Anatta – Channa’s Story

This Sunday, Mike guided a very involved discussion around Anatta, typically translated into English as “not-self” and a frequent stumbling block for many new to the practice. After all, clearly there is a “self”, and self-denial is the source of much suffering in our culture. The Buddha was not in disagreement with that, but rather was concerned with common experience of identifying with certain roles and experiences and becoming attached to their seeming permanence. When those roles and experiences change, if we grasp too tightly, we suffer.

Mike played a talk by Akincano Marc Weber which referenced the story of Channa and his desire to better understand and experience Anatta. The talk is available here:

Some of Mike’s notes on the talk follow:

Other monks teach [Channa] that the five khandha’s are impermanent and non-self…he eventually believes them intellectually, but doubts his ability to really believe this, to reconfigure his experience to believe this in moment-by-moment experience.

Channa goes to see Ananda, who tells him that he IS capable of understanding, that this process of searching is the beginning of his healing.

Then Ananda shares a teaching… in which the Buddha says:

“This world for the most part, depends on a duality, upon the notion of existence, and the notion of nonexistence. For one who sees the origin of world as it really is, with correct wisdom, there is no notion of nonexistence in regard to the world. And for one who sees the cessation of the world as it really is, with correct wisdom, there is no notion of existence in regard to the world. This world is for the most part shackled by engagement, clinging, and adherence, but this one with right view does not become engaged and cling through an engagement and clinging mental standpoint, adherence, underlying tendency. He does not take a stand about my self. He has no perplexity or doubt that what arises is only suffering, arising what ceases is only suffering ceasing. His knowledge about this is independent of others.”

[To paraphrase the] Buddha’s teaching: “We don’t have a being or nonbeing question, we have a process of becoming. In that process of becoming, on the basis of conditions, things arise in a process of becoming, and when these conditions fade, that process of becoming also begins to fade.”

Buddha teaches that what arises is not the self, but suffering… what ceases is not self, but suffering.