The Five Skandhas, or, Sometimes you can’t see the Trees for the Forest

Forest Trees - Trees Forest


There is the argument of conventional wisdom; over yonder is the forest. Don’t get caught up in seeing the trees, or you’ll miss the forest! One of the challenges of Buddhism is to turn this around, to point to the forest and ask, “What is that?”, and not cease until we arrive at a conclusive answer. There is a spirit of vigorous and unrelenting inquiry involved in Buddhist phenomenology.

One might begin the contemplation of a forest as a forest, and then proceed to identify that as a grouping of trees, and then proceed to identify that further by taking into account that there are not only trees in the forest, but there are also flowers, and other flora, and animals, and insects, and soil, and oxygen, and sunlight, and minerals, and so on.

This begins to point to the teaching of interdependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda), which states that all dharmas (i.e. things/phenomena) arise in dependence upon other dharmas.

“If this exists, that exists; if this ceases to exist, that also ceases to exist.”

For the sake of convenience we say “forest”, but if we push beyond that, even just a little, it starts to break down.

Where can the forest be found?
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