The Meaning of Anatta - We take it for a whole

Someone may believe that, by knowing only one type of nama or one type of rupa, he can still realize the noble Truths. He pretends to be able to realize enlightenment, but he does not understand the characteristics of nama and rupa as they naturally appear, just as they are. Then he is sure to have doubt and uncertainty about the nama and rupa he believes he cannot know. It is evident that he in that way cannot attain enlightenment.
We read further on in the sutta that was quoted above, about a simile Ananda used. He said to Udayin:

Suppose, friend, that a man should roam about in need of heart of wood,

searching for heart of wood,

looking for heart of wood, and,

taking a sharp axe, should enter a forest.

There he sees a mighty plantaintrunk,

straight up, new-grown, of towering height.

He cuts it down at the root.

Having cut it down at the root, he chops it off at the top.

Having done so he peels off the outer skin.

But he would find no pith inside, much less would he find heart of wood.

Even so, friend, a monk beholds no trace of the self

nor of what pertains to the self in the sixfold sense-sphere.

So beholding, he is not attached to anything in the world.

Unattached he is not troubled.

Untroubled, he is of himself utterly set free.

So that he realizes, ‘Destroyed is rebirth.

Lived is the righteous life.

Done is the task.

For life in these conditions there is no hereafter.’


We just read that Ananda said that a man in search for heart of wood enters a

forest and sees a mighty plantain trunk, straight up, new-grown, of towering

height. So long as it is a plantain-trunk it still has the appearance of a “whole.” Then we read, “Having cut it down at the root, he chops it off as the top. Having done so, he peels off the outer skin.” We should eliminate clinging to what we are used to taking for a “whole,” for a “thing,” for self.
We then read, “But he would find no pith inside, much less would he find heart of wood.” Thus he becomes detached from the idea of plantain-trunk. It is the same as in the case of a cow that is still not cut up by a cattle butcher, as we read in the “Papancasudani,” the Commentary to the “Satipatthanasutta.

” If the cattle butcher does not skin it and cut it up in different parts

he is bound to see it as a cow, he does not see it as different elements.

So long as rupas are still seen as joined together,

one perceives them as a “whole,”

or as a whole posture such as the “sitting rupa.”
People are bound to consider realities as a thing, a self, a being or person who is there. Only if someone knows nama and rupa as they are he does not take them for beings or people anymore. It is just as after peeling off the skin of the plantain, any pith in it is not to be found, much less heart of wood. As we have read, Ananda said: ”Even so, friend, a monk beholds no trace of self nor what pertains to the self in the sixfold sense-sphere.”
In the sixfold sense-sphere (phassayatana) there is no posture. Eyesense is an internal “ayatana,” and visible object is rupayatana, an external ayatana, it is only what appears through the eyes. Someone may see a person who is sitting and cling to the idea of “person” or “self,” although he says that there is no self. If he has only theoretical understanding he may not realize that the truth of anatta can be understood only by awareness of seeing and other realities that appear. Panna should know that seeing only sees what appears through the eyes. After having seen visible object one thinks of and remembers the shape and form of what appears and knows what it is. Also at that moment there is a type of nama that knows and remembers something, it is not a being, person or self who does so. When hearing arises which experiences sound through the ears, no remembrance remains of what was experienced through the eye-door, no remembrance of a perception of people sitting and talking to each other. When hearing presents itself, sati can be aware of the reality that hears, an element which experiences only sound. After that, citta thinks of words or conceptions, on account of different sounds, low and high, which have been heard. Panna can know, when words are understood, that only a type of nama understands the meaning of words.
If different types of realities are known, one characteristic at a time, as nama and rupa, the wrong view that takes realities for self is eliminated. One will let go of the idea of realities as a “whole” or a posture. Then it can be understood what it means to have inward peace, because citta does not become involved in outward matters, such as self, people or beings. There is no longer the world one used to cling to, the world outside, which is full of people and different things. There is no longer what one used to take for a particular person, for a thing, for self, all permanent and lasting. Whenever sati arises panna can at that moment understand realities clearly, and then there is inward peace, because there are no people, beings or things. Whereas, when there are many people, many conceptions in one’s life, there is no peace. If someone sees a person he is acquainted with or he has a particular relation with, he thinks, as soon  as he has seen him even for a moment, a long “story” about him. If he sees a person he does not know, the “story” is short; he thinks only for a little while about him and then the “story” is over. He does not continue to think about him.

Topic 200