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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
Ebook (PDF) : 9780889208780, 184 pages, January 2006

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.


...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