By Ven Thubten Pende

This is the first of four lectures taking place this weekend,
and the subject of this weekend's talk is the five aggregates.
There is a relationship with us, that's simply because we want to
be happy and we don't want to suffer. I heard the words of a song
recently which said "I don't mind dying it's living that scares
All of us know the difficulties of life and we're trying somehow
to minimize those. If what the Buddha said is true and this life
is followed by another life and another and another and another
then the problems are multiplied. Fortunately there was not only
bad news from the Buddha, but he also found a way of escaping
from this suffering, and that is the main reason why we are here.
So the Buddha found that all of suffering is derived from a
mistake in cognition and that the actual antidote to that mistake
is the cultivation of a certain wisdom, and that wisdom is known
as the wisdom realizing selflessness, and it is this teaching on
selflessness that mainly distinguishes the Buddha's philosophy
from all other world philosophies. Selflessness is referring to a
quality which all things possess and this quality is an absence;
it is an absence of an illusion we have mistakenly projected on
all things.
So all of the teachings of the Buddha are either directly or
indirectly trying to lead the student to discover what that
absence is. Teachings that are speaking directly about this
subject, fall into the category of the perfection of wisdom
scriptures, and in those scriptures we find such statements like"
the five aggregates are empty of self". It is our task to find
out what that means, so we have to first of all begin by finding
out what the five aggregates are.
In general the five aggregates are a way of classifying the body
and the mind. The two main constituents that make up any person
are the body and the mind. Rather than merely saying the body and
mind the Buddha mentioned five classifications, and when he was
teaching this he was using handfuls of grain to say there is this
aggregate and this aggregate and this aggregate, five all
together. The Sanskrit word is skanda, and what it means is a
pile, as in a heap or pile of rice, and those five are the
aggregate of form, feeling, recognition, compositional factors
and consciousness.
The first three of these he mentioned in particular, because of
their relationship with desire. In addition to mentioning that
the source of all our sufferings is in a misknowledge of reality,
at other times the Buddha said that the source of all of our
problems is desire. However we should know that he was not
referring to all desire. For instance the desire to be happy is
not a source of problems. The desire to escape one's problems is
also not the source of suffering. So he was referring to a
specific type of desire, and that being a desire whose object
appears as the source of happiness when in fact it is not. So it
is a desire with respect to or, a desire towards an
hallucination, and the means of eliminating that desire is by
discovering that the object is an hallucination.
So what are the types of objects that this negative desire
arises towards?
Well, one is bodies, our own and others. It's not uncommon that
a body can appear in an exaggerated way, causing it to seem as if
it is the source of happiness, and not only the body but also all
the objects of our senses. So in order to discover the actuality
of the objects of the senses then the Buddha taught, or The
Buddha mentioned the aggregate of FORM.
Then desire arises for those things that feel good. In fact the
desire that motivates most people arises from pleasant
experiences, such as with the thought "This feels good therefore
I want to never be parted from it." What a common thought! Where
the mistake arises is in this expression "never being parted from
it", especially if this object is something impermanent, and that
there is no way that the contact can be preserved for- ever.
Consequently the desire is setting oneself up for disappointment.
Therefore in order to explore such feelings the Buddha mentioned
the second aggregate the aggregate of FEELING.
Another object to which people become attached with desire are
ideas. The disputes that scholars get into can get very heated,
because these scholars become attached to their ideas and
discriminations, regarding their own as superior and other's
ideas as inferior, causing them to desire for their idea to be
recognized as the supreme. This fuels the actions of speech and
so forth that make the various disputes that one gets and can
come to such extremes as causing closed mindedness, losing the
ability to openly examine other's ideas. In order to explore such
discriminations or ideation the Buddha mentioned the aggregate of
There are many other functions and emotions of the mind, so he
heaped all of those in the classification known as COMPOSITIONAL
FACTORS. In some texts the compositional factor aggregate is
called VOLITION, and volition is one of the functions of the mind
that is contained within that class. This is an example of giving
the name of a member of the group to the whole group. VOLlTION
was chosen rather than any of the others because of it's
importance, and this is because desire for instance can only
bring about experience once it is put into action, and the way it
is put into action is through volition. For instance one can have
the desire to possess something, but it is only when one
generates the actual will to get it that the action follows and
such volition or will is what is known as karma. The word karma
is used colloquially to refer to the experiences that occur to
people. Technically those experiences are known as the results of
karma, and technically karma is referring to the action which is
the cause of such experiences. Karma then is referring to
volition or will, as well as the actions of body and speech
motivated by such will, and once you have set the action in
motion then you're bound to the result, like the turning of a
wheel. So as this is something important to analyze and come to
know the Buddha mentioned this aggregate of compositional
The last aggregate is the aggregate of CONSCIOUSNESS and this is
referring to the six consciousnesses, visual, auditory,
olfactory, gustatory, tactile and mental, which are the main
means we come to know the various objects that compose reality.
So this also is very important to investigate.
So that was a brief presentation of the five aggregates.
In the doctrine of selflessness there's said to be two types.
The selflessness of person and the selflessness of phenomena, and
the person is said to be the I that is designated in dependence
upon any of the aggregates such as in the expression "I am
sitting here." That I is a person which is being designated in
dependence upon the form aggregate, because it is being
designated in dependence upon the body which is included in the
FORM aggregate. Without the body you wouldn't be able to have the
thought "I am sitting here." The great Indian master Nagarjuna
who elucidated The Buddha's teaching on selflessness said that
the misconception of the self of a person arises by depending
upon the misconception of the self of phenomena. By phenomena
there he meant the five aggregates, and for example because of
mistaking the way in which the five aggregates exist, such as the
body, mistaking the way in which it exists then we mistake the
way the I exists which is dependent upon those aggregates. By
mistaking the way the I exists one mistakes the way others exist,
and by mistaking the way others exist then such perverse thoughts
as clinging and ill will arise. Due to the arisal of such
emotional addictions there comes volition, the acting out of
those emotions, and due to such action one is bound to experience
the result, which creates a cycle or vicious circle of death and
rebirth, over and over again.
Nagarjuna mentioned that, in his book " The Precious Garland Of
Advice To The King." In there he tried to clarify what the
mistake of self of person is, and what the mistake of self of
phenomena is, in order to generate the wisdom of selflessness of
person and phenomena in order to put an end to this vicious
circle of existence.
So studying such a book has benefits, but in order to make sense
of Nagarjuna's arguments you have to have some appreciation of
the world view that he held. For instance when Nagarjuna was
describing phenomena he did so in terms of the four elements;
earth water, fire and air. Such a presentation has not been
employed in Western education for a long time! Now, if you're
looking for elements you look in the Periodic Table which has
dozens of elements, which requires having a certain love of
chemistry to penetrate. So the presentation of things in terms of
four elements seems simplistic in comparison with the Periodic
But on it's own it has it's own elegance and if you understand
it then you'll be able to understand the arguments set forth in
the Buddhist classics such as the " Precious Garland".
It is not necessary to read such classics in order to gain the
wisdom realizing selflessness. For instance one can do it by
relying on the words of a master who has the correct
understanding of selflessness and can present it in contemporary
terms, but there is a benefit in being able to appreciate the
presentations in those classic texts which is that such texts are
the scriptural authorities that masters have been relying upon
for generations and thus if your understanding, if you can see
that your understanding is supported by those classic texts
you'll have that much more confidence in your understanding. It's
always nice to know what the contemporary masters are relying
upon to get their understanding. This helps a lot to avoid
cultism, because such knowledge is not the personal property of
anybody and if you discover that such knowledge can be generated
by the study of a timeless wisdom then you know it is not the
sole property of one individual whom you have to please in order
to get drops.
So are you following me so far? Okay.
So now we begin the detailed presentation of the five
aggregates. The first is the FORM AGGREGATE. It consists of
eleven items.
Q: What is the difference between volition and mental
A : I'll give a quick answer now and later there'll be more
details. So mental consciousness is included in the fifth
aggregate and volition is included in forth aggregate, and
volition is a function you find in all consciousnesses. Mental
consciousness has the function of volition, so you should see
mental consciousness as something that is merely knowing it's
object whereas volition is a way in which that mental
consciousness relates to that object or functions with respect to
that object. More information comes later.
I mentioned there were eleven divisions of form and I should say
that the source that I'm taking most of this information from is
the book " Meditation On Emptiness" by Professor Jeffrey Hopkins.
So if you're being frustrated by not being able to take notes as
fast as I am speaking you'll find all the information in that
So we have the eye sense organ, lets not use the word organ lets
use the word power, or eye sense faculty, or eye power or eye
faculty whatever you choose. Choose one of them rather than all
of them, it takes too long.
Eye faculty, Ear faculty, Nose faculty, Tongue faculty, Body
faculty. That's five so far. Then there's visual form, sound,
smell, taste, tactile objects and the eleventh one is form for
the mental consciousness.
So then with respect to those first five what's meant by
Well if it's a form it's made up of particles. So we can say
atomically constructed. That's what we mean by form here and the
faculty here is a form that enables consciousness to have access
to it's respective objects. For example the eye faculty enables
visual consciousness to function within the field of visual form
or visual objects, and the ear faculty allows the auditory
consciousness to function within the field of sound. You have to
distinguish between the eye faculty and the eye ball in which the
eye faculty is found. Similarly with the ear faculty and the
fleshy ear and so forth. These faculties are composed of
particles and are subtle, subtle in that not just anybody can see
them. Whether or not they can be seen by machinery I don't know.
The texts say that clever persons with certain types of super
knowledge can see these forms and thus certain shapes have been
attributed to them. Such as the eye faculty is shaped like the
bud of a ? plant. Whatever that is. The ear faculty is shaped
like the knot of a birch tree. I'm mentioning this just to say
that these faculties have been seen by somebody who thought that
they could be distinguished by their shapes. They didn't stop
with the mere designation of a name. The nose faculty is shaped
like two hollow needles at the root of the nose. Then the tongue
faculty is shaped like many half moons the diameter of the tip of
a hair, each one is the diameter of the tip of a hair and are
found in the middle of the tongue. The body faculty is shaped
like skin or hide pervading the body.
Such faculties then have the function of enabling their
respective consciousnesses to access their respective objects.
What consciousnesses ? The five sense consciousnesses.
Somebody might have remembered that I mentioned there were six
consciousnesses in the consciousness aggregate. Therefore someone
might wonder does that consciousness have a faculty? Does that
mental consciousness have a faculty? It does, because it has to
have that which enables it to access it's object. These faculties
are necessary conditions for the arising of consciousness, and
the faculty is known as the dominate condition, because of giving
that consciousness power with respect to it's object, causing
that consciousness to operate only in that one field rather than
another field. For example due to the eye faculty visual
consciousness can only see visual objects it cannot see sounds.
So mental consciousness also has a mental faculty that functions
as it's dominate condition, but unlike the five sense
consciousnesses the mental faculty is not form. That is unlike
those five faculties I've mentioned being form, the mental
faculty is not composed of particles.
I hope I'm not going too slow for some of you, but as there is
so much information here it would be better to go home with
something, rather than only remembering a blur of sound.
So that mental faculty is a previous moment of consciousness
such as a visual consciousness that enables the mental
consciousness to access visual objects. So therefore that visual
consciousness would be considered a mental faculty and dominate
condition for the arising of the mental consciousness perceiving
visual objects. All kinds of interesting things to discuss arise
from such a presentation but there isn't enough time
Okay so we have here in the case of the visual faculty the
function that enables consciousness to access visual objects, All
kinds of interesting things to discuss arise from such a
presentation but there isn't enough time.
Okay so we have here in the case of the visual faculty the
function that enables visual consciousness to access visual
objects. So what are the visual forms that are the objects of
visual consciousness? There are two main types: shapes and
colors: white, blue, red and yellow; these are said to be the
color of the four elements. Air is white, water is blue, fire is
red and earth is yellow. There is another presentation of eight
secondary colors. It's a bit bizarre though, such as the color of
cloud, the color of smoke, the color of mist, the color of
illumination, the color of darkness, the color of shadow and the
color of sunlight.
These two lists of divisions of color are obviously not
exhaustive. So these are the color visual objects. Then there are
shapes of which you have different kinds, such as long shapes
short shapes, such as a long board or a deep well. Then there's
high and low, there's a shape known as square but it can refer to
any polygon. That's also an example of the name of a part given
to the whole. So although it's called square shaped it can refer
to the shape of a dice, it can also refer to the shape of
rectangular boxes and so forth. Then there's the round shape
which can refer to anything egg-shaped and can also refer to the
so called flat circle. There's the level shape, like the shape of
the surface of this floor. Then there can be the non level shape,
such as the shape of a ploughed field that is irregular.
Shapes and colors is what visual conscious sees. The question
arises :
Can you see that vase there ?
And of course one would say "Yes"
But technically speaking what the visual consciousness is seeing
is just the shape and color of the vase, and the vase is not a
shape or a color. So because one has come to associate a vase
with such a shape then the visual consciousness can immediately
give rise to the thought thinking vase. This cognition thinking
vase that employs the word vase and thus is being done with a
conceptual consciousness is called "seeing a vase', simply
because of the close relationship between the seeing of the color
and the shape of the vase and that conception thinking vase that
arises as a result of it.
So this is an example of giving the name of a cause to the
result. The cause being the visual consciousness and the result
being a mental consciousness that is a conception. If this sounds
very mechanical and concrete it is. It is based upon the
Sautantrika view of Buddhist tenet. They have a very concrete
view of the world. It's very logical and categorical. They like
to keep their categories straight without mixing, and as we all
know nothing is that clear. But just as a person interested in
particle physics and quantum mechanics must first pass through
Newtonian physics to get there, likewise it's very useful for us
to see the world from the Sautantrika point of view before we get
into bizarre explanations of the higher schools of Buddhist
thought such as the Prasangika. Just as quantum mechanics arose
because when you explore the view of Newton and his mechanics,
you discover on extremely tiny things, and also on vast distances
in other words, on the very limits of that view, there are some
problems. Likewise when you explore the limits of the Sautantrika
view you see the need to jump to a higher view. I use the example
of physics as if I knew something about it, but it was one of my
worst subjects actually.
Sound is defined as the object of auditory consciousness, and
there's different ways of dividing it.
One way is sound that arises from elements conjoined with
consciousness and sound arising from elements not conjoined with
The sound that arises from elements conjoined with consciousness
would be the sounds made by a human being. Amongst sounds made by
a human being there's two types, articulate sounds and non
articulate sounds. Articulate sounds are sounds that denote a
meaning such as words, and of articulate sounds there's two types
pleasant and unpleasant. A pleasant articulate sound might be
good poetry, an unpleasant articulate sound might be criticism.
The non articulate sounds don't denote any meaning in
particular, and there are two types; pleasant and unpleasant.
A pleasant one might be the snapping of fingers, an unpleasant
one might be the sound of a hand slapping a face.
Then amongst sounds arising from elements not conjoined with
consciousness there are two types; articulate and non articulate.
The definition is the same as before, one denotes a meaning and
the other doesn't. Of the articulate there are two types pleasant
and unpleasant. What might be a pleasant one that's an articulate
sound? There's the legendary dharma drum in the heavens. The
beating of it produces dharma discourses. An unpleasant
articulate sound, now I'm going to merely guess here. Decide
yourself whether I'm right or wrong, and that would be an echo
that is criticizing you. An echo's coming from a cliff, that's a
sound arising from elements not conjoined with consciousness. So
I think it possesses the definition. Then the non articulate
sounds, pleasant and unpleasant. A pleasant one would be the
sound of a well played musical instrument, and the unpleasant one
would be the sound of a not well played musical instrument. I
used to be in an orchestra once and to hear a person just
learning to play the violin was just painful? Of course when they
get good it's a different story but in the beginning........ So
that's sounds.
Then the next is odors. These are defined as objects perceived
by the olfactory consciousness. There's different divisions, such
as fragrant odors and unfragrant odors. This refers to something
that smells nice and something that doesn't smell nice, and of
these there are two divisions.
Those that are equal and those that are unequal. An equal odor
whether it is fragrant or unfragrant would be one that is equal
with everything else, it doesn't dominate. Whereas the unequal
one in the case of a fragrant odor would be a perfume that
dominates everything else when you enter a room. In the case of
the unfragrant dominate odor, an example would be the smell of
So we have all these different divisions; products of the Indian
mentality, in particular Indian scholars, who sat down and tried
to figure out everything that could be known and then put in it's
proper category. So if you sat down to analyze odors it's not
just a question of odors; it's a question of fragrant odors,
unfragrant odors, subtle odors, strong odors etc.
Then we come to tastes, an object of special fondness in this
country. There are six types; and by the way taste is defined as
the object of gustatory consciousness. Sweet and sour, hot and
salty, bitter and astringent. What's that spice from Solu Khumbu?
Erma! Astringent would be the flavor of erma. Actually erma is
said to have all the flavors. The astringent somehow dries your
tongue, shrivels it up.
So these different objects including the tastes are made up of
the four elements. For example the sweet taste arises from a
preponderance of the earth and the water element, sour from fire
and earth, salt flavor from water and fire, hot from fire and
wind, bitter from water and wind and astringency from earth and
We then come to tactile objects which are the objects perceived
by the tactile consciousness. There are two groups: the elements
and the tangible objects that are arisen from the elements. The
elements are as mentioned before earth, water, fire and wind.
Earth is hard and obstructive; water is wet and cohesive; fire is
hot and burning; air is light and moving, and the thing is you
never have one of the elements without another one. The smallest
particles are said to be made out of eight things. They're made
out of the four elements, and they are made out of the visual
object, olfactory, the gustatory and tactile. There's no auditory
particle because sound is not something which can produce a
continuum of itself as the other one's can. So the particles that
make up all forms are when you get down to the smallest particles
are particles made up of these eight components, but those
particles will have a dominance of one element over another. So
therefore when you see a fire it doesn't mean that there is no
water element there. It is only that the fire element is
dominating at that time. For example a fire's ability to support
a piece of paper or a leaf. For instance if you throw a piece of
paper or a leaf in a fire it doesn't immediately float down, it's
held. That ability is the function of the earth element part of
fire. Also the way that all the tongues of the flames of the fire
can all merge together, that's the water element of the fire. The
fact that the fire can move is the air element part of the fire,
and of course the fire is something that you can see, touch and
so forth. Even though fire is defined in terms of the tactile
consciousness, it is still something that you can see, so that is
something that is included in those other components of fire.
Now how might water contain those other elements? A body of
water, how might that contain all the elements ? For instance
water can support a ship, that's it's earth element, and if you
put a plant in water eventually it will decay and that's it's
fire element. Water will flow down hill and that's it's air
Wind's earth element can support all kinds of objects, such as
leaves, and when the wind blows, your clothes will dry, that's
it's fire element. The wind of a tornado moves together, that's
it's water element.

