The Functions of the Five Aggregates

(Yilan, Taiwan. Photographer: Chunchu Chang)

© http://tantrismuskritik.blogspot.tw/2012/11/the-conscious-perceptive-mind-is-tool.html?showComment=1353127839672#c1137843487248609574

The conscious mind is pivotal in Buddhist cultivation; it serves as a tool but not the final target. Because it is a worldly dependent arising dharma, as the Buddha stated, “All states of the consciousness arise depending on the conditions of the Manas (the seventh vijnana) and the mental object.” (Long Agama Sutra, volume 9). In Buddhism, we seek the eternity, not a dependent arising and ceasing dharma.

Though the conscious mind exists only one lifetime, most of us, somehow, would consider it to be the everlasting eternity even after we passing away. This is inevitable caused by not knowing the truth of life. In terms of Buddhism, this concept is called the misconception about the self (self-view 我見).

For the ones who are truly interested in Buddhist cultivation, this is the very basic knowledge for transcending the cyclic births and deaths by eliminating the misconception about the self.

By definition, when one mistakes one of the five aggregates for the everlasting and indestructible self, such an understanding or view is called misconception about the self.

The five aggregates are dependent arising dharmas, thus they are impermanent and illusory but each of them has various functions. It is natural that sentient beings would mistake them for the true self because of their daily functions. So let’s take a look at the functions of the five aggregates.

The first aggregate is form-aggregate, which refers primarily to the five sense-roots. The five sense-roots are used to touch (or contact) the five sense-objects; thus the function of form-aggregate is to touch.

Next, sensation-aggregate allows you to feel and experience the feelings of suffering, pleasure, or neither suffering nor pleasure. These feelings and perceptions are regarded as sensation-aggregate.

What about the perception-aggregate? Perception means knowing, regardless of whether words and language have arisen. Next is formation-aggregate. Formation means decision. For example, when you have decided that something should be done in a particular way, you’ve made a decision, this is formation. Or when you have decided what to do next, such a mental act is formation as well.

The last one is vijnana-aggregate, whose function is to discriminate. The function of vijnana is discrimination and differentiation, so vijnana-aggregate is able to discriminate the six sense-objects. Or we can say the function of vijnana-aggregate is to discriminate the six sense-objects.


  1. In der Headline steht: The Jonang Sect of Tibetan Buddhism with the Doctrin of Emptiness is Buddhism.
    Ich kann mir ehrlich gesagt nicht vorstellen wie das Kalachakra Ritual ohne tantrische Sexualmagie funktionieren soll?


    1. I try my best to answer in English. The Jonang sect (覺囊派) was set up in the 11th century. Künpang Thugje Tsöndrü (1243-1313) founded Monastery Jonang and taught the Doctrin of Emptiness 他空見 (Shunyata = Doctrin of Alayavijnana 如來藏). The heyday of Jonang sect was at the time of Dölpopa Sherab Gyeltshen (1292-1361), because the Doctrin of Shunyata was spread out by ihm over the area near Tibet.

      The following you will not read on the Wikipedia.

      The real Buddhist doctrin of Shunyata is different from the six-vijnana-theorie (六識論) and Tantric practice of other sects. Therefore, the Dalai Lama V. (Gelug sect) combines the power of Sakya sect to destroy Jonang sect. It means, they kill(!) the followers of Jonang sect with knifes etc. The Jonang sect is eliminated, the Dölpopa is banished from Tibet, and the real Buddhist doctrin (Alayavijnana) dies away in Tibet.

      The V. Dalai Lama and his followers tamper the teachings of Jonang sect with Tantric practice. (Actually, Jonang sect has nothing to do with Tantric sex.) That’s why you read on the Wikipedia about Jonang sect and Tantric sex. In the histroy, this fact is not written down. Or with other words, this fact is eliminated by the V. Dalai Lama.

    2. Q: If Kalachakra is bad, then why is it emphasized by Jonang?

      A: Jonang (Taranatha) did not emphasize on Kalachakra Tantra, in fact, Jonang focused on Dolpopa's "Other-Emptiness."
      (see the end of the article extracted from Cyrus Stearns)

      May I raise one suspicious point in this case:
      If you were the "Great Fifth," when you have entirely demolished and expelled a heretic sect from the country, and all its monasteries and other property were completely confiscated and converted to Geluk use. Would you just leave all Tāranātha's writings intact?

      Quote:".... This hostility is reflected in the banning of Shay-rap-gyel-tsen's (Dolpopa) major books from the premises of Ge-luk monasteries more than 150 years prior to his order's extinction." Unquote
      (From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolpopa_Sherab_Gyaltsen)

      Even Dolpopa's views were strongly refuted 150 years ago then, let alone Tāranātha's.

      Just for your reference to think about it.
      More related discussions are available at website http://www.forumosa.com/taiwan/viewtopic.php?f=121&t=102003&start=330

      “Tsong-ka-pa and his successors have been especially vehement in their objections to the views of Shay-rap-gyel-tsen, (shes rab rgyal mthsan, 1292-1361) and his followers....
      A very interesting piece to read.
      Why should Tsongkapa, the most honorable Tantric patriarch of the Geluk lineage react so vehemently towards Dolpopa, if they had practiced the same doctrines?

    3. Thanks for your message! It is informative.