Anatta, aka: Āṇatta; 8 Definition(s)


Anatta means something in Buddhism, Pali. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

[Anatta in Theravada glossaries]
Not self; ownerless.(Source): Access to Insight: A Glossary of Pali and Buddhist Terms

N Characteristic of absence of essential characteristic or self inherent existence within all things.

Among all the things that do exist in the universe, none do exist by itself. Any object or being can be nothing else than a compound of elements that undergo ceaseless modifications and which are themselves the outcome of a large number of conditions. As a consequence, nothing can be controled; neither material objects, nor consciousnesses. anatta is the third among the three characteristics.

See also: anatta

(Source): Dhamma Dana: Pali English Glossary

Anatta is a Pali word and made up of ana and atta. Ana means o ot othing and atta means self. Anatta means on self or no self.

(Source): Journey to Nibbana: Patthana Dhama

'not-self', non-ego, egolessness, impersonality, 

is the last of the three characteristics of existence (ti-lakkhana, q.v.) The anattā doctrine teaches that neither within the bodily and mental phenomena of existence, nor outside of them, can be found anything that in the ultimate sense could be regarded as a self-existing real ego-entity, soul or any other abiding substance. 

This is the central doctrine of Buddhism, without understanding which a real knowledge of Buddhism is altogether impossible. It is the only really specific Buddhist doctrine, with which the entire Structure of the Buddhist teaching stands or falls. All the remaining Buddhist doctrines may, more or less, be found in other philosophic systems and religions, but the anattā-doctrine has been clearly and unreservedly taught only by the Buddha, wherefore the Buddha is known as the anattā-vādi, or 'Teacher of Impersonality'. 

Whosoever has not penetrated this impersonality of all existence, and does not comprehend that in reality there exists only this continually self-consuming process of arising and passing bodily and mental phenomena, and that there is no separate ego-entity within or without this process, he will not be able to understand Buddhism, i.e. the teaching of the 4 Noble Truths (sacca, q.v.), in the right light. He will think that it is his ego, his personality, that experiences suffering, his personality that performs good and evil actions and will be reborn according to these actions, his personality that will enter into Nibbāna, his personality that walks on the Eightfold Path. Thus it is said in Vis.M. XVI:


"Mere suffering exists, no sufferer is found; The deeds are, but no doer of the deeds is there; Nibbāna is, but not the man that enters it; The path is, but no traveler on it is seen."


"Whosoever is not clear with regard to the conditionally arisen phenomena, and does not comprehend that all the actions are conditioned through ignorance, etc., he thinks that it is an ego that understands or does not understand, that acts or causes to act, that comes to existence at rebirth .... that has the sense-impression, that feels, desires, becomes attached, continues and at rebirth again enters a new existence" (Vis.M. XVII. 117).

While in the case of the first two characteristics it is stated that all formations (sabbe sankhārā) are impermanent and subject to suffering, the corresponding text for the third characteristic states that "all things are not-self" (sabbe dhammā anattā; M. 35, Dhp. 279). This is for emphasizing that the false view of an abiding self or substance is neither applicable to any 'formation' or conditioned phenomenon, nor to Nibbāna, the Unconditioned Element (asankhatā dhātu).

The Anattā-lakkhana Sutta, the 'Discourse on the Characteristic of Not-self', was the second discourse after Enlightenment, preached by the Buddha to his first five disciples, who after hearing it attained to perfect Holiness (arahatta).

The contemplation of not-self (anattānupassanā) leads to the emptiness liberation (suññatā-vimokkha, s. vimokkha). Herein the faculty of wisdom (paññindriya) is outstanding, and one who attains in that way the path of Stream-entry is called a Dhamma-devotee (dhammānusāri; s. ariya-puggala); at the next two stages of sainthood he becomes a vision-attainer (ditthippatta); and at the highest stage, i.e. Holiness, he is called 'liberated by wisdom' (paññā-vimutta).

For further details, see paramattha-sacca, paticca-samuppāda, khandha, ti-lakkhana, nāma-rūpa, patisandhi.

