Is 'clinging' to the Aggregates a sufficient condition for Self-view?

I’m confused, is that claim here somewhere ?.. or are you refering to a similar topic you started on another website which doesn’t have any connection with this one?

Yes indeed. Just click here.

Ah, many thanks!

The problem is in “believing” that a self or soul exists, and that the five khanda are “one’s own”. But clinging to the five khanda does not mean believing in the existence of a self. Even for one who no longer believes in the existence of an abstract or durable “self” or soul, having understood that the five khanda are impersonal, he/she will still cling to them (identify with them) out of habit, even if already anagamin. That’s why believing in Dhamma and in non-self alone is insufficient for final freedom, which is attainable only through tthe sustained practice of non-attachment and dispassion.


A once returner has no self view, yet clings to the five aggregates. He has removed the fetter of self view (sakkaya ditti) but has only partially reduced the strength of the fetter of sensual desire (kama canda).

It seem clinging is a necessary condition, but not in itself a sufficient condition.

with metta


Hi Mat

Might you have a citation for this?

In the previous thread, I had asked silence for a citation to prove that it is possible to cling to the Aggregates and yet not have any Self-view. He cited SN 22.89, offering 2 possible interpretations -

I pointed out the defects in his reasoning around the 2 interpretations he offers -

For your option 1, does it account for the disappearance of Self-view “This I am” from Ven Khemaka, even if the conceit “I am” has not yet disappeared? Are you suggesting that from ¬ P ⇒ ¬ Q, you can validly assert not-Q (ie no Self-view) implies P (ie there is clinging)?

For your option 2, does it account for the disappearance of Self-view “This I am” from Ven Khemaka, even if the conceit “I am” has not yet disappeared?

I’m not sure if SN 22.89 is helpful to your case, as a new premise is involved in that case, namely the conceit “I am”. All we can validly infer from this sutta is that even if Self-view has been extinguished in a Trainee, the conceit “I am” has not

In fact, contrary to what he believes, SN 22.89 is amply clear when it says -

Friends, I do not speak of form as ‘I am,’ nor do I speak of ‘I am’ apart from form. I do not speak of feeling as ‘I am’ … nor of perception as ‘I am’ … nor of volitional formations as ‘I am’ … nor of consciousness as ‘I am,’ nor do I speak of ‘I am’ apart from consciousness. Friends, although the notion ‘I am’ has not yet vanished in me in relation to these five aggregates subject to clinging, still I do not regard anything among them as ‘This I am.’

This is a Non-Returner describing the conceit “I am”, which he identifies later as being an anusaya (latent tendency), even when he does not appropriate/cling to any of the 5 Aggregates with “This I am”.

Let’s see how this plays out. When there’s a critical mass of opinions here, we can then audit the various claims against the 2nd and 3rd Noble Realities of -

imasmiṃ sati idaṃ hoti, imassuppādā idaṃ uppajjati

imasmiṃ asati idaṃ na hoti, imassa nirodhā idaṃ nirujjhati

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What does the expression “not appropriate/cling to any of the 5 Aggregates with “This I am”” even mean? It looks like trying to blur the lines between sakkaya-ditthi-samyojana and mana-samyojana, whereas, as Bhante Dhammarakkhita very eloquently said:

Clinging to the aggregates (which manifests as the notion ‘I am’ not having yet vanished) and saying ‘I am’ about them are two separate and very different things, and I believe it is what SN 22.89 goes out of its way to explain. Doing away with the latter seems to be a feature of the sotapanna, but only an arahant can claim having removed the former.

Ven Khemaka explains conceit as an anusaya. Is appropriation an anusaya? Which of the 7 anusaya when anuseti-ing occurs at the conscious level?

To your query -

I’ve cited SN 22.8 previously -

And how, bhikkhus, is there agitation through clinging? Here, bhikkhus, the uninstructed worldling regards form thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self.’ That form of his changes and alters. With the change and alteration of form, there arise in him sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair.

