Different causes of sankhara?

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Different causes of sankhara?

Postby Tex » Mon Jun 21, 2010 2:21 pm

Here we have two different causes for the same Pali term, sankhara (not to mention two slightly different English translations).

In dependent origination, ignorance (avijja) is the cause for sankhara:

62. "And what are formations, what is the origin of formations, what is the cessation of formations, what is the way leading to the cessation of formations? There are these three kinds of formations: the bodily formation, the verbal formation, the mental formation. With the arising of ignorance there is the arising of formations. With the cessation of ignorance there is the cessation of formations. The way leading to the cessation of formations is just this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view... right concentration.


Quoted from MN 9: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .ntbb.html

But in describing the aggregates (khandhas), contact (phassa) is given as the cause of sankhara.

"Monk, the four great existents (earth, water, fire, & wind) are the cause, the four great existents the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of form. Contact is the cause, contact the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of feeling. Contact is the cause, contact the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of perception. Contact is the cause, contact the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of fabrications. Name-&-form is the cause, name-&-form the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of consciousness."


Quoted from MN 109: http://onlinedhamma.net/nanda/AccessToI ... .than.html

I'm a little confused on the distinction here.

From what I understand, in the three life model of dependent origination, sankhara is referring to the kammic formations of the previous life, which condition the arising of consciousness (vinnana) in the new life. But I also know that some do not use the three life model of dependent origination. So how do you understand sankhara in terms of d.o.?

Also, in d.o., contact comes later in the sequence, after sankhara and therefore dependent upon sankhara, not the other way around as described in the explanation of the aggregates above.

I guess I'm just confused -- if the causes are different and the meanings are different, why use the same word in both spots?
"The serene and peaceful mind is the true epitome of human achievement."-- Ajahn Chah, Living Dhamma

"To reach beyond fear and danger we must sharpen and widen our vision. We have to pierce through the deceptions that lull us into a comfortable complacency, to take a straight look down into the depths of our existence, without turning away uneasily or running after distractions." -- Bhikkhu Bodhi
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Re: Different causes of sankhara?

Postby Reductor » Mon Jun 21, 2010 3:48 pm

DO and the aggregates are looking at experience from difference POV so there seems to be a discrepancy. This is not the case, really. If you break down contact you have: external base (world) + internal base (body) + consciousness-class. Now in MN 44 or 43 consciousness is said to be inextricably bound with perception and feeling. So each act of contact pulls in form, perception, feeling and consciousness. And it is dependent on these other aggregates that volition functions for how can volition occur in a vacuum? If there is no information of any kind, what can volition do? Nothing, so volition cannot be said to exist without the information provided by the other four aggregates, and so it is conditioned there.

Now, the question become: "where does ignorance reside"? It is safe to say the ignorance resides, so to speak, with perception and feelings more than any of the other aggregates. Since volition rests on dependence of these two aggregates, and these two are heavily tainted by ignorance, then we see that volition is also dependent on ignorance.

DO describes the experiential order of how the aggregates come to be, while the aggregates are a division of the being that has come into functional categories.

Or so I see it.
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: Different causes of sankhara?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jun 21, 2010 11:38 pm

Greetings,

Sankharas are things that are formed in dependence on something else.

To that end, every subsequent step on the D.O. sequence is a sankhara as it is dependently originated.

All dhammas with the exception of nibbana are sankhata-dhamma (formed dhammas, i.e. things dependent on something else)

See also Nanavira Thera's comments on sankhara at http://nanavira.xtreemhost.com/index.ph ... &Itemid=84

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Different causes of sankhara?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jun 21, 2010 11:58 pm

Hi Tex,

Yes, it seems that sankhara has several different meanings in different places. You might find Ven Nyanatiloka's dictionary entry useful:
http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Buddhist.Dictionary/dic3_s.htm#sankh%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: Different causes of sankhara?

Postby Ben » Tue Jun 22, 2010 12:03 am

Hi Tex

If you do a word search here you will eventually drag up a thread titled 'sankhara' where I transcribed Bhikkhu Bodhi's definition from the introduction of his translation of the Samyutta Nikaya. It might be of benefit to reference it here.
kind regards

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Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Different causes of sankhara?

Postby Tex » Tue Jun 22, 2010 12:26 am

Found it Ben, will paste it below in case anyone else finds it helpful as well.

