The Buddha’s Images For The Five Clinging Aggregates

“What is your definition of self,” is often one of the first questions I ask someone once it is clear they are serious about seeking, and/or clear about their spiritual path, or even someone heavily seeped in philosophy.

From what I innerstand, while the historical Buddha never simply denied that there’s a “self” directly and in brief, he gave teachings on anattā or “not-self”. Such teachings often seemingly get at least somewhat misunderstood today.

It is quite beyond my current scope of realization to give a somewhat original teaching or explanation on anattā (although there’s plenty of accessible, clear, helpful and useful material regarding “not-self”.) Nor will I say much about how anattā relates to the five khandhas, or five (clinging) aggregates other than to say, upon deconstruction of answers to the question “what is your definition of self,” these answers often seemingly can break down further into various deconstructions of the five aggregates. For example, if body is said to be self then: am I the body; do I own the body; am I in the body; is the body in me?

Instead, this post simply displays visual representations of what the Buddha likened each of five khandhas to.


Rupa/Form or Body = chunks of foam

“Monks, suppose that a large glob of foam were floating down this Ganges River, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a glob of foam? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any form that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in form?”

— SN 22.95

Vedana/Feeling = water bubbles

“Now suppose that in the autumn — when it’s raining in fat, heavy drops — a water bubble were to appear & disappear on the water, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a water bubble? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any feeling that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in feeling?”

— SN 22.95

Saññā/Perception = mirage

“Now suppose that in the last month of the hot season a mirage were shimmering, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a mirage? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any perception that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in perception?”

— SN 22.95

Saṅkhāra/Fabrications aka formations aka mental formations aka volitional formations = banana tree trunk

Banana tree core

“Now suppose that a man desiring heartwood, in quest of heartwood, seeking heartwood, were to go into a forest carrying a sharp ax. There he would see a large banana tree: straight, young, of enormous height. He would cut it at the root and, having cut it at the root, would chop off the top. Having chopped off the top, he would peel away the outer skin. Peeling away the outer skin, he wouldn’t even find sapwood, to say nothing of heartwood. Then a man with good eyesight would see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a banana tree? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any fabrications that are past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing them, observing them, & appropriately examining them — they would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in fabrications?”

— SN 22.95

Plantains, like bananas, are referred to as trees, but they both are large herbs. The leafy pseudostem at the center of this plant stands in for a woody trunk that is seen on a tree.

Banana plants, with their towering heights, look much like trees, but they are usually called plants and not trees. This is because their “trunks,” which are called pseudostems, are made of leaves that are tightly woven together. Banana plants grow much like palm trees, in that the new leaves twist up through the center of the pseudostem and sprout from the crown of the plant. One banana plant may grow on one pseudostem, or more commonly, on several of them.

https://homeguides.sfgate.com/plantain-trees-62419.html

Viññāna/Consciousness = magic/conjurer’s trick

“Now suppose that a magician or magician’s apprentice were to display a magic trick at a major intersection, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a magic trick? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any consciousness that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in consciousness?”

— SN 22.95

Published by josh dippold

IntegratingPresence.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: