Volitional Formation

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Volitional Formation

Postby Moth » Fri Dec 31, 2010 11:07 pm

I'm trying to understand the five aggregates and I can't quite grasp what the Buddha meant by sankhara or "volitional formation." I've read several explanations, and my current understand is that it means intention. What is your understanding?
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Re: Volitional Formation

Postby Anicca » Sat Jan 01, 2011 12:14 am

Through the senses, we add some kind of value to the bare "thing" that we sense. Another human is seen as "attractive" or "ugly" depending on our volition. What is really there is just another human. Desire and aversion thrive on our volition. Seeing only what is there helps to begin to remove the desire and volition. Oops - edit that: removes desire and aversion.

Does this help?

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Re: Volitional Formation

Postby Reductor » Sat Jan 01, 2011 1:34 am

The fourth aggregate refers to the directive functions of mind (intention, attention, contact), and also the the more elaborate ideation of mind. Those two things are very closely connected. The ideation is the 'structure' that we impose on sense data flowing in, giving that data enough context for a course of action to be chosen. That choice in mind preceding act or speech, is intention.

The most rudimentary, and most immediate, results of intention would be a change in attention and a new instance of contact. Based on the new focus of attention and new contact arise new perception and feeling, which are then compared back to the way we think it 'should be' and acts as further information for our contextual process.

Or, their is an internal conception how the world 'is', and that is sankhara. Then there is the comparing of an arisen perception to this sankhara, and based on that comparing there is a decision or intention formed, which is also sankhara.

Clear as mud?
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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: Volitional Formation

Postby Wizard in the Forest » Sat Jan 01, 2011 5:26 am

Volition is the power of the will. It drives acts.
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Re: Volitional Formation

Postby ground » Sat Jan 01, 2011 7:13 am

B. Thanissaro here calls "fabrications" what B. Bodhi calls "volitional formations"

"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. From the origination of contact comes the origination of fabrications. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of fabrications. And just this noble eightfold path is the path of practice leading to the cessation of fabrications...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


"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. From the origination of contact comes the origination of fabrications. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of fabrications. And just this noble eightfold path is the path of practice leading to the cessation of fabrications... The fact that pleasure & happiness arises in dependence on fabrications: that is the allure of fabrications. The fact that fabrications are inconstant, stressful, subject to change: that is the drawback of fabrications. The subduing of desire & passion for fabrications, the abandoning of desire & passion for fabrications: that is the escape from fabrications...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


"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. [3]
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html



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Re: Volitional Formation

Postby ground » Sat Jan 01, 2011 7:25 am

There is much mutal inclusiveness regarding the mental aggregates because another name does not mean another "entity" but may just highlight another functional aspect of one and the same phenomenon. The delusive impression of "volitional formations" as "different 'entities'" actually is caused by the inherent reificationist tendency which is exactly the function "fabrication" of the volitional formations described in the 3rd quote above.

B. Bodhi translates "They construct the conditioned ... They construct conditioned form as form ... etc." which I find more straightforward.

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Re: Volitional Formation

Postby Fede » Sat Jan 01, 2011 8:31 am

Simpleton here...

Is it safe to say that 'Volitional Fabrication' is how we come to conclusions depending on our own pre-disposed prejudicial perception?

In other words, it's how we decide to sum things up according to what we are 'receiving'...?

(I told you I was simple....) :embarassed:
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: Volitional Formation

Postby Reductor » Sat Jan 01, 2011 6:06 pm

Fede wrote:Simpleton here...

Is it safe to say that 'Volitional Fabrication' is how we come to conclusions depending on our own pre-disposed prejudicial perception?

In other words, it's how we decide to sum things up according to what we are 'receiving'...?

(I told you I was simple....) :embarassed:


Every occurance where the mind is directed, however subtly, is an instance of 'volition', i.e., the most rudimentary form of 'volition' is the directing of attention away from one object and onto another.

The conclusion you speak of is a complex 'fabrication' which was arrived at after many such acts of this subtle volition. But, volition itself is informed by the conclusions already drawn, so both the conclusion and the volition are mutually supportive; but they are not equivalent. Which is probably why this aggregate is easy to get confused over.

To clarify myself: 'Volitional-Fabrication' would refer to the conclusion reached or results obtained, while 'Volition' would refer to something much simpler, the directing of the mind to obtain one object in preference to another.

EDIT: Oops. Fabrication can be a verb, yeah? Seems I've made word soup where none was requested. So, yes, Volitional Fabrication can refer to the process whereby a conclusion is made. It can also refer to the conclusion itself. Sorry about that; seems I tend toward the complicated. :jumping:
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: Volitional Formation

Postby Fede » Sat Jan 01, 2011 7:24 pm

(A simple 'yes' would suffice....)

:tongue:

:thumbsup:
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


http://www.armchairadvice.co.uk/relationships/forum/
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Re: Volitional Formation

Postby Reductor » Sat Jan 01, 2011 8:56 pm

Fede wrote:(A simple 'yes' would suffice....)

:tongue:

:thumbsup:

:embarassed:

I think I shall retire from the computer for a bit. Hahaha.

:heart:
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: Volitional Formation

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sun Jan 02, 2011 12:02 pm

Moth wrote:I'm trying to understand the five aggregates and I can't quite grasp what the Buddha meant by sankhara or "volitional formation."


My rather simplistic approach is to say that the sankharas include all mental activity not included in the other aggregates. So effectively it's what follows perception and feeling.

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Re: Volitional Formation

Postby tobes » Mon Jan 10, 2011 1:46 am

Spiny O'Norman wrote:
Moth wrote:I'm trying to understand the five aggregates and I can't quite grasp what the Buddha meant by sankhara or "volitional formation."


My rather simplistic approach is to say that the sankharas include all mental activity not included in the other aggregates. So effectively it's what follows perception and feeling.

Spiny


Yes, this what makes it so difficult to define: everything that isn't form, feeling, perception or consciousness just gets chucked in there! But it's also so important, I think it's the real lynchpin which makes the Buddhist subject uniquely Buddhist, and is the basic ground for an ethics of moral cultivation.

Why? Because it is the locus for the historical trajectory of the subject; it is what makes the subject, ontologically, a causal process rather than an innate or substantial entity. Sankara's are the mental dispositions or habits which accrue over time. Once it is understood that subjectivity (perhaps better to use the term character or personality) is basically nothing more than the accumulated dispositions, then ethical life follows very naturally: what is one to do but eradicate unwholesome mental habits and cultivate wholesome ones?


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Re: Volitional Formation

Postby alan » Mon Jan 10, 2011 1:55 am

It's what we decide to do. Intentions are volitional fabrications.
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Re: Volitional Formation

Postby Nibbida » Tue Jan 11, 2011 3:48 pm

Intentional mental activity: thinking, directing attention, imagining, remembering, etc.
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