Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Five Aggregates of Buddhism

The five aggregates (Skandhas) of Buddhism are the impermanent elements that comprise the mind-body entity of a person.   This is not a permanent self, though.  For this reason the concept of no-self presents itself. These elements are constantly changing. 

There is the appearance that you are permanent, but this is not the case. When you think of yourself as an 'I', you are really summarizing these aggregates and their process of arising and passing away.  Understanding this concept clears the way to understanding right view. 

"When you understand that form, feeling, perception, formations, and consciousness are impermanent then you understand right view."
~ The Buddha, Samutta Nikaya, XXII, 51 

The Buddha knows that the way you see the world will affect the way you exist in the world.  He said to awaken, you must practice and possess right view.  Right view is the first path of the Noble Eightfold Path.

To attain right view he says is to understand the five aggregates of form, feeling, perception, formations and consciousness.  In this way you will see the world for what it really is.  You will have right view.

The Five Aggregates of Buddhism:

Form/Matter is the first of the five aggregates.  It refers to the body and the senses as well as material objects.  The Buddha recognized that the body in this way interacts with the world.  The world also interacts with the body.  The material world is also the world of form.

Feeling/Sensation refers to how experience affects us with regard to being pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral -neither pleasant or unpleasant.  Feeling in this way exists moment by moment for us. 

Perception refers to how we see and determine the world we live.  It is the determination of an experience, our perception of it, that allows us to make sense of that experience.  Some relate this to seeing through lenses or filters. This is a good analogy. 

Formations/Volition are mental patterns of thoughts and images that arise and pass away.  They are dependent on causes and conditions.

Consciousness is that within us that allows for the awareness of the way things are and existence.  I call this the mind.

All these aggregates of existence are impermanent.  This is what the Buddha realized - that all things are impermanent, that we are impermanent.  This is important to understand. It has many implications. 

Conditions of Existence

For one, you have a defined amount of time in which you will exist.  You are finite.  This also means that we are all finite. The Buddha realized that all things exist due to causality and conditionality.

This means that your impermanance may arrive sooner, or it could be later.  This is because your impermanance depends on certain causes and conditions.

Because we are all finite the people we love and admire will depart from this life. Sometimes before we expect them to. Also, material objects we cherish may also depart from our lives. Anything is subject to this truth.

The important aspect of all this is that it brings about a clarification of right view, the first path of the Noble Eightfold Path.  This in turn, allows us to understand why we should love and respect those in our lives, to forgive injustices, and to try and understand these injustices.

Not so much for the simple act of forgiveness, but to allow us to move forward with our lives, on our path, with clarity and compassion for ourselves and for others.

Awareness of Actions

Being aware of your actions or what you do in the context of the aggregates helps to see things as they are -right view. Your actions mean everything.  Your words mean everything. They do make the difference.  You can make a difference in someone's life!  Yours as well as others. 

The reason being is that pretty much all of us are the same -trying to live a life, navigate obstacles, and find joy or bliss in the sometimes and often chaotic storm that we exist.

In this way, we are all interconnected and interdependent.

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