Panchaskhanda in politics


Today is the election day that everyone has been waiting for. The election materials and opinions opposite to one’s view may have caused agitations to some, and I wonder how the Buddhist thought can be helpful to calm them down? I think politics can also be described in the concept of panchaskhanda (the five aggregates): the five bundle of things that manifest an individual. They are nothing but psychological bundles that we think who we are, and our political desires. Without a good understanding of the five aggregates we cannot comprehend the conditional existence on the politics of the day.

The first aggregate (rupaskandha) is form or matter that also covers external things, for example the group of presidential hopefuls. When sensing the person of interest, creates feeling (veddanaskandha) that can be either pleasant or dispersant. With sensation, we recognise him through perception (sannaskandha). Triggered by what he said and done, and through thoughts, opinions, prejudices, etc, mental formations (sankharaskandha) appear to be born. This creates consciousness (vinnanskandha) to grasp the favourite by desire (ironically ‘chanda’ in Pali is desire).

It goes without saying that aggregates are subject to clinging. The Buddha taught us how to calm them down by disregarding any aggregate that belongs to us (Upadaparitassana Sutta). Only through mindfulness one could see how our politics and anxieties live through the panchaskhanda process arising and ceasing with clinging. Politics is another conditioned phenomenon that needs to be pacified. If we could roll all our political panchaskhanda into the ballot paper and push it down to the Election Commissioner’s cardboard box, we will all win today.



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