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Jun 23rd
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Home Teachings The Five Aggregates The Burden of the Five Aggregates - Cause of Burden

The Burden of the Five Aggregates - Cause of Burden

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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

Cause of Burden

Now, why do people carry this burden knowing it to be very heavy? Who prompts them to carry it? A serious consideration is enough to show you that no one is prompting anybody to carry it. It is he himself who is carrying it at his own sweet will. Those who believe in creation might say that God makes him carry it. If that be so, the poor, the diseased, the maimed, the blind, the deaf, and the oppressed would have ample reasons to quarrel with the creator. According to Buddha's teaching no one ever imposed the burden on us. It is the individual himself who accepts it. The Buddha said:

"O bhikkhus! What is it that makes us carry the burden? Craving makes us carry the burden."


Craving is very much like hunger and thirst. It yearns for pleasant, wholesome and beautiful objects. It is never satiated with them. It is always hungry for them. Having seen a pleasurable thing, it desires to see another. It likes to hear sweet music, enjoy fragrant smell, enjoy good taste, feel pleasant touch, and it wants to think or imagine about good subjects. It never gets satisfied with all the objects that appeal to the senses. It is always in great hunger which is all-consuming.

When the mind dwells on a pleasant object, it develops desire to possess it. This desire accepts the burden of the five aggregates which we call the body. Attachment to sense-objects is upadana (clinging) which strives for the fulfillment of desire. This produces good and evil actions. When one is near death these actions appear as kamma nimitas, signs associated with good or evil actions done in the past, which point up to a destiny guided by such actions. As the individuals cling to these signs, a new aggregate arises after the death by dint of that clinging. It may be seen that all the six senses of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and thinking play their parts in the creation of desire or attachment. The development of desire is tantamounts to the acceptance of the burden of the body. Because of desire, attachment is motivated and we describe this as upadana kamma, which gives rise to new aggregates. Hence we say that craving creates a new existence after the death of the man.

Craving gets absorbed into sense-objects with which it comes into contact without discrimination like the dyeing chemicals that hold fast on to the materials to be dyed. It attaches itself to them whether such attachment is proper in order or not. It takes a fancy to everything it sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches, and thinks about. So it is described in the scriptures as taking delight in objects. It never feels weary with enjoyment. From the point of view of a man in higher station in life, it may be presumed that superior beings will have no inclination for conditions of life of inferior beings. They may feel bored or repugnant under such conditions. But when they actually get debased they can find enjoyment in their new lives. Viewing from this plane of human existence, one would have thought that the bodies of worms or snakes are repulsive or abhorrent. The very thought that one would be reborn out of the womb of a worm or a snake is disgusting. But when, as his kamma asserts itself, an individua is born a worm or a snake, and he finds life in the animal kingdom highly enjoyable. That is the work of craving, which finds joy and pleasure wherever it is posted. So Buddha has also described it as a disposition which revels in whatever sense-objects wherever they exist.


Craving is threefold, namely, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for sensual pleasures associated with the view of eternalism, and craving for sensual pleasures associated with the view of nihilism. These cravings receive and accept the body called the aggregates.


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" The evil done by oneself, arising in oneself, and caused by oneself, destroys the foolish one, just as a diamond grinds the rock from which it is formed. "

The Dhammapada

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