Skandhas (Sanskrit) or khandhas (Pāḷi) means “heaps, aggregates, collections, groupings”.[1] In Buddhism, it refers to the five aggregates concept that asserts five elements constitute and completely explain a living being’s mental and physical existence.[2][3][4] The five aggregates or heaps are: matter or body (rupa), sensations or feelings (vedana), perceptions (samjna), mental formations (sankhara), and consciousness (vijnana).[5][6][7]

The skandhas explain what is a “being or individual”, and the skandhas theory complements the anatta doctrine of Buddhism which asserts that all things and beings are without self.[8][3][9] The anatta and “five aggregates” doctrines are part of the liberating knowledge in Buddhism, wherein one realizes that there is no-self, a being is five aggregates, each of which are “not I, and not my self”, and each of the skandha is empty, without substance.[10][11]

In the Theravada tradition, suffering arises when one identifies with or clings to an aggregate. This suffering is extinguished by relinquishing attachments to aggregates. The Mahayana tradition asserts that the nature of all aggregates as intrinsically empty ofindependent existence. The skandhas concept to explain a thing or being is unique to Buddhism among major Indian religions, and is not shared by Hinduism and Jainism which believe that a living being has a soul, metaphysical self.[12][13]