What is the meaning of the word atammayata? Is it Pali or Sanskrit? I couldn't find it in any Pali-English dictionary.

Where is it used and in what context? Please provide references from suttas and/or commentaries.

From a Google search, I found various translations like "unconcoctability" or "non-identification" and one person suggested that it's a synonym for "not-self". Is that the case? How is atammayata different from not-self?

In this question, it was translated as "renunciation equanimity".

Why is atammayata important?

I discovered it in this answer.

3 Answers 3


This is from the book "Tranquillity's Secret" being published by me on Medium.com:

I have only run across this idea, framed from the perspective of one’s comportment towards the events of the world, in a fairly recent revival of the doctrine of “Unconcoctability” (in Pali: Atammayatā) today found in Theravada Buddhism. Part of the reason why it is absent from the more general spiritual conversation may be because of the conversational/teaching focus on the intellectual realizations, rather than the comportment changes that arise as a result of a prolonged and consistent meditation practice. But even in this revival of the doctrine, there remains only a vague understanding of what it actually consists in:

Regarding atammayatā, Santikaro Bhikkhu points out that even the classical commentarial tradition, while recognizing the importance of the term, interprets it quite vaguely, essentially connecting it with the three basic constituents of mental proliferation, papañca.[1]

Atammayatā appears in a number of Pali suttas and each context suggests that the term has important meaning. The traditional commentators, however, never caught on. They glossed atammayatā in a way that suggested the term was out of their depths: they rendered it as an absence of taṇhā (craving), absence of diṭṭhi (wrong views), and an absence of māna (conceit).[2]

In the Atammayasutta:

In seeing six rewards, it’s enough motivation for a monk to establish the perception of not-self with regard to all phenomena without exception. Which six? “I won’t be fashioned in connection with any world. My I-making will be stopped. My my-making will be stopped. I’ll be endowed with uncommon knowledge. I’ll become one who rightly sees cause, along with causally-originated phenomena.” In seeing these six rewards, it’s enough motivation for a monk to establish the perception of not-self with regard to all phenomena without exception.[3]

And completing the depiction:

In the commentary on the Atammayasutta Buddhaghosa states once more that: the practitioner is not “made of that,” namely that he is devoid of thirst, and—this time adds—wrong opinions: tammayā vuccanti taṇhādiṭṭhiyo, tāhi rahito: “‘Made of this’ are said to be thirst and [wrong] opinions. He is devoid of both.” 
> The reference to the erroneous opinions explicitly occurs also in verse 853ab of the Suttanipāta. It appears in the Aṭṭhakavagga, the oldest section of the text and one of the oldest of the Canon, towards the end of the ninth chapter, where we find the teachings that the Buddha had given to Māgaṇḍiya. The topic of the chapter can be summarized as follows: there is no need to embrace or reject a system of thought. The one who compares himself with others embraces a system and likes the discussions. The wise one does not compare himself with others, because he gives up conceit (māna).[4]

Does this Pali word, Atammayatā, truly mean what I wrote above in this dialog about realizations, insights, and enlightenment? Here is how Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu has explained it:

The word atammayatā is quite difficult to translate. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking how to translate it into Thai, and then into English. So far, the word that we feel is most correct as an English translation is “unconcoctability,” or the inability to be concocted, where there’s nothing that can concoct the mind. This is how we would like to explain or translate atammayatā. If we take the word atammayatā and break it up: a means ‘not’ or ‘un’; tam means ‘that’; maya means ‘to fabricate, to make, or to concoct’; and then ta means ‘the state’. So it’s the state of not being concocted by that, meaning not being concocted by anything. Atammayatā is when the mind is free. The essence of atammayatā is the mind is completely free, so there’s nothing that can concoct it, that can condition it. By the way, this word ‘concoct’, if you’re not used to it, comes from the Latin word ‘to cook’. It means ‘to cook together’, and we use the word concoct to mean the way the mind is brewed up, cooked up, conditioned, concocted by things. When the mind is so free that nothing can touch it—nothing can concoct it—we call that state, that realization, that understanding atammayatā or ‘unconcoctability’. The essence of which, the mind that is free of, has transcended everything, and so nothing can affect it, nothing can concoct it.[5]

