Extracts from the Samyutta Nikaya, condensed and paraphrased.
When certain things are combined,
We speak of chariot or vehicle.
Just as when five aggregates appear,
We call them by the name of man.
Then nothing but woe arises,
That which arises and passes away.
Nothing but suffering appears and
Nothing other than woe vanishes.
The five aggregates of corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness combine in a way the Buddha described as encompassing all physical and mental phenomena, including the fivefold aggregates that ignorant man believes to be a self or personality.
Whenever different parts, such as axle, wheels, frame, and pole, are combined in a certain fashion, we say chariot, but if we examine each individual part, we cannot ultimately discover anything called chariot.
Similarly, when the five aggregates of existence (Pali: khandhas) combine, we call them being or personality, but if we examine each part, we see there is nothing there which can ultimately be designated as I am and I, and all mental and physical phenomena merely appear to be but do not really exist.
According to dependent origination, feeling is conditioned through sense-impressions, and to the question, “Who is it that feels?” The Buddha would answer that such a question was not proper because there is no one who feels.
And to the question, “Conditioned through what, does feeling arise?” the answer would be: “Through sense-impression is feeling conditioned; through feeling is craving conditioned, through craving is clinging conditioned: through clinging suffering is conditioned.”
It would be better to consider the body as a conventional self rather than mind because the body lasts for 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, or 100 years, but what is called mind, consciousness, or thinking keeps appearing and disappearing continuously, arising as one thing and ceasing as another.
A learned, noble disciple considers dependent origination thus:
If this is, then that becomes. Through arising of this, that comes to be; through extinction of this, that becomes extinguished; namely: through ignorance conditioned arise kamma-formations; through kamma-formations, consciousness in rebirth; through consciousness, corporeality and mind; through extinction of ignorance, kamma-formations become extinguished; through the extinction of kamma-formations, consciousness.
Corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness are all impermanent, unsatisfactory, selfless, whether past, future, or present. Comprehending thus, the noble disciple no longer clings to the past and enters the path leading to detachment and extinction.
If the five aggregates are impermanent, unsatisfactory, and selfless, and the causes and conditions of the arising of these aggregates are impermanent, unsatisfactory, and selfless, then how could that which has arisen through something impermanent, unsatisfactory, and selfless in its root become a permanent or joyful self?
Words such as I, self, person, man, animal, and so on, as conventional terms, do not refer ultimately to existing entities, so the hypothetical self is only a fiction.
Generally, the world is fettered by attachment, firmly attached to phenomena, but a learned, noble disciple, not attaching or clinging to phenomena, understanding how dissatisfaction arises and vanishes, no longer assumes he has a self.
Suppose a man who is not blind, beheld bubbles on the surface of the Ganges, floating along; and he watched and examined them carefully until he understood them as empty, unreal, and unsubstantial. In exactly the same way the monk beholds corporeal phenomena, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and states of consciousness, whether past, present, or future, one’s own or external, gross or subtle, lofty or low, far or near, and he watches them and examines them carefully; and after carefully examining them they appear to him to be empty, unreal, and unsubstantial.
The body’s like a lump of foam,
The feeling like a water bubble,
Perception like a void mirage,
Formations like a plantain tree,
Consciousness like a magic trick.
There is no sense of corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations, consciousness which is lasting, enduring, and permanent, and not subject to change. If there were such an enduring, lasting self not subject to change, then the holy life leading to extinction of suffering would not be possible.
Once comprehension of impermanence has been developed, craving is relinquished for sensuous existence, for fine-material existence, and for immaterial existence, and discernment overcomes and uproots the conceit of I am.
A virtuous person, through contemplating the five aggregates as impermanent, unsatisfactory, empty, selfless may realize the fruit of stream-entrance.
In the course of penetrating these things, he becomes free of them, free of rebirth, free of old age, free of death, and free of sorrow, lamentation, grief, and despair, and thus becomes free of suffering.
Visible objects are non-self; sounds, odours, tastes, bodily impressions, and mind-objects are non-self. One is not what one sees, hears, smells, tastes, feels, not what one thinks. In accordance with ultimate truth, one understands: I am not that, that is not mine, that is not my self.
It is said that the world is empty, but why does one call the world empty? Because the world is empty of self and of anything belonging to self; thus, the world is called empty. What things are empty of self? Empty of self are eye and visible objects, ear and sounds, nose and odours, tongue and tastes, body and bodily impressions, mind, and mind-objects.
One should not imagine oneself as being identical with the eye, or imagine oneself of being included within the eye, or imagine oneself being outside the eye, or imagine of oneself: “The eye belongs to me.”
One should not imagine oneself as being identical with visible objects; one should not imagine oneself as being included within visible objects, one should not imagine oneself as being outside visible objects, should not imagine that: “Visible objects belong to me.”
One should not imagine oneself as being identical with eye-consciousness; one should not imagine oneself as being included within eye-consciousness; one should not imagine oneself as being outside of eye-consciousness. One should not imagine: “The eye-consciousness belongs to me.”
One should not imagine oneself as being identical with the totality of things.
No longer imagining or clinging to false views, a wise disciple no longer clings to anything in the world. Clinging no longer to anything, he does not tremble. Trembling no longer, he realizes the extinction of all vanity. Thus he knows: “Exhausted is rebirth, lived the holy life, no further existence is to be expected.”
Empty village is a name for the six sense-organs; thus, whenever an experienced, learned, wise man examines the six sense-organs—eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, or mind-organ—all these appear to him as delusive, empty, and illusive.
No first beginning of existence can be seen.
No doer can be found; no one that reaps fruits.
Wholly and fully empty is the cycle of rebirth.
And steadily the wheel of life rolls on and on.
The Buddhaâs Teaching of Selflessness (Buddhist Publication Society)
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