The Five Aggregates – Introduction
Who am I? What am I? What makes me me?!
Source Material and References
One of the most important teachings of the Buddha was that of the Aggregates. We begin our in-depth look at the aggregates with this introduction. Please join us for this special offering.
What’s a Khandha?!
The Khandhasamyutta is a chapter in the Samyutta Nikaya that contains 159 suttas about the khandhas, or aggregates. There are five aggregates: Form, Feeling, Perception, Volitional Activity and Consciousness. Each of these aggregates are experienced through the six sense doors — eyes, nose, tongue, ears, body and mind.
The aggregates in and of themselves are fine. It’s our clinging to them where the problems begin. Clinging to what we want to have, to own, to be, causes pain, or dukkha, and this clinging leads to more pain and continued existence.
Thus, it is imperative for us to understand the aggregates for our happiness and liberation, in this life, and the next.
Read through the chart below to gain a basic understanding of the Five Aggregates. Note the following:
Form in terms of the five aggreates relates to the body, your body, my body. Form, or rupa, also relates to external forms.
Feeling, or vedana, can be categorized in three ways: pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral
Perception, or sanna, is simply the barest awareness of of an experience of sight, sound, hearing, touch, or taste.
Formations, or sankhara, are thoughts that get triggered by sight, sound, smell, touch and taste and
Consciousness is when an object meets with the sense doors, we come to valuate it and therefore either want it or don’t want it and cling to that wanting.
How Should we View Ourselves?
How do we see ourselves, and is the way we view ourselves accurate? In this introductory session, we examine how, according to the Buddha, we’re often mistaken in how we view ourselves. That is, we too often see ourselves through the Five Aggregates: Form–or our bodies, Feeling, Perception, Volitional Formations and Consciousness. In fact, we are none of these things. But what then, are we?! View to learn more.
Be as an Island
What does it mean to dwell ‘as an island?’ In this context, we look at all the causes suffering, the aggregates, and see that when we cease to cling to these, when we simply watch form, feeling, consciousness arise and pass away, we can then be said to dwell an an island, unperturbed. we can understand peace.
Being ‘Devoured,’ Part 2
Have you ever felt like your feelings have been so strong, they might ‘devour’ you? Whenever we cling to something, whenever we feel we must have something, or must get rid of something, it can truly seem like being consumed. This sutta will help up address and and free ourselves from this suffering.
Please Note: We regret that Part 1, of ‘Devoured,’ was not recorded.
"Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
Not Me, Not Mine, Not I
As we learn more about the aggregates, we come to a deeper understanding of how they are ‘not us.’ They are simply conditioned phenomena, arising and passing away. And what is it that is conditioned? The body we inhabit is conditioned by genetics, nutrition, how and when we exercise, and more.
Feeling, either positive, negative, or neutral, is also conditioned. Sounds you find annoying, others may find pleasant, depending on how they were conditioned. So too how we see things, how we make plans for our present and future being. Even our very thoughts are conditioned! As such, it’s important to realize that these feelings, thoughts, actions, they’re all conditioned, and therefore, ‘not us.’
What to do, then? Perhaps one of the most skillful things we can do in terms of the aggregates is simply begin to observe them as they arise, abide, and pass away. With non-clinging, non-identification, we can cultivate an even deeper understanding of them and how we relate to them, and begin the work of ‘un-conditioning.’ That is, untangling the cords with which they wrap around us, and with which we in turn cling to them, inviting a new freedom we never knew possible.