13 Jun
Posted in: Talks
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A Very Full Moon Day

The moon was full last night (or this morning, depending on your time zone), so I celebrated by spending the day watching the video recording of a one-day course taught by Sally Armstrong. The course was designed for experienced students, and it was titled Why Do We Suffer? An Exploration of the Buddhist Teaching on the 5 Khandas (usually translated as “Aggregates” or “Bundles”.)

OK, so that doesn’t sound like much of a celebration. But for me it was, because I’ve been missing the monthly conference calls we had with Sally that were part of the DPP program, and this was a way for me to get a little taste of that again.

There is a lot of material on this teaching and if you’re interested in really digging into it, I recommend The Five Aggregates: A Study Guide by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Even the “basics” are not that simple, but here’s what I got from the course:

All human experience can be broken down into five groups (khandas) of activities. These are:
Form (rupa), which is the material aspect of the body. (Form doesn’t seem like an “activity,” but since every cell in our body is always changing/growing/wearing out/dying…we’re really not a static thing!)
Feeling Tone (vedana), which is the mental experience of simply knowing that something is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.
Perception (sanna), which is the mental experience of recognizing what we see/hear/touch/taste/smell and sense as a mental impression.
Volitional Formations (sankharas), which is really hard to define, but which I understand to be the various mental energies that activate patterns of thought and behavior.
Consciousness (vinnana), which, in this context, is simply the awareness that something is happening. (As in: you can’t hear a sound unless you are conscious.)

And what is the point of breaking human experience into these five groups? To be able to understand these experiences more accurately by looking at them separately, seeing how they impact and relate to each other, realizing that they are all governed by the natural law of cause and effect, and that none of them–individually or collectively–are the essence of who we really are!

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