"I declare ONLY suffering and its cessation." — The Buddha, indeed

Speaking of “the external world”

I’ll give an analogy,
Suppose there is only 2 people left in the world. One is color blind and another regular. One sees one color where the other sees another color when looking at the ‘thing’.

We can’t ask categorically ‘what color is the thing really?’. It depends on what instance of vision you are referencing, if you are talking about seeing which arises in dependence on this or that eye then it is like this or like that, the result of measurement is dependent on the instrument.

It is the same structure of reasoning when people talk about a world external to the senses. The world is however it appears/measured/observed and this depends on the instrument. Therefore the world is dependently arisen in a given frame of reference/observation and is not otherwise.

If one was to speak about a world without observation it’d be unlike anything else and there would be no time, space, particles or events.

This is confusing because this ‘world without observation’ is then that in dependence on which one attains the cessation of perception & feeling and it is aka the end of the world [of the six senses].

I think the buddhist conception of the unmade & parinibbana is closer to a coming into play of what people think of as ‘the external world’ rather than the atheist’s idea of death.

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Yes, SĀ 32 is a variant of the Soṇa Sutta (SN 22.49) that doesn’t have a Pali parallel. It says that one stops gathering up anything from the world → stops being attached to anything → attains nirvāṇa. Which then is defined as the declaration of liberation from future existence. I take it that the aggregates are what were being “gathered up” or “collected” from the world. I haven’t found another passage like this, though.

You may be right that upādāna should be read as a noun. SN 22.82/SĀ 58 certainly supports it when the question is asked whether the aggregates are identical to upādāna or not. It’s difficult to read it as an adjective in that passage.

I’m not so certain that the aggregates are the same as the upādāna aggregates, though. It would seem to me that the former are categories of phenomenology, while the latter are categories of contamination that result in the afflictions. Which are dysfunctions that arise from craving the aggregates. I suppose at the end of the line, the aggregates are still painful to an arhat as the body and mind lose their integrity and fall apart, but they aren’t generating new defilements anymore. And that seems to be the significance of upādāna vs. aggregates without upādāna. It seems to be a technical definition of the process of “outflow” or āsava. The defilements are the impurities that flow out as a result of that process.

In the Sarvāstivāda’s Saṃgītiparyāya, there’s a passage that defines the five aggregates and the five upādāna aggregates, and provides a lengthy commentary on both. The aggregates are defined as whatever form, etc that exists, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, etc.

The upādāna aggregates are defined in this way: “If the aggregate is contaminated as a result of any clinging and, when desire arises for this aggregate in the past, future, or present, it gives rise to greed, hatred, delusion, or the subsidiary afflictions that follow each thought; then this is the upādāna aggregate.” It seems pretty clear that it represented the contaminated state of an ordinary person suffers, but not an arhat.

The Vimuttimagga goes a step further with this way of thinking by presenting a set of five Dharmic aggregates as the opposite of the upādāna aggregates: which are aggregates of precepts, samādhi, wisdom, liberation, and knowledge and vision of liberation. It doesn’t elaborate further, but I have to think these were aggregates that were the antidotes to the upādāna aggregates. What would remain after the antidotes were applied? I’d guess just the aggregates, sans upādāna.

So, I personally suspect as I think about it more, that the concept of upādāna kandha was an attempt to describe what exactly āsava is as a psychological process. Which might explain why we find these suttas that analyze the concept or juxtapose the five aggregates with the five upādāna aggregates. It may have been a new idea at the time that needed elaboration.


As i understand it, both the continuation and ending of rebirth relies on conditions. The ending of rebirth relies on the absence of lobha, dosa and moha, the ending of tanha and avijja, the uprooting of asava and anusaya, and the arising of true knowledge. Those are the conditions.
True knowledge as condition is important because that is taught as the counterpart of ignorance (MN44, MN4). This ending of rebirth relies on conditions, right?

Freedom of kilesa’s also relies on a condition, the presence of true knowledge, the EBT teach.

Ofcourse, if final cessation refers to a mere cessation at death, one cannot talk about it as conditioned nor unconditioned. Because there is nothing to describe and talk about when all has ceased.

