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

Is not-self or Anatta a phenomenon?

2 Answers 2


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.


Sorry I likely misled you with my previous answer (see below). To be honest I'm not sure, but I would consider this:

sabbe dhamma anatta = 'all phenomena are anatta' or 'all phenomena are not atta'

So we can surely say, atta is not phenomena. Then the negation of atta (anatta) is phenomena - anything you would call phenomena is described by anatta.

Personally I think it is a negation of atta, so that is the non-perception of atta, so not phenomena but empty phenomena

  • Yes. Seems to be correct. Nov 16, 2023 at 13:41
  • I think Anatta is Nibbana. Unconditioned phenomena. Nov 16, 2023 at 15:25
  • i think nibbana is closer to atta - unborn, unmade, unconditioned, etc
    – blue_ego
    Nov 16, 2023 at 15:36

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