The Five Aggregates

Buddhism by the Numbers

Photo by: Benn Bell

The Five Aggregates

A human being is composed of Five aggregates (skandas): form, feelings, perception, mental formations, and consciousness.

  1. Form – Means our body including the five sense organs and our nervous system.
  2. Feelings – There is a river of feelings inside of us. Our feelings are formations, impermanent and without substance.
  3. 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.
  4.  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.
  5. 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.”

The Four Immeasurable Minds

Photo by Benn Bell

Buddhism by the Numbers

The Four Immeasurable Minds

  • Love, compassion, joy, equanimity
  • If you learn how to practice love, compassion, joy, and equanimity, you will know how to heal the illness, anger, sorrow, insecurity, sadness, hatred, loneliness and unhealthy attachments.
  • Whoever practices the Four Immeasurable Minds together with the Seven Factors of Awakening, the Four Noble Truths, and the Noble Eightfold Path will arrive at deep enlightenment.
  1. The first aspect of true love in Buddhism is friendship.
  2. The second aspect of true love is compassion.
  3. The third aspect of true love is joy. True love always brings joy to us and the ones we love.
  4. The fourth element of true love is equanimity: nonattachment, nondiscrimination, even mindedness, letting go. If your love has attachment, discrimination, prejudice, or clinging it is not true love. This is the wisdom of equality.

Based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn

The Three Bodies of Buddha

Buddhisim by the Numbers

The Buddha came to be represented as having “three bodies”:

  1. Dharmakaya – the source of enlightenment and happiness.
  2. Sambhogakaya – the body of bliss or enlightenment.
  3. Nirmanakaya – the historical embodiment of the Buddha.

When he was about to pass away, the Buddha told his disciples, “Dear friends, my physical body will not be here tomorrow, but my teaching body (Dharmakaya) will always be with you. Consider it to be the teacher who never leaves you. Be islands unto yourselves, take refuge in the Dharma. Use the Dharma as your lamp, your island.”

The original meaning of Dharmakaya, the way to realize understanding and love.

Based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn

Photo by Benn Bell

Rainstorm

There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.”
― Tsunetomo Yamamoto, The Hagakure: A code to the way of samurai

Photo: Benn Bell

The Three Dharma Seals

Buddhism by the Numbers

The Three Dharma Seals

Impermanence, Non-self, Nirvana

  • From the point of view of time we say “impermanence” and from the point of view of space we say “non-self.”
  • It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent.
  • Nothing is ever lost. Nothing is ever gained.
  • The second dharma seal is non-self. Nothing has a separate existence or separate self. Everything has to inter-be with everything else.
  • When we see that everyone and everything belongs to the same stream of life, our suffering will vanish.
  • Non-self means that you are made of elements which are not you.
  • Nirvana is the third dharma seal. It is the ground of being.
  • “The dharma I offer you is only a raft to help you cross over to the other shore,” said the Buddha.
  • Nirvana is the extinction of all notions.
  • Happy Continuation
  • Eight concepts: birth, death, permanence, dissolution, coming, going, one, many.
  • The practice to end attachment of these eight ideas is called the eight no’s or the middle way.
  • Experience always goes before ideas.
  • Any teaching that does not bear the mark of the Three Dharma Seals, the Four Holy Truths, and the Eightfold Path is not authentically Buddhist.
  • Two Relevancies
    1. Relevance to essence – The three dharma seals: impermanence, non-self, Nirvana.
    2. Relevance must fit the circumstances.
  • Four Standards of Truth
    1. The worldly
    2. The person
    3. Healing
    4. The absolute – No self
  • The Four Reliances
    1. Teaching
    2. Discourses
    3. Meaning
    4. Insight

Based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo credit: Benn Bell