Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby reflection » Wed Sep 05, 2012 11:26 am

porpoise wrote:
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.

Well, do you prefer to interpret many suttas in terms of one, or one in terms of many? I prefer the latter. It's always dangerous to interpret things based on one sutta alone, because there has been editing going on in the suttas - that's a fact. Also I don't think the division there is that clear anyway. If we can get one thing out of that sutta, it's that the clinging-aggregates are a subset of the aggregates and there is no direct mention of arahant-aggregates or something like that. Should the Buddha have intended a difference between aggregates and clinging-aggregates, it's not in suffering since they are both still suffering.

Here we have another quote that occurs many, many times that basically uses the same line as SN22.48 - describing the general aggregates:
What do you think, monks — Is form etc. constant or inconstant?" "Inconstant, lord." "And is that which is inconstant easeful or stressful?" "Stressful, lord." "And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: 'This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am'?"

"No, lord."

"Thus, monks, any form etc. whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every form is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: 'This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.'


But that aside, to me the difference between the aggregates isn't really useful in the practice anyway. It's more useful to see all as impermanent thus suffering.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby vinasp » Wed Sep 05, 2012 6:11 pm

Hi reflection,

Thank you for your interesting reply. I respond to the first part here.

Quote: "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?"

I think that most people find that passage about the arahant to be puzzling for the
following reasons:

1. Suffering ceases with awakening, this is the whole point of the teachings.
2. The suffering that ceases may be mental suffering, not bodily suffering.
3. The origin of suffering is craving, craving ceases with awakening, so suffering
ceases at that stage.
4. The five clinging aggregates are said to be suffering.
5. Therefore: The five clinging aggregates cease at awakening.

If you think that the arahant still has the five clinging aggregates then:

1. Suffering has not ceased for the arahant.
2. Craving has not ceased for the arahant.
3. How then does an arahant differ from an ordinary person?

I need to think a bit about your other points, but I will respond to them.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby reflection » Wed Sep 05, 2012 7:35 pm

Thanks for your reply. Let me clarify.

We have to consider that there are multiple types of suffering:
"Monks, there are these three kinds of suffering.[1] What three? Suffering caused by pain,[2] suffering caused by the formations (or conditioned existence),[3] suffering due to change.[4] It is for the full comprehension, clear understanding, ending and abandonment of these three forms of suffering that the Noble Eightfold Path is to be cultivated..."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html

After enlightenment, some of these sufferings will be ended (suffering of mental pain) while other more subtle forms of suffering are not (formations, change). Those have to do with the aggregates, which are always changing, are impermanent; this applies to all formations without exeption.
"In seeing six rewards, it's enough motivation for a monk to establish the perception of stress with regard to all fabrications without exception.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


So it is incorrect to say all suffering stops at enlightenment; however, it does stop at parinibbana.

Cessation of something does not have to be immediate. The suttas also say the awakened ones have cessated death, or made an end to aging and death or what have you. Well, obviously that ain't true because they will still die once. So to cessate suffering doesn't mean it's instantly either. Therefore, while it is a common assumption, I don't think any sutta will have a direct quote stating an enlightened one is not suffering anymore - at least I have not stumbled upon it and it would not make sense on various levels. Yes, the suttas say they made an end to suffering, but that's something different. I can make an end to a boil by turning down the gas, but the water doesn't stop boiling at that very same moment.

Now, isn't it likely that the Buddha used the word clinging-aggregate just to clarify which khandhas he's talking about? - the aggregates that make up a person. I think it would be because the word aggregate (khandha) itself can refer to many other things, like a treetrunk for example, or just mass in general, like in MN13 "mass of suffering".

So because there is only inconstancy, there is only suffering. Sounds harsh perhaps, but it doesn't really matter because it happens to no-one. There are just things occuring that are not satisfying. When there is clinging, these things will keep on happening, but when clinging stops, they will end soon for that particular person.

With metta,
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby equilibrium » Wed Sep 05, 2012 7:53 pm

The awakened one does not die because the awakened one "knows".....also known as "deathlessness".
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby vinasp » Wed Sep 05, 2012 8:08 pm

Hi porpoise,

Quote:""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." [End Quote.]

