Zen Wisdom 204

The first skandha is form, and it refers to the material realm: our body and the environment. Thus it encompasses both physiological and physical aspects. The five sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body) and the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves) make up the physiological aspect of form. Everything in the environment, as well as the symbols we use to understand the environment, make up the physical aspect of form.

Now I would like to skip to the fifth skandha, or consciousness. It is important not to confuse the consciousness described by the fifth skandha with the eight consciousnesses of the Mind Only, or Yogacara school. This school developed long after the Buddha expounded Buddhadharma, and it expands upon the ideas underlying the five skandhas.

The first five consciousnesses of the Yogacara school arise from the five sense organs: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. The sixth consciousness refers to the discriminating mind. These six consciousnesses roughly correspond to the middle three skandhas: sensation, perception and volition. Whereas form falls within the physical realm, sensation, perception and volition fall within the mental realm. Likewise, the first six consciousnesses of Yogacara fall within the mental realm.

Sensation, perception, and volition are mental activities. Fitting them into the framework of Yogacara, one can say that they are the result of the five senses coming into contact with the environment.

The fifth skandha, consciousness, refers to much more than the discriminating mind. It includes the other four skandhas, which encompass both the material and mental realms. The fifth skandha thus also includes both material and mental aspects. Seen this way, the fifth skandha is also simultaneously the cause and the consequence.


What do you mean by the fifth skandha being simultaneously the cause and the consequence?