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.”
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.
The first aspect of true love in Buddhism is friendship.
The second aspect of true love is compassion.
The third aspect of true love is joy. True love always brings joy to us and the ones we love.
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.
Emptiness always means empty of something. A cup is empty of water. A bowl is empty of soup. We are empty of a separate, independent self.
Emptiness does not mean nonexistence. It means interdependent co-arising, impermanence, and non-self. Emptiness is the middle way between existence and nonexistence.
Everyone we cherish will someday, get sick and die. If we do not practice the mediation on emptiness, when it happens, we will be overwhelmed.
Signlessness or animitta:
The second door of liberation is signlessness. “Sign” means an appearance or the object of our perception.
Signs are instruments for our use, but they are not absolute truth, and they can mislead us. Wherever there is a sign, there is deception, illusion. Appearances can deceive.
If you see the signlessness of signs, you see the Tathagata. Tathagata means the wonderous nature of reality.
Everything manifests by means of signs.
Life span is the period of time between our birth and our death. We think we are alive for a specific period of time that has a beginning and an end. But when we look deeply, we see that we have never been born and we will never die. And our fear dissolves. With mindfulness, concentration, and the Three Dharma Seals, we can unlock the door of Liberation called signlessness and obtain the greatest relief.
Aimlessness or apranihita:
The Third Door of Liberation is aimlessness. There is nothing to do, nothing to realize. The purpose of a rose is to be a rose. Your purpose is to be yourself.
Be yourself. Life is precious as it is. Just being in the moment in this place is the deepest practice of meditation.
According to the Heart Sutra there is “nothing to attain.”
Aimlessness and Nirvana are one.
Present Moment, Wonderful Moment
Waking up this morning, I smile
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live freely in each moment
and to look at all beings with the eyes of love.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
These twenty-four hours are a precious gift, a gift we can only realize when we have opened the Third Door of Liberation.
The practice of aimlessness, is the practice of freedom.
Right livelihood is earning a living without needing to transgress any of the Five Mindfulness trainings; not dealing in arms, the slave trade, the meat trade, the sale of alcohol, drugs, or poison, making prophecies or telling fortunes.
A job that involves killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying or selling drugs or alcohol is not right livelihood.
Making weapons or profiting from others superstition is also not right livelihood.
People may have superstitions such as believing that their fate is sealed in the stars, but by practicing mindfulness, we can change the destiny astrologers have predicted for us. Moreover, prophecies can be self-fulfilling.
Creating art can also be a form of livelihood. A composer, writer, painter, or performer has an effect on the collective consciousness. Any work of art is to a certain extent a product of the collective consciousness. Therefore, the individual artist needs to practice mindfulness so that her work of art helps those who touch it practice right attention.
As we study and practice the Noble Eight Fold Path, we see that each element of the path is contained within the other seven elements.