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Released From Affliction – Khajjaniya Sutta
For a complete understanding of this sutta within the context intended by an awakened human being, please read the suttas linked at the end of this article. ([x])
Everything the Buddha taught was taught in the context of Dependent Origination and the ongoing stress, suffering, confusion and distraction that results from ignorance of Four Noble Truths. 
His first teaching was taught to describe the results of this common ignorance and the singular path the Buddha taught to recognize and abandon ignorance. [2,3]
The Khajjaniya Sutta is a profound teaching on the confusion and suffering that follows from clinging to speculative views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. The Buddha describes the personal experience of ongoing stress and suffering as “Five Clinging Aggregates.” 
Here the Buddha shows how ignorance is continued by constantly embellishing this personal experience of suffering by clinging to any and every thought, word, and idea that distracts from understanding the true nature of a “person.” 
A mind rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths is constantly grasping at fabrications in order to continually give birth to another moment rooted in ignorance. A most convenient way to establish self-referential views is to do so in speculative, suppositional, imaginary, non-physical realms or distracting rituals. To a mind rooted in ignorance and afflicted with craving, aversion, and deluded thinking this will often momentarily provide satisfaction and so further distract a confused and deluded mind.
One moment of satisfying distraction is enough to establish self-identification with the fabricated and distracting impermanent experience. Once established, clinging to others so afflicted often follows, further ‘validating’ fabricated views. 
This is what the Buddha taught Ananda in the Upaddha Sutta in response to Ananda’s question regarding the importance of wise associations and a well-focused sangha. 
As seen here, and many other suttas, the compulsion for speculative self-establishment was common during the Buddha’s teaching career and continues to be common in modern Buddhism. This is the primary strategy a mind rooted in ignorance will employ to ignore its own ignorance. This is how ignorance is continued.
My comments below are in italics.
Released From Affliction – Khajjaniya Sutta
Samyutta Nikaya 22:79
On one occasion the Buddha was staying at Savatthi. There he addressed those gathered: “Friends, any Dhamma practitioner who directs their thinking to past lives are only recollecting one or all of the Five Clinging-Aggregates.
The Five Clinging-Aggregates describe the ongoing personal experience of confusion, deluded thinking, and unsatisfactory experiences. Here the Buddha is teaching that craving after self-establishment in imaginary and speculative realms is simply furthering ignorance and can only continue suffering. The intention for ’recollecting past lives’ is speculative and another distracting strategy of a self-referential ego-personality rooted in ignorance.
- When recollecting ‘I was one with such a form in the past’ one is only recollecting form.
- When recollecting ‘I was one with such a feeling in the past’ one is only recollecting feeling.
- When recollecting ‘I was one with such perceptions in the past’ one is only recollecting perceptions.
- When recollecting ‘I was one with such fabrications in the past’ one is only recollecting fabrications.
- When recollecting ‘I was one with such a consciousness in the past’ one is only recollecting consciousness.
“Why is the form aggregate called ‘form’? Because it is afflicted. Form is afflicted with cold, heat, hunger, thirst, wind, sun, bugs, and reptiles.
The Five Clinging-Aggregates describe the ongoing personal experience of suffering. It is from personalizing ordinary and impermanent phenomena that one joins with suffering through self-identification, e.g. ‘I am cold, I am hot, etc.
“Why is the feeling aggregate called ‘feeling’? Because it feels. It feels pleasure, pain, and neither-pleasure-nor-pain.
“Why is the perception aggregate called ‘perception’? Because it perceives. It perceives blue, yellow, red, white.
“Why is the fabrication aggregate called ‘fabrication’? Because it fabricates. It fabricates what is experienced as form, feelings, perceptions, consciousness. It fabricates fabrications.
Dependent Origination clearly shows that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that is the requisite condition for fabrications. Fabrications are one aggregate that can only continue to fabricate life experiences furthering confused and deluded consciousness. 
The Buddha’s clear teaching on the conditions that confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing unsatisfactory experiences are dependent on is the most fabricated, corrupted, and often intentionally ignored “teaching” in modern Buddhism By Common Agreement. 
A mind rooted in ignorance will compulsively ignore anything that challenges its ignorance. The intent and purpose of the Eightfold Path is to provide the framework and necessary guidance to recognize and abandon ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
“Why is the consciousness aggregate called ‘consciousness’? Because it cognizes. It cognizes sour, sweet, bitter, pungent, salty, bland.
From awakened Right View, a now supple and spacious consciousness impersonally and dispassionately recognizes differences in phenomena free of any choice or self-reference. A self- referential grasping mind will cling to and embellish ordinary differences to further ignorance and further self-establishment. It is the compulsive need for continual self- establishment that has resulted in doctrines of one-mind, unity consciousness, interdependence, interconnectedness, inter-being, nothingness, emptiness, no-self, and non-duality. 
“Friends, a well-instructed Dhamma practitioner understands: ‘I am now being afflicted by form. In the past, I was afflicted by form. If I delight in future form I will likewise be afflicted with future form.
Speculative self-establishments in the past or to the future will only continue distraction from the singular establishment of Right Mindfulness in life as life occurs. Believing that one is affected by past lives or can impact or manipulate further lives is a contradiction to the Buddha’s Dhamma and a complete misunderstanding of the Eightfold Path and Karma. 