It’s pretty straightforward Non-Returners do not appropriate as such, based on Ven Khemaka’s statement -

…still I do not regard anything among them as ‘This I am.’

There is a patent difference between the fetter of personality-view, and the fetter of conceit.

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To me, self-view is NOT a belief that a self (permanent or not) or a soul exists or not exist. It is a view that makes us believe that form, feeling, perception, mental volitions, consciousness is/are “I am, mine, myself”. Therefore, when one clings to form, feeling, perception, mental volitions, consciousness, one will identify oneself with them or one will believe that form, feeling, perception, mental volitions, consciousness is/are “I am, mine, myself”.

Therefore, in SN12.20 when one has ended self-view (has clearly seen with correct wisdom as it really is this dependent origination and these dependently arisen phenomena), one no longer believe that form, feeling, perception, mental volitions, consciousness is/are “I am, mine, myself”; therefore, it is impossible that one will "run back into the past , thinking:

‘Did I exist in the past? Did I not exist in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what did I become in the past? Or that he will run forward into the future, thinking: ‘Will I exist in the future? Will I not exist in the future? What will I be in the future? How will I be in the future? Having been what, what will I become in the future? Or that he will now be inwardly confused about the present thus: ‘Do I exist? Do I not exist? What am I? How am I? This being—where has it come from, and where will it go?" SN 12.20

All of these questions are about the “I” which one no longer believe in or attach it to anything, so he/she will never ask for those questions.

Of course, one who ended self-view still uses “I am, my” in daily communication, but he/she will never think that form, feeling, perception, mental volitions, consciousness is/are “I am, mine, myself”. He/she will never think that his/her body is “mine”. That body is just a body, not my body. That unpleasant feeling is just a feeling, not my feeling. However, for communication, he/she may have to refer it as “I or my” without grasping onto that. This is the limitation of language that one accepts just for better communication, not for grasping onto that “I, my”.

Without thinking or believing form, feeling, perception, mental volitions, consciousness is/are “I am, mine, myself” does not mean that one has completely relinquished all of them. One only completed the dispassion step, the next step is to relinquish them and then to completed cessation (impossible to re-arise after relinquishment). This is gradual process. Once one reached completed cessation, one is an arahant.

This is just my own view and I understand that many people will not agree with this view, so I will not defend it; therefore, just take it as a possible view.

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So it appears quite clearly that you are trying to equate ‘to appropriate’ (upadiyati) with ‘to regard as ‘this is mine’’ ('etam mama’ti samanupassati). It might seem to work if you think in English based on your choice of translation, but it does not in Pali, which is what SN 22.89 is all about.

Actually, there is a number of suttas explaining the belief in self/soul as coming down to the belief in khandhas being mine, so the former is just a gross type of the latter.

I don’t think so. By lapse of mindfulness, I think he might, and if he couldn’t at all, he would be an arahant already. This is what SN 22.89 is all about in my opinion.

No objection. I know that my understanding is unique, never heard before and not orthodox.

As I have said, he is an arahant only if he completed the cessation of “I, my” not at dispassion step. Dispassion is a view while relinquishment and cessation are actual practices/actions.

We first have a view (“end that self-view” - this is dispassion) then put it in practice (relinquishment of whatever relates to “I, my” - physically and mentally) and complete it (cessation of all “I, my” - physically and mentally).

If by lapse of mindfulness, he might take the self-view then he has not yet ended it. He only ended the view when he no longer be able to take that view no matter what condition.

When you no longer hold the view that only “Christian” can go to heaven, then there is no chance that you will think that way again even by lapse of mindfulness. Otherwise, you have not yet ended that view. (You may think that you ended but you are actually not in this case.)

If he still thinks that form, feeling, perception, mental volition, consciousness is/are “I am, mine, myself” then he has not yet ended self-view as I see. Otherwise, how can we say “ended”?

To me, it is impossible for one who already ended self-view (identity view) to take the view that form, feeling, perception, mental volition, consciousness is/are “I am, mine, myself”. However, this also is just my own personal view.

