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Saṅkhāra in DO & Nibbana description: karmic volition? - Dhamma Wheel

Saṅkhāra in DO & Nibbana description: karmic volition?

Explore the ancient language of the Tipitaka and Theravāda commentaries

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Saṅkhāra in DO & Nibbana description: karmic volition?

Postby starter » Sun Mar 30, 2014 2:14 am

Greetings!

After studying MN 9 and the relevant suttas, I came to the tentative conclusion that sankhara in Dependent Origination should porbably be translated as "volition" instead of "formation".

Firstly, in Dependent Origination saṅkhāra and viññāṇa appear to have the same meaning as in the Five Aggregates:

"Saṅkhārasamudayā viññāṇasamudayo, saṅkhāranirodhā viññāṇanirodho, ... " (MN 9)

Secondly, in the Five Aggregates, "saṅkhāras" means "volitions":

SN 22.57 Sattatthana Sutta: Seven Bases
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
"And what are volitions? 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 volitions. "

And DN 22: intention and carving are covered under the fourth aggregate, which is a clear elaboration of what the Buddha meant for the fourth aggregate -- "volitions" instead of "formations".

"Intention for forms... Intention for sounds... Intention for smells... Intention for tastes... Intention for tactile sensations... Intention for mental objects...

Craving for forms... Craving for sounds... Craving for smells... Craving for tastes... Craving for tactile sensations... Craving for mental objects..."

And SN 12.64 (& similarly in MN 72):

"Just as if there were a roofed house or a roofed hall having windows on the north, the south, or the east. When the sun rises, and a ray has entered by way of the window, where does it land?"

"On the western wall, lord."

"And if there is no western wall, where does it land?"

"On the ground, lord."

"And if there is no ground, where does it land?"

"On the water, lord."

"And if there is no water, where does it land?"

"It does not land, lord."

"In the same way, where there is no passion for the nutriment of physical food ... contact ... intellectual intention ... consciousness, where there is no delight, no craving, then consciousness does not land there or grow. Where consciousness does not land or grow, name-&-form does not alight. Where name-&-form does not alight, there is no growth of (karmic) volitions. Where there is no growth of volitions, there is no production of renewed becoming in the future. Where there is no production of renewed becoming in the future, there is no future birth, aging, & death. That, I tell you, has no sorrow, affliction, or despair."

Metta to all!
Last edited by starter on Thu Apr 03, 2014 3:09 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

Postby culaavuso » Sun Mar 30, 2014 2:19 am



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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

Postby Dmytro » Tue Apr 01, 2014 7:42 pm



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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

Postby bharadwaja » Tue Apr 01, 2014 10:44 pm

The literal meaning of Saṅkhāra is "putting together" (i.e. formation) but this does not make any contextual sense.
Saṅkhāra is volition in the sense that it is based on conscious action, however that does not explain it very well either.

Saṅkhāra as one of the 12 cyclical Nidānas (causes) of paṭicca samuppāda stands between Avijjā (ignorance i.e. lack of knowledge about distress) and Viññāṇa (discriminative cognition i.e. knowledge).

Taking the context into account, my suggestion is that it should be translated as "intention to construct a view" using the physical (body "kāya"), aural (speech "vāca") and mental (mind "mana") factors. It is a kind of action impelled by curiosity that pushes one from the state of avijjā to the state of viññāṇa where a view is developed.The state of viññāṇa is described as being formed of cognition only at the level of the five senses i.e. it is incomplete.

Saṅkhāra is also one of the five khandhas (i.e. sprouts) that characterize a sentient being.

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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

Postby starter » Wed Apr 02, 2014 8:42 pm


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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

Postby culaavuso » Wed Apr 02, 2014 8:44 pm



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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

Postby bharadwaja » Wed Apr 02, 2014 9:40 pm


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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Apr 03, 2014 12:14 am

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Apr 03, 2014 12:17 am

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Apr 03, 2014 4:33 am


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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

Postby bharadwaja » Thu Apr 03, 2014 8:34 am


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Re: Saṅkhāra in DO & Nibbana description: karmic volition?

Postby starter » Thu Apr 03, 2014 3:30 pm

Hello Friends,

I highly recommend the thread recommended by Dmytro:
viewtopic.php?f=23&t=5909

Before continuing the discussion on saṅkhāra, I recommend reading the above thread first, in particular the link recommended by piotr:

"There is also very detailed encyclopedia entry written by Anālayo: http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg. ... nkhara.pdf"

In this entry, Ven. Anālayo has clearly distinguished the meaning of saṅkhāra in the five khandas and in DO. And I agree that saṅkhāra in the five khandas has wider meaning than in DO. In the five khandas, saṅkhāra includes both karmically active volitions (in the case of non-arahants) and karmically inactive volitions (in the case of arahants), while in DO it refers to only karmically active volitions.

I'd like to add the meaning of saṅkhāra in the following stock statement about Nibbana:
"... the stilling of all volitions (saṅkhāra), the relinquishing of all attachments, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, Nibbāna" (Mn 26). For more relevant information, please see:

viewtopic.php?f=25&t=19351

Although in Nibbana without residue saṅkhāra could refer to both karmic and non-karmic volitions, I tend to think that in the above statement saṅkhāra refers to karmic volitions, the stilling of which leads to Nibbana.

Thanks for all your input and metta to all!

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Last edited by starter on Fri Apr 04, 2014 2:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Apr 03, 2014 10:11 pm

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

Postby Dmytro » Fri Apr 04, 2014 4:50 am



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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Apr 04, 2014 7:20 am

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

Postby piotr » Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:24 am

Bhagavaṃmūlakā no, bhante, dhammā...

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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:28 am


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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

Postby Dmytro » Fri Apr 04, 2014 4:44 pm



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Re: Saṅkhāra in DO & Nibbana description: karmic volition?

Postby Freelance ExBuddhist » Mon Apr 07, 2014 12:56 pm

I wrote an article that discloses the intellectual history of western (mis-)interpretations of this text...

...with the most influential book being A.B. Keith's 1922 "standard textbook" that devoted a very non-standard chapter to the matter...

...and I'm sorry to say that you may be mildly shocked and horrified to discover how far English-language discourse has veered away from the thematic interest of the original Pali:


"Soaring abstractions about the 12 links are now the staple (and “stump speech”) of lectures from both religious authorities (career monks) and secular ones (career professors). There are difficult questions of how we really came to know the things that we presume to know (as dogmas) that must now be put to an entire generation of professors who are accustomed to repeating philosophical generalizations about Buddhism without any real skepticism about how these tenets have come to be so generally accepted."


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