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Truth of Anatta - G.P. Malalasekera

Truth of Anatta - G.P. Malalasekera

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Dr. G.P. Malalasekera,
Reprinted from Encyclopaedia of Buddhism Vol. I (Fascicle 4 ) Published by the Government of Sri Lanka Buddhist Publication Society Kandy Sri Lanka The Wheel Publication No. 94 First edition 1966 Reprinted 1986

Prefatory Note:

Anatta is the last of the ‘three characteristics’ (tilakkhana) or the general characteristics (samanna-lakkana) of the universe and everything in it. Like the teaching of the four Noble Truths, it is the teaching peculiar to Budd

Dr. G.P. Malalasekera,
Reprinted from Encyclopaedia of Buddhism Vol. I (Fascicle 4 ) Published by the Government of Sri Lanka Buddhist Publication Society Kandy Sri Lanka The Wheel Publication No. 94 First edition 1966 Reprinted 1986

Prefatory Note:

Anatta is the last of the ‘three characteristics’ (tilakkhana) or the general characteristics (samanna-lakkana) of the universe and everything in it. Like the teaching of the four Noble Truths, it is the teaching peculiar to Budd

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Published by: Vinayānanda Bhikkhu on Nov 06, 2011
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01/09/2013

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The Truth of Anatta
Dr. G.P. Malalasekera
Reprinted from Encyclopaedia of Buddhism Vol. I (Fascicle 4 )Published by the Government of Sri LankaBuddhist Publication Society Kandy Sri LankaThe Wheel Publication No. 94First edition 1966 Reprinted 1986
Prefatory Note:
Anatta is the last of the ‘three characteristics’(tilakkhana) or the general characteristics(samanna-lakkana) of the universe andeverything in it. Like the teaching of the fourNoble Truths,it isthe teaching peculiar toBuddhas : (buddhanam samukkamsika desana :M. I, 380).Etymologically, anatta consists of the negativeprefix plus atta (cf. Vedic Sanskrit atman).There are two Pali forms of the word, namely,atta (instr. attana) and atta (instr. attena).Neitherform seems to be used in the plural in theTipitaka.
 
In the texts and the commentaries the wordsattaa? and atta are used in several senses: (1)chiefly meaning ‘one’s self’ or ‘one's own’ e.g.attahitaya Patipanno no parahitaya (acting inone's own interest, not in the interests of others);or attana vu katam sadhu (what is done by one'sown self is good); (2) meaning ‘one's ownperson,’ the personality, including both body andmind, e.g., in attabhava (life), attapatilabha (birthin some form of life); (3) self, as a subtlemetaphysical entity, ‘soul,’ e. g., atthi me atta(Do I have a ‘soul’?), sunnam idam attena vaattaniyena va (this is void of a 'self' or anythingto do with a ‘self’) etc. It is with the thirdmeaning that we are here concerned, the entitythat is conceived and sought and made thesubject of a certain class of views called in earlyBuddhist texts attaditthi, attanuditthi (self-viewsor heresy of self) and attagaha (misconceptionregarding self 
).
The Truth of Anatta
[There have been numerous theories in the past about self or soul.]
In most systems of religion or philosophy thequestion of the nature of man and his destiny
 
centres largely in the doctrine of the soulwhich has been variously defined. Some call itthe principle of thought and action in man orthat which thinks, wills and feels, knows andsees and, also, that which appropriates andowns. It is that which both acts and initiatesaction. Generally speaking, it is conceived asa perdurable entity, the permanent unchangingfactor within the concrete personality whichsomehow unites and maintains its successiveactivities. It is also the subject of consciousspiritual experience. It has, in addition, strongreligious associations and various furtherimplications, such as being independent of thebody, immaterial and eternal.What has been said above regarding systemsof philosophy holds true about the history of thought in India also. The Sanskrit word
atman,
of which
atta is
the Pali counterpart, isfound in the earliest Vedic hymns, though itsderivation and meaning are uncertain. It issometimes held to have meant ‘breath,’ butbreath in the sense of ‘life,’ or what might becalled ‘self’ or ‘soul’ in modern usage. Thus,the sun is called the
atman
of 
 
all that moves orstands still and the
soma
drink is said to be the

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