The 5 aggregates and how to apply them

J C, modified 8 Years ago at 1/31/14 11:53 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 1/31/14 11:53 AM

The 5 aggregates and how to apply them

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So I've been told that it's very helpful in breaking down the self to look at things in terms of the five aggregates. I'd like to try this for myself, but I'm not sure exactly how. Here's my current understanding of the aggregates... I'd appreciate if someone could tell me if this is accurate or if I'm confused or missing something:

Say someone touches me in a way I don't like.

1. material form. As I understand it, this refers to the physical sensation of the touch.
2. feeling. As I understand it, this refers to the immediate classification of the touch as negative/unpleasant. Could also be pleasant or neutral.
3. perception. As I understand it, this just means labeling or giving it a name, "that tickles" or "my skin is oversensitive."
4. mental formations. This means all the thoughts or habitual reactions that result from the above, such as "why does she keep doing that," "she knows I don't like to be touched like that," "she shouldn't do that," "she must not care about me," "I'm really pissed off," and so forth.
5. consciousness. Is this my awareness of the whole process? I'm not clear on this one.

Is that about right?

So is the idea that I practice constantly noting everything I experience and sorting it into one of these five heaps? Is there a good way or technique of doing that? Or do I concentrate on one of them specifically?

Also I'm unclear how this applies to the "Sixth Door," thoughts, as they seem to fall under both categories 1 and 4. First I perceive a thought popping into my head (1), judge it as negative (2), give it a name (3), and then it spawns more thoughts (4 but also 1).

Thanks. Any help would be appreciated.
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Jake , modified 8 Years ago at 1/31/14 2:52 PM
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RE: The 5 aggregates and how to apply them

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4 and 5 in particular seem to be described differently by different sources, so you may get lots of different perspectives on those things from others.

I'd say your description of the first three is pretty spot on in my experience and from sources I have read/heard, with the clarification that 3rd can refer to even non-verbal labeling, what is sometimes called cognitive labeling, or the mere recognition of objects/subjects. So for example the experience of a person touching your arm, the bare perception of that, would fall in this third skandha category, as this is a pre-verbal conceptual interpretation of the raw sensations.

One interesting way to approach the five skandhas is to take these first three and notice them occurring in real time, as non-linear experiencing. See how sensations, feelings and perceptions interact in the flow of experience. See how higher-order mental-emotional contents can be viewed as compounded, more complex combinations of the first three. There is lots of great insight to be had in simply seeing the process of sensing-feeling-perceiving and the complex structures that arise as they combine and dissolve.
Banned For waht?, modified 8 Years ago at 1/31/14 3:15 PM
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RE: The 5 aggregates and how to apply them

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I think:
Anything you think of is a form no matter of what it is. Awarenss is lost or very weak.

Feeling- is you need to let go of form, that everything could become one, it will look like you are one with everything or seems like everything is in your awarness nothing excluded. Seems your awarness is one with outside/external stuff.

perception- is you have been all the time not "here" you are out of phase, so this level is letting go of that awareness of being one. Seems you will turn your awareness inward.

mental formation- Whatever rises will disappear by itself. You have let go of so many things that you will see it clearly that you are causing your own problem you want to solve. So you will end it. You will rise above perception. Instead of flowing now everything seems more concrete and clearer. While before you were lost in mist, now you found your way out. Awareness seems will go beyond inner and outer, will be firm, beyond moving.

consciousness- Basically you will let go of eye consciousness and then same way of body consciousness. Awarness will become what sees hear feels at the same time.

Your mistake is that i think you will want to put it all into one experience while it is step by step. But you can say that unpleasant/pleasant is feeling skandha but it needs to be understand that its play of a energy, unpleasant and pleasant is one and the same thing. When you talk about form skhanda then you mean mind objects. When you talk about perception you will need to know where is your awareness. Mental formations, when you find your awareness you will see what is wrong with you.

Imho best method is you reflect on impermanence(any 3C perhaps) and try to recognize what is permanent and become aware of it. That permanent thing is nirvana(not a place its everywhere). But nirvana does not have any characteristic. To tell its pretty hard to find. To find it you need to break dualism(left and right) but how do you do it? That will bring us at the beginning again, when you note then you are doing it bit by bit getting closer. Faster method imho is pranayama, learning to recognize dualism(left and right side) and then just bring these two together..when you succeed you are sotapanna i think.

Sixth door? if you mean mind what is overlapping everything then nirvana or what you are looking for is free of it but you can be in nirvana and also think at the same time.
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Ian And, modified 8 Years ago at 1/31/14 5:12 PM
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RE: The 5 aggregates and how to apply them

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Several years ago I wrote an essay about the five aggregates that expressed some of the insight I had gained at that time. Perhaps it can help you also. Enjoy!
J C, modified 8 Years ago at 2/2/14 9:00 PM
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RE: The 5 aggregates and how to apply them

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Thanks, Ian! I've excerpted the parts I found most helpful below:


Ian:

The aggregate of material form (rupa) includes the physical body with its sense faculties as well as external material objects. . . . Thus the whole realm of matter, as it is sensed both internally and externally, is included in the aggregate of matter. . . . Because the world is made up of more than just objects which the eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body can grasp, there is need of a sense faculty which can also grasp thought or ideas and conceptions. Ideas and thoughts are also a part of the world and are produced and conditioned by physical experiences; hence mind is needed in order to know and analyze these additional experiences. Thus mind is considered a sense faculty, like the eye or the ear, and is made up of five elements: sense-contact, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness. In this pentad, consciousness grasps the object, be it mental or material, while perception distinguishes the differences between this and that object.

The aggregate of feeling (vedana), the second aggregate, is the affective element in experience as it is sensed as either pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral through the contact of the physical and mental organs with the external world. We should be careful here not to confuse feeling with emotions. Emotions arise separately as a result of pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral feeling. Emotions are, in this way, connected to the arisen feeling but they are not the feeling itself. They arise in response to the feeling as a result of the mind’s interaction with the feeling in the form of either liking, disliking, or a neutral emotion like boredom.

The third aggregate, perception (sanna), is the factor responsible for noting the qualities of things and also accounts for recognition and memory. In other words, it is perception that recognizes special qualities such as colors, like red or yellow, in objects. Perception recognizes the objects themselves, such as between a softball or a grapefruit, it distinguishes between the distinctive qualities of objects – the stitched hide of the soft ball or the rind of the grapefruit. In addition to physical qualities, perception also recognizes the qualities of a mental object. For example, when told to think of a basketball, it is perception which retrieves the mental object – the mental picture of a basketball – from memory along with all its varied detail. Perception therefore covers recognition of the full range of qualities which any object can have, both physical and mental.

Mental formations (sankhara), the fourth aggregate, is a term which includes all volitional, emotive, and intellective aspects of mental life. . . . Volition is mental construction, mental activity.

The fifth aggregate, consciousness (vinnana), is the basic awareness of an object necessary for all cognition. . . . Once again, it should be understood here that consciousness does not recognize an object. Recognition of an object is the function of perception. The function of consciousness is only to be aware of the presence of an object. An example of this might be the awareness of the presence of a circular object. Consciousness is aware of the circular object, yet perception tells us that this object is a ball rather than an apple. Consciousness, therefore, sees objects, hears objects, smells objects, tastes objects, has tactile contact with an object and/or mental contact with an object, be it a physical object, like a ball, or a mental object, like a thought or idea. Consciousness thus brings an object into awareness so that perception can determine what the object is.

It is necessary here, in order to fully comprehend the Buddha’s psychological position on this point, to differentiate consciousness from the commonly held convention that a “self” or “soul” or “ego” is involved with this conscious awareness. There is only the function of awareness itself which is taking place, in its bare essence as arising by result of one of the six sense faculties. According to the Dhamma teaching on anatta, no self, soul, or ego exists which sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches, or cognizes an object. The very idea that an independent “self” exists is in itself a mind phenomenon based on the functioning of the third and fourth aggregates: perception and volition or mental formations. Thus it is the mind itself which mistakes the continuity of consciousness and the five aggregates of a being for a “self” or “soul” which continues as a permanent substance throughout life.
J C, modified 8 Years ago at 2/2/14 9:19 PM
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RE: The 5 aggregates and how to apply them

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The English "translations" of those aggregate names are horrible. A couple of the comments above get the aggregates totally wrong based on using the English words, for instance.

Based on Ian's essay, I think I would like to rename and reorder the aggregates in a way that makes more sense.

1. rupa - perception. Since rupa referes to sense contact with the material world, it corresponds much better to the English word "perception" than sanna does.

2. vedana - polarity. Feeling makes it sound like it has some emotional component or includes more detail than just positive/neutral/negative. (I also considered "alignment.")

3. vinnana - awareness. Consciousness isn't terrible but awareness better communicates what we're talking about here. Also, since vinnana brings an object into awareness so that sanna can determine what the object is, it should come first.

4. sanna - recognition. At this point we have already perceived the object and are just recognizing what it is. Calling this "perception" is just an incorrect use of the word "perception."

5. sankara - reactions. "Formations" isn't really a helpful English word here. Since this is just the thoughts and feelings we have in reaction to the above, "reactions" is much better. I considered "thoughts" but I don't think that makes the emotive aspect clear.

So: perception, polarity, awareness, recognition, reactions. I think that makes the aggregates much clearer.

Thoughts? Am I getting anything wrong? Is there a reason vinnana is traditionally listed last? Is there a reason people always use the poor English translations rather than choices like the above?
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Ian And, modified 8 Years ago at 2/3/14 1:09 AM
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RE: The 5 aggregates and how to apply them

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Hi J C,

It's good that you have an enthusiasm to attempt to put these terms into a language that your mind can understand and form an association between the Pali and English versions of the translated terms. That's pretty much what I endeavored to do when I was putting all this together in my mind so that I could make sense of the treatises and essays that others would write when they were using these Pali words to define specific processes in relation to the aggregates. That way, I could observe my own experience of these processes in order to make sense of what these writers were saying about them. I'm a little concerned, though, that you may be attempting to stray a bit too far from the beaten path in some instances here with your re-translation of a couple of these terms.

