The Five Aggregates

On a Small IslandAccording to Buddhadhamma, dividing the Five Aggregates entails an analysis of the constituent elements of life, which we call “being” (satta) or “person”, and so on:

(1) Corporeality (rupa) is comprised of the elements of the whole rupa-dhamma, body, and behavior of the body, or matter and material energy, including the qualities and behavior of this matter and energy.

(2) Feeling or Sensation (vedana) amounts to the impressions of sukha, dukkha, or indifference that occur by contact with the world through the five senses and the heart/mind.

(3) Perception (sanna) is that which can be established or known. In other words, it is the establishment of knowledge of conditions and the characteristics of the various features of an object that are the cause for remembering that object.

(4) Mental formations, predispositions, or volitional activities (sankhara) are the psychological compositions, or the various qualities that embellish the mind making it good, bad, or neutral, and they have intention (cetana) as their guide.

Put very simply, some of these good and bad thoughts are as follows: confidence (saddha), mindfulness (sati), moral shame (hiri), moral fear (ottappa), loving-kindness (metta), compassion (karuna), joy (mudita), equanimity (upekkha), wisdom (panna), delusion (moha), ill-will (dosa), greed (lobha), conceit (mana), perspective (ditthi), envy (issa), and avarice (macchariya), for example.

(5) Consciousness (vinnana) involves being aware of sensations via the six senses (that is, the five senses and the mind), such as seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, physically touching, and mentally touching.

The following statement represents one of the most fundamental and important principles for understanding Buddhadhamma:

“Bhikkhus, I will explain the things that cause attachments and comprise attachments; so, all of you listen carefully.

“Body . . . sensation . . . perception . . . mental formations . . . consciousness are the things that can cause attachment. The desire to attach or cling (chandaraga) to body, sensation, mental formations, and consciousness constitutes attachment to that thing.” (Samyutta Nikaya III.166)

Source: Phra Prayudh, Buddhadhamma: Natural Laws and Values for Life, trans. Grant A. Olson (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995), 53-56.