The Pali:

"... sāsavaṃ upādāniyaṃ, ayaṃ vuccati rūpupādānakkhandho. ..."[DPR, SN 22.48]

" ... that are with the cankers, subject to clinging, these are called the
form-clinging-aggregate. ..."

I cant read Pali, but I gather that 'sasava' means - 'with the asava's'.

The prefix 'sa' means 'with', and 'asava' refers to the three, or four, asava's
which are eliminated at awakening. These have been translated in many ways, for
example: Cankers; Corruptions; Taints; Fermentations.

So it seems that the clinging aggregates are only found in those who have not yet
eliminated the asava's.

The term 'upadaniya' is, I am told, a bit of a problem.

The Pali 'upadana' may mean 'clinging' or 'fuel', the literal meaning is 'uptake'.
The word is used to refer to the way that a fire or a flame consumes its fuel.

Bhikkhu Bodhi translates 'upadana' as 'clinging', in most cases.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu translates with both meanings: clinging/sustenance.

The inflection 'upadaniya' means 'subject to clinging', or 'offers sustenance'.

If one understands 'upadana' as sustenance, then it could refer to the four
nutriments.

The expression 'mental proliferation' is usually a translation of the Pali term
'papanca', the meaning of this term is not clear.

Pali experts - please correct any errors in these opinions.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby vinasp » Wed Sep 05, 2012 10:01 pm

Hi reflection,

Have you considered MN 44? - link:

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

In this sutta the five clinging aggregates are called 'sakaya', which Thanissaro
translates as 'self-identification'.

"These five clinging-aggregates are the self-identification described by the Blessed One."

It goes on to say that craving is the origination of self-identification,
that is, the origination of the five clinging-aggregates.

It then says that the cessation of craving is the cessation of self-identification, which is therefore, the cessation of the five clinging-aggregates.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby Gaoxing » Thu Sep 06, 2012 12:14 am

Just some terms and ideas;

Non-conceptual awareness happens when Not-self is realised in the ever present fact of Impermanence and Suffering has ceased. It is wrong view to think Impermanence and Not-self are characteristics stuck to suffering. Awareness requires the aggregates to function.

Seeking refuge in something permanent will lead to endless suffering. Nothing is permanent. Clinging or attachment yearns permanence and sees change as suffering.

In the presence of Ignorance, Attachment and Ill-will, Impermanence is perceived as Suffering. Impermanence is not a cause of suffering but only an occasion to suffering. With Ignorance, Attachment and Ill-will removed Impermanence works cessation (Nirodha) which then continues to work happiness eternally.

To utterly destroy the aggregates would require decapitation!

It is however possible to utterly destroy clinging which changes awareness to a Not-self, Impermanent and Happy state or characteristic of the aggregates. Therefore Impermanence gives rise to evolving happiness-aggregates where a previous state again becomes suffering- or clinging-aggregates if it were to be clung to. :bow:
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby reflection » Thu Sep 06, 2012 6:48 am

vinasp wrote:Hi reflection,

Have you considered MN 44? - link:

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

In this sutta the five clinging aggregates are called 'sakaya', which Thanissaro
translates as 'self-identification'.

"These five clinging-aggregates are the self-identification described by the Blessed One."

It goes on to say that craving is the origination of self-identification,
that is, the origination of the five clinging-aggregates.

It then says that the cessation of craving is the cessation of self-identification, which is therefore, the cessation of the five clinging-aggregates.

Regards, Vincent.

I'd say self-identification is a bit of a skewy translation. The aggregates aren't the same as self-identification. It's more often translated as personality, which makes more sense already. And I've seen translations where the two aren't equated, but say something in the lines of "in the clinging-aggregates does he see a self". I'm no pali expert, so I can't say which one is best, but to say the clinging-aggregates are self-identification is just not right.

