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Old 08-18-2012, 02:25 AM   #1
freeringtonesioo

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Default What are the five aggregates? Why did Buddha mention them?
dear forum

in his 1st sermon & throughout his teachings, Buddha mentioned the five aggregates, namely, body, feeling, perception, fabrication & sense consciousness

the renowned Mahayana Heart Sutra begins by mentioning the five aggregates (are void)

what exactly are the five aggregates? for example, are they things created by the ignorant mind? are they functional attributes of life? did the Buddha teach about them so the mind does not ignorantly create them?

in our opinion, why did Buddha mention them? in our experience, what are they?

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Old 08-18-2012, 11:46 AM   #2
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are they things created by the ignorant mind?
I don't think so. For example, rupa is not a product of the ignorant mind. The five aggregates are simply nature, void of any quality to be regarded as a self.
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Old 08-18-2012, 01:26 PM   #3
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For example, rupa is not a product of the ignorant mind.
Do you think the ignorant mind can actually discern the five aggregates, let alone 'create' them? For example, how many human beings actually intimately know what the five aggregates actually are? It seems unusual that the mind can create something it is not overtly aware of. For example, when the ordinary mind creates love or anger, the ordinary mind is generally aware of its love or anger. But when the aggregates function, is the ordinary mind of the ordinary person actually aware of each aggregate both distinctly & interrelatedly operating? Or are the aggregates things, for the most, that are generally a mystery to the ordinary person?

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Old 08-18-2012, 01:58 PM   #4
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It happens somewhat like the awareness of the breath, I think ... our breathing keeps on happening and whilst functioning can become under conscious control and the mind can be trained to be more aware of it, nature ensures we breathe to survive.
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Old 08-18-2012, 02:31 PM   #5
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Do you think the ignorant mind can actually discern the five aggregates, let alone 'create' them? For example, how many human beings actually intimately know what the five aggregates actually are? It seems unusual that the mind can create something it is not overtly aware of. For example, when the ordinary mind creates love or anger, the ordinary mind is generally aware of its love or anger. But when the aggregates function, is the ordinary mind of the ordinary person actually aware of each aggregate both distinctly & interrelatedly operating? Or are the aggregates things, for the most, that are generally a mystery to the ordinary person?

I think it is possible to get both an intellectual as well as an experiential understanding that rupa is not mind-made with an ordinary, ignorant mind given that the person is instructed of Dhamma before hand. For example, the observation that the body breathes on its own irrespective of your awareness of it, as Andy said, is one example most meditators perceive during breath meditation.
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Old 08-18-2012, 02:35 PM   #6
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It happens somewhat like the awareness of the breath, I think ... our breathing keeps on happening and whilst functioning can become under conscious control and the mind can be trained to be more aware of it, nature ensures we breathe to survive.
Thanks Andy. This is a very good observation.
The body is mere nature and it breathes on its own whether the mind attends to it or not. Body is one thing, awareness is another. This is vividly visible during the first stages of anapanasati that it is almost impossible to deny it.
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Old 08-19-2012, 07:14 AM   #7
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2 cents,

The five aggregates is my favourite doctrine along all the nikayas.

They are like hearing a Mozart's string quintet. Each aggregate has its proper tune to watch at. All them together bring us into the idea of something there -slef- but when each aggregate is dissected and examined mindfully we can see that 'it is non self'.

The aggregates are also an outstanding teaching about 'our' cognitive properties and where, how and why we cling.

Cognitive sciences are trying to explain the same phenomenon that the aggregates have explained plain and simple.

One of the Truths -to be discern- explain clearly that the origin of mental suffering is at the level of 'clinging to the aggregates'. We just need to give a look there.
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Old 08-20-2012, 02:37 AM   #8
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Hi Element

As I understand it at the moment, they are functional attributes of life, The body is the physical manifestation, perception is the things that come into consciousness, from the millions of sense impressions that can come into consciousness, for instance if you develop an interest in Kawasaki Ninja motorcycles, suddenly you see them everywhere whereas previously you never saw / recognize one, Feelings are apparent to every one, whether trained or untrained every one is capable of discerning if they feel pleasure or aversion, It is also a a common perception that people have habitual behaviors, this is a lot of peoples security blanket, they feel safe within the same routines, similarly sense consciousness is easily understandable, you know when you are touching, smelling hearing etc..

All these things are everyday understandable things, which to my mind reflect the Buddha's pragmatic teaching, taking the every day easily recognizable experience and showing how this is related to the way suffering is created in our life
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Old 08-20-2012, 04:16 AM   #9
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As I understand it at the moment, they are functional attributes of life.
From reading the teachings, i sense they are functional attributes of life. The teachings explain:

And why do you call it 'form'? Because it is afflicted, thus it is called 'form.' Afflicted with what? With cold & heat & hunger & thirst, with the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun & reptiles. Because it is afflicted, it is called form.

