There are really two kinds of dhamma (S., dharma), one which is empirical and conditioned and one which is transcendental. Considering the transcendental dhamma, it can be dhammabhûta (dhamma incarnate), dhammakaya (body of dhamma), dhammacakkhu (eye of dhamma) or dhammabhisamaya (comprehension of the truth).
This dhamma is not in the same as the empirical dhamma such as dhamma in both sabbe dhammâ anattâ (Dh, 279) (all things are not the self) and sabbe dhammâ nâlam abhinivesâya (S. iv. 50) (unfit to adhere to are all things). To be sure, such a dhamma is not the same elevated dhamma to which the Buddha awoke.
“The dharma obtained by me is profound, of deep splendor, difficult to see, difficult to understand, incomprehensible, having the incomprehensible as its scope, fine, subtle, the sense of which can only be understood by the wise” (Catusparisat Sûtra).
Also the adjective sabbe in the above passages, which is about the quality of dhamma, helps us to identify what kind of dhamma we are looking at. To illustrate this, substituting man for dhamma, the subject “man” used with the adjective “brave” or the adjective “craven” helps us to know what kind of man we are dealing with. So what did the Buddha mean by sabba? The Buddha tells us that all or sabba refers to the senses, the eye and its forms, the ear and sounds, the nose and odors, the tongue and tastes, the body and tactile objects, the mind (mano) and mental phenomena. He also tells us that he will teach the dhamma for abandoning the all or sabba.
The transcendental dharma attained by the Buddha, to be sure, is profound, of deep splendor, etc. It is not the same dhamma, which is empirical, as in all things are not the self, or unfit to adhere to are all things. On the same track, if some Buddhists believe that the “dhamma” in sabbe dhammâ anattâ includes nirvana, then they are forced to make an exception when the Buddha warns, “abandon desire for whatever is anattâ/non-self” (S. iv. 49), otherwise nirvana will have to be abandoned!