Sankhara aggregate

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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby daverupa » Wed Jun 11, 2014 5:41 pm

Here is the Sutta about teaching, which I just mentioned. It points out also the lack of upadana with respect to feelings: whether satisfied or not satisfied with the attentiveness of the audience, the Buddha is never dissatisfied, but instead remains untroubled/equanimous, mindful, and alert.

(The possibility of a lack of satisfaction alongside there being no concomitant dissatisfaction is a noteworthy distinction.)

Noting who is and who isn't listening is of course sanna, as well as parsing pedagogy and content and so forth (in fact, sanna with upadana is reflected in the disagreement between the two monks, one who said the Buddha spoke of two feelings and one who said the Buddha spoke of three feelings.)

So Sankhara isn't a thing, it's the willful/"doing-it" aspect of experience that facilitates upadana, or facilitates nibbana, or is free of upadana altogether. For example, here are various examples of ways to frame up sankhara when making offerings.

And, of course, there's consciousness of all this, rising-&-falling right along with the rest, as well as the body to which consciousness-of is bound.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby Sam Vara » Wed Jun 11, 2014 8:13 pm

faraway wrote:About explanation of sankhara by bhante nanavira as determination or determinant (something that something else depends on), how does it explain in term of sankhara-khandha in five aggregates?

So in five aggregates, what is something (A) and what is something else that depends on the A?


The same thing can be seen as a sankhara or not, depending on whether it is taken to be the determinant of something else.
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby Sam Vara » Wed Jun 11, 2014 8:50 pm

vinasp wrote:Hi everyone,

It seems, to me, that Bhikku Bodhi's understanding of sankharas is completely incompatible with Ven. Nanavira's interpretation.

My own position, at present, is much closer to that of Bhikkhu Bodhi.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but Nanavira does not explain what sankharas actually are. He makes the problem disappear by conflating sankharas with Dependent Origination. If sankharas are 'things which something else depends on,' then each item in DO can be seen as a sankhara for the next item.

But this dependency relation is already clearly explained in the teachings, without needing to call each item a sankhara. Doing such does not explain what a sankhara is, it conceals what a sankhara is.

[It may, of course, be true, that when sankhara is correctly understood then EVERY item in DO is a sankhara in itself, in the active or passive sense or both.]

Sorry to let the cat out among the pigeons!

No comments yet on Sue Hamilton's interpretation, which I have started to look at, but it may be different from the other two.

Regards, Vincent.


I think Nanavira's notion is formal, in the sense that sankharas are an aspect of our experience (i.e. its conditioned and impermanent nature) rather than a set of things among other things. He would probably have said that there is only a "problem" when they are taken to be things or items in a linear dependency. I think he would agree that every item in DO is indeed sankhata (conditioned), and that although cetana can be a type of sankhara, the meaning is broader than the traditional interpretation which treats it as kamma.

He is for example, interested in the Culavedalla Sutta's definition in terms of kaya-, vaci-, and cittasankharas. These cannot be cetana, and he does not seem to consider the more common (e.g. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Ajahn Sucitto) idea that the same term can mean either the determining process or the determined product according to context. I feel a bit uneasy with Nanavira's interpretation for the same reasons as you do, but am also made uneasy by the lack of consistency in the more common interpretation. When does it mean "constructive activity", and when "construction"? Is it whichever interpretation makes more sense to us at the time? I find Nanavira intriguing because (more than other commentators) I seem to be able to get his meaning only when I am in the right frame of mind. At other times, though...
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby SarathW » Wed Jun 11, 2014 9:21 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:I thought it might be useful to have a discussion about the sankhara aggregate. How is it described, what activities does it include, how does it function, and how does it relate to the other aggregates?


Sankhara is a word with wiider meaning and should be interpreted according to it's own purpose.
Some of you have already discuss these matters and this is how I summarise them.

