In a Korean Zen Buddhist's translation of the Heart Sutra, I saw that he rendered skandhas as "thieves".
I had not heard that translation before (and it's obviously non-literal). But how true!
The five aggregates are not just "impersonal components of reality which are the means through which self-view and the afflictions manifest." What nonsense that is! Orthodox and traditional Buddhism, yes, but nonsense! (Not that there's anything wrong with being orthodox or traditional )
The five aggregates are thieves which steal the self. They take self as their object; kidnapping buddhahood. And they demand a ransom, "You must invest time and energy in sensual desire or the self will not be returned" (self-fulfillment will not be achieved). But like the most devious criminal or terrorist kidnappers, this is a lie!
Because you might invest time and energy in sensual desire, but still, self is not returned its owner; there is no self-fulfillment, no satisfactoriness. Instead of satisfaction, there is only dukkha. So they demand another ransom... And each time, it's a lie. But you feel as though there's nothing you can do but to keep and keep paying the ransom, each time feeling even more dukkha than before.
Eventually (or perhaps never?), it may come to a point where you say, "Enough is enough! I will no longer be a slave to you!" and you take back the self. Not with force (that's not possible), but with wisdom and morality.
Through the reflection: the self does not belong to the five thieves. The self is mine. It has always been mine. That might be unclear, so let me put it differently: The self belongs to nirvana, it belongs to emptiness, to love, happiness, truth, and morality; it belongs to freedom and fearlessness. That is its proper home. This place called "samsara" is a bizarre dream, a virtual reality, an oil-slick, a tar pit, merely a story, like being under a hypnotic spell.
Upon realizing this, it's like two lovers who were separated but once again reunited, and there is endless joy.
(May all beings find happiness! )
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