BuddhaSasana Home Page
The Concept of
Personality Revealed Through The Pancanikaya - Ven. Thich Chon-Thien
Institute of Buddhist Studies
III.2 Chapter 2
Man is Pancakkhandha
Name-and-Form element (NÓma-R¨pa) as discussed in "the operation of the twelve elements of Dependent Origination" are the five aggregates of man (PancakkhandhÓ), therefore the operation of the twelve elements really is the operation of PancakkhandhÓ, and realizing that operation means realizing what a man really is.
At the Deer Park (MigadÓya), Isipatana at BÓrÓnasý, right after the first day of teaching the Four Noble Truths (CattÓri AriyasaccÓni), from the second day to the fifth, Lord Buddha explained the doctrine of PancakkhandhÓ to MahÓthera Kondanna and his four Dhamma friends. It runs that:
PancakkhandhÓ is the second discourse which helped the first five disciples of Lord Buddha destroy completely their defilements to attain the Arahanthood to see the truth of life and true happiness. Lets now examine Lord Buddhas teachings on it.
III.2.1:THE MEANING OF PANCAKKHANDHA
Lord Buddha defined:
The above quotation says that:
Aggregate of body (or form) is understood as a persons physical body, bodies of others and the material world. Aggregate of feeling includes feeling of suffering, of happiness and of indifference. It is known as feelings arising from eye - contact, ear - contact, nose - contact, tongue - contact, body - contact and mind - contact.
Aggregate of perception includes perception of body, perception of sound, perception of odour, perception of taste, perception of touch (or tangibles), and perception of mental objects (or phenomena).
Aggregate of activities (or volition) is all mental, oral and bodily activities. it also is understood as volitionalacts occasioned by body, by sound, by odour, by taste, by touching or by ideas. Aggregate of consciousness includes eye - consciousness, ear - consciousness, nose - consciousness, tongue - consciousness, body - consciousness and mind - consciousness.
Such is a person ! He is conditioned by this physical and mental world. He relates closely to others, to society, and to nature, but can never exist by himself. Therefore, he must be selfless, impermanent. Because of selflessness and impermanence, a person who always grasp selfness and permanence feels suffering in life, as Lord Buddha declared:
The truth of a man is selfless: it is not his self, it is not his, and he is not it, while the contemporary personality theorists and educators tend to search for a self and consider that: it is his self, it is his and he is it, how can they come to solutions for individuals problems?(!) Here is the very crucial point from which the personality theorists and educators know what and how to educate individuals for a good society and environment they are living in, and for their happiness. Evidently, it is not easy to convince people to accept this truth of life, but the point is people should not keep themselves away from it. This demands education to find the way to do to help people see it as the following teaching shows:
It is similar for a mirage seen in the dry season at high noontide compared with consciousness and other aggregates.
If a man sees that truth, he comes to feel disgust at aggregates; feeling disgust he is repelled; by repulsion he is set free and comes to the Insight that: he is free.
Now, following that regard to things, let us take a look deep into mens physical bodies, observe and analyse them, what can we realize?
That physical body comes from a foetus made up by the spermatozoon and semen. Thesespermatozoon and semen were created by the essence of food coming from many conditions in nature which includes the existence of the Sun about 150 million kilometers away from here.
That baby (child) has been brought up also by food, etc. It exists out of the intention of a person, and changes all the time...
How can that body regarded as his own self? Similarly, analysing the aggregate of feeling will help a person see :
- Feeling aggregate is nothing but a mass of feelings coming from touching which is but the contact of the inward part and the outward part of the body aggregate. If body aggregate is seen as not the "I", the "mine" or the "my self" and as emptiness, so is feeling aggregate.
For perception aggregate, it is the perceptions of body, of sound, of smell, of taste, of touch and of phenomena. These things belonging to body aggregate are empty, as mentioned above, so those perceptions are also empty: they must not be considered as the "I", the "mine" or the "my self"
For Activities aggregate, they are known as the thought of body, of sound, of smell, of taste, of touch, and of mental objects, but body, sound, ..., are empty and considered as not the "I", the "mine" the "my self" so Activities aggregate must be regarded similarly.
