Kalama Sutta

Kalama Sutta

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Skandhas

Skandhas or aggregates are the parts of the self. Sometimes they are called the aggregates of attachment, which bring about suffering. Just like a car is nothing more than the sum of its parts, so we are nothing more than the sum of our parts. There is no atman, meaning soul, self, or ego, holding the pieces together. Nevertheless, just like the car can run despite being nothing but a collection of pieces, so we can live as a person.

Traditionally, there are five skandhas:

1. The body, matter or form (rupa). Includes the body and the sense organs.

2. Feelings or sensations (vedana). Pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral feelings, coming out of contact between sense organs and objects, plus out of the contact between mind (manas) and mental objects (ideas, images...).

3. Thoughts or perceptions (samjña). Recognition of objects -- form, sound, smell, taste, bodily impressions, mental objects.

4. Will, mental acts, or mental formations (samskara). Volition, attention, discrimination, joy, happiness, equanimity, resolve, exertion, compulsion, concentration, etc.

5. Consciousness (vijñana). Awareness prior to recognition -- seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, kinesthesia, ideation.

The last four are called naman, name, meaning the psyche. Namarupa (name-form) is therefore the buddhist term for the person, mental and physical, which is nevertheless anatman, without soul or essence.
Ayatana is the six fields of naman: sight, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and mind, as well as the objects of these six senses.
The Yogachara school adds alaya-vijñana, a “storehouse” consciousness, similar to Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious. What is stored there are called bijas or seeds, which are inborn and result from our karmic history. They combine with manas or ego-mind to form the illusion of ordinary existence. By stilling mind, storehouse consciousness becomes identical with tathagata, “suchness,” or the Buddha-mind.
Chitta means mind or consciousness. In Yogachara, everything is ultimately chitta. For this reason, Yogachara is also called the chitta-matra, “nothing but consciousness,” or idealistic school.

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