Key Buddhist Teachings
The Buddhist author Walpola Rahula says of Nirvana, “The only reasonable reply is that it can never be answered completely and satisfactorily in words, because human language is too poor to express the real nature of the Absolute Truth or Ultimate Reality which is Nirvana.
The Twelve Links represent one complete cycle of life
Ignorance of the true nature of reality. The mind dissolving into its own fundamental state of unconsciousness.
Mental Formations. The gradual stirring of mental activity caused by karmic energy. This activity begins the active phase of the pre-rebirth process.
Consciousness. The ability of the mind to recognize something other than itself as an object. A sense of self arises, and phenomena are perceived as being separate from this self (self-and-other).
Name and Form. The manifestation of the rising sense of self. “Some-thing” is perceived by "some-one."
The Realm of the Six Senses. This consists of the six senses (Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking) as well as the objects of those senses.
Phenomena. Contact with the phenomenal world; the contact between sensory subjects and sensory objects, a sort of “tactile” sensation.
Feeling or Sensation. Value judgment of the actual experience of contact (rough or smooth, hot or cold, etc.).
Desire or Craving. A tremendous yearning for experience.
Grasping or Clinging. A powerfully driven blind will to achieve physical rebirth, to manifest into some form that can have experiences.
The Process of Becoming. The culmination of the will to exist. Abandonment of the endless nature of mind in order to give rise to the birth process.
Rebirth. The physical process of birth.
Suffering, Aging, illness and Death. The consequences of rebirth into Samsara, the conditioned realm in which we exist.
The Buddha, beginning with the reality of Samsaric existence, traced the rebirth process back to fundamental ignorance. Suffering is dependent on Rebirth, Rebirth is dependent on the Process of Becoming, etc.
The Five Aggregates
These are the five causally conditioned elements of existence which produce the deluded sense of a separate self which exists apart from all other phenomena. They are also thought of as the elements which comprise a "personality," a so-called "permanent self."
The Aggregates are:
Form. A “something-or-other” that is perceived by the senses.
Feeling. A sensation of form which may be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.
Perception or Discrimination. Our identification of this “whatever-it-is” as being some kind of “thing” that isn’t some other “thing.”
Mental Formations. 52 separate impulses which include emotions, mental states or intentions which come before an action. These things are usually manifested through bodily actions, speech or thought.
Consciousness. Awareness of both an experience and something which is experienced. In effect, the Five Aggregates are the process of our samsaric life.