Five Aggregates (idea)
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Components which make up a human being, according to the teachings of Buddhism. Also referred to as the five Skanda. The Buddha taught a doctrine of anatman (no-self), which held that humans were a confluence of five components:
Form refers to the physical body of the being. Sensation is the faculty that perceives raw sensory data. Discrimination judges these sensations to be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Conception groups sensory objects into conceptual categories- identifying things in the world according to schemes that have been previously learned. Awareness is a self-reflective faculty that constitutes the capability for self-knowledge.
Of the five aggregates, only form refers to the physical characteristics of the human being. The remaining items all refer to psychological aspects of human life, keeping with the Buddhist belief that mind is the most significant part of human existence. All of these elements are further broken down and analyized in the Abhidhamma.
Within these Five Aggregates, there is nothing that constitutes an atman, or permanent soul. This differs from Hinduism, which teaches that each person is created containing a portion of divinity called the atman that transmigrates in the course of reincarnation. In the Buddhist conception of reincarnation, the next birth is a karmic consequence of actions taken in previous lives, rather than being a soul moving from one body to the next.
Thich Nhat Hanh has described the Buddhist ideas of no-self and dependent co-origination as boiling down to the teaching that all things are composed of elements which, taken individually, are not the object in question, but which give rise to the perception of that object when collected together properly. So, in the case of the Five Aggregates, the self is made of non-self entities which give rise to an object we perceive as 'self' when taken together. There is no 'hidden essence of self' (the soul or some sort of 'human essence') that presents itself when the Five Aggregates are collected together; rather, when the Five Aggregates are in place, we recognize their confluence as a sentient being, just as we recognize a table as a table when it is put together- but might not when it is cut down to its constituent parts (lumps of wood and nails).