Sakkāya is pañc'upādānakkhandhā (Majjhima v,4 <M.i,299>), and may conveniently be translated as 'somebody' or 'person' or, abstractly, 'personality'. See PARAMATTHA SACCA, also for what follows.
An arahat (while alive—that is, if we can speak of a 'living arahat') continues to be individual in the sense that 'he' is a sequence of states (Theragāthā v. 716) distinguishable from other arahanto (and a fortiori from individuals other than arahanto). Every set of pañcakkhandhā[a]—not pañc'upādānakkhandhā in the arahat's case—is unique, and individuality in this sense ceases only with the final cessation of the pañcakkhandhā at the breaking up of the arahat's body. But a living arahat is no longer somebody or a person, since the notion or conceit '(I) am' has already ceased. Individuality must therefore be carefully distinguished from personality,[b] which is: being a person, being somebody, being a subject (to whom objects are present), selfhood, the mirage 'I am', and so on. The puthujjana is not able to distinguish them—for him individuality is not conceivable apart from personality, which he takes as selfhood. The sotāpanna is able to distinguish them—he sees that personality or 'selfhood' is a deception dependent upon avijjā, a deception dependent upon not seeing the deception, which is not the case with individuality—, though he is not yet free from an aroma of subjectivity, asmimāna. The arahat not only distinguishes them but also has entirely got rid of all taint of subjectivity—'he' is individual but in no way personal. For lack of suitable expressions (which in any case would puzzle the puthujjana) 'he' is obliged to go on saying 'I' and 'me' and 'mine' (cf. Dīgha i,9 <D.i,202>; Devatā Samy. iii,5 <S.i,14>). Individuality where the arahat is concerned still involves the perspective or orientation that things necessarily adopt when they exist, or are present, or are cognized; and for each individual the perspective is different. Loss of upādāna is not loss of point of view. See RŪPA and remarks on manasikāra in NĀMA.
Sakkāyaditthi (Majjhima v,4 <M.i,300>) is sometimes explained as the view or belief (often attributed to a purely verbal misunderstanding)[c] that in one or other of the khandhā there is a permanent entity, a 'self'. These rationalized accounts entirely miss the point, which is the distinction (Khandha Samy. v,6 <S.iii,47>) between pañc'upādānakkhandhā (which is sakkāya) and pañcakkhandhā (which is sakkāyanirodha). To have ditthi about sakkāya is not an optional matter (as if one could regard sakkāya from the outside and form ditthi about it or not, as one pleased): sakkāya contains sakkāyaditthi (in a latent form at least) as a necessary part of its structure.[d] If there is sakkāya there is sakkāyaditthi, and with the giving up of sakkāyaditthi there comes to be cessation of sakkāya. To give up sakkāyaditthi, sakkāya must be seen (i.e. as pañc'upādānakkhandhā), and this means that the puthujjana does not see pañc'upādānakkhandhā as such (i.e. he does not recognize them—see MAMA [a] and cf. Majjhima viii,5 <M.i,511>). A puthujjana (especially one who puts his trust in the Commentaries) sometimes comes to believe that he does see pañc'upādānakkhandhā as such, thereby blocking his own progress and meeting with frustration: he cannot see what further task is to be done, and yet remains a puthujjana.
[a] Past, future, and present, 'five aggregates': matter (or substance), feeling, perception, determinations, and consciousness. [Back to text]
[b] Taken in conjunction with what follows it, this evidently means 'A puthujjana must take good care to become a sotāpanna'. In other words, a purely intellectual distinction (i.e. without direct experience) is not possible. (This statement perhaps requires some modification to allow for the anulomikāya khantiyā samannāgato. One who is anulomikāya khantiyā samannāgato, though a puthujjana, is not at that time assutavā (through hearing the Dhamma he has some understanding, but he can still lose this and return to his former state). But to be anulomikāya khantiyā samannāgato it is by no manner of means enough to have studied the Suttas and to profess oneself a follower of the Buddha. See Anguttara VI,x,3-6 <A.iii,441-3> & CITTA. Anulomikāya khantiyā samannāgato may be translated 'endowed with acquiescence in conformity (scil. with the Dhamma)'; such an individual is not of contrary view to the Teaching, but does not actually see it for himself.). [Back to text]
[c] If avijjā were simply a matter of verbal misunderstanding, a maggot would be an arahat. [Back to text]
[d] The reader is referred to the passage (d) in the Preface, quoted from Blackham. It is not possible to lay too much stress on this point. See also DHAMMA [c], NIBBĀNA [a], & A NOTE ON PATICCASAMUPPĀDA §§24 & 25. [Back to text]