Clinging-aggregates and bare aggregates?

Hi, community! This is my first post here. I wanted to know from the perspective of the Abhidhamma, commentaries, Visuddhimagga, or other relatively early Theravada sources how we should interpret the clinging aggregates. Are there aggregates regarded as “bare aggregates”? (i.e. aggregates other than the clinging-aggregates).

I remember reading in a book written by Bhikkhu Bodhi that the bare aggregates refer to the aggregates of an Arahat who is conscious of nibbana, except for the form aggregate, which Ven. Bodhi said not to have a bare type.

Others have argued that the bare aggregates refer to the aggregates of Arahats. This view, however, contradicts some suttas that show that Arahats should also contemplate the five clinging aggregates:

An arahant should attend in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self. Although, for an arahant, there is nothing further to do, and nothing to add to what has been done, still these things — when developed & pursued — lead both to a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now and to mindfulness & alertness.
SN 22.122

I’ve read from others who follow exclusively the EBT that the distinction between the clinging aggregates and the aggregates doesn’t imply that there is such a thing as bare aggregates. However, I don’t know if this has support in any early Theravada source.

I don’t know Pali (yet), so I’d really appreciate if the answers were mostly in English.


Welcome to the CT discussion.
I think for something like this, it is best to give us more references and you can type the quotes here too. Are these footnotes or something you heard from others.

The arahant has attained kilesa parinibbana, and attains khandaparinibbana at the end of his life .

Thanks Venerable! I’m going to leave some more references then. The following sutta talks about the five aggregates and the five clinging-aggregates, but I have no idea what the difference between these two is.

“What, monks, are the five aggregates? Whatever material form, feeling, perception, volitional determinations, consciousness there may be—past, present, or future, internal or external, coarse or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near—these are the aggregates of material form, feeling, perception, volitional determinations, and consciousness. These, monks, are the five aggregates.”
“And what, monks, are the five clinging-aggregates? Whatever material form, feeling, perception, volitional determinations, consciousness there may be—past, present, or future, internal or external, coarse or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, that are subject to clinging—these are the clinging aggregates of material form, feeling, perception, volitional determinations, and consciousness. These, monks, are the five clinging aggregates.”
SN 22.48

It sounds like there are aggregates that aren’t “clinging-aggregates,” but actually bare aggregates, as Bhikkhu Bodhi called. This led to the discussion that I talked about in my post. In the book Investigating the Dhamma, Bhikkhu Bodhi says:

To find an exact and detailed breakdown of the two groups, sásava dhamma and upádániya dhamma, we must turn to the first book of the Abhidhammapiþaka, the Dhammasaògaóì, which sets itself the special task of fully spelling out in terms of ultimate, actually existent states, the precise denotations of such technically significant expressions. According to the Dhammasaògaóì (§ 594), all material form (rúpa) is sásava and upádániya, since all material form may become the object of the cankers and clingings. Thus the contents of the aggregate of form (rúpakkhandha) and the clinging aggregate of form (rúpupádánakkhandha) completely coincide. There is no bare aggregate of material form. When, henceforth, we speak of a “bare five aggregates,” it is only figurative, for there at most four aggregates which are anásava and anupádániya. But more important, according to the same work (§ 1108, 1225, 1467, 1555), the immaterial aggregates of the arahat which are resultant (vipáka) as well as active (kiriya) in the mundane sphere, either sensuous or jhánic, are also sásava and upádániya. This is so not in the sense that they are still pregnant with the cankers and clinging, for it is plain that all defilements are abandoned by the arahat, but in the sense that they can become the objects of the defilements of others. Any feeling, perception, volitional determination, or consciousness, internal or external (ajjhattaí vá bahiddhá vá), that can become the object of the cankers and clinging is sásava upádániya. And further, since all sásava upádániya aggregates are clinging aggregates (upádánakkhandha), this means that the arahat’s mundane experience is still five clinging aggregates, though of course no clinging will be found therein. There is actually no such thing as “one’s own aggregates” or “the aggregates of others,” differently classifiable according to the perspective. There are only aggregates internal and external, and all aggregates internal or external that can become objects of the cankers and clingings are to be classified as the five clinging aggregates. The bare aggregates, then, will be those aggregates which cannot become objects of the defilements either internally or externally. And what are those aggregates? They are, in the classification of the Dhammasaògaóì (§ 1109, 1226, 1468, 1556), the immaterial aggregates—feeling, perception, volitional determinations, and consciousness—of the supramundane states of consciousness, the ariyan paths and fruits; for these states of consciousness cannot be apprehended by a mind defiled with the ásavas and upádána due to their sublime purity, a purity flowing from the absolute purity of their object, Nibbána.

