Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Postby Freawaru » Fri Feb 19, 2010 3:07 pm

Hi Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:
Freawaru wrote:
As far as I understand it neither. There are faculties such as "the Knower", states one can merge with and are useful but Atman itself does not know or have any kind of attribute one can speak about.
Then it can have no relationship to anything. What good is it? Why postulate such a thing? If what you say is true - and what you say is incoherent given that having no attributes is an attribute -, it is meaningless, having no relationship to who and I am at any level.


Precisely. Welcome to the club. The definition of Atman/Self in the Veda is not self-consistent or coherent if you ask me. (And we have not even started with the concept "paramatman)...

Now, which of these definitions did the Buddha use when saying: "Bhikkhus, feeling is not-self..."

1) Feeling is not that what moves from incarnation to incarnation ?
2) Feeling is not that what merges ?
3) Feeling is not God ?
4) Feeling is not non-dual ?

Or did he use another definition, yet? Or one that is not found in the Veda?
Draw out your point here, please. It is not at all clear.


My points:

1) On the forums I read often Buddhist claiming that "the Veda teach atta and Buddha teaches an-atta. This is wrong. The Vedic definition of atman has nothing to do with the Buddhist definition of atta (whatever that is).

2) I also read that Buddha taught no-self or not-self - also wrong as the english concept "self" does neither imply something eternal or a substance. When we speak of "self" or identity we refer to the personality and that is changing. Think of "The Bourne Identity" - he was not searching for some sublime, eternal, unchanging substance, just for the personal memories he had forgotten. Thus "self" or "identity" as a translation for "atta" is out of the question, too.

3) Soul as translation for atta does also not work as the soul depends on God - completely different concepts.

4) So far I have not read a coherent defintion of atta.

Fazit: I think it is useless to delve into philosophical labyrinths of undefined terms and stick to the meditation practice. I stick to the part of the formula "is this (form, etc) mine, is this I?" and leave the "is this my atta?" to those who know the definition of atta because the question is meaningless to me.
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Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Postby meindzai » Fri Feb 19, 2010 6:21 pm

Freawaru wrote:My points:

1) On the forums I read often Buddhist claiming that "the Veda teach atta and Buddha teaches an-atta. This is wrong. The Vedic definition of atman has nothing to do with the Buddhist definition of atta (whatever that is).

2) I also read that Buddha taught no-self or not-self - also wrong as the english concept "self" does neither imply something eternal or a substance. When we speak of "self" or identity we refer to the personality and that is changing. Think of "The Bourne Identity" - he was not searching for some sublime, eternal, unchanging substance, just for the personal memories he had forgotten. Thus "self" or "identity" as a translation for "atta" is out of the question, too.

3) Soul as translation for atta does also not work as the soul depends on God - completely different concepts.

4) So far I have not read a coherent defintion of atta.

Fazit: I think it is useless to delve into philosophical labyrinths of undefined terms and stick to the meditation practice. I stick to the part of the formula "is this (form, etc) mine, is this I?" and leave the "is this my atta?" to those who know the definition of atta because the question is meaningless to me.


The Buddha was prying people away from any and all views of a self, and all manner of self-identification. "I, mine, myself." Including "I have a self" and "I have no self." Finite, infinite, form, formless - any self at all. Why should the vedic self be an exception? Why should souls be excepted? Why should identity be excepted? I don't think we need a "coherent definition of atta" from a Buddhist POV. If we had one, it's still be anicca, anatta, dukkha. All conditioned dhammas are anicca, anatta, dukkha. Even the unconditioned is still anatta.

-M
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Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Postby vinasp » Fri Feb 19, 2010 7:54 pm

Hi everyone,

I wonder if we 'resist' understanding the teachings. When the Buddha says : "Form is not self", we do not want to see it. For so long we have thought: "Form is self".

Why do academics come up with their 'crackpot' theories - like "the Buddha was denying the Brahmanic idea of an eternal, unchanging self". Is it because these same academics need to mis-understand the teachings? After all, they are not seriously
trying to become enlightened - are they?

If these academics can't see that the Buddha was denying any kind of self, then they are blind, and following them is the worst thing that any real Buddhist could do.