For consciousness aggregate, it is the cognition arising from eye - contact, ear - contact, nose - contact, tongue - contact, body contact and mind - contact. Eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind are empty and not the "I", the "mine" or the "my self"; so is consciousness.
What is called a man is a compound of the five aggregates which are empty, he must be selfless and not the "I", the "mine" or the "my self". This sounds rather strange but true.
Such a regard to the five aggregates is that of wisdom (pannÓ or vijja) which can help a person to come out of all troubles. It suggests a person to train himself for a regard of wisdom to things, but not for the search for a self or personality.
Here, an individual may ask: if "no-self" is the true self of a human being, then who acts? Who receives the result of his actions? - These questions implying the meaning of a "self" must belong to self - thought which is ignorance (avijja) and is of conception but not of reality. In fact, human beings are there, their actions are there, and the results of their actions they receive are there. No question on "who" or "why" exists in reality: it is what to live with, but not to talk about or to think of. There are only two things to be concerned in the fateful existence of a human being: his obsessing suffering and his requirement to find out the way to the cessation of that suffering. His main problem is how to have a right view on these two things as Lord buddha taught His disciple, KaccÓnagotta, that:
So the above mentioned root problem of human beings was taught and emphasized by Lord Buddha. It was emphasized several times by Him as the central point of His teaching as recorded here and there in the PancanikÓya. He said:
Lord Buddha, in addition to the above teaching, also emphasized what should be understood by an individual, and what is the understanding of it so clearly that:
In short, Lord Buddhas teachings recorded in PancanikÓya are basically concentrated on introducing the five aggregates and the way of dealing with mens desires for them which means introducing the arising of the five aggregates and the ceasing of them. This is a very practical and existential way of education that suggests to men the purpose of education - which is happiness or the cessation of suffering -, and the content of education - which is the understanding of the five aggregates and the way of extinguishing sufferings arising from them - That way also suggests that the course of modern education, in the name of human beings and their happiness in this very life, should be based on that purpose and content of education. The search for truth of man and universe now should turn to be the realization of the five aggregates, the operation of which will be mentioned next.
III.2.2: THE OPERATION OF PANCAKKHANDHA
As mentioned in (III.2.1.) the operation of the five aggregates is that of Name-and-Form (nÓma - rupa) of Dependent Origination and so is the operation of Dependent Origination itself. And, the five aggregates co - exist; they cannot separate from each other. This is an important thing to be noticed before mentioning the operation of each aggregate.
The operation of Consciousness (Vinnana)
Consciousness is the cause of Name-and-Form element in Dependent Origination, and so it is understood as the cause of the five aggregates on the one hand, and on the other hand it is conditioned by the other eleven elements of Dependent Origination as it is implied in the following teaching:
Lust for body, feeling, perception, the activities and consciousness is a mental activity which belongs to the Activities element (sankhÓra) of Dependent Origination or Activities aggregates of the Five aggregates. Owing to this lust, consciousness arises, develops and matures. This lust for the Five aggregates exists because of the existence of the satisfaction of the Five aggregates. This satisfaction exists owing to the fact that one attaches to the selfness of things which is called Ignorance (avijjÓ).If the attachment to things (or Ignorance) ceases to exist, the satisfaction of things cannot exist and ones lust for the satisfaction of things also ceases to exist.If ones lust for things ceases to exist, the cause of sufferings - which aregrasping, becoming, birth, old-age - cannot appear; then one comes to extinguish all troubles and attain happiness of ones free mind. This also means the cessation of consciousness.
Another aspect of the operation of Consciousness may be regarded as the cause, the origin and the condition of Name-and-Form as mentioned in (II.1.2.) - "the meaning and operation of the twelve causes - but it is not an entity: it includes six groups: eye - consciousness exists when there exists the contact between eyes and forms, ear - consciousness exists when there exists the contact between ears and sounds, ..., and mind -consciousness exists when there exists the contact between mind and mental objects. If the contact does not exist, consciousness cannot be present and cannot operate. So, consciousness is but the existence of a group of conditions which must not be regarded as the "I", the "mine" or the "myself"
The operation of Activities aggregate (sankhara)
Activities aggregate is the very Activities element of Dependent Origination. It is a compound of mental activities, oral activities and bodily activities. It is also regarded as ones will to live and defined by Lord Buddha as follows:
The above quotation and what has been expressed in the Activities element of Dependent Origination in part (II.1.2.) shows that:
* All thoughts of and desires for body, sound, odour, smell, taste, and mental images of a person make up Activities aggregate (sankhÓra khandha).