A)Sankhara could be internal (Five aggregate) or external (The saying "all Sankhara subject to change")
b)Sankhara can be related to pasrt,present and future as explained in DO.
c)Sankhara can be divided into different levels = transgression, manifestation and latent
d) The term Kamma also used to give the meaning of Sankhara. So all volitional activities could be Sankhara.
e)Nibbana is not Sankhara as it is not created and unmade.
f)........?
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby pegembara » Thu Jun 12, 2014 5:48 am

The single word "sankhara" can mean "conditioner," the cause that conditions; it can mean "condition," the result of the action of conditioning; and it can mean "'conditioning," the activity or process of conditioning. We use the same word for the subject of the conditioning, "the concocter," as well as the object, "the concoction." We even use it for the activity, "the concocting," itself.

In step three - "experiencing all bodies," experiencing both the breath and this flesh-body - each of these three meanings is practiced. First, we contemplate the flesh-body as the thing conditioned by the breath. Then, we see the breath as the conditioner of the flesh-body. Lastly, we observe the activity of conditioning that always exists simultaneously between the two of them. Thus, in the practice of step three we see the conditioner, the condition, and the action of conditioning. This conditioning of the body is the physical level of sankhara.

... that the feelings (e.g., piti and sukha) are mind-conditioners. When piti conditions it, the citta is coarse and its thoughts are coarse, both the mind and the thoughts are coarse. When sukha conditions or supports it, the citta is subtle and tranquil, and its thoughts are subtle and tranquil. Both feelings condition the mind, but from different angles. The vedana are conditioners of the citta, thus they get the name "mind-conditioner (citta-sankhara)." Buddhadasa

http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books3/Bhikk ... athing.htm


"In-&-out breaths are bodily fabrications. Directed thought & evaluation are verbal fabrications. Perceptions & feelings are mental fabrications." Dhammadina
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Sankhara is construction/constructed/constructing or fabrications/fabricated/fabricating. The world/loka is a fabrication. All fabrications are anicca/dukkha/anatta. They can be deconstructed. Self can be deconstructed into the 5 aggregates until its true nature is seen - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html

Why now do you assume 'a being'?
Mara, have you grasped a view?
This is a heap of sheer constructions:
Here no being is found.

Just as, with an assemblage of parts,
The word 'chariot' is used,
So, when the aggregates are present,
There's the convention 'a being.'

Vajira
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .bodh.html
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Jun 12, 2014 8:34 am

pegembara wrote:
The single word "sankhara" can mean "conditioner," the cause that conditions; it can mean "condition," the result of the action of conditioning; and it can mean "'conditioning," the activity or process of conditioning. We use the same word for the subject of the conditioning, "the concocter," as well as the object, "the concoction." We even use it for the activity, "the concocting," itself.
http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books3/Bhikk ... athing.htm


OK, but how exactly does this relate to the sankhara aggregate - which meaning(s) apply? Perhaps all of them, but what's the primary meaning - I'd guess the activity of conditioning.
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Jun 12, 2014 8:41 am

Are there any suttas which specifically describe the sankhara aggregate? I can't recall any.
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Jun 12, 2014 8:53 am

vinasp wrote:He may be speaking of sankharas in a more fundamental sense, as the mental activities which are constructing all five aggregates. If so, then these activities would be outside of the aggregates as such.


But as previously observed, consciousness, perception and feeling seem to be described in the suttas as basic, simple functions. So given that the aggregates are inclusive of all experience, then presumably the mental activity of constructing would be a function of sankhara aggregate?

It might be significant that in the suttas consciousness, perception and feeling are described as inseparable. Does this imply that the activity of the sankhara aggregate is separable, another level of experience?
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Jun 12, 2014 9:00 am

daverupa wrote:So Sankhara isn't a thing, it's the willful/"doing-it" aspect of experience that facilitates upadana, or facilitates nibbana, or is free of upadana altogether.
And, of course, there's consciousness of all this, rising-&-falling right along with the rest, as well as the body to which consciousness-of is bound.