I find it strange what kind of ideas are expressed here, even by Sylvester who I noticed to be well knowledgeable in the dhamma.

This discussion is simply losing ourselves in words, it does not have too much to do with how conceit and self view work in reality. It’s a primitive mathematical, syllogism style calculation done on statements from the suttas that does not fit with how things work in reality.

Of course there will still be conceit in a stream enterer that does not posses self view. Conceit is only eliminated at arahantship. Clinging to the aggregates will of course happen, even if he does not consider them to be self. He might have clinging to alcohol, to woman, to different perceptions, etc. etc. etc.

When one clings, he can only cling to one of the 5 aggregates. Once-returners have partially reduced craving. Non-returners also have craving but or smaller things. It is only at arahantship that craving is completely removed.

That’s interesting. I had never thought of it that way.

I think you have to discern between taking up a view (a conscious, volitional act) and having a notion deeply built in the mental processes out of habit. If ending self-view entailed not being able to have the notion ‘I am’, then ven. Khemaka would already be an arahant.

If think for a better thought experiment, you’d rather have to compare having the view ‘sugary items are bad for me’ with the visceral desire for sugary items in spite of having such a view. Because your example leaves out the role of visceral attachment.

I agree, but there is a difference between a view and a notion/concept. You may not have the view (as a conscious, voluntary mental activity) but still use the concept out of habit (involuntarily).

I agree

He clings to the 5 aggregates, same as a stream enterer clings to the five aggregates, and yet he does not regard them as “this I am”.

To understand this better, there is a sutta where Buddha is asked if an arahant spends all the time in some nibbanic state, or something of that sort. Buddha answers that imagine a person with no limbs cause they were cut. Would he constantly be aware of that ? No, he will not be, but if he is to think about it, he would know that he has no limbs anymore. In the same way, an arahant will know when he contemplate that the 5 strings of craving have been cut and are no more.

If a stream enterer/once-returner/non-returner were to ask weather they still have clinging and conceit present in them, they would answer yes, despite the fact that if they think about the aggregates and ask weather they are self, they do not consider them like that.

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Yes, I missed that attachment link. What I should say is that if you ended that view, then if you by any chance pick up that view again, you will no longer be able to hold it and will quickly drop it.

You seems to have overlooked the rather helpful chunk of other suttas in SN 22 that deal with this regarding. But first, let’s just take a simple approach to SN 22.8. SN 22.7 is simpler, since the agitation is couched in more familiar terms -

And how, bhikkhus, is there agitation through clinging? Here, bhikkhus, the uninstructed worldling, who is not a seer of the noble ones and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma, who is not a seer of superior persons and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma, regards form as self, or self as possessing form, or form as in self, or self as in form. That form of his changes and alters. With the change and alteration of form, his consciousness becomes preoccupied with the change of form. Agitation and a constellation of mental states born of preoccupation with the change of form remain obsessing his mind. Because his mind is obsessed, he is frightened, distressed, and anxious, and through clinging he becomes agitated.

If your objection is that the verb “he appropriates” (upādiyati) is not found, why would the sutta not just speak of “Agitation through having regarded”? The fact is, everywhere else in SN 22, the verb samanupassati and the noun samanupassana are simply synonyms for “appropriates” and “appropriation”. Where do we see this? A small sample -

Idha bhikkhave, assutavā puthujjano ariyānaṃ adassāvī ariyadhammassa akovido ariyadhamme avinīto, sappurisānaṃ adassāvī sap¬purisa¬dhammassa akovido sap¬purisa¬dhamme avinīto rūpaṃ attato samanupassati. Yā kho pana sā, bhikkhave, samanupassanā saṅkhāro so. So pana saṅkhāro kiṃnidāno kiṃsamudayo kiṃjātiko kiṃpabhavo? Avijjā¬samphas¬sa¬jena, bhikkhave, vedayitena phuṭṭhassa assutavato puthujjanassa uppannā taṇhā; tatojo so saṅkhāro.

