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This study takes up the first occurrence in Buddhist literature of an illustrative simile comparing the five aggregates (Sanskrit skandhas/Pali khandhas) to a chariot (ratha), found in an early discourse attested in different parallel versions (SN 5.10, SĀ 1202, SĀ2 218, Up 9014). It introduces and translates the version extant in the Abhidharmakośopāyikā-ṭīkā (Up 9014), and then comments on this initial formulation of the chariot simile in light of the ancient Indian background against which the early Buddhist texts and teachings emerged. The implications of the distinctive Buddhist use of the chariot imagery in this context appears to be less to the forefront in subsequent uses of the simile in later Buddhist tradition, which tend to shift focus on intra-Buddhist scholastic preoccupations and debates concerning the ontological standing of the person or sentient beings in general. These later developments will be discussed in a follow-up article.



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