I would recommend that you first read about these terms from the original exposition of them in the discourses. (You can find translations online at sites like accesstoinsight.org.) That way you can begin to see how Gotama used them in describing his Dhamma with regard to personality view. Second, of the books that I have consulted, there are at least two that I can recommend at this stage of your learning process, one that can be gotten in PDF format, the other, I think, is only available in softcover book format. The one in PDF format is Walpola Rahula's classic book What The Buddha Taught. The explanations in that book helped me to begin gathering deeper insight about the five aggregates. I had never seen them explained in the way that he explained them, and my understanding of them in the essay I wrote was formulated from his explanation, which I came to agree with based on my own direct experience and insight into them. Correctly understanding the five aggregates can open up doors of perception with regard to a deeper insight into the dhamma as a whole, especially with regard to how they relate with the teaching on paticca samuppada or dependent co-arising.

The second book is an scholarly book written by Sue Hamilton titled Identity And Experience, The Constitution of the Human being According to early Buddhism. Ms. Hamilton was a student of Richard Gombrich, a noted English author and scholar on Buddhism, and is a fine scholar in her own right. I agree with most of her impressions on things concerning the Dhamma, but especially those found in her book above. She goes into a great deal of detail to describe for the reader how the aggregates work and what they are.

I don't have a problem with the way you've decided to re-translate the latter three terms (sanna, sankhara, and vinnana). The term "formations," for instance, for the term sankhara ought to be understood as it refers to mind-states (mental formations) such as anger or happiness in an affective reaction pattern. When I was attempting to discern just where in the Buddha's scheme of things that "emotion" could be found, it was in the aggregate of sankhara and its arising was closely affected by vedana and sanna. Vedana (liking, neutrality, or disliking) arises first, then sanna (in order to perceive or recognize an object), which then triggers the conditioned response of sankhara (which can be seen, in addition to other terms, as a mental formational state, reaction, or affective response to a stimulus).

Yet, when it comes to the first aggregate, which is the physical body, the term "perception" does not correctly define that aggregate. In her book Identity And Experience, Dr. Hamilton begins the chapter on "The Rupakkandha" in this way: "In this chapter, my concern is with the body of the human being referred to as the rupakkandha." Now, while sanna (perception or recognition) is used to correctly identify this aggregate/kandha from the others, the aggregate itself is concerned with physical materiality (and, in this case, with the human body specifically).

Notice, also, in the essay I wrote, it says very specifically: "The aggregate of material form (rupa) includes the physical body with its sense faculties as well as external material objects." Gotama chose those same thoughts because he wanted to be sure, in no uncertain terms, that this aggregate was not mistaken for something else. It is important not to conflate the perception of an object with the object itself. But rather to be very precise in defining this aggregate. Rupa, after all, means – is used in reference to – "matter" or "material form," not perception (the latter of which you are associating in your mind with "sense contact" and thereby jumping to the term perception). See?

The other term I find may become misleading (in mental association, that is) is the use of the term "polarity" (although this is much closer to what vedana is referring to) with reference to vedana (and therefore I find it somewhat less objectionable than the use of "perception" for rupa above). As long as your understanding is that vedana is a mental factor that functions to experience pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral objects, then you are on safe ground. Another way of expressing this same idea is: "Feeling Tone, the pleasant, unpleasant or neutral tone that arises with every experience." Within traditional Buddhist understanding, the following is understood: "Vedana is feeling. It feels the object with regard to its pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant nature according to how the individual mind interprets the object. Due to its arising citta (mind) experiences a feeling tone." Does this help to make this clearer?

In peace,
Ian
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tom moylan, modified 8 Years ago at 2/3/14 2:13 AM
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RE: The 5 aggregates and how to apply them

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Hi JC,
i think your take on 'what' the aggregates are is correct. i meditate on them in a fashion that i call 'surfing the standing wave' which is based on my take on the part of the satipatthana sutta dealing with the 4th foundation of mindfulness: the dhammas.

when i sit down to meditate i go through the preliminary mindfulness excercises until i am more or less being automatically mindful and then call to mind your list of the aggregates which, seen in their entirety, is our complete experience. this is the standing wave.

i will then choose one or another of the aggregates and attempt to experience that position on the wave until it is clear and i can experience it consistently. then i will move on to another aggregate (position on the wave) and try to refine that until i am experiencing it clearly.

i can't wait to read IanAND's take as soon as i close here..which is now.

have fun

tom
J C, modified 8 Years ago at 2/11/14 4:39 AM
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RE: The 5 aggregates and how to apply them

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Ian, thanks for that book!

Ian And:

Yet, when it comes to the first aggregate, which is the physical body, the term "perception" does not correctly define that aggregate. In her book Identity And Experience, Dr. Hamilton begins the chapter on "The Rupakkandha" in this way: "In this chapter, my concern is with the body of the human being referred to as the rupakkandha." Now, while sanna (perception or recognition) is used to correctly identify this aggregate/kandha from the others, the aggregate itself is concerned with physical materiality (and, in this case, with the human body specifically).

