Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Aug 29, 2012 12:44 pm

In the Khanda sutta there is a distinction between the aggregates and the clinging aggregates, but I'm not sure I see the significance - is the idea that aggregates are OK but clinging aggregates are dukkha?
I'd be interested in your thoughts.

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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby Gaoxing » Wed Aug 29, 2012 1:31 pm

As long as there are living beings the aggragates will be present.

I see it in a very simple way. "If the car starts driving the driver, something is seriously wrong and unwanted things will happen" but if the driver stays in control and unattached to the car, the car serves the correct purpose"

I might be wrong.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby rowyourboat » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:52 pm

Do you agree that the cause of suffering is clinging? :)

If so, clinging to aggregates (clinging to anything) can lead to suffering -as everything is impermanent.

The purpose of buddhist practice is to relieve suffering, be relieving the source of suffering, which is clinging.

Hope that clarifies.

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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby vinasp » Sat Sep 01, 2012 12:34 am

Hi porpoise,

I think that you are correct when you say that the clinging-aggregates are dukkha.

I would go further and say that they are eliminated at some stage of awakening.

There is a series of suttas which explain what is destroyed by the noble eightfold
path: SN 45.171 to 45.180 [Bhikkhu Bodhi, Connected Discourses, pages 1563-1566.]

SN 45.171 - the four floods.
SN 45.172 - the four bonds.
SN 45.173 - the four kinds of clinging.
SN 45.174 - the four knots.
SN 45.175 - the seven underlying tendencies.
SN 45.176 - the five cords of sensual pleasure.
SN 45.177 - the five hindrances.
SN 45.178 - the five aggregates subject to clinging.
SN 45.179 - the five lower fetters.
SN 45.180 - the five higher fetters.

Here is SN 45.178 in full:

"Bhikkhus, there are these five aggregates subject to clinging. What five?
The form aggregate subject to clinging, the feeling aggregate subject to clinging,
the perception aggregate subject to clinging, the volitional formations aggregate
subject to clinging, the consciousness aggregate subject to clinging. These are
the five aggregates subject to clinging.
This Noble Eightfold Path is to be developed for direct knowledge of these five
aggregates subject to clinging, for the full understanding of them, for their
utter destruction, for their abandoning."

So, in my opinion, the five clinging-aggregates are certainly eliminated. Which
leads on to the next question which is much more controversial. Are the five
aggregates also eliminated - at the next stage of awakening?

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby pegembara » Sat Sep 01, 2012 2:09 pm

Form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness are fine in and of themselves but only becomes a problem if they are clung to as mine.


Taking the body as example,

"And how does a monk remain focused on the body in & of itself?

"Or again, as if he were to see a corpse cast away in a charnel ground, picked at by crows, vultures, & hawks, by dogs, hyenas, & various other creatures... a skeleton smeared with flesh & blood, connected with tendons... a fleshless skeleton smeared with blood, connected with tendons... a skeleton without flesh or blood, connected with tendons... bones detached from their tendons, scattered in all directions — here a hand bone, there a foot bone, here a shin bone, there a thigh bone, here a hip bone, there a back bone, here a rib, there a breast bone, here a shoulder bone, there a neck bone, here a jaw bone, there a tooth, here a skull... the bones whitened, somewhat like the color of shells... piled up, more than a year old... decomposed into a powder: He applies it to this very body, 'This body, too: Such is its nature, such is its future, such its unavoidable fate.'


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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby vinasp » Sat Sep 01, 2012 9:30 pm

Hi porpoise,

Quote:"In the Khanda sutta there is a distinction between the aggregates and the clinging aggregates, but I'm not sure I see the significance - is the idea that aggregates are OK but clinging aggregates are dukkha?
I'd be interested in your thoughts."

Translating the Pali as 'the five aggregates' and 'the five clinging-aggregates',
tends to suggest that there are two sets of aggregates, which may, or may not be
correct [in my opinion it is correct].

Bhikkhu Bodhi translates as 'the five aggregates' and 'the five aggregates subject
to clinging'. This could be understood as ONE set of aggregates which are subject
to clinging until clinging ceases, at which point they are just called the five
aggregates. In my opinion this would be a misunderstanding of the teachings.
However, BB's translation can also be taken as meaning that there are two sets
of aggregates.

