Importantly, development of the Wisdom aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path is grounded in seeing the ephemeral nature of what we call “self.” The Enlightenment Factor of Investigation helps us in this endeavor. When we actually investigate the components of self, what we find instead are 5 Aggregates—(“aggregate” is translated from an everyday term in Pali—kandha. The closest literal translation for kandha is “heap” or “bundle)—5 “heaps” or components of being—form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness.
Through investigation of these 5 Aggregates, we see the insubstantial nature of sense experience more and more clearly and that nothing in experience falls outside them. Sounds, smells, tastes come and go lightly; emotions are ephemeral, largely ungovernable; thoughts are fleeting—unceasingly coming and going. At first we see the body as dense and solid. Later on, paying close attention, we see its vibratory nature—how vibrations in the body endlessly pulse on and off. Solidity breaks into particles, waves and vibration. Physics confirms this. And we don’t need machines to measure it. All we need is attention to know it. Looking deeply, we see nothing solid—just change.
Can you explore whether your deep attention to each of these five aggregates offers wisdom? In the next weeks, we will investigate each aggregate to see if we can begin to let go of the idea that these aggregates, taken together, form a solid unchanging self and realize our deep potential for liberation, beginning with realization of the true nature of “self.”