't in English (sometimes I would summarize it for you, but I can't Sinhala). SE doesn't approve of answers which contain nothing but a link. – ChrisW Apr 2 '17 at 23:55
  • I think I understand now (though I don't agree with) the argument in the first part of the answer ... I tried to expand that first part of the answer, to clarify what it's saying: please verify whether my expansion is correct i.e. what you wanted to say. – ChrisW Apr 3 '17 at 0:06
  • Why do you say 'Aging-and-death, bhikkhus, is impermanent' is wrong? – dmsp Apr 9 '17 at 7:54
  • Very good. So in this context anicca means, the phenomenon lacks continuity or solidity. We conjure it momentarily and at those moments it seems as if it existed and will exist, but in actuality we assemble it at that very moment. So here I'd translate it as ephemeral, non-continous. – Andrei Volkov Sep 28 '17 at 15:12
0

"Anicca means our inability to control the five aggregate."

Original translation of Anicca: impermanent.

2nd translation of Anicca: our inability to control the five aggregates.

Both translations refer to the same.

When one has no ability to control the five aggregates, impermanence is present.

It's because of the inability to control the five aggregates, that impermanence arises. Thus, looking at both translations with such wisdom, they are both correct.

If we use the 2nd translation, you must realize the nature of the five aggregates. Once realized, you know how and why they arise. By knowing how and why they arise, you get the ability to control the five aggregates. Once you get the ability to control them, you make them cease. Once ceased, impermanence is destroyed.

Both translation lead you to the same result: cessation of suffering. Cessation of impermanence.

"Anatta means the futile nature of the five aggregate."

Original translation of Anatta: not self.

2nd translation of Anatta: the futile nature of the five aggregates.

Both translations refer to the same.

When the futile nature of the five aggregates is present, one is subjected to clinging onto this wrong view: "this is self".

The futile nature of the five aggregates is like a magician playing a magic trick and you being ignorant can't recognize it's a magic trick. Once you start investigating and scrutinizing the magician's magic trick you slowly start to see how it works and once you realize how it works, you finally realize it was just a magic trick!

In the same way, when you investigate and scrutinize the futile nature of the five aggregates, you slowly start to see how it works and once you realize how it works, you finally realize it was just "not self"!

When one realizes the futile nature of the five aggregates, one is free from the wrong view: "this is self" and comes to the right view: "this is not self"

Thus, looking at both translations with such wisdom, they are both correct.

And what is the futile nature of the five aggregates?

It arises and it ceases. It does that for a very very long time. In doing so it does not lead to happiness, to the cessation of suffering, but always to suffering, to impermanence. It always ends in suffering. It leads to suffering. That's why it is futile. When one sees this futility, he comes to the realization "If this were self, it wouldn't be subjected to such futility" and concludes "thus, this is not self".

Why he comes to such conclusion? Read my answer here: Impermanent self

"Most of the English translation I read, Anatta is translated as not-self and Anicca as impermanence. However many Sri Lankan Buddhist monks do not agree with this translation."

I wouldn't say that there is disagreement in the translation. They just translate it or interpret it differently to explain the same thing. I would say this is more a question about the way of passing wisdom to listeners. They translated/interpreted it differently so to lead their listeners to the realization of the truth. Nonetheless, bot translations/interpretations lead the listener to the same goal: cessation of suffering.

0

In the following statement

"What do you think of this, O monks? Is form permanent (niccaṃ) or impermanent (aniccaṃ)?"

"Impermanent (aniccaṃ), O Lord (O Bhante)."

"Now, that which is impermanent, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?"

"Unsatisfactory, O Lord."

"Now, that which is impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change, is it proper to regard that as: 'This is mine, this I am, this is my self (attā)'?"

"Indeed, not that, O Lord."

How is it that the monk replies to the Buddha that everything that is impermanent is Unsatisfactory. If you think about it this cannot be true can it. if you take a simple example, if you have a broken arm, is it satisfactory? I would suggest no. when the injury gets better is it satisfactory? I would suggest yes. In this case the state of a broken arm was impermanent therefore it got better. But this impermanence did not bring about dissatisfaction

if we think about when we are unsatisfied a bit..

would we be satisfied if things transpired the way we wanted it to? I would suggest yes would we be satisfied if things didn't transpire the way we wanted it to? I would suggest no

Therefore it seems to me that a better interpretation of anicca might be to mean "we aren't satisfied with a result"

This might be the case, most of the time....

We obviously aren't satisfied when things go against our wishes. The converse is, we get what we want. In this case are we satisfied? Think about it... we still aren't are we? we turn our attention to the next pursuit that we believe makes us happy. We are always looking for gratification, but there is no gratification in external things. So we are constantly unfulfilled, unsatisfied... INSATIABLE

I would say INSATIABLE is a better meaning for Anicca.

Now look at the same conversation with one work changed

"What do you think of this, O monks? Is form satiable (niccaṃ) or insatiable (aniccaṃ)?"

"insatiable (aniccaṃ), O Lord (O Bhante)."

"Now, that which is insatiable, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?"

"Unsatisfactory, O Lord."

If form is insatiable is it fruitful to expect gratification from it?

It seems to me that it is futile - anatta

Is this the case for you? This is for you to think deeply through your own life experiences.

  • 1
    This is a question-and-answer site, not a discussion site. So topics consist of one question and several (mutually independent) answers. I can explain that in more detail if you like, but for now I'm going to edit this so that it answers the original question (i.e. SarathW's question at the top of the page) instead of its addressing itself to Dhammadhatu's answer. – ChrisW Mar 13 at 9:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.