These are the questions that need to be answered:

1. What does 'aggregate' mean?

2. Is there only one set of aggregates, or are there two sets?

3. Do any of the aggregates cease, and if 'yes' then when do they cease?

---------------------------------- o O o -------------------------------------

Nanamoli Thera once translated the five clinging-aggregates as 'the five
categories of clinging's objects'. [Three Cardinal Discourses of the Buddha,
BPS Wheel No. 17, 1960, page 8.]

I think that he was on the right track, but some changes are needed. The term
'khandha' can mean 'category', but 'heap' or 'mass' is probably better in this
context. This gives us 'the five heaps of clinging's objects'.

Next, the word 'clinging'. The 'clinging' in connection with the five clinging-
aggregates, has no direct relation to the four kinds of clinging which arise in
dependence on craving. It is the desire for these objects which is the 'clinging'.
Since this causes much confusion, it might be better to drop the word 'clinging'
altogether, from the description of the aggregates.

This gives us: the five heaps of the objects of desire.

It is these 'desired objects' which the mind 'contacts', the feeling, craving
and clinging which then arise, are just reactions to these objects.

So, when these objects cease, craving and clinging also cease.

What, then, are the five aggregates? In my opinion they are also just a set of
five heaps of objects. But they are not objects of desire, they are conceived
objects. These objects also cease.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby vinasp » Mon Sep 03, 2012 12:40 am

Hi everyone,

The Five Clinging-Aggregates.

What can we learn from MN 28? - [Bhikkhu Bodhi translation.]

[The previous section speaks of eye-consciousness arising in dependence on the
eye and visible form.]

28. "The material form in what has thus come to be is included in the material
form aggregate affected by clinging (340). The feeling in what has thus come
to be is included in the feeling aggregate affected by clinging. The perception
in what has thus come to be is included in the perception aggregate affected
by clinging. The formations in what has thus come to be are included in the
formations aggregate affected by clinging. The consciousness in what has thus
come to be is included in the consciousness aggregate affected by clinging.
He understands thus:'This, indeed, is how there comes to be the inclusion,
gathering, and amassing of things into these five aggregates affected by
clinging. Now this has been said by the Blessed One:"One who sees dependent
origination sees the Dhamma; one who sees the Dhamma sees dependent
origination." (341) And these five aggregates affected by clinging are
dependently arisen. The desire, indulgence, inclination, and holding based
on these five aggregates affected by clinging is the origin of suffering (342).
The removal of desire and lust, the abandonment of desire and lust for these
five aggregates affected by clinging is the cessation of suffering.'
At that point too, friends, much has been done by that bhikkhu.(343)

My explanation of the above passage.

Every desire is a desire FOR something. So every desire has an OBJECT. But desire
arises in the mind, so the object must also be in the mind. Every desire has a
thought-object associated with it, this thought-object REPRESENTS the actual
object of desire.

The thought-object and the desire arise together and are inseparable. But the
teachings are psychological and make a distinction between these two things.
All the thought-objects are divided into five types and called the five heaps
of objects of desire, or the five clinging-aggregates.

There is a desire associated with each thought-object, so the five clinging-
aggregates are said to be 'rooted in desire'[MN 109].

As a person generates more desires these thought-objects accumulate until there
is a mass of such desires and thought-objects. This is said to be the origin of
suffering. The abandoning of these desires and thought-objects is the cessation
of suffering.

If I desire a cream cake, that is included in the form aggregate of clinging. But
what I really desire is the pleasure of eating the cream cake, which is pleasant
feeling. But this is inseparable from the entire state-of-mind of the enjoyment
of the cream cake. So what I really desire is the cream cake and the state of
mind which is the enjoyment of it. What I really desire is enjoyment, the cream
cake is just the means for obtaining it.

So, the desire for any external thing is accompanied by the desire for the state
of mind which is my enjoyment of it. This means that the desire for any external
thing is the desire for my existence in the mode of enjoyment.[kama-bhava]

When I see a cream cake the desire for it arises and is included in the heap of
desired form objects. I also anticipate the pleasure I will experience and
desire that, so that is included in the heap of desired feeling objects.
But I cant desire feeling without also desiring everything else in that state
of mind. So I must desire the perception, volition, and consciousness which are
always found with pleasant feeling. So these too become thought-objects of
desire.