* If contact is not present, his feeling is absent; and his desire for things does not exist, his thought of thing does not come into existence either. This means Activities aggregate is an empty entity.
* All psychological activities of a person - such as wishes, vows, wholesome and unwholesome thoughts, hate, love, jealousy, self - pride, mental reactions to life... - which have created his life in the present and in the next existence are of Activities aggregate. These things make sense for life, without them life becomes meaningless. However, the operation of them is but the operation of an illusion of a self (or ignorance) which says the true meaning of all values of ahuman life is very shadowy.
In a more positive expression of that operation, Lord Buddha taught His disciples that:
The above are ten common actions of an evil worldly man: three of them relate to body; four relate to speech; and three relate to mind.
In the next paragraphs of the discourse (suttam), Lord Buddha declared: with regard to those ten volitional actions, there are people who did them with pleasure and felt satisfied after having done in the present would receive sufferings as results in the future; there are people, who abstained from doing them with suffering and grief, and experienced suffering and grief in the present, would arise in a good, a heaven existence after dying; there are people who abstained from doing them with pleasure and happiness and experienced pleasure and happiness in the present, would arise in a good bourn, a heaven existence after dying.
Those ten volitional actions, either good or evil, are of the operation of Activities aggregate in the sphere of psychological conditions of the sensual world which is dominated by the five mental factors called five hindrances: sensual desire, ill - will, sloth and torpor, flurry and worry, and doubt, as Lord Buddha taught:
Those hindrances overspread the heart of a person, and weaken his insight. To control and deal with them, the person should open a new course of operation for his Activities aggregate by cultivating two conditions of meditation: Calm (or samatha) and Insight (or vipassanÓ) as Lord Buddha showed:
According to the Discourse on "The Applications of Mindfulness" (SatipatthÓnasutta),the Discourse on "The Uninterrupted" (Annupadasuttam) -Middle Length Sayings Vol. I. and Vol. III - and many other discourses in Middle Length Sayings, if a person lives with insight, or practises insight, aloof from sensual pleasures and unskilled states of mind he will enter on and abide in the first meditation which is accompanied by the five meditative factors: initial thought, sustained thought, rapture, joy, and one - pointedness of mind. These five factors come and remove the five hindrances; initial thought removes sloth and torpor, sustained thought removes doubt, rapture removes ill - will, joy removes flurry and worry, and one - pointedness of mind removes sensual desire.
If the person allays initial and sustained thought, he will enter on and abide in the second meditation which is devoid of initial and sustained thought.
If he continues practising and allaying the meditative mental factor of rapture, he will enter on and abide in the third meditation which is accompanied with joy and one - pointedness of mind.
Again, if he gets rid of joy, anguish, he will enter on and abide in the fourth meditation being with equanimity and one - pointedness of mind
These four states of mind, from the first meditation to the fourth meditation, are psychological states of mind of the person who puts the operation of his Activities aggregate into meditation.
Again, if the person abides in the fourth meditation and cultivates insight (vipassanÓ) he will come to gradually destroy the "Ten mental defilements" (dasa kilesas) to attain the Four Sainthoods (ariyamaggam and ariyaphalam) as follows:
During the period of time of practising insight (vipassanÓ), the practician puts the operation of Activities aggregate under the control of insight, or wisdom (pannÓ) ; this means the operation of wisdom, but not of ignorance (avijjÓ), which leads him to liberation and happiness in the here - and - now.
Such is the operation of Activities aggregate!