This point is not made explicitly in the suttas, but it is implied by a number of passages (MN 22, AN 9:9/A V 324, etc.) showing the inability of the gods to discern the consciousness of the arahat when he is in the phalasamápatti, as also by the texts urging the arahat to contemplate the unsatisfactoriness of the five clinging aggregates in order to withdraw from them and “abide pleasantly in this present state.” In the Atthasálinì, however, the commentary to the Dhammasaògaóì, the issue is directly con- fronted. In order to explain why the Abhidhamma text classifies the mundane aggregates of the arahat as upádániya and the aggre- gates of the noble paths, fruits, and Nibbána as alone anupádániya, the commentator writes: “Although the aggregates of the arahat who has destroyed the cankers become conditions for clinging in others, when they say, for example, ‘Our senior uncle the Thera! Our junior uncle the Thera!,’ the noble paths, fruits, and Nibbána are not grasped, misapprehended, or clung to. Just as a red-hot iron ball does not provide a resting-place for flies to settle, so the noble paths, fruits, and Nibbána, due to their abundant spiritual sublimity, do not provide a condition for grasping through craving, conceit, and wrong views.”

(sorry for the format of the letters and texts, I can’t post photos or links in the forum)

In the forum Discuss & Discover, Venerable Sujato explained that the distinction between the five aggregates and the clinging aggregates doesn’t suggest that there are bare aggregates:

A classic, thanks for bringing this up! I wanted to check this before, but didn’t have a copy, so now I do.

It’s been ages since I read this, so I’m going to go back over it using the greater range of sources we have available today.

Firstly, to summarize the main doctrinal point, Ven Bodhi’s argument establishes that an arahant’s experience is still within the realm of suffering. They have escaped suffering in the sense of being beyond rebirth, but in the present life their experience is still dukkha. This is certainly correct, and can be confirmed on multiple grounds.

Also, let me just point out the elegant and meaningful structure of the essay. He begins by formulating the problem in terms of the four noble truths, draws out certain implications of that, examines those implications in the light of various sources, and draws it back with a return to the four noble truths at the end. When I see that, I think, “Huh, if only all my essays were like that!”

But let’s look at how the article establishes its case.

The main source text is [SN 22.48]. In his translation of this in Connected Discourses, nearly thirty years after the original article, Ven Bodhi includes the following note, which both handily summarizes his earlier argument, and confirms that he still agrees with his earlier interpretation:

This sutta is quoted and discussed at Vism 477-78 (Ppn 14:214-15), in relation to the difference between the aggregates and the aggregates subject to clinging. The key terms distinguishing the pañc’ upādānakkhandhā from the pañcakkhandhā are sāsava upādāniya, “with taints and subject to clinging.” The pañc’ upādānakkhandhā are included within the pañcakkhandhā, for all members of the former set must also be members of the latter set. However, the fact that a distinction is drawn between them implies that there are khandha which are anāsava anupādāniya, “untainted and not subject to clinging.” On first consideration it would seem that the “bare aggregates” are those of the arahant, who has eliminated the āsava and upādāna. However, in the Abhidhamma all rūpa is classified as sāsava and upādāniya, and so too the resultant (vipāka) and functional (kiriya) mental aggregates of the arahant (see Dhs §§1103, 1219). The only aggregates classed as anāsava and anupādāniya are the four mental aggregates occurring on the cognitive occasions of the four supramundane paths and fruits (see Dhs §§1104, 1220). The reason for this is that sāsava and upādāniya do not mean “accompanied by taints and by clinging,” but “capable of being taken as the objects of the taints and of clinging,” and the arahant’s mundane aggregates can be taken as objects of the taints and clinging by others (see As 347). For a detailed study of this problem, see Bodhi, “Aggregates and Clinging Aggregates.”

