Skandhas (Sanskrit) (Tib) Pung-bo. Literally “bundles” or aggregates of attributes which make up the personality of a human being in any one life. Exoterically there are five and esoterically there are seven. The forms have to do with the physical atoms of objective man, the latter with the internal or subjective.
The five exoteric are:
(1) RUPA — form or body, which leaves behind its magnetic atoms and occult affinities.
(2) VEDANA — sensations which do likewise.
(3) SAMJNA — abstract ideas which are the creative powers at work from one incarnation to another.
(4) SAMSKARA — tendencies or potentialities.
(5) VIJNANA— mental powers.
The Skandhas are the germs of life on all the seven planes of being, and are closely connected with the pictures in the Astral light. At death they are left behind when the Ego goes into the state of rest and bliss called Devachan, and picked up again under the law of Karma to form the next personality when it emerges for the next birth. The danger of Spiritualistic seances is that by attracting the eidolon or astral form of a disembodied entity, they can interfere with the natural disposal of the Skandhas. In no case can an Ego in Devachan descend to the earth sphere and communicate through a medium, but it is possible for a pure aspirant to rise to the Ego’s state of consciousness. The Tibetans call the five exoteric Skandhas the ones “liable to destruction” and specify another five not so liable, also many thousands of aggregates of various kinds in addition. The Hinayana doctrine of Anatta “embraces the five Skandhas, not more” and therefore only applies to the evanescent personality.
In Chinese “Wu-yu-nie-pan” (Nirvana without remains) means “a condition of freedom from the Skandhas”. In Sanskrit Anupadhieesa (without remains) is applied to him who has got rid of all his Skandhas and has entered Nirvana. Bodhisattva or Buddha, like Gautama, who renounces Nirvana in order to continue working for humanity, is called a Nirmanakaya i.e. a Nirvani WITH remains. But in this case the “remains” (Skandhas) are so purified that they are completely subject to the will of the Ego and, as such, can be used by it to overshadow or ensoul chosen personalities, as stated by K.H.
Karmic Agencies which have everything to do with the earth physically and morally, ruling the destinies and fates of men. In the Mahatma Letters the term is also applied to the Buddhas and other high self-conscious entities who can penetrate beyond our Solar System.
The idea, that when we become conscious say on the Astral Plane, we have therefore shed one of our compartments, the Physical Body, is nonsense. When we function on the Astral Plane in full consciousness we are in strictest reality as much in possession of our physical body as ever. We merely cease to see it in the narrow aspect in which animal man sees it, and now see it as Astral Man – at his highest on this Fourth Plane – sees it.
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