|English:||aggregate, mass, heap|
|Chinese:||蘊(T) / 蕴(S)
(phung po lnga)
|Glossary of Buddhism|
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In Buddhist phenomenology and soteriology, the skandhas (Sanskrit) or khandhas (Pāḷi), aggregates in English, are the five functions or aspects that constitute the sentient being.[a][b] The Buddha teaches that nothing among them is really "I" or "mine".
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Description in the Sutta Pitaka
- 3 Understanding in Theravada Abhidhamma
- 4 Understanding in the Mahayana-tradition
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 Sources
- 9 External links
According to Thanissaro, the buddha gave a new meaning to the term "khanda":
Prior to the Buddha, the Pali word khandha had very ordinary meanings: A khandha could be a pile, a bundle, a heap, a mass. It could also be the trunk of a tree. In his first sermon, though, the Buddha gave it a new, psychological meaning, introducing the term clinging-khandhas to summarize his analysis of the truth of stress and suffering. Throughout the remainder of his teaching career, he referred to these psychological khandhas time and again.
Description in the Sutta Pitaka
The five skandhas
The sutras describe five aggregates:[d]
- "form" or "matter"[e] (Skt., Pāli rūpa; Tib. gzugs): external and internal matter. Externally, rupa is the physical world. Internally, rupa includes the material body and the physical sense organs.[f]
- "sensation" or "feeling" (Skt., Pāli vedanā; Tib. tshor-ba): sensing an object[g] as either pleasant or unpleasant or neutral.[h][i]
- "perception", "conception", "apperception", "cognition", or "discrimination" (Skt. samjñā, Pāli saññā, Tib. 'du-shes): registers whether an object is recognized or not (for instance, the sound of a bell or the shape of a tree).
- "mental formations", "impulses", "volition", or "compositional factors" (Skt. samskāra, Pāli saṅkhāra, Tib. 'du-byed): all types of mental habits, thoughts, ideas, opinions, prejudices, compulsions, and decisions triggered by an object.[j]
- "consciousness" or "discernment"[k] (Skt. vijñāna, Pāli viññāṇa,[l] Tib. rnam-par-shes-pa):
The Buddhist literature describes the aggregates as arising in a linear or progressive fashion, from form to feeling to perception to mental formations to consciousness.[q] In the early texts, the scheme of the five aggregates is not meant to be an exhaustive classification of the sentient being. Rather it describes various aspects of the way an individual manifests.
Suffering and release
- Understanding suffering: the five aggregates are the "ultimate referent" in the Buddha's elaboration on dukkha (suffering) in his First Noble Truth: "Since all four truths revolve around suffering, understanding the aggregates is essential for understanding the Four Noble Truths as a whole."
- Clinging causes future suffering: the five aggregates are the substrata for clinging and thus "contribute to the causal origination of future suffering".
- Release from samsara: clinging to the five aggregates must be removed in order to achieve release from samsara.
The Noble Truth of Suffering [dukkha], monks, is this: Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, association with the unpleasant is suffering, dissociation from the pleasant is suffering, not to receive what one desires is suffering—in brief the five aggregates subject to grasping are suffering.
Clinging causes future suffering
The Samyutta Nikaya contains the Khandhavagga ("The Book of Aggregates"), a book compiling over a hundred suttas related to the five aggregates. The Upadaparitassana Sutta ("Agitation through Clinging Discourse," SN 22:7) describes how non-clinging to form prevents agitation:
...[T]he instructed noble disciple ... does not regard form [or other aggregates] as self, or self as possessing form, or form as in self, or self as in form. That form of his changes and alters. Despite the change and alteration of form, his consciousness does not become preoccupied with the change of form.... [T]hrough non-clinging he does not become agitated." (Trans. by Bodhi, 2000b, pp. 865-866.)
The most explicit denial of substantiality in the early texts is one that was quoted by later prominent Mahayana thinkers:
All form is comparable to foam; all feelings to bubbles; all sensations are mirage-like; dispositions are like the plantain trunk; consciousness is but an illusion: so did the Buddha illustrate [the nature of the aggregates].
Release from samsara
Liberation is possible by insight into the workings of the mind. Traditional mindfulness practices can awaken this by understanding, release and wisdom.
In the classic Theravada meditation reference, the "Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta" ("The Foundations of Mindfulness Discourse," MN 10), the Buddha provides four bases for establishing mindfulness: body (kaya), sensations (vedana), mind (citta) and mental objects (dhamma).[s] When discussing mental objects as a basis for meditation, the Buddha identifies five objects, including the aggregates.
Through mindfulness contemplation, one sees an "aggregate as an aggregate" — sees it arising and dissipating. Such clear seeing creates a space between the aggregate and clinging, a space that will prevent or enervate the arising and propagation of clinging, thereby diminishing future suffering.[t] As clinging disappears, so too notions of a separate "self."
The aggregates don't constitute any 'essence'. In the Samyutta Nikaya, the Buddha explains this by using the simile of a chariot:
Just as the concept of "chariot" is a reification, so too is the concept of "being". The constituents of being too are unsubstantial in that they are causally produced, just like the chariot as a whole.
The chariot metaphor is not an exercise in ontology, but rather a caution against ontological theorizing and conceptual realism. Part of the Buddha's general approach to language was to point towards its conventional nature, and to undermine the misleading character of nouns as substance-words.
The skandha analysis of the early texts is not applicable to arahants. A tathāgata has abandoned that clinging to the personality factors that render the mind a bounded, measurable entity, and is instead "freed from being reckoned by" all or any of them, even in life. The skandhas have been seen to be a burden, and an enlightened individual is one with "burden dropped".
Understanding in Theravada Abhidhamma
| The Five Aggregates (pañca khandha)
according to the Pali Canon.
|Source: MN 109 (Thanissaro, 2001) | diagram details|
While early Buddhism reflects the teachings as found in the Pali Sutta Pitaka and the Chinese Agama, the Early Buddhist schools developed detailed analyses and overviews of the teachings found in those sutras, called Abhidharma. Each school developed its own Abhidharma. the best known is the Theravāda Abhidhamma. The Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma has been preserved partly in the Chinese Agama.
The teaching of the six sense bases provides an alternative to the five aggregates as a description of the workings of the mind. In this teaching, the coming together of an object and a sense-organ results in the arising of the corresponding consciousness. The suttas themselves don't describe this alternative. It is in the Abhidhamma, striving to "a single all-inclusive system" that the five aggregates and the six sense bases are explicitly connected.
This might be described as follows (illustrated in the figure to the right):
- Form (rūpa) arises from experientially irreducible physical/physiological phenomena.[v]
- The coming together of an external object (such as a sound) and its associated internal sense organ (such as the ear) — gives rise to consciousness (viññāṇa • vijñāṇa).[w]
- The concurrence of an object, its sense organ and the related consciousness (viññāṇa • vijñāṇa) is called "contact" (phassa • sparśa).[x][y][z]
- From the contact of form and consciousness arise the three mental (nāma) aggregates of feeling (vedanā), perception (saññā• saṃjñā) and mental formation (saṅkhāra • saṃskāra).[aa][ab]
- The mental aggregates can then in turn give rise to additional consciousness that leads to the arising of additional mental aggregates.[ac]
Twelve Sense Bases
There are Twelve Sense Bases:
- The first five external sense bases (visible form, sound, smell, taste and touch) are part of the form aggregate.
- The mental sense object (that is, mental objects) overlap the first four aggregates (form, feeling, perception and formation).
- The first five internal sense bases (eye, ear, nose, tongue and body) are also part of the form aggregate.
- The mental sense organ (mind) is comparable to the aggregate of consciousness.
While the benefit of meditating on the aggregates is overcoming wrong views of the self (since the self is typically identified with one or more of the aggregates), the benefit of meditation on the six sense bases is to overcome craving (through restraint and insight into sense objects that lead to contact, feeling and subsequent craving).[af]
The eighteen dhātus[ag] – the Six External Bases, the Six Internal Bases, and the Six Consciousnesses – function through the five aggregates. The eighteen dhātus can be arranged into six triads, where each triad is composed of a sense object, a sense organ, and sense consciousness. In regards to the aggregates:
- The first five sense organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body) are derivates of form.
- The sixth sense organ (mind) is part of consciousness.
- The first five sense objects (visible forms, sound, smell, taste, touch) are also derivatives of form.
- The sixth sense object (mental object) includes form, feeling, perception and mental formations.
- The six sense consciousness are the basis for consciousness.
|Six External Bases (bāhya-āyatana)||Six Internal Bases (adhyātma-āyatana)||Six Consciousnesses (vijñāna)|
|(1) Visual Objects (rūpa-āyatana)||(2) Eye Faculty (cakṣur-indriya-āyatana)||(3) Visual Consciousness (cakṣur-vijñāna|
|(4) Auditory Objects (śabda-āyatana)||(5) Ear Faculty (śrota-indriya-āyatana)||(6) Aural Consciousness (śrota-vijñāna)|
|(7) Olfactory Objects (gandha-āyatana)||(8) Nose Faculty (ghrāṇa-indriya-āyatana)||(9) Olfactory Consciousness (ghrāṇa-vijñāna)|
|(10) Gustatory Objects (rasa-āyatana)||(11) Tongue Faculty (jihvā-indriya-āyatana)||(12) Gustatory Consciousness (jihvā-vijñāna)|
|(13) Tactile Objects (spraṣṭavya-āyatana)||(14) Body Faculty (kaya-indriya-āyatana)||(15) Touch Consciousness (kaya-vijñāna)|
|(16) Mental Objects (dharma-āyatana)||(17) Mental Faculty (mano-indriya-āyatana)||(18) Mental Consciousness (mano-vijñāna)|
The Abhidhamma and post-canonical Pali texts create a meta-scheme for the Sutta Pitaka's conceptions of aggregates, sense bases and dhattus (elements). This meta-scheme is known as the four paramatthas or four ultimate realities.
There are four paramatthas; three conditioned, one unconditioned:
- Material phenomena (rūpa, form)
- Mental factors (the nama-factors sensation, perception and formation)
Mapping of the paramatthas
The mapping between the aggregates, the twelve sense bases, and the ultimate realities is represented in this chart:[ah]
The Twelve Nidanas describe twelve phenomenal links by which suffering is perpetuated between and within lives.
Inclusion of the five aggregates
Embedded within this model, four of the five aggregates are explicitly mentioned in the following sequence:
- mental formations (saṅkhāra • saṃskāra) condition consciousness (viññāṇa • vijñāna)
- which conditions name-and-form (nāma-rūpa)
- which conditions the precursors (saḷāyatana, phassa • sparśa) to sensations (vedanā)
- which in turn condition craving (taṇhā • tṛṣṇā) and clinging (upādāna)
- which ultimately lead to the "entire mass of suffering" (kevalassa dukkhakkhandha).[ai]
The interplay between the five-aggregates model of immediate causation and the twelve-nidana model of requisite conditioning is evident, for instance underlining the seminal role that mental formations have in both the origination and cessation of suffering.[aj][ak]
According to Schumann, the nidānas are a later synthesis of Buddhist teachings meant to make them more comprehensible. Comparison with the five skandhas shows that the chain contains logical inconsistencies, which can be explained when the chain is considered to be a later elaboration. This way it is explainable that nāma-rūpa in consciousness in the nine-fold are the beginning or start, while in the twelve-fold chain they are preceded by ignorance and formations. Those can only exist when nāma-rūpa in consciousness are present. Schumann also proposes that the twelve-fold is extended over three existences, and illustrates the succession of rebirths. While Buddhaghosa in Vasubandhu maintains a 2-8-2 schema, Schumann maintains a 3-6-3 scheme, putting the five skandhas alongside the twelve nidānas.
|The 12-fold chain||the 5 skandhas|
|2. Formations||4. Formations|
|3. Consciousness||5. Consciousness|
|4. Nāma-rūpa||1. Body|
|5. The six senses|
|7. Sensation||2. Sensation|
|12. Old age and death|
Understanding in the Mahayana-tradition
The Prajnaparamita-teachings developed from the first century BCE onward. It emphasises the "emptiness" of everything that exists. This means that there are no eternally existing "essences", since everything is dependently originated. The skandhas too are dependently originated, and lack any substantial existence .[al]
while practicing the deep practice of Prajnaparamita
looked upon the Five Skandhas,
seeing they were empty of svabhava (self-existence)[an][ao] when "emptiness of self" is mentioned, the English word "self" is a translation of the Pali word "atta" (Sanskrit, "atman"); in the Sanskrit-version of the Heart Sutra,[ap][aq]
In the second verse, after rising from his aggregate meditation, Avalokiteshvara declares:
Form is emptiness, emptiness is form,
form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form.
The same is true with feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness.
The Madhyaka-school elaborates on the notion of the middle way. Its basic text is the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, written by Nagarjuna. Nagarjuna refuted the Sarvastivada conception of reality, which reifies dhammas. The simultaneous non-reification of the self and reification of the skandhas has been viewed by some Buddhist thinkers as highly problematic.
The Yogacara-school further analysed the workings of the mind, and developed the notion of the Eight consciousnesses. These are an elaboration of the concept of nama-rupa and the five skandhas, adding detailed analyses of the workings of the mind.
When Buddhism was introduced in China it was understood in terms of its own culture. Various sects struggled to attain an understanding of the Indian texts. The Tathāgatagarbha Sutras and the idea of the Buddha-nature were endorsed, because of the perceived similarities with the Tao, which was understood as a transcendental reality underlying the world of appearances. Sunyata at first was understood as pointing to the Taoist "wu", nothingness.
Absolute and relative
In China, the relation between absolute and relative was a central topic in understanding the Buddhist teachings. The aggregates convey the relative (or conventional) experience of the world by an individual, although Absolute truth is realized through them.
When the sutra says that the five Skandhas have the character of emptiness [...], the sense is: no limiting qualities are to be attributed to the Absolute; while it is immanent in all concrete and particular objects, it is not in itself definable.
The Tathāgatagarbha Sutras, which developed in India, played a prominent role in China. The tathagatagarbha-sutras, on occasion, speak of the ineffable skandhas of the Buddha (beyond the nature of worldly skandhas and beyond worldly understanding). In the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra the Buddha tells of how the Buddha's skandhas are in fact eternal and unchanging. The Buddha's skandhas are said to be incomprehensible to unawakened vision.
Referring to mahamudra teachings, Chogyam Trungpa  identifies the form aggregate as the "solidification" of ignorance (Pali, avijja; Skt., avidya), allowing one to have the illusion of "possessing" ever dynamic and spacious wisdom (Pali, vijja; Skt. vidya), and thus being the basis for the creation of a dualistic relationship between "self" and "other."[ar]
According to Trungpa Rinpoche, the five skandhas are "a set of Buddhist concepts which describe experience as a five-step process" and that "the whole development of the five skandhas...is an attempt on our part to shield ourselves from the truth of our insubstantiality," while "the practice of meditation is to see the transparency of this shield." 
Trungpa Rinpoche writes (2001, p. 38):
[S]ome of the details of tantric iconography are developed from abhidharma [that is, in this context, detailed analysis of the aggregates]. Different colors and feelings of this particular consciousness, that particular emotion, are manifested in a particular deity wearing such-and-such a costume, of certain particular colors, holding certain particular sceptres in his hand. Those details are very closely connected with the individualities of particular psychological processes.
Bardo deity manifestations
The blue light of the skandha of consciousness in its basic purity, the wisdom of the dharmadhātu, luminous, clear, sharp and brilliant, will come towards you from the heart of Vairocana and his consort, and pierce you so that your eyes cannot bear it. [p. 63]
The white light of the skandha of form in its basic purity, the mirror-like wisdom, dazzling white, luminous and clear, will come towards you from the heart of Vajrasattva and his consort and pierce you so that your eyes cannot bear to look at it. [p. 66]
The yellow light of the skandha of feeling in its basic purity, the wisdom of equality, brilliant yellow, adorned with discs of light, luminous and clear, unbearable to the eyes, will come towards you from the heart of Ratnasambhava and his consort and pierce your heart so that your eyes cannot bear to look at it. [p. 68]
The red light of the skandha of perception in its basic purity, the wisdom of discrimination, brilliant red, adorned with discs of light, luminous and clear, sharp and bright, will come from the heart of Amitābha and his consort and pierce your heart so that your eyes cannot bear to look at it. Do not be afraid of it. [p. 70]
The green light of the skandha of concept [samskara] in its basic purity, the action-accomplishing wisdom, brilliant green, luminous and clear, sharp and terrifying, adorned with discs of light, will come from the heart of Amoghasiddhi and his consort and pierce your heart so that your eyes cannot bear to look at it. Do not be afraid of it. It is the spontaneous play of your own mind, so rest in the supreme state free from activity and care, in which there is no near or far, love or hate. [p. 73]
- These are not physical components, but rather an agglomeration or coming together of subliminal inclinations or tendencies.
- Thanissaro (2002) maintains that, according to the Pali Canon, the Buddha never defined a "person" in terms of the aggregates (Pali: khandha) per se. Thanissaro nevertheless notes that, contrary to what is actually said in the Canon, such a notion is expressed by some modern scholars as if it were pan-Buddhist. Thanissaro further writes: "This understanding of the khandhas isn't confined to scholars. Almost any modern Buddhist meditation teacher would explain the khandhas in a similar way. And it isn't a modern innovation. It was first proposed at the beginning of the common era in the commentaries to the early Buddhist canons — both the Theravadin and the Sarvastivadin, which formed the basis for Mahayana scholasticism." They serve as objects of clinging and bases for a sense of self.
- Also see, for example, Thanissaro (2005) where khandha is translated as "mass" in the phrase dukkhakkhandha (which Thanissaro translates as "mass of stress") and Thanissaro (1998) where khandha is translated as "aggregate" but in terms of bundling the Noble Eightfold Path into the categories of virtue (silakkhandha), concentration (samadhikkhandha) and wisdom (pannakkhandha).
- Contemporary writers (such as Tripitaka Master Shramana Hsuan Hua, Trungpa Rinpoche and Red Pine) sometimes conceptualize the five aggregates as "one physical and four mental" aggregates. More traditional Buddhist literature (such as the Abhidhamma) might speak of one physical aggregate (form), three mental factors (sensation, perception and mental formations) and consciousness.
- In Rawson (1991: p.11), the first skandha is defined as: "name and form (Sanskrit nāma-rūpa, Tibetan gzugs)...". In the Pali literature, nāma-rūpa traditionally refers to the first four aggregates, as opposed to the fifth aggregate, consciousness.
- External and internal manifestations of rupa are described, for instance, in Bodhi (2000b), p. 48.
- In these definitions, "object" refers to either a cognized form (what Western epistemologists might refer to as "sense data") or a mental expression, such as a cognized memory.
- The Pali canon universally identifies that vedana involves the sensing or feeling of something as pleasant or unpleasant or neutral (see, for instance, SN 22). When contemporary authors elaborate on vedana, they define it similarly (see, for instance, Nhat Hanh, 1999, p. 178; Trungpa, 2001, p. 21; and, Trungpa, 2002, p. 126). The one exception is in Trungpa (1976), pp. 20-23, where he states that the "strategies or impluses" of "indifference, passion and aggression" are "part of the third stage [aggregate]," "guided by perception." (This section of Trungpa, 1976, is anthologized in Trungpa, 1999, pp. 55-58.)
- Generally, vedanā is considered to not include "emotions." For example, Bodhi (2000a), p. 80, writes: "The Pali word vedanā does not signify emotion (which appears to be a complex phenomenon involving a variety of concomitant mental factors), but the bare affective quality of an experience, which may be either pleasant, painful or neutral." Perhaps somewhat similarly, Trungpa (1999), p.58, writes: "Consciousness [the fifth aggregate] consists of emotions and irregular thought patterns...." And Trungpa (2001), p. 32, notes: "In this case 'feeling' is not quite our ordinary notion of feeling. It is not the feeling we take so seriously as, for instance, when we say, 'He hurt my feelings.' This kind of feeling that we take so seriously belongs to the fourth and fifth skandhas of concept and consciousness."
