Help! Meaning of sankhara

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
User avatar
Pseudobabble
Posts: 938
Joined: Mon Apr 17, 2017 11:11 am
Location: London

Re: Help! Meaning of sankhara

Post by Pseudobabble »

Mr Empty wrote:
Tue May 05, 2015 9:22 pm
Hello :)

Is there anyone that can achieve the impossible, by explaining to me successfully in idiot language the meaning of sankhara? I understand the meaning in terms of all things being sankhara, but in the context of paticcasamuppada and the aggregates - I am struggling. Is it in actual fact more straight forward than my complicated little brain? Or more complicated? :)
Lol, good luck with that.

The etymology is from kr (to do or make) and sam (together), but the word itself can mean either the thing that makes, the thing made, the process of making, or any combination of them
"Does Master Gotama have any position at all?"

"A 'position,' Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with. What a Tathagata sees is this: 'Such is form, such its origination, such its disappearance; such is feeling, such its origination, such its disappearance; such is perception...such are fabrications...such is consciousness, such its origination, such its disappearance.'" - Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta


'Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.' - Genesis 3:19

'Some fart freely, some try to hide and silence it. Which one is correct?' - Saegnapha

Spiny Norman
Posts: 7399
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Andromeda looks nice

Re: Help! Meaning of sankhara

Post by Spiny Norman »

Mr Empty wrote:
Tue May 05, 2015 9:22 pm
Hello :)

Is there anyone that can achieve the impossible, by explaining to me successfully in idiot language the meaning of sankhara? I understand the meaning in terms of all things being sankhara, but in the context of paticcasamuppada and the aggregates - I am struggling. Is it in actual fact more straight forward than my complicated little brain? Or more complicated? :)
In the context of DO I have seen sankhara variously translated as "volition", "intention", and "choices". Unfortunately there is no consensus on how DO should be interpreted, so it's unlikely you will find a consensus on sankhara either.

Sankhara appears to have a broader scope in the aggregates, basically all the mental activity which follows on from the conjoined vinnana/vedana/sanna triplet. But again it's a matter of interpretation.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 7861
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Help! Meaning of sankhara

Post by DooDoot »

Dinsdale wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 5:37 am
In the context of DO I have seen sankhara variously translated as "volition", "intention", and "choices". Unfortunately there is no consensus on how DO should be interpreted, so it's unlikely you will find a consensus on sankhara either.
Since "volition" ("cetana") is explicitly found in nama-rupa, why would "sankhara" be "volition" when the word "sankhara" does not appear to mean "volition"? :shrug:
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/paticcasamuppada
https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/anapanasati

User avatar
SDC
Posts: 5822
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Help! Meaning of sankhara

Post by SDC »

DooDoot wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 7:02 am
Dinsdale wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 5:37 am
In the context of DO I have seen sankhara variously translated as "volition", "intention", and "choices". Unfortunately there is no consensus on how DO should be interpreted, so it's unlikely you will find a consensus on sankhara either.
Since "volition" ("cetana") is explicitly found in nama-rupa, why would "sankhara" be "volition" when the word "sankhara" does not appear to mean "volition"? :shrug:
Ven. Ñānavīra wrote:6. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to suppose from the foregoing that sankhārā in the paticcasamuppāda context cannot mean cetanā. One Sutta (Nidāna/Abhisamaya Samy. vi,1 <S.ii,82>) gives sankhārā in this context as puññābhisankhāra, apuññābhisankhāra, and āneñjābhisankhāra, and it is clear enough that we must understand sankhārā here as some kind of cetanā. Indeed, it is upon this very Sutta that the traditional interpretation relies to justify its conception of sankhārā in the context of the paticcasamuppāda formulation. It might be wondered how the traditional interpretation gets round the difficulty of explaining assāsapassāsā, vitakkavicārā, and saññā and vedanā, as cetanā, in defiance of the Cūlavedallasutta passage. The answer is simple: the traditional interpretation, choosing to identify cittasankhāra with manosankhāra, roundly asserts (in the Visuddhimagga) that kāyasankhāra, vacīsankhāra, and cittasankhāra, are kāyasañcetanā, vacīsañcetanā, and manosañcetanā,—see §16 --, and altogether ignores the Cūlavedallasutta. The difficulty is thus, discreetly, not permitted to arise.

