Week 25: The Five Aggregates – Formation and Consciousness Part 2

Last week, we confined our discussion to Volition which Joseph stated was of “fundamental importance” in the fourth aggregate of mental formations.
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. If consciousness reflects what comes in front of it, in a mirror-like way,  yet is conditioned...in what way is it conditioned? Or, what is a "mind-moment"?

2. How can we know "selflessness"--that there is no one there that this is happening to?  Have you any experience of this? Suggested practices for this are included below.

3. Have you begun, as Joseph Goldstein says, to explore the conditioned, contingent nature of consciousness by using the passive voice?  What do you notice when the "I" is out of the moment? Or, has that happened yet?

4. What of the paired progression of material elements and consciousness, or physical and mental processes? Did the metaphor of the corpse give you any understanding of such "interplay"?

5. The quote "as soon as something is important it becomes a nest" is passed along by Joseph this week. What is the feeling tone of that for you?


1. When we are walking we can try framing it this way: sensations are appearing and being known.  Joseph Goldstein says this is simple, not esoteric, and can take the "I" out of it. Notice each moment arising simultaneously with sensation.

2. Last week it was suggested on Skype that we try the refrain "there is a body" e.g. to the extent necessary for clear knowing, or  bare knowing.  Perhaps select a part of your daily schedule when this would be easier to experiment with, such as getting dressed in the morning.

3. Also last week on Skype another linguistic example was given for a direct, immediate  practice of selflessness: "sound being known." Try noting sounds this way during a walk, emphasizing listening more than looking around