Perception of Impermanence and Nonself: How to do it?

From Girimananda Sutta:

"i. "And what, Ananda, is contemplation of impermanence? Herein, Ananda, a monk having gone to the forest or to the foot of a tree or to an empty house (lonely place) contemplates thus: ‘Matter (visible objects) is impermanent; feeling or sensation is impermanent; perception is impermanent; formations are impermanent; consciousness is impermanent. Thus he dwells contemplating impermanence in these five aggregates.’ This, Ananda, is called contemplation of impermanence.

ii. “And what Ananda is contemplation of anatta? Herein, Ananda, a monk having gone to the forest or to the foot of a tree or to a lonely place contemplates thus: ‘The eye is not the self; visible objects are not the self; the ear is not the self; sounds are not the self; the nose is not the self; smells are not the self; the tongue is not the self; tastes are not the self; the body is not the self; bodily contacts (tangible objects) are not the self; the mind is not the self; mental objects are not the self.’ Thus he dwells contemplating not self in these internal and external bases. This, Ananda, is called contemplation of anatta.”

Question: Any other sutta reference/commentary texts for this sutta on how to properly develop these two perceptions in details?

Normally I will just sit down and reflect on these teaching in my mind again and again, like repeating the words in my mind and examine the meaning of the teachings… But I think there might be more steps…

I read online that these two methods are useful for abolishing Sakkaya Ditthi…

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Most of the details scattered in Patisambhidamagga, Abhidhamma Commentaries can be found in Visuddhimagga Satta-visuddhi-niddesa.

Visuddhimagga recommends identifying Khandas (Ditthi-visuddhi/Sankhara-pariccheda) and their causes (Kankhavitarana-visuddhi/ Paccaya-pariggaha) first.

Venerable scholar Maggavihari preaches that Ditthi visuddhi is the “Door” to Vipassana, without which the Vipassana is unsuccessful.

(And he says he will start lessons on Vipassana fundamentals, after he finished Nama chapter in his lesson series.)

And there are a lot to learn about Anatta because Anatta seems to have many categories where each category have a special cause for it.

A Non-Classial Theravadin or Non-Theravadin may reflect Anicca-dukkha-anatta of

  • wrongly interpreted Khandhas
  • or of a Person
  • or of a parts of a Person
  • or of personal-entities misrecognized as impersonal-entities (unknowingly)

They contemplate Anicca-dukkha-anatta of Pannattis (Concepts) or of Pannattis-with-Paramathas.

Therefore distinguishing Pannatti and Paramattha considered very important.

When one contemplate Anicca-dukkha-anatta of Pannattis, like Marana-sati meditaion, as Araka Satthu (Bodhisatta) did, it may still develop Wisdom, but not Buddhist Vipassana Wisdom.

This is where many Non-Classical Theravadins get deceited, because they know their paths can develop Samatha and Wisdom.

According to the Visuddhimagga:

  • Samathayanikas start Ditthi visuddhi after attaining jhanas.
  • Sukkhavipassakas start Diithi visuddhi after Dhatumanasikara (Catudhatuvavatthana).

(One can suggest to contemplate Anicca-dukkha-anatta in Classical way even before he completely finish the Ditthi-visuddhi and Kankhavitarana-visuddhi, thinking that these 2 visuddhis take time to fully complete. But this is different from Non-classical way, it is about developping 7 visuddhis in repeated circular way. I don’t know this method is successful or not.)


Repeating the words will only get you book knowledge (suttamaya-panna). For experiental knowledge (bhavanamaya-panna), in other words, realization, you will need to actually see matter, feeling, perception, consciousness, and mental forms come to existence and then cease to exist.

Just like someone can read a lot of books about driving a car, but still wouldn’t actually able to drive a car.

To be able to see the coming into existence and the ceasing of the aggregates, a very strong concentration is required. Just like we need to focus when inserting a thread into a needle’s hole. The concentration required to see the aggregates is even stronger because the aggregates are much more subtle than a needle’s hole.

For further reading I would suggest the Vipassana Dipani and Anatta Dipani by Ven. Ledi Sayadaw, both available at


It is a little bit like asking “How do i see the impermanence in a strobe light?” (saying this as a coarse example).

The faster the refresh rate with higher resolution, the more realistic things appear to be. The more realistic it is, the harder it is to see the real reality.
Because real-life virtual reality has a very high refresh rate with high resolution, it is difficult to contemplate.

As you gain samatha practice, you will understand how fast the mind is when the mind rotates on a single object. Even before jhāna, you can understand this.

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Start with the gross stuff, good householder, focusing on steady praisworthy behavior and giving, making self important, for the refined lies where not willing to stick to the gross things fist.

Sayagyi U Ba Khin helps to understand that the anicca to see, perceive, experience is change. Like Bhante Subhuti indicates, the rapid there, not there, there… can be felt. In the gross sense there is pain. With a calm mind focused on the area of pain the rapid underlying feeling of pain dissolved into there, not there, there… (anicca) is seen and understood. With the understanding comes knowing that this constantly changing feeling is not I, mine or my self.

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Probably, … no actually, better to start with pleasure, especially sense pleasure, good householder. So to leave house (sense pleasures) and seek for a secluded dwelling. From gross to fine. Sila, modesty, sense pleasure renouncing, restrain, … Wanting to take not given: object not real…