One of the main points of Buddhist practice is to eliminate the belief that our psychophysical body is the âtman, which according to the Mahaparinirvana Sutra is the Buddha-nature. The way to eliminate the belief that my psychophysical body is the âtman is by looking at my physical shape (rûpa). Is it changeless like the âtman or Buddha-nature? The answer is, of course, no. The same goes with our feelings, our perceptions, volitional formations, and sensory consciousness. This is all transitory and unstable.
Hopefully, by doing this we will come to conclude that these aggregates cannot be our âtman, or the same, our Buddha-nature. As long as we can’t get rid of our belief that the psychophysical body that we acquired at conception is our âtman, we will continue to suffer. We have to stop clinging to it otherwise we will continue to suffer. And just what is suffering?
“And what, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of suffering? It should be said: the five aggregates subject to clinging; that is, the form aggregates subject to clinging [all the way to] the consciousness aggregate subject to clinging. This is called the noble truth of suffering” (SN 56.13).
It is not our âtman that is suffering but rather our clinging to that which is suffering, namely, the Five Aggregates of physical shape (or form/rûpa), feeling, perception, volitional formations and consciousness. By interfacing with the psychophysical body, making contact with it, we experience its experience. As we cling more to the psychophysical body, lured by its pleasures, we have deeper and deeper contact with it until we are overwhelmed by it. At this stage our Buddha-nature seems altogether absent. At this stage we are prithagjanas (worldlings) enjoying the dung-like happiness (mîlasukha) of the world. We have almost lost our scent for Buddha-nature.