Here, bhikkhus, the uninstructed worldling, who is not a seer of the noble ones and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma, who is not a seer of superior persons and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma, regards form as self. That regarding, bhikkhus, is a formation. That formation—what is its source, what is its origin, from what is it born and produced? When the uninstructed worldling is contacted by a feeling born of ignorance-contact, craving arises: thence that formation is born.
SN 22.81.

In the standard Dependant Origination sequence, what else arises from craving, but clinging/appropriation?

See also SN 22.85, where both verbs are used.

As for SN 22.89, another sutta lays out the distinction between Clinging to the Aggregates and the conceit “I am”. See SN 22.47.



I think part of the clarity I’m pursuing here is to try to understand what people mean when one says “A Stream Winner clings to the 5 Aggregates”.

The trick here is to recognise that the verb “regards” is a synonym for “clings”/“appropriates”. In the context of the disappearance of the variety of Self-views afflicting a Worldling, the Stream Winner is not afflicted as such on account of the fact the she does not regard the Aggregates as self or belonging to self.

“Clinging to the Aggregates” in the suttas has a very specific meaning when it is used in the context of the disappearance of the various Self-views, namely clinging means clinging/appropriating consciousness etc as self. I’m just not sure what the other contributors in this thread mean when they speak of “clinging to the Aggregates”.

In the previous thread that gave birth to this new thread, I was at pains to define the antecedent P as -

Perhaps it is the laxness with which one has defined the premise P that has led to this poorly characterised issue.

Hi friend @Sylvester

It’s simple! If asked, most people will answer that they believe they and others are “selves”, stable, fixed persons, with body, mind, thoughts, feelings, memories, and cognitions, emanating from them and belonging to them. This is sakkayaditthi and for your convenience let’s call it “clinging to a view or belief in selfhood”. Or let’s call it clinging type 1, which is a saņyujana prohibiting sotapatti or steam entry. As you will agree, this is a clinging on the level of concept, ideas, or belief; a ‘perspective’, thus, “ditthi”.

Now there’s another clinging, type 2, it is the original condition of any born sentient being (and very much the cause of rebirth), of emotional rather than merely conceptual nature, which makes it far more difficult to transcend than ditthi. It consists in relating to the khanda with tanha, craving what’s pleasurable and comforting and hating what’s painful and discomforting. As mentioned by other friends here, this type of clinging to the experience of khanda is reduced gradually in a successful practitioner but does not cease until arahattaphala. Naturally progress in attenuating this kind of existential clinging is conditioned by abandoning sakkayaditthi in the first place, but contrary to what you say, it is not guaranteed thereby.

So two clingings:

  1. Conceptual belief in selfhood.
  2. Emotional reactionariness to the khanda.

Dear Bhante

I agree with the typology of clinging and reaction which you propose. The emotional reactivity would of course be the anusaya “I am” conceit (since the original classification of anusayas is typically on the basis that they anuseti their respective hedonic triggers). The conceptual belief in selfhood would just be appropriation, be it Aggregates, elements or Bases.

My difficulty is in trying to find a sutta which actually classifies the anusaya “I am” as a form of clinging. I think it’s a nomenclature that has been imposed on the texts, but which I cannot seem to locate within the texts themselves.

So, may I take it as Bhante’s position that a Stream Winner can never appropriate any of the 5 Aggregates as Self? That was actually the content of the P premise that was debated in the previous thread. Things became confusing when there was not much consistent usage of what P meant.

Whether it is mentioned so specifically or not in the sutta, everything unwholesome is certainly born of clinging!

Dhammarakkhita does not have any positions! So I don’t know exactly about this. But I guess it’s possible that a sotapanna may self-unconsciously retain a trace of self beliefs, due to the profound force of habit, or also due to the lingering confusion about Dhamma. Sakkayaditthi however is not that, it is a firm and non negotiable belief in the actual existence of self. And that is irreconcilable with a sotapanna.