Mindfulness of the five aggregates

This my experience of the five aggregates, as they arise sequentially with time:

It is not with intentional movement of mindfulness but rather with ‘choiceless awareness’:

with metta


Interesting diagram. Some questions:

I’m still not clear what “signal strength” represents here - could you elaborate? What exactly is increasing here?

When you say “choiceless awareness”, do you mean noticing whatever catches your attention at any one time? Could you give a practical example to illustrate this? Something like walking down a street, first hearing a car horn, and then seeing an old friend?

Why have you chosen to show vinnana, vedana and sanna occurring over an extended time of 2-3 seconds? Don’t these occur pretty much instantaneously with contact, say within 0.25 seconds?
Check out “reaction time”, which is roughly comparable to the initial vinnana/sanna/vedana experience we’re discussing here. Also bear in mind that in the suttas these three are described as “conjoined”, and inseperable.

For example, I think your recognition of a nearby car horn would be pretty much instantantaneous if you were about to cross a road. At least I hope so!


This is sense restraint since it involves seeing and hearing, and sense restraint constitutes the first endeavour of right effort, the effort to avoid. The practitioner will initially enjoy this brief experience of mental detachment, but later they will want to experience more of it, and will implement the second tactic of right effort, the effort to overcome the hindrances.

I take it that your time measurements are notional only - ?

By ‘signal strength’, I meant that at the start of the experience it is felt less well, and is actually subconscious, until mindfulness is developed to see more, earlier and earlier into the process. Normally we only notice at the sankhara level, and with mindfulness if there’s no further discursive thought, vedana and sanna level, and purely bare awareness is at phassa.

I would say the above example is too gross as there would too much of a gap in time. As an example I would say if you in sitting meditation, focused on experiencing whatever arises and you feel your cushion, then followed by hearing a sound. The choicelessness is in not picking a stimuli, but just letting the stimuli arise on their own.

The first portion happens very quickly. As you know we can be thinking about something over a few seconds, and intention arises between pretty quickly. @Gillian I was testing this with a stopwatch, and got these approximate averages, but they clocked the same time, each time. They are averages, but pretty consistent. Www.yourdictionary.com gives an example for reaction time of a bug stinging and your reaction time being around 1 (s). It would be consistent of the short duration. I think strong initial stimuli may speed up the process as our survival may depend upon it.

Yes! It would create and intention an bodiliy actions, quite quickly!

This process of mindfulness does being with sense restraint, as prolonged mindfulness suppresses the formation of sankhara. And it can retard the arising of phenomena along this chain until it sees earlier and earlier events. So initially you might see something, but with thoughts involved in the seeing. Later mindfulness quietens the mind so no thoughts arise but there is bare experiencing, and also remember this is an active process. After figuring out the various aggregates, one starts to notice how fleeting they are. I would say it is Vipassana.

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Rather interesting.

“choiceless awareness”,
?? being aware of whatever presents itself without choosing any preference. I think Krishnamurti was the first to use, or at least poplarise this phrase.

Thanissaro devotes a ten page chapter to debunking this fabrication of modern teachers called, "The Burden of Bare Attention (“Right Mindfulness”).

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Well it within my experience, so you can’t just say it doesn’t exist! What did Thanissaro bhikkhu comment on Bare Attention? Samadhi has fewer discursive thoughts, that is sankhara arise less, so this is a kind of samadhi.

I experimented a bit with how one goes from the level of experiencing the aggregates to the conventional boy, table, tree ‘reality’, and it just seems that samadhi slows down the process, and removes the fog of thought we see the world through so that we can see things as they really are.

So it’s interesting to observe the “initial experience” of vinnana/sanna/vedana, but then what? It’s not like we can substantially alter the way this happens. Doesn’t the important stuff happen after this initial experience? Aren’t we practising to alter the resulting sankharas, including reactions of craving and aversion?

If someone continues to keep observing these factors arising then it becomes clear that the mind is adding thing to our experience of ‘reality’, and that it is not the ‘bare’ truth. The most original experience of reality is earlier on in the process.

This underlines the insubstantiality of experiencing. To say that ‘things exist’ or ‘things don’t exist’ would be incorrect! As mentioned in the kaccayanagotta sutta SN12.15. Also in the Phena sutta, the mirage like nature of phenomena is mentioned. The desirability to cling to these aggregates become greatly reduced as they are seen to be insubstantial, fleeting and no self is found involved in this process of Creation.

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This sutta: SuttaCentral is important.

Yes, and the message seems straightforward - develop insight into impermanence in order to reduce clinging. Here the focus is on the trancience of vedana, which makes sense given that in DO it’s the condition for tanha.

I think its more than just seeing impermanence:

It occurred to the Venerable Channa: “I too think in this way: ‘Form is impermanent … consciousness is impermanent. Form is nonself … consciousness is nonself. All formations are impermanent; all phenomena are nonself.’ But my mind does not launch out upon the stilling of all formations, the relinquishing of all acquisitions, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, Nibbāna; nor does it acquire confidence, settle down, and resolve on it. Instead, agitation and clinging arise and the mind turns back, thinking: ‘But who is my self?’ …“Even by this much am I pleased with the Venerable Channa. Perhaps the Venerable Channa has opened himself up and broken through his barrenness. Lend your ear, friend Channa, you are capable of understanding the Dhamma.”…“In the presence of the Blessed One I have heard this, friend Channa, in his presence I have received the exhortation he spoke to the bhikkhu Kaccanagotta: “This world, Kaccana, for the most part relies upon a duality … (the entire sutta SN12:15 is cited here).

Its about how each phenomena is causally arisen and therefore has no self extant substance to speak of and therefore like a mirage -this helps to go deeper.