One detail, and this is from a highly unreliable memory of something over a decade ago, I think Ven Bodhi said he would change one aspect of this essay, namely the equation of the meditation mentioned as a “pleasant abiding in the present life” on page 94 with the arahant’s fruition. This seems to be indirectly confirmed in his notes in CDB. In his note on this sutta ([SN 22.122]) he doesn’t comment directly on this detail, but refers to a note elsewhere, note 332 on [SN 17.30], where he says:

Spk: The pleasant dwellings in this very life (diṭṭhadhammasukhavihārā) are the pleasant dwellings in fruition attainment. For when a meritorious arahant receives conjee, sweets, etc., he must give thanks to those who come, teach them the Dhamma, answer questions, etc., and thus he does not get a chance to sit down and enter fruition attainment. Spk’s identification of the “pleasant dwellings” with fruition attainment is certainly too narrow. The term usually means the jhānas, as at II 278,10-11

Now, to check the relevant parallels, it seems that [SN 22.48] has just one Chinese parallel at SA 55. This seems to be closely parallel to the Pali in most respects. However, it adds an extra detail at the end. Whereas in the Pali text the only difference between the “aggregates” and the “grasping aggregates” is that the latter are “liable to defilement and grasping”, the Chinese text adds the following:

And what is the grasping aggregate? Whatever form is with defilement and grasping, and that form, in the past, present, or future, gives rise to greed, hate, and delusion, and so on as above to the many kinds of mental affliction.

Perhaps @vimalanyani or another Chinese speaker can improve this. But it seems to me as if the 彼 here indicates a relative clause of the very common “yo … so …” type, indicating that the extended phrase is part of the same sentence, not a separate addition. It also seems to me that the text is abbreviating and referring to a longer list of afflictions. This isn’t necessarily significant, but it does read to me like this is an organic part of the text, and there is at least a possibility that the Pali has suffered loss.

The text specifies here that the grasping aggregates give rise to suffering. Now, this does not directly contradict Ven Bodhi’s reading. However his basic argument is that the arahant’s aggregates may give rise to grasping in another person. This has always seemed like slender reading to me. And it seems even more so here. Surely, the overarching theme of the Buddha’s teaching is how grasping gives rise to suffering for oneself.

Ven Bodhi’s argument finds support in the Abhidhamma and commentaries, and indeed one of the purposes of the article seems to be to establish that the Theravadin tradition is, in this respect, a correct reading of the suttas. If we leave this to one side, though, we are left with a number of what I think are rather weak links in the chain of argument.

The argument rests on the premise that there is some kind of meaningful distinction drawn between the “aggregates” and the “grasping aggregates”. In the original essay, Ven Bodhi is careful to point out that these are “not contrasted”, while in the note above he refers to the “difference between” the two terms.

But it is not really clear to me that there must be any real difference. One might define “man” as “homo sapiens” and “mortal man” as “homo sapiens subject to death”, but they are the same thing. The latter definition merely adds more detail.

Rather than denoting different kinds of thing, perhaps the point of the distinction between “aggregates” and “grasping aggregates” is to show them from different teaching perspectives. The former is a simple presentation of “what is” whereas the second explains how “what is” gives rise to suffering.

The strongest textual support for the argument that an arahant possesses the “grasping aggregates” is [SN 22.122], where there is a discussion between venerables Sāriputta and Koṭṭhita. This supports the idea that the arahant has the “grasping aggregates”. In my translation:

“But Reverend Sāriputta, what things should a perfected one meditate on?”
“Reverend Koṭṭhita, a perfected one should meditate on the five grasping aggregates as impermanent, as suffering, as diseased, as an abscess, as a dart, as misery, as an affliction, as alien, as falling apart, as empty, as not-self. A perfected one has nothing more to do, and nothing that needs improvement. Still, these things, when developed and cultivated, lead to blissful meditation in the present life, and also to mindfulness and situational awareness.”

The problem, though, is that there is nothing to connect this sutta with the primary source text SN 22.48/SA 55, which says nothing about the arahant.

