The Characteristic of Dukkha - We cling to the concept of self

Questioner: The word anatta is difficult to understand. We can translate the Pali term atta as self and the term anatta as nonself, but we do not really understand the meaning of these terms. We may say that there is no self, but we still cling to the concept of self.

Sujin: What is the self?

Questioner: We may assume that we are the “self,” but the Buddha states that there are only the five khandhas that arise together.

Sujin: The khandhas are not a person, not a self, but if we do not know that there are only the khandhas, we assume that there is a self.

Questioner: Although we know this, we still think, when we are seeing, that a self is seeing.

Sujin: That is so because we do not have yet clear comprehension of the true characteristics of the khandhas, as realities which arise and fall away very rapidly. They can be classified in different ways, namely, as past, present and future; as coarse and subtle; as internal and external; as far and near, and so on. If one can discern the characteristics of the khandhas, one will know that these realities that arise and fall away are only: rupakkhandha (physical phenomena), vedanakkhandha (feeling), sannakkhandha (remembrance or perception), sankharakkhandha (formations or activities, all cetasikas other than vedana and sanna), vinnanakkhandha (consciousness).

Topic 199