The aggregates and intention

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Richard Zen, modified 9 Years ago at 10/21/12 12:03 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 10/21/12 12:03 AM

The aggregates and intention

Posts: 1656 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
Hi, I'm a little confused on the difference between consciousness and perception. Is consciousness just knowing that something is happening? Is perception just comparing what is happening to your memories? Also how does intention (is it volition?) fit into the template?

I'm trying to piece together what is dependent on what. Of course everything will depend on something else leaving no room for a self.
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Shashank Dixit, modified 9 Years ago at 10/21/12 10:15 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 10/21/12 10:11 AM

RE: The aggregates and intention

Posts: 282 Join Date: 9/11/10 Recent Posts
I think categorizing into skandhas is a really good line of approach and this is the approach that lead me
to SE.
I have revived this style of categorizing an experience into skandha and seeing directly anatta in that skandha
and thus diminishing "me".

You are right - consciousness is that skandha which is just aware. It knows.

Perception is that skandha which categorizes data into
such and such like this is red color , this is pain , this is fear etc

Volition is will , intention , applied thinking , discursive thinking part.

The question is - If the skandhas describe an entire human's experience then where does fear , aggression , nurture , desires etc fit in ? This is the craving/aversion/clinging
package that goes away at Arahantship and the skandhas continue to function without these. This is
the reason why in the First NT , it is said that the clinging-aggregates are suffering and afterwards
they become aggregates without clinging.

Edit x 2 for clarity
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Tommy M, modified 9 Years ago at 10/21/12 10:27 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 10/21/12 10:27 AM

RE: The aggregates and intention (Answer)

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Here's my current take on it, based on studying this subject right now and trying to fully understand the aggregates.

In terms of the aggregates, "consciousness" (vij├▒ana) refers to the six sense-consciousness, each of which are based upon volitional fabrications (sankharas):

- Mental-Consciousness: Dependent upon mental objects and a 'mind'.
- Tactile-Consciousness: Dependent upon physical objects (tactile sensations) and a body.
- Eye-Consciousness: Dependent upon visual objects (sights) and the physical eye.
- Ear-Consciousness: Dependent upon auditory objects (sounds) and the physical ear.
- Nose-Consciousness: Dependent upon olfactory objects (smells) and the physical nose.
- Tongue-Consciousness: Dependent upon gustatory objects (tastes) and the physical tongue.

Consciousness is basically the bare awareness of sensate experience, it's necessary for experience to be discerned in the first place and without it perception could not occur. So, yeah, you're basically correct in saying that consciousness is just knowing that something is happening.

Intention/Volition comes under the aggregates of fabrication, it's basically all forms of conditioned mental activity, thought, habit, craving/aversion, discursive thought and elective preference/volitional intention. Mental fabrications are dependent upon ignorance of the true nature of all phenomena as luminous emptiness, through conditioning and ignorance we continue to identify a subject/object duality in experience, e.g. the imputation of a thinker from the bare sensate experience of thought when, upon looking at that process of thought occurring more closely, no thinker can actually be found. We assume that there is someone or something thing which thinks, but it's just an assumption.

Memories are also mental fabrications, they're based upon the assumption that a previous sensate experience actually happened to someone, a "me", an "I", or a subject to the apparent objects arising.

Perception is basically recognition of forms, sounds, odours, flavours, tactile and mental sensation, it's dependent upon the six sense-consciousness being present for experience to be categorized before a feeling (vedana) is overlayed.

Make sense?

I could be off on some of this, I'm still working with this model and trying to develop a better, clearer understanding of it so hopefully others will be able to add more. Check out the Awakening to Reality blog 'cause there's a lot of good stuff on there about the 18 dhatus, aggregates and dependent origination which has helped me immensely in recent months.
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Richard Zen, modified 9 Years ago at 10/21/12 2:39 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 10/21/12 2:17 PM

RE: The aggregates and intention

Posts: 1656 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
Thanks guys. I think the reason why I get so confused now (to the point of having some dark night symptoms) is that as I'm constantly letting go I want to know what I'm letting go of. emoticon From listening to some mindboggling Rob Burbea talks on dependent origination/cessation and the dependent part of dependent origination makes time look like it's only a concept (because you can infinitely slice time, so no time) and all time really is is a bunch of particles pushing against each other. Because there is no dividing line between moments of time (because one conceptual moment must touch another one) it makes dependent origination (which is often taught in a linear way) seem time dependent which it must not be.

Shashank Dixit:
I think categorizing into skandhas is a really good line of approach and this is the approach that lead me
to SE.
I have revived this style of categorizing an experience into skandha and seeing directly anatta in that skandha
and thus diminishing "me".


