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Jun 12th
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Home Teachings The Five Aggregates The Burden of the Five Aggregates - Introduction

The Burden of the Five Aggregates - Introduction

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Article Index
The Burden of the Five Aggregates
Upadana - Clingings
Carrying the Burden
Who Carries the Burden
Individual and Khanda
Purity of Gifts
Short Summary
Cause of Burden
Craving for Sensual Pleasures
Craving for Existence
Craving for Non-Existence
Throw Down the Burden
All Pages


The Buddha said,

"O bhikkhus! I will tell you about the burden, about the porter who carries the burden, about the act of transportation of the burden and about the laying down of the burden. Hark me well and pay good attention. I shall speak of them now."

The Buddha enjoins the monks to pay good attention to his discourse relating to the burden, the porter, the act of transportation and the laying down of the burden, Buddha's insistence on paying good attention is worthy of note. Nothing avails him who does not listen well. Only those who fix their minds on what is taught can get enlightenment on the knowledge of the Noble Path and its fruition. In prefacing his discourse, his emphasis lies on how to throw down the burden much to one's relief and joy.

When the disciples had pledged themselves to be attentive, the Buddha opened the subject with the following introduction:

"What o bhikkhus, is the burden? Five aggregates of clinging, are the veritable burden."

In our daily life we might have come across stevedores at ports or porters in railway station, transporting heavy loads from place to place. Some loads are so heavy that cranes have to be employed. A familiar sight in Burma is a worker carrying rice-bags. A strong man can carry it or even keep it on his shoulders for a long time. But this long time is, in point of fact, only a matter of minutes. He cannot keep it for hours, not to say for days. If he were to keep it on his shoulders permanently, he might be crushed to death. But what a relief it is when he throws it down! He now feels glad that at long last the job is over, but this is just an ordinary load that one can carry. What about this burden of the five aggregates of psycho-physical phenomena which we call the body? When we cling to these five aggregates, we have the great burden.

What I would like to tell you is this burden of the aggregates, which is heavier than any other burden that working peoples are daily carrying from place to place. Every living being is occupied with keeping his body fit and well, He has to feed it daily so that it remains healthy. Some have to be mindful of not only keeping the well-being of their bodies, but also that of the bodies of others, and this is not only for a while, but is for the entire span of human life. This is said in relation to the present existence only.

As a matter of fact, we are all carrying the burden of existence through the myriads of the samsara, the rounds of rebirths. We cannot lift it off our shoulders even for a while. What then, are the heavy loads of the five aggregates of clinging?

Here is what the Buddha taught:

"What are the five aggregates of clinging? They are elucidated as: the aggregate of clinging to material body; the aggregate of clinging to feeling or sensations; the aggregate of clinging to perception; the aggregate of clinging to volitional activities; the aggregate of clinging to consciousness. O bhikkhus! These are the five burdens."

I have been lecturing repeatedly on these five aggregates of clinging, because in essence, there are only these five aggregates in all the phenomenal existence. I shall, therefore, repeat this sermon here briefly.

Khandha means a group or an aggregate. All phenomenas; past, present, and future are grouped into the five aggregates . This statement calls for further explanation. When a phenomenon arises, the body is involved. This body existed in the past, and it is still here at the present. It will continue to exist in the future, and It is within us as well as without. It may be coarse or refined, inferior or superior quality, and proximate or remote. All such distinctions can be grouped into an aggregate, and we name the group aggregate of material body; the assemblage of the material elements and properties that constitute what we call the body.

When feeling, perception, volitional activities, and consciousness are similarly grouped or classified, they are respectively called aggregate of feeling, aggregate of perception, aggregate of volitional activities, and aggregate of consciousness.

But there is one single dhamma which cannot be grouped or classified in the manner specified herein, and it is nibbāna . It is one, and has no past, no present, and no future. It is also limitless

Clinging or grasping is intensified by craving or desire and wrong view or belief. It therefore connotes a high degree of attachment. The five aggregates of clinging are so called because they form the objects of such attachment. In the five aggregates, aggregate of material body concerns with the body only while the remaining four relate to feeling, perception, volitional activities, and consciousness belong to aggregate of mind .

Clinging encompasses all attachments to the five aggregates. Here in the this Bhara Sutta, where we are concerned with the discussion of the "Burden," we shall deal only with things mundane, and exclude things supramundane. Thus we will be omitting the supramundane consciousness, which is developed by practicing the Eightfold Noble Path. Then, both aggregate of material body and aggregate of mind will be discussed.

In summary,

Upadanakkhanda -heavy burden the five aggregates of clinging

rupakkhandha - aggregate of body
rupakkhandha - aggregate of body
namakkhandha - aggregate of mind
vedanakkhandha - aggregate of feeling
saññakkhandha - aggregate of perception
sankharakkhandha - aggregate of volitional activities
viññanakkandha - aggregate of consciousness



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" He who has this feeling of displeasure cut off, sprouted and removed, will surely attain concentration (samadhi) by day or by night. "

The Dhammapada

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