  • Literature: Anattā-lakkhana Sutta, Vinaya I, 13-14; S.22. 59; tr. in Three Cardinal Discourses of the Buddha (WHEEL 17). - 

  • Another important text on Anattā is the Discourse on the Snake Simile (Alagaddūpama Sutta, M. 22; tr. in WHEEL 48/49) . 

  • Other texts in "Path". - Further: Anattā and Nibbāna, by Nyanaponika Thera (WHEEL 11); 

  • The Truth of Anattā, by Dr. G. P. Malalasekera (WHEEL 94); 

  • The Three Basic Facts of Existence III: Egolessness (WHEEL 202/204)

(Source): Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines
context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

Discover the meaning of anatta in the context of Theravada from relevant books on Exotic India

General definition (in Buddhism)

[Anatta in Buddhism glossaries]

In Buddhism, anatta (Pali) or anatman (Sanskrit) refers to the notion of "not self". One scholar describes it as "meaning non selfhood, the absence of limiting self identity in people and things."[1] In the Pali suttas and the related agamas (referred to collectively below as the nikayas), the agglomeration of constantly changing physical and mental constituents ("skandhas") comprising a human being is thoroughly analyzed and stated not to comprise an eternal, unchanging self (often denoted "Self"). In the nikayas, the Buddha repeatedly emphasizes not only that the five skandhas of living being are "not self", but that clinging to them as if they were an immutable self or soul (atman) gives rise to unhappiness.

Anatta, along with dukkha (suffering/unease) and anicca (impermanence), is one of the three dharma seals, which, according to Buddhism, characterise all conditioned phenomena.

(Source): WikiPedia: Buddhism

One amongst the three marks of existence taught in the buddhas second sermon. It literally means not self.

(Source): Buddhism Tourism: Glossary of Buddhist Terms

(a nat tah) impersonal, "not?self, without individual essence; one of the three characteristics of all worldly phenomena, according to the Buddha.

(Source): Amaravati: Glossary

Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

[Anatta in Pali glossaries]

anatta : (adj.) soul-less. (m.), non-ego.

-- or --

āṇatta : (pp. of āṇāpeti) commanded; being ordered. (abs. of ānāpiya).

(Source): BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary
Pali book cover
context information

Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

Discover the meaning of anatta in the context of Pali from relevant books on Exotic India

Relevant definitions

Search found 68 related definition(s) that might help you understand this better. Below you will find the 15 most relevant articles:

Anatta Vada
the 'doctrine of impersonality'; s. anattā.
Anatta Sanna
'perception of not-self'; see A.VI.104; A.VII.48; A.X.60; Ud.IV.1.
Anatta Sutta
1. Anatta Sutta - Preached to Radha at Savatthi in answer to his question What is not self ? ...
Khandha, (Sk. skandha) — I. Crude meaning: bulk, massiveness (gross) substance. A. esp. used (a...
Rūpa (रूप, “colour”) or Rūpaguṇa refers to one of the twenty-four guṇas (qualities) accord...
Nibbāna, (nt.).—I. Etymology. Although nir+vā “to blow”. (cp. BSk. nirvāṇa) is already...
Bhāvanā (भावना, “disposition”) refers to one of three types of Saṃskāra (impression) according ...
Śanna (शन्न).—p. p. Fallen, decayed, withered.--- OR --- Sanna (सन्न).—p. p. [sad-kta]1) Sittin...
Māna (मान) is a name mentioned in the Mahābhārata (cf. IX.44.67, VIII.51.17) and represents on...
Karma (कर्म, “action”) is the third category (padārtha), in the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika philosophy. Aft...
Paṭicca-samuppāda, (p. +samuppāda, BSk. prātītyasamutpāda, e.g. Divy 300, 547) “arising on the ...
sāṅkhārā (सांखारा).—m Rubbish and mud &c. as gathered in and blocking up a water-channel. 2 Dre...
Ti Lakkhana
Lakkhaṇa, (nt.) (Vedic lakṣman nt. sign; adj. lakṣmaṇa; later Sk. lakṣmaṇa nt. In the defn of...
Yamaka (यमक) refers to one of the 93 alaṃkāras (“figures of speech”) mentioned by Cirañjīva Bha...
Saṃsāra (संसार).—One in the line of Gurus. (See under Guruparaṃpara).

Relevant text

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: