Khandha, Khamdha: 8 definitions


Khandha means something in Buddhism, Pali, Jainism, Prakrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

Source: Access to Insight: A Glossary of Pali and Buddhist TermsHeap; group; aggregate. Physical and mental components of the personality and of sensory experience in general. The five bases of clinging (see upadana). See: nama (mental phenomenon), rupa (physical phenomenon), vedana (feeling), sanna (perception), sankhara (mental fashionings), and vinnana (consciousness).Source: Dhamma Dana: Pali English Glossary

M (Aggregate).

Source: Journey to Nibbana: Patthana Dhama


Source: Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines

of existence, s. Khandha (“groups”); corporeal groups, s. rūpa-kalāpa; corporeality-group, s. rūpa-kāya; mind-group, s. nāma-kāya.

Source: Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines

the 5 'groups (of existence)' or 'groups of clinging' (upādānakkhandha); alternative renderings: aggregates, categories of clinging's objects.

These are the 5 aspects in which the Buddha has summed up all the physical and mental phenomena of existence, and which appear to the ignorant man as his ego, or personality, to wit:

  • (1) the corporeality group (rūpa-kkhandha),
  • (2) the feeling group (vedanā-kkhandha),
  • (3) the perception group (saññā-kkhandha),
  • (4) the mental-formation group (sankhāra-kkhandha),
  • (5) the consciousness-group (viññāna-kkhandha).

"Whatever there exists of corporeal things, whether past, present or future, one's own or external, gross or subtle, lofty or low, far or near, all that belongs to the corporeality group. Whatever there exists of feeling ... of perception ... of mental formations ... of consciousness ... all that belongs to the consciousness-group" (S. XXII, 48). -

Another division is that into the 2 groups:

  • mind (2-5) and
  • corporeality (1) (nāma-rūpa),

whilst in Dhamma Sanganī, the first book of the Abhidhamma, all the phenomena are treated by way of 3 groups:

  • consciousness (5),
  • mental factors (2-4),
  • corporeality (1), in Pāli citta, cetasika, rūpa. Cf. Guide I.

What is called individual existence is in reality nothing but a mere process of those mental and physical phenomena, a process that since time immemorial has been going on, and that also after death will still continue for unthinkably long periods of time. These 5 groups, however, neither singly nor collectively constitute any self-dependent real ego-entity, or personality (attā), nor is there to be found any such entity apart from them. Hence the belief in such an ego-entity or personality, as real in the ultimate sense, proves a mere illusion.

"When all constituent parts are there, The designation 'cart' is used; Just so, where the five groups exist, Of 'living being' do we speak." (S. V. 10).

The fact ought to be emphasized here that these 5 groups, correctly speaking, merely form an abstract classification by the Buddha, but that they as such, i.e. as just these 5 complete groups, have no real existence, since only single representatives of these groups, mostly variable, can arise with any state of consciousness. For example, with one and the same unit of consciousness only one single kind of feeling, say joy or sorrow, can be associated and never more than one. Similarly, two different perceptions cannot arise at the same moment. Also, of the various kinds of sense-cognition or consciousness, only one can be present at a time, for example, seeing, hearing or inner consciousness, etc. Of the 50 mental formations, however, a smaller or larger number are always associated with every state of consciousness, as we shall see later on.

Some writers on Buddhism who have not understood that the five khandha are just classificatory groupings, have conceived them as compact entities ('heaps', 'bundles'), while actually, as stated above, the groups never exist as such, i.e. they never occur in a simultaneous totality of all their constituents. Also those single constituents of a group which are present in any given body- and -mind process, are of an evanescent nature, and so also their varying combinations. Feeling, perception and mental formations are only different aspects and functions of a single unit of consciousness. They are to consciousness what redness, softness, sweetness, etc. are to an apple and have as little separate existence as those qualities.

In S. XXII, 56, there is the following short definition of these 5 groups:

"What, o monks, is the corporeality-group? The 4 primary elements (mahā-bhūta or dhātu) and corporeality depending thereon, this is called the corporeality-group.

  • "What, o monks, is the feeling-group? There are 6 classes of feeling: due to visual impression, to sound impression, to odour impression, to taste impression, to bodily impression, and to mind impression....
  • "What, o monks, is the perception-group? There are 6 classes of perception: perception of visual objects, of sounds, of odours, of tastes, of bodily impressions, and of mental impressions....
  • "What, o monks, is the group of mental formations? There are 6 classes of volitional states (cetanā): with regard to visual objects, to sounds, to odours, to tastes, to bodily impressions and to mind objects....
  • "What, o monks, is the consciousness-group? There are 6 classes of consciousness: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, and mind-consciousness."