- A Note on PS, §6

Spiny Norman
Posts: 7399
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Andromeda looks nice

Re: Help! Meaning of sankhara

Post by Spiny Norman »

SDC wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:13 pm
DooDoot wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 7:02 am
Dinsdale wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 5:37 am
In the context of DO I have seen sankhara variously translated as "volition", "intention", and "choices". Unfortunately there is no consensus on how DO should be interpreted, so it's unlikely you will find a consensus on sankhara either.
Since "volition" ("cetana") is explicitly found in nama-rupa, why would "sankhara" be "volition" when the word "sankhara" does not appear to mean "volition"? :shrug:
Ven. Ñānavīra wrote:6. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to suppose from the foregoing that sankhārā in the paticcasamuppāda context cannot mean cetanā. One Sutta (Nidāna/Abhisamaya Samy. vi,1 <S.ii,82>) gives sankhārā in this context as puññābhisankhāra, apuññābhisankhāra, and āneñjābhisankhāra, and it is clear enough that we must understand sankhārā here as some kind of cetanā. Indeed, it is upon this very Sutta that the traditional interpretation relies to justify its conception of sankhārā in the context of the paticcasamuppāda formulation. It might be wondered how the traditional interpretation gets round the difficulty of explaining assāsapassāsā, vitakkavicārā, and saññā and vedanā, as cetanā, in defiance of the Cūlavedallasutta passage. The answer is simple: the traditional interpretation, choosing to identify cittasankhāra with manosankhāra, roundly asserts (in the Visuddhimagga) that kāyasankhāra, vacīsankhāra, and cittasankhāra, are kāyasañcetanā, vacīsañcetanā, and manosañcetanā,—see §16 --, and altogether ignores the Cūlavedallasutta. The difficulty is thus, discreetly, not permitted to arise.

- A Note on PS, §6
So how does Nanavira define the sankhara nidana?
Buddha save me from new-agers!

User avatar
SDC
Posts: 5822
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Help! Meaning of sankhara

Post by SDC »

Dinsdale wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 5:08 pm
So how does Nanavira define the sankhara nidana?
Ven. Nv wrote:11. Let us now turn to the beginning of the paticcasamuppāda formulation and consider the word sankhāra. The passage from the Cūlavedallasutta quoted in §5 evidently uses sankhāra to mean a thing from which some other thing is inseparable—in other words, a necessary condition. This definition is perfectly simple and quite general, and we shall find that it is all that we need. (If a sankhāra is something upon which something else depends, we can say that the 'something else' is determined by the first thing, i.e. by the sankhāra, which is therefore a 'determination' or a 'determinant'. It will be convenient to use the word determination when we need to translate sankhāra.)
In regards to intention, in some cases it is "that upon which another thing depends". Intention is action, yes but it is also trajectory in the sense that with certain intentions established, that establishment will determine how one chooses to act, i.e. they will act according to it or in the very least they are inclined in that direction because of the intention whether they opt to act or not.

So in some cases it determines but in other cases, it itself is determined by something else. The last line below is interesting.
13. Every thing (dhamma) must, of necessity, be (or be somehow included within) one or more of the pañc('upādān)akkhandhā, either generally—e.g. feeling in general, feeling as opposed to what is not feeling—or particularly—e.g. this present painful feeling as opposed to the previous pleasant feeling (present as a past feeling). In the same way, every determination (sankhāra) must also be one or more of the pañc('upādān)akkhandhā. Thus the pañc('upādān)akkhandhā can be regarded either as sankhārā or as dhammā according as they are seen as 'things-that-other-things-depend-on' or simply as 'things themselves'. See Majjhima iv,5 <M.i,228>.
Sankhāra on the other hand, always remains in the position of being the determination. There is one exception only as ignorance is that which determines sankhāra. However, according to the structure, it would imply that ignorance is the sankhāra upon which all sankhāra stand. There is sutta support for that later on in the Note.

(A more straightforward case is that of āyusankhārā sometimes rendered as vitality, the life determinant, or the thing that life depends on. This is a more coarse example but I think it highlights the meaning quite well.)

