Week 23: The Five Aggregates – Formation and Consciousness

Continuing his teachings on the fourth aggregate of mental factors, Joseph points to volition as a factor of fundamental importance, one that coordinates all the other factors to accomplish a purpose. He cautions that in seeing volition clearly, we can also identify with it.

Joseph now moves on to the fifth aggregate, consciousness, that which simply knows. He emphasizes the conditioned nature of consciousness and instructs us in approaches to investigating consciousness. He points us to the ability to distinguish mind and materiality, even though inseparable. This insight is “the first deep, experiential understanding of anatta, or selflessness”.


1. Buddha highlighted Volition as chief of all 52 mental formations that color consciousness, for gathering the other states.  How is the energy of this intention "like a small seed"?

2. The importance of "Karmic Force" of action is mentioned as being carried through Volition. What is your understanding of this action and the energy of it?

3. When we have intention to act, what part of our intention determines the fruit of the act?

4. Another reason for understanding the important factor of Volition is because we identify unknowingly, described as a "subtle hideout of self".  How does this occur, or how do we know it's occurring?


1. Try seeing the "common, crucial factor" of Volition in the way Joseph Goldstein describes:

2. "Observe gathering the mind before acting, in an about-to moment; in slow body movement, continue to explore...

3. "In stillness, try observing the intention to move arising, though action may not be initiated until one impulse starts the movement...

4. "Is a decision of mind noticed? Is some energetic factor willing the body to action? This isn't thinking about it; it's investigating, exploring”, and we're urged to play with this.