“What are we made of? What is this thing we call “self”? We assemble it ourselves, according to the Buddha.” Lion’s Roar Magazine
Buddha taught that our sense of self, the process of building an identity, is based on the five aggregates or heaps…skandhas in Sanskrit.
Most of us have spent a lot of time–and money–trying to figure out who we are and what our purpose is in this life. It seems that we are are this body and, even though it changes moment to moment, we have this idea that it will last forever… and that we ourselves, our identity will also last forever. The Buddha said that “we” are a moment to moment process. We are completely impermanent and the identity that we hold so dear is not the self. That, indeed, there is no enduring separate self that exists in the world. Rather, the collective parts of form, feeling, perception, concept or mental formations, and consciousness. come together and instantly rearrange themselves like the shifting sands of a vast desert.
Ajahn Punnadhammo clarified this teach somewhat when he wrote, “The most important use of the five skandhas as a teaching device is to illustrate the doctrine of anatta (not-self). The idea is that when one looks within, only the five skandhas are seen, and no self-essence is found among them. In the Samanupassana Sutta of the Samyutta Nikaya collection of suttas, the Buddha enumerates twenty ways in which beings imagine a self by misapprehending the skandhas: “He assumes body to be the self, or the self as possessing body, or the body in the self, or the self in the body,” and so on, for each of the other skandhas.“