And why do you call it 'feeling'? Because it feels, thus it is called 'feeling.' What does it feel? It feels pleasure, it feels pain, it feels neither-pleasure-nor-pain. Because it feels, it is called feeling.

And why do you call it 'perception'? Because it perceives, thus it is called 'perception.' What does it perceive? It perceives blue, it perceives yellow, it perceives red, it perceives white. Because it perceives, it is called perception.

And why do you call it 'fabrication'? Because it fabricates fabricated things, thus it is called 'fabrication.' What does it fabricate as a fabricated thing? For the sake of form-ness, it fabricates form as a fabricated thing. For the sake of feeling-ness, it fabricates feeling as a fabricated thing. For the sake of perception-hood... For the sake of fabrication-hood... For the sake of consciousness-hood, it fabricates consciousness as a fabricated thing. Because it fabricates fabricated things, it is called fabrication.

And why do you call it 'consciousness'? Because it cognizes, thus it is called consciousness. What does it cognize? It cognizes what is sour, bitter, pungent, sweet, alkaline, non-alkaline, salty & unsalty. Because it cognizes, it is called consciousness.

SN 22.79 alternate translation:

Bhikkhus, why do they speak of rupa? Bhikkhus, this nature naturally disintegrates (ruppati, vexed, oppressed), for this reason it is called "rupa." Why does it disintegrate? It disintegrates due to cold, due to heat, due to hunger, due to thirst, and due to the contacts of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, and crawling animals. This nature naturally disintegrates, for this reason it is called "rupa."

Bhikkhus, why do they speak of vedana? Bhikkhus, this nature is felt (vedayati), for this reason it is called "vedana." What does it feel? It feels pleasure, pain, and neither-pain-nor-pleasure. Bhikkhus, this nature feels, for this reason it is called "vedana."

Bhikkhus, why do they speak of sanya? Bhikkhus, this nature naturally recognizes (sanjanati, perceives), for this reason it is called "sanya." What does it recognize? It recognizes green, yellow, red, and white. Bhikkhus, this nature naturally recognizes, for this reason it is called "sanya."

Bhikkhus, why do they speak of sankhara? Bhikkhus, this nature naturally concocts concocted things (abhisankharonti), for this reason it is called "sankhara." What does it concoct? It concocts rupa as something concocted with "formness," it concocts vedana as something concocted with "feelingness," it concocts sanya as something concocted with "recognition-ness," it concocts sankhara as something concocted with "concoctingness," it concocts vinyana as something concocted with "cognition-ness." Bhikkhus, this nature naturally concocts concocted things, for this reason it is called "sankhara."

Bhikkhus, why do they speak of vinyana? Bhikkhus, this nature naturally cognizes (vijanati), for this reason it is called "vinyana." What does it cognize? It cognizes sourness, bitterness, spiciness, sweetness, astringency, non-astringency, saltiness, and non-saltiness. Bhikkhus, this nature naturally cognizes, for this reason it is called "vinyana. i find the description of 'sankhara' aggregate above particularly interesting & warranting investigation. what exactly is being explained here?

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Old 08-26-2012, 02:54 AM   #10
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I remember a teaching (I wish I could remember who, where and when) that said sankhara describes the whole of the Buddha's teaching on DO.
I will try and find it later.

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Old 08-26-2012, 03:48 AM   #11
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I remember a teaching (I wish I could remember who, where and when) that said sankhara describes the whole of the Buddha's teaching on DO.
'Sankhara' is the broadest word in Buddhism. It has multiple meanings dependent on context. In respect to Dependent Origination, in the Mahayana/Nargajuna sense, it can mean everything is conditioned (cause & effect) phenomena because "conditioned phenomena" is one meaning of "sankhara". But it can also mean how sankhara aggregate mentally constructs things.

The quote below exhibits these two different meanings of sankhara, i.e., sankhara aggregate & conditioned phenomena.

Rūpaṃ kho, āvuso channa, aniccaṃ; vedanā aniccā; saā aniccā; saṅkhārā aniccā; viāṇaṃ aniccaṃ. Rūpaṃ anattā; vedanā saā saṅkhārā viāṇaṃ anattā. Sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā; sabbe dhammā anattāti

Form, friend Channa, is inconstant. Feeling is inconstant. Perception is inconstant. Fabrication is inconstant. Consciousness is inconstant. Form is not-self. Feeling is not-self. Perception is not-self. Fabrications are not-self. Consciousness is not-self. All conditioned things [i.e., all of the five aggregates] are inconstant. All phenomena [i.e., including the unconditioned Nibbana] are not-self.

SN 22.90 My question of inquiry in my previous post is about the functioning of sankhara khandha (rather than about sankhara as conditioned phenomena, such as water being a construction of two parts hydrogen & one part water).