About the inseparability of the groups it is said:

''Whatever, o brother, there exists of feeling, of perception and of mental formations, these things are associated, not dissociated, and it is impossible to separate one from the other and show their difference. For whatever one feels, one perceives; and whatever one perceives, of this one is conscious" (M. 43).

Further: "Impossible is it for anyone to explain the passing out of one existence and the entering into a new existence, or the growth, increase and development of consciousness independent of corporeality, feeling, perception and mental formations" (S. XII, 53)

For the inseparability and mutual conditionality of the 4 mental groups s. paccaya (6, 7).

Regarding the impersonality (anattā) and emptiness (suññatā) of the 5 groups, it is said in S. XXII, 49:

"Whatever there is of corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness, whether past, present or future, one's own or external, gross or subtle, lofty or low, far or near, this one should understand according to reality and true wisdom: 'This does not belong to me, this am I not, this is not my Ego.' "

Further in S. XXII, 95: "Suppose that a man who is not blind were to behold the many bubbles on the Ganges as they are driving along; and he should watch them and carefully examine them. After carefully examining them, however, they will appear to him empty, unreal and unsubstantial. In exactly the same way does the monk behold all the corporeal phenomena ... feelings ... perceptions ... mental formations ... states of consciousness, whether they be of the past, present or future ... far or near. And he watches them and examines them carefully; and after carefully examining them, they appear to him empty, unreal and unsubstantial."

The 5 groups are compared, respectively, to a lump of froth, a bubble, a mirage, a coreless plantain stem, and a conjuring trick (S. XXII, 95).

See the Khandha Samyutta (S. XXII); Vis.M. XIV.

context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

Discover the meaning of khandha in the context of Theravada from relevant books on Exotic India

General definition (in Buddhism)

Source: Wisdom Library: Buddhism

Khandha:—The component parts that make up sensory perception: Physical perception, feelings, concepts or labels, mental formations and sensory consciousness.

Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

[«previous next»] — Khandha in Pali glossary
Source: BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary

khandha : (m.) 1. bulk; 2. the trunk of the body or of a tree; 3. mass; heap; 4. a section or chapter; 5. sensorial aggregates which condition the appearance of life in any form.

Source: Sutta: The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary

Khandha, (Sk. skandha) — I. Crude meaning: bulk, massiveness (gross) substance. A. esp. used (a) of an elephant: the bulk of the body, i.e. its back S. I, 95; vāraṇassa J. III, 392; hatthi-khandha-vara-gata on the back of the state elephant J. I, 325; PvA. 75. Also with ref. to an elephant (hatthināga) sañjāta° “to whom has grown bulk=a large back” Sn. 53, expl. SnA 103 by susaṇṭhitakkhandho “well endowed with bulk. ” ‹-› (b) of a person: the shoulder or back: naṅgalaṃ khan‹-› dhe karitvā S. I, 115 appl. to Māra; Vism. 100; DhA. IV, 168 (ohita°-bhāra the load lifted off his shoulder). ‹-› — (c) of a tree: the trunk. rukkhassa PvA. 114, also as rukkha° J. I, 324; tāla° the stem of a palm PvA. 56; nigrodhassa khandhaja (see cpds.) S. I, 207=Sn. 272; mūlaṃ atikkamma kh° ṃ sāraṃ pariyesitabbaṃ “one must go beyond the root and search the trunk for sweetness” S. IV, 94.—(d) as t. t. in exegetical literature: section, chapter, lit. material as collected into uniform bulk; frequent in postscripts to Texts and Commentaries. See also khandhaka.—B. More general as denoting bulk (-°); e.g. aggi° a great mass of fire M. II, 34, 41; J. IV, 139; udaka° a mass of water (i.e. ocean) A. III, 336; S. IV, 179; J. I, 324; PvA. 62; puñña° a great accumulation of merit A. III, 336=S. V, 400; bhoga° a store of wealth A. V, 84; J. I, 6; maṇi° an extraordinarily large jewel (possessing magic power) J. II, 102 sq. -

