Saṅkhāra in DO & Nibbana description: karmic volition?

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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!
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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

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

Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote an essay on the various meanings of sankhāra titled Anicca Vata Sankhara. This essay discusses the meaning in the context of dependent origination and how it varies from the other contexts. He seems to agree with the conclusion that in the context of dependent origination it means volition.

Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote:In the suttas the word occurs in three major doctrinal contexts. One is in the twelvefold formula of dependent origination (paticca-samuppada), where the sankharas are the second link in the series. They are said to be conditioned by ignorance and to function as a condition for consciousness. Putting together statements from various suttas, we can see that the sankharas are the kammically active volitions responsible for generating rebirth and thus for sustaining the onward movement of samsara, the round of birth and death. In this context sankhara is virtually synonymous with kamma, a word to which it is etymologically akin.


It might also be helpful to read the Pali-English Dictionary definition of the word.

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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

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

Greetings Starter,

starter wrote: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".


Yes, this is also covered in the thread:
viewtopic.php?f=23&t=5909

Metta, Dmytro

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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

Hello Dmytro and arhat,

Thanks for your helpful input.

arhat wrote: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.


-- How about intention to construct bodily, verbal, and mental actions?
"View" alone is not karmic, but intentional actions are karmic, to my understanding.

I tend to think that saṅkhāra in DO has the same meaning as in the five aggregates.

Mega metta!

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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

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

starter wrote:I tend to think that saṅkhāra in DO has the same meaning as in the five aggregates.


Anicca Vata Sankhara by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote: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; such wholesome factors as generosity, kindness, and wisdom; and such unwholesome factors as greed, hatred, and delusion. Since all these factors arise in conjunction with volition and participate in volitional activity, the early Buddhist teachers decided that the most fitting place to assign them is the aggregate of volitional formations.

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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

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

-- How about intention to construct bodily, verbal, and mental actions?
"View" alone is not karmic, but intentional actions are karmic, to my understanding.


That doesn't seem to fit its position between avijjā and Viññāṇa. There is no action, one is moving from ignorance to sense-cognition (propelled by Saṅkhāra).

There is evidently no physical action involved, and karma is not yet triggered either.

I tend to think that saṅkhāra in DO has the same meaning as in the five aggregates.


This seems correct.

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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

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

Greetings,

starter wrote:I tend to think that saṅkhāra in DO has the same meaning as in the five aggregates.

arhat wrote:This seems correct.

Yes, saṅkhāra means the same thing in both instances.

Yet, sankhara does not equal sankhara-khanda because khandas (i.e. bundles, aggregations) necessitate delineation in order to be present.

MN 109: Maha-punnama Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

"Lord, what is the cause, what the condition, for the delineation[2] of the aggregate of form? What is the cause, what the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness?"

"Monk, the four great existents (earth, water, fire, & wind) are the cause, the four great existents the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of form. Contact is the cause, contact the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of feeling. Contact is the cause, contact the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of perception. Contact is the cause, contact the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of fabrications. Name-&-form is the cause, name-&-form the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of consciousness."

[2] - Delineation (paññapana) literally means, "making discernible." This apparently refers to the intentional aspect of perception, which takes the objective side of experience and fabricates it into discernible objects. In the case of the aggregates, the four great existents, contact, and name-&-form provide the objective basis for discerning them, while the process of fabrication takes the raw material provided by the objective basis and turns it into discernible instances of the aggregates. This process is described in slightly different terms in SN 22.79.

We see here that the different aggregates are personally delineated, based on different experiential conditions. If aggregates need to be delineated to arise, then they cannot be said to exist, separate from and independently of, their delineation. This shows that Bhikkhu Bodhi's statement above is in error, as he is mistakenly regarding khandas through the lens of ontological realism as extant things, whereas the above and below suttas demonstrate it would be more apt to regard khandas through the lens of ontological nominalism (i.e. as a rejection of universals, thus individually designated and individually fabricated).

SN 22.54: Bija Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"At Savatthi. There the Blessed One addressed the monks: "Monks."