[later addition:
presence-condition, atthi-paccaya
absence-condition, natthi-paccaya

This is Abhidamma stuff. There is also something like an absence condition. I think one can use the example of rebirth…the absence of tanha etc. conditions the end of rebirth. And there must be true knowledge, a knowledge as

presence condition. So probably this situation of the ending of rebirth and defilements by the arahant cannot be refered to as the end of conditions, or unconditioned or free of conditions.]

Well, if I understand you’re point, this is similar to what I was expressing.
The world we experience is that through the six sense fields.
Whatever reality outside the six senses may be can’t be directly known, as in SN35.23

However, the are examples in the suttas where the Buddha indicates a reality beyond the senses. In DN he speaks about how if several kings rule with kindness and generosity the lands will be at peace and will prosper.
Or, when after his Awakening he mentally sought after his old teachers in order to guide them.
What sense does this make if those kings, lands and teachers were not aspects of an external reality?

But maybe we’re in agreement. I’m not sure about your points.

But it also depends on what one means by “unconditioned”, since the absence of all dukkha is unconditional in the sense it can never arise again, based on any conditions.

But again, we might speak of “unconditional” here as the fact that the freedom of the arahant from rebirth is unconditional since, in the absence of greed, anger, and ignorance, there are no conditions which can prevent the ending of rebirth at death.
So we can say this freedom akuppa cetovimutti is unconditional, MN29:

" It’s impossible for that mendicant to fall away from that irreversible freedom.

And so, mendicants, this spiritual life is not lived for the sake of possessions, honor, and popularity, or for accomplishment in ethics, or for accomplishment in immersion, or for knowledge and vision. Rather, the goal, heartwood, and final end of the spiritual life is the unshakable freedom of heart."

And SN41.7:

"That unshakable release of the heart is empty of greed, hate, and delusion.
Sā kho pana akuppā cetovimutti suññā rāgena, suññā dosena, suññā mohena."

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Does this statement also incriminate itself?

One could say that all truths depend on one’s point of view, the truth should be known personally.

The challenge is knowing if what one knows is in agreement with reality, ‘right view’, the Dhamma.

Is this ‘only’ suffering?

In the end even the Dhamma is given up.

It’s like if two people work a job
Person1 makes 10k a month
Person2 makes 30k a month

What does a person make when doing that work?

One can say the average is 20k but nobody makes that, it’s either 10 or 30.

If we ask what one actually can make then it’s either 10 or 30.

What one actually can make is always a special case. Whereas the average salary is a matter pertaining to a general case.

When talking about a world it is the same structure of reasoning.

One can talk about the general case of there being a world but this is like talking about that 20k average salary and no more mysterious. When there is this special relativity one can average it out as to think about the general case profile unlike any special profile.

It’s as if averaging out the features of human faces as to generate an image of what an average human looks like. Nobody special actually looks like this general case and we don’t go looking for this person because there could be no such thing.

Likewise if we talk about the general case of a world then we should understand that we are but averaging out some some special things. Therefore talk about such a general case only describes special relativity rather than something apart from it.

Absence of lobha, dosa, moha is a condition for ending rebirth.
Presence of true knowledge is a condition for ending lobha, dosa and moha.

I do not feel it is wise to talk about the unconditioned while we talk about khandha’s. Those are never unconditioned. Rupa up to vinnana arise dependend on conditions. Even when one would see Nibbana as special state of khandha’s, that is still true. It remains all conditioned. Or do you believe that the stream of vinnana of the arahant does arise without conditions?

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Who said they were?

Who said they weren’t?

While an arahant is alive the aggregates and senses are present, including the consciousness aggregate.
The freedom is not in or as the aggregates but in knowing that greed, anger, and ignorance have been eradicated and that there will be no rebirth/continuation of dukkha.


Lol, one productive thread it turned out to be. :smiley: Yet little that’s really about the main ideas I brought up at the start! :frowning: :wink:

Hello Venerable, :slight_smile:

My purpose was to explain to Yeshe why in the 1st NT it’s not just aggregates that are currently clung to, so I oversimplified things a little for that sake. It could very well also be interpreted the way you suggest. But that is of course just a technical matter, since either way all khandhas are included. For any khandha, whether currently grasped at or not, in the end is a khandha that was taken up (or acquired) at birth.

At some point I also thought that upādāna- may just clarify which khandhas we’re talking about, and that upādānakkhandha is the basic term, not khandha. I’m happy to see someone else came up with this too.

