What is "fabrication/formation" in Dependent Origination?

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What is "fabrication/formation" in Dependent Origination?

Postby Wind » Sat Mar 27, 2010 11:26 am

In Dependent Origination, it says when there is ignorance as condition there is fabrication or formation. It says there are three kinds: bodily fabrications, verbal fabrications, and mental fabrications.

I can't get my mind around what it meant by fabrication. Can someone give me examples of bodily fabrication, verbal fabrications, and mental fabrications?
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Re: What is "fabrication/formation" in Dependent Origination?

Postby Sobeh » Sat Mar 27, 2010 12:26 pm

When translations of Pali result in phrases and sentences in English that still seem like a foreign language, I like to grab the original Pali word(s) and root around on the internet for other contexts it might occur in, hopefully spiraling in towards a contextual understanding. In this case, that term is saṅkhāra.

In his translation of the Samyutta Nikaya, Bhikkhu Bodhi notes that "Saṅkhāra is derived from the prefix saṃ (=con), 'together,' and the verb karoti, 'to make.' The noun straddles both sides of the active-passive divide. Thus saṅkhāras are both things which put together, construct and compound other things, and the things that are put together, constructed, and compounded."

(Please note that the 'saṅ' in saṅkhāra is the same as the 'saṃ' in samsara.)

The Khajjaniya Sutta (SN 22.79) offers the following details:
"And why do you call them 'fabrications'? Because they fabricate fabricated things, thus they are called 'fabrications.' What do they fabricate as a fabricated thing? For the sake of form-ness, they fabricate form as a fabricated thing. For the sake of feeling-ness, they fabricate feeling as a fabricated thing. For the sake of perception-hood... For the sake of fabrication-hood... For the sake of consciousness-hood, they fabricate consciousness as a fabricated thing. Because they fabricate fabricated things, they are called fabrications."
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Re: What is "fabrication/formation" in Dependent Origination?

Postby Ben » Sat Mar 27, 2010 12:50 pm

hi wind
here is the complete section on sankhara from Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation of the Samyutta, transcribed for all who are interested.

SANKHARA

In MLDB (Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha) I had changed Ven Nanamoli's expermental rendering of sankhara as 'determinations' back to his earlier choice, 'formations'. Aware that this word has its own drawbacks, in preparing this translation I had experimented with several alternatives. Thos most attractive of these were 'constructions', but in the end I felt that this term too often led to obscurity. Hence, like the land-finding crow which always returns to the shop when land is not close by (see Vism 657; Ppn 21:65), I had to fall back on 'formations', which is colourless enough to take on the meaning being imparted by the context. Sometimes I prefixed this with the adjective 'volitional' to bring out the meaning more clearly.
Sankhara is derived from the prefix sam (=con), "together", and the verb karoti, "to make". The noun straddles both sides of the active-passive divide. Thus sankharas are both things which put together, construct, and compound other things, and the things that are put together, constructed, and compounded.
In Samyutta Nikaya (SN) the word occurs in five major doctrinal contexts:

As the second factor in the formula for depenedent origination, sankharas are the kammically active volitions responsible, in conjunction with ignorance and craving, for generating rebirth and sustaining the forward movement of samsara from one life to the next. Sankhara is synonymous with kamma, to which it is etymologically related, both being derived from karoti. These sankharas are distinguished as threefold by their channel of expression, as bodily, verbal, and mental (II 4, 8-10, etc); they are also divided by ethical quality into the meritorious, demeritorious and imperturbable (II 82, 9-13). To convey the relevent sense of sankhara I have rendered the term 'volitional formations." The word might also have been translated "activities", which makes explicit the connection with kamma, but this rendering would sever the connection with sankhara in contexts other than dependent origination, which it seems desirable to preserve.
(2) As the fourth of the five aggregates, sankhara is defined as the six classes of volitions (cha cetanakaya, III 60, 25-28), that is, volition regarding the six types of sense objects. Hence again I render it volitional formations. But the sankharakhanda has a wider compass than the sankhara of dependent origination series, comprising all instances of volition and not only those that are kammically active. In the Abhidhamma Pitaka and the commentaries, the sankharakhanda further serves as an umbrella category for classifying all mental concomittants of consciousness apart from feeling and perception. It thus includes all wholesome, unwholesome, and variable mental factors mentioned but not formally classified among the aggregates in the Sutta Pitaka
(3) In the widest sense, sankhara comprises all conditioned things, everything arisen from a combination of conditions. In this sense all five aggregates, not just the fourth, are sankharas (see III 132, 22-27), as are all external objects and situations (II 191, 11-17). The term here is taken to be of passive derivation - denoting what is conditioned, constructed, compounded - hence I render it simply as 'formations', without the qualifying adjective. The notion of sankhara serves as the cornerstone of a philosophical vision which sees the entire universe as constituted of conditioned phenomena. What is particularly emphasised about sankharas in this sense is their impermanence. Recognition of their impermanence brings insight into the unreliable nature of all mundane felicity and inspires a sense of urgency directed towards liberation from samsara (see 150:20; 22:96)
(4) A triad of sankharas is mentioned in connection with the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling: the bodily formation, the verbal formation, and the mental formation (IV 293, 7-28). The first is in-and-out breathing (because breath is bound up with the body); the second, thought and examination (because by thinking one formulates the ideas one expresses by speech); the third, perception and feeling (because these things are bound up with mind). Two of these terms - the bodily formation and the mental formation - are also included in the expanded instructions on minfulness of breathing (V 311, 21-22; 312,4-5).
(5) The expression padhanasankhara occurs in the formula for the four iddhipadas, the bases of spiritual power. The text explains it as the four right kinds of striving (V 268, 8-19). I render it 'volitional formations of striving'. Though strictly speaking, the expression signifies energy (viriya) and not volition (cetana), the qualifier shows that these formations occur in an active rather than passive mode.
Apart from these main contexts, the word sankhara occurs in several compounds – ayusankhara (II 266, 19; V 262, 22-23) jivitasankhara (V 152, 29-153,2) bhavasankhara (V 263, 2) – which can be understood as different aspects of the life force.
The past participle connected with sankhara is sankhata, which I translate as ‘conditioned’. Unfortunately I could not render the two Pali words into English in a way that preserves the vital connection between them: ‘formed’ is too specific for sankhata[i], and ‘conditions’ too wide for [i]sankhara (and it also encroaches on the domain of paccaya). If ‘constructions’ had been used for sankhara, sankhata would become ‘constructed’, which preserves the connection, though at the cost of too stilted a translation. Regrettably, owing to the use of different English words for the pair, a critically important dimension of meaning in the suttas is lost to view. In the Pali, we can clearly see the connection: the sankharas, the active constructive forces instigated by volition, create and shape conditioned reality, especially the conditioned factors classified into the five aggregates and the six internal sense bases, and this conditioned reality itself consists of sankharas in the passive sense, called in the commentaries sankhata-sankhara.
Further, it is not only this connection that is lost to view, but also the connection to Nibbana. For Nibbana is the asankhata, the unconditioned, which is called thus precisely because it is neither made up by sankharas nor itself a sankhara in either the active or passive sense. So, when the texts are taken up in the Pali we arrive at a clear picture in fine focus: the active sankharas generated by volition perpetually create passive sankharas, the sankhata dhammas or conditioned phenomena of the five aggregates (and, indirectly, of the objective world); and then, through the practice of the Buddha’s path, the practitioner arrives at the true knowledge of conditioned phenomena, which disables the generation of active sankharas, putting an end to the constructing of conditioned reality and opening the door to the Deathless, the asankhata, the unconditioned, which is Nibbana, the final liberation from impermanence and suffering.
[/quote]

metta

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Re: What is "fabrication/formation" in Dependent Origination?

Postby acinteyyo » Sat Mar 27, 2010 2:03 pm

Wind wrote:In Dependent Origination, it says when there is ignorance as condition there is fabrication or formation. It says there are three kinds: bodily fabrications, verbal fabrications, and mental fabrications.

I can't get my mind around what it meant by fabrication. Can someone give me examples of bodily fabrication, verbal fabrications, and mental fabrications?

Hi Wind,

Sobeh and Ben already gave you very good explanations, in addition I recommend MN44 Culavedalla Sutta.
In MN44 we can find:
MN44 Culavedalla Sutta wrote:"Now, lady, what are fabrications?"

"These three fabrications, friend Visakha: bodily fabrications, verbal fabrications, & mental fabrications."

"But what are bodily fabrications? What are verbal fabrications? What are mental fabrications?"

"In-&-out breaths are bodily fabrications. Directed thought & evaluation are verbal fabrications. Perceptions & feelings are mental fabrications."

"But why are in-&-out breaths bodily fabrications? Why are directed thought & evaluation verbal fabrications? Why are perceptions & feelings mental fabrications?"

"In-&-out breaths are bodily; these are things tied up with the body. That's why in-&-out breaths are bodily fabrications. Having first directed one's thoughts and made an evaluation, one then breaks out into speech. That's why directed thought & evaluation are verbal fabrications. Perceptions & feelings are mental; these are things tied up with the mind. That's why perceptions & feelings are mental fabrications."


personally I like Ven. Ñanavira's Note on sankhāra, too

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

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Re: What is "fabrication/formation" in Dependent Origination?

Postby Wind » Sun Mar 28, 2010 2:02 am

Thanks. You guys are great. I will have to contemplate this a bit.
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Re: What is "fabrication/formation" in Dependent Origination?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Mar 28, 2010 2:39 am

Wind wrote:Thanks. You guys are great. I will have to contemplate this a bit.