Best wishes, Vincent.
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Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Postby seanpdx » Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:02 pm

vinasp wrote:Why do academics come up with their 'crackpot' theories - like "the Buddha was denying the Brahmanic idea of an eternal, unchanging self". Is it because these same academics need to mis-understand the teachings? After all, they are not seriously
trying to become enlightened - are they?


Because they want to understand what the Buddha really taught, unlike most buddhists.
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Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Postby vinasp » Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:07 pm

Hi seanpdx,

seanpdx wrote:Because they want to understand what the Buddha really taught, unlike most buddhists.


Can't be done without becoming enlightened. Which most (all?) academics are avoiding.

Best wishes, Vincent.
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Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Postby rowyourboat » Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:10 pm

the Buddha's description of the other's self views

Mahanidana sutta:

(Delineations of a Self)

"To what extent, ânanda, does one delineate when delineating a self? Either delineating a self possessed of form and finite, one delineates that 'My self is possessed of form and finite.' Or, delineating a self possessed of form and infinite, one delineates that 'My self is possessed of form and infinite.' Or, delineating a self formless and finite, one delineates that 'My self is formless and finite.' Or, delineating a self formless and infinite, one delineates that 'My self is formless and infinite.'

"Now, the one who, when delineating a self, delineates it as possessed of form and finite, either delineates it as possessed of form and finite in the present, or of such a nature that it will [naturally] become possessed of form and finite [in the future/after death], or he believes that 'Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.' This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self possessed of form and finite lies latent [within that person].

"The one who, when delineating a self, delineates it as possessed of form and infinite, either delineates it as possessed of form and infinite in the present, or of such a nature that it will [naturally] become possessed of form and infinite [in the future/after death], or he believes that 'Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.' This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self possessed of form and infinite lies latent [within that person].

"The one who, when delineating a self, delineates it as formless and finite, either delineates it as formless and finite in the present, or of such a nature that it will [naturally] become formless and finite [in the future/after death], or he believes that 'Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.' This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self formless and finite lies latent [within that person].

"The one who, when delineating a self, delineates it as formless and infinite, either delineates it as formless and infinite in the present, or of such a nature that it will [naturally] become formless and infinite [in the future/after death], or he believes that 'Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.' This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self formless and infinite lies latent [within that person].

(Non-Delineations of a Self)

"To what extent, ânanda, does one not delineate when not delineating a self? Either not delineating a self possessed of form and finite, one does not delineate that 'My self is possessed of form and finite.' Or, not delineating a self possessed of form and infinite, one does not delineate that 'My self is possessed of form and infinite.' Or, not delineating a self formless and finite, one does not delineate that 'My self is formless and finite.' Or, not delineating a self formless and infinite, one does not delineate that 'My self is formless and infinite.'

"Now, the one who, when not delineating a self, does not delineate it as possessed of form and finite, does not delineate it as possessed of form and finite in the present, nor does he delineate it as of such a nature that it will [naturally] become possessed of form and finite [in the future/after death], nor does he believe that 'Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.' This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self possessed of form and finite does not lie latent [within that person].

"The one who, when not delineating a self, does not delineate it as possessed of form and infinite, does not delineate it as possessed of form and infinite in the present, nor does he delineate it as of such a nature that it will [naturally] become possessed of form and infinite [in the future/after death], nor does he believe that 'Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.' This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self possessed of form and infinite does not lie latent [within that person].

"The one who, when not delineating a self, does not delineate it as formless and finite, does not delineate it as formless and finite in the present, nor does he delineate it as of such a nature that it will [naturally] become formless and finite [in the future/after death], nor does he believe that 'Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.' This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self formless and finite does not lie latent [within that person].

"The one who, when not delineating a self, does not delineate it as formless and infinite, does not delineate it as formless and infinite in the present, nor does he delineate it as of such a nature that it will [naturally] become formless and infinite [in the future/after death], nor does he believe that 'Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.' This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self formless and infinite does not lie latent [within that person].

(Assumptions of a Self)

"To what extent, ânanda, does one assume when assuming a self? Assuming feeling to be the self, one assumes that 'Feeling is my self' [or] 'Feeling is not my self: My self is oblivious [to feeling]' [or] 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious to feeling, but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling.'