When you take two stones, certain stones and hit them together
you get a spark, that's the fire element in earth and the fact
that all the parts of a board hold together, the cells don't
disintegrate but hold together, that is the water element of
Earth. Things like trees can move, that's the wind element or air
element. I didn't mean walking! they move when they grow.
So like that whenever you have the one element you have the
other elements, you may find that one of the elements dominates
the other ones. There's other tangible objects too, besides the
elements; such as smooth, rough, heavy, light, cold, hunger,
thirst and they are said to arise from the four elements.
Smoothness arises from a dominance of fire and water, roughness
from earth and water, heavy from earth and water, light from fire
and wind, cold from water and wind, hunger from wind or a
dominance of wind, and thirst from a dominance of fire. These
particles can be seen and their color is depending on which
element is dominating, and the shapes depend upon the arrangement
of the color particles.
So then what about these forms for a mental consciousness?
These are forms that are objects only for a mental
consciousness. One is called form arising from aggregation or
collection. The small particles that make up gross objects that
we can see and hear and so forth can't be seen by the senses,
however our mental consciousness can know of such particles. For
instance I don't think anybody has seen an electron, but we know
about them don't we? So those would be form for a mental
consciousness and in particular this one form arising from
Another one is called space form, this one is difficult to
appear to my mind, but it is similar to the space that appears to
a visual consciousness. For instance there is a space that
appears to our visual consciousness such as the gap between
ourselves and some object across the room, and that gap is
something that is changeable. It can change color for instance,
it can get dark, it can get smog colored, in a city for instance,
or it can be clear. So this is something that is a changeable
phenomena and can be seen with the eyes, and likewise, when one
is using only the mental consciousness you can see space. Such as
when you shut your eyes and you imagine something far away. Then
aren't you cognizant of the space between you and that object far
away as in the distance? So that one is not appearing to your
visual consciousness that's appearing to your mental
consciousness, that is the space form included as the object of
mental consciousness and one should distinguish such space from
what is known as permanent space. A permanent space is a negation
of obstruction to extension. For example there is a space that we
can see in the middle of this room, and somebody might wonder is
there enough space to pass through, and you look there and you
look at the size of that person say, and you see that there is no
obstruction there that should prevent the person passing. That
absence of obstruction is known as a permanent space. It is
called permanent not because it will last forever, but rather
because it is not a thing that changes from moment to moment. It
is not some dynamic energy, it is a mere absence of obstruction,
therefore it is called permanent.
There's nothing permanent about the five aggregates! The five
aggregates are said to include all impermanent phenomena. But
there are other than impermanent phenomena, such as permanent
Then another type of form contained in the form for a mental
consciousness would be the form arising from a promise. For
example when a person takes a vow, it is said a subtle form
arises, which certain people with super knowledge can see. I
often wonder what my form created from taking vows looks like
after twenty years. Maybe like a very holey rag!

So these forms do not just arise when one is making virtuous
promises either. In dependence upon a butcher's physical and
verbal actions in killing animals and the selling of their flesh
also such a form can arise.
Maybe this may have some relationship with what are known as
Then there are imaginary forms such as the elephants of a dream.
It's a form but not really, because it's not actually made out of
particles, physical particles, so that's why it's called an
imaginary form and it just appears to a mental consciousness.
Then there's the forms of one with meditative power, and this
would be a form that some person with a special power can
generate which others can see. There's different types here;
there's the type that only lasts as long as the meditator is
concentrating and then there's the type that can remain even when
the meditator is doing something else.
Okay so that deals with the form aggregate.
Let's take a break.

