Sabbe Dhamma Anatta. It means all conditioned and unconditioned phenomena are not-self.

Is not-self or Anatta a phenomenon?

1 Answer 1


The meanings of the word 'dhamma' are very broad. The root meaning of the word 'dhamma' is 'that which supports'.

The word dharma has roots in the Sanskrit dhr-, which means to hold or to support, and is related to Latin firmus (firm, stable). From this, it takes the meaning of "what is established or firm", and hence "law". It is derived from an older Vedic Sanskrit n-stem dharman-, with a literal meaning of "bearer, supporter", in a religious sense conceived as an aspect of Rta.

In the Rigveda, the word appears as an n-stem, dhárman-, with a range of meanings encompassing "something established or firm" (in the literal sense of prods or poles). Figuratively, it means "sustainer" and "supporter" (of deities). It is semantically similar to the Greek themis ("fixed decree, statute, law").


Therefore, anatta is certainly a 'dhamma'. AN 3.136 says:

Whether Realized Ones arise or not, this law of nature persists, this regularity of natural principles, this invariance of natural principles:

Uppādā vā, bhikkhave, tathāgatānaṁ anuppādā vā tathāgatānaṁ ṭhitāva sā dhātu dhammaṭṭhitatā dhammaniyāmatā.

all things are not-self.

Sabbe dhammā anattā.

While the word 'dhamma' is used AN 3.136 is in relation to 'natural law', it is a 'dhamma' because the wisdom/understanding of anatta as natural law 'supports' liberation from suffering.

Whether the English word 'phenomenon' is relevant here is subject to discussion/debate. Buddhism is not really about English words. Buddhism says anatta is a characteristic (lakkhana) of everything. Whether a 'characteristic' is a 'phenomena' in English I do not know.

In summary, anatta is certainly a dhamma because it supports/upholds liberation.

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