"Yes, lord," the monks responded.

The Blessed One said: "Monks, there are these five means of propagation. Which five? Root-propagation, stem-propagation, joint-propagation, cutting-propagation, & seed-propagation as the fifth. And if these five means of propagation are not broken, not rotten, not damaged by wind & sun, mature, and well-buried, but there is no earth and no water, would they exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation?"

"No, lord."

"And if these five means of propagation are broken, rotten, damaged by wind & sun, immature, and poorly-buried, but there is earth & water, would they exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation?"

"No, lord."

"And if these five means of propagation are not broken, not rotten, not damaged by wind & sun, mature, and well-buried, and there is earth & water, would they exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation?"

"Yes, lord."

"Like the earth property, monks, is how the four standing-spots for consciousness should be seen. Like the liquid property is how delight & passion should be seen. Like the five means of propagation is how consciousness together with its nutriment should be seen.

"Should consciousness, when taking a stance, stand attached to (a physical) form, supported by form, established on form, watered with delight, it would exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation.

"Should consciousness, when taking a stance, stand attached to feeling, supported by feeling, established on feeling, watered with delight, it would exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation.

"Should consciousness, when taking a stance, stand attached to perception, supported by perception, established on perception, watered with delight, it would exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation.

"Should consciousness, when taking a stance, stand attached to fabrications, supported by fabrications, established on fabrications, watered with delight, it would exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation.

"Were someone to say, 'I will describe a coming, a going, a passing away, an arising, a growth, an increase, or a proliferation of consciousness apart from form, from feeling, from perception, from fabrications,' that would be impossible.

"If a monk abandons passion for the property of form...

"If a monk abandons passion for the property of feeling...

"If a monk abandons passion for the property of perception...

"If a monk abandons passion for the property of fabrications...

"If a monk abandons passion for the property of consciousness, then owing to the abandonment of passion, the support is cut off, and there is no base for consciousness. Consciousness, thus unestablished, not proliferating, not performing any function, is released. Owing to its release, it is steady. Owing to its steadiness, it is contented. Owing to its contentment, it is not agitated. Not agitated, he (the monk) is totally unbound right within. He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'"

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

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

Greetings,

arhat wrote:The literal meaning of Saṅkhāra is "putting together" (i.e. formation) but this does not make any contextual sense.

Why not? It's only through ignorance that we put things together to fabricate samsaric existence.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

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

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:We see here that the different aggregates are personally delineated, based on different experiential conditions. If aggregates need to be delineated to arise, then they cannot be said to exist, separate from and independently of, their delineation. This shows that Bhikkhu Bodhi's statement above is in error, as he is mistakenly regarding khandas through the lens of ontological realism as extant things, whereas the above and below suttas demonstrate it would be more apt to regard khandas through the lens of ontological nominalism (i.e. as a rejection of universals, thus individually designated and individually fabricated).

Which particular statement of Bhikkhu Bodhi's are you thinking of? All I can find above is statements about dependent origination...

:anjali:
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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

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

retrofuturist wrote:Why not? It's only through ignorance that we put things together to fabricate samsaric existence.


Hi Retro, what I meant is single word translations are dangerous because English and Pali do not share a lexical base unlike say Pali and Sanskrit.

So fabrication or formation would be literally correct but not necessarily give a complete idea of the Pali word. One should translate literally as well as show the contextual meaning in such cases.

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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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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

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

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Which particular statement of Bhikkhu Bodhi's are you thinking of? All I can find above is statements about dependent origination...

As quoted here: viewtopic.php?f=23&t=20333&p=284937#p284797

Conversely, Nyanaponika Thera is correct when he regards khandas as "all the possible constituents of an alleged self". (Source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el048.html )

Until a bundle (khanda) arises by way of being aggregated or bundled via phassa, it is simply not present. This is correctly discerned by Analayo, when he says, "The aggregate of sankharas arises dependent upon contact". (Source: http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg. ... nkhara.pdf ) and in the Phena Sutta ( Source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html ) which says of the aggregates, "However you observe them, appropriately examine them, they're empty, void to whoever sees them appropriately."

