kamma vipaka and sankharas

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kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby Nibbida » Wed Jun 03, 2009 5:41 pm

What is the relationship between kamma vipaka (fruits of kamma) and sankharas (conditional formations)? Are they synonymous, or are sankharas a subset of vipaka?

Can anyone clarify the relationship between these two?

Thank you.
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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby Individual » Wed Jun 03, 2009 6:39 pm

Mental formations (sankhara) is what produces wholesome or unwholesome intentions (kusala or akusala cetana); this is action (kamma). Vipaka is the result of this kamma.
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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Jun 03, 2009 11:43 pm

Nice summary Individual.

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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby Nibbida » Thu Jun 04, 2009 2:22 am

Hmmmm... I get it more or less, but need to flesh it out a bit more. Can't kamma produce new sankharas? That's the understanding I got from Goenka's book The Art of Living. I see sankharas as conditioned habits in a sense, although they may involve more than that. If so, what would an example of vipaka be? The literal consequences of one's actions?
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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby Jechbi » Thu Jun 04, 2009 2:49 am

This discussion might be of interest to you.
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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby Individual » Thu Jun 04, 2009 5:12 am

Nibbida wrote:Hmmmm... I get it more or less, but need to flesh it out a bit more. Can't kamma produce new sankharas? That's the understanding I got from Goenka's book The Art of Living. I see sankharas as conditioned habits in a sense, although they may involve more than that. If so, what would an example of vipaka be? The literal consequences of one's actions?

Kamma can produce new sankharas. The Twelve Chains of Dependent-Origination (the twelve nidanas) are a cycle, without beginning or end. Vipaka is the literal consequences of one's actions, but they do not necessarily manifest instantly, even within a single lifetime.
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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby Nibbida » Thu Jun 04, 2009 7:00 pm

Right. I understand the 12 links.

So if I understand correctly, kamma vipaka are the literal consequences of intentional actions, but the sankharas is the tendency of actions to facilitate other unskillful action in the future?

Thanks for your patience.
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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby Individual » Thu Jun 04, 2009 9:23 pm

Nibbida wrote:Right. I understand the 12 links.

So if I understand correctly, kamma vipaka are the literal consequences of intentional actions, but the sankharas is the tendency of actions to facilitate other unskillful action in the future?

Thanks for your patience.

Sankhara is the mechanism which puts together our consciousness, that is, the particular arrangement of our aspirations, which can be skillful or unskillful.

Is that maybe what's confusing about it, that it precedes consciousness? Sankhara might be compared to the sub-conscious mind in western psychology, if you think of the sub-conscious mind as being conditioned by ignorance and being the source of higher-level consciousness.
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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:50 pm

Sankhāra is used to mean several different things in different contexts. This summary from Ven. Nyanatiloka's Buddhist Dictionary might be helpful in avoiding confusing and/or interpreting it too restrictively.

http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... kh%C4%81ra
Sankhāra: This term has, according to its context, different shades of meaning, which should be carefully distinguished.

I To its most frequent usages see: foll. 1-4 the general term 'construction' may be applied, with the qualifications required by the context. This term may refer either to the act of 'forming or to the passive state of 'having been formed' or to both.

1. As the 2nd link of the formula of dependent origination, paticcasamuppāda, sankhāra has the active aspect, 'forming, and signifies kamma, i.e. advantageous or disadvantageous intentional activity cetanā of body kāya-s speech vacī-s or mind citta or mano-s This definition occurs, e.g. at S. XII, 2, 27. For s.: in this sense, the word 'kamma-construction' has been coined by the author. In other passages, in the same context, s. is defined by reference to a meritorious kammic-constructions puññ'ābhisankhāra b disadvantageous k. apuññ'abhisankhāra c imperturbable k. āneñj'ābhisankhāra e.g. in S. XII, 51; D. 33. This threefold division covers kammic activity in all spheres of existence: the meritorious kammic-constructions extend to the sense-and the fine-material sphere, the disadvantageous ones only to the sense-sphere, and the 'imperturbable' only to the immaterial sphere.

2. The aforementioned three terms, kāya, vacī- and citta-s are sometimes used in quite a different sense, namely as 1 bodily function, i.e. in-and-out-breathing e.g. M. 10, 2 verbal function, i.e. thought-conception and discursive thinking, 3 mental-function, i.e. feeling and perception e.g. M. 44. See nirodhasamāpatti.

3. It also denotes the 4th group of existence sankhāra-khandha and includes all 'mental constructions' whether they belong to 'kammically forming' consciousness or not. See khandha Tab. II. and S. XXII, 56, 79.

4. It occurs further in the sense of anything formed sankhata and conditioned, and includes all things whatever in the world, all phenomena of existence. This meaning applies, e.g. to the well-known passage,;All constructions are impermanent... subject to suffering; sabbe sankhāra aniccā dukkhā In that context, however, s. is subordinate to the still wider and all-embracing term dhamma thing; for dhamma includes also the Unformed or Unconditioned Element asankhata-dhātu i.e. Nibbāna e.g. in sabbe, dhammā all things are without a self;.

