A Burden Off the Mind

A Study Guide on the Five Aggregates
Compiled by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Buddha’s awakening gave him a new perspective on the limitations of words. He had discovered a reality—the Deathless—that no words could describe. At the same time, he discoveredthat the path to Awakening could be described, although it involved a new wayof seeing and conceptualizing the problem of suffering and stress. Because ordinary concepts were often poor tools for teaching the path, he had to invent new concepts and to stretch pre-existing words to encompass those concepts so that others could taste Awakening themselves. One of the new concepts most central to his teaching was that of the khandhas, usually translated into English as “aggregates.” Throughout the remainder of his teaching career, he referred to khandhas time and again. How should a meditator make use of the concept of the khandhas?