Notice, also, in the essay I wrote, it says very specifically: "The aggregate of material form (rupa) includes the physical body with its sense faculties as well as external material objects." Gotama chose those same thoughts because he wanted to be sure, in no uncertain terms, that this aggregate was not mistaken for something else. It is important not to conflate the perception of an object with the object itself. But rather to be very precise in defining this aggregate. Rupa, after all, means – is used in reference to – "matter" or "material form," not perception (the latter of which you are associating in your mind with "sense contact" and thereby jumping to the term perception). See?

The other term I find may become misleading (in mental association, that is) is the use of the term "polarity" (although this is much closer to what vedana is referring to) with reference to vedana (and therefore I find it somewhat less objectionable than the use of "perception" for rupa above). As long as your understanding is that vedana is a mental factor that functions to experience pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral objects, then you are on safe ground. Another way of expressing this same idea is: "Feeling Tone, the pleasant, unpleasant or neutral tone that arises with every experience." Within traditional Buddhist understanding, the following is understood: "Vedana is feeling. It feels the object with regard to its pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant nature according to how the individual mind interprets the object. Due to its arising citta (mind) experiences a feeling tone." Does this help to make this clearer?


I like "feeling tone" for vedana. Or if I have to use one word, maybe "slant."

I am a little confused about rupa still. I understand that the aggregate includes matter... but I thought these were aggregates of self. If I look at a piece of chocolate, the sense contact is part of self, but how is the chocolate (matter, material form) part of the self?

Rupa does include sense contact, correct? Would it be accurate to call that aspect of rupa "perception"? So could we say rupa = "matter and the perception of it"?
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Dream Walker, modified 8 Years ago at 2/11/14 10:31 AM
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RE: The 5 aggregates and how to apply them

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Here is a first hand account from Katy that I have gotten a lot out of. She describes the aggregates from a phenomenological approach that few have experienced and I value the descriptions. See if it helps.
from this thread - 5 aggregates/Skandas and the selfing process map
katy steger:
Hi DW,

Post fruition rebooting of the skandas would not necessarily show the "object". What was your experience of the moments right before the fully ceasing and then re-igniting the mental layers/components/ the skandhas? Was there an object?

So my experience was using the light of full moon on river as object. The first sit of the morning was the moonlight on river ripples from high moon to until the moon set; when it set there was a basic mental stunning about my own conceit, a constant stream of mental assertions even with something like the moon and river. The second sit (in which the cessation occurred) took up a diffuse lamp light on the river ripples in the darkness after moonset.

When the re-ignition happened there was form without recognition and here there is no oneness nor separation: form has something like just the barest consciousness for itself-- but that sentence implies a separation, which there is not any awareness of except a hindsight sense that there was no form (nothing) immediately preceding form. It cannot make the slightest gradient with objects nor know plural objects or singular object, can't say color/not color. There's just form, no gradient anywhere. (Here the afferent nerve signals from the eye must be going to the brain, but brain networks that cause recognition and naming and associations and affect must not be triggered. For people who say they can cause full cessations and skandha re-ignitions regularly, I hope they offer this to research via fMRI and whatever other tools can measure what's happening here and during the rest of the skhandas' re-ignition.)

Then there was recognition which was nearly instantaneous to sensation --- technically, I think sensation happened first, but it was so neutral that it was unnoticed until familiarity came up and this gave an obvious sensation and a sense of sensation gradient, from subtle-to-less subtle.

Then after sensation and familiarity there was something like a radio happening, then the form (landscape: winter dawn white dark river pink white sky) suddenly seemed to brighten as if a dimmer switch was turned up throughout the whole form. This seemed like pure sentience, a kind of stand aside awareness. (I heard about six months later the samkya story of Parush and Prakrit and remembered this skandha triggering, thinking, yes, that's how consciousness reacts to all that is not consciousness, with a sort of bright separateness that can alight on anything small and spread very very broadly suddenly, but it still knows "loves" its own animation relative to knowledge of just form. (So consciousness skanda has both friendliness and affinity because it can approach anything without harm, and it has a natural conceit because it seems "better" than form-alone skandha which does not at all kick up sensation, whereas the consciousness skandha inspires lots of sensation and generally very, very pleasant sensation unless it moves very fast and this can cause fear). Consciousness skandha caused a lurch-for-it sensation, as if the consciousness wanted itself. No other skandha needed it, had anything to lurch or incline for but itself. The consciousness aggregate, though, that creates a polarity, like there is somehow something seperate and exceptional to "go for". And so this is where arupa jhana come from and how one can become a jhana junkie or have fun.

Anyway, lastly the "radio happening" turned out to be thoughts and those suddenly reminded me I was me. I could tell what I was thinking and there was not just a jumble of radio sounds and it was essentially, "What what what what what's this what this.." then totally coherent.

What attribute is gone that makes each fetter disappear?
So the consciousness skhanda does relate strongly to craving. If you're ever sitting on the cushion during retreat and you are dealing with food and or sexual craving, anyone can watch how the craving seems to create a force just outside the body which the body now craves. If one craves food, then the force of desire centers around the head and it's as if the mind takes the body's full energy, placed 70% of it in front of the face and then the mind perseverates on the image of consuming that deliberately displaced energy, a vibrant concept of lunch. The mind just keeps replaying and replaying the eating, no matter if the stomach is sated (this is NOT the same as starvation wasting, which definitely mutes the skandhas and causes listlessness, increasingly weak arousal). If the craving is sexual, anyone can see how areas of their body perk up and desires center around those areas and it's as if the mind has taken 95% of the body's full energy and placed it in front of the aroused areas of the body and then the mind perseverates on the image of bringing that deliberately bifurcated sense of energy up to the aroused areas again and again.

