Friday, March 8, 2013

Skandhas: Five Human Attributes


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"In Buddhist phenomenology and soteriology, the skandhas (Sanskrit) or khandhas (Pāli, aggregates in English) are the five functions or aspects that constitute the human being. The Buddha teaches that nothing among them is really "I" or "mine"....Prior to the Buddha, the Pali word khandha had very ordinary meanings: A khandha could be a pile, a bundle, a heap, a mass. It could also be the trunk of a tree. In his first sermon, though, the Buddha gave it a new, psychological meaning, introducing the term clinging-khandhas to summarize his analysis of the truth of stress and suffering. Throughout the remainder of his teaching career, he referred to these psychological khandhas time and again."..... Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Five Piles of Bricks: The Khandas as Burden and Path. Access to Insight. 2002.

"The five skandhas….
"form" or "matter" (Skt., Pāli rūpa; Tib. gzugs): external and internal matter. Externally, rupa is the physical world. Internally, rupa includes the material body and the physical sense organs.\
"sensation" or "feeling" (Skt., Pāli vedanā; Tib. tshor-ba): sensing an object as either pleasant or unpleasant or neutral.
"perception", "conception", "apperception", "cognition", or "discrimination" (Skt. samjñā, Pāli saññā, Tib. 'du-shes): registers whether an object is recognized or not (for instance, the sound of a bell or the shape of a tree).
"mental formations", "impulses", "volition", or "compositional factors" (Skt. samskāra, Pāli saṅkhāra, Tib. 'du-byed): all types of mental habits, thoughts, ideas, opinions, prejudices, compulsions, and decisions triggered by an object.
"consciousness" or "discernment" (Skt. vijñāna, Pāli viññāṇa, Tib. rnam-par-shes-pa):

"Trungpa says when we are working with emotions we are dealing with the fourth and fifth skandhas, concept and consciousness. Our emotional discomfort comes from a conflict between our ego which wants to be in control, and fundamental ignorance, our lack of understanding of the true nature of our emotions, which is energy, merely phenomenon arising in the moment. As a result of this conflict we experience ambivalence and an inability to make an informed decision about. For example: I have to choose between going to dinner with friends or staying home going to bed early and getting some rest. In that moment of confusion conceptional mind starts rationalizing the situation and it's like having two voices in my head, one arguing that I should go out and the other one arguing that I should stay home. Trungpa calls this way of finding our way in the world “crude and childish.” We create the illusion of security through categorization, analyzing how thoughts fit together, putting them in boxes and trying make decisions, all in an effort to create a sense of security. This effort freezes the energy that our emotions really are and as Trungpa says “the world is seen as being absolutely solid and stiff. Everything is frozen movement, frozen space, solidified. . . We see the colors as they are, but somehow they are plastic colors rather than rainbow colors. And this solid quality is the dualistic barrier. . .” Like Machig Labdrön before him Trungpa suggests a similar way out of this painful dualistic relationship with emotions. Practice relating to our emotions in their fundamental state, as energy. Once we do this the fear, paranoia and shame drop away and we can relate to powerful emotions properly. Trungpa says “Then you are like someone who is completely skilled in his profession, who does not panic, but just does his work completely, thoroughly.”x So how do us mere mortals learn to do this? We need skillful means to help us learn to work with emotions. Working with our demons as Machig Labdrön teaches, cuts through the dualism and then we can work with the fundamental energy of our emotions."

"Skandha (devanāgarī: स्कन्ध) is a Sanskrit term usually translated as "aggregate". It used in Buddhism to refer to the five functions or aspects that constitute the human being. In Theosophy the concept is frequently used in a similar (albeit not identical) way, though they are regarded to constitute the personality, not the totality, of a human being.....

"In Theosophy, skandhas are defined them as follows:Skandha or Skhanda (Sk.). Lit., “bundles”, or groups of attributes; everything finite, inapplicable to the eternal and the absolute. There are five —esoterically, seven— attributes in every human living being, which are known as the Pancha Shandhas. These are (1) form, rûpa; (2) perception, vidâna; (3) consciousness, sanjnâ; (4) action, sanskâra; (5) knowledge, vidyâna. These unite at the birth of man and constitute his personality. After the maturity of these Skandhas, they begin to separate and weaken, and this is followed by jarâmarana, or decrepitude and death."....Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973)


John Hopkins.....Northern New Mexico….March 2013


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