Introduction: Intermezzo – Five skandha’s

The two main characters are preparing their report on the first three stages on their Odyssey. The report in Dutch is almost ready, a first draft of the report in English is available.

The main characters are looking for a publisher for the first part of the report.

In the meantime, your narrator continues his introduction to the five skandhas in the Mahâyâna [1]  Buddhism.

According to Buddhism, the five skandhas include everything we need for our spiritual development [2]. The five skandhas are various ways of self-reflection of experiences of our self; they relate to you, me and everything around us.

The five skandhas may be divided into three main groups:

  • a physical manner of self-reflection by form or matter (rūpa in Sanskrit);
  • three emotional ways of self-reflection and
  • (self) consciousness.

Now I will give a brief description of these five skandhas [3]:

  1. Form or matter (Sanskrit – rūpa):
    external and internal matter. Externally, rūpa is the physical world. Internally, rūpa includes our physical and physiological body and senses.
  2. Sensation or feelings (Sanskrit – vedanā):
    experience of an object – for example – pleasant, unpleasant or neutral
  3. Perception, recognition or distinction (Sanskrit – samjñā):
    perception or recognition of an object (e.g. the sound of a bell or the shape of a tree).
  4. Mental impressions, impulses, imprints (Sanskit – samskāra):
    all mental manners, thoughts, imprints, ideas, opinions, prejudices and decisions that are activated by an object.
  5. Consciousness (Sanskrit – vijñāna): in Mahâyâna Buddhism, the skandha “consciousness” is the base that support all experiences.

The skandhas do not exist separately. The Skandhas arise, take shape and disappear in mutual relationship and interdependency [4].


After this introduction to the five skandhas, the question arises why our protagonists do not visit these skandhas as stages on their Odyssey.

The following post will give a first answer to this question.

[1] Mahâyâna means “big vessel”. All and everyone is included in this vessel, no particle of dust is excluded.

[2] Source: Red Pine (Bill Porter), The Heart Sutra. Washington D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004 p. 56

[3] Source:

[4] Source: Dasgupta, Surendranath, A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. I. London: Cambridge University Press, 1957, p. 94

[5] Source image:


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