Pañcupādānakkhandha – Attachment to One’s Experiences

May 1, 2022; revised November 26, 2022

Even though pañcakkhandha includes many categories — including one’s all past experiences — we only attach to pañcakkhandha arising at the present moment, i.e., pañcupādānakkhandha.

We Attach to Pañcakkhandha That Arise at the Present Moment

1. Attachment to pañcakkhandha DOES NOT mean attachment to ALL OF accumulated pañcakkhandha.

  • It just means attachment to the five aggregates that arise AT THAT MOMENT. That is a CRITICAL point to understand.
  • We discussed that at the start of this series in “Idappaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda – Bhava and Jāti Within a Lifetime.
    Idappaccayā” comes from “ida” + “paccayā,” meaning “based on the conditions at this moment.”
  • Let us discuss that carefully and systematically since it is a CRITICAL issue. Many say, “attachment to khandhas” with the idea of “attachment to ALL khandhas that define me.”
  • We attach to “khandhas” that arise at the PRESENT MOMENT. There must be a “trigger” to be attached. Suppose you see, hear, taste, smell, touch, or think about something that you like/dislike or are unsure of. You may attach (taṇhā) or “get stuck with it” via greed/anger/uncertainty.
  • Take a minute to contemplate that.
Arising of Pañcakkhandha Triggered by an Ārammaṇa

2. The trigger to “get attached to something” is an ārammaṇa. Let us think about what “triggers” an alcoholic (or even a casual drinker) to “have a drink.”

  • A common trigger is if someone offers a drink. Even a casual drinker may accept the offer.
  • For an alcoholic, the idea of “having a drink” may come to mind as a kamma vipāka. They would have built up an “expectation” (kamma viññāṇa) to “have a drink at a certain time.”
  • Regardless of how the idea of “having a drink” comes to the mind, that is accompanied by a “visual of a drink” (added to rupakkhandha), and the relevant mental aspects (vedanā, saññā, saṅkhāra, viññāṇa) associated with previous experiences of “having a drink” come to the mind. The latter “mental parts” are added to the vedanākkhandha, saññākkhandha, saṅkhārakkhandha, and viññāṇakkhandha. That is how the pañcakkhandha is added with an ārammaṇa, as we discussed in recent posts in detail.
How Do Pancakkhandha Become Pañcupādānakkhandha?

3. Now, an alcoholic will become “joyful,” and he will proceed to either accept the offer or make a drink for himself, depending on the two situations above. In other words, now pañcakkhandha has AUTOMATICALLY become pañcupādānakkhandha!

  • But if the person doe not like to drink alcohol, such a “joyful mindset” will not take place in him EVEN IF a drink is offered.
  • Thus, for such an individual, pañcakkhandha would arise when someone offered a drink, i.e., rupa, vedanā. saññā, saṅkhāra, viññāṇa ABOUT an alcoholic beverage will come to their mind. However, because he does not have gati to crave “alcoholic drinks,”  it WILL NOT become pañcupādānakkhandha!
  • That is the difference between pañcakkhandha and pañcupādānakkhandha!
  • Just reading these words will not be enough to make progress. One must think through these concepts.
Samphassa-jā-Vedanā Arise Due to Gati

4. To put it another way, the alcoholic will automatically generate pañcupādānakkhandha, which will have “samphassa-jā-vedanā” in his vedanākkhandha.

  • On the other hand, the other person (who does not like alcohol) WILL NOT have “samphassa-jā-vedanā” in his vedanākkhandha.
  • It is critical to understand what is meant by “samphassa-jā-vedanā.” See “Search Results for: samphassa vedanā.”

5. It is mainly the vedanā (that arises with pañcakkhandha) leading to the attachment. If it is sukha vedanā, one attaches with greed, and a dukkha vedanā leads to attachment with anger. A neutral vedanā could also lead to attachment via ignorance (one does not understand the proper response to an ārammaṇa.)

  • Following are examples. Eating tasty food gets one attached to it; they will try to figure out how to taste it again. Seeing an enemy succeeding in life, some people will try to get involved and put obstacles in their way. Seeing shadowy figures at night may cause anxiety.
  • Let us analyze the example in the post, “Aggregate of Forms – Collection of ‘Mental Impressions’ of Forms,” to get more clarity.
Example With Many Ārammaṇa

6. Sometimes, many ārammaṇa run through our minds within minutes. In such cases, only one may lead to pañcupādānakkhandha even though all of them contribute to pañcakkhandha.