Now, the mind can, at any time, become obsessed with one of these thought-
objects of desire. When this occurs there is said to be contact with the object.
Feeling, craving and clinging can then arise, based on the object. This will
persist until the mind switches to some other object.

This is how these thought-objects of desire become objects of the fourfold
clinging.

Only by removing these thought-objects can these obsession states of mind be
ended. These objects are removed by abandoning the desire for them. When all
such objects have been removed then craving and clinging can no longer arise.

Conclusion: The five clinging-aggregates are all the things which one desires.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Sep 03, 2012 12:51 pm

vinasp wrote: Conclusion: The five clinging-aggregates are all the things which one desires.


So presumably with this approach vedana clinging-aggregate would only include pleasant feeling? Whereas the "ordinary" vedana aggregate includes pleasant, unpleasant and neutral feeling?
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby vinasp » Tue Sep 04, 2012 3:39 am

Hi porpoise,

vinasp wrote:
"Conclusion: The five clinging-aggregates are all the things which one desires."

porpoise replied:
"So presumably with this approach vedana clinging-aggregate would only include pleasant feeling? Whereas the "ordinary" vedana aggregate includes pleasant, unpleasant and neutral feeling?"

That is an interesting problem which I had not yet considered. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Perhaps I have made a mistake somewhere?

In MN 109.5 the Buddha says:"These five aggregates affected by clinging are rooted
in desire. bhikkhu." (note 1038) [BB, MLDB, page 887.]

I am not sure how this should be understood. The note refers to a commentator
who says that 'desire' here, means 'craving.'

In MN 109.7 The Buddha gives examples:
"Here, bhikkhu, someone thinks thus:'May my material form be thus in the future;
may my feeling be thus in the future;...' [and so forth, for the other items.]
Thus there is diversity in the desire and lust regarding these five aggregates
affected by clinging."

I have been assuming that this desire for some imaginary future form, is both
the 'root' (the desire) and the 'object-in-the-aggregate' (imaginary future form).
But I now suspect that this is wrong and that there is a 'time-shift' involved
here. Desire, as the 'root', is not present at the same time as the aggregate.
This might solve the problem. Although a person only desires pleasant feeling in
the future, what they actually get can be any of the three types.

But in SN 22.48, [and in many other places] we read:
"And what, bhikkhus, are the five aggregates subject to clinging?
Whatever kind of form there is, whether past, future, or present, internal or
external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, that is tainted,
that can be clung to: this is called the form aggregate subject to clinging.
Whatever kind of feeling there is ... that is tainted, that can be clung to:
this is called the feeling aggregate subject to clinging. ...."
[and so forth, for the other three, BB, CDB, page 887.]

It certainly looks as though all three types of feeling should be included in the
clinging-aggregates. It seems counter-intuitive that unpleasant feeling would be
clung to. Perhaps the solution here is that all five occur together and are
regarded as self, so they are clung to even if the feeling is unpleasant.

It looks like my previous conclusion was wrong - thank you!

The aggregates are an interesting problem, but I think that I am making some slow
progress.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby vinasp » Tue Sep 04, 2012 4:26 pm

Hi everyone,

What do the experts think about the five clinging aggregates?

1. Mathieu Boisvert, [author of: The Five Aggregates, EDSR 1995.], says on page 23:

"A more accurate translation of the term pancupadanakkhandha would be 'the five
aggregates which are the object of clinging.'"

2. Bhikkhu Bodhi is clearly in agreement given that he has translated them as:

a) The five aggregates affected by clinging - MLDB 1995, 2001.
b) The five aggregates subject to clinging - CDB, 2000.

But Bhikkhu Bodhi's interpretation has, for me, some puzzling aspects.

The following quotations are from: A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma, which is
a translation of The Abhidhammattha Sangaha, together with an Explanatory Guide,
General Editor: Bhikkhu Bodhi, BPS 1993.

"The five aggregates: The word khandha is understood in the sense of group, mass,
or aggregate (raasi). The Buddha analyses a living being into these five groups."
[Explanatory Guide, page 285.]

[My comment: is a tathagata, while living, a being?]