II sankhāra also means sometimes 'intentional effort', e.g. in the formula of the roads to power iddhi-pāda, in sasankhāra and asankhāra-parinibbāyī see: anāgāmī, and in the Abhidhamma terms asankhārika and sasankhārika-citta i.e. without effort = spontaneously, and with effort = prompted.

In Western literature, in English as well as in German, sankhāra is sometimes mistranslated by 'subconscious latent tendencies' or similarly e.g Prof Beckh:,unterbewußte Bildekräfte,; i.e. subconscious formative forces. This misinterpretation derives perhaps from a similar usage in non-Buddhist Sanskrit literature, and is entirely inapplicable to the connotations of the term in Pāli Buddhism, as listed above under I, 1-4. For instance, within the dependent origination, s. is neither subconscious nor a mere tendency, but is a fully conscious and active kammic intention. In the context of the 5 groups of existence see: above I, 3, a very few of the factors from the group of mental constructions sankhāra-khandha are also present as properties of subconsciousness see: Tab. I-III, but are of course not restricted to it, nor are they mere latent tendencies.

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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby Individual » Fri Jun 05, 2009 2:26 am

Thanks for the resource, Mikenz.

A question, though: If sankhara is "fully conscious", why does it seem to be so elusive for non-Buddhists and how is this full consciousness of sankhara distinguished from vinnanna?
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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 05, 2009 5:50 am

Individual wrote:Thanks for the resource, Mikenz.

A question, though: If sankhara is "fully conscious", why does it seem to be so elusive for non-Buddhists and how is this full consciousness of sankhara distinguished from vinnanna?

I don't really understand your question. The khandhas are a method of classification, not "things", so non-Buddhists just don't use that classification.

You might find the several pages of discussion of khandha useful: http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... tm#khandha
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 constructions 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.

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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby Individual » Fri Jun 05, 2009 9:32 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Individual wrote:Thanks for the resource, Mikenz.

A question, though: If sankhara is "fully conscious", why does it seem to be so elusive for non-Buddhists and how is this full consciousness of sankhara distinguished from vinnanna?

I don't really understand your question. The khandhas are a method of classification, not "things", so non-Buddhists just don't use that classification.

You might find the several pages of discussion of khandha useful: http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... tm#khandha
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 constructions 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.

Mike

So, the five khandhas are not actually khandhas; they are merely called khandhas.
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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jun 06, 2009 12:22 am

Individual wrote:So, the five khandhas are not actually khandhas; they are merely called khandhas.

Yes, as I understand it, it's just a way of classifying phenomena. We are not "made out of khandhas" in the sense that we could say that our body is "made out of atoms".

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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby Individual » Sun Jun 07, 2009 12:35 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Individual wrote:So, the five khandhas are not actually khandhas; they are merely called khandhas.

Yes, as I understand it, it's just a way of classifying phenomena. We are not "made out of khandhas" in the sense that we could say that our body is "made out of atoms".

Mike

If they aren't describing real things, what is their relevance to anything? Literally -- their relevance to any thing.

It's a classification system... which classifies what? Terms created within the system itself, in order to create objects to classify? What's the use in that?
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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 07, 2009 2:17 am

Individual wrote:If they aren't describing real things, what is their relevance to anything? Literally -- their relevance to any thing.

It's a classification system... which classifies what? Terms created within the system itself, in order to create objects to classify? What's the use in that?

The way I see it, the instructions in the Suttas are designed to help us "slice up" our nama-rupa in various ways.
In some Suttas it's done by Khandas:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .mend.html
"Form, O monks, is not-self; ... Feeling, .. Perception, ... Mental formations, ... Consciousness, ...

Some by elements ("properties" in this translation):
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... l#sn27.009
"Monks, any desire-passion with regard to the earth property is a defilement of the mind. Any desire-passion with regard to the liquid property... the fire property... the wind property... the space property... the consciousness property is a defilement of the mind. When, with regard to these six bases, the defilements of awareness are abandoned, then the mind is inclined to renunciation. The mind fostered by renunciation feels malleable for the direct knowing of those qualities worth realizing."

Some by sense bases:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"What do you think, Malunkyaputta: the forms cognizable via the eye that are unseen by you — that you have never before seen, that you don't see, and that are not to be seen by you: Do you have any desire or passion or love there?"
"No, lord."
"The sounds cognizable via the ear...
"The aromas cognizable via the nose...
"The flavors cognizable via the tongue...
"The tactile sensations cognizable via the body...
"The ideas cognizable via the intellect ...

However it is done, the aim is to realise it all as anatta (which is also NOT a THING!).

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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby Individual » Sun Jun 07, 2009 5:09 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Individual wrote:If they aren't describing real things, what is their relevance to anything? Literally -- their relevance to any thing.

It's a classification system... which classifies what? Terms created within the system itself, in order to create objects to classify? What's the use in that?