Operation of Perception aggregate:
As discussed before, Perception aggregate is conditioned by the other four aggregates, so its operation must be the operation of Consciousness, or of Activities, or of the twelve elements of Dependent Origination. In Kindred Sayings, Vol. III, Lord Buddha defined:
From the above quotation, perception aggregate, as Consciousness aggregate, cannot arise without contact. With regard to the operation of Dependent Origination, it may be declared that: without ignorance, without activities, without consciousness, without Name-and-Form, without six - sense spheres, without feeling, without craving, without grasping, or without becoming, perception aggregate cannot arise. Inversely, without perception aggregate, the other aggregates or the twelve elements of Dependent Origination cannot arise. It is similar for the ceasing of perception and the ceasing of others. In other words, there are only conditions making up perceptionand others which exist, but no perception considered as entity exists. In realizing this truth, a person may detach from all aggregates. From that detachment, meaning from the ceasing of attachment or grasping, the operation of perception leading to its ceasing and the ceasing of all troubles will come into existence: this is what is a way of life of experience, but not of reasons, about which people must not ask why, as they must not ask why a bird can fly or a fish can swim.
Seeing the above operation means "right view"; thinking of it means "right thought" (or right understanding); striving to abide in that vision means "right action", "right livelyhood", and "right effort"; being mindful of it means "right mindfulness", concentrating ones thought on it means "right concentration". This is a way of cultivating the "Eightfold Paths" leading to the cessasion of all sufferings.
Operation of Feeling aggregate:
Happiness or suffering is a feeling which belongs to Feeling aggregate. So, any operation of any aggregate or element of Dependent Origination leading to the arising of suffering means the operation leading to the arising of Feeling aggregate; any operation leading to the ceasing of Feeling aggregate, any operation leading to the ceasing of suffering means the operation leading to the ceasing of Feeling aggregate.
Lord Buddha taught:
It is quite evident that the satisfaction of feeling makes arise desire in a persons mind and the person follow after pleasures from things. Without feeling, his desire becomes groundless and ceases to exist. If desire ceases, grasping comes to cease and suffering is not present. This is the ceasing of ignorance, of activities, of consciousness, of Name-and-Form, ..., and of becoming. So, the ceasing and arising of feeling are the very ceasing and arising of other aggregates or elements of Dependent Origination. In other words, the operation of feeling really is the operation of ignorance (avijjÓ), and the existence of feeling is but the existence of ignorance or of self - thought. If a person, through the practice of insight (vipassanÓ) realizes this operation, he will surely search for wisdom instead of the satisfaction of feeling. If not, he will be drowned in his feelings. With that wisdom, he will be happy living with what he is and what he has in the here - and - now without worries, and will open a new course of operation of mind to the destruction of feeling aggregate
Operation of Body aggregate:
Body aggregate is physical or material. People often have a feeling that it is not difficult to understand it, but in fact, it really is, because they can understand it only when they understand the operation of the five aggregates or of the twelve elements of Dependent Origination.
Lord Buddha said:
Body aggregate is a physical body of a person which is a compound of the four great elements (water, fire, earth, and air). It is brought up by food. If food ceases, body ceases to exist. But food is not an entity, it is conditioned by the presence of the Earth, the Sun, etc. , this means by the whole physical world which says the existence of body is the existence of this whole world. According to Dependent Origination, this whole world is the meaning of becoming (bhava or tibhava) element which is conditioned by the operation of ignorance, of activities, of consciousness, etc. So, the arising and the ceasing of body aggregate is the arising and the ceasing of each aggregate or each element of Dependent Origination. And, as mentioned in "operation of feeling aggregate" above, the way of life to the ceasing of body is Eightfold Noble Path, in which "right view" and "right thought" may be known as a persons regard of wisdom to things: for example, if the thirty two parts of body are observed, regarded closely again and again, as mentioned in (III.2.1.), they will be found empty. Because of that regard, the person comes to disgust at the body; owing to this disgust, he detaches from it. This is an operation of body controlled by wisdom which leads to the destruction of troubles.
In short, from Lord Buddhas way of analysing the five aggregates, as well as Dependent Origination, and from the operation of the five aggregates and ignorance element the author has described, emerges the centralpoint of Lord Buddhas teaching which is the emphasis on showing the truth of human beings suffering and the way to come out of it in introducing the truth of man and the world. This point is going to be separately mentioned.
