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The Five Aggregates

Understanding Theravada Psychology and Soteriology

By Mathieu Boisvert
Subjects Religion
Series Editions SR Hide Details
Paperback : 9780889202573, 184 pages, November 1995

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
The Five Aggregates: Understanding Theravaāda Psychology and Soteriology by Mathieu Boisvert

List of Tables





1. The Concept of Khandha

Etymology of the term Khanda

The Five Aggregates and the Dhammacakkappavattanasutta

Pañcakkhandhā and Pañcupādānakkhandhā

2. The Rūpakkhandha

The Four Primary Material Elements (Mahābhūta)

The Secondary Materials (Upādārūpa)

The Three Divisions of Matter

Further Classifications of Matter

Implications of the Previous Classifications

Correlation between the Rūpakkhandha and the Paticcasamuppāda

3. The Vedanākkhandha

The Eradication of Vedanā

The State of Saññāvedayitanirodha

The State of Vedanākkhaya

Vedanā as Bifurcation Point

Wholesome and Unwholesome Vedanā

4. The Saññākkhandha

Unwholesome Saññā

Wholesome Saññā

Wholesome Saññā and the Saññākkhandha

Correlation between Saññā and the Paticcasamuppāda

5. The Sankhārakkhandha

Polysemy of the Term Sankhāra

Sankhāra as Sankhāta

Sankhāra as Paccaya

Sankhāra Used in the Compound Āyusankhāra

Sankhāra Used in the Compounds Asankhāra and Sasankhāra

General Meaning of the Term Sankhāra

The Sankhārakkhandha

Correlation between theSankhārakkhandha and the Paticcasamuppāda

6. The Viññānakkhandha

The Function of Viññāna

Viññāna and Mano

Viññāna as Rebirth and Death Consciousness

Correlation between Viññāna and the Paticcasamuppāda

7. Interrelation of the Aggregates

The Position of Viññāna in the Enumeration of the Pañcakkhandhā

Correlation between Four Aggregates and the Paticcasamuppāda

Inclusion of i>Saññā in the Paticcasamuppāda Formula

Vipassanā and the Pañcakkhandhā






If Buddhism denies a permanent self, how does it perceive identity? According to Buddhist texts, the entire universe, including the individual, is made up of different phenomena, which Buddhism classifies into different categories: what we conventionally call a “person” can be understood in terms of five aggregates, the sum of which must not be taken for a permanent entity, since beings are nothing but an amalgam of ever-changing phenomena. Although the aggregates are only a “convenient fiction,” the Buddha nevertheless made frequent use of the aggregate scheme when asked to explain the elements at work in the individual.

In this study Mathieu Boisvert presents a detailed analysis of the five aggregates (pañcakkhandhā) and establishes how the Theravda tradition views their interaction. He clarifies the fundamentals of Buddhist psychology by providing a rigorous examination of the nature and interrelation of each of the aggregates and by establishing, for the first time, how the function of each of these aggregates chains beings to the cycle of birth, death and rebirth — the theory of dependent origination (paticcasamuppāda). Boisvert contends that without a thorough understanding of the five aggregates, we cannot grasp the liberation process at work within the individual, who is, after all, simply an amalgam of the five aggregates.

The Five Aggregates represents an important and original contribution to Buddhist studies and will be of great interest to all scholars and students of Buddhism.


``This is a useful analysis and overview of Theravāda ideas on the five khandhas. ...So, overall, The Five Aggregates is a useful study which brings together much material needed for an understanding of the khandhas. ''

- Peter Harvey, University of Sunderland, Journal of Buddhist Ethics

``. ..a careful and thorough study of how the Theravāda tradition views the interaction of the five aggregates. ...This book cannot be ignored by any one who wishes to make an examination of mind (and consequently an investigation into the problem of `self' and `phenomena') in Buddhism. Further, any future discussion on the khandhas (and the Mahayana discussions on the skhadhas found in texts such as the Pancaskandhaprakarana) will not be comprehensive without reference to this study by Mathieu Boisvert. ''

- Leslie S. Kawamura, University of Calgary, Studies in Religion