- The Theravada Abhidhamma divides saṅkhāra into fifty mental factors (Bodhi, 2000a, p. 26). Trungpa (2001), pp. 47ff, following the Sarvastivada Abhidharma studied in Mahayana Buddhism, states that there are fifty-one "general types" of samskara.
- Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind. Curzon Press 1995, page 143-146.
- According to the Visuddhimagga XIV.82, the Pali terms viññāṇa, citta and mano are synonymous (Buddhaghosa, 1999, p. 453). However, Trungpa (2001, p. 73) distinguishes between viññāṇa and citta, stating that viññāṇa (consciousness) is "articulated and intelligent" while citta (mind) is a "simple instinctive function .... very direct, simple and subtle at the same time."
- In commenting on the use of "consciousness" in SN 22.3 , Bodhi (2000b), pp. 1046-7, n. 18, states: "The passage confirms the privileged status of consciousness among the five aggregates. While all the aggregates are conditioned phenomena marked by the three characteristics, consciousness serves as the connecting thread of personal continuity through the sequence of rebirths.... The other four aggregates serve as the 'stations for consciousness' (vinnanatthitiyo: see [SN] 22:53-54). Even consciousness, however, is not a self-identical entity but a sequence of dependently arisen occasions of cognizing; see MN I 256-60."
- Harvey writes, "This is in contrast to saññā, which knows by grouping things together, labeling them. This contrast can be seen in terms of the typical objects of these states: colours for saññā (S.III.87), but tastes (S.III.87) or feelings (M.I.292) for viññāṇa. While colours usually be immediately identified, tastes and feelings often need careful consideration to properly identify them: discernment and analysis are needed."
- This conception of consciousness is found in the Theravada Abhidhamma (Bodhi, 2000a, p. 29).
- While not necessarily contradicted by the Nikayas, this is a particularly Mahayana statement. For instance, Nhat Hanh (1999, pp. 180-1) states: "Consciousness here means store consciousness, which is at the base of everything we are, the ground of all of our mental formations." Similarly, Trungpa (2001, pp. 73-4) states that consciousness "is the finally developed state of being that contains all the previous elements.... [C]onsciousness constitutes an immediately available source of occupation for the momentum of the skandhas to feed on."
- For an example of this unidirectional, linear causal model, see Trungpa (2001), pp. 36-37, where, in part, he states: "The first flash is the form and the next, feeling. As you flash further and further, the content becomes more and more involved. When you flash perception, that contains feeling and form; when you flash consciousness that contains all the other four."
- In regards to how Theravada practitioners view the aggregates, Bodhi (2000b, p. 840) cautions: ""[T]he analysis into the aggregates undertaken in the Nikayas is not pursued with the aim of reaching an objective, scientific understanding of the human being along the lines pursued by physiology and psychology.... For the Buddha, investigation into the nature of personal existence always remains subordinate to the liberative thrust of the Dhamma...."
Likewise, Thanissaro Bhikkhu (2002) underlines: "The [Pāli] canon depicts the Buddha as saying that he taught only two topics: suffering and the end of suffering. A survey of the Pali discourses shows him using the concept of the khandhas to answer the primary questions related to those topics: What is suffering? How is it caused? What can be done to bring those causes to an end?"
In other words, Theravada practitioners do not see the notion of the aggregates as providing an absolute truth about ultimate reality or as a map of the mind, but instead as providing a tool for understanding how our method of apprehending sensory experiences and the self can lead to either our own suffering or to our own liberation.
- Unlike the Satipatthana Sutta, the classic Anapanasati Sutta ("Mindfulness of Breathing Discourse," MN 118) does not directly reference the aggregates. However, the Pali literature includes works that interpret the Anapanasati Sutta in light of the aggregates. In the Patisambhidāmagga: The Khuddaka Nikaya's book, the Patisambhidāmagga ("The Path of Analysis"), includes an analysis of the following meditative instruction (first tetrad, third instruction) from the Anapanasati Sutta. The Patisambhidāmagga frames the practice of the Anapanasati Sutta's third step as a contemplation of the five aggregates. The Visuddhimagga's analysis of the Anapanasatti Sutta includes an analysis of the meditative instruction. In regards to this instruction, the Visuddhimagga (Buddhaghosa, 1999, pp. 282-3; see also Ñāṇamoli, 1998, p. 40) advises one to apprehend "inconstancy" (or "impermanence"). Impermanence (anicca) is a characteristic common to all aggregates. This impermanence will lead to suffering (dukkha) if we identify with the aggregate. To avoid such suffering, the suttas instruct us to see the aggregates as the selfless (anatta) objects they are.
- That meditation creates a space between the aggregates (including clinging) is a readily accessible meditation experience. For a published authoritative statement regarding this experience, see, for example, Trungpa (2001), pp. 85-86, where in response to a student's query he replies: "By meditating you are slowing down the process. When it has slowed down, the skandhas are no longer pushed against one another. There is space there, already there."
- The passage is found at S 1.135, and also in the agamas.
- For instance, see MN 109: "Monk, the four great existents (earth, water, fire, and wind) are the cause, the four great existents the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of form" (Thanissaro, 2001b). Also see SN 22.56: "The four great elements and the form derived from the four great elements: this is called form" (Bodhi, 2000b, p. 895). For more information regarding "the four great elements," see the "Mahābhūta".
