Buddhism by the Numbers
The Five Aggregates
A human being is composed of Five aggregates (skandas): form, feelings, perception, mental formations, and consciousness.
- Form – Means our body including the five sense organs and our nervous system.
- Feelings – There is a river of feelings inside of us. Our feelings are formations, impermanent and without substance.
- Perceptions – Noticing, naming, conceptualizing, perceiver and perceived. All suffering is born from wrong perceptions. Understanding, the fruit of meditation, can dissolve our wrong perceptions and liberate us. “Where there is perception, there is deception.” -Diamond Sutra.
- Mental Formations – There are 51 mental formations present in our store consciousness in the form of seeds. Every time a seed is touched it manifests on the upper level of our consciousness as a mental formation. With daily practice we are able to nourish and develop wholesome mental formations and transform unhealthy ones. Freedom, non-fear, and peace are the result of this practice.
- Consciousness – Consciousness in this context means store consciousness, which is the basis of everything that we are, the ground of all our mental formations. Consciousness contains all other aggregates and is the basis of their existence. Consciousness is simultaneously both collective and individual.
The five aggregates are interconnected or as Thich Nhat Hahn says, “Inter-are.”