However, to me it's illustrating how the sutta goes on to describe the same five aggregates without any mention of clinging for those with 'self-identification' and those without.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Sep 06, 2012 1:06 pm

reflection wrote:We have to consider that there are multiple types of suffering:
"Monks, there are these three kinds of suffering.[1] What three? Suffering caused by pain,[2] suffering caused by the formations (or conditioned existence),[3] suffering due to change.[4] It is for the full comprehension, clear understanding, ending and abandonment of these three forms of suffering that the Noble Eightfold Path is to be cultivated..."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html

After enlightenment, some of these sufferings will be ended (suffering of mental pain) while other more subtle forms of suffering are not (formations, change).


So in your view which of these 3 types of dukkha cease for an Arahant?
I wonder if the Arrow Sutta is relevant here - while the experience of bodily pain remains ( the first arrow ) there is cessation of the resulting mental pain ( the second arrow ). There's another sutta which is similar ( I'll need to look it up ) which speaks of the impermanence of the body not being suffering for a noble disciple.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Sep 06, 2012 1:16 pm

reflection wrote:Cessation of something does not have to be immediate.

Now, isn't it likely that the Buddha used the word clinging-aggregate just to clarify which khandhas he's talking about? - the aggregates that make up a person. I think it would be because the word aggregate (khandha) itself can refer to many other things, like a treetrunk for example, or just mass in general, like in MN13 "mass of suffering".


I understand dependent origination as discussing dependently arising processes rather than events, so I agree with your first point. But I do think that "clinging aggregate" is a direct reference to the clinging nidana in DO, so it makes sense to speak about the cessation of clinging ( to the aggregates )leading to the cessation of dukkha. So "clinging aggregate" refers to the aggregates in their usual state of being clung to.

As for the apparent interchangeability of "aggregate" and "clinging aggregate" in the suttas, perhaps this is because for they are the same thing for everyone except an Arahant? So we have clinging aggregates while an Arahant just has plain aggregates.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Sep 06, 2012 1:19 pm

vinasp wrote:Have you considered MN 44? - link:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
In this sutta the five clinging aggregates are called 'sakaya', which Thanissaro
translates as 'self-identification'.
"These five clinging-aggregates are the self-identification described by the Blessed One."

It goes on to say that craving is the origination of self-identification,
that is, the origination of the five clinging-aggregates.

It then says that the cessation of craving is the cessation of self-identification, which is therefore, the cessation of the five clinging-aggregates.


Yes, that's how it seems to me. Self-identification is synonymous with clinging to the aggregates, so cessation of one leads to cessation of the other.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby daverupa » Thu Sep 06, 2012 1:49 pm

porpoise wrote:Self-identification is synonymous with clinging to the aggregates, so cessation of one leads to cessation of the other.


Well, there is the conceit "I am" and there is sakkaya-ditthi, 'embodiment-view', seeing the self in this or that. So, even without self-identification, the fetter of conceit remains - work is yet to be done.
    "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 » Thu Sep 06, 2012 7:00 pm

Hi everyone,

Perhaps it would help if we could sort out what kinds of suffering cease at the
time of awakening. Refection has already quoted this sutta:

"Bhikkhus, there are these three kinds of suffering. What three?
suffering due to pain, suffering due to formations, suffering due
to change. These are the three kinds of suffering.
The Noble Eightfold Path is to be developed for direct knowledge
of these three kinds of suffering, for the full understanding of
them, for their utter destruction, for their abandoning."

[Bhikkhu Bodhi, Connected Discourses, page 1561, SN 45.165]

My interpretation of this, is that all three kinds of suffering cease with
completion of the noble eightfold path.

1. Suffering due to pain, is the mental suffering which is generated by the
'worldling' in response to bodily pain. [see: Arrow Sutta.]

2. Suffering due to formations, is the suffering which results from mental
formations, all of which will have ceased with full awakening.

3. Suffering due to change, is the suffering which the 'worldling' experiences
due to things changing - because he is clinging to things. If he was not
clinging there would be no suffering due to change. Change, in itself, is
not suffering.

4. Bodily pain is not included because it can still be present after awakening.
These are just 'three kinds of suffering' and are not meant to include all
suffering.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby vinasp » Thu Sep 06, 2012 7:38 pm

Hi reflection,

There is something that puzzles me about your interpretation. You speak of the
aggregates not ceasing until death. Let us consider just the form aggregate.