I think it's helpful to view the aggregates generally as activities or processes. So could the sankhara aggregate be seen as the activity of decision making?
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby faraway » Thu Jun 12, 2014 1:12 pm

This is the sutta which explain each of five aggregates:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.057.than.html

Here is the explanation of sankhara-khandha:
"And what are fabrications? These six classes of intention — intention with regard to form, intention with regard to sound, intention with regard to smell, intention with regard to taste, intention with regard to tactile sensation, intention with regard to ideas: these are called fabrications."


I was a bit doubtful whether the translation of "intention" is correct or not, but the pali text indeed proves it is correct:
Katame ca bhikkhave, saṅkhārā:

Chayime bhikkhave cetanākāyā: rūpasañcetanā saddasañcetanā gandhasañcetanā rasasañcetanā phoṭṭhabbasañcetanā dhammasañcetanā. Ime vuccanti bhikkhave saṅkhārā.

cetana = intention

I guess this is where the "mental volition" meaning for sankhara come from.
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby barcsimalsi » Thu Jun 12, 2014 1:30 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:It might be significant that in the suttas consciousness, perception and feeling are described as inseparable. Does this imply that the activity of the sankhara aggregate is separable, another level of experience?

Image
Take a domino maze as an illustration.
The way i see it, sankhara aggregate is more like the arrange pattern of the dominos whereas consciousness, perception and feeling represent the type of domino which upon contact is conditioned to hit the next following the arrange pattern. Generally, i don't think they can be separated.

Please don't expect this to be a perfect explanation to the nature of aggregates, just sharing some thoughts here... :candle:
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby daverupa » Thu Jun 12, 2014 1:48 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
daverupa wrote:So Sankhara isn't a thing, it's the willful/"doing-it" aspect of experience that facilitates upadana, or facilitates nibbana, or is free of upadana altogether.
And, of course, there's consciousness of all this, rising-&-falling right along with the rest, as well as the body to which consciousness-of is bound.


I think it's helpful to view the aggregates generally as activities or processes. So could the sankhara aggregate be seen as the activity of decision making?


I think I'll prefer to say 'concomitant volition' over 'deciding', because it's the nexus which determines (!) an aggregate as upadana or not, which isn't always a decision per se. Also, 'deciding' feels more like either sanna or manas activity, to me.

The various translations of the word-play over the aggregates in SN 22.79 is worth studying in this regard (though perhaps the difference between sanna and vinnana is not well-stated there).

Here is Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation:

SN 22.79 wrote:And why, bhikkhus, do you call them volitional formations? ‘They construct the conditioned,’ bhikkhus, therefore they are called volitional formations. And what is the conditioned that they construct? They construct conditioned form as form; they construct conditioned feeling as feeling; they construct conditioned perception as perception; they construct conditioned volitional formations as volitional formations; they construct conditioned consciousness as consciousness. ‘They construct the conditioned,’ bhikkhus, therefore they are called volitional formations.


...and aggregate sets underlie the function of each & any sense sphere, which are to be seen as old kamma.

So while consciousness-of (vinnana) & sanna & vedana are conjoined, sankhara is not; its utter lack is a feature of jhana, and otherwise developing an awareness of them & calming them is a primary concern of anapanasati.

Ultimately the foregoing methods arrest sankhara, preventing papanca and facilitating dispassion and cessation and clear seeing of things as they are. No need for an act of will might be another way to discuss this.

And, finally, avoiding dark, bright, and mixed volitions, the Blessed One approves of volitions integrous to the Path, such as sammasankappa, as this leads to the ending of kamma.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby vinasp » Thu Jun 12, 2014 2:24 pm

Hi everyone,

SANKHARA PASSIVE.

In its passive sense sankhara means things which are constructed. What are these things? Everything found in ordinary samsaric experience. So almost everything in the teachings, all twelve items in Dependent Origination, all of the things classed as aggregates, are sankharas - constructed.

The only thing which is not constructed (asankhata) is nibbana.

sabbe sankhara anicca - all constructed things are impermanent.
sabbe sankhara dukkha - all constructed things are painful.
sabbe dhamma anatta - all mental objects are not-self.

