Author Topic: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?  (Read 4558 times)

Offline vinasp

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #15 on: April 04, 2010, 08:39:46 pm »
Hi TongueTied,

 Do you make a distinction between "actual things" and "mental representations"?

 Yes, but it is a difficult distinction to make. Lets take 'form' first. By 'actual form' I
mean ones body or external objects as they are experienced at what I will call level one.
This is direct experience, pre-conceptual and pre-linguistic. When one acquires
language one can then think conceptually about ones experiences. This is level two,
which is conceptualised experience. This has two aspects or modes which I call 'static
conceptualising' and 'dynamic conceptualising'. The dynamic mode tracks the
changing experience of things in real-time. The static mode provides a fixed
background for the changing things. All this is required in order that we can
understand our environment and react in appropriate ways. This level two is already a
mental representation. In fact, even level one is, from the scientific point of view, a
mental representation. But these are not what I mean by 'mental representation'. What I
mean is what I call level three.

 Level three is where the mind becomes obssessed with certain things. A complex state
which includes conceptual, affective and volitional components. The Buddhist analysis
of these states often focuses on craving and clinging. Both of these require an 'object'
but what is this object? Is it the object as experienced at level one, or the conceptual
object at level two, or is it the obssessional object at level three?

 The other things like feeling can be understood in a similar way.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 "This means that there are really two such constructed 'worlds' ..."

  These two constructed 'worlds' arise from the distinction between 'view of self' and
the "view and conceit 'I am' ... ". If these two are eliminated together then there is only
one constructed 'world' which ceases. I think that in the earlier teachings these two
things were eliminated together. So the 'two worlds' are a late development.
 Why the removing of the view of self should entail the cessation of a 'world' is not
clear to me at present. This is one of the problems which I am working on.

 Best wishes, Vincent.
 

Offline vinasp

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #16 on: April 04, 2010, 09:01:04 pm »
Hi pickledpitbull,

 My 'two worlds' were both mentally constructed. They are not the real world. But I think that you have grasped the essential thing. We construct a personal world. We make some things more important than others.

 Best wishes, Vincent.

Offline TongueTied

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #17 on: April 05, 2010, 02:49:45 pm »
vinasp,

Thank you for clarifying what you meant.

I have difficulty understanding your argument that there are two fabricated worlds, each with form, feeling, perception, volitional fabrications, and consciousness.  I can't find any evidence for it.  I don't understand what you mean by a distinction between  "view of self" and "view and conceit 'I am' ".

Reading the excerpt that you quoted earlier in the thread, I am not seeing a description of two types of aggregates which co-exist.  I interpret the passage as saying that aggregates can exist either with or without asavas (mental effluents), with the former subject to clinging and the latter not subject to clinging.  I interpret the goal of the passage to be to encourage us to penetrate the nature of the aggregates so that asavas are eliminated and clinging ceases.

This is how I understand clinging:  the aggregates are not clung to by anything, nor do they cling to anything.  When not understood, the desire for the aggregates to become a certain way, unbecome from a certain way, or stay a certain way, arises.  This is clinging.

Form is dependent on feeling.  Form and feeling are dependent on perception.  Form, feeling, and perception are dependent on mental formations.  Form, feeling, perception, and mental formations are dependent on consciousness.  I don't think it's this straightforward and maybe I have it backwards, but it is illustrative.  "What we are" is a set of nested dualities.  It is desire related to the persistence of these dualities which is clinging.

With regards to the latter part of your post, if a world view is dependent on the self view, then cessation of the self view necessarily entails the cessation of that world view.

I invite you to respond or not respond.  I am comfortable agreeing to disagree  :cheesy:.  But if you can find fault with what I said or if you can clarify further what you meant, I would be interested.

Offline humanitas

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #18 on: April 05, 2010, 04:20:31 pm »
I WANT TO RESPOND!!

but I need to chew on this more...
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Offline J. McKenna

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #19 on: April 05, 2010, 05:21:17 pm »
Perhaps the discarding of one's view-filter, i.e., Somebody-isms, allows a direct view with more clarity. To some the Sun shines too brightly requiring filters. To others, the Sun just is, and the light just is, and any filters are extraneous. To some ....
...i found there was no "i" anywhere.....

Offline humanitas

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #20 on: April 05, 2010, 07:00:26 pm »
The sun (with sufficient exposure) will kill you.  Especially in this day and age.  So it's not different for everybody in that way.  The sun and the human body are objectively incompatible unless the relationship stays precisely within narrow parameters and conditions. 

