Dharma Pearls

Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Related Discourses

1. The Aggregates

158. Past, Future, and Present Aggregates

1. Thus have I heard:[1] One time, the Buddha was staying at Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park in Jeta’s Grove in Śrāvastī.

2. It was then that the Bhagavān addressed the monks, “There are five acquired aggregates. What are the five? The acquired aggregate of form and the acquired aggregates of feeling, perception, volition, and consciousness. If ascetics and priests are aware of their various past lives using the knowledge of past lives, those past consciousnesses, future consciousnesses, and present consciousness are all these five acquired aggregates. ‘I remember passing through past consciousness, future consciousness, and present consciousness. Thus was my form, thus was my feeling, thus was my perception, thus was my volition, and thus was my consciousness.’

3. “If something is resistant and divisible, it’s called the acquired aggregate of form. When something resists when touched by hand, stone, stick, blade, cold, heat, thirst, hunger, biting insects, vipers, wind, or rain, it’s called resisting contact. Because something resists this, it’s the acquired aggregate of form. Moreover, this acquired aggregate of form is impermanent, painful, and liable to change.

4. “The nature of feeling is the acquired aggregate of feeling. What is felt? Pain is felt, pleasure is felt, and what’s not pain or pleasure is felt; therefore, we call the nature of feeling the acquired aggregate of feeling. Moreover, this acquired aggregate of feeling is impermanent, painful, and liable to change.

5. “Perception is the acquired aggregate of perception. What’s perceived? The perception ‘few,’ the perception ‘many,’ the perception ‘measureless,’ and complete nothingness creates the perception ‘nothingness;’ therefore, they are called the acquired aggregate of perception. Moreover, this acquired aggregate of perception is impermanent, painful, and liable to change.

6. “The nature of making is the acquired aggregate of volition. What’s made? It’s the making of form and the making of feeling, perception, volition, and consciousness; therefore, the nature of making is the acquired aggregate of volition. Moreover, this acquired aggregate of volition is impermanent, painful, and liable to change.

7. “The nature of distinguishing[2] is the acquired aggregate of consciousness. What’s cognized? Form is cognized and sound, odor, flavor, touch, and ideas are cognized; therefore, this is called the acquired aggregate of consciousness.

8. “Monks, well-versed noble disciples train this way regarding this acquired aggregate of form: ‘My present form that’s made of food is like the forms I had that were made of food during past lives. They were like the present.’ Again, disciples think, ‘My present form that’s made of food will be like future forms that I’ll have if I continue to be addicted to it. My form that’s made of food will continue to be like this present one.’ After knowing this, they don’t look back at past form, aren’t addicted to future form, and become disillusioned with present form. They part with desire, extinguish it, and head for cessation.

9. “Noble disciples train in this way regarding this acquired aggregate of feeling … perception … volition … consciousness: ‘My present consciousness that’s made of food is like consciousnesses I had that were made of food during past lives. They were like the present.’ … ‘My present consciousness that’s made of food will be like my future forms if I continue to be addicted to it. My consciousness that’s made of food will continue to be like this present one.’ After knowing this, they don’t look back at past consciousness, aren’t addicted to future consciousness, and become disillusioned with present consciousness. They part with desire, extinguish it, and head for cessation.

10. “They decrease and don’t increase; retreat and don’t advance; cease and aren’t produced; and are abandoned and not acquired. What’s decreased and not increased? Form decreases and doesn’t increase. Feeling … perception … volition … consciousness decrease and don’t increase. What retreats and doesn’t advance? Form retreats and doesn’t advance. Feeling … perception … volition … consciousness retreat and don’t advance. What ceases and isn’t produced? Form ceases and isn’t produced. Feeling … perception … volition … consciousness ceases and isn’t produced. What’s abandoned and not acquired? Form is abandoned and not acquired. Feeling … perception … volition … consciousness is abandoned and not acquired.

11. “Decreasing and not increasing, they peacefully decrease and abide. Retreating and not advancing, they peacefully retreat and abide. Ceasing and not produced, they peacefully cease and abide. Abandoned and not acquired, they don’t give rise to bondage. After the disciple is unbound, they themselves realize Nirvāṇa: ‘My births have ended, the religious life has been established, and the task has been accomplished. I myself know I’m not subject to a later existence.’”

12. When the Buddha spoke this sūtra, a group of monks didn’t produce the contaminants, and their minds attained liberation.

13. After the Buddha spoke this sūtra, the monks who heard what the Buddha taught rejoiced and approved.

Notes

  1. This sūtra is parallel with SN 22.79. [back]
  2. distinguishing. The Chinese here could be a literal translation of vi- (別) and -jñati (知). [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 6 December 2020