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Khanda Sutta Five Clinging-Aggregates

by

Introduction

For a complete understanding of this sutta within the context intended by an awakened human being, please read the suttas linked inline and at the end of this article. ([x]) Inline links will open in a new window.

Everything the Buddha taught was taught in the context of Dependent Origination and the ongoing stress, suffering and distraction that results from ignorance of Four Noble Truths. 

[1]  Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta

[2]  Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

His first teaching was taught to describe the results of this common ignorance and the single path the Buddha taught to recognize and abandon ignorance.

[3]  Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

The Five  Clinging-Aggregates are the Buddha’s description of the ongoing personal experience of ignorance of Four Noble Truths and the stress and suffering that follows this initial condition. 

The Buddha teaches from his very first Sutta: “This is the noble truth of stress:

“Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful. Sorrow, regret, pain, distress, and despair are stressful. Furthermore, association with the unbeloved is stressful and separation from is loved is stressful. Not getting what is craved for is stressful. In short, the Five Clinging Aggregates are stressful.”

Five Clinging-Aggregates is the Buddha’s description of the personal experience of ignorance of Four Truths: ongoing discontent, confusion, delusion, greed, aversion, stress.

“Khanda” (Skhanda: Sanskrit) is the Pali word the Buddha used to decode Five Clinging-Aggregates. Khanda means “heap” or “trunk” as in the trunk of a tree. As a heap, this describes an ambiguous pile of discreet objects intentionally brought together for a purpose. Like the trunk of a tree it is a metaphor both for human suffering requires a fabricated structure that acts as a tree trunk in supporting what grows from the trunk. A trunk or cut stump of a tree can be burned away much like the fires of passion” are burned away from the wisdom developed through the Eightfold Path.

My comments below are in italics.

Khandha Sutta: Five Aggregates

Samyutta Nikaya 22.48

The Buddha was in Savatthi. He addressed those gathered: “Friends, I will now teach you the Five Aggregates and the Five Clinging-Aggregates. Listen carefully.

Notice the distinction between “aggregates” and “clinging-aggregates.” It is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that is the underlying condition fo a human being to self-identify with these always impersonal phenomena. The aggregates are always present and define a human being. From ignorance, a human being “clings” these aggregates together to create a fabricated view of an individual and permanent (through eternity schemes) “self.”

“What are the Five Aggregates?

  • Whatever form is seen as past, future, or present, internal or external, obvious or subtle, common or sublime, near or far. This is called the form aggregate. 
  • Whatever feeling is seen as past, future, or present, internal or external, obvious or subtle, common or sublime, near or far. This is called the feeling aggregate.
  • Whatever perception is seen as past, future, or present, internal or external, obvious or subtle, common or sublime, near or far. This is called the perception aggregate.
  • Whatever mental fabrications are seen as past, future, or present, internal or external, obvious or subtle, common or sublime, near or far. This is called the fabrications aggregate.
  • Whatever consciousness is seen as past, future, or present, internal or external, obvious or subtle, common or sublime, near or far. This is called the consciousness aggregate.

“These are known as ‘Five Clinging-Aggregates.’

“Now, Whatever form is seen as past, future, or present, internal or external, obvious or subtle, common or sublime, near or far, becomes clingable and is sustained by ignorance (of Four Noble Truths). This is called the Form Clinging-Aggregate.

“Likewise, Whatever feeling, perception, fabrications, or consciousness is seen as past, future, or present, internal or external, obvious or subtle, common or sublime, near or far, become cling-able and is sustained by ignorance (of Four Noble Truths). 

“These are all called the Five Clinging-Aggregate.”

End Of Sutta

The references to “past, future, or present, internal or external, obvious or subtle, common or sublime, near or far” shows that physical self-reference and speculative, non-physical self-reference is equally rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Any “dharma” that seeks to establish a “self” in any fabricated realm can only further ignorance and confusion. These fabricated “dharmas” are now sustained through clinging these fabricated views to form, feeling, perception, fabrications, or consciousness. The very vehicle the Buddha teaches whose sole purpose is to obscure ignorance through clinging and maintaining is continued through maintenance of ignorance now ignored in a fabricated and constantly adapted wrong views.

Linked Articles For Further Study

  1.  Dependent Origination – The Paticca
  2. Samuppada Sutta Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  3.  Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

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Sources

My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings  (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Acharya Buddharakkhita, Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.

Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.

I have made edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain contextual relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.


Becoming-Buddha.com and Dhamma articles and recordings by John Haspel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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