All of the above is a very sensory version of the attraction that is in the consciousness skandha, which when it is is just itself -- as sentience -- it has a clean, suffusive blissful, mobile, broad sensation, and it nevertheless creates craving because it is prefers itself over the consciousness of form. This is due to what each skandha causes. Form is so basic, has no sensation. Consciousness is sentience, so it knows its own specialness, can not appreciate existing as just form, does not want to cede itself to just-form, wants to stay in existence, wants always to be present, more and more. This is fine. The craving/clinging is the rough bit, the ignorance.

So paths can relate this way and I think this is very much where you are going with your mapping, but I just wanted to say that it seems that previous supporting conditions relate very much to what a meditative experience will cause in terms of path. One person's full cessation-re-ignition of skandhas could cause sotapanna (seems to have been my experience) and another person's full cessation-re-ignition of skandhas could cause, I guess, fourth path. It seems to depend on where one's specifically entangled based on one's own conditions. This is my limited experience of what seems to be described in the Theravadan model of skandhas.

Make any sense? Would you describe the full cessation-re-ignition you've experienced?


(what is weirder to understand is why does devotion and gratitude arise from all of this? It is not at all nihilistic. Why does this complete deflation of oneself cause a movement of consciousness into a metta-form of consciousness (despite my own current limits here). To be trite, I'm reminded of Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner who doesn't want to die, but has a poetic death --- tenderness appreciating a lively pigeon. Craving and manipulation starts to cease -- those cruelties -- and there is raw wonder at this life, less willingness to discard/objectify any sentient life, little by little less ignorance (of which I still have plenty).
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Ian And, modified 8 Years ago at 2/11/14 1:39 PM
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RE: The 5 aggregates and how to apply them

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J C:

Ian And:

Yet, when it comes to the first aggregate, which is the physical body, the term "perception" does not correctly define that aggregate. In her book Identity And Experience, Dr. Hamilton begins the chapter on "The Rupakkandha" in this way: "In this chapter, my concern is with the body of the human being referred to as the rupakkandha." Now, while sanna (perception or recognition) is used to correctly identify this aggregate/kandha from the others, the aggregate itself is concerned with physical materiality (and, in this case, with the human body specifically).

Notice, also, in the essay I wrote, it says very specifically: "The aggregate of material form (rupa) includes the physical body with its sense faculties as well as external material objects." Gotama chose those same thoughts because he wanted to be sure, in no uncertain terms, that this aggregate was not mistaken for something else. It is important not to conflate the perception of an object with the object itself. But rather to be very precise in defining this aggregate. Rupa, after all, means – is used in reference to – "matter" or "material form," not perception (the latter of which you are associating in your mind with "sense contact" and thereby jumping to the term perception). See?

I like "feeling tone" for vedana. Or if I have to use one word, maybe "slant."

I am a little confused about rupa still. I understand that the aggregate includes matter... but I thought these were aggregates of self. If I look at a piece of chocolate, the sense contact is part of self, but how is the chocolate (matter, material form) part of the self?

Yes, you are confused.

Once again, the aggregate of rupa refers only to matter, period, and only includes the body as the main point of departure (reference) for the observation of rupa (meaning the body). You are conflating too many objects here in your thinking for proper understanding. Read the words exactly as they are written, and do not read anything more into them. Everything that you are adding is what is causing your confusion.

People think of the body (rupa) as being mine and myself, when in reality it is only the body or a body. Not my body. Anything that is impermanent (meaning the body, or rupa) cannot be properly termed (or viewed) within the purview of a possessive pronoun. It is not your body. How do I know? Because you will drop it like a hot rock the moment the breath leaves it! (In other words, when you shuffle off the mortal coil.) If it were your body, you could take it with you. But you cannot! Therefore, it is only a vehicle in the physical worlds. See?

It does not belong to a YOU. What you perceive as being YOU, as a personality, is only a figment of your imagination, a thought form, made up of the five aggregates, which provide the illusion of a conventional self. In the sense of having a conventional self, then, yes there is this illusion of a self. But it is purely a creation of the mind, in order to differentiate it from other physical "selves" (other people).

In essence, there is only awareness in the physical worlds expressing itself through difference mediums, such as people, dogs, cats, fish, birds, termites, beetles, ants, bears, trees . . . any number of things. (I've probably stepped into it here by saying this. But this is all I'm going to say about this. You'll just have to figure it out for yourself.)

J C:

Rupa does include sense contact, correct? Would it be accurate to call that aspect of rupa "perception"? So could we say rupa = "matter and the perception of it"?

No, it does not include sense contact. And no that is not an aspect of rupa, therefore it would not be accurate. And no, rupa is not "matter and the perception of it." Rupa is matter, period. That is the point I have been endeavoring to get across to you. Perception is a separate aggregate. Do not conflate the two. This is not what the Dhamma that Gotama taught is saying. Gotama was very specific and exacting in his definitions. You have to be also, if you correctly want to understand his doctrine of truth (Dhamma). If not, then go your own way.

