Not self or anatta

The notion of ‘this is mine', ‘this I am' and ‘this is myself' arises when we do not understand how our consciousness arises and passes away. Buddha teaches us that so called ‘self' is made up of five aggregates subject to clinging. Namely, the matter, feeling, perception, volitional formations and consciousness. The appearance of aggregates occur with the birth and its disappearance occur with the death. The consciousness, while standing, might stand engaged with form; based upon form, established upon form with a sprinkling of delight, it might come to growth, increase and expansion. Or consciousness, while standing, might stand engaged with feeling … engaged with perception … engaged with volitional formations; based upon volitional formations, established upon volitional formations with a sprinkling of delight, it might come to growth, increase and expansion. Apart from form, apart from feeling, apart from perception, apart from volitional formations coming and going of consciousness is impossible.

There are three kinds of volitional formations: the bodily volitional formations, the verbal volitional formations, the mental volitional formations. Putting it in another way, they are six kinds: volition regarding forms, volition regarding sounds, volition regarding odours, volition regarding tastes, volition regarding tactile objects, volition regarding mental phenomena. According to Khajjaniya sutta, volitional formations plays a significant part in our life. Buddha said,

"The volitional formations construct the conditioned form as form, they construct conditioned feeling as feeling, they construct conditioned perception as perception; they construct conditioned volitional formations as volitional formations; they construct conditioned consciousness as consciousness." Now, look at what is happening in your mind when you see a pleasurable object. The delight in form arises and you would welcome it and remain holding to it. Since you remain holding to this form, feeling, perception, volitional formations and consciousness that arises dependent on the sight object, you are making new volitional formations. Now think how you would react, the next time when you see the same object. The volitional formations would construct that form, a pleasurable feeling, perception, volitional formations and consciousness for you. This goes on and we should try to understand that all these constructions are impermanent, subject to suffering and not self.

Another interesting discourse, Parileyya sutta, explains the origin of the volitional formations. Buddha said, ‘One regards form as self. That regarding is a formation. That formation—what is its source, what is its origin, from what is it born and produced? When the uninstructed worldling is contacted by a feeling born of ignorance-contact, craving arises: thence that formation is born'. If we know as it really is that these formations give rise to suffering then we would not have accepted those form, feelings, perception, etc as self. Buddha said, ‘Form is not yours: abandon it. When you have abandoned it, that will lead to your welfare and happiness'. The path leading to that abandonment is the Noble Eightfold path. May all follow the Noble Eightfold path.