CARRYING THE HEAVY BURDEN
( Discourse on the Bhara Sutta )
Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw
This body, one of the khandhas, is a heavy burden. Serving it means carrying the heavy burden. When we feed and clothe it, we are carrying the burden. That means we are servants to the aggregate of matter (rupakkhandha). Having fed and clothed the body, we must also see to it that it is sound and happy both in the physical and psychological sense This is serving the aggregate of feeling (vedanakkhandha). Again, we must see that this body experiences good sights and sounds. This is concerned with consciousness. Therefore we are serving the aggregate of consciousness (vinnanakkhandha).
These three burdens are quite obvious.
Rupakkandha says: "Feed me well. Give me what I like to eat; if not, I shall make myself ill or weak. Or, worse still, I shall make myself die!" Then we shall have to try to please it.
Then vedanakkhandha also says: "Give me pleasurable sensations; if not, I shall make myself painful or regretful. Or, worse still, I shall make myself die! Then we shall have to hanker after pleasurable sensations to serve its needs.
Then vinnanakkhandha also says: "Give me good sights. Give me good sounds. I want pleasant sense-objects. Find them for me; if not, I shall make myself unhappy and frightful. Eventually I shall make myself die! Then we shall have do its biddings.
It is as if all these three khandhas are perpetually threatening us. So we cannot help complying with their demands; and this compliance is a great burden on us.
The aggregate of volitional activities (sankharakkhandha) is another burden. Life demands that we satisfy our daily needs and desires and for that satisfaction we have to be active. We must be working all the time. This round of human activities gets encouragement from our volition prompted by desire. These activities make threatening demands on us daily, indicating that, if they are not met, trouble and even death would ensue. When human desires remain unfulfilled, they resort to crime. How heavy the burden of the sankharas rests upon us! It is because we cannot carry this load well upon our shoulders that we get demoralized into committing sin that brings shame upon us. Criminal offences are committed mostly because we cannot carry the burden of sankharakkhandha well. When criminals die, they may fall into the nether world of intense suffering or they may be reborn as hungry ghosts on animals. Even when they are reborn as human beings, their evil actions will follow in their weak and punish them. They may be shout-lived; they may be oppressed with disease all the time, they may face poverty and starvation; they may be friendless; they may be always living in danger or in troublesome surroundings.
The aggregate of perception (sannakkhandha) is also a great burden: because it is with perception that you train your faculties like memory to be able to retain knowledge and wisdom which can discern good from bad and reject from your mind unwholesome things produced by unpleasant sense objects. If the demands of the mind for pleasant sense-objects are not met, it will take up only evil which does nobody any good. Regrets and anxieties arise because we cannot shoulder the burden of sannakkhandha well.
For all these reasons the Buddha declared the five aggregates of clinging (upadanakkhandha) a heavy burden.
We carry the burden of our khandhas not for a short time, not for a minute, not for an hour, not for a day, not for a year, not for one life, not for one world, not for one aeon. We carry the burden from the beginning of the samsara, the round of rebirths, which is infinite. It has no beginning. And there is no way of knowing when it will end. Its finality can be reached only with the extermination of the defilements of the mind (kilesa), as we get to the stage of the path of the Noble Ones (arahatta magga).
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