Read Walpola's book and be careful not to read into (i.e. read your own speculative meaning into) anything that he states.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 8 Years ago at 2/11/14 3:05 PM
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RE: The 5 aggregates and how to apply them

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Ian And:
Once again, the aggregate of rupa refers only to matter, period, and only includes the body as the main point of departure (reference) for the observation of rupa (meaning the body). [...] it does not include sense contact. And no that is not an aspect of rupa, therefore it would not be accurate. And no, rupa is not "matter and the perception of it." Rupa is matter, period. That is the point I have been endeavoring to get across to you. Perception is a separate aggregate. Do not conflate the two. This is not what the Dhamma that Gotama taught is saying. Gotama was very specific and exacting in his definitions. You have to be also, if you correctly want to understand his doctrine of truth (Dhamma). If not, then go your own way.

This is different from my understanding as well. Could you cite one or more suttas where Gotama is written to have unambiguously defined rupa as matter itself, having nothing to do with perception? For example, in the Khajjaniya Sutta, it is written:
"And why do you call it 'form'?[1] Because it is afflicted,[2] 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.

This seems to imply that 'rupa' pertains specifically to the body, given it lists things that would afflict a body.

In the Rupa Sutta:
At Savatthi. "Monks, forms are inconstant, changeable, alterable. Sounds... Aromas... Flavors... Tactile sensations... Ideas are inconstant, changeable, alterable.

This again seems to point to rupa as being the perception of form or at least pertaining specifically to human beings since it is split into the various ways a human being can perceive: sounds, aromas, flavors, etc.

You have far more extensive experience with the suttas than I do - could you provide some clarification?
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katy steger,thru11615 with thanks, modified 8 Years ago at 2/12/14 12:36 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 2/12/14 12:03 AM

RE: The 5 aggregates and how to apply them

Posts: 1740 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
J C

Rupa does include sense contact, correct? Would it be accurate to call that aspect of rupa "perception"? So could we say rupa = "matter and the perception of it"?
Yes. Rupa-khanda (the experience of form) can include or be mostly one of the five senses and it can be mostly or just the consciousness sense (mental contacting). Experiencing rupa khandha can be gross or subtle, combined with other mental experiences or relatively predominant over other khandhas.

Yeah, I feel that it is a fair point that you ask is rupa accurately a "perception"? But in the khanda model of mind, "perception" is the word used for when the mental faculty of recognition/familiarity comes "online", so to speak.

So the huge experiential difference between what's called "contact" and what's called "perception" in the khanda mapping of mental experiences is that if rupa khandha is happening in near isolation/isolation, it has no self-perception, no familiarity, no context. The whole of that mental state is form, no knowledge of form/not form there. Maybe it is like the mind of a very simple life form or rock even. I don't know, but I know rupa khandha, when it is the dominantly presenting mental faculty is just form/all form.

But it is called "contact" because "we" know in hindsight we have experienced "form". And we know in hindsight "we" have experienced the mind coming up from non-consciousness (cessation). I don't really need a verbal explanation of this, but I did like hearing the Abidhamma explanation of it last summer in Bhikkhu Bodhi's weekend retreat: bhavanasrota ~ the stream of mental moments (cittas) are known to the calm, investigating alertmind (not something we can consciously do; we can just calm "ourselves" into a subdued state by any number of meditative and sincere, gentle trainings (like prayer, mantra, object, sati..).

So one could imagine holding a very long pearl necklace, so long that one never dreams of seeing a place in it where it might stop and start again, and it would also be a necklace that slides through the fingers so fast that, again, one cannot imagine being able to see each individual pearl. Then one day, one has gotten so flow-like, so nature, no relaxed, so unconscious in the handling of the necklace (aka: one has gotten fairly fluid in sati-samadhi, without at all being a master or expert) that suddenly the necklace (the stream of mental moments, bhavanasrota) seems to stop, vanish, re-appear slowly, and that mind that can perceive each of the initial first pearls (cittas, mental moments) after the cessation, comes on slowly and soon enough after the cessation as to have a clear view of the first moments of coming back "online". Meaning: the khandhas are experienced. I imagine that there must be other ways of explaining this phenomena in other cultures. I would guess that Buddhism is the prevailing system that teaches a value in cessation: bliss of developing non-attachment, developing ability to live according to the experience of the cessation-arising phenomenon, to the dependent origination in this.

And this is why "contact" is used to describe the "rupa predominate experience" (other khandhas being subdued, say, or greatly lessened). When perception and self-consciousness, or just suffusive "pure (generic) consciousness", come back online or become strong again, these are the aspects of mind that "know" that the rupa aspect of mind could not see anything but rupa. So these aspects of mind just knows a very bare contact of mind (rupa) was happening. These other aspects of mind that serve as reserves of names and the function of naming (perception aspect of mind) know that perception was not there in rupa.