Another weak point here is that this sutta does not appear to have any parallels. Normally this would not be necessarily significant, but in a case where a text appears to be supporting a sectarian doctrine, its absence from the other collections is noteworthy. It is quite possible, however, that similar statements are found elsewhere.

Moving on, I come to the weakest link in the chain. As indicated in the summary above, and stated in the original essay on page 95, the aggregate of form is said in the Abhidhamma to have no “bare” version. Thus the basic text explicitly states that there are five “bare” aggregates, but the Abhidhamma/Bodhi reading requires that there be only four. Given that so much of the argument rests on slender inferences, such a clear and direct contradiction with the primary source text is untenable.

The point of this classification is that while the arahant has no attachment to their own aggregates, others may be attached to them. Someone might see an arahant’s body and have desire for it, for example. Someone can even read an arahant’s mind and conceive a desire for their mental states. The only exception to this, in the Abhidhamma reading, is when an arahant is sitting in the absorption on fruition. In such a state, their mind is inaccessible to anyone (except possible a Buddha or another arahant) so cannot give rise to grasping.

This is an obscure edge case, and it is not referred to in the sutta. And as I indicated earlier, Ven Bodhi seems to have some reservations about bringing in such a state here.

In conclusion, I think the Abhidhamma/Bodhi reading rests on overly slim inference while directly contradicting the source text.

Rather, it seems to me simpler to see the source text as not pointing to different sets of things, but two different perspectives on the same thing. The “bare” aggregates show “what is”, while the “grasping aggregates” show how grasping to “what is” leads to suffering.

This kind of analysis is not uncommon in the suttas. Compare, for example, [SN 12.20], which draws a distinction between “dependent origination” and “dependently originated phenomena”. The point here is not that these are distinct things, but that they are two aspects or ways of looking at the same process.

Thus the question of whether the “bare” aggregates refer to an arahant does not even come up: that’s not what the Sutta is about.

This reminds us of an important principle in reading the suttas. When it comes to central teachings like the aggregates, we should avoid reading special or innovative doctrines into marginal, occasional, or obscure cases. The main teachings were stated again and again in different ways, and it is clear that this is a central mode of the texts as we have them. Unless the reading forces itself on us, we should prefer a reading that adds as little as possible to the content of the suttas elsewhere. This is an aspect of what I call the “principle of least meaning”.

While it makes for impressive exegesis and fascinating connections, when we chase slender meanings into obscure texts, alas, we all too often arrive at a dead end.

As a third position, there are those who claim that the bare aggregates are the aggregates possessed by Arahats, but SN 22.122 says that Arahats also contemplate the five clinging aggregates as impermanent, which contradicts the idea that the clinging aggregates are possessed only by unawakened beings.

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Dear Mike
welcome to the forum!
You might be interested in this letter Ven. Bodhi wrote to sarah about this some time back:

10/10/03 #25734


My paper on “Aggregates and Clinging Aggregates” was published in a
defunct journal, The Pali Buddhist Review, in c. 1976. I don’t have a copy
of the paper. My basic argument there was: (1) the only sutta that
explicitly distinguishes between khandhas and upadaanakkhandhas is SN 22:
48. There the latter are defined in the same way as the former except
that they are each said to be ‘saasava upaadaaniya’ (“with taints, subject
to clinging”). It would follow that there must then be aggregates that are
anaasava anupaadaaniya (without taints, not subject to clinging).
Intuitively, these would seem to be the aggregates of the arahant.
However, no such statement can be found in the Nikayas. I then turned to
the Dhammasangani enumeration of ‘saasava dhammas’ and ‘anaasava dhammas’,
and ‘upaadaaniya dhammas’ and ‘na upaadaaniya dhammas’. I found that Dhs
classifies the arahant’s ordinary cittas and cetasikas under ‘saasava’ and
‘upaadaaniya’. The only khandhas considered ‘anaasava’ and 'na
upaadaaniya’ are the mental khandhas (cittas and cetasikas) of the four
maggas and phalas. All rupas are tainted and subject to clinging. I then
went on to explore the significance of this for an understanding of the
Dhamma; but without the paper I can’t recapitulate what I wrote over 25
years ago. The old “Pali Buddhist Review” subsequently merged with another
scholarly journal to become the “Buddhist Studies Review”. If you can
track this down on the web, perhaps they have back issues available and
you can find that article. Or perhaps the paper itself is on the web. Just
look for the above title.<

also see this message


see this post by Sarah abbott

I understand upadana khandha refers to only the
khandha which is the object of clinging now.

