The fundamental delusion is the hardest to dispel
– your sense of ‘self’.
The Anattalakkhana Sutta (the Discourse on the Characteristic of Non-self) was the second sermon delivered by the Buddha after his enlightenment, after which, all of his five first disciples attained liberation. Though briefer than his first serrmon (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta), which outlined the structure of all his later teachings, it contains the ‘heart’ of the Dharma (truth; path to truth) that leads to self-liberation (Arahantship), just as the Heart Sutra, which is somewhat similar in nature contains the heart of the Dharma that leads to total liberation (Buddhahood). In this sutta, he analyses the constituents of our being (body and mind) to be the five aggregates, thereafter proving each aspect to be impermanent (Anicca), subject to dissatisfaction (Dukkha) and therefore inapt to be identified as ‘self’ (thus Anatta).
The Buddha starts by stating that our first (physical) aggregate of form (body) is not self, because if it was, we our’selves’ would be able to ensure that it does not lead to any dis-ease, while being able to will it in any manner we wish. E.g. we would never be sick and could even sprout wings if we want. Conversely, precisely because form is not self, it does lead to dis-ease and none can will it to be the ideal way one wishes instantly. Likewise, our mental aspects (other four aggregates) of feeling (of pain, pleasure and ‘neither pain nor pleasure’), perception (from predispositions), mental formation (volitions or intentions) and consciousness are not self, because they too lead to dis-ease, while not being fully changeable at will.
The Buddha next asked the monks if each of the aggregates is permanent (constant) or impermanent (changing). Realising that they are impermanent, he asked if that impermanent is dissatisfactory or satisfactory. Realising that they are dissatisfactory, he asked if that which is impermanent and dissatisfactory is fit to be regarded as ‘mine’, ‘I’ or ‘self’. To that, they replied ‘No’. The Buddha concludes that none of the aggregates in the past, present or future, gross or subtle, internal or external, common or sublime, near or far should be regarded as ‘self’, while one who realises this fully will be disenchanted and not cling to them, thus attaining liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Thus were the Three Marks of Existence (Three Universal Characteristics: Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta) first taught.
Perfect non-self wisdom leads to perfect selfless compassion. – Stonepeace