Looking for an EBT interpretations of SN 5:10:
Why now do you assume ‘a being’?
Mara, have you grasped a view?
This is a heap of sheer constructions:
Here no being is found.
Just as, with an assemblage of parts,
The word ‘chariot’ is used,
So, when the aggregates are present,
There’s the convention ‘a being.’
It’s only suffering that comes to be,
Suffering that stands and falls away.
Nothing but suffering comes to be,
Nothing but suffering ceases.
I think this is usually interpreted using the concept of conventional and absolute reality, but this isn’t found in the EBTs.
I personally find it difficult to fully understand this excerpt because of the following:
The sutta tries to explain the lack of a being by making an analogy with a chariot: a being would bear a relation to the aggregates just like a chariot would to its parts. The problem, though, is how to make sense of the contradictory statements: “this is a heap of sheer constructions: here no being is found” and “when the aggregates are present, there’s the convention ‘a being.’” The first one sounds to me like, “if x is made of parts, then x can’t be a being,” while the second one sounds like “it’s the union of the aggregates that’s called ‘a being.’” An answer to this could be, “the aggregates are only conventionally called ‘a being,’” yeah, ok, but so it is with absolutely any word. We use them to refer to some things rather than others out of conventions, and that’s what gives them meaning.
Another problem is that the relation between a being and the aggregates is different from the relation between a chariot and its parts in a fundamental way: when the chariot’s parts cease, the chariot ceases as well. However, when the aggregates cease, we can’t say that the person ceases as well since this is regarded as an evil-view, right?
Why is the word “being” used instead of “self”? Would exchanging the words change the meaning of the sutta?
IMO, what the sutta means is just that there’s no “being” in a self-like sense (something unified, stable, permanent, controllable, or satisfactory), but that we still don’t need to give up the word ‘being’ since we may use it to refer to the union of the aggregates. Under this interpretation, “a being” (a human being, a deva, etc.) would indeed cease in parinibbana, but that wouldn’t mean that something about his identity ceased since there’s no self. This wouldn’t contradict the fact that “the Tathagata doesn’t exist after death” is wrong-view because “being” is different from “self”. For example, dogs are piles of aggregates that, usually, bark, have two ears, a tail, four legs, and so on; It’s still gonna be a dog if all their aggregates change but maintain the structure and behavior of a dog. Therefore, the fact that the aggregates are always arising and fading away proves that there isn’t a self, but it doesn’t prove that there aren’t beings (i.e. piles of aggregates), since beings are said to be piles of aggregates, not piles of stable aggregates.
These are my current thoughts on this, but I’m not sure tbh. What are yours?