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Teachings of the Buddha: The Human Condition and the Leash

by Bhikkhu Bodhi
September 25, 2013
Wed, 09/25/2013 - 10:30 -- bbodhi

The type of view that lies at the bottom of all affirmation of selfhood is called identity view (sakkāyadiṭṭhi). All views of self are formulated with reference to the five aggregates either collectively or individually. The suttas often mention twenty types of identity view, obtained by considering one’s self to stand in any of four relations to each of the five aggregates: either as identical with it, as possessing it, as containing it, or as contained within it. The Buddha describes identity view as the leash that keeps the worldling bound to the round of rebirths, revolving in circles like a dog going around a post.

99 (7) The Leash (1)

At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning. A first point is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.

“There comes a time, bhikkhus, when the great ocean dries up and evaporates and no longer exists, but still, I say, there is no making an end of suffering for those beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.

“There comes a time, bhikkhus, when Sineru, the king of mountains, burns up and perishes and no longer exists, but still, I say, there is no making an end of suffering for those beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.

“There comes a time, bhikkhus, when the great earth burns up and perishes and no longer exists, but still, I say, there is no making an end of suffering for those beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.

“Suppose, bhikkhus, a dog tied up on a leash was bound to a strong post or pillar: it would just keep on running and revolving around that same post or pillar. So too, the uninstructed worldling … regards form as self … feeling as self … perception as self … volitional formations as self … consciousness as self…. He just keeps running and revolving around form, around feeling, around perception, around volitional formations, around consciousness. As he keeps on running and revolving around them, he is not freed from form, not freed from feeling, not freed from perception, not freed from volitional formations, not freed from consciousness. He is not freed from birth, aging, and death; not freed from sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair; not freed from suffering, I say.

“But the instructed noble disciple … does not regard form as self … nor feeling as self … nor perception as self … nor volitional formations as self … nor consciousness as self…. He no longer keeps running and revolving around form, around feeling, around perception, around volitional formations, around consciousness. As he no longer keeps running and revolving around them, he is freed from form, freed from feeling, freed from perception, freed from volitional formations, freed from consciousness. He is freed from birth, aging, and death; freed from sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair; freed from suffering, I say.”

SN 22:99 (1)

Click here to read all of Chapter 22: Khandhasaṃyutta: Connected Discourses on the Aggregates from the Connected Discourses of the Buddha.

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