III.2.3: THE FIVE AGGREGATES AND THE PROBLEM OF SUFFERING AND HAPPINESS
The first words Lord Buddha declared in His first Discourse at the Deer Park (Migadaya) are: "Life is nothing but suffering" and "The five aggregates are suffering". How important are they ! These words were repeated several times by Him and His disciples during fourty five years of His preaching Dhamma. Once, at SaÓvatthi, He said:
The above teaching is Lord Buddhas typical words on the suffering of human beings which is the result of the arising of Dependent Origination, also of the arising of the Five aggregates discovered by Him. This is a great discovery having brought Him to the position of the World - Honoured One. So, the true meaning of the search for truth of man is the very meaning of the search for the truth of suffering of life called the Noble truth of suffering. With regard to this truth, it is not the five aggreates - or human beings and the world - that cause suffering, but a persons craving for the five aggregates that causes suffering. Now, the root meaning of the search for truth of man and life turns to the meaning of examining human beings craving for things. This is the meaning of the operation of craving element and of Activities aggregate the writer has discussed in (II.1.3.) and in (III.2.2.), and this is the very operation of Ignorance element (avijjÓ) of Dependent Origination.
Ignorance means a persons wrong view and thought supposing that every existing thing has its own self (or soul), as explained in (II.1.3.) and (II.2.4.); it also means self - thought of a man. Therefore, studying self - thought is the main task of studying suffering and happiness of men, and of the search for truth of man and the world.
It is self - thought which makes up the essence andvalue of things and causes grasping leading to troubles as Lord Buddha explained:
The fountain-head of grasping and worry (or suffering) is therefore the regard of self-thought of a person. Grasping and suffering do not come from outside, but from the very regard to things of man which may be completely controled by an individual, and so happiness of man may also come from that regard. In the next paragraph of the Discourse quoted above, Lord Buddha affirmed: if a person regards no body, or no feeling, or no perception, or no activities as the self, ..., when the five aggregates alter and become otherwise, worried thoughts do not arise in his heart, and he does not come to grasp or worry about anything. Without grasping and worrying, he feels free and happy in the here - and - now. Such is the true way to happiness which really lies in oneself and in the very regard to things of a person. This regard is nothing other than "right view" factor of the Eightfold Noble Path which is the most important factor of the Buddhist way to the Noble Truth and Bliss, NibbÓna. It is the seeing things as selflessness. The regard which sees the impermanence and suffering of things will also bring men the same result of freedom and happiness as the following teaching shows:
The above mentioned regard seeing selflessness, impermanence and suffering of the five aggregates is called the regard seeing the "Three Marks of Existence". This is the source of true happiness that can be tested and experienced by a worldly man in this life as declared by Lord Buddha:
Here, the truth of suffering and happiness and the problem of the Way to the Noble truth and happiness appear very simple, but human beings way of thinking and feeling is too complicated to accept them, then comes to doubt about them. In the deep of a persons mind, there is a thought that without desires, especially sensual and sexual desires, his life becomes empty and meaningless. In the deep of a persons heart (or feeling), there exists a feeling considering his Self his desires: If his desires are destroyed, his self has no condition to survive. These twothings hinder his mind from seeing and accepting the truth discussed above. These are the reasons why Lord Buddha hesitated before He turned "the Wheel of Dhamma", and are the reasons requiring modern systems of education to play wonderfully their role in educating men to make a choice between lasting suffering and true happiness, or between taking up the burden and laying down the burden as Lord Buddha taught:
People should lay down the burden, or deal with craving for the five aggregates, of course, because of these two reasons:
(1) Because of seeing the dangers caused by the desire for the satisfaction of the five aggregates, such as sorrow, grief; woe, lamentation and despair.
(2) Because of seeing the profit gained from the restraining of craving for the five aggregates, such as a peaceful mind coming from the absence of sorrow, grief, woe, lamentation and despair, regardless of the change of things.
This is a very practical, existential and wise choice to be made. Otherwise, human beings are but shadows staggering in life without hope for peace.
However, when people go on their ways of dealing with craving and grasping, they must surely face to difficulties arising from their sensual, sexual desire, desire for existence and desire for non - existence, then lots of doubts will arise in them and question: what will happen to them on a desireless way of life so quiet? How can they leave their intimate desires for sensuality, sexuality, existence and non-existence for unknown states of mind that seem to be so tasteless to them? etc- These are very rough questions that have made people flinch in thinking of the way to come out of them. The author with his determination will come to search for their solutions in the next part with a belief that true values will be explored somehow.
[Back to English Index]