In a discussion I was listening to a question is asked (by Rob K) about why the pa~ncupaadaanakkhandhaa are
given in the description of the 1st Noble Truth, rather than pa~ncakkhandhaa

A. Sujin asks about the khandha which is not the object of upadana. She
adds that it’s very simple, because it;s arising and falling away, but
not as an object of upadana.

Now, all khandhas rise and fall away, but they’re not all the object of
upadana, only one object ever is.

So when there is a moment of realization of the rising and falling away of
an object,( i.e a nama or a rupa), it must be of one which is commonly the
object of upadana.

There is a question by a Thai friend about the lokuttara citta which is
not included in upadana khandha.

A.Sujin stresses that not only lokuttara citta, but any khandha which is
not the object of upadana is only included in khandha. ‘Any, any, any
dhamma which is not the object of upadana now is only included in khandha.’
[She refers to the Sammohavinodani].

There’s a question again about the difference between khandha and upadana
khandha and again the comment that the difference depends on whether it is
the object of upadana or not at this moment. Now there are 5 khandhas
rising and falling away and the ones which are not object of upadana are
panca khandha. The one which is the object of upadana is upadana khandha.

She asks: “How can the panca khandha which are not the object of clinging
be upadana khandha?’ Khandha means the reality which arises and falls away
in the past, present or future. This is the meaning of khandha, but the
one which is the object of upadana is upadana khandha, the object of

Mike repeats and questions that upadana khandha only refers to the object
for the moment upadana is arising.

A.Sujin again asks how if there is no upadana we can say that the khandha
is the object of upadana.

At the end, she says: “Don’t think too much, it’s very simple; just
upadana, khandha and then upadana khandha”.

Later she also discusses here about the two meanings of upadana khandha I
referred to: a) rupa conditioned by clinging, i.e. kammaja rupa, and b)
objects of clinging discussed here.

As I mentioned, everyone will be able to listen to this and other
discussions very soon.

This topic and the passages in question are very much about the
development of vipassana in daily life as I see them.

MN109: "Monk, clinging is neither the same thing as the five
clinging-aggregates, nor is it separate from the five
clinging-aggregates. Just that whatever passion & delight is there,
that’s the clinging there."

James: “So, clinging is not the same as the five khandhas (including
nama) and it is not something that is separate from the five khandhas,
it is part of the process of dependent origination.”

Larry: MN44 has the same paragraph and there the commentary says
clinging is not the same as the 5 aggregates because it is only a part
of them and it is not separate from the 5 aggregates because there is no
clinging without the 5 aggregates. It is also, as you say part of
dependent arising. Each link in dependent arising is part of the 5
aggregates. And, as you say, understanding nama and rupa is not the
whole story. But this story isn’t the story of a person. It is the story
of not-a-person. Understanding dependent arising is a more comprehensive
understanding of no person (anatta). Not understanding dependent arising
there is at least the suspicion that there is a past, present, or future
person. This was the main point of Purification by Overcoming Doubt
which Sarah just presented. But even this understanding barely scratches
the surface as we will see in the remaining Purifications.


From Sarah Abbott

Sundara & all

In the zoom discussion on this topic you asked for more detail/references on upādiṇṇa rupas, the 2nd meaning of upādāna khandha.

Here’s a post I wrote a few years ago which may be helpful to repeat:

S:> First, to repeat, there are two meanings of ‘upādānakkhandha’:

  1. All khandhas arise and fall away, but are not necessarily the object of
    upādāna (clinging). Only the dhamma which is the object of upādāna
    (clinging) is upādāna khandha at this moment. It can’t be upādāna khandha when it is not clung to.
    For example, eye-sense whilst sleeping is not the object of clinging!

With regard to the definition of dukkha, given as “sankhittena
pa~ncupaādaānakkhandha dukkha” (the five factors of attachment are
suffering), this therefore refers to the dhamma which
is the object of clinging now. So when it is the moment of realization and
the full penetration of the rising and falling away of dhammas, the object
must be one which is commonly the object of upādāna (clinging).

Vism X1V, 214 (Ñāṇamoli translation):

"As to distinction: as to distinction between aggregates and
aggregates-as-objects-of-clinging. But what is the distinction between
them? Firstly, aggregates is said without distinguishing. Aggregates [as
objects] of clinging is said distinguishing those that are subject to
cankers and are liable to clingings, according as it is said:

'Bhikkhus, I shall teach you the five aggregates and the five aggregates
[as objects] of clinging. Listen…Any kind of materiality
whatever…is called the materiality aggregate…feeling…perception…
formations…consciousness…consciousness aggregate.
These, bhikkhus, are called the five aggregates.

“And what, bhikkhus, are the five aggregates [as objects] of clinging? Any
kind of materiality whatever…consciousness whatever…far or
near, that is subject to cankers and liable to clingings: this is called
the consciousness aggregate [as object] of clinging. These, bhikkhus, are
called the five aggregates [as objects] of clinging’ (S iii, 47)”

  1. Rūpas conditioned by kamma, such as eye-sense and ear-sense are also referred to as
    ‘upādanākkhandhaa’, i.e kammaja rūpas. ‘Upādiṇṇa-ka rūpa’ (clung-to
    matter) means ‘kammaja-rūpa’ (kamma-born matter).

Vism X1V, n23

"Upādiṇṇa (also upādiṇṇaka) is pp. of upādiyati (he clings), from
which the noun upādāna (clinging) also comes. Upādiṇṇa-(ka) rūpa
(clung-to matter) = kammaja-rūpa (kamma-born matter); see Dhs #653.

"It is vaguely renderable by ‘organic or sentient or living matter’;
technically, it is matter of the four primaries that is ‘clung to’
(upādiṇṇa) or ‘derived’ (upādāya) by kamma. Generally taken as a
purely Abhidhamma term (Dhs, p1), it nevertheless occurs in the Suttas at
Mi, 185 in the same sense.

(Dhs #652- 655 gives details of kammaja rūpas. Rūpas which are not
kammaja, kammaja rūpas are also objects of clinging. Also see Vism X11, n20.)

Mi, 185 is the same reference I gave (MN 28, Ṇānamoli/Bodhi).), to repeat:

“What is the internal earth element? Whatever internally, belonging to
oneself, is solid, solidified and clung-to (upādiṇṇa); that is,

Note: “Upādiṇṇa, ‘clung-to’, is used in the Abhidhamma as a technical
term applicable to bodily phenomena that are produced by kamma. Here,
however, it is used in a more general sense as applicable to the entire
body insofar as it is grasped as ‘mine’ and misapprehended as a
self…According to the Abhidhamma analysis of matter, the four primary
elements are inseperable, and thus each element is also included, though
in a subordinate role, in the bodily phenomena listed under the three

See also Vism X1, 27f:

"Now comes the description of the development of the definition of the
four elements…
It is given in brief in the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta, for one of quick
understanding whose meditation subject is elements, as follows:

"Bhikkhus, just as though a skilled butcher or butcher’s apprentice had
killed a cow…the earth element, the water element, the fire
element, and the air element’ (Dii, 294)…

"In the Mahātthipadompama Sutta it is given in detail for one of not
over-quick understanding whose meditation subject is elements – and as
here so also in the Rāhulovāda and Dhātūvibha’nga Suttas - as

‘And what is the internal earth element, friends? Whatever there is
internally in oneself that is hard, harsh, and clung to
[S: upādiṇṇa] (acquired through kamma), that is to say, head hairs, body
hairs…dung, or whatever else is internally in oneself that is
hard, harsh, and clung to – this is called the internal earth element.’
(Mi, 185)

(S: see other similar references, eg Vism V111, 130.)


Thanks for all these sources!
So upadana khanda is just khanda with upadana? I don’t get why dukkha is defined as upadana khanda: the five aggregates of an arahat are still dukkha, but they aren’t upadana khanda.

Dukkha can be defined as the aggregates
From the Samyutta Nikaya (translated as Connected discourses by
Bhikkhu Bodhi) p.868 Khandhavagga



At Savatthi. Bhikkus form is suffering, feeling is suffering,
perception is suffering, volitional formations are suffering,
consciousness is suffering. Seeing this he understands…there is no
more for this sate of being" end of sutta


p869 Khandhavagga 16(5)What is Dukkha?

“Bhikkhus form(rupa) is suffering…
Feeling is suffering…
Perception is suffering.
volitional formations are suffering…
Consciousness is suffering…”

In the ultimate sense there are no beings, no human, no arahat. There are however the khandhas, and these are what dukkha is.

Only upon the khandha parinibbana, the final passing away of the arahat does dukkha cease.

p870 19(8) Khandavagga Suffering with cause

“Bhikkus form is suffering . The cause and condition for the arising
of form is also suffering. As form is has originated from what is
suffering, how could it be happiness.”

The sutta repeats for all the khandhas


In SN 56.11, the Buddha says, “in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.” It sounds like aggregates other than the upadana khandhas aren’t suffering. I know they are still suffering given the other suttas, but in this sutta, if we differentiate the clinging aggregates from the aggregates in general, it sounds like there are aggregates that aren’t dukkha.

I think it depends on the purpose of the sutta. In this sutta showing the factors and nature of the long round of births and death, and how the understanding arose that brings the round to an end, then the upadana to the khandhas was stressed.

Once that is fully understood and vanquished than there are no more conditions for the arising of future births.

Yet all khandhas are fully anicca, dukkha and anatta. So the arahat waits patiently for his wages - that come at the time of khandha parinibbana, anupādisesa nibbānadhātu.

I don’t long for death;
Nābhinandāmi maraṇaṁ,
I don’t long for life;
nābhinandāmi jīvitaṁ;
I await my time,
Kālañca paṭikaṅkhāmi,
like a worker waiting for their wages.”
nibbisaṁ bhatako yathā”.

The Nettippakaraṇa :

Herein, the world is, at one time or another, somewhat free from to the unsatisfactoriness of pain (dukkhadukkhatā) as well as the unsatisfactoriness of change (vipariṇāmadukkhatā). Why is that? Because there are those in the world who have little sickness and are long-lived. But only the nibbāna component with no fuel remaining (anupādisesa nibbānadhātu) liberates from the unsatisfactoriness of fabrications (saṅkhāradukkhatā)


Hi Mike_0123.pdf (193.9 KB)

The reason why it is a pdf file is currently my account do not have the right to put URL links on the reply that I have typed. Hope you understand.


I checked with a few teachers at IIT and @RobertK’s first answer was correct. Anything that can be used as an object of clinging is an aggregate of clinging. The only exception to this are the 4 nāma khandas when Nibbāna is taken as an object (magga phala citta). Then those for 4 nāma khanda are not aggregates of clinging. The rūpa khanda is always an aggregate of clinging (rūpupādānakkhandho), even during a magga or phala citta. A lamp in this room is an object of clinging. A dead arahant’s body is an object of clinging. rūpupādānakkhandho. The 4 nāma khandas are classed as upādānakkhandhā when any object, even kiriya objects are taken. Typically they are called pañcupādānakkhandhā as a group of 5. There is however, no clinging in an arahant. These are two different terms.

This was already answered in the first reply by Robert K’s first answer. I’m not sure if this extra information helps.


It helps.
Thank you Venerable.

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Hi All, Interesting thread.

Here is Bhikkhu Bodhi’s article:
[Click on PDF]

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thanks Mike
I uploaded it for easy access.
8726-22997-1-PB.pdf (7.9 MB)

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This makes a lot of sense. Maybe I was giving too much attention to the details. Thanks a lot for the long and thorough explanations!

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Thanks for raising the issue. It’s been very interesting to see the sutta and commentary references that make it clear that there is no support for the idea that the aggregates of an arahant are different from the “ordinary aggregates”. I’d always found that idea odd, but Robert’s and Bhikkhu Bodhi’s references and analysis make is much clearer.