Yellow Robe - A Real Buddhist's Journal

Jun 12th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home Teachings The Five Aggregates The Burden of the Five Aggregates - Carrying the Burden

The Burden of the Five Aggregates - Carrying the Burden

E-mail Print PDF
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

Carrying the Burden

This body is a heavy burden. Serving it means carrying the heavy burden. When we feed and clothe it, we are carrying the burden. This also means that we are servants to aggregate of material body. Having fed and clothed the body we must also see to it that it is sound and happy both in the physical and psychological sense. This is also serving aggregate of feeling. Again we must see that this body experiences good sights and sounds. This is concerned with consciousness. Therefore we are serving the aggregate of consciousness.

These three burdens are quite obvious. The aggregate of material body says: "Feed me well. Give me what I like to eat; if not, I shall make myself ill or weak. Or, worst still, I shall make myself die!" Then we shall have to try to please it.

Then aggregate of feeling also says: "Give me pleasurable sensations; if not, I shall make myself painful or regretful. Or worst still, I shall make myself die!" Then we shall have to hanker after pleasurable sensations to serve its needs.

Then aggregate of perception also say: "Give me good sights. Give me good sounds. I want pleasant sense-objects. Find them for me; if not, I shall make myself unhappy and frightful. Eventually I shall make myself die!" Then we shall have to do its biddings.

It is as if all these three aggregates are perpetually threatening us so we cannot help complying with their demands, and this compliance is a great burden on us.

The aggregate of volitional activities is also another burden. Life demands that we satisfy our daily needs and desires, and for that satisfaction we have to be active. We must be working all the time. This round of human activities gets encouragement from our volition prompted by desire. These activities make threatening demands on us daily, indicating that if they are not met, trouble and even death would ensue. When human desires remained unfulfilled, they resort to crime.

How heavy the burden of the aggregate of volitional activities rests upon us! It is because we cannot carry this load well upon our shoulders that we get demoralized into committing sin that brings shame upon us. Criminal offences are committed mostly because we cannot carry the burden of the aggregate of volitional activities well. When criminals die, they may be consigned to the netherworld, and they may be reborn as petas (ghosts) or animals. Even when they are reborn as human beings, their evil actions will follow in their wake and punish them. They may be short-lived, oppressed with disease all the time, face poverty and starvation, friendless, and always living in danger or in troublous surroundings.

The aggregate of perception is also a great burden because it is with perception that you train your faculties like memory to be able to retain knowledge and wisdom which can discern good from bad, and reject from your mind unwholesome things produced by unpleasant sense-objects. If the demands of the mind for pleasant sense-objects are not met, it will take up only evil, which does nobody any good. Regrets and anxieties arise because we cannot shoulder the burden of the aggregate of perception well.

For all these reasons, the Buddha declared the five aggregates of clinging a heavy burden. We carry the burden of our aggregates not for a time, not for a minute, not for an hour, not for a day, not for a year, not for one life, not for one world, and not for one aeon. We carry the burden from the beginning of the samsara, round of rebirths, but it is infinite. It has no beginning, and there is no way of knowing when it will end. Its finality can be reached only with the extermination of kilesa, defilements of the mind, as we get to the stage of the arahatta magga, the path of the Noble Ones. Even arahats have to tolerate this burden before they attain nibbāna. The arahats, therefore, used to contemplate thus:- "For how long shall we carry this burden of the five aggregates which give rise to suffering?" Even an arahat has to tend to the well-being of his aggregates. To feed it he has to go round for alms. He has to take a bath to cleanse it. He has to excrete for its inner cleanliness. He has to take care of its health by daily adopting the four postures, of walking, sitting, standing, and lying down. He has to sleep regularly for its recuperation. Such are the loads that weigh him down.

Ordinary individuals or worldlings are obsessed with craving, and therefore they consider the five aggregates of psychophysical phenomena not burdensome; to them the burden is light. When we say it is heavy they might consider that we are vilifying because they think that aggregates give them enjoyment of life. There are pleasant sights to see, mellifluous sounds to hear, delicious food to taste, fragrant perfumes to smell, and pleasurable body-touch to experience. There are also good things to know.

Under the influence of craving, life is considered unblameworthy. Being delighted with the agreeable sense-objects, one feels that one's burden is light. For example, a man loves his wife very much. Neighbours, however, have noticed certain faults in her, but the husband is blind to them. As far as he knows about her, she has been always sweet to him. Her behaviour is beyond reproach. So he does not believe what others say about her faults. In the same way one who has a craving for one's aggregates cannot easily accept the criticism that it is burdensome.


Preserve this Website


" Few among men reach the other shore (Nibbana); all the others only run up and down on this shore. "

The Dhammapada

Social Bookmark

Yellow Robe Newsletter