The way I see it, the instructions in the Suttas are designed to help us "slice up" our nama-rupa in various ways.
In some Suttas it's done by Khandas:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .mend.html
"Form, O monks, is not-self; ... Feeling, .. Perception, ... Mental formations, ... Consciousness, ...

Some by elements ("properties" in this translation):
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... l#sn27.009
"Monks, any desire-passion with regard to the earth property is a defilement of the mind. Any desire-passion with regard to the liquid property... the fire property... the wind property... the space property... the consciousness property is a defilement of the mind. When, with regard to these six bases, the defilements of awareness are abandoned, then the mind is inclined to renunciation. The mind fostered by renunciation feels malleable for the direct knowing of those qualities worth realizing."

Some by sense bases:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"What do you think, Malunkyaputta: the forms cognizable via the eye that are unseen by you — that you have never before seen, that you don't see, and that are not to be seen by you: Do you have any desire or passion or love there?"
"No, lord."
"The sounds cognizable via the ear...
"The aromas cognizable via the nose...
"The flavors cognizable via the tongue...
"The tactile sensations cognizable via the body...
"The ideas cognizable via the intellect ...

However it is done, the aim is to realise it all as anatta (which is also NOT a THING!).

Mike

Our nama-rupas, though, are actual things. There is relevance in that regard because such nama-rupa is real.
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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 07, 2009 6:19 am

Individual wrote:Our nama-rupas, though, are actual things. There is relevance in that regard because such nama-rupa is real.

A cricket ball is an actual thing, but its "redness", "heavyness", and "hardness" are descriptions, not components.

Same (in my opinion) with earth, wind, fire, wind properties.

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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby Individual » Sun Jun 07, 2009 8:31 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Individual wrote:Our nama-rupas, though, are actual things. There is relevance in that regard because such nama-rupa is real.

A cricket ball is an actual thing, but its "redness", "heavyness", and "hardness" are descriptions, not components.

Same (in my opinion) with earth, wind, fire, wind properties.

Mike

Even things said to be "components" can be regarded as mere descriptions, if you agree with nominalism (that there are no such thing as universals).

However, how is a cricket ball a thing in a way in which a mind or its various components -- i.e. the sankharas -- are not? Unlike the elemental properties, sankhara is not a mere property or quality of something else (such as ignorance, avijja), it is either an object or a process, in different contexts. But how can an object or process, that is, a noun, be a mere description, as if it were an adjective? I mean, how can anyone even seriously say that a Pali NOUN is not a THING?!?
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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 07, 2009 8:57 pm

Hi Individual,

Obviously I'm not being clear enough. I have nothing more to add.

All I can do is repeat that I agree with Ven Nyanatiloka:
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 constructions 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.

http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... tm#khandha
He goes on to give more detail, with various cross references.

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Re: kamma vipaka and sankharas

Postby Individual » Sun Jun 07, 2009 10:17 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Individual,

Obviously I'm not being clear enough. I have nothing more to add.

All I can do is repeat that I agree with Ven Nyanatiloka:
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 constructions 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.

http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... tm#khandha
He goes on to give more detail, with various cross references.

Metta
Mike

His interpretation is convoluted, though. In our above discussion, he described what sankhara rather explicitly (and does so also with the rest of the aggregates)... What you originally quoted above:

In Western literature, in English as well as in German, sankhāra is sometimes mistranslated by 'subconscious latent tendencies' or similarly e.g Prof Beckh:,unterbewußte Bildekräfte,; i.e. subconscious formative forces. This misinterpretation derives perhaps from a similar usage in non-Buddhist Sanskrit literature, and is entirely inapplicable to the connotations of the term in Pāli Buddhism, as listed above under I, 1-4. For instance, within the dependent origination, s. is neither subconscious nor a mere tendency, but is a fully conscious and active kammic intention. In the context of the 5 groups of existence see: above I, 3, a very few of the factors from the group of mental constructions sankhāra-khandha are also present as properties of subconsciousness see: Tab. I-III, but are of course not restricted to it, nor are they mere latent tendencies.

Then later says that the Five Aggregates are merely classificatory groupings? If they're merely classifications and not explicit things, what's incorrect about applying a western classification to an Abhidhammic one? ...If, of course, there's a difference in the reality of what's being described (one describes an orange, the other describes an apple), then a distinction can be made... But then, you have to actually acknowledge both are describing real things that are distinct in order to do that. He doesn't.

The paragraph quoted above comes across as a desperate attempt to distinguish Abhidhamma from western psychology, just as silly contrasts with western philosophy are drawn, to put Abhidhamma on a platform. If western minds discovered similar ideas or even made intellectual advances, then we can no longer look back on the Theravadin commentators as "sages".

Appealing to the non-reality of the Five Aggregates by citing passages on emptiness is a shield to deflect penetrating analysis or higher criticsm. But these two contradict... You can't flatly state, "The Aggregates are this and this, but not this," on the one hand, but then go onto say that they're actually just arbitrary classifications, on the other hand.
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