In the Buddha’s 2nd Teaching that he gave, the Anattalakkhana Sutta, he explains to his monks that “Form” (i.e., The Rupa skandha, which means your body in this context) – is not the self, not the soul – so your body is not your self, not your soul:
“Form, monks, is not self.
The 2 Characteristics of a Self, a Soul
- If form were the self:
- This form would not lend itself to dis-ease.
- It would be possible [to say] with regard to form, ‘Let this form be thus. Let this form not be thus.‘
The 2 Characteristics of Anatta – whatever is Not the self, Not the Soul
- But precisely because form is not self:
- Form lends itself to dis-ease.
- And it is NOT possible [to say] with regard to form, ‘Let this form be thus. Let this form not be thus.’
So a Self/Soul doesn’t suffer or get afflicted.
It is Anatta things – that get afflicted and suffer!
Read that again – because most of current day Buddhist interpretations tell you to reach the state of no self, to reach the state of anatta to get enlightened. But here, the Buddha is telling you the opposite – that Anatta leads to affliction and dis-ease – so Anatta leads to suffering!
Back to the opening point. Most people think that we are our bodies. But actually, your body is not the real you, not your real self, not who you really are, not your self, not the essence of your being, not your soul.
Because if something were really who you really are – your essence, your soul, then:
- It would not lead to affliction and disease
- Why not? Because if something in your body is getting afflicted, then you would be able to tell your body – don’t be like that, be like this – and it will be so.
What sort of afflictions does the body undergo? It undergoes old age, sicknesses and death.
So if the body were really you, you would be able to tell it to do whatever you want it to and it will naturally obey you easily and without effort – you would have total, absolute, effortless control over it.
- Can you tell your body, “Don’t get sick!” No, because it will still get sick, despite our wishes.
- Can you tell your body, “Don’t get old!” No, because it will still get old
- Can you tell your body, “Don’t die!” No, because when the time comes – the body still dies.
And so, the body is not the essence of of who you really are – not your soul, not your self because you have no sovereignty over it.
Sovereignty just means the ability to do whatever you want. It means “Power over your domain”.
For example, the King of a Sovereign country can do whatever he wants in that country – he can say to anyone, “Off with his head!” and his men will carry it out without hesitation. This King has absolute command, absolute power, absolute control.
So your soul, your real self is like a King – that has absolute power over it’s domain. Whatever it can’t control – is part of the world of the not-self, not-soul.
For example, the trees are not your self – cos you can’t control them. They sway in the breeze according to the wind – they belong to nature, not to you. So therefore, trees are not you, not a part of you – they are not part of who you really are – they are anatta – not self.
Whatever you can control – whatever you have absolute, natural, effortless power over – IS your real self, your soul.
So your real self, the soul of your being is like a sovereign King with absolute power over his domain. If you can eliminate whatever is not part of that domain – then you can focus on what IS part of that domain.
So you still need to take good care of your body – because you will be living with it for 70-80 years. But realize that your body is not you, not self – it is external to you – just a mass of flesh (an aggregate of “Form”) that you temporarily inhabiting and renting. It is not your essence, not your soul, not your real self.
Source for the quoted text: