Bhikkhu Sutta: The Monk
(On Identifying with the Aggregates)
translated from the Pali by
Some people have said that the Buddha's teachings on the aggregates constitute his analysis of what we truly are; and that because the aggregates are impermanent and interdependent, we have an impermanent, interdependent self. This sutta, however, shows that we can be analyzed into the aggregates only if we feel obsession or attachment for them. If we don't feel these things, there's no way we can be measured, classified, or defined.
At Savatthi. Then a certain monk went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One: "It would be good, lord, if the Blessed One would teach me the Dhamma in brief such that, having heard the Dhamma from the Blessed One, I might dwell alone, secluded, heedful, ardent, & resolute."
"Monk, whatever one stays obsessed with, that's what one is measured by. Whatever one is measured by, that's how one is classified. Whatever one doesn't stay obsessed with, that's not what one is measured by. Whatever one isn't measured by, that's not how one is classified."
"I understand, O Blessed One! I understand, O One Well-gone!"
"And how, monk, do you understand the detailed meaning of what I have said in brief?"
"Lord, this is how I understand the detailed meaning of what you have said in brief."
"Good, monk. Very good. It's good that this is how you understand the detailed meaning of what I have said in brief.
"This is how the detailed meaning of what I have said in brief should be seen."
Then the monk, delighting in and approving of the Blessed One's words, got up from his seat and bowed down to the Blessed One, circled around him, keeping the Blessed One to his right, and departed. Then, dwelling alone, secluded, heedful, ardent, & resolute, he in no long time reached & remained in the supreme goal of the holy life for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing & realizing it for himself in the here & now. He knew: "Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for the sake of this world." And thus he became another one of the arahants.