So my normal state-of-mind is constructed, my 'self' and my world are constructed. And these are perpetuated by being continuously re-constructed.
This is samsaric existence.

SANKHARA ACTIVE.

The volitional activities which are constructing all this are sankharas in the active sense. Our problem is that we cannot see this process. The reason for this is, that it is not just new-volition but mostly old-volition which is doing the constructing. Old habits still operating in the present keep
re-creating the same old thing over and over again.

The present state-of-mind is already a constructed thing, and full of constructed things. The volitional activities which are constructing the next state-of-mind would be classed as sankhara khandha.

"When one abides inflamed by lust, fettered, infatuated, contemplating gratification, then the five aggregates affected by clinging are built up for oneself in the future, ..." [BB, MLDB, MN 149.3]

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby faraway » Thu Jun 12, 2014 3:02 pm

daverupa wrote:
The various translations of the word-play over the aggregates in SN 22.79 is worth studying in this regard (though perhaps the difference between sanna and vinnana is not well-stated there).

Here is Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation:

SN 22.79 wrote:And why, bhikkhus, do you call them volitional formations? ‘They construct the conditioned,’ bhikkhus, therefore they are called volitional formations. And what is the conditioned that they construct? They construct conditioned form as form; they construct conditioned feeling as feeling; they construct conditioned perception as perception; they construct conditioned volitional formations as volitional formations; they construct conditioned consciousness as consciousness. ‘They construct the conditioned,’ bhikkhus, therefore they are called volitional formations.


I think this is the confusing part for general people, most of people would classify the four khandha besides rupa khandha (form) as nama (mental phenomena), so when the above passage said "They construct conditioned form as form", so sankhara can construct form (?), and even sankhara can construct sankhara (?), so what is sankhara anyway? :juggling:

But if sankhara-khandha means intention as stated in Sattatthana Sutta (SN 22.57), then it fits as mental phenomena.


But still, I have a question to shed my curiosity, is there sutta that tell four khandha (vedana, sanna, sankhara, vinnana) besides rupa khandha are classfied as nama (mental phenomena)?
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby santa100 » Thu Jun 12, 2014 3:27 pm

faraway wrote:I think this is the confusing part for general people, most of people would classify the four khandha besides rupa khandha (form) as nama (mental phenomena), so when the above passage said "They construct conditioned form as form", so sankhara can construct form (?), and even sankhara can construct sankhara (?), so what is sankhara anyway?

Because sankhara is such a broad term which includes both active and passive meanings (refer to vinasp's post above and Ven. Bodhi's "Sankhara" essay.)
faraway wrote:But still, I have a question to shed my curiosity, is there sutta that tell four khandha (vedana, sanna, sankhara, vinnana) besides rupa khandha are classfied as nama (mental phenomena)?

From MN 9:
And what is mentality-materiality, what is the origin of mentality-materiality, what is the cessation of mentality-materiality, what is the way leading to the cessation of mentality-materiality? Feeling, perception, volition, contact, and attention—these are called mentality. The four great elements and the material form derived from the four great elements—these are called materiality."

Also notice Ven. Bodhi's note from his "In the Buddha's Words":
Though I render nama as name[or mentality], this should not be taken too literally. Nama is the assemblage of mental factors involved in cognition: feeling, perception, volition, contact, and attention (vedana, sañña, cetana, phassa, manasikara). These are probably called “name” because they contribute to the conceptual designation of objects. It should be noted that in the Nikayas, namarupa does not include consciousness (viññana). Consciousness is the condition for namarupa, just as the latter is the condition for consciousness, so that the two are mutually dependent
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby daverupa » Thu Jun 12, 2014 3:40 pm

faraway wrote:is there sutta that tell four khandha (vedana, sanna, sankhara, vinnana) besides rupa khandha are classfied as nama (mental phenomena)?


Nope, as far as I'm aware. Namarupa is 'name and form', not 'mind and body'.