- See, for instance, SN 35.93: "In dependence on the eye and forms there arises eye-consciousness...." (Bodhi, 2000b, p. 1172); and, MN 148: "Bhikkhus, dependent on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises..." (Ñāṇamoli & Bodhi, 2001, p. 1134, para. 28).
- See, for instance, SN 35.93: "The meeting, the encounter, the concurrence of these three things [eye, form and eye-consciousness] is called eye-contact...." (Bodhi, 2000b, p. 1172).
- In addition to referring to the five form-derived sense faculties (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body), their associated objects and consciousness, phassa also pertains to these aspects of mentality (nama): mind, mind objects and mind-consciousness. In the Abhidhamma (e.g., see Bodhi, 2000a, p. 78), phassa is a mental factor, the means by which consciousness "touches" an object.
- Traditional Buddhist texts do not directly address Western philosophy's so-called mind-body problem since in Buddhism the exploration of the aggregates is not primarily to ascertain ultimate empirical reality but to obtain ultimate release from suffering.
- See, for instance, MN 109: "Contact is the cause, contact the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of feeling. Contact is the cause, contact the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of perception. Contact is the cause, contact the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of fabrications" (Thanissaro, 2001b). Also see SN 22.56: "With the arising of contact there is the arising of feeling.... With the arising of contact there is the arising of perception.... With the arising of contact there is the arising of volitional formations...." (Bodhi, 2000b, p. 896).
- A mental aggregate arises either from conscious contact with form or from another mental aggregate (Bodhi, 2000a, pp. 78ff).
- See, for instance, SN 35.93: "In dependence on the mind and mental phenomena there arises mind-consciousness" (Bodhi, 2000b, p. 1172). More broadly, see, for instance, SN 22.56: "With the arising of name-and-form [nāmarūpa] there is the arising of consciousness" (Bodhi, 2000b, p. 897); and, MN 109: "Name-&-form is the cause, name-&-form the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of consciousness" (Thanissaro, 2001b). In the Canon, nāmarūpa often refers to the four aggregates other than consciousness (e.g., cf. the relationship between consciousness and nāmarūpa in DN 15 [Thanissaro, 1997a] and MN 38).
- Form and the mental aggregates together are technically referred to as nāmarūpa, which is variously defined as "name-and-form," "materiality-mentality" and "matter-mind." Bodhi (2000b), pp. 47-48, mentions that Ñāṇamoli translated nāmarūpa as "mentality-materiality," which Bodhi assesses to be "[i]n some respects ... doctrinally more accurate, but it is also unwieldy...." Bodhi goes on to note that, "in the Nikāyas, nāmarūpa does not include consciousness (viññāṇa)."
- According to Bodhi (2000b), p. 48, based on suttas in SN 14, consciousness "can operate only in dependenece on a physical body (rūpa) and in conjunction with its constellation of concomitants (nāma); conversely, only when consciousness is present can a compound of material elements function as a sentient body and the mental concomitants participate in cognition." Also, for example, see the Nagara Sutta ("The City," SN 12:65) (Thanissaro, 1997b), where the Buddha in part states: "[F]rom name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness, from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form."
- Bodhi conceptuatlizes the six sense bases as providing a "vertical" view of experience while the aggregates provide a "horizontal" (temporal) view (e.g., see Bodhi, 2000b, pp. 1122-23).
- The Pāli word dhātu is used in multiple contexts in the Pāli canon: For instance, Bodhi (2000b), pp. 527-8, identifies four different ways that dhātu is used including in terms of the "eighteen elements" and in terms of "the four primary elements" (catudhātu).
- Chart is based on Bodhi (2000a), p. 288.
- >Put another way, it is through the five skandhas that clinging occurs. See, for instance, the Samadhi Sutta (SN 22:5) (Thanissaro, 2006b).
- The apparent distinctions between the nidana model and the khandha model are reduced when, instead of using the twelve-nidana model of the Samyutta Nikaya, chapter 12 (e.g., Thanissaro, 1997d), one compares the nine-nidana model of the Maha-nidana Sutta (DN 15) (Thanissaro, 1997a) where consciousness conditions name-and-form and name-and-form conditions consciousness.
- Bodhi (2000b, pp. 839-840) writes: "Whereas the teaching on dependent origination is intended to disclose the dynamic pattern running through everyday experience that propels the round of rebirth and death forward from life to life, the teaching on the five aggregates concentrates on experience in its lived immediacy in the continuum from birth to death." Perhaps in a similar vein, Bodhi (2000b, pp. 762-3, n. 132) notes elsewhere that, according to the Samyutta Nikaya's subcommentary: "There are two kinds of origin, momentary origin (khanika-samudaya) and origin through conditions (paccaya-samudaya). A bhikkhu who sees one sees the other."
- While Red Pine (2004) contextualizes the Prajnaparamita texts as a historical reaction to some early Buddhist Abhidhammas, some interpretations of the Theravada Abhidhamma are consistent with the prajnaparamita notion of "emptiness."
