Impermanence and not self

22. ‘Bhikkhus, you may well acquire that possession that is permanent, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and that might endure as long as eternity. But do you see any such possession, bhikkhus?’

‘No, venerable sir.’

‘Good, bhikkhus. I too do not see any possession that is permanent, everlasting, not subject to change, and that might endure as long as eternity.

23. ‘Bhikkhus, you may well cling to that doctrine of self that would not arouse sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair in one who clings to it. But do you see such as doctrine of self, bhikkhus?’

‘No, venerable sir.’

‘Good, bhikkhus. I too do not see any doctrine of self that would not arouse sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair in one who clings to it.

24. ‘Bhikkhus, you may well take as a support that view that would not arouse sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair in one who takes it as a support. But do you see any such support of views, bhikkhus?’

‘No, venerable sir.’

‘Good, bhikkhus. I too do not see any support of views that would not arouse sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair in one who takes it as a support.

25. ‘Bhikkhus, there being a self, would there be what belongs to my self?’

‘Yes, venerable sir.’

‘Or, there being what belongs to a self, would there be my self?’

‘Yes, venerable sir.’

‘Bhikkhus, since a self and what belongs to a self are not apprehended as true and established, then this standpoint for views, namely, ‘The self and the world are the same; after death I shall be impermanent, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change; I shall endure as long as eternity’ – would it not be an utterly and completely foolish teaching?’

‘What else could it be, venerable sir. It would be an utterly and completely foolish teaching.’

26. ‘Bhikkhus, what do you think? Is material form permanent or impermanent?’

‘Impermanent, venerable sir.’

‘Is what is impermanent suffering or happiness?’

‘Suffering, venerable sir.’

‘Is what is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change, fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self?’

‘No, venerable sir.’

‘Bhikkhus, what do you think? Is feeling…Is perception…Are formations…Is consciousness permanent or impermanent.’

‘Impermanent, venerable sir.’

‘Is what is impermanent suffering or happiness?’

‘Suffering, venerable sir.’

“Is what is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change, fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’?”

‘No, venerable sir.’

27. ‘Therefore, Bhikkhus, any kind of material form whatever, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, all material form should be seen as it actually is with proper wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ Any kind of feeling whatever…Any kind of perception whatever…Any kind of formations whatever…Any kind of consciousness whatever, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, all material form should be seen as it actually is with proper wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’

28. Seeing thus, bhikkhus, a well-taught noble disciple becomes disenchanted with material form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with formations, disenchanted with consciousness.

29. ‘Being disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion [his mind] is liberated. When it is liberated there comes the knowledge: ‘It is liberated.’ He understands: ‘Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming to any state of being.’

Translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, 1995 

Majjhima Nikaya XXII
Alagaddupama Sutta
The Simile of the Snake

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