II. Applied meaning.—A. (-°) the body of, a collection of, mass, or parts of; in collective sense “all that is comprised under”; forming the substance of. ‹-› (a) dukkha° all that is comprised under “dukkha, ” all that goes to make up or forms the substance, the idea of “ill. ” Most prominent in phrase kevalassa dukkhakhandhassa samudaya and nirodha (the origin & destruction of all that is suffering) with ref. to the paṭiccasamuppāda, the chain of causal existence (q. v.) Vin. I, 1; S. II, 95; III, 14; A. I, 177; V, 184 & passim. Similarly: samudaya Vbh. 135 sq. nirodha Nett 64; antakiriyā A. I, 147; vyādhimaraṇatunnānaṃ dukkhakkhandhaṃ vyapānudi Th. 2, 162.—(b) lobha° dosa° moha° the three ingredients or integrations of greed, suffering and bewilderment, lit. “the big bulk or mass of greed” (see also under padāleti), S. V, 88 (nibbijjhati through the satta bojjhaṅgā).—(c) vayo° a division of age, part of age, as threefold: purima°, majjhima°, pacchima° Nd2 in def. of sadā.—(d) sīla (etc.) kh° the 3 (or 5) groups or parts which constitute the factors of right living (dhamma), viz. (1) sīla° the group dealing with the practice of morality; (2) samādhi° that dealing with the development of concentration; (3) paññā° that dealing with the development of true wisdom. They are also known under the terms of sīla-sampadā, citta°, paññā° D. I, 172 sq.; see sīla.—D. I, 206; Nett 64 sq.; 126. tīhi dhammehi samannāgato “possessed of the three qualities, ” viz. sīla-kkhandhesu, etc. It. 51; cp. A. I, 291; V, 326. tīhi khandhehi ... aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo saṅgahito M. I, 301; sīlakkhandhaṃ, etc. paripūreti “to fulfil the sīla-group” A. I, 125; II, 20, III, 15 sq. These 3 are completed to a set of 5 by (4) vimutti° the group dealing with the attainment of emancipation and (5) vimutti-ñāṇa-dassana °the group dealing with the realization of the achievement of emancipation. As 1—4 only at D. III, 229 (misprint puñña for paññā); cp. A. I, 125. As 5 at S. I, 99=A. I, 162; S. V, 162; A. III, 134, 271; V, 16 (all Loc. =S. I, 99); It. 107, 108; Nd2 under sīla.

B. (absolute) in individual sense: constituent element, factor, substantiality. More especially as khandhā (pl.) the elements or substrata of sensory existence, sensorial aggregates which condition the appearance of life in any form. Their character according to quality and value of life and body is evanescent, fraught with ills & leading to rebirth. Paraphrased by Bdhgh. as rāsi, heap, e.g. Asl. 141; Vibh A 1 f.; cf. B. Psy. 42. 1. Unspecified. They are usually enumerated in the foll. stereotyped set of 5: rūpa° (material qualities), vedanā (feeling), saññā (perception), saṅkhārā (coefficients of consciousness), viññāṇa (consciousness). For further ref. see rūpa; cp. also Mrs. Rh. D. Dhs. trsl. pp. 40—56. They are enumerated in a different order at S. I, 112, viz. rūpaṃ vedayitaṃ saññaṃ viññāṇaṃ yañ ca saṅkhataṃ n’eso ‘ham asmi. Detailed discussions as to their nature see e.g. S. III, 101 (=Vbh. 1—61); S. III, 47; III, 86. As being comprised in each of the dhātus, viz. kăma° rūpa° arūpa-dhātu Vbh. 404 sq.

