clw_uk wrote:What is the meaning of Sankhara? Is it kammic formations or does it mean determinations, something which something else depends on?
I have trouble understanding what is meant by Sankhara. All i can work out is that it seems to mean "that which is put together"
The word sankhara
is like the word dhamma
. It is used in so many ways and has so many different meanings.
The use of the word sankhara is at least fourfold: (1) that which is put together; (2) that which puts things together; (3) the process by which things are put together; and (4) the activity of putting things together or creating things.
In the Pali phrase: "Sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara dukkha", here sankhara means conditioned things or that which is put together. All things that are put together, that rely on causes and conditions for their existence are impermanent and unsatisfactory. In brief, sankhara here means 'thing'. It is a noun.
In the Pali phrase from the Dhammapada: "Sankharam paramam dukkha", or in the recollection about Nibbana: "the stilling of all formations (sankhara), the relinquishing of all acquisitions, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, Nibbana", here sankhara means mental contocting, mental proliferating or mental activity.
In the Dhammapada, the Buddha states: "Sankharam paramam dukkha, Nibbana paramum sukkha", which means, mental construing is the supreme suffering and Nibbana is the supreme happiness. Usually, the translators say: "The aggregates are the supreme suffering" but from a Modern Theravada perspective, this translation is wrong. The translators incorrectly here have taken the word sankhara be a 'thing' rather than an 'activity'.
Of the five aggregates, there is sankhara khanda. Sankhara here refers to the mental capacity to concoct or construe. As SN 22.79
"‘‘Kiñca , bhikkhave, saṅkhāre vadetha? Bhikkhus, why do they speak of sankhara?
Bhikkhus, this nature naturally concocts concocted things (abhisankharonti), for this reason it is called "sankhara." What does it concoct? It concocts rupa as something concocted with "formness," it concocts vedana as something concocted with "feelingness," it concocts sanya as something concocted with "recognition-ness," it concocts sankhara as something concocted with "concoctingness," it concocts vinyana as something concocted with "cognition-ness." Bhikkhus, this nature naturally concocts concocted things, for this reason it is called "sankhara."
Last, is the sankhara in dependent origination. Here sankhara means that which puts things together. These sankhara are explained in MN 9 & MN 44. If you read the writings of Nanavira, he quotes MN 9 and 44 just as I am to explain these sankharas.
From a Modern Theravada perspective, unlike the Classical Theravada view, these sankhara are simply the breathing in & breathing out; applied thought & sustained thought; and perception & feeling. In MN 9 and MN 44, these sankhara are called the kaya sankhara, the vaca sankhara and the citta sankhara, which mean the body fabricator, the verbal fabricator and the mind fabricator.
The breathing in & breathing out is the body fabricator because is conditions the state of the physical or flesh body. If the breathing is refined, smooth and long, the physical body will be relaxed and comfortable. If the breathing is short, agitated and coarse, the flesh body will be stressed and tight.
In the Anapanasati Sutta, the fourth step is called "calming the kaya sankhara", which simply means calming the breath. The Ananapasati Sutta clearly shows the word kaya sankhara
does not mean volitional bodily formations or kamma as the Classical Mahavirhara states.
For experiential understanding, when we meditate and can feel agitation in the breath, this agitation is ignorance conditioning the kaya sankhara. As Buddha taught: ignorance conditions sankhara, sankhara conditions consciousness. When the breath is agitated by ignorance, the conscious mind also is not clear.
Similarly, this agitated breath, agitated by ignorance, conditions the body-mind. Therefore, in our meditation, we observe this agitation of ignorance conditioning the breathing which conditions consciousness, mentality and the body. Similarly, when we calm the agitation in our breathing, we observe the nirodha
of the agitation in the breathing and the freeing of the body and mind from dukkha.
The verbal fabricator or vaca sankhara
conditions speech. Thinking occurs before speech occurs. Thus MN 44
Why are directed thought & evaluation verbal fabricators?
Having first directed one's thoughts and made an evaluation, one then breaks out into speech. That's why directed thought & evaluation are verbal fabricators.
Similary, perception & feeling or the citta sankhara
are the mind fabricator. From pleasant feeling comes lust, from unpleasant feeling comes hatred, from neither comes delusion. As MN 18
and SN 36.3
With contact as a requisite condition, there is feeling. What one feels, one perceives (labels in the mind). What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one complicates. Based on what a person complicates, the perceptions & categories of complication assail him/her with regard to past, present, & future forms cognizable via the eye.
If one feels joy, but knows not feeling's nature,
bent towards greed, he will not find deliverance.
If one feels pain, but knows not feeling's nature,
bent toward hate, he will not find deliverance.
And even neutral feeling which as peaceful
the Lord of Wisdom has proclaimed,
if, in attachment, he should cling to it,
he will not be free from the round of ill.
To end, the word sankhara is used in many ways. It means conditioned things, conditioning and conditioners. Or fabrications, fabricating and fabricators.
The Modern Theravada view is sankhara in dependent origination simply refers to the breathing in & out, applied thought & sustained thought and perception & feeling.
Last edited by Element on Sat Feb 07, 2009 11:00 pm, edited 10 times in total.