“Understanding, they become disenchanted with past and future form. They are now practicing the Dhamma to become disenchanted and dispassionate with present form. They are now practicing the Dhamma to develop cessation from clinging to present form.
Abandoning speculation, one can now direct there Right Effort to the matter at hand – integrating and developing to completion the Eightfold Path.
“Furthermore, this well-instructed Dhamma practitioner understands: ‘I am now being afflicted by feelings, by perceptions, by fabrications, and by consciousness. In the past, I was also afflicted by feelings, by perceptions, by fabrications, and by consciousness. If I delight in future feelings, perceptions, fabrications, or consciousness, I will likewise be afflicted with future feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness.
Delighting in continued self-establishment will ensure further confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointment.
“Understanding, they become disenchanted with past and future feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness. They are now practicing the Dhamma to become disenchanted and dispassionate with present feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness. They are now practicing the Dhamma to develop cessation from clinging to present feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness.
“What do you think, friends? Is form permanent or impermanent? Are feeling, perceptions, fabrications, consciousness permanent or impermanent?”
“Great Teacher, they are all impermanent”
“And is that which is impermanent easeful or stressful?”
“What is impermanent is always stressful, Great Teacher.”
“Friends, is it fitting to self-identify with what is impermanent and stressful, always subject to change and uncertainty as ‘This is me, this is mine, this is what I am?”
“Great Teacher, it is not fitting to self-identify with what is impermanent and stressful, always subject to change and uncertainty as ‘This is me, this is mine, this is what I am.”
“Friends, it is known by the wise that any form whatsoever that is past, present or future, any form that is internal or external, any form that is obvious or subtle, any form that is common or sublime, any form near or far, should always be seen through Right View as ‘this is not me, this is not mine, this is not what I am.’
“Furthermore, any feelings, perceptions, fabrications, or consciousness whatsoever past, present or future, internal or external, obvious or subtle, common or sublime, near or far, should always be seen through Right View as ‘this is not me, this is not mine, this is not what I am.’
Modern Buddhism By Common Agreement often emphasizes the need to recollect past lives and speculative self-establishment as a ’sign’ that one has awakened. The Buddha here and many other suttas teaches that any attempt to establish a ‘self’ in imaginary, speculative non-physical realms is not a Dhamma teaching and will only further ignorance. 
“This, friends is called a Dhamma practitioner who diminishes rather than embellishes, who abandons rather than clings, who discards rather than acquires, who scatters and does not pile up.
“The wise Dhamma practitioner diminishes form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness rather than embellish these aggregates.
“The wise Dhamma practitioner abandons form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness rather than cling to these aggregates.
“The wise Dhamma practitioner discards form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness rather than acquire these aggregates.
A wise Dhamma practitioner is no longer driven by the compulsion to adapt, accommodate, or embellish the Buddha’s Dhamma in any manner. The Heartwood of the Dhamma – the Eightfold Path – is the complete path of an awakened teacher to recognize and abandon all self-referential desire.
The wise Dhamma practitioner scatters form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness rather than pile up these aggregates.
“Understanding impermanence with regard to these aggregates the well-instructed Dhamma practitioner grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perceptions, and they grow disenchanted with consciousness.
“Disenchanted they become dispassionate. With dispassion established, there is release. (from clinging to wrong views ignorant of Four Noble Truths)
“Released, they now know they are released. They know that birth is ended, a life well-integrated with the Heartwood has been fulfilled, the tasks is complete. They know that there will be no further entanglements with the world.
“This, friends is a Dhamma practitioner who neither diminishes nor embellishes form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, or consciousness. but who is now established in the Dhamma having abandoned (identifying with) these aggregates.
“This, friends is a Dhamma practitioner who neither clings to nor abandons form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, or consciousness. but who is now established in the Dhamma having abandoned these aggregates.
The process of recognizing wrong views of self rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths is complete. It can clearly be seen that this sutta also defines the ‘insight’ the Buddha teaches. Rather than the broad, grasping, self-referential ‘insight” common today, the Buddha teaches that skillful insight is profound and penetrative insight of Impermanence, Not-Self, and Dukkha/Suffering, all aspects of Five Clinging Aggregates. 
“This, friends is a Dhamma practitioner who neither acquires nor discards form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, or consciousness, but who is now established in the Dhamma having discarded these aggregates.
“This, friends is a Dhamma practitioner who neither piles up nor scatters form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, or consciousness. but who is now established in the Dhamma having scattered these aggregates.
“Friends, I declare it is from diminishing, abandoning, discarding, and scattering these aggregates that one is established in the Dhamma, a wise Dhamma practitioner free of affliction.
Friends, one who has released their mind from all wrong views is never afflicted again by speculation. This one is established in Right View.
End Of Sutta
- Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
- Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
- Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
- Five Clinging-Aggregates
- Nothing Personal – A Buddha’s Analysis Of Sel
- Miracle Of Dhamma Instruction
- An Admirable Sangha – Upaddha Sutta
- Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views
- Dependent Origination, Anatta, And The Myth Of Non-Duality
- Karma And Rebirth
- Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha
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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.
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