Following the discussion on khandhas, I thought I’d gather a selection of representative passages that mention them. I’m experimenting with using “bundles” instead of “aggregates”, and I’d like some feedback. These are passages taken from my draft translations of AN and SN.
I should briefly note here that the texts usually use upādānakkhandha. I translate upādāna as “grasping” rather than “clinging”, as clinging is specifically refusing to let go of what you have, whereas grasping is more about getting new things. Grasping is, of course, the immediate condition for “new life” in dependent origination.
My understanding of this is that what this means is that the bundles are both produced by grasping (upādinna) in the sense that they are generated by grasping in a past life; and they provoke grasping (upādāniya) in the sense that they are the things we get attached to in this life, especially those things we take to be the self.
These terms are sometimes translated in a way that specifies a relation between them. So we have, for example, “aggregates of grasping”; but this suggests that the bundles are different kinds of grasping, which is obviously not correct. Or if we say “subject to grasping”, we omit the aspect of “grasped”; and it suggests to me that they are a passive victim of grasping, whereas in fact they evolve together with grasping.
If we were to translate this we would have to say something like “the five bundles produced by and provocative of grasping”, which is a little clumsy! So to avoid this I simply do what the Pali does, and avoid specifying the relationship. Hence they are simply “grasping bundles”.
Anyway, have a look at these passages and tell me what you think.
The birth, inception, conception, rebirth, appearance of the bundles, and acquisition of the sense fields of the various sentient beings in the various orders of sentient beings.
The passing away, perishing, disintegration, demise, mortality, death, decease, breaking up of the bundles, and laying down of the corpse of the various sentient beings in the various orders of sentient beings.
And so they meditate observing impermanence in the five grasping bundles.
In summary, the five grasping bundles are suffering.
The grasping bundles of form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness.
Any kind of form at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near: this is called the bundle of form.
Any kind of form at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near, which comes with defilements and provokes grasping: this is called the grasping bundle of form.
And when you’ve gotten involved with and grasped these five grasping bundles, they lead to your lasting harm and suffering.
“Mendicants, whatever ascetics and brahmins recollect many kinds of past lives, all recollect the five grasping bundles, or one of them.
“But sir, is that grasping the exact same thing as the five grasping bundles? Or is grasping one thing and the five grasping bundles another?”
“Sir, what is the scope of the term ‘bundles’ as applied to the bundles?”
Do you regard anything among these five grasping bundles as self or as belonging to self?’”
“What is the cause, sir, what is the reason why the bundle of form is found?
“But sir, can there be different kinds of desire and greed for the five grasping bundles?”
“Mendicants, whatever ascetics and brahmins regard various kinds of things as self, all regard the five grasping bundles, or one of them.
As long as I didn’t truly understand these five grasping bundles’ gratification, drawback, and escape for what they are,
To give up these five grasping bundles you should develop the four kinds of mindfulness meditation. …”