Question about sensations

On the cultivation of insight/wisdom
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Re: Question about sensations

Postby tanhakhaya » Fri May 18, 2012 5:55 pm

Manachi wrote:Hi all,

I just returned from my first 10 day Vipassana course (of SN Goenka). One aspect that confused me was the way in which the term "Sankhara" was used.

#1 I had previously always understood the word Sankhara to basically mean any mental formation or mental construct.

#2 But the way it is used in Goenka's teachings is quite different. He refers to a Sankhara is a 'reaction' and that any Sankhara generated is effectively a 'credit or debit' to the individual, according to whether the action is good or bad. Basically he teaches that you want to try and remove "all the stack of Sankharas" that are accumulated. I had never ever heard the term being used like this, and in fact it didn't sound quite right to me. The entire goal of his teaching is effectively to "reduce the stack of sankharas".

If you consider the phrase 'Annica Vata Sankhara" this makes sense with the definition #1 (("Impermanent, alas, are all formations") but not so much with #2. If "Sankharas" are impermanent (which they clearly are), why would you have a stack of them that you have to actively remove?

This causes great confusion to me and a little bit of concern. As I'm sure you can tell I'm still a beginner, but I was hoping someone could please help clarify? It would be much appreciated.

I think there's more than one sense of the term "sankhara" in the canon (see, and Goenka's use of the term fits in more closely with the active form, with respect to creating volitional formations.

My take on it is that "reducing the stack of sankharas" is another way of saying "not creating any new khamma". By just being aware of what arises, (sensations, reactions, etc) and not responding with aversion or craving, we can get a bit of freedom from the compulsions that push us forward, whether we call those compulsions our khamma or our stack of sankhara.

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