Week 26: The Five Aggregates – Non-Self

This week’s chapter and talk on the five aggregates focus on how the aggregates enable us to understand and utilize our concept of “self”. Joseph initially discusses impermanence and dukkha as understood through knowledge of the aggregates. He goes on to elaborate on the ways in which we identify with our sense of self. He speaks of the “complacency” in our observation of and identification with the body: he points to the seduction of thoughts and feelings. Finally he leads us to the Buddha’s teachings on deconstructing the concept of “self”.

Questions:

1. Who do you take your self to be?

2. When you read, or hear, Joseph talk about non-self, what are your honest emotional reactions?  Confused?  Threatened?  Embracing?  Or any combination?

3. How does viewing yourself as a composite of ever-changing aggregates help you in your practice? 

4. Which of the aggregates do you think you are most attached to?  Least?

5. When you don’t identify with the aggregates as being “you” at any given point in time, what experience is left?  Or what is the experience of this?

Practices:

1. Reflect on which one of the aggregates you are most attached to.  Which one really grabs you repeatedly?  Or which are you the least willing to surrender as not-me?

2. Look in the mirror.  Can you see your reflected image as a composite of aggregates?  What part of your looks, or your body, are you least and most attached to?

3. Can you watch your moods over a series of days, and identify them?   Which are you most attached to?  Least?