RS22.02 Aṇatvalakṣaṇa Sutra

This Gāndhārī version of the Buddha’s Discourse on Not-self (P Anattalakkhaṇa-sutta, Skt. *Anātmalakṣaṇa-sūtra) is the second of six sūtras or discourses preserved on scroll 22 (RS 22) of the Robert Senior collection. The Gāndhārī title *Aṇatvalakṣaṇa Sutra has been reconstructed on the basis of the title given in the Pali parallels. This discourse records the second teaching given by the Buddha shortly after his awakening to the group of five monks at the Deer Park near Benares. The significance of this teaching and its exposition of the five aggregates (G kadha, P khandha, Skt. skandha) as having the nature of “not-self” (G aṇatva, P anatta, Skt. anātman) is indicated by the numerous versions available in Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese, and now Gāndhārī. This digital journal article presents the first diplomatic publication of the Gāndhārī sutra including a diplomatic edition, reconstruction, hybrid edition, translation, Sanskrit chāyā, a glossary, palaeographic report and images.  Details of the parallels and a preliminary study of the text were published in Allon 2020.

Item Robert Senior Scroll 22 | Text 2 | Surface r.8 – 30 | Material Birch Bark | Size H: 87 cm; W: 13.5-7 cm | Findspot uncertain (presumably Haḍḍa, Afghanistan) | Date approx. 140 CE | Current Location University of Washington, Seattle

Content Summary

While dwelling in the Deer Park near Benares, the Buddha instructs a group of five monks about the “not-self” nature of form, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness. In his teaching, the Buddha explains that if these aggregates were self, they would not lead to affliction and suffering and one would be able to control their character, but since they are not-self they do lead to affliction and suffering and it is not possible to control their character. Through a series of questions and answers, the Buddha then leads the monks to identify the aggregates as having the character of impermanence and suffering and as being inappropriate objects of self-identification. As a result of this realization, the monks are liberated from the cycle of rebirth.


  • P.  Anattalakkhaṇa-sutta SN 22.59 at SN III 66.23–68.29 (Anattalakkhaṇasutta [Be SN II 55.1–56.28]; Pañcavaggiyasuttaṃ [Ce SN III 114.27–118.8]; no title [Se SN III 82.9−85.6]).
  • P.  Second half of the Soṇa-sutta SN 22.49 at SN III 48.5–50.10 is identical to the second half of the Anattalakkhaṇa-sutta (the identical passage is pp. 49.9–50.10).
  • P.  Vin I 13.18–14.37 (Be Vin III 18.18–20.27; Ce Vin IV 28.1–30.18; Se Vin IV 24.17−28.16).
  • Skt.  CPS § 15.
  • Skt.  SBhV I 138.10–139.17.
  • Skt.  Mvu III 337.9–340.17.
  • Skt.  Avś II 168.9–170.5.
  • Ch.  SĀ 34 at T II 7c13–8a4
  • Ch.  SĀ 33 at T II 7b22–c12 (with minor variations)
  • Ch.  Independent translation T 102 at T II 499c.
  • Ch.  MūSā Vin T 1450 at T XXIV 128b16–c12 and T 1451 at T XXIV 407a23–b18
  • Ch.  DhG Vin T 1428 at XXII 789a12–b4
  • Ch.  Mahīś Vin T 1421 at XXII 105a15–25.
  • Ch.  FJJ T 190 at III 813a29–c4.
  • Tib.  Tibetan versions in the SBhV and Kṣudrakavastu of the MūSā Vin (see Waldschmidt 1952–1962: 163–171).

Companion Publications

  • Allon, Mark (2020) “A Gandhari Saṃyukta-āgama Version of the ‘Discourse on Not-self’ (Pali Anattalakkhaṇa-sutta, Sanskrit *Anātmalakṣaṇa-sūtra).” In Dhammadinnā, ed. Research on the Saṃyukta-āgama. Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts Research Series, pp 201-258. Taipei: Dharma Drum Publishing Co.


Research on this edition was made possible through the financial support of a number of different sources, including an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project Research Fellow (University of Sydney) 2002–2006, Robert H. No Ho Family Foundation Grants for Critical Editions and Scholarly Translations 2019–2020, and various private donors to the University of Sydney’s Buddhist Studies program. The study of this text was first presented by Mark Allon as “A Gāndhārī Saṃyukta-āgama version of the Discourse on Not-self (P Anattalakkhaṇa-sutta, Skt. *Anātmalakṣaṇa-sūtra) (RS 22, no. 2)” in Research on the Saṃyukta-āgama (The IV Seminar of the Āgama Research Group), Buenos Aires, Argentina, 27–28 October 2018. The edition has benefited from comments by seminar participants and especially from subsequent comments by Richard Salomon.

The digital edition is published here with the permission of the Venerable Dhammadinnā, the editor of the Research on the Saṃyukta-āgama (Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts Research Series. Taipei: Dharma Drum Publishing Co.) in which Allon 2020 appeared.

Digital publishing by Stephanie Majcher and Ian McCrabb

Cite this article as: Mark Allon, Stephanie Majcher and Ian McCrabb, “Aṇatvalakṣaṇa Sutra,” Journal of Gandhāran Buddhist Texts, December 21, 2020,