Talk two

So I'd like to begin this afternoon with any questions that came
from this mornings lecture.
There was a lot of information, so long as it's not a question
like could you repeat what you said this morning I would be happy
to answer. Was it clear?
Q: This morning Pende said that the first three of the
aggregates were linked to desire. Why is the forth one Volition,
not linked to desire?
A: The fourth one is explained mainly on the basis of volition
as I mentioned and I said that volition is the same thing as
karma, but in fact you can't say that all volition is karma, only
the volition that is under the control of ignorance is known as
karma. And thus as negative desire is a product of ignorance then
the volition which is controlled by desire is certainly this
phenomena known as karma.
There is a way of course, a way of relating the fourth aggregate
with desire, but it is not entirely necessary, in that The Buddha
when he was explaining the five aggregates, he did so in such a
way as to point out how a person who has acquired the five
aggregates is bound to cyclic existence. A person is bound in
cyclic existence by both the mental addictions and karma. Okay..
So for instance we can say that volition is controlled by desire
thus when we investigate volition it is important to see how that
is the case, and wherever the volition goes that's where the six
consciousnesses go, because that's the specific function of
volition, that is to take the consciousness to it's respective
object. Another question?
Q: What do you mean by volition?
A: Okay, that's coming up. We could even say it's the same thing
as will power, or intention.
Q: Why isn't the auditory object, sound, included in the same
way that other sensory objects are?
A: The answer given before was that sound doesn't produce a
continuum of itself, but that was insufficient.
So here sound is understood as something that arises from for
instance hitting one object against another, but if those objects
don't come in to contact there is no sound produced, so in the
case of this one foundation particle, which is composed of eight
parts sound isn't included in there because that object is not
making a sound. That is, there is no separate particle in
addition to those eight, that you could say is sound, but if two
of those particles collided then it is possible that a sound
could be produced.
Q: So if there is nothing which can produce the sound, it's the
same for the other objects like tactile objects or olfactory
objects, so if I don't see something, if there is not an object,
a visual object I cannot see it, if there is not a taste object I
cannot taste it.
A: Here, it's not that there is nothing that produces the sound,
sound is produced. For instance when a particle strikes the ear
drum then sound is produced. Now the types of particles that are
moving through space that will strike the ear drum we call sound
waves. Now in this system it is thought that these foundation
particles as they move can bring about sound, but there is no
particular particle which is sound, whereas there is a particular
particle that is a visual form, and there is a particular
particle that is an odor and so forth. Those particles are said
to be evolution, to be developments of the four elements. A
visual particle and so forth are somehow made up of the four
elements, and so you can take some object and touch it, and the
reason why you can touch it, is because of it's tactile object
quality, or you can taste it and so forth, but when you listen,
the sound that you might hear is not due to a particle of sound,
but rather to the movement of all these other particles.
That's the best I can do.
Q: How can it be that good desires don't give birth in cyclic
A: So this mental factor of volition I said is called karma in
the case of being under the control of ignorance. In cases where
we read that in order to become liberated we have to cease karma,
it does not mean that we have to bring to an end all instances of
this mental factor of volition. It means we have to bring to an
end the dominance or the control of volition by these mental
addictions, so volition having the basic function of taking the
mind to it's object whatever it is, is also operating in the mind
of a Buddha, because without volition the mind would not be able
to make contact with any object. Thus The Buddha would not know
things, and The Buddha would not have a compassion which
perceives sentient beings. So volition is a necessary function of
consciousness. If you want to know something, if it's not
particularly easy for your mind to know an object, then you have
to have the wish to do so. That wish can be desire, we can call
it aspiration, and that motivates that will to do it, to discover
that object. Then of course all the actions following that
hopefully will bring you to the object that you want to
experience, and some objects are worth experiencing and others
are not. When this wish, aspiration, or positive desire is
brought about by a wisdom consciousness of clear intelligence
then it is not going to get us in trouble. In particular if it is
brought about by a wisdom consciousness that perceives reality,
then it won't cause the type of volitional activity that brings
about the uncontrolled death and rebirth known as cyclic
So it is interesting to contemplate existence without any desire
at all. Why would you do anything if you had no desire
The only types of actions that would happen would be actions
like falling down. But of course if you had no desire whatsoever
you would never have stood up. Now because of such observations
there are those who thought that the path to liberation was the
end of all desire, and thus engaged in the practice of total
inactivity, which they sought to achieve by stopping their mind
from generating any desire. In the process of doing that they
discovered it takes some time to stop the mind from generating
desire. If they pursued this practice of total inactivity they
might starve to death before they reached the mental state of no
desire, then there had to be some desire employed to get up and
get food and stuff, and that type of activity was not seen as
activity that was leading to bondage but was leading to
liberation. So now the interesting question then becomes what is
it that they are going to do to stop the mind of desire? For
instance if there is no desire whatsoever, which is the same as
saying no aspiration then what would the liberation that this
person is seeking look like? Would it be some kind of a state of
utter non-existence? Because if there is no movement taking place
at all then it would be just that. Perhaps our idea of this type
of liberation is based upon our experience of deep sleep. That
state that we have no direct experience of but we infer from our
memory of when we lost consciousness and when we regained it
again this is not a perfected state, this is not the experience
of Buddha. A Buddha is quite active, benefiting sentient beings.
For instance a Buddha has to want to benefit sentient beings, so
we have to cultivate that now as practitioners. So this is the
problem of trying to distinguish between the negative desire and
the positive desire, and it often happens that we refer to
negative desires as positive desires. It would be much easier if
we could just sort of block out all desire whatsoever, and say
it's all negative. But would that be nearly as attractive as the
ultimate goal? Such an ultimate goal is the plan of most
materialists. They are betting that after death there is nothing.
They can achieve that without even meditating one minute, it's
just going to arise naturally when the breath stops. Of course
it's interesting that there is nothing that we know that is like
that. It seems like everything always remains something, such as
in theory of the conservation of energy, no energy is ever lost
it just transforms into something else. But that belief of the
materialist is just like any dogmatic belief. There's no evidence
for it, nobody has ever come back from the state of nothingness
to say how it was.
Okay any more questions. No. Then I have a question.
If it's a color is it necessarily an object of the visual
consciousness ?
A: There are for instance the very small particles, they have a
color but the visual consciousness can't perceive those, they're
objects of mental consciousness. Now the objects of mental
consciousness are called phenomena, visual objects, sounds,
smells and so forth are also phenomena aren't they ?
So does that mean that the objects of the mental consciousness
are the same as the objects of the other five consciousnesses?
The answer to that is that the phenomena which are the objects
of the mental consciousness is referring to all the other objects
that aren't included as objects of the first five sense
consciousness's, such as the color of the very small particle, or
even the very small particle itself etc., other consciousness's
and so forth
Q: Can a mental consciousness perceive a visual form, a gross
visual form not just the subtle?
A: Yes it can, I mentioned an example of it how a visual
consciousness perceiving a blue color can be a cause for a mental

What do I mean by a gross object?
Does that mean something that's disgusting?
No not in this context. Although sometimes that's what I mean by
gross, but in this context a gross object means an object that's
composed of many particles, such as a table. It's made up of many
particles, and the basic particle that forms a table is that
eight fold particle. Then you can think that the hardness of this
table comes from the earth element, and that the wood all sticks
together this comes from the water element. If you rub this wood
with another piece of wood theoretically fire will come this
comes from the fire element, and there must be some movement
there otherwise I don't think you'd get a nail to go in the wood,
and that's the air element. You can see the table and that's due
to the visual particles. I think you could even taste the table
due to the taste particles and so forth.
Now if visual form, sound, and smell and so forth, if these are
all made up of particles which are themselves developments of the
four elements why are the four elements contained as tactile
objects ? Why aren't they included amongst visual objects or
odors or something like that?
This is because it is through tactile consciousness that we
mainly know those elements.
Earth is known through it's hardness and hardness is known
through tactile consciousness. Water is known through wetness and
that is perceived by tactile consciousness. Fire is known by it's
being hot and that's perceived by tactile consciousness, Air by
it's lightness and that's experienced by tactile consciousness.
So without tactile consciousness there would be no way to know
those elements. So that's why they are included as objects of the
tactile consciousness.
So if you keep those questions and answers in mind you should be
able to pass the test on Sunday afternoon. I'm only joking.
Now we leave the form aggregate behind and deal with the four
aggregates that are included in mind.
First of all what I mean by mind is that which is clear and
knowing. Clear describes it's reality being formless. Buddhism
asserts then, that mind is not made of form, it is not composed
of physical particles, therefore it can not be reduced to
electromagnetic energy. So therefore it is not the brain, it's
not neurons and it's not the electrical energy passing through
those neurons, nor is it a mere name referring to those objects.
There is one theory that mind is merely an Epi phenomena, which
is just a name but it is referring to, for example, according to
this way of seeing a chair could be called an epi phenomena
because what a chair in fact is, is the legs the seat and the
back and that's what a chair is. But we talk about a chair as if
it were a gestalt, something greater than the sum of it's parts,
something other than the sum of it's parts. Likewise, when we are
talking about mind these people would say that all we're really
talking about is these electro- chemical responses going on in
the body, but they run into some trouble philosophically with
that position, because when we are talking about mind, we are not
talking about the body We are not talking about the electro-
chemical responses going on in the body. Those materialist
reductionists would like to eliminate the language of the mind
from all language. They would just like to eliminate it, but they
can't, so they would like to say that type of language is in
itself meaningless, it has it's own internal consistency, but
what's really going on that accounts for experience and so forth
is the electro-chemical reactions in the body. When you press
some body who adheres to this philosophy for some observable
evidence that they base their philosophy on, they would give
examples of cases where through injecting certain chemicals in
the brain, or removing certain parts of the brain and so forth
you can bring about these different experiences like making a cat
fear a mouse, a mouse being so brave that it will attack a cat.
Or by brain damage you can eliminate memories of whole parts of
one's life, or through the electrical stimulation of different
parts of the brain you can cause such things as gustatory
consciousness to arise, or various memories to occur.
So a person who adheres to the non physical nature of the mind
will say that such events are merely describing the relationship
between the body and the mind, but not the identity of body and
mind, that through stimulating a physical organ then a mental
experience can take place. Such a relationship is already
asserted by Buddhism. For instance, as I said there are five
physical faculties upon which the five sense consciousnesses
depend. If those faculties are damaged in any way then the
consciousnesses will be affected, but they are also quick to
point out it's not only that the body affects the mind but the
mind can affect the body. For example by visualizing certain
channels in the body and concentrating on certain visualized
points in those channels you can change the temperature of the
body radically. Of course that's an extraordinary example but
there are many ordinary ones. For instance the reason why we came
here was not necessarily a physical itch, but rather there were
reasons in our mind for coming here. While there are certain
mental diseases that are treated successfully with chemicals,
there are many mental disorders that are best treated by using
the mind itself. For example if you desire a BMW., say 240 Turbo
drive, black, tinted black windows with a lot of trunk space. If
you desire that, but you do not have the money to pay for it,
then the best solution is not to take Prozac or some other
chemical agent, but rather it's to contemplate the difficulties
you would experience being in debt for the rest of your life, how
that would last longer than the life of the car, how having that
car will not solve all of your problems, that there'll still be
you driving it, alone, hungry, looking for some place to drive to
and running out of gas.
So thinking like that can replace this image of that car being
the most important thing in the world, and although it may not
replace that desire it can work on it slowly. Whereas the
chemicals may deal with that desire by causing some euphoric
state where you may think you don't need anything any more, or it
may cause a dullness in the mind where you couldn't bother
yourself to generate such desires, but when you come off the
chemical those desires once again arise, so at best they can be
seen to be temporary solutions, and everybody recognizes that the
best solution would be a mental solution such as an insight that
sees the reality of the situation.
That insight is gained through a thinking process. It's not
gained by taking pills, or by a well balanced diet, with
exercise. So that in itself shows the difference between the mind
and the body. You can have a person who physically is very
healthy, but mentally is a mess. Likewise somebody who is
mentally very clear, friendly, soft etc. but physically is a
Those are kinds of examples that illustrate the difference in
nature between the mind and the body, and there's many others.
Some of the more dramatic examples you find in the experiments
that take place in parapsychology, which are phenomena that can't
be explained by any physical laws, nor can their existence be
denied, but you shouldn't take my word for it, this is something
you have to study for yourself. For some people this is very
obvious for others it's just a belief but it's not something that
is supported by any conviction, in particular a conviction that's
based on sound reasoning or direct observation, consequently that
belief could be easily shaken, or at the back of the mind there
might be a subtle hope that at the time of death every thing
ceases, and one won't have to worry about all that bad karma one
has been accumulating. For while the mind is clear, ( meaning
formless), it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It exists because it
has the function of cognition. It apprehends objects, an
apprehension which is known as knowing, or cognizing and it is
dynamic, it is energetic, it is not a physical energy, but it is
non the less functioning obviously. So why not apply the law of
conservation of energy to it. There's no reason why it should
suddenly stop while all other physical energies keep going in one
way or another. Well you can make anything sound reasonable, just
because something sounds reasonable that doesn't mean that's the
way it is. Yet there are examples of people who seem to confirm
the existence of this continuum of mental energy, such as the
children who remember former lives, and whose reports are
corroborated by authoritative researchers.
Anybody ever heard of a great philosopher and mathematician
named Pascal? "Pascal's Wager". Have you ever heard of Pascal's-
wager ? You're going to. For the benefit of those who haven't
heard of it, I think he was French, he said that if you prepare
for the next life and there isn't a next life then you'll have no
regrets because you won't be around. If you don't prepare for a
next life and there is a next life you'll have big regrets. So
there's nothing to lose by preparing for the next life and
everything to gain!
So what I mean by mind then is what is clear and knowing. You
know what knowing is right, the opposite of not knowing is
knowing. Do you know the exact population of France this moment?
Nothing comes to mind does it. That's not knowing, there's not an
apprehension of an object, such as an appearance that can be seen
by the eyes and so forth. Do you know the human population of
your house? Suddenly something comes to mind, so that's knowing

