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Jun 23rd
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Home Teachings The Five Aggregates The Burden of the Five Aggregates - Craving for Non-Existence

The Burden of the Five Aggregates - Craving for Non-Existence

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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

Craving for Non-Existence

Briefly put, nihilism is a belief in no hereafter. Everything perishes after death. It was the doctrine preached by Ajita who flourished during Buddha's time. It runs thus:

An individual is made up of primary elements of earth, water, fire, and air. When he dies, the earth-element goes into the mass of the earth; the water element flows into the mass of water; the fire element changes into heat; the air element flows into the mass of air. All organs of the senses ... of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and thinking ... disappear into space. When an individual, be he a wise man or a fool, dies, his body is destroyed and annihilated. Nothing is left after death.

While residing in the living body, the earth element manifests itself in the form of hardness or softness, but when the body dies, it merges itself with the earth. In other words, the earth element in the dead body turns into the material earth from which trees and plants grow. In like manner, water element in the dead body assumes wetness and fluidity of the material water. The nihilists of the Ajita school do not recognize the existence of consciousness. All the faculties of seeing, hearing, etc., are conditioned by matter. So when they referred to these faculties they used the term organ of sense. So, when a man dies, his matter is annihilated, and his faculties of the senses fritter away in space. No matter who dies, whether a wise man or a fool, his existence is "cut off" or snuffed out.

When a fool dies, there will be no rebirth and so he needs not to have any qualms of remorse for his evil deeds, just as the wise man is unaffected by his wholesonme deeds. This, briefly, is the way of thinking of Ajita. His doctrine appeals to those who revel in committing evil, finding it irksome to do good. As it postulates that there is no life after death, it may be argued that there is life before death. If that is the case, it may further be asked: "What is life before death?" The answer according to the line of reasoning of Ajita and his ilk, would be the living self or being. It suggests that, despite its views on the four primary elements, self or being exists. This is attachment to self pure and simple.

Those who hold nihilistic view stipulate that one should not waste time to do meritorious deeds for forthcoming existences (which will not be forthcoming in their views), but occupy oneself with full enjoyment of the present existence (i.e. the only existence one will have according to them). Craving arising out of this view of non-existence is craving for non-existence which promotes enjoyment of pleasures while they last since everything perishes after death. Naturally this ideology has a great appeal to those who delight in evil, shrinking from the practice of morality and other meritorious ways of life. Since nothing happens after death, there is no necessity to acquire merit. Those getting enamoured of this view do not like the idea that life is being constantly renewed and that the effects of good or bad kamma follow them in their trail. If no new life occurs after death, all their evil actions will come to an end with the end of their existence, and they will not be held responsible for any consequences (i.e. good or bad deeds). In fact, evil deeds done by them will be expunged when they pass away, and emerge from them as innocent as a lamb; Sensualism often finds satisfaction in the idea of total annihilation.

A man possessed by it is always eager to enjoy all the pleasures of life without any restraint in the commitment of sins. This acceptance of pleasures in the present existence is tantamount to the acceptance of the aggregates that will arise in the next existence. Evil actions that accumulate in this life are akusala kammas in which the dying man get attached. By the dint of these kammas, new aggregate will arise. As long as craving persists, new existence is inevitable notwithstanding the nihilistic view. It is like when medical advice says that the patient should not take any food unsuitable to his health, but the patient cannot restrain himself and takes what has been forbidden. The result will be that his condition worsens, and he might even die. The man afflicted with nihilism is like that patient.

Although he believes in no hereafter, his craving for pleasurable objects are so intense such that he "becomes" again, despite what his philosophy says. His new existence will hardly serve him in good stead because he has never done any meritorious deeds before. Every evil action produces evil result. (It may even be put forward that to every evil action there is an opposite evil reaction). His philosophy has all along been the fulfillment of selfish desires regardless of adverse consequences to others. Let others die so that he may live, so he considers. He has no qualms of remorse for his actions that harm others. As he develops only bad kammas in this way, he will have nothing to hope for except inferior and miserable existences throughout the future of this samsara.

To repeat, craving for non-existence believes that there is no hereafter. One who is afflicted with this kind of craving indulges in pleasures without restraint in, what he considers as the happy notion that as all things perish with death , one will not have to answer for actions that are good or bad during his life-time.


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" He who is free from craving, and from attachment, who is skilled in the knowledge of the significance of terms, who knows the grouping of letters and their sequence is indeed called "one who has lived his last, a man of great wisdom, a great man". "

The Dhammapada

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