V 11-39 The Five Aggregates are Empty (Part 2) 五蕴皆空（二）
Disclaimer: The translations are not official nor endorsed by 2OR, so please just treat it as a ‘fan-based’ translation. The Buddha-Dharma is profound. No matter how you convey it, it won’t be completely perfect. Because the Buddha-Dharma is an experience, it’s an awakening 【佛法深奥无比，怎么写，都不会是究竟圆满。佛法是一种悟】. Please enjoy, and I hope it serves as a good filler until the official English version comes out.
Because the five aggregates have birth and cessation, when you see a material object, you will develop mental feedback. So you must observe that feedback inwardly. In order words, Gautama Buddha teaches us that whether we are observing material objects or non-material objects, we must resolve it within our mind. Master asks you, other than the aggregate of form, the other four aggregates are all mental activities. That’s why Gautama Buddha tells us to introspect. Once we eliminate the five aggregates, then ‘the five aggregates are empty’, but we must first make the four aggregates empty within our mind. Gautama Buddha was a great philosopher and educator. Out of the five aggregates, feeling, perception, mental formation, and consciousness exist within the mind. Doesn’t feelings develop from the mind? Doesn’t perception develop from the mind? What about the mental formation of awareness? And consciousness? “I really want to go and scold him.” Isn’t that a thought that comes from the mind? That’s why all of them are associated with the inner mind.
In the beginning, Gautama Buddha only said one phrase; he told everybody to observe the birth and cessation of their five aggregates. Next, he said that those who could observe the phenomenal appearance and process of their five aggregates are already using the method of observing the birth and cessation of their five aggregates. In other words, if you could observe the phenomenal appearances and processes of the forms, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousnesses, then you are already observing the birth and cessation of it. For example, in your mind, you begin to develop affection towards another person. Gradually, this affection will increase until you begin to love them deeply. At that stage of the process, aren’t the five aggregates associated with it formed? At the end of the love, the marriage might fail, and it’s over. You think about it, and at the end of the train of thought, it’s over. Just like when you are thinking of buying something, but when you find that it might be too expensive, you don’t think about it anymore. That’s why everything is ultimately empty. To put it simply, when Gautama Buddha instructed us to observe the Dharma of birth and cessation of the five aggregates, he wants us to know that everything has a birth and a cessation.
So what should we do if we want our five aggregates to be empty? You must first understand its birth and cessation. The reason why you can let go of relationships is because you might have experienced emotional pain romantically before. If you weren’t abandoned before, how would you develop thoughts like, “I don’t care anymore, I’ll become a monk. I don’t want to marry anymore,” right? When people say they don’t want to marry, did they think the same way when they were young? It’s because the five aggregates associated with it had already deeply hurt them; that’s why they want to remove it. Every wholesomeness and unwholesomeness has its birth and cessation. That’s why we must cease it so that your mind is empty. Then the five aggregates are empty.
Just to mention the aggregate of forms again. The aggregate of form is formed by the false combination of the four elements. Many people don’t understand. When they see something might be good, it’s actually fake. Master asks you, when you first meet somebody, the first impression that they give you might be that they are cute and have a good personality. But when you are married to him, and you are constantly together, then their shortcomings become apparent. Would you still think that they’re good? In the past, when Chinese people see westerners, they think that they are very friendly. They always greet with a ‘hello’ and seem to be gentle and courteous. But now that we have lived in Australia and we have been in contact with them for a long time, we know that they will refuse to do something if they don’t want to do it. For example, you have just treated them to dinner, and you asked them to help you do something. If they refuse to do it, they will say, “No.” So your treat was for nothing. Chinese people find it hard to refuse others as they don’t want to affect relationships, but westerners would directly say, “No.” It’s that simple. That’s why you must see through to the bottom of things and understand that when there’s a birth, there’s cessation.
Master tells you, the four elements, earth, water, fire and wind, are related to one’s feeling, perception, mental formation and consciousness. Earth and feelings are related. The earth is the structure and what makes us feel grounded. Perception is like water as it flows and constantly changes. The mental formation is like fire; it’s like a burning desire that drives action. But after you have acted and it’s over, it’s ceased. Just like flames, in the end, only emptiness remains. Many people did many things in their lifetime, but when they lie on their bed waiting to die, they would think, “What had they done?” When venerable monks had become enlightened, and people praise them about how many great deeds they had done, they would reply, “What great things have I done? I have done nothing in my life; everything is empty.”
Master asks you, “What have you done? What did your parents do during their life? What about your grandparents? Do you know or remember what they did? What about your great grandparents? I bet you can’t even recall their names.” The wind is related to consciousness, where thoughts come and go like the wind. “Today’s Valentine’s Day. Would my boyfriend come over with some flowers?” You think about it all morning, and then you hear somebody knocking at the door. You thought that it must be your boyfriend, but it was actually the delivery man. Then your thought disappears like the wind. All of it was developed from your delusional thoughts. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas expounded that all forms, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousnesses are delusional and shouldn’t be developed. All delusional thoughts are bad; they are fake and empty things. But all of you keep it to memory.
When people lie to you, you also respond in the same way to them. All of these are delusional thoughts. That’s why the five aggregates are temporary phenomena. Why did Gautama Buddha tell you all to empty your five aggregates? It’s because all of it is illusionary. Master asks you, when you think about something, and then you don’t think about it anymore, isn’t it temporary? One moment, you hope to wake up much later in the morning; next moment, you think that you might marry a very good person. All of these are fabricated from your thoughts, so what happens next? Everything is like that. This world is built upon illusional phenomena where everything is temporary. Many young girls dream about who they want to marry and whether they could do this and that. Many young men dream about wanting to become this and that. They daydream most of their waking day until they finally get back to reality.
Everything is born and ceased from karmic affinities. If today you develop good feelings towards somebody, you will gradually lose that feeling, and it’s ceased. If you’re a small child today, you will get older, become old and then die. That’s why when you understand it all and see the emptiness of all things, you know what birth and cessation are. Then you will know the births and cessations of the five aggregates. After you see the emptiness of it, then you know that the five aggregates are empty. Now you should understand the ‘Heart Sutra’ when it expounds that ‘form is emptiness’ and the ‘five aggregates are empty’. Because you see this world of forms is empty, you observe the process of the phenomenal born from the five aggregates in the same way that Gautama Buddha instructed. You are observing its births and cessations. When you know everything has births and cessations, then you understand that ‘form is emptiness’. And then you possess Buddha’s wisdom.