One place you can find something along those lines is

SN 12.2 wrote:And what, bhikkhus, is name-and-form? Feeling, perception, volition, contact, attention: this is called name. The four great elements and the form derived from the four great elements: this is called form. Thus this name and this form are together called name-and-form.


But there's no reason to consider that namarupa needs to encompass the aggregates, especially since sankhara already happened in the dependent origination chain & vinnana isn't part of namarupa, while in addition 'contact' is based on sense spheres which follow namarupa in the chain.

---

There can be nonphysical rupa, which seems to be confusing for most people. But rupa is the four elements or form derived therefrom; this last can be a nonphysical dhamma registering as all five aggregates, without being arupa.

Imagine a unicorn. There you go. Nonphysical rupa. Or imagine the feel of a breeze - again, nonphysical rupa.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby faraway » Thu Jun 12, 2014 3:47 pm

santa100 wrote:
faraway wrote:But still, I have a question to shed my curiosity, is there sutta that tell four khandha (vedana, sanna, sankhara, vinnana) besides rupa khandha are classfied as nama (mental phenomena)?

From MN 9:
And what is mentality-materiality, what is the origin of mentality-materiality, what is the cessation of mentality-materiality, what is the way leading to the cessation of mentality-materiality? Feeling, perception, volition, contact, and attention—these are called mentality. The four great elements and the material form derived from the four great elements—these are called materiality."


No "sankhara" word mentioned in the pali text source as nama (unless the intention/cetana is accepted as equal or synonym to sankhara), and yes no vinnana as well.
3. Katamaṃ panāvuso nāmarūpaṃ? Katamo nāmarūpasamudayo? Katamo nāmarūpanirodho? Katamā nāmarūpanirodhagāminī paṭipadā?Ti. Vedanā, saññā, cetanā, phasso, manasikāro - idaṃ vuccatāvuso nāmaṃ.
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby pegembara » Fri Jun 13, 2014 3:25 am

vinasp wrote:Hi everyone,

SANKHARA PASSIVE.

In its passive sense sankhara means things which are constructed. What are these things? Everything found in ordinary samsaric experience. So almost everything in the teachings, all twelve items in Dependent Origination, all of the things classed as aggregates, are sankharas - constructed.

The only thing which is not constructed (asankhata) is nibbana.

sabbe sankhara anicca - all constructed things are impermanent.
sabbe sankhara dukkha - all constructed things are painful.
sabbe dhamma anatta - all mental objects are not-self.

So my normal state-of-mind is constructed, my 'self' and my world are constructed. And these are perpetuated by being continuously re-constructed.
This is samsaric existence.

SANKHARA ACTIVE.

The volitional activities which are constructing all this are sankharas in the active sense. Our problem is that we cannot see this process. The reason for this is, that it is not just new-volition but mostly old-volition which is doing the constructing. Old habits still operating in the present keep
re-creating the same old thing over and over again.

The present state-of-mind is already a constructed thing, and full of constructed things. The volitional activities which are constructing the next state-of-mind would be classed as sankhara khandha.

"When one abides inflamed by lust, fettered, infatuated, contemplating gratification, then the five aggregates affected by clinging are built up for oneself in the future, ..." [BB, MLDB, MN 149.3]

Regards, Vincent.


I like the way you put it.The dhamma in sabbe dhamma anatta refers to both the conditioned/constructed and unconditioned/unconstructed/unmade ie. nibbana.
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Jun 13, 2014 8:32 am

daverupa wrote:Ultimately the foregoing methods arrest sankhara, preventing papanca and facilitating dispassion and cessation and clear seeing of things as they are. No need for an act of will might be another way to discuss this.


Is this related to that well-known passage: "In the seen, only the seen...." ( Advice to Bahiya )?
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Re: Sankhara aggregate

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Jun 13, 2014 8:35 am

vinasp wrote:SANKHARA PASSIVE.
SANKHARA ACTIVE.


So is the first descriptive of the the aggregates generally, and the second descriptive of the sankhara aggregate specifically?
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