EDIT: I spell like a 9 year old

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 7861
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Help! Meaning of sankhara

Post by DooDoot »

SDC wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:13 pm
Ven. Ñānavīra wrote:6. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to suppose from the foregoing that sankhārā in the paticcasamuppāda context cannot mean cetanā. One Sutta (Nidāna/Abhisamaya Samy. vi,1 <S.ii,82>) gives sankhārā in this context as puññābhisankhāra, apuññābhisankhāra, and āneñjābhisankhāra, and it is clear enough that we must understand sankhārā here as some kind of cetanā. Indeed, it is upon this very Sutta that the traditional interpretation relies to justify its conception of sankhārā in the context of the paticcasamuppāda formulation.
Actually, while Ven. Nanavira was correct on pointing out the above discordant single sutta (SN 12.51), the sutta itself is not clear enough because it appears to equate the above three things with "clinging", as follows:
SN 12.51 wrote:he does not generate a meritorious volitional formation, or a demeritorious volitional formation, or an imperturbable volitional formation. Since he does not generate or fashion volitional formations, he does not cling to anything in the world
To me, the sutta is not "well-spoken" therefore I personally doubt its authenticity.
SDC wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:13 pm
It might be wondered how the traditional interpretation gets round the difficulty of explaining assāsapassāsā, vitakkavicārā, and saññā and vedanā, as cetanā, in defiance of the Cūlavedallasutta passage. The answer is simple: the traditional interpretation, choosing to identify cittasankhāra with manosankhāra, roundly asserts (in the Visuddhimagga) that kāyasankhāra, vacīsankhāra, and cittasankhāra, are kāyasañcetanā, vacīsañcetanā, and manosañcetanā,—see §16 --, and altogether ignores the Cūlavedallasutta. The difficulty is thus, discreetly, not permitted to arise.
It appears what Ven. Nanavira may not have noticed is "sankhara" in SN 12.2 is plural yet "sankhara" in the relevant Abhidhamma is singular. The Abhidhamma appeared to make sankhara "singular" because puññābhisankhāra, apuññābhisankhāra and āneñjābhisankhāra cannot arise in the same mind-moment. But kāyasankhāra, vacīsankhāra and cittasankhāra can arise in the same mind-moment; which supports the plural of the suttas and which also supports Ven. Nanavira's view.
Dinsdale wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 5:08 pm
So how does Nanavira define the sankhara nidana?
While i have noticed you do not seem to have a bent towards academic consistency, in your dismissing of the definition of "satta" found in SN 23.2 & SN 5.10 as relevent to the "satta" found in "jati" in SN 12.2, as I pointed out, "sankhara" in SN 12.2 is the only nidana that is "plural". In addition, the three sankhara in SN 12.2, similar to "satta", are explicitly defined in the suttas, namely, in MN 44. These two points supports Ven. Nanavira's view and appears to debunk the traditional interpretation of sankhara based on the questionable SN 12.51 (relegating SN 12.51 to a probably "later Adhidhammic addition" to the suttas). On the most subtle level of D.O. the three sankhara (as defined by Nanavira, Buddhadasa and recently Thanissaro) are in & out breathing, thinking and perception-&-feeling. This can be easily discerned in meditation if it is known where & how to look.
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/paticcasamuppada
https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/anapanasati

User avatar
SDC
Posts: 5822
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Help! Meaning of sankhara

Post by SDC »

DooDoot wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 11:32 pm
..."sankhara" in SN 12.2 is plural yet "sankhara" in the relevant Abhidhamma is singular. The Abhidhamma appeared to make sankhara "singular"...
This sounds interesting. Can you unpack it a bit more?

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 7861
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Help! Meaning of sankhara

Post by DooDoot »

SDC wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 1:28 am
This sounds interesting. Can you unpack it a bit more?
The Pali in SN 12.2 says:
And what are saṅkhārā?
Katame ca, bhikkhave, saṅkhārā?
There are three kinds of saṅkhārā.
Tayome, bhikkhave, saṅkhārā—
kāyasaṅkhāro, vacīsaṅkhāro, cittasaṅkhāro.
The "sankhara" with the line over the 'a', namely, ā, is plural, according to Pali grammar. In Abhidhamma, there is no line over the 'a', which makes it singular. The word "saṅkhāro" above, ending in "o", is also singular.

It seems Abhidhamma must make "sankhara" singular because a meritorious volitional formation, a demeritorious volitional formation & an imperturbable volitional formation cannot arise together during the same mind-moment. Only one of these formations can arise in one mind-moment.

But if SN 12.2 is interpreted as Ven. Nanavira has done, it is possible all three kāyasaṅkhāro, vacīsaṅkhāro, cittasaṅkhāro arise in the same mind-moment. For example, if an angry thought from an angry memory arises spontaneously in the mind (without volition), this angry "saṅkhārā" comprises of each of the three sankharo, namely:

1. kāyasaṅkhāro, i.e., agitated breathing

2. vacīsaṅkhāro, i.e., thoughts of anger

3. cittasaṅkhāro, i.e., perceptions & feelings associated with the angry memory.