(a) As factors of existence (cp. bhava). Their rôle as such is illustrated by the famous simile: “yathā hi aṅgasambhārā hoti saddo ratho iti evaṃ khandhesu santesu hoti satto ti sammuti” “just as it is by the condition precedent of the co-existence of its various parts, that the word “chariot” is used, just so it is that when the skandhas are there, we talk of a “being” “ (Rh. D.) (cp. Hardy, Man. Buddh. p. 425) S. I, 135=Miln. 28. Their connotation “khandha” is discussed at S. III, 101 =M. III, 16: “kittāvatā nu kho khandhānaṃ khandhâdhivacanaṃ? rūpaṃ (etc.) atītânāgatapaccuppannaṃ ajjhattaṃ vā bahiddhā vā oḷārikaṃ, ” etc. : i.e. material qualities are equivalent terms for the kh. What causes the manifestation of each kh. ? cattāro mahābhūtā ... paccayo rūpa-khandhassa paññāpanāya; phasso ... vedana°, saññā°, saṅkhārā°, etc.; nāmarūpaṃ ... viññāṇa°: the material elements are the cause of rūpa, touch is that of vedanā, saññā, saṅkhārā, name and shape that of viññāṇa (S. III, 101); cp. M. I, 138 sq. , 234 sq. On the same principle rests their division in: rūpa-kāyo rūpakkhandho nāmakāyo cattāro arūpino khandhā “the material body forms the material factor (of existence), the individualized body the 4 immaterial factors” Nett 41; the rūpakkhandha only is kāmadhātu-pariyāpanno: Vbh. 409; the 4 arūpino kh° discussed at Ps. II, 74, also at Vbh. 230, 407 sq. (grouped with what is apariyāpanna) — Being the “substantial” factors of existence, birth & death depend on the khandhas. They appear in every new conjuncture of individuality concerning their function in this paṭisandhi-kkhaṇe; see Ps. II, 72—76. Thus the var. phases of life in transmigration are defined as — (jāti: ) ya tesaṃ tesaṃ sattānaṃ tamhi tamhi satta-nikāye jāti sañjāti okkanti abhinibbatti khandhānaṃ pātubhāvo āyatanānaṃ paṭilābho Nd2 on Sn. 1052; cp. jāti dvīhi khandhehi saṅgahitā ti VvA. 29; khandhānaṃ pātubhāvo jāti S. II, 3; Nett 29; khandhānaṃ nibbatti jāti Vism. 199.—(maraṇaṃ: ) yā tesaṃ tesaṃ sattānaṃ ... cuti cavanatā bhedo antaradhānaṃ maccu maraṇaṃ kālakiriyā khandhānaṃ bhedo kalevarassa nikkhepo M. I, 49=Vbh. 137=S. II, 3, 42.—vivaṭṭa-kkhandha (adj.) one whose khandhas have revolved (passed away), i.e. dead S. I, 121=III, 123.—kh°anaṃ udaya-vyaya (or udayabbaya) the rising and passing of the kh. , transmigration Dh. 374=Th. 1, 23, 379=It. 120=KhA 82; Ps. I, 54 sq.—(b) Their relation to attachment and craving (kāma): sattisūlûpamā kāmā khandhānaṃ adhikuṭṭanā S. I, 128=Th. 2, 58, 141 (ThA. 65: natthi tesaṃ adhik°?); craving is their cause & soil: hetupaṭicca sambhūtā kh. S. I, 134; the 4 arūpino kh. are based on lobha, dosa, moha Vbh. 208.—(c) their annihilation: the kh. remain as long as the knowledge of their true character is not attained, i.e. of their cause & removal: yaṃ rūpaṃ, etc... . n’etaṃ mama n’eso ‘haṃ asmi na m’eso attā ti; evaṃ etaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya passati; evaṃ kho jānato passato ... ahaṅkāramamaṅkāra-mānânusayā na hontī ti S. III, 103;—pañca-kkhandhe pariññāya S. III, 83; pañca-kkhandhā pariññātā tiṭṭhanti chinnamūlakā Th. 2, 106. See also S. I, 134.—(d) their relation to dhātu (the physical elements) and āyatana (the elements of sense-perception) is close, since they are all dependent on sensory experience. The 5 khandhas are frequently mentioned with the 18 dhātuyo & the 12 āyatanāni: khandhā ca dh° cha ca āyatanā ime hetuṃ paṭicca sambhūtā hetubhaṅgā nirujjhare S. I, 134; kh°-dh°-āyatanaṃ saṅkhataṃ jātimūlaṃ Th. 2, 472; dhammaṃ adesesi khandh’‹-› āyatana-dhātuyo Th. 2, 43 (cp. ThA. 49). Enumerated under sabba-dhammā Ps. I, 101=II. 230; under dhammā (states) Dhs. 121, as lokuttara-kkhandhā, etc. Dhs. 358, 528, 552.—khandhānaṃ khandhaṭṭho abhiññeyyo, dhātūnaṃ dhātuṭṭho, etc. Ps. I, 17; cp. I. 132; II, 121, 157. In def. of kāmâvacarā bhūmi Ps. I, 83. In def. of dukkha and its recognition Nett 57. In def. of arahanto khīṇāsavā Nd2 on saṅkhāta-dhammā (“kh. saṅkhātā, ” etc.), on tiṇṇa (“khandha- (etc.) pariyante thitā”), & passim.