The third and highest use of atammayatā is to signify the state of mind that is totally free, independent, liberated. Tan Ajahn Buddhadasa prefers to describe this state as being "above and beyond positive or negative." Human beings instinctually feel and perceive all experience as either positive or negative. This leads to evaluating and judging those experiences, which turns into liking and disliking those experiences, which in turn fosters craving, attachment, and selfishness. Thus arises dukkha (misery, pain, dissatisfaction). The mind that has gone beyond positive and negative cannot be pulled into the conditioned arising (paticca-samuppada) of dukkha. Thus, atammayatā in this, its most proper sense, describes the state of the Arahant, the perfected, liberated human being.[6]


The term atammayatā cannot be found in the Pali Text Society Dictionary. Readers will find it difficult to discover references to it in scholarly works, whether they come from West or East. The meditation masters of Tibet, Burma, or Zen do not seem to be interested in it. Mention it to most Buddhists and they will not know what you are talking about. Yet there is clear evidence in the Pali Canon that the Buddha gave this word significant meaning.[7]

You are to know that this knowledge of atammayatā is very ancient but it’s been forgotten. This knowledge used to exist, but then has been overlooked.[8]

Footnotes: [1] “Papañca is a pregnant and complex term that indicates the mental and emotional proliferation as a whole (conceptualizations, volitions, opinions, judgments, etc.) and that possesses three essential ingredients: 1) taṇhā, thirst or self-centered desire, 2) diṭṭhi, opinion or, more precisely in this context, uncritical belief or mental acceptance of something without verification, and thus erroneous opinion; 3) māna, conceit, which traditionally has nine aspects, which depend on whether the comparison is done with people who are believed to be inferior, equal or superior to oneself.” -taken from: Atammayatā in the Pāli Nikāyas, by Francesco Sferra, Annali, Volume 67, Università Degli Studi Di Napoli “L’orientale” [2] Francesco Sferra, Ibid. [3] Aṅguttara Nikāya, Book of the Sixes, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, 1998 (retrieved from: https://suttacentral.net/an6.104/en/thanissaro on 18-May-2020) [4] Francesco Sferra, Ibid. [5] Atammayatā by Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu, Interpreted into English by Santikaro Bhikkhu,
A Dhamma lecture (1/5) given at Suan Mokkh on 5 February 1989 [6] Atammayata:The Rebirth of a Lost Word By Santikaro Bhikku, Evolution/Liberation #4 (1993) [7] Santikaro Bhikku, Ibid. [8] Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu, Ibid.

  • 1
    I never knew about this word - thank you for bringing this to my attention and well written passage.
    – user21421
    Commented Aug 5, 2021 at 10:22

Atammayata refers to the negation (i.e., "a-") of tammaya, which is identification. It therefore means "non-identification" as used here:

MN113:21.7: ‘paṭhamajjhānasamāpattiyāpi kho atammayatā vuttā bhagavatā.
MN113:21.7: ‘The Buddha has spoken of not identifying even with the attainment of the first absorption.

Identification is commonplace, unskillful and misguided. Identification is discussed thoroughly in MN1. For example, simply thinking "my property" creates problems:

MN1:3.1: “Take an uneducated ordinary person who has not seen the noble ones, and is neither skilled nor trained in the teaching of the noble ones. They’ve not seen good persons, and are neither skilled nor trained in the teaching of the good persons.
MN1:3.2: They perceive earth as earth.
MN1:3.3: But then they identify with earth, they identify regarding earth, they identify as earth, they identify that ‘earth is mine’, they take pleasure in earth.

The Buddha recommends non-identification as a primary practice:

MN62:3.1: Then the Buddha looked back at Rāhula and said,
MN62:3.2: “Rāhula, you should truly see any kind of form at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near: all form—with right understanding: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’”
MN62:3.3: “Only form, Blessed One? Only form, Holy One?”
MN62:3.4: “Form, Rāhula, as well as feeling and perception and choices and consciousness.”


It is 'tammaya' with a negative prefix and ending -ta as in a-sankha-ta, idk the terminology.

tammaya; adjective; absorbed in that; identifying with that; desiring that https://suttacentral.net/define/tammaya

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