The three individual singular types of sankharo above arise at exactly the same time. Thus what arises is not a singular "sankhara" (as in Abhidhamma) but plural "saṅkhārā".
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/paticcasamuppada
https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/anapanasati

User avatar
dylanj
Posts: 922
Joined: Wed Dec 14, 2016 1:48 am
Location: San Francisco
Contact:

Re: Help! Meaning of sankhara

Post by dylanj »

it means preparations
Born, become, arisen – made, prepared, short-lived
Bonded by decay and death – a nest for sickness, perishable
Produced by seeking nutriment – not fit to take delight in


Departure from this is peaceful – beyond reasoning and enduring
Unborn, unarisen – free from sorrow and stain
Ceasing of all factors of suffering – stilling of all preparations is bliss

SamKR
Posts: 1037
Joined: Sun Jul 19, 2009 4:33 pm

Re: Help! Meaning of sankhara

Post by SamKR »

Sankhara is anything that appears to arise with the presence of avijja, and anything with the arising of which vinnana arises.

---

Avijja is ignorance of what is actually going on.

Sankhara is any apparent thing or activity or felt sense that arises dependent on such ignorance. So what what would it be that arises with ignorance? It must be anything that is not actually there inherently, really, or independently but appears to be there such. For example, the "self" is a sankhara - it appears to be present but not really/independently present. Same thing with the volitional actions, aggregates, external world, and diverse things "out there".

Dependent upon such apparantly independent things/activities (which are not actually independent or real, and hence are anicca), there arises vinnana - the illusory/dualistic knowing of things (self, body, and any external entity) that appear to be present but not really/independently present. So, Vinnana is not accurate knowing/consciousness but a false/illusory knowing/consciousness that depends upon sankhara or anything that depends upon avijja of whole actuality.

sentinel
Posts: 2978
Joined: Sun Jun 04, 2017 1:26 pm

Re: Help! Meaning of sankhara

Post by sentinel »

In the dependent origination Sankhara is attachment , wrong view due to ignorance .

And meritorious volitional formation, a demeritorious volitional formation & an imperturbable volitional formation is incorrect .
Because when ignorance being annihilated , there can be meritorious action but no demeritorious action .


Below three does not fit in correctly ,
kāyasaṅkhāro, i.e. breathing
vacīsaṅkhāro, i.e.thoughts
cittasaṅkhāro, i.e.feeling perception


Feeling in the cessation of dependent does not mean related to ignorance .
Both feeling perception appears occurs after contact link .
Quality is not an act, it is a habit.

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 7861
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Help! Meaning of sankhara

Post by DooDoot »

sentinel wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 10:49 am
Below three does not fit in correctly ,
kāyasaṅkhāro, i.e. breathing
vacīsaṅkhāro, i.e.thoughts
cittasaṅkhāro, i.e.feeling perception

Both feeling perception appears occurs after contact link .
It seems you are not aware of the neurosis that emerges from within the mind. Before contact, there is internal neurosis or discursiveness ("sankhara"). The Dhamma says: "Dependent on mind sense organ & mind sense object, mind consciousness or mind contact arises". The contact comes after the sense object. It seems the most subtle contact is mind contact. The object must exist before the contact. It seems the most subtle object is "sankhara". Read the suttas. Regards :smile:
Dependent on intellect & intellect object, intellect-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact

Topic here: viewtopic.php?f=13&t=34660&p=518041#p518041
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/paticcasamuppada
https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/anapanasati

sentinel
Posts: 2978
Joined: Sun Jun 04, 2017 1:26 pm

Re: Help! Meaning of sankhara

Post by sentinel »

DooDoot wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 11:29 am


Dependent on intellect & intellect object, intellect-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact



kāyasaṅkhāro, i.e. breathing
vacīsaṅkhāro, i.e.thoughts
cittasaṅkhāro, i.e.feeling perception

In relation to dependent cessation , NO .
Quality is not an act, it is a habit.

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 7861
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Help! Meaning of sankhara

Post by DooDoot »

sentinel wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 12:02 pm
kāyasaṅkhāro, i.e. breathing
vacīsaṅkhāro, i.e.thoughts
cittasaṅkhāro, i.e.feeling perception

In relation to dependent cessation , NO .
Yes. We have discussed this before, anyway. What do you think happens when the ignorance asava flow out of the mind? Do you think the breathing remains calm & the remains calm? :shrug: Regards
Last edited by DooDoot on Thu Jun 27, 2019 12:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/paticcasamuppada
https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/anapanasati

Post Reply