The Buddha is always reminding his followers to abandon what is not theirs (cp. S. iii. 33) which, in particular, are the Five Aggregates that make up the psychophysical body. In the same vein he says “abandon desire for whatever does not belong to self (anattaniya)” (S. iii. 78). Again, this includes the Five Aggregates. They are not a part of the first-person, our real self.
Throughout the entire Khandhavagga (book of the aggregates), of the Samyutta-Nikaya, of the Pali canon, we learn that the Five Aggregates, without exception, are always corrupt—but never the self or attâ. These aggregates are impermanent, conditioned; they are dependent originations, subject to destruction, to perishing, to fading away, and cessation. Again, we learn that the self is not subject to corruption—it transcends the aggregates. Finally, the Five Aggregates—but not the self—belong to Mara, the Buddhist devil.
So why do so many writers, journalists, scholars and Buddhist monks mislead the public when it comes to making a clear distinction between the corrupt aggregates and the self, which the Buddha never once teaches his followers is corrupt? A typical writer about Buddhism will say, for example:
“Many religions teach that there is a soul or spirit which never dies. The Buddha said that there is no such thing. He said that people are made up of five parts—body, feelings, thoughts, ideas, and awareness of things around them. Every person is made up of these five things” (Sue Penney, Buddhism, p. 12).
The Buddha taught no such doctrine. The Buddha said that the Five Aggregates are not ours (S. iii. 33); each one is “not my self” (na meso attâ). How clear is that? But why do so many people who write about Buddhism get it all wrong; who seem to be champions of the Five Aggregates and enemies of the self? Can’t they read? Do they own The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi? If not, maybe they should buy a copy and read it, especially the chapter I pointed out earlier. Anyone who follows my advice will soon become a changed person. Not once is the self deprecated nor are the aggregates other than completely corrupt.
I think the reason why so many people who write about Buddhism get it all wrong is because they have fallen into the trap of materialism. Materialism is like a drug that causes people to become deluded. In fact, they become so deluded that they are almost incapable of seeing Buddhism the way the Buddha taught it.