"Now, one who says, 'Feeling is my self,' should be addressed as follows: 'There are these three feelings, my friend -- feelings of pleasure, feelings of pain, and feelings of neither pleasure nor pain. Which of these three feelings do you assume to be the self?' At a moment when a feeling of pleasure is sensed, no feeling of pain or of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed. Only a feeling of pleasure is sensed at that moment. At a moment when a feeling of pain is sensed, no feeling of pleasure or of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed. Only a feeling of pain is sensed at that moment. At a moment when a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed, no feeling of pleasure or of pain is sensed. Only a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed at that moment.

"Now, a feeling of pleasure is inconstant, fabricated, dependent on conditions, subject to passing away, dissolution, fading, and cessation. A feeling of pain is inconstant, fabricated, dependent on conditions, subject to passing away, dissolution, fading, and cessation. A feeling of neither pleasure nor pain is inconstant, fabricated, dependent on conditions, subject to passing away, dissolution, fading, and cessation. Having sensed a feeling of pleasure as 'my self,' then with the cessation of one's very own feeling of pleasure, 'my self' has perished. Having sensed a feeling of pain as 'my self,' then with the cessation of one's very own feeling of pain, 'my self' has perished. Having sensed a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain as 'my self,' then with the cessation of one's very own feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, 'my self' has perished.

"Thus he assumes, assuming in the immediate present a self inconstant, entangled in pleasure and pain, subject to arising and passing away, he who says, 'Feeling is my self.' Thus in this manner, ânanda, one does not see fit to assume feeling to be the self.

"As for the person who says, 'Feeling is not the self: My self is oblivious [to feeling],' he should be addressed as follows: 'My friend, where nothing whatsoever is sensed (experienced) at all, would there be the thought, "I am"?'"

"No, lord."

"Thus in this manner, ânanda, one does not see fit to assume that 'Feeling is not my self: My self is oblivious [to feeling].'

"As for the person who says, 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious [to feeling], but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling,' he should be addressed as follows: 'My friend, should feelings altogether and every way stop without remainder, then with feeling completely not existing, owing to the cessation of feeling, would there be the thought, "I am"?'"

"No, lord."

"Thus in this manner, ânanda, one does not see fit to assume that 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious [to feeling], but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling.'

"Now, ânanda, in as far as a monk does not assume feeling to be the self, nor the self as oblivious, nor that 'My self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling,' then, not assuming in this way, he is not sustained by anything (does not cling to anything) in the world. Unsustained, he is not agitated. Unagitated, he is totally unbound right within. He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'

"If anyone were to say with regard to a monk whose mind is thus released that 'The Tathagata exists after death,' is his view, that would be mistaken; that 'The Tathagata does not exist after death'...that 'The Tathagata both exists and does not exist after death'...that 'The Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist after death' is his view, that would be mistaken. Why? Having directly known the extent of designation and the extent of the objects of designation, the extent of expression and the extent of the objects of expression, the extent of description and the extent of the objects of description, the extent of discernment and the extent of the objects of discernment, the extent to which the cycle revolves: Having directly known that, the monk is released. [To say that,] 'The monk released, having directly known that, does not see, does not know is his opinion,' that would be mistaken.

http://metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/ ... na-e2.html
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Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Postby seanpdx » Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:17 pm

vinasp wrote:Hi seanpdx,

seanpdx wrote:Because they want to understand what the Buddha really taught, unlike most buddhists.


Can't be done without becoming enlightened. Which most (all?) academics are avoiding.

Best wishes, Vincent.


Alas, that's what most followers of religion claim.
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Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:33 pm

vinasp wrote:
Why do academics come up with their 'crackpot' theories - like "the Buddha was denying the Brahmanic idea of an eternal, unchanging self". Is it because these same academics need to mis-understand the teachings? After all, they are not seriously
trying to become enlightened - are they? .
And all your theories are "intact-pot" based upon a careful reading of the texts in the original language and a careful study of history? Not that I have seen.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Postby meindzai » Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:48 pm

If there is any intent to discover the truth, I don't think aking blanket statements about either "Buddhists" or "academics" is a very good starting point. I'm thankful for the contributions on both sides of the spectrum. And keep in mind that there are people that are both.

