2

Based on the River Sutta below, I can definitely understand assuming the self to be the body. So, when the body becomes old, diseased and approaching death, one assumes that "I am" becoming old, diseased and approaching death. If his body dies, he ceases to exist. This makes him suffer.

However, I need much better examples for the other four aggregates.

For example, if one assumes the self to be perception, it could be like she assumes the beauty of her body to be her self. "I am this beautiful woman". So, if she loses her beauty due to ageing or disease or accident, then she would suffer. Is this assuming self to be perception (about the body) or is this assuming self to be the form? Or both? Or is this mental fabrications?

Another case is let's say, there is a priest of a religion that is strongly based on the belief of God. So, this priest assumes his self to be the "God believer and servant of God". He often prays, "Oh God, may I never stray away from believing in you." Then what if one day, he discovers that God actually doesn't exist? So, does this make him suffer because he assumes his self to be his mental fabrication of "God believer and servant of God"? Is this right?

Or how about another case of a renowned surgeon who assumes his self to be the "surgeon"? If one day, he gets Parkinson's disease (while he is still young and at the peak of his practice) that causes his hands to not be steady, then he cannot practise surgery anymore. This makes him suffer. This would be assuming the self to be the mental fabrication of "surgeon". Is this right?

What about feeling? If a person loves to listen to music, then he assumes his self to be this "music lover", but if one day he loses his sense of hearing due to disease or accident, this causes him to suffer. Is this right?

Consciousness may not be be too hard to understand. If one assumes his self to be the being that continuously is aware and senses the world around him, then idea of death and non-rebirth would cause him to suffer, because he thinks this would cause him to stop being aware of his surroundings. Is this right?

But then again, assuming self to be mental fabrications can be reframed in this way: If one assumes that "I think, therefore I am", so if anything could cause him to stop thinking as he does now, like death or coma or brain injury, then he suffers from worrying about that. Is this right?

Or, perhaps, all these examples indeed fall into multiple categories simultaneously? Maybe I cannot easily isolate a case of assuming the self to be only one aggregate, and not the other?

From the River Sutta (SN 22.93):

At Savatthi. There the Blessed One said, "Monks, suppose there were a river, flowing down from the mountains, going far, its current swift, carrying everything with it, and — holding on to both banks — kasa grasses, kusa grasses, reeds, birana grasses, & trees were growing. Then a man swept away by the current would grab hold of the kasa grasses, but they would tear away, and so from that cause he would come to disaster. He would grab hold of the kusa grasses... the reeds... the birana grasses... the trees, but they would tear away, and so from that cause he would come to disaster.

"In the same way, there is the case where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person — who has no regard for noble ones, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma; who has no regard for men of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma — assumes form (the body) to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form. That form tears away from him, and so from that cause he would come to disaster. (and the same applies to the other four aggregates - feeling, perception, mental fabrications and consciousness)

The sutta goes on to say that the five aggregates are inconstant and impermanent, and should be seen with the right discernment: 'This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.' Seeing thus, the noble disciple becomes disenchanted with the five aggregates.

  • "beauty" is a nimitta (theme) and obviously a mental formation (sankhara). – Dhammadhatu Aug 18 '18 at 7:27
1

I need much better examples for the other four aggregates

I guess a non-canonical example for "perception" might be, imagine you're living somewhere: a city or a village, a house. And you're there, you live there, for a long time. And you see it frequently. And sometimes when you see it (see a bit of it, a familiar sight) you may think, "this is me!"

Later you're living somewhere else, and you remember where you used to be, you remember seeing what you used to see (what was a familiar sight), and you think "that was me", and maybe you're sad because you no longer perceive that.

An example of "feeling" might be "love", perhaps: "I love this person", "I'm the husband of this person", "I'm the son of this person". Or perhaps negative feelings, "My parents didn't like me, I feel rejected and unloved, and that is me, that is who I am".


You might need to expand your definition too: to not only "being" but "having" -- from your quote, SN 22.93:

assumes form (the body) to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form

For example, perhaps you're happy with the perception of music or something, but the music stops. You might not think "I was the perception and the feeling" but might think "I had the perception of music". I suspect people view "possession" instead of "being" if or when they view the self as somehow separate from, or less impermanent than, the object or the aggregate in question -- so you might say "I have a bicycle (because I remember a time when 'I' existed and I didn't have a bicycle), rather than I am a bicycle; or, I am a possessor of a bicycle."

