Week 21: The Five Aggregates – Material Elements, Perceptions, Feelings

Continuing with the fourth Foundation of Mindfulness, Mindfulness of Dhamma, we move on to the five Aggregates of Clinging. This week, Joseph explains the value of investigating the aggregates, or khandas. The tendency to cling to these aggregates results in our attachment to the concept of self or of being and it is this clinging which is the underlying cause of suffering.

In this talk, Joseph speaks in detail of three of the aggregates, or khandas – namely material elements, feelings and perceptions. He reviews each and shows how lacking recognition of them leads to a constructed sense of self and failure to see that “these concepts are only a designation for an arising appearance of complex interactions”.


1.   Is there something that stood out for you in this talk?

2.     How does contemplation serve to deconstruct our deeply held concepts of self?  Please share some examples of this from your own life.

3.     How has the contemplation of materiality aka rupa deepened awareness of your sensory experience and/or changed a perception that you have had?

4.     Do you have an example of how cultivating awareness of feeling tone or vedana in your practice has served to depersonalize a strong emotion, difficult issue or unpleasant occurrence in your own life?

5.     How has your perceptions imprisoned you?  What, if anything, did you do to restore the balance? 

6.     Can you name a situation when your perception of the solidity of things severely tainted your view of reality? 


1.     Examine the effect of bringing the material into the tangible.  Try doing a 5-10 minute meditative body scan focusing specifically on physical sensations without using concepts such as head, legs, eyes, etc.  What do you notice?

2.     Examine the impermanence of feelings in the context of perception. Try doing a 5-10 minute meditation on the impermanence of feeling tones, of vedana, using mental noting to track not only the rising and passing away of sensation, but also your interpretation of it as pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral.  What do you notice?

3.     Examine the role of imbalance in perception and awareness. While off the cushion, in daily life, when a difficult situation arises, bring attention to your perceptions at this moment and notice the state of balance between your perceptions and your awareness.  What do you notice?

4.     Examine the illusion of solidity.  Choose a relationship issue that is emotionally charged for you.  Contemplate that issue at multiple scales.  Meaning, the big picture of why this is upsetting to you, then how does it feel to/in you to be experiencing this, then how does the other person experience this issue.  What does contemplating this issue from multiple vantage points indicate about the solidity of the ‘issue’?  How does looking at the issue from multiple vantage points change or challenge your perception?