Author Topic: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?  (Read 4486 times)


Offline vinasp

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2009, 07:30:56 pm »
Hi everyone,

 I think that the aggregates are a very important topic. I will try to explain how they are understood in the five nikayas (Theravada). The following appears to be the nearest thing to a definition in the nikayas :

At Savatthi. "Bhikkhus, I will teach you the five aggregates and the five aggregates subject to clinging. Listen to that....
"And what, bhikkhus, are the five aggregates ? Whatever kind of form there is, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near : this is called the form aggregate.
Whatever kind of feeling there is.....this is called the feeling aggregate.
Whatever kind of perception...
Whatever kind of volitional formations...
Whatever kind of consciousness there is , whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near : this is called the consciousness aggregate. These , bhikkus, are called the five aggregates.
 "And what, bhikkhus, are the five aggregates subject to clinging ?
Whatever kind of form there is, whether past, future, or present ...... far or near, that is with asavas, and subject to clinging : this is called the form aggregate subject to clinging.
Whatever kind of feeling ....
Whatever kind of perception ...
Whatever kind of volitional formations ...
Whatever kind of consciousness there is, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, that is with asavas, and subject to clinging : this is called the consciousness aggreggate subject to clinging. These, bhikkhus, are called the five aggregates subject to clinging".[ S. iii, 47 - 48.]

From : The Connected Discourses of the Buddha. Bhikkhu Bodhi, page 886.

 (Translation abreviated and slightly modified by me.)

 That the Buddha needs to give two separate definitions here shows clearly that there are two sets of aggregates. This is one of the most difficult parts of the teachings to understand correctly.

 My explanation :

 The definition seems to include absolutely everything! In fact it corresponds to the three realms of existence - the entire cosmos as understood at the time. By everything I mean, of course, everything that one can think of, conceive or imagine. So, it would seem that the five aggregates are the cosmos as imagined, or the "world" that one has
constructed for oneself.

 Why two sets of aggregates? The "world" that one constructs is not just conceptual. It involves the mis-conception of everything in relation to "self", or the mis-conception of everything in relation to the conceit "I am". This means that there are really two such constructed "worlds". Mis-conceptions of everything in relation to "self" give rise to craving and clinging. So these mis-conceptions are called the five aggregates of clinging. The mis-conceptions of everything in relation to the conceit "I am" are called the five aggregates.

 In both sets of aggregates these mis-conceptions are usually called "mental-objects". So one can understand each set of aggregates as five categories of mental-objects. In the five aggregates of clinging the objects are objects which are clung to.

 The five aggregates of clinging have ceased for an arahant who has completed the noble eightfold path. The "traditional" understanding is that the five aggregates remain until death. But I prefer the more radical interpretation that they also cease.

 The above explanation may be the higher understanding of the aggregates in Theravada. One may start with a simpler understanding. That the five aggregates represent a human being. Form (rupa) is the body, and the other four are the mind. The five aggregates of clinging can also be understood as just clinging (to the five aggregates).

 Best wishes, Vincent.

Offline Spiny Norman

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2010, 09:20:00 am »
That the Buddha needs to give two separate definitions here shows clearly that there are two sets of aggregates. This is one of the most difficult parts of the teachings to understand correctly.
 The five aggregates of clinging have ceased for an arahant who has completed the noble eightfold path. The "traditional" understanding is that the five aggregates remain until death. But I prefer the more radical interpretation that they also cease.

Good interpretation, I think it makes sense. 

CP

Offline humanitas

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2010, 04:10:26 pm »
Mis-conceptions of everything in relation to "self" give rise to craving and clinging. So these mis-conceptions are called the five aggregates of clinging. The mis-conceptions of everything in relation to the conceit "I am" are called the five aggregates.

 In both sets of aggregates these mis-conceptions are usually called "mental-objects". So one can understand each set of aggregates as five categories of mental-objects. In the five aggregates of clinging the objects are objects which are clung to.

 The five aggregates of clinging have ceased for an arahant who has completed the noble eightfold path. The "traditional" understanding is that the five aggregates remain until death. But I prefer the more radical interpretation that they also cease.


so the aggregates of clinging are not intended to be the same thing as the five aggregates, but complimentary in patterns of clinging?

Sorry if my question is really basic, I want to understand what you've explained so carefully...
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Offline Ngawang Drolma

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2010, 04:21:47 pm »
Hi OC,

I'm sure that vinasp can answer better, but as I understand it the 5 aggregates are considered to be clinging-aggregates.

Best,
Laura

 :namaste:

Offline vinasp

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2010, 06:27:58 pm »
Hi Ogyen Chodzom,

Mis-conceptions of everything in relation to "self" give rise to craving and clinging. So these mis-conceptions are called the five aggregates of clinging. The mis-conceptions of everything in relation to the conceit "I am" are called the five aggregates.