To "put together" (sankhara) "bundles" (khanda) is a volitional activity occuring in dependence upon ignorance (avijja). To not bundle is to be at ease...

SN 12.51 (Piya Tan trans.) wrote:When he neither creates nor forms volitional formation, he does not cling to anything in the world. Not clinging to anything in the world, he is not agitated. Not agitated, he attains nirvana by himself. He understands, 'Destroyed is birth. The holy life has been lived. What needs to be done has been done. There is no more of arising in any state of being.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

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

Hi Retro,

retrofuturist wrote:Until a bundle (khanda) arises by way of being aggregated or bundled via phassa, it is simply not present. This is correctly discerned by Analayo, when he says, "The aggregate of sankharas arises dependent upon contact".


Isn't this just a Conditioned Arising connection of sensation (phassa) and volition (sankhara)?

http://dhamma.ru/lib/paticcas.htm

Bhikkhu Bodhi translates Mahāpuṇṇama sutta according to Commentaries:

"The four great elements, bhikkhu, are the cause and condition for the manifestation of the material form aggregate. Contact is the cause and condition for the manifestation of the feeling aggregate. Contact is teh cause and condition for the manifestation of the perception aggregate. Contact is the cause and condition for the manifestation of the formations aggregate. mentality-materiality is the cause and condition for the manifestation of the consciousness agregate."

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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

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

Greetings Dmytro,

Dmytro wrote:Isn't this just a Conditioned Arising connection of sensation (phassa) and volition (sankhara)?

http://dhamma.ru/lib/paticcas.htm

I find the multiple instances of sankhara appearing on different sides of your blue flags confusing, so my apologies that I cannot really comment. Are you trying to fuse together the five aggregates schema with paticcasamuppada?

Dmytro wrote:Contact is the cause and condition for the manifestation of the formations aggregate

I'm not sure what the difference between "cause" and "condition" is, but it seems to be aligned with what I said above?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

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

Hi,

retrofuturist wrote:I find the multiple instances of sankhara appearing on different sides of your blue flags confusing, so my apologies that I cannot really comment. Are you trying to fuse together the five aggregates schema with paticcasamuppada?


Paticcasamuppada shows how pancaupadanakkhandha (i.e. dukkha as defined in First Noble Truth) arise, so I guess it's relevant to look at it in this way.
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

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Which particular statement of Bhikkhu Bodhi's are you thinking of? All I can find above is statements about dependent origination...

As quoted here: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 37#p284797)

I don't undertand your conclusion (as usual when the alleged-incorrect-realism argument is wheeled out) so I guess we simply interpret the statements differently.

:anjali:
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Re: Translation of saṅkhāra in Dependent Origination: voliti

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

Greetings Retro,

retrofuturist wrote:
Dmytro wrote:Isn't this just a Conditioned Arising connection of sensation (phassa) and volition (sankhara)?

http://dhamma.ru/lib/paticcas.htm

I find the multiple instances of sankhara appearing on different sides of your blue flags confusing, so my apologies that I cannot really comment. Are you trying to fuse together the five aggregates schema with paticcasamuppada?


This chart is an overview of Conditioned Arising links described in the suttas.
You can find detailed explanation in the suttas themselves, referenced below the chart.
For example, the phassa - kamma (sankhara) link is described in Nibbedhika sutta:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... tml#part-5

Blue flags denote transitions between lifetimes. "Sankhara" above refers to volitions in the previous lifetime. "Sankhara" in the middle - in this lifetime.

Dmytro wrote:Contact is the cause and condition for the manifestation of the formations aggregate

I'm not sure what the difference between "cause" and "condition" is, but it seems to be aligned with what I said above?


Conditioned Arising (paticca samuppada) describes the necessary conditions (paccaya). The condition (paccaya) isn't necessarily the cause (hetu). Ven. Nyanatiloka describes this in detail: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... 4.html#ch3

Metta,
Dmytro

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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:
https://medium.com/p/46091f5da69

"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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