Can anyone please explain the meaning of the word Dhamma in the sentence "Sabbe Dhamma Anatta"? Since Anatta is Truth; Am I an instance of Dhamma?

up vote 3 down vote accepted

"Dhamma" is a complicated word, or a simple word that's used in many different contexts.

Here is a definition.

I'd summarise it to myself as "described thing" or "anything you can identify".

In the phrase "Sabbe Dhamma Anatta", I think it's used in contrast to the other two of the three characteristics, i.e.:

The three marks are:

  • sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā — "all saṅkhāras (conditioned things) are impermanent"
  • sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhā — "all saṅkhāras are unsatisfactory"
  • sabbe dhammā anattā — "all dharmas (conditioned or unconditioned things) are not self"

Explanation:

  • saṅkhārās are aniccā and dukkhā
  • saṅkhārās are anattā too
  • nibanna isn't a saṅkhārā but it too is anattā

So instead of saying "saṅkhārās and nibanna are anattā", summarize that as "all dhammās are anattā" (where "all dhammās" is meant to include all saṅkhārās and nibanna too).


(In reply to the two comments below)

So:

  • Dhamma -- a teaching or a reality
  • Sankhara -- a compound thing or a conditioned thing
  • Anicca -- impermanent
  • Dukkha -- unsatisfactory
  • Anatta -- non-self or not-soul or without I/me/my
  • Sabbe -- all

And:

  • All sankharas are anicca, dukkha, and anatta
  • Nibanna is not annica and not dukkha but is anatta
  • Nibanna is not a sankhara but is a dhamma
  • So all dhammas (including sankharas and nibanna) are anatta

Here (for example) is a reference to Nibanna being a Dhamma:

The Buddha refers to Nibbana as a 'dhamma'. For example, he says "of all dhammas, conditioned or unconditioned, the most excellent dhamma, the supreme dhamma is, Nibbana". 'Dhamma' signifies actual realities, the existing realities as opposed to conceptual things. Dhammas are of two types, conditioned and unconditioned. A conditioned dhamma is an actuality which has come into being through causes or conditions, something which arises through the workings of various conditions. The conditioned dhammas are the five aggregates: material form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness. The conditioned dhammas, do not remain static. They go through a ceaseless process of becoming. They arise, undergo transformation and fall away due to its conditionality.

  • this is complicated. good, but complicated – Vishwa Jan 10 at 11:27
  • Dhamma means Anatta. Dhamma doesn't mean Nirvana. Nirvana means unoriginated, unborn , unbecome , uncreate .... But not Dhamma. Can you give me link to definition of Dhamma as Nirvana ? – Dheeraj Verma Jan 11 at 5:33
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    @DheerajVerma I added to the answer. I hope it's clearer now? – ChrisW Jan 11 at 9:16
  • @ChrisW Can you please provide me the link to Sutta where Buddha says Nibanna is the Supreme Dhamma ? Thanks. – Dheeraj Verma Feb 7 at 22:39
  • @DheerajVerma Thanks for asking. Please post this as a new question if you want a longer answer (or other people's answers), but in brief the best and perhaps only answer I found to this question is Dhammapada Verses 183, 184 and 185 where "Nibanna supreme" is said in the context of "the teaching of all Buddhas". – ChrisW Feb 8 at 7:37

If simplified Dhamma as teaching of Buddha. It's also interpreted as behavior or process of nature. E.g when you consider three characteristics(anatta,dukkha,anicca); those are exists in nature and can be observed with our wisdom. Simply Dhamma is how nature is operated or functioned with its fundamental laws and constants.

  • I guess Dhamma is the teaching of any God head. There can be Christian Dhamma, Muslim Dhamma , Hindu Dhamma etc. – Dheeraj Verma Jan 9 at 9:27
  • It's little misleading. Dhamma can't be labeled. As a Buddhists we accept with wisdom Dhamma as teaching of Buddha.E.g When you consider three characteristics with your wisdom they don't need labels and they are fundamental and basics of nature. Once Buddha declared 2500 years ago it with his wisdom then we can accept with our wisdom in our capacity. If any religious leader declare some thing and not cope with human wisdom and dogma can't be consider as Dhamma. If you are not Buddhist it's better to consider Dhamma "how nature is operated or functioned with its fundamental laws and constants. – danuka shewantha Jan 9 at 9:47
  • @DheerajVerma what you meant by God head? – Vishwa Jan 10 at 11:27

Basically "Sabbe Dhamma Anatta" means everything is Transitory. Everything will be destroyed eventually. Nothing is permanent.

sentence breakdown.

Sabbe - every

Dhamma (this is complex and complicated word which has deeper meaning in buddhism) - In this instance Dhamma means things.

Anatta - Without form, without ownership, no bond, without soul, There is no such thing as me, my or mine.

By this sentence, it explains that bonds we create is the base for the sufferings. Nothing is permanent. So our bonds to certain things,people will become the causality for the suffering we hold.

  • I think it's aniccā that means impermanent; anattā means something like "without self, without soul, without I/me/my" ... note that nibanna too is anatta but (according to the Pali canon) it is not transitory, instead it is timeless. – ChrisW Jan 10 at 11:47
  • @ChrisW misread that word, you're right, Updated my answer – Vishwa Jan 10 at 12:01

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