I find the following quote interesting, difficult to discern & obviously something quite deep & profound:

And why do you call it 'fabrication'? Because it fabricates fabricated things, thus it is called 'fabrication.' What does it fabricate as a fabricated thing? For the sake of form-ness, it fabricates form as a fabricated thing. For the sake of feeling-ness, it fabricates feeling as a fabricated thing. For the sake of perception-hood... For the sake of fabrication-hood... For the sake of consciousness-hood, it fabricates consciousness as a fabricated thing. Because it fabricates fabricated things, it is called fabrication. alternate translation:

Bhikkhus, why do they speak of sankhara? Bhikkhus, this nature naturally concocts concocted things (abhisankharonti), for this reason it is called "sankhara." What does it concoct? It concocts rupa as something concocted with "formness," it concocts vedana as something concocted with "feelingness," it concocts sanya as something concocted with "recognition-ness," it concocts sankhara as something concocted with "concoctingness," it concocts vinyana as something concocted with "cognition-ness." Bhikkhus, this nature naturally concocts concocted things, for this reason it is called "sankhara."
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Old 08-26-2012, 03:49 AM   #12
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Am I incorrect in thinking Sankhara khandha is mental formations?
so thinking of the a past occurence would be Sankhara Khanda? would the feelings that arise (happy, sad or mad) with this be vedana?

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Old 08-26-2012, 03:56 AM   #13
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Am I incorrect in thinking Sankhara khandha is mental formations?
so thinking of the a past occurence would be Sankhara Khanda? would the feelings that arise (happy, sad or mad) with this be vedana?
No, you are not incorrect. Sankhara khandha is mental formations. Feelings of pleasantness & unpleasantness are vedana. Where as 'sad' or 'mad' are mental formations because "sad" is generally the product of attachment & loss and mad is anger.

So returning to the quote, it seems to explain some relationship between sankhara aggregate & the other aggregates.



And why do you call it 'fabrication'? Because it fabricates fabricated things, thus it is called 'fabrication.' What does it fabricate as a fabricated thing? For the sake of form-ness, it fabricates form as a fabricated thing. For the sake of feeling-ness, it fabricates feeling as a fabricated thing. For the sake of perception-hood... For the sake of fabrication-hood... For the sake of consciousness-hood, it fabricates consciousness as a fabricated thing. Because it fabricates fabricated things, it is called fabrication.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu alternate translation:

Bhikkhus, why do they speak of sankhara? Bhikkhus, this nature naturally concocts concocted things (abhisankharonti), for this reason it is called "sankhara." What does it concoct? It concocts rupa as something concocted with "formness," it concocts vedana as something concocted with "feelingness," it concocts sanya as something concocted with "recognition-ness," it concocts sankhara as something concocted with "concoctingness," it concocts vinyana as something concocted with "cognition-ness." Bhikkhus, this nature naturally concocts concocted things, for this reason it is called "sankhara."

Buddhadasa Bhikkhu alternate translation:

Why do you call them volitional formations? They construct the conditioned, therefore they are called volitonal formations. And what is the conditioned that they construct? They construct conditioned form as form; they construct condition feeling as feeling; they construct conditioned perception as perception; the construct conditioned volitional formations as volitional formations; they construct conditioned consciousness as consciousness. They construct the conditioned, therefore they are called volitonal formations.

Bhikkhu Bodhi
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Old 08-26-2012, 04:20 AM   #14
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Where as 'sad' or 'mad' are mental formations because "sad" is generally the product of attachment & loss and mad is anger. Thank you element of course that makes sense, I should have thought before I posted that example.

Sorry to detract from your thread!

Again I am being a little slow on the uptake what do you think the implied relationship is between Sankhara Khanda and the other aggregates?

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Old 08-26-2012, 04:24 AM   #15
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Again I am being a little slow on the uptake what do you think the implied relationship is between Sankhara Khanda and the other aggregates?
Truthfully, I am not sure. I can take a guess. But I find the relevent quotes intriguing & warranting investigation.

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Old 08-26-2012, 05:03 AM   #16
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I removed this post as it did not make sense.

apologies

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Old 08-26-2012, 02:43 PM   #17
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I removed this post as it did not make sense.
thanks Ngagpa. but i saw no need to remove any posts

to me, the following translations seem rather jargonistic (compared to those about feeling, perception & consciousness, which seem very straightforward)

i think the disparity between the translations shows the teaching does not transmit well from language to language

i think we need to attempt to put the verses into our own plain english so it reads plainly & can assist understanding what sankhara khanda actually does when it functions