I think the distinction between 'being' and 'having' is specially slippery when it comes to "consciousness" -- is it that you are a consciousness, or is it that you have a consciousness? Does consciousness have whatever it's conscious of, or is it that it is whatever it's conscious of?

Anyway the definition of 'right understanding' covers/includes both being and having (SN 22.59):

You should truly see any kind of consciousness at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near: all consciousness—with right understanding: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’

Yaṃ kiñci viññāṇaṃ atītānāgatapaccuppannaṃ ajjhattaṃ vā bahiddhā vā oḷārikaṃ vā sukhumaṃ vā hīnaṃ vā paṇītaṃ vā yaṃ dūre santike vā, sabbaṃ viññāṇaṃ: ‘netaṃ mama, nesohamasmi, na meso attā’ti evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya daṭṭhabbaṃ.


Maybe I cannot easily isolate a case of assuming the self to be only one aggregate, and not the other?

I read recently (though I don't remember where) that the boundaries between the aggregates are indistinct or fuzzy -- it wasn't a statement about "self" but about the aggregates themselves, but if that's so then that corroborates what you said (i.e. "cannot easily isolate ... only one aggregate").

0

All self-conceiving is mental formation - SN 22.81

Assumes five aggregates to be the self. That assumption is a fabrication. Now what is the cause, what is the origination, what is the birth (jati), what is the coming-into-existence of that fabrication? To an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, touched by that which is felt born of contact with ignorance, craving arises. That fabrication is born of that.

SN 22.81

This includes conceiving self from the other aggregates - SN 22.79

And why do you call them 'fabrications'? Because they fabricate fabricated things, thus they are called 'fabrications.' What do they fabricate as a fabricated thing? For the sake of form-ness, they fabricate form as a fabricated thing. For the sake of feeling-ness, they fabricate feeling as a fabricated thing. For the sake of perception-hood... For the sake of fabrication-hood... For the sake of consciousness-hood, they fabricate consciousness as a fabricated thing. Because they fabricate fabricated things, they are called fabrications.

SN 22.79

SN 22.1 is the most clear sutta about this matter.

Ven. Sariputta said: "Now, how is one afflicted in body & afflicted in mind?

"There is the case where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person — who has no regard for noble ones, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma; who has no regard for men of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma — assumes form (the body) to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form. He is seized with the idea that 'I am form' or 'Form is mine.' As he is seized with these ideas, his form changes & alters, and he falls into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair over its change & alteration.

"He assumes feeling to be the self, or the self as possessing feeling, or feeling as in the self, or the self as in feeling. He is seized with the idea that 'I am feeling' or 'Feeling is mine.' As he is seized with these ideas, his feeling changes & alters, and he falls into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair over its change & alteration.

"He assumes perception to be the self, or the self as possessing perception, or perception as in the self, or the self as in perception. He is seized with the idea that 'I am perception' or 'Perception is mine.' As he is seized with these ideas, his perception changes & alters, and he falls into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair over its change & alteration.

"He assumes (mental) fabrications to be the self, or the self as possessing fabrications, or fabrications as in the self, or the self as in fabrications. He is seized with the idea that 'I am fabrications' or 'Fabrications are mine.' As he is seized with these ideas, his fabrications change & alter, and he falls into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair over their change & alteration.

"He assumes consciousness to be the self, or the self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in the self, or the self as in consciousness. He is seized with the idea that 'I am consciousness' or 'Consciousness is mine.' As he is seized with these ideas, his consciousness changes & alters, and he falls into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair over its change & alteration.

"This, householder, is how one is afflicted in body and afflicted in mind.

"And how is one afflicted in body but unafflicted in mind? There is the case where a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones — who has regard for noble ones, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma; who has regard for men of integrity, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma — does not assume form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form. He is not seized with the idea that 'I am form' or 'Form is mine.' As he is not seized with these ideas, his form changes & alters, but he does not fall into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, or despair over its change & alteration.

"He does not assume feeling to be the self...

"He does not assume perception to be the self...

"He does not assume fabrications to be the self...

"He does not assume consciousness to be the self, or the self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in the self, or the self as in consciousness. He is not seized with the idea that 'I am consciousness' or 'Consciousness is mine.' As he is not seized with these ideas, his consciousness changes & alters, but he does not fall into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, or despair over its change & alteration.

"This, householder, is how one is afflicted in body but unafflicted in mind.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.