 In both sets of aggregates these mis-conceptions are usually called "mental-objects". So one can understand each set of aggregates as five categories of mental-objects. In the five aggregates of clinging the objects are objects which are clung to.

 The five aggregates of clinging have ceased for an arahant who has completed the noble eightfold path. The "traditional" understanding is that the five aggregates remain until death. But I prefer the more radical interpretation that they also cease.


so the aggregates of clinging are not intended to be the same thing as the five aggregates, but complimentary in patterns of clinging?

Sorry if my question is really basic, I want to understand what you've explained so carefully...

 Different interpretations are possible, it depends on how you understand the five aggregates and the five aggregates of clinging.

 However, they are not the same thing in any of these different interpretations.

 When we cling, what exactly are we clinging to? The actual thing, or a mental representation of it?

 My previous post was not really suitable for a beginners section. At the end I mention a simpler understanding which everyone starts with. I should have explained that first, and then pointed out the problems with this simple view, and why a more advanced understanding is required.

 My knowledge is limited to the khandha doctrine in the Five Nikaya's. Perhaps I should start another thread in the Theravada section. What do you think?

 Best wishes, Vincent.

Offline humanitas

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2010, 06:31:02 pm »
Hi Ogyen Chodzom,

 Different interpretations are possible, it depends on how you understand the five aggregates and the five aggregates of clinging.

 However, they are not the same thing in any of these different interpretations.

 When we cling, what exactly are we clinging to? The actual thing, or a mental representation of it?

 My previous post was not really suitable for a beginners section. At the end I mention a simpler understanding which everyone starts with. I should have explained that first, and then pointed out the problems with this simple view, and why a more advanced understanding is required.

 My knowledge is limited to the khandha doctrine in the Five Nikaya's. Perhaps I should start another thread in the Theravada section. What do you think?

 Best wishes, Vincent.

I think these questions kill me, like I MUST understand it now, or rather I WANT to understand it now.  Please do post another thread in ThVa section.  Let's get to the bottom of this to the best of our ability. 
 :headbow:
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Offline TongueTied

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2010, 01:07:46 am »

 When we cling, what exactly are we clinging to? The actual thing, or a mental representation of it?


Do you make a distinction between "actual things" and "mental representations"?  So there is form, and the mental representation of form?  Feeling, and the mental representation of feeling, et cetera?

Quote
This means that there are really two such constructed "worlds".

Please, can you clarify this statement?

Offline pickledpitbull

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2010, 08:28:05 am »
Vincent!  Glad to hear from you again!

Yes, I think there are two worlds.  Let's take Grandma's table as an example:
The table is a table.  Just a table.  Since it's Grandma's table, it may not be in the best shape.  It may not even be pretty.  But it's Grandma's table, sot that makes it special and now we may be attached to it.  Clinging.  But the table (form) isn't Grandma (feeling).  It's only the association aka attachment that I give it that creates my suffering.

Do you have a favorite food?  Just like Mom used to make?  My inlaws have a favorite recipe for this apple salad that my husband and I think is dreadful.  But I can't get away with not making it at Thanksgiving because the inlaws love it.  Same salad (form), different perception.
You've been taught that there is something wrong with you and that you are imperfect, but there isn't and you're not.


~ Cheri Huber

Offline TongueTied

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2010, 10:05:25 am »
So there are two worlds, the objective world and the subjective world?

Offline humanitas

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2010, 03:32:39 pm »
So there are two worlds, the objective world and the subjective world?

Perhaps it might be more accurate to say there are two types of world, an ultimate world (objective) and a conventional world (subjective), and that the latter emerges from the former...

does that sound right?  I'm not sure either...
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Offline J. McKenna

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2010, 03:38:12 pm »
There is one real World, and then there is what we create in our image as our real World. Many of one and the One of Many! Interesting, to say the least!  :wink1:
...i found there was no "i" anywhere.....

Offline vinasp

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2010, 04:01:28 pm »
Hi Laura,

Hi OC,

I'm sure that vinasp can answer better, but as I understand it the 5 aggregates are considered to be clinging-aggregates.

Best,
Laura

 :namaste:

 Are there some schools or traditions that make no distinction between the five aggregates and the five clinging aggregates? I would be interested if this is indeed the case. My knowledge is limited to the early (nikaya) teachings.

 Best wishes, Vincent.

Offline humanitas

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2010, 07:53:27 pm »
There is one real World, and then there is what we create in our image as our real World. Many of one and the One of Many! Interesting, to say the least!  :wink1:

Mohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh(m)dd, McKenna's coming into my REAL WORLD without permission!!!



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Offline TongueTied

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2010, 08:16:12 pm »
I'm surprised to hear this talk of a real world as distinct from the mentally fabricated world.  This sounds like substance dualism.  I can not recall having ever heard of this distinction with regards to Buddhism.

 


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