- According to Nattier (1992), the Heart Sutra was originally composed in Chinese and later back-translated into Sanskrit. Thereafter, it became popular in India and later Tibet. As indicated in an endnote further below, elements in this translation are not present in Chinese versions of this sutra.
- See also Nhat Hanh (1988), p. 1, and Suzuki (1960), p. 26. Nhat Hanh (1988) adds to this first verse the sentence: "After this penetration, he overcame all pain." Suzuki (1960), p. 29, notes that this additional sentence is unique to Hsuan-chuang's translation and is omitted in other versions of the Heart Sutra.
- In the Theravada canon, the English word "self-existence" is a translation of the Sanskrit word svabhava.Regarding the term sabhāva (Pali; Skt: svabhāva) in the Pali Canon, Gal (2003), p. 7, writes: "To judge from the suttas, the term sabhāva was never employed by the Buddha and it is rare in the Pali Canon in general. Only in the post-canonical period does it become a standard concept, when it is extensively used in the commentarial descriptions of the dhammas [conditioned mental and physical processes] and in the sub-commentarial exegesis. The term sabhāva, though, does occur on various occasions in five canonical or para-canonical texts: the Paṭisambhidāmagga, the Peṭakopadesa, the Nettippakaraṇa, the Milindapañha and the Buddhavaṃsa." Gal (p. 10) speculates that the use of the term sabhāva in the Paṭisambhidāmagga might be the earliest occurrence in Pali literature and quotes (p. 7, esply. n. 28) from this text (Paṭis. II 178) the application of the phrase sabhāvena suññaṃ (Pali for "empty of sabhāva") to each of the aggregates — at least superficially similar to an application of svabhāva in the Prajnaparamita Hridaya Sutra ("Heart Sutra") cited in this article.
- Note that Chinese versions of the Heart Sutra do not contain the notion of svabhava.
- "Svabhava" has also been translated as "self-nature" (Suzuki, 1960, p. 26), "separate self" (Nhat Hanh, 1988, p. 16) and "self-existence" (Red Pine, 2004, p. 67).
- This type of analysis of the aggregates (where ignorance conditions the five aggregates) might be akin to that described by the Twelve Nidanas.
- khandro.net: Skandhas
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Handful of Leaves Volume 2, 2nd edition 2006, page 309.
- Thanissaro (2002)
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Five Piles of Bricks: The Khandas as Burden and Path. Access to Insight. 2002.
- See, for instance, SN 22.79, "Being Devoured" (Bodhi, 2000b, p. 915).
- Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind. Curzon Press 1995, page 143-146
- Damein Keown quoting Sue Hamilton: .
- SN 22.86 
- Piyadassi Thera, trans. Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta ("The Setting in Motion the Wheel of Truth Discourse", Samyutta Nikaya 56:11). Access to Insight. 1999.
- Kalupahana (1975), page 85. The quote is from S 3.142, and also occurs in the agamas.
- See, for instance, in the Samyutta Nikaya's Khandha-saṃyutta's discourses SN 22.1 through 22.55 (Bodhi, 2000b, pp. 853-94).
- Kalupahana (1975), page 78
- Kalupahana (1975), page 78.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu, .
- Noa Ronkin, Early Buddhist Metaphysics. Routledge 2005, page 245.
- Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind. Curzon Press 1995, page 229.
- Bodhi 2000b, p. 1122.
- Bodhi 2000b, p. 1123.
- See, for instance, MN 109 "The Great Full-moon Night Discourse" (Thanissaro, 2001b), SN 22.56 "Phases of the Clinging Aggregates" (Bodhi, 2000b, pp. 895-97) and SN 35.93, "The Dyad (2)" (Bodhi, 2000b, pp. 1172-3).
- Trungpa Rinpoche 1976
- Bodhi (2000b), pp. 1125-26
- Bodhi (2005b)
- Bodhi (2000a), pp. 287-8.
- Bodhi (2000a), p. 6.
- Schumann 1974.
- Red Pine (2005), p.2.
- Nhat Hanh (1988), p.1. Again, also see Red Pine (2004), p. 2, and Suzuki (1960), p. 26.
- Jinpa 2002 , page 112.
- Lai Year unknown.
- Swanson 1993, p. 373.
- Suzuki (1960), p. 29, n. 4.
- Trungpa, 2001, pp. 10–12; and, Trungpa, 2002, pp. 124, 133-4
- Trungpa Rinpoche 1976, pp. 20–22
- Trungpa Rinpoche 1976, p. 23
- Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.) (2000b), The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya, Boston: Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-331-1
- Ñāṇamoli, Bhikkhu (trans.) & Bodhi, Bhikkhu (ed.) (2001). The Middle-Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-072-X.
Anthologies of suttas
- Bodhi, Bhikkhu (ed.) (2005a). In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pāli Canon. Boston: Wisdom Pubs. ISBN 0-86171-491-1.
- Nyanaponika Thera (trans.) (1998). Sallatha Sutta: The Dart. .
- Nyanasatta Thera (trans.) (1994). Satipatthana Sutta: The Foundations of Mindfulness. .
- Piyadassi Thera (trans.) (1999). Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: Setting in Motion the Wheel of Truth. .
