One of the most basic principles of Buddhism is the doctrine of not-self (anatta). Not-self is one of the most central, and befuddling, concepts in all of the dharma—one that often becomes a stumbling block for Western practitioners. What does it mean to say, “All phenomena are not-self”? And how do we live this truth in a way that helps us to awaken? 

On February 27, join Thanissaro Bhikkhu, an American Buddhist monk of the Thai Forest tradition, to demystify the concept of not-self, by revisiting the Buddha’s original teachings on the subject. According to Ven. Thanissaro, the Buddha’s teaching on not-self is not meant to answer the question, “Is there a self?” In fact, he says, the Buddha refused to answer that question. 

In this hour-long conversation with Tricycle’s editor-in-chief James Shaheen, Ven. Thanissaro will consider why the Buddha refused to answer the question of whether there is a self—and what question the not-self teaching does answer. He will also explore questions including the function of the not-self teachings for liberating the mind and the skillful use of both “self” and “not-self” along the path. Bring your questions! 

This event is free for Tricycle Premium subscribers and $10 for general admission. Subscribe to Premium or upgrade your existing subscription for free access.

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Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff) is an American Buddhist monk of the Kammatthana (Thai Forest) Tradition. After graduating from Oberlin College in 1971 with a degree in European Intellectual History, he traveled to Thailand, where he studied meditation under Ajaan Fuang Jotiko, himself a student of the late Ajaan Lee. He was ordained in 1976 and lived at Wat Dhammasathit, where he remained following his teacher’s death in 1986. In 1991 he traveled to the hills of San Diego County, USA, where he helped Ajaan Suwat Suvaco establish Metta Forest Monastery (Wat Mettavanaram). He was made abbot of the Monastery in 1993.

James Shaheen headshot

James Shaheen

James Shaheen, Tricycle’s Editor-in-Chief, began his Buddhist practice in the mid-1990s, studying with teachers from a number of Buddhist traditions. He is particularly interested in Buddhism’s growth in the West and its applicability to Western politics, culture, and everyday life. He has been with Tricycle for nearly 25 years.


  • Date: February 27, 2023
  • Time: 2-3pm ET
  • Format: Zoom webinar
  • Price: Premium subscribers: Free // General admission: $10