Yellow Robe - A Real Buddhist's Journal

May 30th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home Teachings The Five Aggregates The Burden of the Five Aggregates - Individual and Khanda

The Burden of the Five Aggregates - Individual and Khanda

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

Individual and Khanda

When we use the expression that someone comes into being, the someone referred to is not the individual, but the suffering inherent in the five aggregates. What has been established as someone is not the individual but a load of suffering. And in the same way what has passed away is also a load of suffering that is inherent in the aggregates. So when, in this Bhara Sutta, it is said that the porter who carries the burden is the individual, the statement merely conforms to common usage. By the term, individual, is meant the five aggregates. But it does not mean to say that there is an individual beyond the five aggregates.


'Individual' is used just for terminological purposes. It is but a name. To make things understandable we have to fall back upon the use of things made known. If we say that the burden of this aggregate is born from the aggregate, it would be too abstract, and few would understand the meaning it conveys.


There are two methods of instruction in Buddha's teachings, namely, the ultimate teaching and the mundane teaching. The former being concerned with abstract knowledge while the latter with ordinary or conventional knowledge appealing to perception by which objects are known by their names. When we discuss about impermanence, suffering, truth, establishment of mindfulness, and sense-spheres, we are concerned with ultimate subjects. When we talk about men, women, devas, brahmins, etc., we are concerned with everyday subjects that one mentions by name.

There are people who can see the light of the dhamma by mundane means of instruction as well as those who get enlightened by ultimate means. A professor who knows many languages explains things to his English Pupils in English, Indian pupils in Hindi and Myanmar pupils in Myanmar. Buddha taught in much the same way employing either of the two methods I have mentioned. There are eight reasons why Buddha used names in common usage and taught in the mundane way, namely,

(1) to explain shame and fear which act as deterrents to sin

When we say that the aggregates are ashamed or frightened, the meaning of the term may not be understood; but when we say that the girl got ashamed or frightened, everyone will understand what the statement means. Therefore when Buddha wanted to emphasise the development of the sense of shame of fear as deterrents to sinning, he used common parlance.

(2) to show that individuals have only kamma as their belonging

When we say the aggregates have only their kamma as their possession, the meaning of the statement may be ambiguous. But when we say that individuals commit good or evil deeds which result in good or evil kammas, and that therefore, these kammas are their own possession, the individual kamma can be understood. When kamma is to be expounded Buddha used names in current speech.

(3) to describe the outstanding deeds of individuals.

When we say that aggregates build houses or monasteries, the meaning will not be clear. So when we speak of Anathapinika we say that he built the Jetavana Monastery, mentioning him by name. Then the meaning will be clearly understood. Hence the use of individ ual names.

(4) to explain the uninterrupted and irredeemable nature of the worst type of kamma

When we say that the aggregates kill their parents, no one will be able to understand what it means. But everybody will understand us when we say that the son killed his mother or that King Ajatasattu killed his father, bimbisara. Evil kammas at once seize the matricides and patricides the moment they die. And this work of karma is said to be irredeemable in nature as the worst type of evil kamma known as anantariya and it allows no pause for rest. In an explanation of this kind, Buddha used common language. Ajatasattu was seized by the heavy kamma because he killed his father. So although he had had the opportunity to hear Buddha preach, he failed to get illumined in the dhamma. Killing his father acted as an impediment to the realization of the Path, and so he is regarded as a maggantaraya, danger to the Path. After his death he went straight for the netherworld to suffer in Lohakumbhi hell, losing the opportunity to be raised to heaven. Therefore, he is also regarded as sagfantaraya, danger to the world of devas.

(5) to encourage the exercise of Brahmavihara, perfect goodwill towards all beings

When we say that aggregates send their good wishes to other aggregates for their long life and happiness one may not understand what it means. So we say monks and laymen wish other monks and laymen happiness and liberation from human miseries, Buddha preached his disciples about the practice of Brahmacariya, exercise of the qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, goodwill and equanimity. Establishment in this exercise is known as Brahmavihara. When Buddha wanted to expound this doctrine he used the mundane teaching. Here, those who do not know Buddha's methodology in teaching the dhamma conceived that supramundane teaching is better and therefore, send their good wishes not to the individual, but to the aggregates. It must be remembered that in practicing Brahmacariya, not only the generic term all beings is used but also the specific term all men, all women, etc., is used. In sending love and kindness regard to others one has to direct his mind or attention to recipients as individuals, and not to their mind and matter. Mind and matter being abstraction, they would present themselves like bricks and stones; and if that be so, what boots it to send one's love and regards to inanimate objects? It is, therefore, commonplace that when you are practicing Brahmacariya, you must recognize the individuality of those on whom your mind dwells.

(6) to reveal the nature of supernormal faculty of remembering the past lives of oneself and others

If we say that out aggregates can remember their past, no one will be able to understand what that means. So we say Buddha remembered this, or the arahat remembered that. When, therefore, Buddha wanted to say something about the remembrance of things past exercising his supernormal faculty, as it is called, he used the mundane teaching.

(7) to explain purity of gifts

If we say we make our offerings to the aggregates, it will be ambiguous. One aggregate gives food to another aggregate. One aggregate gives robes to another khandna. How can aggregates give and how can they receive them? Which group of matter can promote merits of giving away, and which group demerits? Which group of matter is wholesome and which unwholesome? If one links to abstracts, confusions would surely arise. Buddha, therefore, referred to the giver and the recipient as individuals.

(8) to abide by current speech

Now I come to the eight reason why Buddha taught mundane teaching. Who could have realized more than Buddha that all existences are the phenomena of nama and rupa arising and passing away and that all conditioned things are in a state of flux? On appropriate occasions he taught them so. But he never rejected common usage. There are terms like mother, father, son, daughter, man, woman, god, monk, etc. These terms are used in everyday speech; and Buddha spoke the language of the people current in his time.


Preserve this Website


" The elephant called Dhanapala, in serve must and uncontrollable, being in captivity, eats not a morsel, yearning for his native forest (i.e., longing to look after his parents). "

The Dhammapada

Social Bookmark

Yellow Robe Newsletter