The mental factors are mind that function to perceive the
qualities of the object and respond in various ways to the
features of the object. Main minds and mental factors are related
by being one substance, that is for any main mind there are
mental factors which are of the same substance of that main mind,
or we could say that mind in general, this thing which is clear
and knowing has various functions one of those functions is
called main mind and the other functions are called mental
factors. So if we take any moment of mind that moment's knowing
of the object or the entity of the object is called main mind,
and that moment of mind's knowing the various features that make
up that object is called mental factors.
This two fold division of mind into main mind and mental factors
is likened to a community. Within the community there is a
director whose job is to know what's happening in general in the
community, and also in that community there would be a cook whose
job it is to take care of the preparation of the food. So the
director has to know something about what's going on in the
kitchen but he doesn't have to know everything, that's the job of
the cook. That's an example I heard a long time ago when I first
studied this stuff. It's a little bit illuminating but not much.
Rather I prefer the explanation that if you have a moment of mind
then it's different functions are being divided into main mind
and mental factors, so while you can distinguish main minds from
mental factors or one mental factor from another in the way of
distinguishing one function from another function they're still
all functions of the same moment of mind. For instance. ......

That main mind and it's attendant mental factors, have five
similarities to them. The first is that they have the same object
of observation, for example take the visual main mind and it's
attendant mental factors that are perceiving blue color. The blue
color is the object of observation so the visual main mind and
it's attendant mental factors are all taking as their object of
observation the blue color.
The second similarity is similar aspect, the aspect means when a
mind perceives an object then an aspect or an image of that
object appears in that consciousness, such as when an object is
placed in front of a mirror an image of that object appears in
that mirror, in the case of the example that image is called a
reflection, in the case of consciousness that image is called an
aspect. It is said for instance if you take a piece of clear
crystal like one of those nice pieces that are cut with different
facets around them and it's clear, if you put that on some nice
blue clothe then that crystal will appear to be blue in color.
Likewise when a consciousness is perceiving it's object it takes
on the aspect of that object, this is not to say that when we are
perceiving objects all we are perceiving is aspects in the mind,
we are perceiving those objects.
So the main mind and it's attendant mental factors have the same
aspect, they also occur simultaneously, therefore they do not
have a cause and affect relationship. A main mind and it's
attendant mental factors will have the same faculty as it's
dominant condition. For example a main visual consciousness and
it's attendant mental factors both have the eye faculty as their
dominant condition.
They are also said to be of similar substance, for example the
feeling mental factor that would be an attendant of a visual
consciousness would not be found in some other consciousness.
The reason for mentioning those five similarities is to just get
away from the idea that main minds and mental factors can be
operating independently of each other at different times, they're
all of the same substance.
There are six main minds from visual to mental main minds and
those are what constitute the CONSCIOUSNESS aggregate, the fifth
of the five aggregates. The mental factors are what compose the
second third and forth aggregate.
How are we doing ?
I know there's exhaustion, but so far are you following me?
Q: Can you repeat the five please?
A: Object of observation, Aspect, Time or duration, (the
duration is simultaneous), dominant condition, similar substance.
There are fifty one mental factors, I hope you have a lot of ink
in your pens, actually there's a lot more than that but fifty one
were mentioned to just give you an idea of these various
functions in the mind. And these functions were identified
principally from the perspective of what brings happiness and
what brings suffering, and then from the perspective of someone
in a meditative tradition. So from another perspective you may be
able to find many other mental factors, and even from the
perspective of this tradition there are other mental factors
beside the list of fifty one.
Those fifty one mental factors fall into five categories.
The first is known as the omnipresent mental factors. The second
is the object ascertaining mental factors, then the virtuous
mental factors, then the next is the root afflictions, the next
are the secondary afflictions and the last is the variable mental
factors. So there was five plus one.
There are five omnipresent mental factors according to either,
the Abhidharmakosha or Abhidharmasamuccaya. The Abhidharmakosha
has a different list of five similarities. What I'm saying is
that the presentation I'm giving here is based upon certain
texts. Not all authoritative Buddhist scholars have the same
presentation. For instance the fifty one mental factors mentioned
by Asanga in his text Abhidharmasamuccaya. His younger brother
Vasubandhu wrote a text Abhidharmakosha, and in that text he only
mentioned forty eight mental factors. If I remember correctly one
text has a group of five similarities between main minds and
mental factors that's different from the other ones, and one text
says there's five omnipresent mental factors and the other one
says there's ten.
Lord Buddha is the one who gave the monks vows, he's the source
of the monk's vows, there are a number of different traditions
that have arisen over the years of such vows. For instance the
tradition of the discipline that exists in Tibet is known as the
In Thailand the tradition is known as the Theravadan tradition .
In the Mulasarvastivadan tradition there are 253 vows for a fully
ordained monk, whereas in the Theravadan tradition there are 227.
So it seems like the Tibetans have more vows. So where did they
get them from if it was all based on The Buddha? Well in fact all
of those are contained in 227 of the Theravadan tradition. They
just have a different way of enumerating them. So like that you
have these different scholars that have different ways of
enumerating these things, so we can't say the differences
indicate that one is right and the other is wrong, they usually
have their reasons for their own system.
Omnipresent means that with every moment of mind there are these
five omnipresent mental factors operating, therefore one can know
implicitly that every moment of mind does not necessarily have
all 51 mental factors operating, but it will have these five
omnipresent ones.
There's feeling. When you hear the name don't immediately assume
you know what it means because we employ names that already have
common usage in our respective languages but they have specific
definitions in this context. Here the definition of feeling is a
mental factor which is the nature of experience, individually
experiencing the fruition of virtuous and non virtuous actions.
All will become clear shortly.
It's objects are pleasure, pain and that which is neither
pleasure or pain. So feeling is the mental factor that
experiences pleasure, pain, and neutral experiences. Pleasure is
that which when it ceases you want to meet it again. Pain is that
experience when it arises you want to separate from it, and the
neutral experience is one that when it arises you neither want to
separate from it nor to meet it again. Experiences arise from
previous actions that we have undertaken. It is the virtuous
actions that produce pleasure and the non virtuous that produce
pain, in fact the words virtuous and non virtuous are used merely
because one produces pleasure and the other produces pain. What
we want is pleasure or happiness, an action that brings that is
called virtuous it's not because it was declared virtuous by an
omnipotent being, it's just another word for good because it gets
us what we want, whereas the non virtuous action produces pain.
So this emphasizes then that our experiences of pleasure and
pain do not come without causes, nor are their causes some
unrelated entity. It's not that our pain or happiness is
something that is bestowed upon us by some deity, rather they
come from our former actions, so therefore we ourselves are the
creators of our future experience, and the person who was in our
previous continuum was the creator of our present experiences.
There is no need to visit a clairvoyant and pay a lot of money
to know what you were in your former lifetime and to know what
you're going to be in your next lifetime. Look at your present
experience and you'll know what kind of person you were in the
past, look at your present activity and you'll know what kind of
experience you'll have in the future. It's chilling!
So, the knowledge, the certain knowledge that virtuous action
brings happiness and non virtuous action brings suffering is
highly esteemed, having that certainty is something which is
highly esteemed. It's praised as the basis of all auspicious
doctrines and it's called the correct view of all Buddhists.
Buddhists vary in what they call the correct view of reality, but
they all agree that virtuous actions bring happiness. Buddhists
disagree about what they regard as the correct view of reality,
reality is one of those subtle things and because it's so subtle
The Buddha gave very different accounts to the different
disciples who came to hear him and consequently you have
different philosophical schools, but they all agree that virtue
brings happiness and non virtue brings suffering. A happy life,
at the end of which one could say, "Not bad, it could have been
worse", is created by a virtuous action. The experiences that
occur during the life, good or bad, are also created by actions,
virtuous or non virtuous. We can develop conviction in this, but
it is very difficult to know exactly what all those actions were
Okay so let's stop there today. Let's just sit quietly for a few
minutes, give it a chance to all sink in.