"The five aggregates of clinging: These are called upaadaanakkhandha, aggregates
of clinging, because they constitute the objects of clinging. ..."
[Explanatory Guide, page 286.]

[My comment: 'the objects of clinging', not the clinging to some objects.]

"Here, all components of the five aggregates that enter into range of the four
types of clinging (see #7) are called aggregates of clinging. ..."
[Explanatory Guide, page 286.]

[My comment: This is puzzling to me. It seems to be saying that all those objects
in the five aggregates, which are clung to, are called the five aggregates of
clinging. But not all the objects in the five aggregates are clung to, those
which are not clung to are called the five aggregates. So the five aggregates
include the five aggregates of clinging.

But the noble eightfold path is to be developed 'for the utter destruction of
the five aggregates subject to clinging'. For the destruction of the objects of
clinging. It seems that clinging ceases when the objects of clinging cease.
So the clinging aggregates arise and cease independently of the five aggregates.
How then, can they be said to be 'part of' or 'included in' the five aggregates?
Perhaps I have not understood correctly. If so, can someone explain? ]

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby daverupa » Tue Sep 04, 2012 5:15 pm

vinasp wrote: But the noble eightfold path is to be developed 'for the utter destruction of the five aggregates subject to clinging'.


Where is this said?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby Jason » Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:52 pm

porpoise wrote:In the Khanda sutta there is a distinction between the aggregates and the clinging aggregates, but I'm not sure I see the significance - is the idea that aggregates are OK but clinging aggregates are dukkha?
I'd be interested in your thoughts.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


That's an interesting question. In my opinion, I'd say that both are ultimately dukkha, but in different senses, i.e., dukkha as a characteristic of phenomena and dukkha as an experience. The aggregates, with or without the presence of clinging, are dukkha in sense of being inconstant, not-self, and subject to cessation. That said, the aggregates cease to be a source of suffering for one who has rid their mind of craving and clinging in relation to them. Either way, the aggregates aren't permanent or self, nor are they a reliable refuge.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby reflection » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:28 pm

I'd say they are basically the same thing. The addition 'clinging-' could just indicate they are in general possible of being clung to, or -how I interpret it-: we have to get back to the original meaning of upadana, which is like 'fuel. So it's saying the aggregates fuel suffering, or as the sutta says "offers sustenance". I'm no pali scholar, but this seems very reasonable to me.But whatever the Buddha was up to exactly, I think it labels the same aggregates. It's not like the aggregates and clinging-aggregates are totally different things.

There are many, many quotes where the aggregates are treated in general and there is just one sutta where the aggregates and clinging-aggregates are treated separately; and that sutta isn't even making a clear distinction to me.

Considering quotes like this, the aggregates that make up an arahant, are also still clinging-aggregates:
"Then which things should an arahant attend to in an appropriate way?"

"An arahant should attend in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self. Although, for an arahant, there is nothing further to do, and nothing to add to what has been done, still these things — when developed & pursued — lead both to a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now and to mindfulness & alertness."
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It's a bit strange to translate it as clinging to the aggregates here. More useful would be the interpretation I suggested above, of the aggregates fueling suffering; which they still do after enlightenment, for they are still inconstant. I agree with Jason on that point. It's not an agitation kind of suffering, but still suffering. That's also obvious from this quote.


Quotes and suttas aside, we can just focus on what's impermanent, thus suffering. It doesn't matter if there is a distionction between aggregates and clinging-aggregates for the practice, because they are all subject to impermanence. They are not what we are looking for. Just see it like this, place importance in the impermanence of all experiences, of all aggregates and there is no need for confusion. There will never be some lasting happiness in the aggregates.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby vinasp » Wed Sep 05, 2012 1:36 am

Hi daverupa,

Quote:"Where is this said?"

"This Noble Eightfold Path is to be developed for direct knowledge of these five
aggregates subject to clinging, for the full understanding of them, for their
utter destruction, for their abandoning." [SN 45.178]

It is not an exact word for word quote, but I did not think that my paraphrase
changed the meaning. I quoted this in my first post on this thread.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby daverupa » Wed Sep 05, 2012 2:06 am

vinasp wrote:Hi daverupa,

Quote:"Where is this said?"

