The 5 Skandhas or Aggregates

Skandhas means “heaps, aggregates, collections, groupings”. It refers to the five aggregates of clinging, the five material and mental factors that take part in the rise of craving and clinging. They are also explained as the five factors that constitute and explain a sentient being’s person and personality.

The five aggregates of self (skandhas) – the elements whose aggregate continuity creates the illusion of a permanent and substantial self-existence:

The 5 Skandas, or 5 Aggregates

What are you made of? According to Buddhism, people are made of five aggregates, or “heaps.” These are known in Sanskrit as the skandhas. They are referred to as heaps because they’re merely collections of parts without any central core. The five skandhas are:

1. Form

Your physical body—traditionally, these are listed as the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind.

2. Feeling

The sensations you experience in your body, including all pain and pleasure.

3. Perception

You have sense organs, and each of them has objects. Put them together—eye and light, nose and smell, etc.—and you have perception.

4. Mental formations

All your concepts and thoughts, from the most mundane to the most grandiose.

5. Consciousness

Simply put, this is your awareness of skandhas 1 through 4.

With reflection and practice, you can begin to understand that all of these are fleeting. Like all conditioned phenomena, the five skandhas are subject to change and decay. When you are at peace with this fact, you can be free from suffering.

Suffering arises when one identifies with or clings to the aggregates. This suffering is extinguished by relinquishing attachments to aggregates. The nature of all aggregates is intrinsically empty of independent existence.

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