—(e) their valuation & their bearing on the “soul”—conception is described in the terms of na mama (na tumhākaṃ), anattā, aniccaṃ and dukkhaṃ (cp. upādānakkh° infra and rūpa) rūpaṃ (etc.) ... aniccaṃ, dukkhaṃ, n’eso’’ham asmi, n’eso me attā “material qualities (etc. kh. 2—5) are evanescent, bad, I am not this body, this body is not my soul” Vin. I, 14=S. IV, 382. n’eso’’ham asmi na m’eso attā S. I, 112; III, 103, 130 & passim; cp. kāyo na tumhākaṃ (anattā rūpaṃ) S. II, 65; Nd2 680; and rūpaṃ na tumhākaṃ S. III, 33 M. I, 140=Nd2 680.—rūpaṃ, etc. as anattā: Vin. I, 13; S. III, 78, 132—134; A. I, 284= II. 171; 202; cp. S. III, 101; Vin. I, 14.—as aniccaṃ: S. III, 41, 52, 102, 122, 132 sq. , 181 sq. , 195 sq. , 202—224, 227; A. IV, 147 (aniccânupassī dukkhânupassī); anicca dukkha roga, etc., Ps. II, 238 sq.; Vbh. 324.—2. Specified as panc’upādāna-kkhandhā the factors of the fivefold clinging to existence. Defined & discussed in detail (rūpûpadāna-kkhandha, etc.) S. III, 47; 86—88; also Vin. I, 10; S. III, 127 sq. Specified S. III, 58 III, 100=M. III, 16; S. III, 114, 158 sq.; V, 52, 60; A. IV, 458; Vism. 443 sq. (in ch. xiv: Khandha-niddesa), 611 sq. (judged aniccato, etc.).—Mentioned as a set exemplifying the number 5: Kh III, ; Ps. I, 22, 122. Enumerated in var. connections S. I, 112; D. III, 233; M. I, 190; A. V, 52; Kh IV. (explained KhA 82=A. V, 52); Miln. 12 (var. references concerning the discussion of the kh. in the Abhidhamma).—What is said of the khandhas alone-see above 1 (a)—(e)—is equally applied to them in connection with upādāna. ‹-› (a) As regards their origin they are characterized as chandamūlakā “rooted in desire, or in wilful desire” S. III, 100; cp. yo kho ... pañcas’upādānakkhandhesu chandarāgo taṃ tattha upādānaṃ ti M. I, 300, 511. Therefore the foll. attributes are characteristic: kummo pañcann’etaṃ upād° ānaṃ adhivacanaṃ M. I, 144; bhārā have pañcakkh°ā S. III, 26; pañcavadhakā paccatthikā pañcann’... adhivacanaṃ S. IV, 174; pañc’upād° ... sakkāyo vutto M. I, 299= S. IV, 259.—(b) their contemplation leads to the recognition of their character as dukkha, anicca, anattā: na kiñci attānaṃ vā attaniyaṃ vā pañcasu upādānakkhandhesu S. III, 128; rogato, etc... . manasikātabbā pañc° S. III, 167; pañcasu upād°esu aniccânupassī “realizing the evanescence in the 5 aggregates of attachment” A. V, 109; same with udayavyayânupassī S. III, 130; A. II, 45, 90; III, 32; IV, 153; and dhammânupassī M. I, 61. Out of which realization follows their gradual destruction: pañc’... khandhānaṃ samudayo atthaṅgamo assādo, etc. S. III, 31, 160 sq.; A. II, 45, 90; IV, 153; Nd2 under saṅkhārā. That they occupy a prominent position as determinants of dukkha is evident from their rôle in the exposition of dukkha as the first one of the noble truths: saṅkhittena pañc’upādānakkhandhā pi dukkhā “in short, the 5 kh. are associated with pain” Vin. I, 10=M. I, 48=A. I, 177=S. V, 421; Ps. I, 37, 39; Vbh. 101 & passim; cp. katamaṃ dukkham ariyasaccaṃ? pañc’upād° ā tissa vacanīyaṃ, seyyathīdaṃ ... S. III, 158=V. 425; khandhādisā dukkhā Dh. 202 (& expl. DhA. III, 261).—3. Separately mentioned: khandhā as tayo arūpino kh° (ved°, sañña°, saṅkh°) DhA. I, 22; viññāṇa-kh° (the skandha of discriminative consciousness) in Def. of manas: manindriyaṃ viññāṇaṃ viññ°-khandho tajjā manoviññāṇadhātu Nd2 on Sn. 1142=Dhs. 68.

Pali book cover
context information

Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

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Prakrit-English dictionary

Source: DDSA: Paia-sadda-mahannavo; a comprehensive Prakrit Hindi dictionary

1) Khaṃdha (खंध) in the Prakrit language is related to the Sanskrit word: Skandha.

2) Khaṃdha (खंध) also relates to the Sanskrit word: Skandha.

context information

Prakrit is an ancient language closely associated with both Pali and Sanskrit. Jain literature is often composed in this language or sub-dialects, such as the Agamas and their commentaries which are written in Ardhamagadhi and Maharashtri Prakrit. The earliest extant texts can be dated to as early as the 4th century BCE although core portions might be older.

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