I suppose that's true for all reality though.  It exists where it does and nowhere else.  It's not a little this and a little that, the sun IS hot.  That's a fact. 
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Offline vinasp

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #21 on: April 06, 2010, 05:12:54 pm »
Hi TongueTied,

 Your understanding is not wrong, it is similar to most of what has been written about the aggregates. I was explaining a radical alternative interpretation. Most of those who have studied the Pali Nikaya's, or the English translations, would probably agree with you and conclude that I have mis-understood the teachings.

 Here is the central problem:

 The normal interpretation is based on the idea that desire or clinging can cease while the object remains.

 The alternative interpretation is that the object must cease in order for desire or clinging to cease. Here, the 'object' is understood in a psychological sense, as a mind-made object. This object is the cause of the desire and clinging.

 My opinion is that the passages about the aggregates have been composed in a way which allows both interpretations.

 This is just some 'background' information which may help you if you are trying to understand my position. I will respond to your post #17 in detail.

 Best wishes, Vincent. 

Offline vinasp

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #22 on: April 06, 2010, 09:00:17 pm »
Hi TongueTied,

TT : "I have difficulty understanding your argument that there are two fabricated worlds, each with form, feeling, perception, volitional fabrications, and consciousness."

 V: These two worlds are just a way of speaking. One can also understand it as one world which is removed in two stages. The idea is that the "view and conceit 'I am' ..." arises first. A world is then constructed around this ' view I am' by making the views 'I am this' and 'I am that', and by making the views 'I am related to this' and ' I am related to that'. This bundle of views about 'I am' is the first 'personal world' which is constructed. Then, with this first world as a base, the view of self arises and the whole process is repeated again. Around this view of self, other views are formed, the view 'self is this' , 'self is that' , 'self is related to this', 'self is related to that'. This is the second personal world which is constructed.

 Enlightenment is reached by de-constructing these worlds. One can remove both together by eliminating the ignorance at the origin of the first world. Or one can remove the second world first by eliminating the ignorance at its origin (view of self). When this second world has been removed, one can then go on to remove the first world.

 Form in each of these worlds is only a view.  For example the view 'form is self' or 'I am form'.

 TT : "Reading the excerpt that you quoted earlier in the thread, I am not seeing a description of two types of aggregates which co-exist.  I interpret the passage as saying that aggregates can exist either with or without asavas (mental effluents), with the former subject to clinging and the latter not subject to clinging.  I interpret the goal of the passage to be to encourage us to penetrate the nature of the aggregates so that asavas are eliminated and clinging ceases."

 What one sees when one reads the excerpt depends on ones most basic understanding of what the aggregates are. If one thinks that the five aggregates are the body and mind of a human being, then there can be only one set of aggregates. One must then understand 'five aggregate clinging' as just a clinging to the five aggregates.

 However, if one understands the five aggregates as the mental objects which are regarded as 'I am this' or 'I am related to this', then the five aggregates are just a bundle of views about 'I am' [ I call these 'views of appropriation']. This is the first personal world which is constructed.
There is now no reason to understand 'five aggregate clinging' as just clinging to the five aggregates. It can be a second set of five mental objects which are associated with clinging.

 This 'five aggregate clinging' is a bunch of ideas of the kind 'self is this' or 'self is related to this' or 'this is mine', together with the clinging to these ideas. These ideas are the cause or origin of craving and clinging. Craving for these ideas, and clinging to them is what makes them views [ I call these 'clinging views']. This is the second personal world which is constructed.

 Since these ideas are the cause and origin of craving and clinging they must cease when craving and clinging cease. These ideas are the 'objects' of craving and clinging. It is not possible for clinging to cease but the 'object' remains.

 To be continued.
Best wishes, Vincent.

Offline TongueTied

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #23 on: April 06, 2010, 10:33:40 pm »
Thanks for the lengthy response.  It is an interesting interpretation.

May I ask for clarification on what the difference is between the self-view and the view/conceit "I am"?  I never would have thought to make a distinction there.

Offline vinasp

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #24 on: April 07, 2010, 12:00:40 am »
Hi TongueTied,

 In English views are often understood as just conceptual. My study of the Nikayas has
led me to a different understanding. For me there are three kinds of views:

1. There are views which are just conceptual.
2. There are views which are involved in the psychological mechanism of
    appropriation, in which feelings play a part.
3. There are views which are associated with craving and clinging. These are really
    delusions or obssessions.

 In the Nikaya's view (ditthi) seems to be used only for types two and three. Which
results in much mis-understanding by English speakers.

 Psychologically speaking, a view of 'I am' is a different thing from a view of 'self',
when we go beyond the merely conceptual views. In the teachings of the nikayas the
'view of self' is a different thing from the view 'I am', they are eliminated at different
stages of the path. Perhaps language and grammer play a role. Do children learn to say I
before they learn to say 'self'? Is self a more complex concept? I don't know.