"And what, bhikkhus, are the five aggregates?
Whatever kind of form there is, whether past, future, or present, internal or
external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near,
this is called the form aggregate. ..." - [BB, CD, page 886, part of SN 22.48]

This seems, to me, to be saying that all the form in the cosmos is the form
aggregate.

Q1. Why would anyone think that the form aggregate is just ones own body?

Q2. Does all the form in the cosmos end when one person dies?

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby reflection » Thu Sep 06, 2012 7:51 pm

We have to be careful to not get lost in terms of "the aggregates of the arahant" or take the aggregates to be solid things. It's not like I have certain aggregates and someone else has others. The aggregates are tools descriptive of experience. That's one thing to always keep in mind when discussing these. - just as a general remark.

porpoise wrote:As for the apparent interchangeability of "aggregate" and "clinging aggregate" in the suttas, perhaps this is because for they are the same thing for everyone except an Arahant? So we have clinging aggregates while an Arahant just has plain aggregates.

If there is any sutta that states the arahant is 'just plain aggregates' in contrast to the clinging-aggregates, please let me know because I don't know of one. However, there is at least the quote of the arahant and clinging-aggregates that I shared before.

Now the problem with stating that the interchangeability is because there are just a few exeptions I think doesn't really hold, because in all occasions where the aggregates are defined as to what they are, there is no mention between different types of aggregates. If there was anywhere a place to make a clear distinction between for example clinging-form and not-clinging form, to explain how the arahant aggregates would be different, it would be there. Yes, there is the sutta that defines aggregates and clinging-aggregates, but be aware that it also doesn't mention non-clinging aggregates and it doesn't mention any stage of awakening. Again, if anything, according to that sutta, the clinging-aggregates are a subset of the general aggregates. It could as well be that we already experience both while not being an arahant.

But to illustrate further, take for example:
"And what, friends, is form as a clinging-aggregate? The four great existents and the form derived from them. And what are the four great existents? They are the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, & the wind property.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

This sutta directly defines clinging-form, yet it mentiones just the four elements. It doesn't say anything about clinging or not clinging. It's very clearly defining everything in the four elements. So at least the body is always a clinging-aggregate. But the sutta goes on how other clinging-aggregates arise from contact. Not from clinging or craving, just from general contact of the senses. Of course an arahant also has sense-contact. Why does Sariputta still calls them clinging-aggregates then?

Now, if we just take the form part; we can all agree there is no clinging to form for enlightened ones. That makes the interpretation of clinging-aggregates to be aggregates subject to clinging impossible. So clinging-aggregates must mean something else. If we also take in mind all quotes that say whatever is impermanent is suffering, it also can't mean something like suffering-aggregate.

Now as a disclaimer, while I tend to take the position of equating the aggregates and the clinging aggregates, I'm keeping open a possibility of there being a slight difference only arahants know about, but to me quite clearly it is not in clinging to them and it is not in suffering vs not suffering either.

With metta,
Reflection
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby reflection » Thu Sep 06, 2012 7:54 pm

vinasp wrote:Hi reflection,

There is something that puzzles me about your interpretation. You speak of the
aggregates not ceasing until death. Let us consider just the form aggregate.

"And what, bhikkhus, are the five aggregates?
Whatever kind of form there is, whether past, future, or present, internal or
external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near,
this is called the form aggregate. ..." - [BB, CD, page 886, part of SN 22.48]

This seems, to me, to be saying that all the form in the cosmos is the form
aggregate.

Q1. Why would anyone think that the form aggregate is just ones own body?

Q2. Does all the form in the cosmos end when one person dies?

Regards, Vincent.

When talking about the cessation of suffering, would it also not be just for one being instead of suffering for every being?.. seems quite obvious that it is not for all or else the Buddha wouldn't have made an end to suffering..

So when talking about the cessation of the aggregates, it's the aggregates that make up a particular being, of course. But with that, the experience of all external form ceases as well. There will not be anything internal neither external. How do you know there is something "out there" if all experience comes through your six senses? That's why the Buddha called the six senses 'the world'.

