Sunyata is more commonly used to explain Anatta, but how about Anicca?

3 Answers 3


Very simple. Anicca is Shunyata's dynamic aspect, while Anatta is Shunyata's static aspect.

Meaning, at a point in time, all entities are essenceless, without a core, without strict boundaries, they are designated/deliniated (=given identity) by conceptual imputation. This is Anatta.

While from the process perspective, entities are transitory collections (aka ephemeral assemblies) of causes and conditions that come together and go apart, in a continuous process of transformation. Like cloud figures that morph continuously and are snapshot-captured as entities by the imputing mind. This is Anicca.

Both of these are simplified reificationistic analogies, what they miss is how much of the designation/imputation/assembly process depends on the mind selectively picking some elements but not others to assemble an entity. Shunyata is deep, very deep.

  • So to summarise, Anicca is the constant changing nature of entities which is why they don't have an essence in themselves and this means they're devoid of a permanent existence??
    – Hari
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 19:29
  • 1
    Well, not just devoid of permanent existence - devoid of any substantial existence; in actuality there are no entities, they are point-in-time simplifications/approximations with labels stamped on top
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 19:44

See anattalakkhaṇasutta, anicca and dukkha are fully used to describe anatta, suññata.

  1. “Monks, are feelings permanent or impermanent?”

“Venerable sir, they are impermanent.”

“Those which are impermanent, are they unpleasant or pleasant?”

“Venerable sir, they are unpleasant.”

“Those which are impermanent, unpleasant, changing, are they suitable to be reflected, ‘They are mine, I am there, they are my self?’”

“That is not so, venerable sir”

For the example explanation "If something is atta (autocrat, controllable), sāra (real core, like wood core), asuññata (real existent forever)":

  • It must can control itself to live permanent,
  • It must can control suffering to be far away from itself forever,
  • It must can live at the same time/same place/same status forever (real core must be permanent stable, real asuññata must never disappear anyway), etc.

However, the fact is nothing can act like that. Every aggregate arising and vanishing depending (paṭiccasamuppānna, saṅkhata) on many variant causes (paṭiccasamuppada), so they are impermanant, and unpleasant. And by that no ability to control anything even itself, therefore aggregate is anatta.

Even nibbāna can not control anything, too. So nibbāna is anattā, also. But it is not anicca and not dukkha, because nibbāna not depending on any causes (asaṅkhata). So, nibbāna is not anicca and not dukkha, too.


If searching for link you may want to read: The Concept of Emptiness in Pali Literature.

This Study on Sunnata (Skt. Sunyata) is mainly based on the Pali text. However, is is known that suyata came into prominence only with the rise of Madhyamaka philosophy of Acarya Nagarjuna. Therfore, no study of Sunnata is complete, without any reference to Sunyata as presented in Madhyamaka philosophy...

It's probably worthy to note here again that suññata has "levels" and someone dwelling in suññata it is not anicca, still produced, in the sphere of more or lesser conductive bhava for release. Sutta and note might be of help: Maha-suññata Sutta: The Greater Discourse on Emptiness. Also "First things first has good advices to go not astray in wrong practice and to get the link right:

If you were to ask people familiar with Buddhism to identify its two most important wisdom teachings, they’d probably say emptiness and the four noble truths. If you were to ask them further which of the two teachings was more fundamental, they might hesitate, but most of them would probably put emptiness first, on the grounds that the four noble truths deal with a mental problem, while emptiness describes the way things in general are.

It wasn’t always this way. The Buddha himself gave more importance to the four noble truths, and it’s important to understand why...

To fall not in Bakas, better Maras trap and into what is called Mohayana rather than Maha.

..."'So, monk, I tell you this: Please, good sir, be effortless. Abide committed to a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now — for it is skillful, good sir, that this not be taught. Don't instruct others.'

"When this was said, I told Mara the Evil One, 'I know you, Evil One. Don't assume, "He doesn't know me." You are Mara, Evil One....

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma, not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gains my means of trade and exchange]


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