So while listening to the subject, it's important to listen in
such a way that the teaching becomes in itself an antidote to the
causes of our problems. Among the numerous causes of problems we
can say there's two types: external and internal. The external
causes of our problems are all familiar to us, such as bad
weather, obnoxious people, all of these kinds of things that we
hear complaints about every day, we read about in the papers and
see on TV. and so forth. And if happiness was dependent on the
elimination of these outer causes of problems then the whole task
would be hopeless, because there's no definite guarantee that any
external condition will not become a cause of problems. For
instance our best friends, they can turn against us, a beautiful
home can become a prison, a tropical beach can become boring, a
holiday can become a death sentence. There's nothing to trust in
the external circumstances.
Then there are the internal causes of problems. These internal
causes of problems such as anger, clinging, and so forth,
jealousy, these sorts of minds. So long as we have such
disturbing uncontrolled states of mind, then there's going to be
misery, but if such uncontrolled disturbing states of mind are
eliminated then even poor external conditions can be easily
tolerated. It's like the story of how shoes were invented in
China. There was an emperor who was raised in the plush
environment of his palace, and he decided to go outside one day
into his kingdom to see what it was like, he was not wearing any
shoes and while walking he stepped on something sharp. He'd never
experienced such pain before and it made him very angry. When he
returned to the palace he summoned all his ministers, and he
declared that they should cover his whole kingdom in leather,
thinking that by so doing he would be able to go for a walk
without stepping on something sharp. The ministers realized that
this was hopelessly impractical and at the very least would cause
bankruptcy for the whole empire. One particularly bright minister
had a good idea, he thought why not just cover the emperor's feet
with leather, it will accomplish the same purpose and be much
cheaper. The emperor accepted this idea and thus shoes were
invented. The moral of this story is that if one tames ones own
inner mind then no matter what external circumstances one might
meet good or bad the mind remains stable and at peace. The
question is however, is such a thing possible? Nobody wants to be
angry but despite that we all from time to time get angry, so how
might it be possible to eliminate anger? Similarly no one wants
to experience a great loss and yet often it happens that people
due to being controlled by desire give up something of great
value for something of less value, as if they were temporarily
insane. This is just the effect of desire. So although we only
want to profit and never lose, still such desire can arise and
overcome us.
However such persons as the Buddha demonstrated that it was
possible to eliminate these negative minds. So long as they are
not eliminated there will not be happiness. When they are
eliminated there will be happiness. One thing that is definitely
true is that we all want to be happy and not to suffer, therefore
at some time we have to pursue this path of eliminating the inner
causes of suffering, by whatever means. So long as we avoid that
then we will be contradicting our own inner wish. However even
the Buddha had to admit it's not easy, and it takes a lot of
time. For instance once He generated the spirit of Enlightenment,
Bodhicitta it still took three countless great aeons to become a
Buddha. I don't know how many years constitute a great aeon, I
know that countless is the largest number in the Indian system of
counting. It might be similar to that mythological number in
English known as zillion which means huge, so a zillion times
three aeons, and that was after he had developed a spontaneous
Bodhicitta and was a real Bodhisattva. This was after He had
spent lifetimes in pursuit of higher states of mind. Giving up
kingdoms to meditate in solitude in the mountains, dressed in
tree bark, internally generating a conviction in paths leading to
liberation, conviction in karma, conviction in the existence of
future lives, a dedication to the welfare of others, having more
concern for others than himself. So he was already a saint before
He became a Bodhisattva, and yet it still took an awful long time
to become a Buddha.
So if you feel like it's an enormous undertaking you're right,
and if you feel like it's too much to accomplish in this lifetime
you're also right. So generally what's done is that a person
looks at their worst fault and tries to minimize it, and if at
the end of the life you've had any success at all at weakening
that thought you can be satisfied, and that's a realistic
approach to the spiritual path. If you think that you won't be
satisfied at the end of the life unless you've some remarkable
attainments like clairvoyance, passing through walls, flying, or
with the attitude that is completely disillusioned with the whole
of cyclic existence, Bodhicitta or the correct view of reality.
If that's what it will take to make you feel satisfied with your
life you might be disappointed. For instance if Bodhicitta is the
goal to achieve in this lifetime any time you desire something
just for yourself you've failed. For instance in the lunch line,
at the end of the lunch line there's the plate with all the fruit
on it and they're all oranges and apples but only one banana and
if you have the thought " I hope nobody takes that banana before
I get there! " You've failed ! Or when you walk into the cinema
and all the seats in the middle are taken and you get upset
you've failed. So how miserable such an aspiration will make one.
We shouldn't put these time limits on ourselves. Generating
realizations is not like boiling an egg. You can be sure that
after four minutes you've got a hard boiled egg, but it's unsure
how many years of your practice is going to produce a
realization. We read in the biographies of former saints of
somebody who suddenly gains a high realization while chopping
wood or by looking at a stone as they're walking on the road.
This might produce the wrong view that at any moment as you go
about your ordinary daily life a realization will dawn without
having done anything to create it. We don't know how many
lifetimes those saints in biographies spent practicing. You can
be sure there were a lot. Take the great yogi Milarepa for
instance. Before he met his guru Marpa he killed over thirty
people, and yet in that very life he became a Buddha. That might
generate the thought that well I haven't killed anybody so I
should be able to become a Buddha too, easier, faster. Of course
when you read Milarepa's biography you discover that he killed
those thirty people by practicing black magic. He could make
animals hallucinate. Can you stop a dog from barking just through
the power of your mind ? He could cause hail storms. Could you
make a cloud cover the sun for just one minute of shade? The
master who taught Milarepa black magic regarded Milarepa as the
best disciple he'd ever had, and then when he entrusted himself
to Marpa, Marpa worked him harder than a mule and yet Milarepa
never generated any contempt towards Marpa. He had some pretty
unusual qualities that he was born with. How come he was born
with those qualities and not me ? In a former lifetime, the life
time before he was Milarepa he was a Kadampa Geshe, given up the
affairs of that life, dedicated himself to studying and practice,
had generated at least the correct intellectual view of reality.
So even to do that he must have had some great qualities to bring
into that lifetime, which he must have cultivated in a former
lifetime and so on.
So while we're listening to a talk on the dharma which is
information that is by it's very nature stimulating the good
qualities and opposing the bad qualities, then we should at least
try in this occasion as much as possible to cultivate the
antidotes to the inner sources of our problems. There's all kinds
of things that we have probably thought we should practice, such
as practicing using ourselves as a resource for other's
happiness. That's not necessarily a very common aspiration but
it's a very interesting one.
When I was a child I used to pray all the time, not that I was a
little angel or anything. I used to pray to get the things I
wanted. I'd pray to get toy guns, and all those kinds of prayers
that kids usually make, and my prayers would often take the form
of "If I was God I would certainly give me these things."
Well as I got older I stopped relying on such an omnipotent
being and thought that it might be better if I became the kind of
person who could supply others with the things that they needed
because if you see something that's missing why trust somebody
else to fill it? Why not do it oneself?
So the problem is that there's just not enough help.
There's so many problems in the world and there's just so much
need, and if you look around you see so many people who are
requesting help. So we could join them and be just one other
voice in that great Sea of Plea! Or one could be trying to become
the answer, that which fulfills those supplications, and
increasingly make oneself a better and better resource for the
welfare of others.
Well a thought might arise that the needs or demands of others
are endless and it might seem quite a daunting task to become
something that can respond effectively. Well The Buddha is pretty
incredible, but that's how one becomes a Buddha so a person who
has dedicated themselves to become a Buddha for the sake of all
beings has a great appreciation of his or her capability. So if
one's having the attitude, "Oh I couldn't do that." then one is
far from generating the thought of becoming Enlightened. So even
if it's just using the past Buddhas as a reason one can just
think well I can become a Buddha because they did, because once
upon a time they were just like me and if they can develop such
perfect qualities then I can too. When I was a teenager I was
involved in sports. It was my path to liberation from studies and
I remember before we would actually play an opposing team our
coach used to give us a pep talk, encouragement. There was one
team we were going to play against, they were a lot bigger than
us, and in American football it matters if they're bigger than
you. I remember something that he said to encourage us, he said "
You can beat these guys, they're no different from you they put
their pants on one leg at a time just like you." The Buddhas were
at one time just like ourselves, they'd get completely carried
away by their delusion just like we do. They'd be only concerned
with the happiness of this life just like us, but despite all
that they were able to achieve such an exulted accomplishment, so
we can do the same thing. The very teachings we have at our
disposal are the same teachings that they rely on, as far as the
explanations and techniques that are available, nothing is
missing. It's not as if there was once a certain type of
technique to achieve Enlightenment and now there's not.
End side 1 tape 3
In fact there may be more techniques available now than there
were in the past, so from the outside everything is there. Now
all we have to do from our side is generate the determination and
keep it. It's not easy, but so long as we don't generate such a
determined attitude, or if we let go of our determination then
we're only undermining our wish to be happy and be free from
Okay so yesterday we finished with FEELING, the mental factor of
feeling. We went through the form aggregate of which there were 5
physical sense powers mentioned. There were the objects of the
five sense consciousnesses and there was the form which is the
object of mental consciousness. So we went into detail yesterday
of what all those eleven things were.
The second aggregate is that of Feeling, which is the experience
of the maturation of karma of which there are three types,
pleasure, pain and neutral feelings and there are some other
divisions of feeling, for instance there is the feeling which is
the base of attachment, and this is a feeling that accompanies
attachment to the attributes or qualities of the desire realm.
The desire realm is one of three realms. These are called desire
realm, form realm and formless realm. Here we should understand
realm as a state of mind. So the desire realm is a state of mind
in which there is desire for the pleasant objects of the senses.
So we know what the objects of the senses are, I mentioned those
yesterday. Visual forms, sounds, odors etc. and amongst pleasant
and unpleasant giving rise pleasurable feeling and painful
feeling. So the desire realm is the state of mind that regards
such pleasurable feelings as the best. So as long as one is
regarding such objects in high esteem then one is a person in the
desire realm.
Form and formless realms refer to states of mind that have lost
such esteem for the objects of the senses. I shouldn't say lost
it, they've transcended it by seeing the shortcomings of such
experiences and seeing the superior qualities of the experiences
of meditation. The form realm gets it's name from the objects of
meditation having form. The formless realm mentality is said to
be higher than the form realm, it has transcended the mentality
of the form realm by seeing the shortcomings of such a mentality
and seeing the superior qualities of the formless realm.
So as there is one feeling which is called the base of
attachment, accompanying the attachment to the attributes of the
desire realm there is another feeling which is the base of
deliverance, and this is a feeling that accompanies the mentality
of the form and formless realm, that being the feeling which is
the base of deliverance. So the feeling that is the base of
attachment is pleasant feeling, pleasurable feeling with respect
to objects of the senses and this causes the clinging attachment
to arise. Such a pleasurable feeling is viewed unrealistically as
true happiness. It is not true happiness. One reason why it is
not true happiness is because it can't last, but because it is
seen as true happiness the mind grasps onto it and will not let
it go and will do anything to keep in touch with it. This is the
major obstacle for the human being, of all the various faults
this is the main one. In a thanka known as "the Wheel of Life"
--that last one hanging up there, it is often painted with a
Buddha in each of the five or six realms of cyclic existence and
each of those Buddhas is carrying something that represents the
antidote to the main suffering of the respective realm, and the
Buddha in the human realm is carrying the staff and the bowl of a
monk whereas in the hungry ghost realm he's carrying water and
food. That is because the hungry ghosts suffer from hunger and
thirst mainly, and for the humans it's because humans suffer from
desire. That's not such a gross generalization because if you
eliminate the conditions of war and illness and poverty, those
extremes of human suffering that you find in the world, then you
see so many human beings that are destroyed by their desire.
Sometimes marriages fail because of desire for somebody other
than the partner, because of adultery, and that may result in one
or both of the people who are married falling from the level of
status in the society that they were in. Or politicians who were
honored in society, well how about supreme court judges, high
court judges who are honored in society, but because of their
sexual misconduct then there's a big scandal and they fall from
their position. Teachers who have sexual relations with students
and then lose their position as teachers and so on. And these are
all people who have plenty of food, clothing and shelter and
medicine and all that stuff.
So it's like all those people who are trying to end war where
they are, just like at Sarajevo in Bosnia Hercegovina. Well once
they eliminate the war then they can look forward to suffering
like every one else. Right now they're suffering in a gross way,
but then comes the suffering of the uncontrolled desire, where
there's always something missing. So this is something that we
all try to transcend and generally the main way in which we do
that is by weighing the disadvantages against whatever benefit
we'd get if we followed the desire. If the disadvantages are
really horrendous and the advantage of following the desire is
very small, then it's much easier to give up that desire.
Unfortunately it's not always that clear, and so consequently
it's difficult to give up the desire and it stays, and then one
just has to endure it. So there arises the thought "I wonder if
there is a state of mind free of such desire, where it just
doesn't arise and one could just cruise through this life like
the wind. You touch things but leave them as they are not
carrying them with you just free".
There's a Zen story. Two Zen monks a master and his disciple
come up to a river, it's an old story you may have heard it
before. There's a beautiful woman who's trying to cross the river
but she needs help. So the master picks her up and carries her
across the river. According to the discipline he shouldn't be
touching a woman and this is what the disciple was thinking, so
on the other side of the river the master and disciple carried on
their journey but after sometime the disciple couldn't hold
himself back anymore and he said to the master
" How could you pick up that woman?" and the master said
" The important thing is to put her down when the river was
crossed, which I did, you on the other hand are still carrying
So can you imagine being free of desire? How free you would be!
You could enjoy anything but put it down with no second thoughts
and I'm not talking about the attitude of a cad, I don't know
what you'd call it. I'm not talking about the attitude of
somebody who has love affairs and then just disposes of them like
that, one night stands. I'm not talking about that. There's
nothing high about that, that's somebody who's really possessed
by desire, they can't get satisfaction. I'm talking about
something quite different. Freedom from desire exists, you get it
when you enter the form realm, when you generate this form realm
mentality, the desire for the objects of the senses doesn't arise
any more.
To generate a form realm mentality requires a cultivation of
concentration, the type of concentration where you can stay
single pointedly on an object for hours. It generates it's own
kind of mental and physical ecstasy, which eclipses the pleasure
of the desire realm. Unfortunately it's not very easy to
cultivate. Well at least it's nice to know it's possible, but
because it's not so very easy, there's very few people who have
that freedom from desire and consequently even those people who
make it their profession of being desireless have a hard time.
That's when we here of all the scandals in religious orders.
Their main way of controlling desire is just like everybody
else's. The only advantage that they may have is the amount that
they separate themselves from the objects of desire, in for
instance cloisters. Usually the scandals occur with those people
who don't have such separation.
So in the good old days concentration was easier to cultivate
they say, I'm not so sure, I think it was always a bit difficult.
In a monastery of a thousand people there were probably only a
handful who could do it, but the thing is all of us have the same
problem, so as long as we have the pleasurable feeling then
attachment can arise unless you've abandoned attachment. So lets
say we have attachment, what it likes is pleasurable feelings, so
whenever pleasurable feeling arises, there's danger of
attachment. If attachment arises you've lost your freedom.
Usually I don't buy many things, consequently I don't have much
interest in shopping so when I walk down a street of shops the
impression in my mind is just things, but when I do go shopping,
for instance to buy a computer, then if I walk by a shop that
sells computers even after I've already bought a computer I can't
just walk by that shop thinking thing. My mind gets stuck there I
have to stop walking, look at all the things, especially the
price to see if I paid more for mine. I might get upset, all of
these things that didn't have to happen. So that's a simple
example, there are many other examples, where, when the
attachment arises your mind gets stuck to the object. Then
throughout the day your mind keeps on that object, it comes up
again and again, you find your mind plotting in order to get that
object. You find that your voice of reason is getting weaker and
weaker, your voice of cleverness is getting louder and louder, so
you're stuck, you've lost freedom, therefore The Buddha said we
have to guard the doors of our senses.
So it's not that a pleasurable feeling is negative, it's the
attachment that's negative, the feeling has no ethical quality.
Pleasurable feelings aren't virtuous, painful feelings aren't non
virtuous. It's just that pleasurable feelings tend to give rise
to this mind of clinging attachment and painful feelings give
rise to anger. It's also interesting to keep in mind that if a
pleasurable feeling is the result of virtuous karma, if that's
the case then the object which was a cause of the pleasurable
feeling, enabled this pleasurable feeling to occur, such as
sunshine. From one point of view, the pleasurable feeling
experiencing the sunshine, depends upon the sunshine, but the
source of that pleasurable feeling being pleasurable was a
previous virtuous action. It's like you can't have a crop without
a field, so keeping that in mind, rather than regarding the
various objects as sources of happiness, one should pursue
virtuous action with the same kind of enthusiasm that we use to
pursue those pleasurable objects.
Okay so then the next aggregate is DISCRIMINATION. This is also
a mental factor and is an omnipresent mental factor and this one
apprehends the uncommon signs of an object. Each object has
characteristics which it shares in common with other objects and
characteristics that are unique to it, and it is those unique
characteristics that enable us to differentiate one object from
another. So discrimination is the function of the mind that
apprehends those unique characteristics, and there is
discrimination that we find accompanying sense consciousnesses
and those accompanying mental consciousnesses, and of the mental
consciousnesses there are the conceptual consciousnesses and it
is the conceptual consciousness of a person who knows a language
that has the discrimination that can differentiate objects by
means of names. So it is this discrimination mental factor that
applies names, identifies objects with names. Sensory
consciousness doesn't name objects but it can nonetheless be
clear about different objects. It can clearly differentiate say
yellow from red.
Discrimination enables us to recognize and differentiate the
objects that make up reality.

