Baffled by “The Five Aggregates”?

When studying the Dharma, we often come across terminology that may initially baffle us. However, what is most often required is that we translate and define the terms in ways that are accessible to our understanding. 

One such difficult term is “The Five Aggregates” often rendered as “The Five Heaps”, a literal translation of the Sanskrit skandha. 

The Five Aggregates are the components of ordinary existence that we habitually mistake for our ‘self’. One of the aggregates, form, refers to the physical body. The other four (sensation, perception, volition or mental formation, and consciousness) are mental aspects or functions.  

A simpler version of the Five Aggregates is the term “Name and Form”, the Sanskrit nama-rupa. In this expression, all four mental aspects are subsumed under the word ‘name’, while the physical body is the ‘form’. 

Whether we refer to them as “The Five Aggregates” or “Name and Form”, the body and mind are temporary and depend on a multiplicity of causes and conditions for their arising, endurance, and cessation. As they are in constant flux, they are not a proper basis for imputing a stable, permanent ‘self’.

About Tashi Nyima

I am a Dharma student, and aspire to be a companion on the path. I trust that these texts can offer a general approach and basic tools for practicing the Buddha's way to enlightenment. ||| Soy un estudiante del Dharma, y aspiro a ser un compañero en el sendero. Espero que estos textos ofrezcan a algunos un mapa general y herramientas básicas para la práctica del sendero a la iluminación que nos ofrece el Buda.
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