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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

In explaining why the four elements are called mahabhutas


The Khandhas.

The word khandha (Skr. skandha) means the trunk of a tree and is generally used to mean group or aggregate [Footnote ref 3]. We have seen that Buddha said that there was no atman (soul). He said that when people held that they found the much spoken of soul, they really only found the five khandhas together or any one of them. The khandhas are aggregates of bodily and psychical states which are immediate with us and are divided into five

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[Footnote 1: See _Pa@tisambhidamagga_, vol. I.p. 50; see also _Majjhima Nikaya_, I. 67, _sa@nkhara...avijjanidana avijjasamudaya avijjajatika avijjapabhava_.]

[Footnote 2: In the Yoga derivation of asmita (egoism), raga (attachment), dve@sa (antipathy) and abhinives'a (self love) from avidya we find also that all the five are regarded as the five special stages of the growth of avidya (_pancaparvi avidya_).]

[Footnote 3: The word skandha is used in Chandogya, II. 23 (_trayo dharmaskandha@h yajna@h adhyayanam danam_) in the sense of branches and in almost the same sense in Maitri, VII. II.]

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classes: (1) rupa (four elements, the body, the senses), sense data, etc., (2) vedana (feeling--pleasurable, painful and indifferent), (3)

sanna (conceptual knowledge), (4) sa@nkhara (synthetic mental states and the synthetic functioning of compound sense-affections, compound feelings and compound concepts), (5) vinnana (consciousness) [Footnote ref 1].

All these states rise depending one upon the other (_pa@ticcasamuppanna_) and when a man says that he perceives the self he only deludes himself, for he only perceives one or more of these. The word rupa in rupakhandha stands for matter and material qualities, the senses, and the sense data [Footnote ref 2]. But "rupa" is also used in the sense of pure organic affections or states of mind as we find in the _Khandha Yamaka_, I.p. 16, and also in _Sa@myutta Nikaya_, III. 86. Rupaskandha according to _Dharmasa@mgraha_ means the aggregate of five senses, the five sensations, and the implicatory communications associated in sense perceptions _vijnapti_).

The elaborate discussion of _Dhammasa@nga@ni_ begins by defining rupa as "_cattaro ca mahabhuta catunnanca mahabhntanam upadaya rupam_" (the four mahabhutas or elements and that proceeding from the grasping of that is called rupa) [Footnote ref 3]. Buddhagho@sa explains it by saying that rupa means the four mahabhutas and those which arise depending (_nissaya_) on them as a modification of them. In the rupa the six senses including their affections are also included. In explaining why the four elements are called mahabhutas, Buddhagho@sa says: "Just as a magician (_mayakara_) makes the water which is not hard appear as hard, makes the stone which is not gold appear as gold; just as he himself though not a ghost nor a bird makes himself appear as a ghost or a bird, so these elements though not themselves blue make themselves appear as blue (_nilam upada rupam_), not yellow, red, or white make themselves appear as yellow, red or white (odatam upadarupam), so on account of their similarity to the appearances created by the magician they are called mahabhuta [Footnote ref 4]."


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