This is the one that functions when sensory consciousness is
operating and on the basis of having clear and distinct
perceptions a conceptual discrimination mental factor will name
different objects and similarly when hearing true words, then in
your mind you're identifying certain things, and giving names to
those things you're identifying and that's also discrimination.
Also when you identify something as good by depending upon it
having the signs and the reasons that's also discrimination.
So there's a discrimination, a reasoned discrimination. This is
one that is skilled in relating names with their objects and also
that is able to observe the appropriate qualities such as sound
is impermanent. Also there's a discrimination that has a clear
aspect and a clear object. This is opposed to an unreasoned
discrimination, such as one that is unskilled in relating names
with their meaning, such as a child who is yet to learn any
language, or a discrimination that thinks that sound is
permanent, or a discrimination that lacks any clear subjective
aspect or object.
That last type of unreasoned discrimination is the
discrimination that operates in the highest level of the formless
realm, where there is no clear aspect and no clear object
appearing to the mind. It's really not a very useful state to
generate, but it comes from the belief that discrimination, this
faculty of discrimination is a source of the problems.
It's not uncommon to read criticism of discrimination. For
instance in a number of spiritual texts that would describe the
ultimate state as somehow a unified state. With such expressions
as all is one. Now of course discrimination differentiates,
identifies and differentiates, which seems to contradict an all
is one experience, and that description, based upon the mere
description of some high state of mind as all is one, some
psychologists have misunderstood what that high state of mind is.
For instance in child psychology there is a recognition that as
an infant, the child doesn't discriminate between subject and
object. A clear subjective ego awareness is yet to arise in the
child. This is sometimes called oceanic awareness. In one place
Carl Jung thought that the high realizations of these yogis was
recovering that state of mind that is possessed by the infant.
Which is elevating a primitive consciousness to an exulted state.
(That's not what he said), and in another place Freud referred to
such high experiences of the yogis as infantile regressions
thinking that they were non other than what the infant has. This
would be devaluing an exulted state and making it a primitive
state. So there's a big difference between lacking discrimination
and transcending discrimination. So the infant doesn't have
discrimination of subject and object. The yogi does have such
discrimination, but within that discrimination has been able to
discriminate something that transcends both subject and object
and in order to do that, you have to have even more powerful
discrimination than other people. So far from achieving high
states of mind by eliminating discrimination, such states of mind
are achieved by making one's mind that much more powerful.
Another type of discrimination is called discrimination of the
small, which is discrimination in the mind of a person in the
desire realm. There's another discrimination known as
discrimination of the vast, which is discrimination in the mind
of a person in the form realm, so from the point of view of the
form realm the experiences of the desire realm are small and
quite insignificant. Then there's discrimination of the
limitless, and this is discrimination that is found in the first
two states of the formless realm, where one discriminates
limitless space and limitless consciousness. And then there's
discrimination of nothingness, which is third state of the
formless realm, where one doesn't discriminate anything and that
state is like being unconscious. Also a mistake. These different
states of mind have been achieved by people who are striving hard
for liberation, and in their striving having discovered that the
secret for liberation was in the mind itself, or the key for
liberation was in the mind itself. They stumbled upon the
tremendous capacity for concentration and having this amazing
tool tried to achieve liberation merely by it. Concentration that
enabled them to turn off parts of their mind, trying to achieve
liberation by making themselves unconscious for instance. There's
no pain if there's no experience. Experimenting with all kinds of
manipulation of the mind with concentration, and by means of this
they could achieve what's known as the peak of cyclic existence,
in which all of the various disturbing negative thoughts of the
desire realm, form realm and the formless realm below the peak,
cease functioning. They become free of all that. The only problem
is that faults of the peak itself remain, and it doesn't have
anything higher than the peak to get rid of those faults, unless
you use something else besides concentration. The thing that they
miss is the wisdom perceiving emptiness and if you have the
wisdom realizing emptiness you can totally abandon all the faults
of cyclic existence even without having to generate such a high
power of concentration.
So that's the discrimination aggregate.
Any questions ?
Q: As you explained it seems as though we are a community of
different tendencies. So how is it possible to have this feeling
of oneness ? And this feeling of a self of permanence?
A: So first of all seeing our self as one thing. This is a very
common phenomena to think of and it comes from our capacity to
conceptualize by means of which we can categorize different
things, for instance a crowd of people is actually many people
but we can differentiate one crowd from another crowd. We can
have one crowd or many crowds and that can have some practical
functions, so this capacity is something that is useful. So for
instance we are composed of a body and a mind. And when we say
body, body includes many things, but rather than having to list
all those things for which there's no end because there are just
countless atoms in the body and even those things we can see,
that is those things we can see under a knife of discrimination
are still too many to mention. So we have this capacity to think
body by means of which we can be including all the parts of the
body or just some of the parts of the body. and also for
ourselves it can be useful to refer to that which possesses the
body and mind as in the expressions "my body" and "my mind". We
don't mean that we are something that can get up and walk away
leaving our body and mind behind, the way the owner of a car can
get up and leave the car, but it's just a way that we organize
our experiences and describe our actions, so this ability to
construct things with thoughts can be useful, and by means of
this we can differentiate one thing from another. The problem
occurs is when we take the thought constructs and forget that in
fact they are thought constructs and start thinking that they
have an independent life of their own. And based upon the belief
that it has an independent life of it's own and also based upon
the fact that it doesn't appear to change that one can view it as
permanent, we refer to ourselves as I or me, using those same
pronouns day in and day out, and also thinking of ourselves in
the past, thinking I did this then, and referring to ourselves in
the future I will do this, when, and thus it appears that this I
is not changing at all, it is exactly the same. And further more,
if it exists with a life of it's own, then it would have to be
permanent. It wouldn't be depending on anything else such as
causes, to exist, but when we analyze this point closer, we see
that although the name may remain the same we have indeed
changed. In fact it would be a sad state if we remained exactly
the same as we were when we were children. The thing is that we
seldom analyze and just take things as they appear. So this
person, the person, ourself, which is just a thought construct,
having functions in terms of practical discrimination and
language appears to have a life of it's own, and then it is
actually apprehended as having a life of it's own. This
apprehension is the ignorance or misknowledge which was
recognized by The Buddha as being the root source of all the
suffering. Is there anything more to that question that I could
address. It's good ? Okay !
Q: You described the different levels of concentration according
to each realm, can you repeat them please ?
A: The interesting one would be form and formless realm. First
there's desire realm, that has concentration but it's not
distinguished, that is it is not special. And the discrimination
associated with that one is called the discrimination of the
small, that is the objects it can recognize are small in quality
in comparison to the objects that are recognized in the form and
formless realm. Then with the form and formless realm we start to
find very special types of concentration. In the form realm the
discrimination there is known as the discrimination of the vast,
that is the objects that are identified in the form realm are
vastly superior to those of the desire realm. Then the formless
realm is said to be superior to the form realm because it is
without the faults that are found in the form realm, and within
the formless realm there are different types of discrimination.
In the formless realm there's four levels known as limitless
space, limitless consciousness, nothingness and the fourth is
called neither sensation nor no sensation. That fourth level is
also called the peak of cyclic existence. The discrimination
found in the first two of those is known as the discrimination of
the limitless and then that found in third level is known as the
discrimination of nothingness and the discrimination found in the
fourth level is a type of unreasoned discrimination. It is the
type in which there is no clear subjective aspect and no clear
object of observation. So let's take a break.