However, there do seem to be, as you say, contexts where the word upādānakkhanda has a more restricted meaning of only the aggregates that are currently grasped at. That is primarily SN22.48, where they are said to be “with defilements”. Let me know if you have another interpretation of this text. I’m not sure I was completely satisfied with Venerable Bodhi’s, although it’s better than those who conclude from it that there are “bare” aggregates that aren’t suffering. Ven Sujato at one point interpreted it in a way where upādānakkhandas is all khandhas throughout the sutta, but I can’t remember where. He said something like: it’s different ways of contemplating the aggregates. It felt a bit forced to me, but a possible avenue.

As it stands, I think the term upādānakkhandas just has different meanings in different contexts. There’s nothing unique about this. Even upādāna itself has two meanings (‘fuel’ and ‘taking up/acquiring’) and it’s often purposefully ambiguous which one applies. However, it does seem to me that SN22.48 is pretty much an exception. Usually upādānakkhandas just means khandhas in general. (Bold suggestion: Could it be a late sutta that tried to make sense of the two terms khandhas and upādānakkhandas, which were at the start just synonymous?)

Good point. Also, try to find any statement where the Buddha directly says something like this, even in other words. Such statements may exist but they’ll be rare.

I tend to interpret MN75 in this way:

Māgaṇḍiya, suppose I were to teach you the Dhamma, saying: ‘This is that health, this is that extinguishment.’ You might know health and see extinguishment. And as soon as your vision arises you might give up desire for the five grasping [or ‘acquired/taken up’] aggregates. And you might even think: ‘For such a long time I’ve been cheated, tricked, and deceived by this mind. For what I have been grasping [or ‘acquiring/taking up’] is only form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness. My grasping is a condition for continued existence. Continued existence is a condition for rebirth. [etc.]’

Note, ‘have been grasping’ is a past tense, upādiyiṁ. Technically it is, “I took up only form …” So it’s basically saying the aggregates Magandiya now has, were taken up in the past, with “for such a long time” being a reference to saṃsāra. (By the way, another eva (‘only’), to get back to the topic, haha! It’s the same idea again, basically. Magandiya will realize that whatever arises at birth is only aggregates, no self.)

Probably the most clear translation of this would be “the five aggregates that are taken up are suffering.”

I would suggest “khandhas, which are taken up, …”, instead of the restrictive ‘that’, which’ll sound like there are also aggregates that are not taken up, creating the exact same problem you’re trying to avoid. I used that before instead of “taken up khandhas”, but it became very verbose in certain sentences. (Perhaps I’ll use it in the 1st NT, though.) ‘Taking up’ itself already isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing and clumsy at times, although I do think it’s most accurate so I opted to stick with it. I think “taken up khandhas” can also be interpreted as taken up in the past, as well as now. Or not? That was the intention, anyway.

‘Acquired aggregates’ is good, but then the sense of taking the aggregates as ‘mine’, which is quite reasonably another sense of upādānakkhandas, gets lost even more. E.g. SN22.85:

You are attracted to form, take it up [i.e. take it as ‘mine’], and assume it to be your self. You are attracted sensation, perception, will, and consciousness, take it up, and assume it to be your self. Then those five taken up aspects of existence, which you are attracted to and take up, will lead to your long-lasting suffering and harm.

This does not mean ‘taking up’ in the exact same sense as the Magandiya Sutta, for example, where it means acquiring them at birth.

PS. Sorry, Ven, I know you replied to me in a few other places. Haven’t had the time to get back yet. I think I’ve got them bookmarked for the future, though!

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Hello Venerable!

So the earth itself and all the form on it is taken up at birth by every individual sentient being?

I’m sorry Venerable, I was not going to reply further here but this really is concerning to my mistaken mind. It appears to my mistaken mind that you’re suggesting this sutta is “late” based only on the problems you encounter incorporating it into your understanding? If I didn’t know better, I’d say this would qualify as prima facie evidence that this whole endeavor of classifying sutta as “late” inside the Pali canon - when it has a Chinese parallel that does not differ significantly in interpretation no less! - based on non-objective criteria really is misguided and should be abandoned with all due haste.

In the Mahayana, one of the sacred vows taken by all aspiring bodhisattvas is to not disparage the Pali canon or in any way suggest it is anything other than the authentic teaching of dhamma. It is considered a major transgression to imply otherwise to anyone and thus potentially cause a loss of faith or confidence in the triple jewel. Indeed, in the ultimate jewel: the dhamma itself. The dhamma is the medicine without which sentient beings are doomed.