"This Noble Eightfold Path is to be developed for direct knowledge of these five
aggregates subject to clinging, for the full understanding of them, for their
utter destruction, for their abandoning." [SN 45.178]

It is not an exact word for word quote, but I did not think that my paraphrase
changed the meaning. I quoted this in my first post on this thread.

Regards, Vincent.


Sorry there, my eye slipped right over it in the midst. It's quite a thing, to mistake one word among a bunch to such effect. Certainly it's better to make sure I read them all, to really grasp what's being indicated by these terms together.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby vinasp » Wed Sep 05, 2012 2:14 am

Hi reflection,

Quote: "Considering quotes like this, the aggregates that make up an arahant, are also still clinging-aggregates:" [quote from SN 22.122.]

That passage is extremely misleading. I have given my opinion about it on another
thread. I repeat the post here:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

SN 22.122 wrote: "An arahant should attend in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease ..."

This passage is examined by Mathieu Boisvert in his "The Five Aggregates
- Understanding Theravada Psychology and Soteriology." [EDSR, 1995.] He says:

" ... an arahant can still be characterized by the pancupadanakkhandha."

He quotes Buddhaghosa:

"Although the aggregates of the arahant who has destroyed the cankers
become conditions for clinging in others, when they say, for example,
"Our senior uncle the Thera! Our junior uncle the Thera!," the noble
paths, fruits, and nibbana are not grasped, misapprehended, or clung
to." [ I have simplified this, so it's not an exact quote.]

Boisvert continues;

"This implies that, although those who do not generate any more clinging
(the arahant) have totally eradicated the biases, they still possess
the five clinging-aggregates in the sense that their five aggregates
still constitute a ground for clinging in others." [ page 27.]

------------------------------------------------------------------

Since most people do not read the Commentaries, this is a very easy mistake
to make. It mislead me for years. The expression 'five clinging aggregates' is
being used here, in a special, and very unusual sense.

Many other passages make it clear that the five clinging aggregates have ceased
for an arahant.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby reflection » Wed Sep 05, 2012 6:15 am

vinasp wrote:Hi reflection,
...
Since most people do not read the Commentaries, this is a very easy mistake
to make. It mislead me for years. The expression 'five clinging aggregates' is
being used here, in a special, and very unusual sense.

Many other passages make it clear that the five clinging aggregates have ceased
for an arahant.

Regards, Vincent.

Well, that's an interesting way to interpret it, but I've thought of that already. I can agree the sutta of the clinging-aggregates of the arahant I gave before is a bit of an odd duck. But considering the context in the sutta itself, it makes sense to me to interpret it literally. Why would we have another interpretation for the passage of the arahant while all other persons are treated in the exactly same way?

But also considering the broader context of the canon; the many times the aggregates are treated in general without making any distinction whatsoever. Take for example the many occasions where form, feeling, etc are mentioned to be impermanent and suffering, yet don't mention clinging. Or SN 22.22 where the two are synonyms:
"And which is the burden? 'The five clinging-aggregates,'
...
A burden indeed are the five aggregates,

Or Dhp 202 which mentiones the 'bare' aggregates to be suffering (natthi khandhasama dukkha).

If the distinction was of such importance, it would have been made there also.

If you have some quotes that make a distinction between the aggregates for an arahant and the clinging aggregates for someone else, please share, for I do not know of their existence. They would be interesting to read.

With metta,
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Sep 05, 2012 9:08 am

Thanks, some interesting observations. I was looking again at the Khanda Sutta and the added description for all the clinging aggregates is:
"clingable, offers sustenance, and is accompanied with mental fermentation".

Maybe looking at this would help. What does "sustenance" mean here - is it a reference to the 4 nutriments? And does "mental fermentation" refer to mental proliferation?
It seems clear that dukkha is synonymous with "clinging aggregates" but I'm still not clear whether dukkha is synonymous with the aggregates.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Sep 05, 2012 9:10 am

reflection wrote:If the distinction was of such importance, it would have been made there also.


Not necessarily. My assumption is that the Khanda Sutta carries most weight in describing the khandas - because that's the title and subject of the sutta.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Sep 05, 2012 9:12 am

Jason wrote: In my opinion, I'd say that both are ultimately dukkha, but in different senses, i.e., dukkha as a characteristic of phenomena and dukkha as an experience.


That would seem to imply that dukkha continues until pari-nibbana?
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