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1997a). Maha-nidana Sutta: The Great Causes Discourse (DN 15). Retrieved 2008-02-13 from "Access to Insight" at .
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1997b). Nagara Sutta: The City. .
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1997c). Parivatta Sutta: The (Fourfold) Round [SN 22.56]. .
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1997d). Paticca-samuppada-vibhanga Sutta: Analysis of Dependent Co-arising (SN 22.2). Retrieved 2008-02-13 from "Access to Insight" at .
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1997e). Sallatha Sutta: The Arrow [SN 36.6]. .
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1998). Culavedalla Sutta: The Shorter Set of Questions-and-Answers [MN 44]..
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2001a). Khajjaniya Sutta: Chewed Up [SN 22.79]. .
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2001b). Maha-punnama Sutta: The Great Full-moon Night Discourse [MN 109]. .
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2005). Maha-dukkhakkhandha Sutta: The Great Mass of Stress [MN 13]. .
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2006). Anapanasati Sutta: Mindfulness of Breathing [MN 118]. .
Abhidhamma, Pali commentaries, modern Theravada
- Bodhi, Bhikkhu (ed.) (2000a). A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma: The Abhidhammattha Sangaha of Ācariya Anuruddha. Seattle, WA: BPS Pariyatti Editions. ISBN 1-928706-02-9.
- Bodhi, Bhikkhu (18 Jan 2005b). MN 10: Satipatthana Sutta (continued) [Ninth dharma talk on the Satipatthana Sutta (MP3 audio file)]. .
- Buddhaghosa, Bhadantācariya (trans. from Pāli by Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli) (1999). The Path of Purification: Visuddhimagga. Seattle, WA: BPS Pariyatti Editions. ISBN 1-928706-00-2.
- Ñāṇamoli, Bhikkhu (trans.) (1998). Mindfulness of Breathing (Ānāpānasati): Buddhist texts from the Pāli Canon and Extracts from the Pāli Commentaries. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society. ISBN 955-24-0167-4.
- Soma Thera (trans.) (2003). The Way of Mindfulness. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society. ISBN 955-24-0256-5.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (2002). Five Piles of Bricks: The Khandhas as Burden & Path. .
- Fremantle, Francesca & Trungpa, Chõgyam (2003). The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation Through Hearing in the Bardo. Boston: Shambhala Publications. ISBN 1-59030-059-9.
- Nhât Hanh, Thich (1988). The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press. ISBN 0-938077-11-2.
- Nhât Hanh, Thich (1999). The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching. NY: Broadway Books. ISBN 0-7679-0369-2.
- Red Pine (2004). The Heart Sutra. Emeryville, CA: Shoemaker & Hoard. ISBN 1-59376-009-4.
- Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro (1960). Manual of Zen Buddhism. NY: Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-3065-8.
- Trungpa, Chögyam (1976). The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation. Boulder: Shambhala. ISBN 0-87773-084-9.
- Trungpa, Chögyam (1999). The Essential Chögyam Trungpa. Boston: Shambhala. ISBN 1-57062-466-6.
- Trungpa, Chögyam (2001). Glimpses of Abhidharma. Boston: Shambhala. ISBN 1-57062-764-9.
- Trungpa, Chögyam (2002). Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. Boston: Shambhala. ISBN 1-57062-957-9.
- Gal, Noa (July 2003). The Rise of the Concept of ‘Own-Nature’: (Sabhāva) in the Paṭisambhidāmagga [excerpt from Ph.D. thesis]. Oxford: Wolfson College. Retrieved 2008-01-22 from "Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies" at Internet Archive.
- Sue Hamilton. "From the Buddha to Buddhaghosa: Changing Attitudes Toward the Human Body in Theravāda Buddhism." In Religious Reflections on the Human Body, edited by Jane Marie Law. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995, pp. 46–63.
- Sue Hamilton. Identity and Experience: the Constitution of the Human Being According to Early Buddhism. London: Luzac Oriental, 1996.
- Jinpa, Thupten (2002). Self, Reality and Reason in Tibetan Philosophy: Tsongkhapa's Quest for the Middle Way. Routledge.
- Kalupahana, David (1975). Causality: The Central Philosophy of Buddhism. The University Press of Hawaii.
- Lai, Whalen (Year unknown), Buddhism in China: A Historical Survey
- Nattier, Jan (1992). "The Heart Sutra: A Chinese Apocryphal Text?" Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 153–223.
- Rawson, Philip (1991). Sacred Tibet. NY: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-81032-X.
- Schumann, Hans Wolfgang (1974), Buddhism: an outline of its teachings and schools, Theosophical Pub. House
- Swanson, Paul L. (1993), The Spirituality of Emptiness in Early chinese Buddhism. In: Buddhist Spirituality. Indian, Southeast Asian, Tibetan, Early Chinese; edited by Takeuchi Yoshinori, New York: Crossroad
- Khandavagga suttas (a selection), translated primarily by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
- The Five Skandhas, table showing the five skandhas, prepared by Alan Fox (Dept. of Philosophy, U. of Delaware).
- A View on Buddhism: Mind and Mental Factors, web page including description of the Five Aggregates.