 On the other hand, you might be correct. I find it hard to see the difference but I am
assuming that what the nikayas say is true.

 Best wishes, Vincent.

Offline Spiny Norman

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #25 on: April 07, 2010, 02:52:11 am »
Form is dependent on feeling.  Form and feeling are dependent on perception.  Form, feeling, and perception are dependent on mental formations.  Form, feeling, perception, and mental formations are dependent on consciousness.  I don't think it's this straightforward and maybe I have it backwards, but it is illustrative.  "What we are" is a set of nested dualities.  It is desire related to the persistence of these dualities which is clinging.


Interesting point.  There seems to be a paradox in here somewhere.  If we talk about clinging to the aggregates it does raise the question "Who or what is doing the clinging?"  But this "who" or "what" cannot be other than the 5 aggregates. :wacky:

Spiny

Offline TongueTied

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #26 on: April 07, 2010, 01:11:17 pm »
vinasp,

I am interpreting what you have written to be analogous to the two fabricated worlds that I am aware of:  the subjective and objective world.

The subjective world is concerned with I, me, mine, this, that, in a purely private sense.  Emotions hallucinations, and inner thought would be examples of things that exist in the subjective world.

The objective world is the world that is shared by everyone.  Self becomes a solidified, external thing.  You, me, I, this, that.  The weather, the earth, baseballs, colors.

The I of the subjective world is the "one who sees" mental activity.  The I of the objective world is the physical body as it relates to others.  They are different.  But they are used interchangeably, and both senses are often used at once.

This creates a sort of paradox that allows for all sorts of funny things.  Sometimes people think they are deeply profound.

For example:  "I am aware that I am aware that I am aware."  In this sentence, the middle 'I's are used as both a subject and an object.  As the subject, they are the subjective 'I'.  As the object, they are the objective  'I'.  Actually I just noticed for the first time that the grammar designations subject/object line up perfectly.  It's so obvious.  That sentence is not profound.  It is recursive conceptualizing based on a straightforward logical error.  I am actually of the opinion that most of the mysteriousness of consciousness (used in the colloquial Western sense) lies in the fact that people are unable to distinguish between the different types of 'I's.

I am not sure how the world relate to the aggregates.  I'm disinclined to think that the aggregates belong to one world or the other.

This is a little off-topic but it is pertinent to something you said earlier.  There are two main Western philosophical beliefs regarding the "stuff" of the world.  One is dualism (two worlds) and the other is monism (one world).  The Buddhist path, especially samadhi focused paths, usually try to guide one away from dualism (plurality) into monism (oneness), and then away from monism into Śūnyatā (emptiness).  Or as they say in Zen, "not two".

Offline ABC

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #27 on: April 08, 2010, 12:35:14 pm »
Therefore, Ananda, engage with me friends and not as opponents. That will be for your long-term well-being & happiness - MN 122

Offline vinasp

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #28 on: April 08, 2010, 02:14:33 pm »
Hi TongueTied,

 I think you have not understood my two worlds. They are very difficult to see. Think of them as two stages of enlightenment. Think of enlightenment as the elimination of many mental 'things'. So the 'things' are eliminated in two stages. Each of these two groups of 'things' is called a 'world'.

 Your two fabricated worlds are most interesting ( if I understand correctly). Here is how I would describe them:

 Conceptual understanding of experiences provides a basis for the construction of a complex model. This model includes two 'viewpoints' the subjective and the objective.
When we think about the external real world, we are really looking through or with our model in its objective mode. When we think about what goes on inside of us, we are using the model in its subjective mode.

 The model is not just conceptual. It seems to employ a special kind of controlled imagination. So its more like watching a film clip. Another feature of this model is that we do not see it. "Thats not my model, thats how the world actually is!"

 So, for me, your two worlds are 'worlds of understanding'. Two fundamental viewpoints. In my opinion an enlightened individual will still have these two kinds of understanding - these two worlds. But he will have eliminated the two worlds which I was trying to describe.

 Best wishes, Vincent.

Offline vinasp

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Re: What are the 5 aggregates or skandhas?
« Reply #29 on: April 08, 2010, 02:40:07 pm »
Hi Spiny,

 One common understanding is that the five aggregates are a human being.

 Another (recent academic) idea, is that they describe all human experiences.

 My understanding is as follows:

 1. The 'five aggregates with clinging' are 'a being' which is mentally constructed. Also called an 'acquired self'.

 2. The five aggregates are 'the person' meaning the 'person' constructed around the view and conceit 'I am'.

 Both of these must cease for full enlightenment.

 Best wishes, Vincent.

 


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