The next aggregate is the one known variously as Compositional
factors or Intention and all of the other mental factors are
included in this aggregate. I'm using by the way, volition,
intention and will synonymously.
We'll begin then with this mental factor of Intention which some
people consider to be the most important of the mental factors,
and it is defined as the mental factor that moves and directs the
mind that accompanies it to it's object, and it has the function
of engaging the mind in virtue, non virtue, or those activities
that are neither virtuous or non virtuous.

It's something which is extremely powerful, it causes the mind
to engage in an object helplessly, like metal filings have to
helplessly follow a magnet. If you drag a magnet over metal
filings then they just have to follow it, they have no choice.
Sometimes it happens that a person notices that they're just not
in control of their life, they would like to go in a particular
direction but they are helplessly going in another direction.
That can be striking because it makes you wonder, who's in
charge? We have these expressions "this is my body and this is my
mind." "I want to do this, I don't want to do that ". " So how
come my body and mind don't go the way I want them to go ?"
Remember when I described this I, this person, as a mere mental
construct, aside from qualities that we might conceptually give
it, it doesn't have any qualities itself. For instance when you
have the thought I am walking, it's ability to walk is actually
borrowed from the body or in other words because the body is
walking one can have the thought I am walking. It's not like the
body is walking and also I am walking and we're sort of walking
hand in hand. And likewise when there is the thought I am going
to do it, in fact it is the mental factor that is thinking do it,
that is the impulse that produces the activity and on the basis
of that impulse we can have the thought "I" am doing it. So it's
that impulse that's the actual creator of things, and that's why
it's considered so important, because there's also the I that's
designated by depending upon feeling, such as I feel pain or I
feel pleasure, so we can have such thoughts because there's the
Feeling mental factor experiencing pain or pleasure and then
there is this conceptual process that invents this character
known as ""I" on the basis of that.
Now the experiences then are derived from this creator function
of intention. We would like to have it that the only kind of
feelings we would have would be the pleasurable sort as the basis
of our thought "I". In order for that to happen then this creator
intention has to be only going in a virtuous direction and thus
we can only be a virtuous person if our mental factor intention
is directing us virtuously.
Now is the mental factor Intention susceptible to persuasion ?
Of course! It doesn't exist on it's own independent of the other
mental factors. Often it is something that arises after a
considerable amount of thinking. Like if you have to make a
decision about whether you go on a long trip or not. There you
use your faculties of discrimination and so forth to weigh the
advantages and disadvantages of such a trip. When you think about
being in such a place a pleasurable experience may arise causing
the desire to meet with such an object which also influences the
thinking process. There might be a painful experience associated
with the place you're staying in, causing the thought to separate
from it as soon as possible. This can also influence the thinking
process and at a certain point all of this thinking concludes in
this intention to do it. Then that intention starts taking the
mind in that direction and at that point you're just along for
the ride, like a surfer on a wave, or more accurately a thought
construct designated on the basis of this intention that's in
Every conscious action we do has intention going in either a
virtuous or a non virtuous way or a neutral way. So we are acting
continuously, throughout the day we have numerous intentions that
we set, and those intentions don't necessarily cease immediately.
.....Let's say in my example of going to a place the intention of
going to that place can take you to that place but it is not the
case that that process of intentionality totally stops once you
get there. That whole process is something that's remembered in
the mind and it can repeat itself, and has many different
effects. Anyway this whole thing is the subject of karma, so I'm
going to have to move on. But for instance you can have effects
even after this life, for instance at the time of death it's said
that as a person goes through the death process they can have
numerous visions, people who have had near death experiences
report having had the experience of their whole life flashing in
front of them. And having seen their life flash in front of them
it causes to make some evaluation. Certain things in their life
stand out more than others, they identify more strongly with a
certain type of behavior than other behaviors, that they witness
in such visions. Or in using the language of this description of
Intention, there arises from it's latent state, a process of
intentionality, that had been operating in the past but then went
latent, and then due to the circumstances of death it became
active again, and due to the association that we have with the
thought "I" in relation to that intentionality process, there you
go again another ride, but in this case the intentionality as it
takes "you" the mere thought construct on the basis of it. It's
taking you without your body because you've left that behind now.
However it may be the case for this intentionality to get to it's
object, to get to it's aim it will need a physical body. But it
only uses a physical body which is necessary to get to it's aim,
and there's a great many varieties of physical bodies. If your
aim (in my other example of intention) of going on a trip was to
go south in the winter and that was the intentionality that
happens to resurrect itself at the time of death, then maybe all
you need to accomplish that again is the body of a bird, because
the mind is not linked with any specific type of body. The body
is only a vehicle for the mind, and each body due to it's own
nature, allows certain kinds of mental experiences to take place.
In some ways we could say that the rebirth is the dominant
condition for the experience of life, that is the mind coming
together with a certain kind of body then gives that mind access
to a certain kind of experience. The unique characteristic of the
human body is that it's nervous system supports an unlimited
development of intelligence. Therefore the human body is the best
sort of body for the person who is aspiring for liberation,
because in order to get liberation you have to develop this
penetrative insight into the way things exist. This doesn't mean
just any kind of human body. It has to be a human body that has
all it's senses working properly, and a human body in a place in
which it is not too easy and not too difficult to find the
necessities of life. It can't be too difficult because if that's
the case you never have any free time to explore such questions
as why do things exist the way they do ? And we know such people
that just dismiss such thoughts as useless philosophy and they
have to get on with their work of making money and supporting
their various responsibilities. But if life is too easy then that
is also a problem, because the mind gets sluggish, and thus
there's no incentive for the cultivation of intelligence, so it
has to be somewhat challenging as human beings rely upon their
intelligence to survive. That's why the practice of a person who
is mainly trying to achieve a higher rebirth consists of the
practice of ethics.
There are many types of ethics, one type of ethics is the ethics
of restraint, which is restraining yourself from an action that
will bring you some immediate pleasure, because you recognize in
the long run it's going to be problematic, and although the
experience of denying oneself this pleasure is painful, one can
see that in the long run there is going to be great benefit. So
even an animal can see what's immediately in front of it, so in
this case for the person practicing ethics what's immediately in
front of this person is pleasure to be had and pain if I don't
take it. What enables a person to restrain themselves and not be
miserable is the ability to imagine something in the future which
the animals can't do. That requires quite a development of
So one then is exercising this intelligence in order to get a
greater benefit even at the cost of a short term sacrifice. That
is especially the case for the person who is sacrificing the
potential experiences of this life in order to get even better
things in the future life, because this life is tangible, it is
something that you see and you have, whether there is a future
life you can't tell by seeing, tasting and smelling. You can only
know that with intelligence. So for the person who is trying to
get a good rebirth and avoid a bad rebirth, all of this is done
through the power of their intelligence and this person is
putting a higher priority on the use of their intelligence than
just the instincts of taking what is pleasurable and trying to
get rid of what is immediately painful. So such a person is
likely then to be reborn with the type of a body that will
support the further development of such intelligence. They would
get for instance, a human body, in a place where they would have
access to the type of education where they could learn about
higher and higher states of happiness.
Any questions about that?
I wish I was wrong !
But I think that's what the dharma says. That's what The Buddha
had in mind. Even though I hate to hear it ! Due to the kindness
of my teachers I just can't help myself but I have to say those
They say that the dharma is like a mirror, in that a mirror is
something that you use to see if you have any dirt on your face,
so that you can then wash it off, and similarly the dharma is
something that you can use to see if you have any faults, any
mistaken conduct and so forth. Then you can eliminate those
faults and change your conduct. So the fact that one might squirm
a little bit or feel uncomfortable when one is hearing the dharma
doesn't mean that it is wrong.
Q: Is it possible that Volition can bring us to activities
helplessly and is it possible to influence the volition and in
this case is this influence an intention ?
A: There are many other mental factors beside intention, and for
instance when I was talking about generating the intention to go
somewhere there was a whole thought process that led up to that.
It is not an absolute that a specific intention has to arise,
it's not like a whole package ready to go, it's dependent upon
various conditions, for instance through the power of
intelligence you can determine that the aim of a specific
intention is undesirable and therefore you don't allow that
intention to arise. Also the intention is usually taking place
within a context of a person and that person's environment, and
so that person has various likes and dislikes and then the
intention is the means by which that person is able to get what
they want and avoid what they don't want, so the force of the
intention is dependent upon the way in which that person is
perceived. For instance if you're dreaming, and you're chased by
some monster in the dream, then the intention to get away from
that monster is dependent upon you believing that you are real in
that dream.

Then the intention to get away doesn't arise because there is
nobody who has to really escape from any thing really
frightening. So like that the Buddha discovered that the degree
of reality that we attribute to ourselves is more than is
actually there, and when we discover that we are empty of that
extra reality, then all of the intentionalities that were created
in the past that were dependent upon this exaggerated view of
oneself no longer have any control over oneself. That's when one
is liberated. That's why the whole thrust of The Buddha's
teachings, or the emphasis of The Buddha's teachings is the
discovery of the actuality, of the true reality of the person.
Sometimes when people hear about the teaching of karma there
comes in their mind the idea of predetermination, as if they are
locked in an experience or a process that you can't do anything
about, but as intention is something that arises on it's causes
and it's conditions, and these causes and conditions are not
things that are fixed, we can get control over this karma. In
other words we can get control over this intention.
Did you have a question?
(Complicated question asked)_
It's only when you study a lot that it all becomes clear because
the Buddha dharma has so many topics within it. We have an
expression that you can't see the forest because of the trees,
which means that when you're in a forest and you see the
individual trees there's so many of them the idea of forest
doesn't come to mind and likewise as we're studying all the
details of the dharma a unified view, an overview doesn't come to
mind. So for instance yesterday I talked about how there must be
a continuation of mind and although it wasn't everything that can
be said about it I'm not going to spend any more time on it.
What you said today about the possibility of there being animal
mind, preta mind and so forth, that's true. Just as it's the case
that a human being can generate a mind of the form realm and
formless realm, which are also actual states of rebirth because a
human being can generate the certain types of concentration that
are concentrations of the form and formless realms, so also the
human being can generate animal minds, hungry ghost minds and
just as a person takes rebirth in form and formless realms
because of generating the form and formless concentrations, so
the human being can take rebirth as an animal because of
generating an animalistic mentality. There are certain times in
our life where these states of mind appear evidently and we even
have expressions for that like a person is behaving unreasonably
fearfully we may say they're "chicken" and there's a lot of these
expressions, animal names that are given to certain types of
behavior, and that's because that behavior doesn't conform with
the dignity of the human being.
So if one dies with that type of mentality active then you get
the body that best accords with that mentality and likewise with
liberation. Liberation is a state of peace, one has been pacified
of the disturbing negative thoughts, and being forced
uncontrollably to take rebirth. So the source of the disturbing
negative thoughts and karma is the ignorant misconception of the
self. So when the person through the cultivation of a special
insight into reality is able to completely abandon that
conception of self and thus all the other afflictions and karma
by virtue of eliminating their foundation, then that person is
said to be liberated even though they are still a human being,
and after death who knows where that person goes. Their mental
continuum doesn't cease. They still have the experience of
liberation. The continuum of mind is not something that is
dependent upon ignorance, as ignorance is mind that is distorted,
so all we're doing is correcting the distortion. So all of this
experience like our whole life experience here, is like when we
got off the highway to get on a shortcut and we got lost, and it
became a nightmare. So when you get liberated it's like finding
your way back home again. What you do there, we who are still
lost can only just guess.
Remember the definition of mind, clear and knowing. Mind,
consciousness, are synonymous and main minds and mental factors
are minds, because they are clear and knowing. They are products
as we know. The visual consciousness for example arises by
depending upon a visual object, an eye sense faculty and the
immediately preceding moment of consciousness.
So then the mind that we have now what is it's original cause
(our present mind today thinking in this moment)? What is it's
original cause ?
That would be the first moment of consciousness in the womb.
That would have been a mental consciousness
(Missing approx. 4 minutes.)