At Savatthi. Then the Venerable Ananda approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and said to him: "Venerable sir, it is said, 'cessation, cessation.' Through the cessation of what things is cessation spoken of?" "Form,... , consciousness, Ananda, is impermanent, conditioned, dependently arisen, subject to destruction, to vanishing, to fading away, to cessation. Through its cessation, cessation is spoken of.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby vinasp » Thu Sep 06, 2012 8:59 pm

Hi reflection,

If I understand you correctly, then for you, the form aggregate is not actual
physical form but the experience of form. It is this experience of form that
ends with death. Please correct me if I have misunderstood you.

Could you please give your interpretation of these two passages?

"If, through revulsion towards form, through its fading away and cessation, one
is liberated by nonclinging, one can be called a bhikkhu who has attained nibbana
in this very life."
[Repeat for: feeling, perception, volitional-formations and consciousness.]

[Bhikkhu Bodhi, Connected Discourses, page 967, part of SN 22.115]


" ... And what is it that he extinguishes and does not kindle? He extinguishes
form and does not kindle it. He extinguishes feeling ... perception ...
volitional-formations ... consciousness and does not kindle it. ..."

[Bhikkhu Bodhi, Connected Discourses, page 917, part of SN 22.79]

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby vinasp » Thu Sep 06, 2012 11:46 pm

Hi reflection,

Quote:"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. ..."

Yes,this is a problem. My interpretation would be that the explicit distinction is
a later development. The teachings spoke about these five things and said that they
should be seen as:'This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.'

If one succeeds in seeing them as 'not my self' then form 'seen as self' ceases.
But form seen as 'this I am' still remains, but this too can be eliminated.

One can eliminate both together, or one can do it in two stages. The later
teachings are based on removing self-view first, then the conceit 'I am'.

So the distinction, which was previously implicit, was made explicit by the use
of the term 'five clinging aggregates'.

These clinging aggregates arise from regarding things as self, or related to self.
They are associated with craving, which is why only the clinging aggregates are
mentioned in all versions of the four noble truths.

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

Quote:"Should the Buddha have intended a difference between aggregates and clinging-aggregates, it's not in suffering since they are both still suffering."

You are correct in that they are both still suffering. But the suffering which is
the clinging aggregates is much greater than the suffering which is the aggregates.

In the four noble truths, the clinging aggregates are the first truth - suffering.
What is meant is the suffering which originates from craving - second truth.
The suffering which ceases when craving ceases - third truth.
The suffering which is eliminated at the stage of the non-returner, which is when
craving ceases. All four truths have to be understood together.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Sep 07, 2012 8:24 am

reflection wrote:Now the problem with stating that the interchangeability is because there are just a few exeptions I think doesn't really hold, because in all occasions where the aggregates are defined as to what they are, there is no mention between different types of aggregates. If there was anywhere a place to make a clear distinction between for example clinging-form and not-clinging form, to explain how the arahant aggregates would be different, it would be there. Yes, there is the sutta that defines aggregates and clinging-aggregates, but be aware that it also doesn't mention non-clinging aggregates and it doesn't mention any stage of awakening. Again, if anything, according to that sutta, the clinging-aggregates are a subset of the general aggregates. It could as well be that we already experience both while not being an arahant.


But the Khanda Sutta doesn't describe the clinging aggregates as a subset of the general aggregates, and I don't understand how this interpretation makes sense in the context of DO. Which aspects of the aggregates specifically do you think could not be subject to clinging for us as non-Arahants?

See this sutta: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html, which gives a variation on DO - in this sutta the "allure of clingable phenomena" is synonymous with clinging to the 5 aggregates, and this leads to craving. So again there is the meaning of aggregates subject to clinging rather than "clinging aggregates".
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Re: Aggregates v. clinging aggregates

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Sep 07, 2012 8:27 am

reflection wrote:Now, if we just take the form part; we can all agree there is no clinging to form for enlightened ones. That makes the interpretation of clinging-aggregates to be aggregates subject to clinging impossible.


I think this example strongly supports the interpretation of "aggregates subject to clinging" and is also consistent with DO.

And again I have to ask, which aggregates do you think an Arahant still clings to?
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