"And why do you call them 'fabrications'? Because they fabricate fabricated things, thus they are called 'fabrications.' What do they fabricate as a fabricated thing? For the sake of form-ness, they fabricate form as a fabricated thing. For the sake of feeling-ness, they fabricate feeling as a fabricated thing. For the sake of perception-hood... For the sake of fabrication-hood... For the sake of consciousness-hood, they fabricate consciousness as a fabricated thing. Because they fabricate fabricated things, they are called fabrications.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu alternate translation:

Bhikkhus, why do they speak of sankhara? Bhikkhus, this nature naturally concocts concocted things (abhisankharonti), for this reason it is called "sankhara." What does it concoct? It concocts rupa as something concocted with "formness," it concocts vedana as something concocted with "feelingness," it concocts sanya as something concocted with "recognition-ness," it concocts sankhara as something concocted with "concoctingness," it concocts vinyana as something concocted with "cognition-ness." Bhikkhus, this nature naturally concocts concocted things, for this reason it is called "sankhara."

Buddhadasa Bhikkhu alternate translation:

Why do you call them volitional formations? They construct the conditioned, therefore they are called volitonal formations. And what is the conditioned that they construct? They construct conditioned form as form; they construct condition feeling as feeling; they construct conditioned perception as perception; the construct conditioned volitional formations as volitional formations; they construct conditioned consciousness as consciousness. They construct the conditioned, therefore they are called volitonal formations.

Bhikkhu Bodhi
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Old 09-08-2012, 02:16 PM   #18
EsAllCams

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Thinking about the purpose of the 'Aggregates' it must in my opinion be realised that there are, as a matter of fact, not really five different aggregates in the same way as there is not really a 'Self'. The interdependence of the whole does not allow the distinction. I believe the Buddha deconstructed the human experience in the five most logical sets for the purpose of deconstructing the idea or experience of a self or the mental formations of independent entities. It would be wrong view to see the aggregates as five independent streams or processes as if they had some permanency to them without an inter-relationship between and amongst themselves, so to speak.

Does the ever changing processes stop at the point of enlightenment? I will answer with a clear NO! Experience is the whole point! The Buddha himself never stopped having experience.

What is the use of this analysis of personal experience in
terms of the five aggregates? What is the use of this reduction
of the apparent unity of personal experience into the elements
of form, feeling, perception, volition or mental formation, and
consciousness? The purpose is to create the wisdom of not-self.
What we wish to achieve is a way of experiencing the world that
is not constructed on and around the idea of a self. We want to
see personal experience in terms of processes in terms of impersonal
functions rather than in terms of a self and what affects a
self because this will create an attitude of equanimity, which
will help us overcome the emotional disturbances of hope and
fear about the things of the world.
We hope for happiness, we fear pain. We hope for praise, we
fear blame. We hope for gain, we fear loss. We hope for fame,
we fear infamy. We live in a state of alternate hope and fear. We
experience these hopes and fears because we understand happiness,
pain, and so forth in terms of the self: we understand them
as personal happiness and pain, personal praise and blame, and
so on. But once we understand them in terms of impersonal processes,
and once through this understanding we get rid of the
idea of a self, we can overcome hope and fear. We can regard
happiness and pain, praise and blame, and all the rest with equanimity,
with even-mindedness. Only then will we no longer be
subject to the imbalance of alternating between hope and fear. http://peterdellasantina.org/books/t...enment.htm#c12
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Old 09-08-2012, 05:13 PM   #19
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in our opinion, why did Buddha mention them? in our experience, what are they?
Thanks for the discussion Element

In my experience, the five aggregates are those chain links in the twelve-link chain of dependent origination that are most obvious to momentary experience

(unlike e.g. becoming or death which are often hidden away in the subconscious or closed rooms and unseen).

I my opinion, Buddha mentioned them because they are that which the ignorant mind will usually use in 'I'-making.

Thus the mind will usually aggregate or concoct the formness into a form, feelingness into feeling etc.

Which is taking features, constituents or snapshots of sense experience and put them together by the concocting mind, into something solid and putatively belonging to self.

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Old 09-08-2012, 06:29 PM   #20
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Thus the mind will usually aggregate or concoct the formness into a form, feelingness into feeling etc.

Which is taking features, constituents or snapshots of sense experience and put them together by the concocting mind, into something solid and putatively belonging to self.
Thank you, also. I liked your description, particulary at the beginning & at the end. I also sensed the quote may be explaining this.

However, I must question two points of view:

1. For the sake of clarity, sense experience seems to be consciousness. If so, does sankhara khandha take features, constituents or snapshots of "sense experience" and put them together as this or that 'aggregate'? Or does sankhara khandha take features, constituents or snapshots of the various aggregates, i.e., "formness", "feelingness", etc, and construct them into something solid, in terms of "solid unchanging form", "solid unchanging feeling", etc?

2. If sankhara khandha solidifies various "aggregatenesses", does it always necessarily put them together as putatively belonging to self? In other words, does sankhara khandha function in a Buddha? If so, it what ways?

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