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Canonical Pâli Buddhist Literature of the Theravâda School

(c) Khandha Vagga Saihyutta Pali

The main theme of most suttas in this division is, as the name im- plies, khandhas, the five aggregates that constitute what is regarded as a being Each of the components of these aggregates, namely, matter, sensation, perception, mental concomitants and consciousness is shown to be a bundle of dukkha, suffering Made up of thirteen samyuttas, Khandha Vagga fonns an important collection of doctrinal discussion on such topics as atta, anatta, eternity, and annihilation

The Nakulapitu Strtta gives an account of the advice given to Nakulapita, an ageing disciple of the Buddha He asks for advice from the Buddha on how to conduct and keep himself free from the pains of old age and disease The Buddha explains that rupakkhandha, the material body being a bundle of dukkha, is subjected constantly to the pains of old age and disease; but the mental complex could be kept free of agony and pain by keeping it undefiled with impurities A more detailed exposition of this brief explanation of the Buddha is given to Nakulapita by the Venerable Sariputta The unmstructed common worldling clings to the five aggregates through craving and conceit, and holds the wrong view that each of the aggregates (riipa, vedana, sanna, sankhara and viiinana) is self, atta Even as he clings to the five aggregates as atta these aggregates manifest their own oppressive characters by inflicting pain of old age, pain of disease, pain of defilements (ktlesa). Because of these oppressive pains, the unmstructed common worldling is subjected to sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair. But when the worldling becomes instructed and has become accomplished in the Thirty-Seven Factors of Enlightenment, he does not cling to the five aggregates through craving, conceit or holding wrong views of self Then even though the five aggregates manifest their own characteristics of being oppressive, he is no longer subjected to mental afflictions of sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair

In the Bhara Sutta, the five groups of grasping (Pancupddanak- khandha) are designated as a burden, a heavy load It is craving for sense objects, craving for existence, craving for non-existence which is responsible for this heavy burden being borne along Realization of the Noble Truth of Cessation, Nibbana, is where the craving is completely eradicated, where this heavy load is finally discarded.

The Yamaka Sutta explains that the five aggregates are of an impermanent nature; they should be looked upon as one's enemies Understanding their real nature of impermanence, unsatisfactori- ness, insubstantiality, the twenty kinds of wrong views of self should be discarded so that one may not be set upon by these enemies

The Vakkali Sutta gives an account of the Buddha's visit to the ailing Bhikkhu Vakkali upon his request The great compassion of the Buddha becomes manifest in this account When Vakkali informs the Buddha that for a long time he has been longing to set his eyes upon the Buddha, the Buddha gently reproaches him. "Vakkali, what is there in seeing the decomposing body of mine? It is enough to see the Dhamma. He who has seen the Dhamma has seen me. This body of mine is like all else always rotting away, falling into decay " Then the Buddha teaches him the dhamma on the impermanence of all things, their unsatisfactonness and insubstantiality and finally shows him the way to liberation

Of the five aggregates, the Buddha says it is better for a person to mistake his physical body as atta, self, rather than mine or con- sciousness, because the physical body appears more solid and sub- stantial than thought 01 mind which constantly changes faster than the physical body

The Khemaka Sutta records an illuminating conversation be- tween a bhikkhu named Khemaka and a group of bhikkhus who want to verify the stage ol his attainments When the bhikkhus ask him if he sees sell or anything pertaining to self in the five aggregates, Khemaka replies "No" But when the bhikkhus suggest that if so, he must be an Arahat iree from defilements Khemaka replies that though he does not find sell or anything pertaining to self in the five khandhas, he is not an Arahat free oi taints He still has a vague feeling U I am" although he does not clearly see "this is F with respect to matter, sensation, perception, mental formations or consciousness

His vague leelmg is likened to the smell of a flower It is neither the smell oi the petals, nor oi the colour, nor of the pollen, but the smell of the flower He then goes on to explain that even if a person retains the leelmg "I am" at the early stages of realization, as he pro- gresses lurther and attains to higher stages, his feeling of "I am" dis- appears altogether, just as the smell of soap lingers in a freshly wash- ed cloth and disappears alter a time when it is kept in a box

In the Puppha Sutta, the Buddha declares that he is not quarrel- ling or arguing with the world, it is only the world with its devas, maras, kings and people that \^ disputing with him To proclaim the truth is not engaging in disputes He speaks only what wise men hold to be true \\ ise men sa\ that there is no corporeality, sensation, perception, mental formations or consciousness which is stable, per- manent, enduring He says the same Wise men say that there is only corporeality, sensation, perception, mental formations or conscious- ness which is unstable, impermanent, unendunng He also says so

"In this changing world, there are only things which are subject to constant change and decay Perceiving their real nature, I declare that the world is compounded ot things subject to decay and decom- position, namely, the aggregates of matter, sensation, perception, mental formations and consciousness, which are incessantly rising and passing away. There is nothing else besides these perishing aggregates Bhikkhus, I teach this dhamma in a brief manner I also teach this dhamma more comprehensively and completely But if the uninstructed common worldling remains unperceivmg and un- knowing in spite of very enlightening discourses, how can I help? Bhikkhus, various kinds of lotus grow in water, develop in water, rise above water, and remain there unpolluted by water, so also I was born in this world, I grew up in this world, I developed m this world and rose high above it without being attached to it, without being affected by if

In the Phenapindupama Sutta, the aggregate of rupa is likened to froth, it is unstable, impermanent, constantly rising, and vanishing It is therefore not self The aggregate of vedand is likened to an air bubble The various sensations are just like bubbles, disappearing fast, impermanent, untrustworthy, of the nature of amcca, dukkha and anatta Sense perception which apprehends whatever is seen, heard, smelt, tasted, touched or known, is likened to a mirage What is considered by a samana as a being, a man, a woman or self is an optical illusion like a mirage In reality, it is merely a phenomenon of incessant arising and vanishing Sankhdra, volitional activities, are likened to plantain trunks A plantain trunk is made up of layers of fi- brous material with no substantial, solid inner core Sankkdra is like the plantain trunk void of inner substance. Consciousness is like a con- juror's tnck It arises and vanishes instantly Consciousness arises not as one wishes, but as conditioned by its own cause and circumstance  

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