From Bhikkhu Bodhi's SN translation:

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)


Thanks to all for the input. Seems it's just a heavily context-dependent word.
"The serene and peaceful mind is the true epitome of human achievement."-- Ajahn Chah, Living Dhamma

"To reach beyond fear and danger we must sharpen and widen our vision. We have to pierce through the deceptions that lull us into a comfortable complacency, to take a straight look down into the depths of our existence, without turning away uneasily or running after distractions." -- Bhikkhu Bodhi
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Re: Different causes of sankhara?

Postby Ben » Tue Jun 22, 2010 2:12 am

Hi Tex

Do you have a copy of the Vism?
If so, I refer you to Ch XVII (Dependent Origination), sections 60 to 65 (Formations), and from section 101 (How ignorance is a condition for formations).
kind regards

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Different causes of sankhara?

Postby Tex » Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:09 am

Ben wrote:Hi Tex

Do you have a copy of the Vism?
If so, I refer you to Ch XVII (Dependent Origination), sections 60 to 65 (Formations), and from section 101 (How ignorance is a condition for formations).
kind regards

Ben


I don't have a copy yet, sigh. I've been postponing study of Visuddhimagga and Abhidhamma until I've got a better handle on the suttas themselves (is that even a reasonable approach??).

Thanks as always for your suggestions.
"The serene and peaceful mind is the true epitome of human achievement."-- Ajahn Chah, Living Dhamma

"To reach beyond fear and danger we must sharpen and widen our vision. We have to pierce through the deceptions that lull us into a comfortable complacency, to take a straight look down into the depths of our existence, without turning away uneasily or running after distractions." -- Bhikkhu Bodhi
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Re: Different causes of sankhara?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:14 am

Greetings Tex,

Tex wrote:I don't have a copy yet, sigh. I've been postponing study of Visuddhimagga and Abhidhamma until I've got a better handle on the suttas themselves (is that even a reasonable approach??).

Of course! 8-)

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Different causes of sankhara?

Postby Ben » Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:30 am

Hi Tex,
Tex wrote:I don't have a copy yet, sigh. I've been postponing study of Visuddhimagga and Abhidhamma until I've got a better handle on the suttas themselves (is that even a reasonable approach??).


Really, its whatever works for you. I would hesitate to say which approach is better or worse than another. For me personally, the Vism and Bhikkhu Bodhi's edition of A comprehensive manual of the Abhidhamma are outstanding and have been instrumental in my deepening intellectual understanding of the Dhamma and my practice. I would certainly consider both to be important parts of any Theravada Dhamma library that complements the Tipitaka.
metta

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Different causes of sankhara?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Jun 29, 2010 9:11 pm

“"And what are fabrications? These three are fabrications: bodily fabrications (kāyasaṅkhāro), verbal fabrications (vacīsaṅkhāro), mental fabrications (cittasaṅkhāro). These are called fabrications.”
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

There are these three kinds of formations: the bodily formation, the verbal formation, the mental formation (cittasaṅkhāro).
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .ntbb.html
Tayome, āvuso, saṅkhārā – kāyasaṅkhāro, vacīsaṅkhāro, cittasaṅkhāro


"In-&-out breaths are bodily fabrications. Directed thought & evaluation are verbal fabrications. Perceptions & feelings are mental fabrications (cittasaṅkhāro)." http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Assāsapassāsā kho, āvuso visākha, kāyasaṅkhāro, vitakkavicārā vacīsaṅkhāro, saññā ca vedanā ca cittasaṅkhāro’’ti. M I 301


Formations (saṅkhāra) condition consciousness (viññāṇa).

This makes sense as:
"“Name-&-form is the cause, name-&-form the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of consciousness."”
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Breathing is bodily formation. You know sometimes by altering one's breath, the mood may change. Remember phrases such as "take a deep breath?"
vitakkavicārā vacīsaṅkhāro are part of saṅkhārakhandha, and cittasaṅkhāro (saññā, vedanā) are other parts of nāma.

As for cause of sankhara (formations, fabrications)
To an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, touched by what is felt born of contact with ignorance (Avijjāsamphassajena), craving arises. That fabrication is born of that
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html



IMHO,

With metta,

Alex
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