[This week I am reprinting a short article I wrote on the basics of Buddhism. It was quick, short and blunt; without (at least I tried) a large amount of language that would be unfamiliar to readers with no experience in the Dharma. Enjoy and feel free to comment]
“Form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form, form is itself emptiness, emptiness itself form; sensations, perceptions, formations and consciousness are also like this.”— Heart Sutra
Egolessness can come as quite a shock to those starting on the path. The ego, as defined by the Buddha, is a bundle of temporary combinations of mental events grouped into five categories, called skandhas. This differs greatly from most Hindu or Christian concepts where there is a constant “anchor” of an immortal soul that weathers the storm of impermanence like a rock. Meanwhile, from a Buddhist standpoint we are the storm. We constantly changing and altering. What we constitute as “I” is really just bundles of forms that take shape like clouds in a windy sky.
The five Skandhas are 1) Form—The eyes, ears, tongue body and mind 2) Sensations—The raw data that is derived from sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and thought, 3) Perception—The classification of those sensations, 4) Mental Formations—Actions linked to thought such as greed, anger and ignorance or wisdom, compassion and enlightenment, lastly 5) Consciousness—Our awareness of the previous four skandhas.
Bottom line is that viewing the world through these skandhas leads to suffering and pain. The reality defined by these bundles of perceptions is false and transient. These bundles of forces are like a the spinning ferocity of a hurricane. There is no static point anywhere. Even the “eye” of the storm, the moment of quiescence, is in a constant state of change. The point of contact of all those swirling chaotic forces has no structure of its own. Others call it a permanate soul; I call it the still of storm and it ain’t forever but it may be just for this moment.