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Skandha ( Sanskrit : pañca upādānaskandhāḥ , Pāli: khandha , German: accumulation ) is a Buddhist term . The five skandhas are in detail the sensations of the material body with its sense organs, the feelings, the perception, the mental formations and finally the consciousness. The skandhas are also called groups of attachment , aggregates, existence or appropriation groups, or aggregations.

Already in one of his first discourses, in the "Discourse on the characteristics of the non-soul" ( SN 22.59 ), the Buddha stated that no part of a person has the characteristics of a solid soul . The doctrine of the skandhas or five factors of existence is a second cornerstone of Buddhism alongside the doctrine of suffering . It serves to understand the path of salvation and is based on simple experiences and observations. Buddha here opposes the anthropological dualism (understanding of body and soul).

The individual skandhas

The human personality can be fully defined by the following five factors of existence:

Physicality group (skt./p. Rūpa )

The material body, including the six sense organs of Buddhist philosophy: eye, ear, nose, tongue, sense of touch and organ of thought. It consists of the four basic elements (solid, liquid, warmth and movement) and also of the physicalities that are dependent on the four basic elements ( upadaya-rupa ). This group includes the entire inner and outer area of ​​matter in addition to the physical existence group.

Feeling group (skt./p. Vedanā )

All of our three sensations, pleasant, unpleasant and neutral, which we experience through contact of the physical and mental organs with the external world, belong to the second group of existence. They are the first, more passive and instinctive response. They arise in six ways by touching the eye with the visible forms, the ear with the tones, the nose with the smell, the tongue with the taste, the body with the organs of touch, the mind with the mind objects or thoughts or ideas (according to Buddhist philosophy the sixth contact organ). All of our physical and mental sensations are included in this group.

Perception group (skt. Samjñā , p. Saññā )

Perceptions and identifications of external objects in the mind of the beholder, which humans perceive and distinguish as colors, sounds, smells and images. They are more complex and active than the sensations. Like feelings, they are created by the contact of our six senses with the external world. It is perception that recognizes things, becomes aware of them, regardless of whether they are physical or mental.

Mind formation group ( skt.samskāra , p. Samkara also: sankhāra )

All wholesome and unwholesome (good and bad) volitional activities are included here. Interests, impulses of will, longings and intentions. The person reacts and interprets the perceptions. This fourth group is of outstanding importance for future existence, because it is here that ideas, desires and longings arise that influence action and, when they are fulfilled, new karma is accumulated.

Buddha defines karma as wanting (cetana): “Willing, monks, I call it karma.” After one has willed, one acts through body, speech and mind. To want is spiritual building, spiritual activity. Its job is to guide the mind into areas of good, neutral, and bad action.

As with the feeling group and the perception group, there are six types of “willing” that are associated with the six inner faculties and the corresponding six objects (physical & mental) in the outer world. Feelings and perceptions are not volitional and have no karma consequences. Only volitional activities such as attention, determination, trust, concentration or concentration, wisdom, energy, desire, reluctance or hatred, ignorance, conceit, belief in personality etc. can have karmic effects.

Consciousness group ( skt.vijñāna , p. Viññāna )

Consciousness arises from becoming aware of the samskaras. It is the sum of the first four factors of existence. A “self” arises in which the outside world is not grasped, but which allows the outside world to arise within itself (“projected”). Consciousness is a reaction or response that uses one of the six faculties (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind) as the basis and one of the corresponding external appearances (visible form, sound, smell, taste, tactile objects and mind objects i.e. an idea or a thought) about the object. Visual awareness is based on the eye and a visible form as an object. Thought consciousness is based on the mind and is a mind object, i. H. an idea or a thought, as an object. Consciousness is therefore linked to other skills. As with feeling, perception and volition, there are also six types of consciousness, corresponding to the six inner abilities and the six outer objects.


The concept of mental formation is extremely complex and includes: acts of will and impulses, acts and modes of perception, feelings and sensations, behaviors and attitudes as well as points of view (attitudes, self-images).

These five factors change and are largely uncontrollable for the untrained, quickly transient and interdependent, so that people are also subject to their changes. It is a constantly changing process and not a permanent substance . Thus, the human being has no immortal soul and no personality that determines his actions and thoughts, so no "I". Buddha was absolutely convinced of human impermanence. Only the karma accumulated in the previous life is reborn . After the rebirth, the five factors of existence change completely again due to a different environment.

This teaching is closely related to the teaching of suffering (" dukkha "). Only when the "I" is recognized as free of permanent substance (" Anatta ") can one lose the ego addiction and find liberation from life and thus from suffering. It is “only” important to lose the egoism that leads to greed, hatred and delusion, which through karma would block the way to nirvana .


If one examines these components of which we are composed according to the teachings of the Buddha, we can see that there is no "I" or a fixed self to be found in them. Often the parable of a cart is used here, which is only a certain combination of individual parts, "Wagen" is just a name, if you go into its depth (its individual parts), it is no longer available. Special contemplations and meditations with the five skandhas promote this knowledge. Usually, however, we see ourselves as a solid entity, which the Buddha identified as the main obstacle on the way to enlightenment. The cause of all suffering can be recognized in this illusory assumption of a solid “I”.


  • Thich Nhat Hanh: The heart of Buddha's teaching . Herder, Freiburg 1999, ISBN 3-451-05412-4 , pp. 181f
  • W. Trutwin: Buddhism . Düsseldorf 1998, ISBN 3-491-75635-9
  • W. Trutwin: Sign of Hope . 3. Edition. Patmos Verlag, 2003, ISBN 3-491-75723-1
  • M. Hutter: The Eternal Wheel: Religion and Culture of Buddhism . Verlag Styria, Graz, Vienna, Cologne 2001, ISBN 3-222-12862-6

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