Alex Wright

the classified Mind

October 7, 2002

for the past few weeks, I've been taking a class with Jay Lippman over at the Berkeley Shambhala Center on the five skandhas. skandha is a Sanskrit word meaning, roughly, "mental formation." according to Buddhist teachings, the five skandhas are the cognitive building blocks that comprise what we experience as our own minds.

like much of the Buddhist canon, these teachings are presented through an elaborate taxonomy, worthy of Francis Bacon.

first, there are the five skandhas themselves:

  • form
  • feeling
  • discrimination
  • concept
  • consciousness

it goes on from there (boy, does it go on). within the skandhas are further classified no less than fifty-one mental factors, including:

  • the five omnipresent mental factors:

    • feeling
    • discrimination
    • intention
    • application
    • contact

  • five mental factors that cause ascertainment [discovery] of objects:

    • aspiration
    • interest
    • mindfulness
    • meditative stabilization
    • wisdom/knowledge

  • eleven mental factors whose nature is gewa (or, broadly, "goodness"):

    • faith
    • heedfulness
    • pliancy
    • equanimity
    • shame
    • embarrassment
    • nonattachment
    • absence of hatred
    • absence of bewilderment
    • nonharmfulness
    • exertion

  • six root afflictions (that cause confusion and suffering):

    • ignorance
    • desire
    • anger
    • pride
    • doubt
    • afflicted views, which include:

      • view of the transitory collection
      • view of holding to an extreme
      • wrong views
      • holding view as supreme
      • holding ethics and modes of conduct as supreme

  • twenty afflictions in proximity to the root six (ie building upon the six root afflictions):

    • belligerence
    • resentment
    • spite
    • harmfulness
    • envy
    • deceit
    • pretense
    • absence of shame
    • absence of embarrassment
    • concealment
    • miserliness
    • haughtiness
    • absence of faith
    • laziness
    • absence of heedfulness
    • forgetfulness
    • absence of introspective awareness
    • lethargy
    • excitement
    • distraction

  • four changeable mental factors:

    • sleep
    • remorse
    • investigation
    • analysis

to say "it goes on from there" would be a profound understatement.

what i like about these teachings is the way they put the lie to the popular misperception of Buddhism as a nihilistic proposition: that it comes down to just sitting there in limbo - like a kind of Zen shrub: not being, not doing, not thinking. if only it were that easy.

File under: Dharma

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