-M
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Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Feb 20, 2010 6:47 am

meindzai wrote:If there is any intent to discover the truth, I don't think aking blanket statements about either "Buddhists" or "academics" is a very good starting point. I'm thankful for the contributions on both sides of the spectrum. And keep in mind that there are people that are both.

-M

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the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Postby polarbuddha101 » Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:25 am

If everyone goes back to the beginning of this topic and clicks on the link to the subject that this spawned from you can find several links to papers by Johannes Bronkworst, one is Self and Meditation, more significant is a long one called Two Traditions of Meditation In Ancient India, and another I haven't read yet called The Two Sources of Indian Asceticism. The two traditions of meditation in Ancient India provides a compelling argument that we need to look very hard at the material we have on the Buddha. It suggests that there is no specifiable insight in the Buddha's enlightenment, rather it is really the first 4 jhanas that lead to psychological change that allows this deep insight to occur. To make matters worse, buddhism had been thoroughly infected by other meditation practices like jainism and other forms of asceticism according to Bronworst. Also, I have insight into the fact that all I am is an amalgamation of processes, that doesn't mean I've been liberated which is what i suspect is meant by insight. So, anatta is something that can bring insight but it would only be liberating if experienced in the right way or meditative state if it at all. Under Bronkworst's proposition, we need to attain the 4 jhanas (dhyanas) and then liberation can be gained. This of course goes to The Great Jhana Debate which is another thread on here. Seriously though, everyone should read Two Traditions of Meditation In Ancient India I'll post the url

http://my.unil.ch/serval/document/BIB_A88A22EFD384.pdf - Two Traditions of Meditation In Ancient India

also

http://my.unil.ch/serval/document/BIB_EE3F136F6108.pdf - Self and Meditation in Indian Buddhism
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Apr 18, 2012 1:42 pm

I found 'Two traditions of meditation' a rather misinformed acount of Buddhist practice. For example in his first 'contradiction' he assumes arupa jhana as a non-percipient state, when they are percipient of internal phenomena.
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Re: Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?

Postby dhamma follower » Sun Apr 22, 2012 2:50 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

The idea for this topic spawned spawned from a discussion in the Early Buddhism forum on Johannes Bronkhorst and Early Buddhism (viewtopic.php?f=29&t=3523). Setting aside here the matters of what other religionists believed and the possible influence of that on the presentation of the Buddha's anatta teaching...

How can anatta be the object of insight? What is the object? What is the benefit?

I present my take on this subject, making reference to the following sutta

SN 22.59: Pañcavaggi Sutta (aka Anatta-lakkhana Sutta)
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html

Thus I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Benares, in the Deer Park at Isipatana (the Resort of Seers). There he addressed the bhikkhus of the group of five: "Bhikkhus." — "Venerable sir," they replied. The Blessed One said this.

"Bhikkhus, form is not-self. Were form self, then this form would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.' And since form is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.'

"Bhikkhus, feeling is not-self...

"Bhikkhus, perception is not-self...

"Bhikkhus, determinations are not-self...

"Bhikkhus, consciousness is not self. Were consciousness self, then this consciousness would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.' And since consciousness is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.'

"Bhikkhus, how do you conceive it: is form permanent or impermanent?" — "Impermanent, venerable Sir." — "Now is what is impermanent painful or pleasant?" — "Painful, venerable Sir." — "Now is what is impermanent, what is painful since subject to change, fit to be regarded thus: 'This is mine, this is I, this is my self'"? — "No, venerable sir."

"Is feeling permanent or impermanent?...

"Is perception permanent or impermanent?...

"Are determinations permanent or impermanent?...

"Is consciousness permanent or impermanent?" — "Impermanent, venerable sir." — "Now is what is impermanent pleasant or painful?" — "Painful, venerable sir." — "Now is what is impermanent, what is painful since subject to change, fit to be regarded thus: 'This is mine, this is I, this is my self'"? — "No, venerable sir."

"So, bhikkhus any kind of form whatever, whether past, future or presently arisen, whether gross or subtle, whether in oneself or external, whether inferior or superior, whether far or near, must with right understanding how it is, be regarded thus: 'This is not mine, this is not I, this is not myself.'

"Any kind of feeling whatever...

"Any kind of perception whatever...

"Any kind of determination whatever...

"Any kind of consciousness whatever, whether past, future or presently arisen, whether gross or subtle, whether in oneself or external, whether inferior or superior, whether far or near must, with right understanding how it is, be regarded thus: 'This is not mine, this is not I, this is not my self.'

"Bhikkhus, when a noble follower who has heard (the truth) sees thus, he finds estrangement in form, he finds estrangement in feeling, he finds estrangement in perception, he finds estrangement in determinations, he finds estrangement in consciousness.

"When he finds estrangement, passion fades out. With the fading of passion, he is liberated. When liberated, there is knowledge that he is liberated. He understands: 'Birth is exhausted, the holy life has been lived out, what can be done is done, of this there is no more beyond.'"

That is what the Blessed One said. The bhikkhus were glad, and they approved his words.

Now during this utterance, the hearts of the bhikkhus of the group of five were liberated from taints through clinging no more.


The thrust of this sutta is that the five aggregates are anatta because they are dukkha, and because they are anicca, and I assume it goes without saying that we take as given that dukkha and anicca are observable realities.

If A is directly observed, and B is adequately demonstrated and accepted to be a logical consequence of A, as it was to those who received the above teaching... can we not say also that B is known?

In this way, I believe we can know that all dhammas are "not self" (even if this so-called "no self" remains an unproveable, speculative, ontological proposition)

"Not self" may be ontological by nature, but I believe that ontological proof of the non-existence of that "I" within the loka of experience, is sufficient knowledge to uproot all craving. Greed (attraction) and aversion (repulsion) have no meaning when there is no subject/object dichotomy in which they can operate.

So in answering the question of "How can anatta be the object of insight? What is the object?", I suggest that...

Once you know the relationship between dukkha and anatta, or anicca and anatta.... insight into one brings insight into the other. In other words, the object of insight needn't be anatta, in order for the not-self characterists of all dhammas to be known.

As for "What is the benefit?" I quote again from the above sutta...

Any kind of [aggregate] whatever, whether past, future or presently arisen, whether gross or subtle, whether in oneself or external, whether inferior or superior, whether far or near must, with right understanding how it is, be regarded thus: 'This is not mine, this is not I, this is not my self.'

"Bhikkhus, when a noble follower who has heard (the truth) sees thus, he finds estrangement in form, he finds estrangement in feeling, he finds estrangement in perception, he finds estrangement in determinations, he finds estrangement in consciousness.

"When he finds estrangement, passion fades out. With the fading of passion, he is liberated. When liberated, there is knowledge that he is liberated. He understands: 'Birth is exhausted, the holy life has been lived out, what can be done is done, of this there is no more beyond.'"

That is what the Blessed One said. The bhikkhus were glad, and they approved his words.

Now during this utterance, the hearts of the bhikkhus of the group of five were liberated from taints through clinging no more


That is my present understanding. I put it forward at a topic of discussion and encourage others to present their views, whether they agree or otherwise, with the presentation above.

Metta,
Retro. :)


Greeting Retro,

The Bahiya sutta suggests a direct knowledge of anatta:

"Then, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bahiya, there is no you in terms of that. When there is no you in terms of that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress."

Through hearing this brief explanation of the Dhamma from the Blessed One, the mind of Bahiya of the Bark-cloth right then and there was released from the effluents through lack of clinging/sustenance. Having exhorted Bahiya of the Bark-cloth with this brief explanation of the Dhamma, the Blessed One left.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

IMHO, Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta are all the characteristics of any reality experienced. Let's say, you might experience the rise and fall of one of the five aggregate. This experience of rise and fall can be accompanied by the understanding of respectively anicca, dukkha or anatta depending on each person. In that way, the three characteristics are equal in their directness in the development of insights.

According to the commentaries, one enters magga-phala through one of these three characteristics, that is to say, depending on a person's inclinations (sadha, viriya or panna), one of these characteristics will be more prominent in his development of panna. In the case of Bahiya, he was obviously of panna dominance.

What ever the case, the first stage of enlightenment eradicates self-view. How it could be without a direct experience of anatta - Nibanna is anatta, isn't it? So if he has experienced Nibanna, it should follow that a direct knowledge of anatta has been seen by him.

Regards,

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