I recommend making use of Ven Nyanatiloka's excellent Dictionary: http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... ict.n2.htm

The entry for Sankhāra: http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... kh%C4%81ra is similar to Bhikkhu Bodhi's description (not surprisingly, since Bhikkhu Bodhi is one of Ven Nyanatiloka's successors - or successors of successors...) and has links to other entries, such as Dependent Origination.

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Re: What is "fabrication/formation" in Dependent Origination?

Postby Wind » Sun Mar 28, 2010 3:28 am

I have another question: Why does fabrication precede consciousness in Dependent Origination?
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Re: What is "fabrication/formation" in Dependent Origination?

Postby Kenshou » Sun Mar 28, 2010 3:37 am

Wind wrote:I have another question: Why does fabrication precede consciousness in Dependent Origination?


I second this. The part of the chain that goes saṅkhāra > viññāṇa > nāmarūpa is the main bit of paticcasamuppāda that I can't get my head around. Feels backwards to me.
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Re: What is "fabrication/formation" in Dependent Origination?

Postby Sobeh » Sun Mar 28, 2010 4:29 am

Viññāṇa and nāmarūpa co-arise, they aren't sequential. Beyond this clarification, my own understanding of paticcasamuppada is still unrefined enough to address the question, so I too await commentary from others on this point.
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Re: What is "fabrication/formation" in Dependent Origination?

Postby Reductor » Sun Mar 28, 2010 5:49 am

Because 'formation' or 'volition' in DO describe not only the intention, but also action and the results following there from.

When there is an intention and an action, the results yield the conditions for either the arising of new being endowed with consciousness + name-and-form (which do arise together and are co-dependent), or if a being exists already, then the results sustain the name-and-from + consciousness pairing already existent.

If you remove ignorance and volition from the DO chain, you have a perfectly understandable description of a being that already exists. But without that beings continued intention+action which creates or continues the conditions that originally gave it rise, the being ceases to exist (eg, it starves to death from lack of food).

The essence of volition lies on a being having a preference for one thing over another, and then acting on that preference. At the heart of this preference lies ignorance: not understanding the four noble truths.

So, when you read 'formation' don't think of just things inside the being, but think of all the conditions that go into the arising and maintaining of that being which were perpetuated by that beings craving for one form of existence over another. Even things that seem conventionally exterior to that being are not so cleanly separate from its existence.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: What is "fabrication/formation" in Dependent Origination?

Postby acinteyyo » Sun Mar 28, 2010 8:31 am

Wind wrote:I have another question: Why does fabrication precede consciousness in Dependent Origination?

Kenshou wrote:I second this. The part of the chain that goes saṅkhāra > viññāṇa > nāmarūpa is the main bit of paticcasamuppāda that I can't get my head around. Feels backwards to me.

Hi,

there are different interpretations of paticcasamuppāda and I don't want to go in for that discussion. But from my point of view, which is mostly in line with the Notes on paticcasamuppāda of Ven. Ñanavira Thera, the whole paticcasamuppāda formula is in itself timeless. Each link precedes the other not in time but locigally. Either there are all 12 links together or none, because since every link is the condition for the following one it is illogical to say that in time firstly there would be only avijjā but no saṅkhāra and after some time there would then arise saṅkhāra and so on. It is said:
MN38 The Major Discourse on the Destruction of Craving wrote:When there is this this is, with arising of this this arises
This is to say, when there is avijjā, there is saṅkhāra. But then we have to say, when there is saṅkhāra, there is viññāṇa, too. And so on. Or with the arising of avijjā, there is the arising of saṅkhāra. But when there is the arising of saṅkhāra, there have to be the arising of viññāṇa, too. And so on again. All 12 links arise together, are togethere, cease together.

So the question is, why does saṅkhāra precede viññāṇa (logically)?

Ven. Ñanavira Thera" in Notes on sankhāra wrote:sankhāra, in all contexts, means 'something that something else depends on', that is to say a determination (determinant).

sankhāra determines viññāṇa. That's why it comes before viññāṇa.
All conditioned things are sankhārā.
Viññāṇa depends on the six sense bases (salāyatana) and their corresponding objects and attention (manasikāra).
Therefore the six sense bases, their corresponding objects and attention are sankhārā, because they are something which something else depends on. These sankhārā determine viññāṇa. Thus in short one can say, sankhārā are the origin of viññāṇa and that's why sankhāra precedes viññāṇa.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

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Re: What is "fabrication/formation" in Dependent Origination?

Postby Nibbida » Wed Mar 31, 2010 4:34 pm

I confess that I was completely clueless about much of the 12 Links of Dependent Origination. I couldn't seem to translate any traditional accounts of it that I read into real-life examples. However, when I read Christina Feldman's explanation, it made sense:

http://www.dharma.org/ij/archives/1999a/christina.htm

Now I can go back to the more technical explanations and appreciate them better.
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