The Miracle of Mindfulness
Thich Nhat Hanh

One is all, All is One: The Five Aggregates

   Let me devote a few lines here to talk about the methods you might use in order to arrive at liberation from narrow views, and to obtain fearlessness and great compassion. These are the contemplations on interdependence, impermanency, and compassion.

   While you sit in meditation, after having taken hold of your mind, you can direct your concentration to contemplate on the interdependent nature of certain objects. This meditation is not a discursive reflection on aphilosophy of interdependence. It is a penetration of mind into mind itself, using one's concentrative power to reveal the real nature of the object being contemplated.

    Recall a simple and ancient truth: the subject of knowledge cannot exist independently from the object of knowledge. To see is to see something. To hear is to hear something. To be angry is to be angry over something. Hope is hope for something. Thinking is thinking about something. When the object of knowledge (the something) is not present, there can be no subject of knowledge. The practitioner meditates on mind and, by so doing, is able to see the interdependence of the subject of knowledge and the object of knowledge. When we practice mindfulness of breath, then the knowledge of breath is mind. When we practice mindfulness of the body, then the knowledge of body is mind. When we practice mindfulness of objects outside ourselves, then the knowledge of these objects is also mind. Therefore the contemplation of the nature of interdependence of all objects is also the contemplation of the mind.

   Every object of the mind is itself mind. In Buddhism, we call the objects of mind the dharmas. Dharmas are usually grouped into five categories:

  1. bodily and physical forms
  2. feelings
  3. perceptions
  4. mental functionings
  5. consciousness
  6. These five categories are called the five aggregates.

The fifth category, consciousness, however, contains all the other categories and is the basis of their existence.

    Contemplation on interdependence is a deep looking into all dharmas in order to pierce through to their real nature, in order to see them as part of the great body of reality and in order to see that the great body of reality is indivisible. It cannot be cut into pieces with separate existences of their own.

    The first object of contemplation is our own person, the assembly of the five aggregates in ourselves. You contemplate right here and now on the five aggregates which make up yourself. You are conscious of the presence of bodily form, feeling, perception, mental functionings, and consciousness. You observe these "objects" until you see that each of them has intimate connection with the world outside yourself: if the world did not exist then the assembly of the five aggregates could not exist either.

    Consider the example of a table. The table's existence is possible due to the existence of things which we might call "the non-tableworld": the forest where the wood grew and was cut, the carpenter, the iron ore which became the nails and screws, and countless other things which have relation to the table, the parents and ancestors of the carpenter, the sun and rain which made it possible for the trees to grow.

   If you grasp the table's reality then you see that in the table itself are present all those things whch we normally think of as the non tableworld. If you took away any of those non table elements and returned them to their sources- the nails back to the iron ore, the woodt o the forest, the carpenter to his parents – the table would no longer exist.

    A person who looks at the table and can see the universe is a person who can see the way. You meditate on the assembly of the five aggregates in yourself in the same manner. You meditate on them until you are able to see the presence of the reality of one-ness in your ownself, and can see that your own life and the life of the universe are one. If the five aggregates return to their sources, the self no longer exists. Each second, the world nourishes the five aggregates. The self is no different from the assembly of the five aggregates themselves. The assembly of the five aggregates plays, as well, a crucial role in the formation, creation, and destruction of aIl things in the universe.

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Do not lose yourself in the past; do not lose yourself in the future; do not get caught in your anger, worries, or fears. Come back to the present moment, and touch life deeply. This is mindfulness.
- Thich Nhat Hanh