The Natural Way of Development - What is atta-sanna, remembrance of self? - I

Questioner: What is atta-sanna, remembrance of self? Sujin: Atta-sanna is remembrance (sanna) with clinging to the concept of self (atta), thus, wrong perception of self. We do not need to have doubts about atta-sanna because we all are familiar with it. When a person has realised the Noble Truths at the attainment of the first stage of enlightenment, the stage of the stream-winner, sotapanna, the wrong view is eradicated which takes realities for self, for beings or for people. However, there is bound to be atta-sanna if one has not developed satipatthana. There is bound to be ignorance and wrong view if sati does not arise, if there is no awareness of the characteristics of realities as they naturally appear through one doorway at a time. Wrong view takes the realities that appear for a compound, a “whole,” for something that lasts, for atta, self. If people at this moment do not know realities, as they are, there is bound to be atta-sanna, the remembrance or perception that it is “I” who is seeing, and that what is seen is a being, a person, a self.
When someone has only theoretical understanding of realities that is the result of listening to the Dhamma, he is not able to directly understand nama and rupa as they are. He does not realise that what he sees and conceives as people and beings, is in reality only that which appears through the eyes. Therefore, we should time and again investigate the Dhamma we hear and study, we should ponder over it in all details. Only in this way the meaning of the words that designate characteristics of realities can be fully understood.
The wording “that which appears through the eyes” describing the characteristic of visible object is altogether appropriate. It explains that visible object is only an element (dhatu) appearing through the eyes so that it can be seen. No matter what colour it is: red, green, blue, yellow or white, a bright or a dull colour, it must appear when it impinges on the rupa that is eyesense. When someone, after having seen what appears through the eyesense, does not understand realities as they are, there is bound to be atta-sanna. He takes what was seen for people, beings or things. When people are absorbed in different colours, it causes them to think of a “whole,” of shape and form, and thus there is remembrance (sanna) of the outward appearance of persons and things. When it seems that one sees people, beings or things, there are in reality only different colours that are seen, such as black, white, the colour of skin, red or yellow.
If people did not interpret different colours or “translate” them into shape and form, they would not conceive them as beings, people or things. Therefore, when we see and we are then absorbed in the shape and form, in the outward appearance (nimitta) and the details of things, we should know that this occurs only because colour appears. When colours appear, we think about them, interpret them and “translate “ them into shape and form of different things.
When sati arises and is mindful of realities and panna begins to study and investigate their characteristics, one will begin to understand that the outward appearance and all the details of things, all the different colours, are only what appears through the eyes, nothing else. Then panna begins to penetrate the characteristics of realities as not a self, not a being, not a person. If sati arises and is aware time and again, one will understand the meaning of the Buddha’s words explaining that, by the development of the understanding of the realities which naturally appear, one will not cling to the outward appearance and the details of things. 

Topic 198