  • We started in that post (in #3) with the following example. Suppose you are having a meal with a friend. We analyzed how many citta vithi run through your mind within a few minutes due to different ārammaṇa. To keep the discussion simple, let us bypass the citta vithi analysis.
  • Your friend is talking, and you are listening. That is an ārammaṇa coming through sotadvāra or the ears. You see him too, and that ārammaṇa comes through cakkhudvāra (eyes). You taste the food (with jivhādvāra or tongue).
  • The point relevant to the present discussion is that you see your friend’s face and have a specific “mindset” associated with that rupa. That mindset depends on both him and what he is talking about. We cannot break those mental aspects into two separate parts, one for just seeing his face and another for what he is talking about.

7. For example, suppose he started by saying that he had not seen you for several days and how glad he was to see you. The feelings that arise in you would be loving/sympathetic. Then he switched the subject to talk about a common enemy of the two of you, and the mental aspects that arise at that moment are more likely to be those of anger toward that other person.

  • Thus, within a few minutes, your mental aggregates will change.
  • Now you are eating your food at the same time. If the food tastes good, there will be “good feelings” about the food.
  • In a situation like that, what type of mental aspects become DOMINANT will depend on the RELATIVE STRENGTHS of the three ārammaṇa in that example.
We Attach Only to Certain Parts of Pañcakkhandha Arising at the Present Moment

8. If you become agitated about the “common enemy” the friend is talking about, that will primarily affect your mindset. You may even forget that you are eating. You may even stop eating and start talking about a bad incident with that person.

  • Therefore, three types of mental aspects may arise within minutes. All those are part of pañcakkhandha that occur within those few minutes.
  • However, you focused on that “common enemy” in this case. That became “pañcupādānakkhandha” at that time. Your mind did not “attach/focus” on your friend or the meal. It got “trapped/stuck” on only one ārammaṇa about the common enemy.
  • That is a straightforward example of how pañcakkhandha arises and how a part of that pañcakkhandha can turn into pañcupādānakkhandha.
Attaching to Part of Pañcakkhandha Based on Gati

9. When an ārammaṇa comes to mind, that leads to accumulating the five aggregates (pañcakkhandha.)

  • Even though pañcakkhandha includes ALL of one’s experiences in the past, we attach ONLY to pañcakkhandha that arise at that moment.
  • However, whether one attaches to pañcakkhandha arising is influenced by one’s past experiences (a past component of pañcakkhandha) via one’s gati.
  • The situation would have been different if you did not have the gati to become upset about the person your friend was talking about. You may try calming the friend down instead of encouraging him to criticize that person.
Gati Form Over Long Times Due to One’s Cumulative Experiences

10. It is necessary to get a good idea about the role of one’s gati. The Pali word “gati” (pronounced “gathi”) can loosely one’s character, which also defines one’s habits.

One Attaches Automatically According to One’s Gati

11. Whether one gets attached to a given ārammaṇa (sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, thought) depends on TWO things. One is the ārammaṇa itself, and the second is that person’s “gati” (character/habits.)

  • Each person has a unique set of ārammaṇa that lead to attachment. No two people will attach to the same types of ārammaṇa.
  • Furthermore, as one’s gati change, that set will also change. Also, the ārammaṇa itself can change too. For example, X may dislike Y because of a particular characteristic, but if Y gives up that, X may start liking Y.
  • Thus, what matters is one’s gati at the present moment when one is experiencing a certain ārammaṇa. That is the critical principle in Idappaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda.
Kamma Viññāṇa Form When We Attach

12. Upon getting attached to an ārammaṇa, we make expectations. Those are kamma viññāṇa.

  • Suppose a friend tells you he tasted a nice meal at a restaurant. You are impressed by his description and decide to taste that meal. That expectation of enjoying that meal is a jivhā viññāṇa.
  • The conversation you had with the friend is a part of pañcakkhandha. You may have talked about other things; they are all part of pañcakkhandha. But only part of that pañcakkhandha became a pañcupādānakkhandha and generated a kamma viññāṇa, a future expectation to do something. It usually is an expectation based on greed, anger, or ignorance.
  • That expectation generated a kammic energy that is in that jivhā viññāṇa. It is in the kamma bhava (in viññāṇa dhatu) and can “come back to your mind” and remind you that you need to act on it. So, even a few days later, you will suddenly remember that conversation with your friend and may get the urge to taste that meal. You may call the restaurant and make a reservation.

13. I have tried to connect different concepts that we discussed in this new series on Idappaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda with other concepts like kamma viññāṇa and gati that we have discussed many times before.

  • Buddha Dhamma is fully self-consistent. The more you learn, the more faith you will have. But it requires an effort to review those concepts and make necessary connections or see the relationships among them.
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