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Questions on the five Skandhas

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five Skandhas;

I find that the five Skandhas can be very confusing at times, as the Western idea of mind and perception is very different to the Buddhist idea of mind and perception. On top of that, many explanations of the five Skandhas online seem vague and sometimes seem to be interpreted differently, depending on where you go.



==The first Skandha: Form==


Does this refer to physical form? Can we only know form through the sense organs?



==The second Skandha: Sensation==



Are these just sensations from the sense organs?

One description online describes sensation as follows:

    ... it is the sensation experienced through the contact of eye with visible form, ear with sound, nose with odor, tongue with taste, body with tangible things, mind (manas) with ideas or thoughts.

If this is the case, does emotion fall under sensation?



==The third Skandha: Perception==



A description I found:

    Samjna is the faculty that recognizes. Most of what we call thinking fits into the aggregate of samjna.

    The word "samjna" means "knowledge that puts together." It is the capacity to conceptualize and recognize things by associating them with other things. For example, we recognize shoes as shoes because we associate them with our previous experience with shoes.

My understanding is that the faculty to recognize is consciousness. However, consciousness is said to be a different Skandha. My understanding is that consciousness is that which perceives the world around it. More broadly, how is perception and consciousness different?



==The fourth Skandha: Mental Formation==


A description I found:

    This aggregate includes all mental factors except feeling and perception, which are two of the possible fifty-two mental factors noted in Buddhism.

I'm assuming this is where emotions exist? Is happiness an emotion? Is loving-kindness an emotion? If not, were do they exist, in terms of the Skandhas?



==The fifth Skandha: Consciousness==



A description I found:

    Vijnana is a reaction that has one of the six faculties as its basis and one of the six corresponding phenomena as its object. For example, aural consciousness -- hearing -- has the ear as its basis and a sound as its object. Mental consciousness has the mind (manas) as its basis and an idea or thought as its object.

If this is the case, then is consciousness that which observes sensations, mental formations, perception and form, or that which experiences sensation, perception, mental formations and form?

Can the experience of sensation exist if we are not conscious of it? Are animals conscious? Maybe a more important question is: what is the difference between consciousness and self-awareness, in the Buddhist context?

Source

http://buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/9983/questions-on-the-five-skandhas