Burbea's study of the chariot shows I'm still clinging to volition or intention or time as a "self". Or I'm clinging to awareness:

The Sevenfold Reasoning - Rob Burbea

Nagarjuna's chariot

In the end he says that you need samadhi, metta, and letting go to go further. Also that letting go of the past and the future deals with time because as you let go of both, time seems more present. So I'll try what Nick posted before on letting go of the past and the future and then concentrate via Shikantanza and just keep letting go until time seems to stop. The more gradual way would be to look at each aggregate and disidentify from it. Awareness can be clung to so using awareness as the object of consciousness and disidentifying from it is another way to avoid thinking awareness is the BIG SELF. If everything is dependent on everything else there should be no self to cling to.

Tommy M:
Make sense?


(Crude example) Yeah so if I have ALS and I have no sensation left but I'm alive my consciousness would depend on what's left which would be mental-consciousness. All the other consciousnesses would disappear. Though that might take some time to remove memory imprints since people who have lost their legs sometimes project that they can move their toes but at some point that must fade.
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Tommy M, modified 9 Years ago at 10/21/12 4:27 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 10/21/12 4:12 PM

RE: The aggregates and intention

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
From listening to some mindboggling Rob Burbea talks on dependent origination/cessation and the dependent part of dependent origination makes time look like it's only a concept (because you can infinitely slice time, so no time) and all time really is is a bunch of particles pushing against each other. Because there is no dividing line between moments of time (because one conceptual moment must touch another one) it makes dependent origination (which is often taught in a linear way) seem time dependent which it must not be.

Dependent origination is synonymous with emptiness, not cessation. Take time, linearity and particles out of the equation completely, they are only concepts (mental fabrications) and cannot be found in direct sensate experience other than via mental imputation; the apparent linearity of experience which leads to the conceptualization of "time" is entirely implied.

Understanding dependent origination/emptiness is understanding that no 'thing' actually exists, all we can ever experience are the six streams of sense consciousness which we conceptualize as seeing, hearing, etc.

Yeah so if I have ALS and I have no sensation left but I'm alive my consciousness would depend on what's left which would be mental-consciousness. All the other consciousnesses would disappear. Though that might take some time to remove memory imprints since people who have lost their legs sometimes project that they can move their toes but at some point that must fade.

That doesn't really work as an example.

If there was only mental-consciousness, there would still be the other four aggregates and the ability to perceive mental representations of the other sense-consciousness. I posted a thread a while ago about the five elements and the five aggregates which might also help a bit: Aggregates & Elements: A Multi-Model Overview

I recommend checking out a guy called Greg Goode, he does some really good and clear stuff on emptiness and dependent origination which would probably clear up a lot of your confusion.
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Richard Zen, modified 9 Years ago at 10/22/12 1:01 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 10/22/12 1:01 AM

RE: The aggregates and intention

Posts: 1656 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
Tommy M:
From listening to some mindboggling Rob Burbea talks on dependent origination/cessation and the dependent part of dependent origination makes time look like it's only a concept (because you can infinitely slice time, so no time) and all time really is is a bunch of particles pushing against each other. Because there is no dividing line between moments of time (because one conceptual moment must touch another one) it makes dependent origination (which is often taught in a linear way) seem time dependent which it must not be.

Dependent origination is synonymous with emptiness, not cessation. Take time, linearity and particles out of the equation completely, they are only concepts (mental fabrications) and cannot be found in direct sensate experience other than via mental imputation; the apparent linearity of experience which leads to the conceptualization of "time" is entirely implied.

Understanding dependent origination/emptiness is understanding that no 'thing' actually exists, all we can ever experience are the six streams of sense consciousness which we conceptualize as seeing, hearing, etc.


Yes I see what you mean. Cessation = All consciousness blinks out. Emptiness = Realization that no self is found.

I listened again to Burbea's talk and typed down some quick notes:

As we cling less, perceptions fade. When there is less delusion and identification the experiences begin to fade. Disidentify the intention to pay attention and with consciousness. Disidentify with awareness. Use Samadhi and metta to soften the fear of letting go. Samadhi helps to fade consciousness. We need to see the fading of self, thing, time collapse over and over again. The understanding feeds the experience and the experience feeds the understanding. Consciousness = knowing. Consciousness has to fade. When there is no clinging there is nothing for consciousness to lean on. When we have no concepts of self, object, and time this trinity dissolves. The unfabricated is the middle path between hedonism and nihlism. There is no language there so adding words to it won't do it justice.


Now looking at the Shikantanza instructions I can see sort of what the Zen types are aiming at but knowing this helps to see how the realization of emptiness helps to reduce clinging which aids in reaching cessation.