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I know all that @Jasudho . I have seen your reasoning. You have explained why you believe the uncondioned does not refer to the unconditioned but to the conditioned. You believe it refers to a temporary state that has arisen and will also completely cease at death. So you find reason to call the conditioned the unconditioned. Oke. I do not follow this reasoning. For me this is artificial.
The unconditioned is not described as something that is seen arising and ceasing. So we do not have to think it refers to a temporary state, even when this is a temporary conditioned state without lobha, dosa and moha.

By the way…how do you think that one can know for sure that lobha, dosa and moha have been totally eradicated in this very life? Can one not come in a situation that it shows that it is not fully eradicated and was still present as anusaya? How do you think the arahants know for sure defilements are really eradicated to a point they just do not arise anymore. What do you think is the principle behind this?

Never said it. Never meant it.

Sorry. I have no idea how you came to this conclusion.

Trumpets are blaring. We agree.

Because it says so in hundreds of suttas.

I don’t because I’m not an arahant. This is one of the aspects in which saddha, faith in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha is important and relevant.

But also, importantly, we can validate this in ever deepening ways as we practice.
See SN12.23

“Rebirth is a vital condition for suffering. Suffering is a vital condition for faith. Faith is a vital condition for joy. Joy is a vital condition for rapture. Rapture is a vital condition for tranquility. Tranquility is a vital condition for bliss. Bliss is a vital condition for immersion. Immersion is a vital condition for truly knowing and seeing. Truly knowing and seeing is a vital condition for disillusionment. Disillusionment is a vital condition for dispassion. Dispassion is a vital condition for freedom. Freedom is a vital condition for the knowledge of ending.”

Finally, I don’t think it’s helpful to try to pin down “unconditional”. There’s freedom from dukkha to the extent that this can be while the aggregates and senses remain, and final, complete, cessation of dukkha at the death of an arahant.

I think this is more clear than getting into the weeds with abstract terms like “unconditional”. I mean, it’s used a lot in the suttas, but the term itself appears quite prone to many interpretations and varying views.

The cessation of dukkha, however, being the purpose of the teachings, is more clear and less prone to speculation.

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Buddha explains the unconditioned as: not seen arising, ceasing and changing in the meantime.
For me the most reasonable interpretation is that one will never ever be able to see dispassion, cessation, emptiness, the uninclined, the stilling of all formations, Nibbana, the end of stress arising. Like something that is made, caused. It is not like that.

It always reveals itself as being present. Like noise and silence. When one removes the sounds it is not that one sees stillness arising. Or, when formations cease one does not see the stilling of formations arising. It is like it was always there.

I believe the Buddha in this context used words like unmade, unproduced, not constructed, unborn, unconditioned.

Am i again wrong?


This is an area in which debate remains, even amongst long-term practitioners.
In general, one group tends to view nibbāna as an ineffable ever-present “something” (even though they say it’s not a thing), while another group tends to understand nibbāna as cessation – so, not ever any kind of “thing” or “presence.”

But KR Norman and others have translated this as “without birth” or “free of birth” which are less likely to be reified into a “something”. Cessation is then without birth, without death…etc.

There’s been a lot of discussion about these points on the forum, which you can find via the Search function, if you wish.

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Yes, i know.

Anyway, i refuse to see the Buddha as the teacher that wipes out every lifestream (vinnana stream) from existence without anything remaining. The Buddha as the Big Eraser.
I refuse to take refuge in this Buddha.

At least about something i feel no doubts at all. This is not my Buddha Jasudho.

So whatever all those Pali words mean, i am not gonna put trust in the Big Eraser.

If this is buddhism, i really turn away from it. It is fine with me that Brahmali and other think this is because i am utmost deluded as beginner, or as myself, and do not see the great worth of ceasing with nothing remaining. Well, fine, good luck with your holy project to cease finally without anything remaining.

Hmmm…no, i do not really mean this. What my heart really says, almost cries, please stop…do not do this. Do not see the holy life like this. Do not see Buddha-Dhamma like this. That is what i really feel but you know that.