So rupa-experience becomes a hindsite-view understanding understood by the perception faculty of mind when it re-ignites or comes back up strongly. And then consciousness puts it all together~ the cessation and the pearls (arising new cittas) ~ and cannot help but put its own capacity, its own sense of self in a hierarchical position. I'm fine with that. It's a limitless cosmos; there's a lot of sentience out there, a lot of self-appreciating/valuing sentience. It baffles me a bit that a sentient being would choose to go out of existence (theravadin nibbana) versus stay in a blissful state (mahayana nirvana, maybe?); and that baffled bit of me would be called ignorance in one system ~ clinging to existing; that would be a fair comment if it were made in reply to me here.

I don't know if that helps, J C.

Basically, a very simple, friendly practice is needed to get the mind welcoming that practice to the point it becomes natural, so that one day, the chatty, chatty self-aware mind just sinks deeper and deeper into a mumble and the mind itself chooses to turn off and on, apparently. The value remains to me as excerpted above, that bit about the Blade Runner last-Hauer scene emoticon

As you know, it does no good to seek someone else's reported outcome/practice; one just finds own simple, welcome practice with oneself and deepen in that curiosity. To train in an innocent (harmless) pleasurable practice makes more brain connections happen; to train in stress/severity can isolate the practice to brainstem and amgydala (fight-flight-freeze activators), in theory.
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Ian And, modified 8 Years ago at 2/12/14 12:43 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 2/12/14 12:43 AM

RE: The 5 aggregates and how to apply them

Posts: 785 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
IanAnd:
J C:
Rupa does include sense contact, correct? Would it be accurate to call that aspect of rupa "perception"? So could we say rupa = "matter and the perception of it"?

No, it does not include sense contact. And no that [meaning perception] is not an aspect of rupa, therefore it would not be accurate. And no, rupa is not "matter and the perception of it."


I stand partially corrected. Beoman's question had me going back to check through the sutta he mentioned and to check my notes on the subject. Rupa does include sense contact (even according to the sutta that Beoman quoted), yet rupa is meant to refer to form or matter and not the aggregate of perception. Even the essay I wrote that I linked to makes mention of this, too. "The aggregate of material form (rupa) includes the physical body with its sense faculties as well as external material objects." However, you have to understand these things without conflating terminology; that was my concern with J C's conflation of rupa with the term "perception." Yes, I agree these terms are all related to one another; but you cannot have the aggregate of sanna conflated with the aggregate of rupa, was my only point. The perception of rupa (by the mind through one of the six sense bases) is a separate activity and aggregate. What is being alluded to in that Samyutta is the dependent co-arising of this awareness of form, feeling, perception, volition, and consciousness, dependent upon contact with the six sense bases of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind with craving and the four elements thrown in for good measure.

This is a very tricky concept to get across to people (the six sense bases and the tendency to conflate "recognition" with the bare essence of contact with an object). Recognition comes later in the process. Although in the real world of experience, it all seems to run in together, which can be somewhat misleading when attempting to understand the process itself. I had a difficult time understanding this distinction, too. I was conflating consciousness with perception. But these terms have a specific and distinct meaning when used in reference to the five aggregates, which was cleared up for me by reading Rahula's book. In the book he makes a distinction between consciousness and perception. I explained this distinction in my essay:

[indent]The fifth aggregate, consciousness (vinnana), is the basic awareness of an object necessary for all cognition. As with the three preceding aggregates, consciousness is a response which has one of the six internal faculties (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind) as its basis and one of the six corresponding external phenomena (visible form, sound, odor, taste, touch, and mental object) as its object. Once again, it should be understood here that consciousness does not recognize an object. Recognition of an object is the function of perception. The function of consciousness is only to be aware of the presence of an object.[/indent]

Rupa is, however, matter or form and the use of the sense faculties as expressed in the sutta from the Okkantisamyutta that Beoman referenced. Unfortunately, he only brought up one of the ten small suttas in that Samyutta. Following are the other nine suttas taken from my copy of the Connected Discourses of the Buddha The Samyutta Nikaya, which make it more clear how this teaching is to be understood. Each brief sutta is numbered and is preceded by the subject of the sutta. In addition to discussing the five aggregates and the six sense bases, it also provides some interesting thought about the definition of a stream-enterer from the perspective of the discourses.

SN 25.2
PTS: S iii 225
25 Okkantisamyutta
translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi

1 The Eye
At Savatthi. "Bhikkhus, the eye is impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. The ear ... The nose ... The tongue ... The body ... The mind is impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. One who places faith in these teachings and resolves on them thus is called a faith-follower, one who has entered the fixed course of rightness, entered the plane of superior persons, transcended the plane of the worldlings. He is incapable of doing any deed by reason of which he might be reborn in hell, in the animal realm, or in the domain of ghosts; he is incapable of passing away without having realized the fruit of stream-entry.

"One for whom these teachings are accepted thus after being pondered to a sufficient degree with wisdom is called a Dhamma-follower, one who has entered the fixed course of rightness, entered the plane of superior persons, transcended the plane of the worldlings. He is incapable of doing any deed by reason of which he might be reborn in hell, in the animal realm, or in the domain of ghosts; he is incapable of passing away without having realized the fruit of stream-entry.

