confusion

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confusion

Postby Hunter » Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:59 pm

I am confused on the subject of Saṅkhāra. I dont understand what a volitional formation is. I know that volition is like will or decision making. But what is a Volitional, Mental, or Compositional Formation?
the Buddha said :

"Intention, monks, is karma, I say. Having willed, one acts through body, speech and mind."
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Re: confusion

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jun 23, 2010 9:06 pm

Hi Hunter,

Sankhara is confusing, because it has many different meanings in different contexts.
There was a thread on it recently, which I'm sure someone can link to (I can't remember where it was). But here are the various definitions:

http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... kh%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.

Mike
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Re: confusion

Postby Hunter » Wed Jun 23, 2010 9:43 pm

Im sorry but I am still confused. What I want to know, and this may help, is what is Sankhara Khandha.
the Buddha said :

"Intention, monks, is karma, I say. Having willed, one acts through body, speech and mind."
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Re: confusion

Postby bodom » Wed Jun 23, 2010 9:47 pm

Anicca Vata Sankhara by Bhikkhu Bodhi
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_43.html

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: confusion

Postby bodom » Wed Jun 23, 2010 9:58 pm

From above:

The fourth aggregate is the sankhara-khandha,the aggregate of volitional formations. The texts define the sankhara-khandha as the six classes of volition (cha cetanakaya):volition regarding forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile objects, and ideas. Though these sankharas correspond closely to those in the formula of dependent origination, the two are not in all respects the same, for the sankhara-khandha has a wider range. The aggregate of volitional formations comprises all kinds of volition. It includes not merely those that are kammically potent, but also those that are kammic results and those that are kammically inoperative. In the later Pali literature the sankhara-khandha becomes an umbrella category for all the factors of mind except feeling and perception, which are assigned to aggregates of their own. Thus the sankhara-khandha comes to include such ethically variable factors as contact, attention, thought, and energy...


:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: confusion

Postby Hunter » Wed Jun 23, 2010 10:06 pm

Thanks you very much Bodom!
the Buddha said :

"Intention, monks, is karma, I say. Having willed, one acts through body, speech and mind."
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Re: confusion

Postby O'seeker » Thu Sep 02, 2010 4:25 pm

Will someone please give a dumbed-down example of a volitional formation and how it relates to the banana tree trunk as one of the aggregates?

From my understanding, it is one's MENTAL ambition to DO something and needing to realize that it is meaningless/empty/impermanent, correct?
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Re: confusion

Postby beeblebrox » Thu Sep 02, 2010 5:44 pm

O'seeker wrote:Will someone please give a dumbed-down example of a volitional formation and how it relates to the banana tree trunk as one of the aggregates?

From my understanding, it is one's MENTAL ambition to DO something and needing to realize that it is meaningless/empty/impermanent, correct?


The banana tree analogy the way I understand it is that there is no concrete, permanent "self" that you can pinpoint anywhere. If you actually look at a banana tree, it looks like it might have a solid trunk, but it's not a trunk... it's a pseudostem made up of rolled-up leaves (aggregates).

Volitional formation = saṅkhāra in Pali. It means (both) "that which is put together" (in passive sense) and "that which puts together" (in active sense). The conditioned and the conditioners. I think they're like legos within legos, all made up of habitual tendencies constructing new tendencies.
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Re: confusion

Postby Vepacitta » Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:02 pm

And to put an even simpler spin on it - sankharas can also be translated as mental formations or fabrications. Discursive thought for example, is a sankhara. Mental images - day dreaming - are sankharas. Naming - 'tree' 'ball' 'see dick and jane and spot run' - form of sankaras. I was reading some of Ven. Bodhi's notes in the Samyutta Nikaya about sankharas and he mentions that volition is a part of sankhara - and its usual translation - but it's not the entire deal. Sankharas are the other 'mental actions' that are apart from feeling, perception and consciousness.

You could look at it that the khanda of sankharas is comprised of various khandas of mental action.

Hope this helped a tad,

V.
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Re: confusion

Postby Tex » Fri Sep 03, 2010 5:11 pm

This might be the thread Mike was referring to:

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=4739
"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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