I think you mentioned that you were exploring and not necessarily practicing the Buddhist Path.
In either case, the good news is that the Dhamma has many forms of skillful and beneficial meditations, contemplations, and ethical ways of conduct.
You may wish to read, contemplate, and practice whatever aspects of the Dhamma appeal to you and which lead to greater peace and happiness. :slightly_smiling_face:
Things will unfold as they do.

Meanwhile, I don’t recall anyone labeling you as:

Nor should anyone.

We’re all on the Path, learning as we go. :pray:

Yes, this is in SN 22.48 / SA 55.

I agree there is a distinction being made here, and I think what you’ve pointed to makes sense. From one perspective I think it is also just a didactic distinction being made for the sake of contemplation and clarity. So, the “grasping-aggregates” are the ones of the non-arahant which are the constituents of existence which are grasped at and result in mental affliction and perpetual samsāra. The ‘plain’ aggregates are just those constituents seen from the phenomenological lens, as you say, i.e. categories for classifying our experience. In both cases, the suttas are clear that the aggregates are characterized by anicca/dukkha/(suñña)/anattā, whether they are grasped or not. But the distinction made here is pointing to how one can be psychologically liberated in regards to these things by setting them down.

Personally, as @Sunyo mentioned, I find this text somewhat Abhidharmic. The Theravādin Abhidhamma apparently interprets these words in very formal and, well, Abhidharmic ways (like the idea that an arahants form can provoke afflictions in other people and is therefore upādāniya, etc.). The language used is relatively unique, it seems, and is not a major theme occurring elsewhere. So I do not want to dismiss the text, and when something seems strange to us that’s usually a sign that it was significant and relevant to others from a different perspective. I just need to give it a little thought.

This may be, yes. If you have further ideas about it feel free to share! I think that the point may also be, like above, practical, in that it is focusing on the aggregates from the angle of beings who are caught up in them and seeking liberation. Like “these aggregates, which are grasped at and taken up life to life, drawing you in to trap you into suffering.” As opposed to just a dry list of categories. IDK.

Yes, I’d agree. I think this sutta is using words in a creative way for teaching and explaining details of our experience that is intended to be either helpful or maybe solve/explain some concept that became relevant within the Sangha. To me it’s similar to SN 22.79 for example, where ‘rūpa’ is explained as ‘ruppati’: it does not mean that rūpa is limited to just the body affected by say cold, but it is pointing out specific concepts relevant to contemplation with language as a medium.

Ah yes, such a delightful passage! I agree with you here, I just don’t think this is sufficient reason to interpret ‘upādānakkhandha’ as ‘upādinna-,’ but I don’t think you are arguing for that either way. I do think that it highlights how ‘upādāna’ is referring to these being what are grasped at throughout samsāra, as in the ‘taken up/acquired’ reading. But I also think it has to do with identification as self, as you’d probably agree. I’d say it’s the identification with the aggregates that is the taking them up in the present and which leads the mind to not be able to let go of them and hold to them through existence after existence (upādānapaccayā bhavo). When the aggregates are seen as non-self via letting go, one understands that it is this process of ignorance with no discoverable beginning which has driven the mind to cling and take up the aggregates by appropriating them, and that they will come to an end with the end of that process (i.e. they won’t be taken up again for further existence once they cease for good at death). In brief, I think this passage includes both normal senses of the word, but you may be saying the same thing :slight_smile:

Thank you Ven., good suggestion! :)I hadn’t thought about that.

I also agree here. Personally, I wouldn’t use ‘taking up’ as of now. I think it’s very accurate, but it’s just too clunky most of the time for me. But I’m not currently doing any major translation so I don’t have to think about it too much. I like ‘appropriate/appropriation’ because it covers both senses of taking up + identification. And it has the connotation that one is taking ‘what is not yours’ by continuing in samsāra. It can be a bit technical sounding though and less immediately clear sometimes, perhaps.

‘Taken up khandhas’ can be read both ways, yes. It’s ambiguous in English, just as the Pāli is. I still think it can be (mis)read as the khandhas when taken up, which is what I pointed out before. But at the end of the day, we really can’t solve people misinterpreting things. This is a central doctrinal term in major doctrinal contexts, so people should come to understand it not just with one translation but with the larger context and explanation. So I don’t think it’s too much of a concern.

Always a delight to correspond Venerable @sunyo ! Thank you for your time and answers :pray: Hope you are doing well!

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