"One who knows and sees these teachings thus is called a stream-enterer, no longer bound to the nether world, fixed in destiny, with enlightenment as his destination."[270]

2 Forms [Rupa Sutta: Forms]
At Savatthi. "Bhikkhus, forms are impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. Sounds ... Odours ... Tastes ... Tactile object ... Mental phenomena are impermanent, changing becoming otherwise. One who places faith in these teachings and resolves on them thus is called a faith-follower, one who has entered the fixed course of rightness...; he is incapable of passing away without having realized the fruit of stream- entry.

"One for whom these teachings are accepted thus after being pondered to a sufficient degree with wisdom is called a Dhamma-follower, one who has entered the fixed course of rightness ...; he is incapable of passing away without having realized the fruit of stream-entry.

"One who knows and sees these teachings thus is called a stream-enterer, no longer bound to the nether world, fixed in destiny, with enlightenment at his destination."

Footnote:
270 This statement makes it clear how the stream-enterer differs from those on the way to stream-entry. The faith-follower accepts the teachings on trust (with a limited degree of understanding), the Dhamma-follower through investigation; but the stream-enterer has known and seen the teachings directly.

3 Consciousness
At Savatthi. "Bhikkhus, eye-consciousness is impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. Ear-consciousness ... Nose-consciousness ... Tongue-consciousness ... Body-consciousness ... Mind consciousness is impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. One who knows and sees these teachings thus is called a stream-enterer, no longer bound to the nether world, fixed in destiny, with enlightenment as his destination."

4 Contact
At Savatthi. "Bhikkhus, eye-contact is impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. Ear-contact ... Nose-contact ... Tongue-contact ... Body-contact ... Mind-contact is impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. One who knows and sees these teachings thus is called a stream-enterer, no longer bound to the nether world, fixed in destiny, with enlightenment as his destination."

5 Feeling
At Savatthi. "Bhikkhus, feeling born of eye-contact is impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. Feeling born of ear-contact ... Feeling born of nose-contact ... Feeling born of tongue-contact ... Feeling born of body-contact ... Feeling born of mind contact is impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. One who knows and sees these teachings thus is called a stream-enterer, no longer bound to the nether world, fixed in destiny, with enlightenment as his destination."

6 Perception
At Savatthi. "Bhikkhus, perception of forms is impermenent, changing, becoming otherwise. Perception of sounds ... Perception of odours ... Perception of tastes ... Perception of tactile objects ... Perception of mental phenomena is impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. One who knows and sees these teachings thus is called a stream-enterer, no longer bound to the nether world, fixed in destiny, with enlightenment as his destination."

7 Volition
At Savatthi. "Bhikkhus, volition regarding forms is impermenent, changing, becoming otherwise. Volition regarding sounds ... Volition regarding odours ... Volition regarding tastes ... Volition regarding tactile objects ... Volition regarding mental phenomena is impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. One who knows and sees these teachings thus is called a stream-enterer, no longer bound to the nether world, fixed in destiny, with enlightenment as his destination."

8 Craving
At Savatthi. "Bhikkhus, craving for forms is impermenent, changing, becoming otherwise. Craving for sounds ... Craving for odours ... Craving for tastes ... Craving for tactile objects ... Craving for mental phenomena is impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. One who knows and sees these teachings thus is called a stream-enterer, no longer bound to the nether world, fixed in destiny, with enlightenment as his destination."

9 Elements
At Savatthi. "Bhikkhus, the earth element is impermenent, changing, becoming otherwise. The water element ... The heat element ... The air element ... The space element ... The consciousness element is impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. One who knows and sees these teachings thus is called a stream-enterer, no longer bound to the nether world, fixed in destiny, with enlightenment as his destination."

10 Aggregates
At Savatthi. "Bhikkhus, form is impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. Feeling ... Perception ... Volitional formations ... Consciousness is impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. One who places faith in these teachings and resolves on them thus is called a faith-follower, one who has entered the fixed course of rightness, entered the plane of superior persons, transcended the plane of the worldlings. He is incapable of doing any deed by reason of which he might be reborn in hell, in the animal realm, or in the domain of ghosts; he is incapable of passing away without having realized the fruit of stream-entry.

"One for whom these teachings are accepted thus after being pondered to a sufficient degree with wisdom is called a Dhamma-follower, one who has entered the fixed course of rightness, entered the plane of superior persons, transcended the plane of the worldlings. He is incapable of doing any deed by reason of which he might be reborn in hell, in the animal realm, or in the domain of ghosts; he is incapable of passing away without having realized the fruit of stream-entry.

"One who knows and sees these teachings thus is called a stream-enterer, no longer bound to the nether world, fixed in destiny, with enlightenment as his destination."
Mike L, modified 8 Years ago at 2/23/14 9:55 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 2/23/14 9:38 AM

RE: The 5 aggregates and how to apply them

Posts: 75 Join Date: 5/13/09 Recent Posts
Much thanks for the elucidation and document links. I did find a nicer copy of "What the Buddha Taught" -- the one given above is a scanned/OCR version with quite a few typos.

http://www.buddhadhammasangha.com/secondlevelsite/ThirdLevelSite/eBookLibrary/EbooksPDF/GeneralBuddhism/What%20the%20Buddha%20Taught.pdf

Edit: even better copy

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