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huli

5 Aggregates

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I've not been a part of this forum, but I have a question, and perhaps someone here would give me a hand.

I have been pondering the 5 aggregates, which I understand to be the sum total of a human. I have also been practicing samatha meditation in the classical Theravada manner, observing the breath, and returning to the breath whenever the mind drifts off into thoughts. So far, so good. It does seem to provide a unique perspective mentally. In trying to understand the how and why of this meditative practice, I am trying to see what part of the 4 mental aggregates are functioning during the activity. I tend to think it is consciousness aware of consciousness (?), or perhaps consciousness aware of the body (?). It seems to me that this practice should be known within the 4 mental aggregates.

It would help me to know where, and explain why the practice is uniquely helpful.

Would anyone care to share their ideas on this?

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Hi Huli, this is a great question and I'm sure you'll get some helpful answers. For starters, though, it's gonna be Five Aggregates - form, feeling, perception, concept, and consciousness. Consciousness is considered a "construct" so it must be dealt with on its own terms and is ultimately left behind with regard to the goal of the Buddhist path: liberation.

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What technique are you practising? which teacher taught you this?

I'm not sure any technique encourages the classification of experience in terms of the 5 aggregates. It is important as part of the understanding that we/you/me is not a solid permanent self but when it comes to meditation all you need to do is observe constantly changing experience without classifying (beyond simple noting or labelling if needed) or conceptualising it or reacting to it. If you do that then the understanding you are trying to gain will naturally arise over time on an experiential/wisodom level rather than on the conceptual level which is where you are appear to be trying to do it.

Edited by Brucenkhamen

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Hi Huli, this is a great question and I'm sure you'll get some helpful answers. For starters, though, it's gonna be Five Aggregates - form, feeling, perception, concept, and consciousness. Consciousness is considered a "construct" so it must be dealt with on its own terms and is ultimately left behind with regard to the goal of the Buddhist path: liberation.

Morning, Jawnie

Thanks for your reply last night. I have been trying to understand the 5 aggregates better thru books, the internet, and now this forum, I guess. I spent a lot of mental energy trying to understand consciousness, and I thought I had it down, but your reply makes me wonder. All the references say that consciousness boils down to the 6 kinds, one each, 5 senses plus the mental one. Visual consciousness, auditory consciousness, etc. What I now understand, tentatively, is that we human know that we see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and this is "consciousness". A whole level of awareness not possessed by other animals.

All of which makes me wonder about your last sentence. What am I missing? What is a construct? How is it left behind?

Again, I appreciate your input.

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What technique are you practising? which teacher taught you this?

I'm not sure any technique encourages the classification of experience in terms of the 5 aggregates. It is important as part of the understanding that we/you/me is not a solid permanent self but when it comes to meditation all you need to do is observe constantly changing experience without classifying (beyond simple noting or labelling if needed) or conceptualising it or reacting to it. If you do that then the understanding you are trying to gain will naturally arise over time on an experiential/wisodom level rather than on the conceptual level which is where you are appear to be trying to do it.

Hi Brucenkhamen,

Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

I am practicing the samatha technique. Namely, try to focus concentration on the sensation of the breathe at the tip of the nose. Guide attention straight back when it wanders off. I don't have a teacher, I am just well-read, you could say. I am aware of the Buddhist Vipassana technique, and I plan to get into that after a while. Right now I am just trying to work on my concentration, which is usually considered a first step. I am not observing my constantly changing experience so much. I am trying to keep my attention focused on the breath, for now. And, with some clarity that results, to understand the five aggregates and how this samatha attention fits into them, admittedly on the conceptual level.

I see that you have a lot of experience on this forum, and I appreciate hearing your thoughts on the matter.

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I am practicing the samatha technique.

If that's the case then when you are meditating you should concern yourself with the theory, you are only concerned with the object. It's good you have an understanding of the theory and when you are not meditating you can reflect on it and maybe ask questions if you want. When you do vipassana you'll have more scope to reflect on experience but even then it's not a matter of digging to find evidence that proves the theory but rather of reflecting on experience and learning whatever is to be learned, over time ones sees connection between the theory and the insight one has gained from practise.

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I spent a lot of mental energy trying to understand consciousness, and I thought I had it down, but your reply makes me wonder. All the references say that consciousness boils down to the 6 kinds, one each, 5 senses plus the mental one. Visual consciousness, auditory consciousness, etc. What I now understand, tentatively, is that we human know that we see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and this is "consciousness". A whole level of awareness not possessed by other animals.

The pali word is vinnana. A mistake you might be making, because I know I have done so myself, might because the translators used the english word conciousness. I think for most of people the word "conciousness" means just being concious, being in a state of awareness and awakeness, as in "he has regained conciousness doctor".

Whereas vinnana is that moment when there is contact between the mind and an outside object through the 6 sense doors, so rather than being about being in a concious state vinnana is a continual flow of events arising and passing away as a result of contact through the senses, each of those events is a vinnana.

That's my understanding anyway, this might help you further http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vij%C3%B1%C4%81na

Edited by Brucenkhamen

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Hi Huli, this is a great question and I'm sure you'll get some helpful answers. For starters, though, it's gonna be Five Aggregates - form, feeling, perception, concept, and consciousness. Consciousness is considered a "construct" so it must be dealt with on its own terms and is ultimately left behind with regard to the goal of the Buddhist path: liberation.

Morning, Jawnie

Thanks for your reply last night. I have been trying to understand the 5 aggregates better thru books, the internet, and now this forum, I guess. I spent a lot of mental energy trying to understand consciousness, and I thought I had it down, but your reply makes me wonder. All the references say that consciousness boils down to the 6 kinds, one each, 5 senses plus the mental one. Visual consciousness, auditory consciousness, etc. What I now understand, tentatively, is that we human know that we see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and this is "consciousness". A whole level of awareness not possessed by other animals.

All of which makes me wonder about your last sentence. What am I missing? What is a construct? How is it left behind?

Again, I appreciate your input.

According to the Nyingmapa, the Five Aggregates are conditioned components of existence (constructs). That is, they have no independent existence but rather arise from a combination of preceding causes; consciousness is somewhat different playing an "over-seer" role regarding the activity of the others but it, too, arises dependent on conditions, so it is classified as one of the five.

Those preceding causes/conditions include ignorance of our true essence, the seed of the tathagata, which is the real nature of reality. From that ignorance arises the bewildered nature of living beings spawning all sorts of results, including the Five Aggregates (sometimes called "suddenly arisen phenomena" or "stains on unsurpassed reality"). Vipassana and Samatha meditative techniques are part of the sequence of the Buddhist path that regulate the causes and conditions in the formation of the Five Aggregates (aka "world forming deeds"), and reverse, transcend, stop, or otherwise, abandon them. It's not particularly helpful to try to analyze your meditative experience because it's part of your current way of being. Rather, I'd say just practice the meditation according to your teacher's instructions.

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