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The discourse on the characteristics of no self

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran
edited December 2022 in Buddhism Today

This discourse, the second one that the Buddha gave to his group of five initial disciples, sets forth that we are not the body (or any other of the five aggregates). It basically goes that since it is impermanent, changes without our permission, grows older or becomes ill, and does not obey our commands to be as we think it should be, the body cannot be designated as being “mine”.

The same reasoning is employed with respect to the other four aggregates, of consciousness, perception, feeling, and volition (or habit, conditioned response to experience), which are all mental. That is, they are impermanent, are of the nature to cause clinging and suffering, do not obey our commands to be as we wish, and therefore cannot be designated as “mine”.

To me, this seems to point out that we cannot call anything “ours”, even things that we previously may have thought of as being part of what we are. This body is a gift of existence, a temporary portal through which “I” experience the world which is of the nature to grow old and die, but it is not mine.

I found this sutra in the Waking Up app, in Joseph Goldstein’s talk on suffering and no self, which sets out what it means to abandon that which is not yours. Again this has to do with mine-making and the expanding of our circle of what it means to be mine. Very interesting, this sutra and talk give insight into no self.

It is said that after hearing the first discourse, on the noble truths, some of the five initial disciples became stream enterers, and on hearing this second discourse they became arhats, enlightened. It’s an interesting point of progression because it was the introduction of the teaching of no-self within the buddha’s discourses.

The Anatta-lakhana Sutra.



  • Shoshin1Shoshin1 Sentient Being Oceania Veteran

    The discourse on the characteristics of no self

    It reminds me of this....

    "To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away."


  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    I found it interesting because here the Buddha sets forth why the body and the other aggregates are not-self. It’s a question of withdrawing the idea of something being self from the things which we find not to be self. I’ve found anger to be a good guide to what we feel to be self; what we think to be self is largely irrelevant, that is not a measure of what we deep down believe. But generally you only get angry when some part of self is threatened.

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