in all three realms, desire, form and formless realms it comes in
the general category of mental factors known as object
ascertaining mental factors and it is defined as a mental factor
of fine discrimination, which can discriminate between whether a
thing is virtuous or non virtuous. Now this definition is a
biased one, it is biased from the point of view of how
intelligence should be employed along the spiritual path. Using
the faculty of mind to discriminate what sort of story you are
going to tell somebody in order to convince them to buy your
product might be the same mental factor but it doesn't have this
definition. So this intelligence, mental factor in Sanskrit is
called prajna, which is often translated as wisdom, but you can
also translate it as intelligence based upon the definition of
being fine discrimination which is something which sounds like
intelligence. But if we call it wisdom we certainly put it in a
different category than the cleverness of buying and selling
things and it is a mental factor that you only find with the
mental consciousness.
The five sense consciousnesses do not have this mental factor of
intelligence, also for example concentration that's also another
object ascertaining mental factor and this enables one to focus
single pointedly on an object without being distracted by
excitement or laxity, this too is only a mental consciousness,
you can't develop your concentration merely by looking at
something with the eyes, there has to be a mental thought for
instance going on that produces an image or that you use to focus
single pointedly with. This mental factor concentration is said
to function to increase wisdom, intelligence, because if you can
focus single pointedly on something for a long time then that
enables you to analyze very finely all of the qualities and
characteristics of a thing, particularly determining whether the
thing exists in the way it appears.
Concentration is something that depends upon another object
ascertaining mental factor which is known as mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the factor of not forgetting and it functions in
the way of holding any object without letting it go. In this
context it's mainly referring to virtuous objects as this is a
presentation of mind and mental factors that are either
supportive or destructive of the path to liberation. So if you
want to have good concentration then you have this ability to
bring to mind an object and hold it there. To do that you need
effort, which is found in the category of virtuous mental factors
, this effort is the mental factor that delights in virtue and it
functions to cause new qualities to develop and old qualities to
reach perfection. It's essential in the bringing to conclusion
any virtuous work. It is a specific type of endeavor, not all
types of endeavor are this specific mental factor effort. This
one is delighting in virtue, delighting in making money is not
the same thing, due to delight in making money a person can
generate a lot of energy and also use up all their time. From the
point of view of the definition of effort that was given here,
that type of endeavor is called laziness, the type of endeavor of
rejoicing or delighting in making money is called laziness. Now
from the point of view of the person who delights in making
money, the person who's spending all their life meditating and
studying is lazy. The person who is devoting their life the
meditation and studying can regard this other person as lazy,
both are exerting effort but they have different results. The
industrialist has the result of great wealth, the spiritual
practitioner has the result of liberation and Enlightenment. So
after the industrialist gets all of their money are they happy ?
No they're not, and they will say so. So therefore they've wasted
their time. The person who gets liberation and Enlightenment is
happy. So they didn't waste their time.
So if we judge laziness or not being lazy on the basis of
getting the results you want then this person who delights in
virtue is the one who is not lazy and so from this point of view
engaging in other activities is a laziness and that laziness
undermines their effort. There's different kinds of laziness.
Laziness is a mental factor that you find among the twenty
secondary afflictions. It's defined as the mind that does not
delight in virtue and it has different types. Such as delighting
in the non virtues, delighting in doing nothing. Delighting in
doing nothing is something that you discover when you're relaxing
in your favorite chair in front of the television and somebody
asks you to do something, then you discover how much you enjoy
sitting in that chair doing nothing. There's other forms of
laziness, one of which is self discouragement, such as thinking
that you can't possibly enter into the spiritual path, thinking
like I just couldn't do it. "That's okay for those high beings
but not for me." Okay so that thought is a form of laziness. The
Buddha said that "even if a mosquito made the effort it could
become a Buddha, you human beings have more capacity than a
mosquito all that's lacking is effort". Remember effort is
delighting in virtue. So this is the key. Sometimes the
expression of putting effort into something appears to the mind
like drudgery, like work, sweating, breaking one's nails. There's
expressions like I don't know if you have in French. We have an
expression for a person "working like a mule."

"working like a mule" If you ever watch a mule work it's real
But here idea of effort is delighting in virtue. Enjoying it,
this comes from aspiration which is an object ascertaining mental
factor, which is a mental factor that having ascertained a
virtuous object then seeks it. This mental factor arises from the
virtuous mental factor of faith. The virtuous mental factor of
faith is a mind that causes peace with respect to a valid object,
it's a mental factor that has a valid object and causes all the
disturbing thoughts to be removed from the mind when you focus on
that object. There's different types.
One is the faith of conviction which arises by depending upon
reasons, such that one's mind has penetrated to whatever that
object is, so that is you know what that object is. Then there is
a purifying faith that with respect to the qualities that one
sees the object having causes the mind to have a peace or
tranquillity that arises in the heart, a kind of joy. Like for
instance sometimes when you read biographies of great saints and
there you become aware of the qualities that such a person
exhibited and that causes a kind of joyful energy in your heart
then from this can come the aspiration to achieve such qualities
oneself. The mental factor of effort sustains that aspiration.
There's another object ascertaining mental factor called belief
and that mental factor takes as it's object an object that has
been ascertained and holds that object in the face of all
discouragement. So if somebody were to tell you no it's not true
, but if you have this mental factor of belief then it wouldn't
matter what they said you'd still hold that as true. So by
depending then on faith the aspiration arises so faith will arise
by coming to know for instance the different qualities of an
object or the different reasons that validate the existence of
the object and that's obtained by for instance listening and
studying. Some conviction comes from thinking about what you've
been studying and listening to. Aspiration then arises. Then
effort comes, with that effort seeing the various qualities, the
various functions that say concentration can give you and you
aspire to achieve that. Then you generate the effort to do so.
Through this effort one cultivates mindfulness and through
mindfulness you'll be able to hold the object throughout the
whole meditation period. Then through another mental factor
called introspection which is a type of intelligence you analyze
whether or not any subtle factors are affecting the
concentration, any subtle negative mental factors are affecting
the concentration such as the secondary afflictions of excitement
and laxity. We are then through the exercise of the virtuous
mental factor of conscientiousness which is a combination of four
other virtuous mental factors, those being the mental factors of
detachment, non anger, non ignorance and effort. Then one avoids
any kind of action that is not conducive to the spiritual
development and thus applies whatever antidotes are necessary to
eliminate these adverse factors of excitement and laxity, until
one arrives at a place where these negative mental factors don't
occur at all. Then you have to break the habit of utilizing this
mental factor of introspection, because although it was helpful
at the time, it still divides your attention between the object
of concentration and the state of mind you have. For this you
employ the virtuous mental factor known as equanimity, which is a
state of mind that remains in an equal state free from excitement
and laxity, which sounds like a type of contentment, which then
counters this impulse to resort to introspection. Then through
this, one arrives at single pointedness, which is achieved
through the power of familiarity, which is brought about through
the mental factor of mindfulness, of being able to hold the
object without losing it. This single pointedness then gives rise
to the virtuous mental factor known as pliancy, which provides
one with the ability to use the mind in whatever way you want.
Pliancy is said to be the actual antidote to laziness. Although
laziness and effort counteract each other it is pliancy that
eliminates any danger of laziness because then you can use your
mind to do any virtuous activity without any resistance, like for
instance if there was an opportunity to take precepts in the
early morning, a person who generated pliancy, as soon as they
have the thought to take precepts then the mind would just go
there. Without pliancy then when the thought to take precepts
arises it might be followed by the thought to not take precepts.
This mental pliancy can produce a physical pliancy in which the
body also gives no resistance to virtuous activities, in
particular this meditative activity. The body feels extremely
light, like a cotton ball. There's no pain in the knees or the
back or any thing like that. Then due to the physical pliancy
then that gives rise to a physical joy, then that physical joy
gives rise to a mental joy. So those two joys indicate that one
has arrived at the type of concentration that is known as calm
abiding, which is in the category of an actual dhyana which is a
mind of the form realm. Then by means of this state of mind one
can cultivate intelligence with respect to the object reality,
that is then using the mental factor of fine discrimination, and
when that fine discrimination enhances one's concentration
instead of dividing it one achieves penetrative insight or higher
seeing. This is also known as the yoga or union of calm abiding
and penetrative insight. Quite a high achievement. With such an
achievement one enters into what's known as the path of
preparation, and due to the force of familiarity, that
penetrative insight perceiving reality (which at this stage is
still just a conceptual mind) will become a direct experience of
reality, known as the path of seeing. When you achieve the path
of seeing you longer create any more karma and you don't take
rebirth through the force of karma. You're not done yet though.
There's still the path of meditation to go before you reach the
path of no more learning. The path of no more learning is the
state of liberation. It gets it's name because you no longer have
to learn anything more to achieve liberation.
So there was a little presentation of how these different mental
factors are operating. There wasn't enough time to go into all of
them, but you get some idea. The last aggregate, the fifth one is
these six main minds which I mentioned before. Somebody asked at
lunch whether or not there are any more than six. According to
say, the Prasangika school of Buddhist philosophy there are only
six, but within mental consciousness you can divide between gross
forms and subtle forms. In the Cittamatrin school that follows
scripture, you find a presentation of eight consciousnesses.
There is another school whose presentation asserts there is only
one consciousness, and it just looks out through the different
doors of the senses like one person in a house with many windows.
In the presentation of eight consciousnesses, there are the six
that were first mentioned, then a seventh one, known as the
afflicted consciousness and the eighth one known as the
foundation consciousness. So there are these different schools of
thought. The Cittamatrin following reasoning just asserts six
consciousnesses, so even the same school can't agree. The
Cittamatrin school following scripture would refer to such
scriptures of the Buddha as the Lankavatara sutra which mentions
the eight consciousnesses. But the great logician Dharmakirti who
had a special psychic power by means of which he could never be
defeated in debate, (much to the annoyance of many non Buddhists)
could not accept that there were eight consciousnesses. He found
that the afflicted mind was part of mental consciousness, and
that the various functions for which the foundation consciousness
was asserted to be responsible could also be explained by the
mental consciousness.
You might be attending teachings on tantra and you might hear
such expressions as "clear light consciousness". The Prasangika's
would say that this would be an example of a subtle mental
consciousness and also all the conceptual or thought
consciousnesses are mental consciousnesses. Dreams would be a
mental consciousness, although we can sometimes talk about
hearing and seeing in dreams, such hearing and seeing should be
properties of auditory and visual consciousnesses shouldn't they?
The Prasangika's would say dream visual consciousness and dream
auditory consciousness, they just use conventional expressions.
According to them there doesn't have to be any more validity for
a thing than just how it's used conventionally, because they say
that all things are existing merely by name and thought. But
that's all a subject of next month's seminar, so you have to stay
tuned to that next episode. "Aggregates 2." The sequel to
"Aggregates 1"
Any questions?
So let's just sit for a couple of minutes and try to digest the
things that were said.
Please dedicate the effort that we've made on this weekend that
all those beings who have yet to generate the aspiration for
Enlightenment may quickly do so, that those who have already
generated such an aspiration will develop it further and oneself
will quickly become a fully Enlightened being so one can lead
everyone else without exception to that very same state.