Five aggregates

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'Five aggregates', Five components or in Sanskrit Pañcaskandha or simply Skandhas are a key concept in the Buddhist philosophy of mind called Abhidharma. They are the five psycho-physical aggregates (or "coming together" as in aggregation), which according to Buddhist philosophy are the basis for self-grasping. They include:

  1. Rūpa: Form or Body
  2. Vedanā: Feelings, Sensations
  3. Saṃjñā: Cognition, Thinking, Mentation, Perception
  4. Saṃskāra: Habits, Impulses, Mental formations, Compositional factors
  5. Vijñāna: Consciousness


The Sanskrit word skandha means an aggregate, heap or bundle.

Traditional Buddhist Commentary

The five skandhas are the basis for the suffering of samsara since they make up our entire mental and physical existence.

When we look more deeply at what refer to as "I", we see it includes multiple elements or constituents. It is not simply the parts that make up our physical bodies, but also our various senses and our minds.

Vedana: Feelings or Sensations

The aggregate referred to in English and feelings does not mean emotional feelings, but refers more to sensations. These vedana are either neutral, pleasurable or painful in the body and pleasant or unpleasant sensations in the mind. Buddhist philosophy says that the mind's neutral sensations are not counted separately since they are indistinguishable and inseparable from the body's neutral sensations. At every single moment, we are experiencing sensations, predominantly neutral ones, but also pleasant and painful ones.

See also

Further reading

  • Kangyur Rinpoche, Treasury of Precious Qualities. Boston: Shambhala Press, 2001. 'Appendix 4'.
  • Appendix 7, 'The Five Aggregates' pp. 183–185 in The Light of Wisdom Volume 1. Root text by Padmasambhava and commentary by Jamgon Kongtrul the Great. Published by Shambhala Publications ISBN 0-87773-566-2