Doctrines and rituals

Buddhism rejects the idea of an eternal, unchangeable ‘self’ (Skt. atman) or ‘I’ (concept of non-self). Rather, it defines the ‘self’ as a cluster of constantly changing physical and mental components. A person represents a pool of five so-called aggregates of being (Skt. skandha, Pa. khanda, literally ‘heap’, ‘aggregate’, ‘group’), which are themselves subject to continual change:


1 Matter or body (Skt./Pa. rupa): the physical organism with its senses and their capacity for bodily perception (e.g. sight, hearing, smell, etc.).

2 Feelings and emotions (Skt./Pa. vedana): the spontaneous reaction to information provided by the senses (e.g. a pleasant smell).

3 Perception and distinction (Skt. samjna, Pa. sanna): the identification and classification of information provided by the sensory organs, which depends on a person’s experience (e.g. it smells like cake).

4 Mental formation (Skt. samskara, Pa. samkhara): the interpretation of what is perceived and a person’s reaction to it, resulting in aspirations, desires, and intent to act (e.g. someone has baked a cake and I would like to have a slice).

5 Consciousness (Skt. vijnana, Pa. vinnana): from the sum of the preceding four aggregates, consciousness creates an image of a supposed reality.