The Not-Self Characteristic

SN 22.59
PTS: S iii 66 CDB i 901
Anatta-lakkhana Sutta
(The Not-Self Characteristic)

Thus have I heard:

On one occasion, the Blessed One was dwelling at Vārāṇasī in the Deer Park at Isipatana. There he addressed the group of five bhikkhus:

“Bhikkhus, material form is not self. If material form were self, then material form would not lead to affliction, and it could be had of material form, ‘Let my material form be thus. Let my material form not be thus.’ But it is precisely because material form is not self that it leads to affliction, and that it cannot be had of material form: ‘Let my material form be thus. Let my material form not be thus.’

“Bhikkhus, feeling is not self. If feeling were self, then feeling would not lead to affliction, and it could be had of feeling, ‘Let my feeling be thus. Let my feeling not be thus.’ But it is precisely because feeling is not self that it leads to affliction, and that it cannot be had of feeling: ‘Let my feeling be thus. Let my feeling not be thus.’

“Bhikkhus, perception is not self. If perception were self, then perception would not lead to affliction, and it could be had of perception, ‘Let my perception be thus. Let my perception not be thus.’ But it is precisely because perception is not self that it leads to affliction, and that it cannot be had of perception: ‘Let my perception be thus. Let my perception not be thus.’

“Bhikkhus, mental formations are not self. If mental formations were self, then mental formations would not lead to affliction, and it could be had of mental formations, ‘Let my mental formations be thus. Let my mental formations not be thus.’ But it is precisely because mental formations are not self that they lead to affliction, and that it cannot be had of mental formations: ‘Let my mental formations be thus. Let my mental formations not be thus.’

“Bhikkhus, consciousness is not self. If consciousness were self, then consciousness would not lead to affliction, and it could be had of consciousness, ‘Let my consciousness be thus. Let my consciousness not be thus.’ But it is precisely because consciousness is not self that it leads to affliction, and that it cannot be had of consciousness: ‘Let my consciousness be thus. Let my consciousness not be thus.’

“What do you think, bhikkhus, is material form permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, Lord.”

“And, that which is impermanent, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?”

“Unsatisfactory, Lord.”

“Now, is it proper to regard that which is impermanent, unsatisfactory, and subject to change as: ‘This is mine. This is what I am. This is my self’?”

“Indeed, not, O Lord.”

“What do you think, bhikkhus, is feeling permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, Lord.”

“And, that which is impermanent, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?”

“Unsatisfactory, Lord.”

“Now, is it proper to regard that which is impermanent, unsatisfactory, and subject to change as: ‘This is mine. This is what I am. This is my self’?”

“Indeed, not, O Lord.”

“What do you think, bhikkhus, is perception permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, Lord.”

“And, that which is impermanent, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?”

“Unsatisfactory, Lord.”

“Now, is it proper to regard that which is impermanent, unsatisfactory, and subject to change as: ‘This is mine. This is what I am. This is my self’?”

“Indeed, not, O Lord.”

“What do you think, bhikkhus, are mental formations permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, Lord.”

“And, that which is impermanent, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?”

“Unsatisfactory, Lord.”

“Now, is it proper to regard that which is impermanent, unsatisfactory, and subject to change as: ‘This is mine. This is what I am. This is my self’?”

“Indeed, not, O Lord.”

“What do you think, bhikkhus, is consciousness permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, Lord.”

“And, that which is impermanent, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?”

“Unsatisfactory, Lord.”

“Now, is it proper to regard that which is impermanent, unsatisfactory, and subject to change as: ‘This is mine. This is what I am. This is my self’?”

“Indeed, not, O Lord.”

“Therefore, bhikkhus, whatever material form there is – whether in the past, present, or future, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near – should be looked on by one who has right wisdom as: ‘This is not mine. This is not what I am. This is not my self.’

“Therefore, bhikkhus, whatever feeling there is – whether in the past, present, or future, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near – should be looked on by one who has right wisdom as: ‘This is not mine. This is not what I am. This is not my self.’

“Therefore, bhikkhus, whatever perception there is – whether in the past, present, or future, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near – should be looked on by one who has right wisdom as: ‘This is not mine. This is not what I am. This is not my self.’

“Therefore, bhikkhus, whatever mental formations there are – whether in the past, present, or future, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near – should be looked on by one who has right wisdom as: ‘These are not mine. These are not what I am. These are not my self.’

“Therefore, bhikkhus, whatever consciousness there is – whether in the past, present, or future, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near – should be looked on by one who has right wisdom as: ‘This is not mine. This is not what I am. This is not my self.’

“Seeing things in this way, the learned noble disciple wearies of material form, wearies of feeling, wearies of perception, wearies of mental formations, wearies of consciousness. Being wearied [of the five aggregates], he becomes freed from passions. Being freed [from passions], he is liberated. And with liberation, there is the knowledge, ‘Liberated.’ For such a person knows, ‘Birth is ended, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done is done. There is nothing further for becoming in this world.’”

That is what the Blessed One said. Delighted, the group of five bhikkhus rejoiced at his words. And while this teaching was being spoken, the minds of the group of five bhikkhus, no longer subject to attachment, were freed of defilements.

Thus there were now six arahants in the world.

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