Aniccaṃ = Impermanent

Greetings in Dhamma!
I am currently engaging with a member of the Waharaka movement in Sri Lanka, which have some quite unorthodox philological takes of certain Pāḷi words with which I do not agree. Among their peculiar interpretations is that aniccaṃ ultimately refers to “non-liking” or “not according to one’s wishes” (i.e., what would be proper Pāḷi: anicchaṃ).

After a quick search, I found one instance in the canon that gives enough context to suggest that aniccaṃ means actually impermanence. This passage is spoken by Brahma: “This is permanent, this is everlasting, this is eternal, this is total, this is not subject to pass away” (idañhi, mārisa, niccaṃ, idaṃ dhuvaṃ, idaṃ sassataṃ, idaṃ kevalaṃ, idaṃ acavanadhammaṃ). You can see the synonyms for niccaṃ (permanent) are all about time, except one (kevalaṃ = total). So, “impermanent” for aniccaṃ makes more sense given the above explanation.

The aṭṭhakathā tradition is specific in its explanation of aniccaṃ: “[Sees] as impermanent [means]: as non-existence after having been, as possessing arising and passing away, as temporary, as opposed to permanence” (aniccatoti hutvā abhāvato udayabbayavantato tāvakālikato niccapaṭipakkhato).

My question would be: Could you share any passages (preferably canonical in this case since it most easily accepted) that show that aniccaṃ means “impermanent” or otherwise?

Thanks a lot!

I wonder why you speak with such people. There is no point. Obviously they reject a greater part of the whole of the pāḷi texts. It should be very clear. This is their own idea and claiming the commentaries are completely wrong. I think there is nothing to prove.

I personally try to meet people individually, not that much as part of a particular tradition or group, although it surely gives some indications. If I feel the other person isn’t open to more or less unbiased discussion, I will disengage, but as long as I see a basis, I generally speak with people.

I may not want them as close friends or live in their monasteries in the long run, but if a person rejects the commentaries, this isn’t a reason to completely ghost them from my side as long as my main input is proper Dhamma, and I myself can be an input for them. This upāsaka has been very helpful to me as well and is actually willing to learn.

I also think that even if they would be completely unamenable to any opposing view, I also see it as a way to lay out and perhaps strengthen my own arguments, even if just for myself. For example, the contact now led me to do some research on the topic of aniccaṃ, and I am now more certain than before that it means impermanence. So, thus far, the contact is still OK. :pray:t2:


Mikenz (member here) posted this old reply from Dhammanando

MIKE: Here is an analysis of various Waharaka-isms, including this one:

Dhammanando wrote: Wed Apr 05, 2017 7:18 pm…

Pure Dhamma wrote:7. […]

Each Pali word is packed with lot of information, and thus commentaries were written to expound the meaning of important Pali words.

A good example is the key Pali word “anicca“. In Sanskrit it is “anitya“, and this is what normally translated to English as “impermanence”. But the actual meaning of anicca is very clear in Sinhala: The Pali word “icca” (pronounced “ichcha”) is the same in Sinhala, with the idea of “this is what I like”. Thus anicca has the meaning “cannot keep it the way I like”.
The nicca in anicca has nothing to do with the adjective iccha (wishing) or the noun icchā (a wish) or the verb icchati (to wish).

The colloquial Sinhala pronunciation of it is actually a mispronunciation when judged by the phonetic descriptions in the ancient Pali grammars. When Sri Lankans pronounce Pali words their commonest mistake is to make aspirated consonants into non-aspirates and non-aspirated consonants into aspirates. This can be seen in the unorthodox romanization system used at the Pure Dhamma site:

gathi instead of gati
hethu-pala instead of hetu-phala.
micca-ditthi instead of micchā-diṭṭhi
satipattana instead of satipaṭṭhāna
Etc., etc.

By contrast, this is the international standard used by indologists for over a century:

  • ක ඛ ග ඝ ඞ
    ka, kha, ga, gha, ṅa

ච ඡ ජ ඣ ඤ
ca, cha, ja, jha, ña

ට ඨ ඩ ඪ ණ
ṭa, ṭha, ḍa, ḍha, ṇa

ත ථ ද ධ න
ta, tha, da, dha, na

ප ඵ බ භ ම
pa, pha, ba, bha, ma

ය ර ල ව ස හ ළ ං
ya, ra, la, va, sa, ha, ḷa, ṃ


has this got any relation to the topic?

Deleted the post.
Thank you.


A related topic:

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I came across this website. It had me laughing aloud.
Although funny, “welcome” is a good example to mock what is really going on here with anicca.
The author is not joking though. He sees this as a really big problem. The best thing you can do to fix wrong dhamma is just try to help promote the real dhamma. This website and IIT are examples of wholesome actions that can be done.

Quote below:


Do you know the true meaning of ‘welcome’? The meaning which could allow you to read text and grasp the true meaning? Is it an indivisible word with a meaning of its own? Or is it ‘well + come’? How about ‘we + will + come’? Or the long ‘we (are) ill, come (and help us)’?

Wait! Isn’t it possible that the word has been translated to English incorrectly from another language? If so the true meaning could have been lost for thousands of years! In that case someone might be needed to uncover the hidden meaning!

If you don’t know the true meaning of ‘welcome’ but stick to what could be wrong, your self ignorance could lead you to touble. We won’t be able to help.

Learn the true meaning and be a member of those who know the truth!