Sankhara

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Mr Empty
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Sankhara

Post by Mr Empty » Mon Apr 13, 2015 8:14 pm

Hello :)
Please help! Does anyone know of a resource that has an abudance of real life examples of sankhara in its different contexts please?

santa100
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Re: Sankhara

Post by santa100 » Tue Apr 14, 2015 12:09 am

While there's no real life example, Ven. Nyanatiloka's Buddhist Dictionary gives pretty detailed description of its various meanings..

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retrofuturist
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Re: Sankhara

Post by retrofuturist » Tue Apr 14, 2015 12:24 am

Greetings Mr. Empty,

According to Nanavira Thera "the word sankhāra, in all contexts, means 'something that something else depends on', that is to say a determination (determinant)."

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

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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Re: Sankhara

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Apr 14, 2015 12:37 am

Yes, that's also a translation that Ven Nanamoli used.

Here's Bhikkhu Bodhi's listing of the contexts saṅkhārā is used in the SN, from the Introduction to his translation.
http://www.wisdompubs.org/book/connecte ... troduction
I've included links where possible.
Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote: Saṅkhārā

In MLDB I had changed Ven. Ñāṇamoli’s experimental rendering of saṅkhārā as “determinations” back to his earlier choice, “formations.” Aware that this word has its own drawbacks, in preparing this translation I had experimented with several alternatives. The most attractive of these was “constructions,” but in the end I felt that this term too often led to obscurity. Hence, like the land-finding crow which always returns to the ship when land is not close by (see Vism 657; Ppn 21:65), I had to fall back on “formations,” which is colourless enough to take on the meaning being imparted by the context. Sometimes I prefixed this with the adjective “volitional” to bring out the meaning more clearly.

Saṅkhārā is derived from the prefix saṃ (= con), “together,” and the verb karoti, “to make.” The noun straddles both sides of the active-passive divide. Thus saṅkhāras are both things which put together, construct, and compound other things, and the things that are put together, constructed, and compounded.

In SN the word occurs in five major doctrinal contexts:

(1) As the second factor in the formula of dependent origination, saṅkhāras are the kammically active volitions responsible, in conjunction with ignorance and craving, for generating rebirth and sustaining the forward movement of saṃsāra from one life to the next. Saṅkhārā is synonymous with kamma, to which it is etymologically related, both being derived from karoti. These saṅkhāras are distinguished as threefold by their channel of expression, as bodily, verbal, and mental (II 4,8–10, etc.
SN 12.2); they are also divided by ethical quality into the meritorious, demeritorious, and imperturbable (II 82,9–13 SN 12.51). To convey the relevant sense of saṅkhārā here I render the term “volitional formations.” The word might also have been translated “activities,” which makes explicit the connection with kamma, but this rendering would sever the connection with saṅkhārā in contexts other than dependent origination, which it seems desirable to preserve.

(2) As the fourth of the five aggregates, saṅkhārā is defined as the six classes of volitions (cha cetanākāyā, III 60,25–28 SN 22.56), that is, volition regarding the six types of sense objects. Hence again I render it volitional formations. But the saṅkhārakkhandha has a wider compass than the saṅkhārā of the dependent origination series, comprising all instances of volition and not only those that are kammically active. In the Abhidhamma Piṭaka and the commentaries the saṅkhārakkhandha further serves as an umbrella category for classifying all mental concomitants of consciousness apart from feeling and perception. It thus comes to include all wholesome, unwholesome, and variable mental factors mentioned but not formally classified among the aggregates in the Sutta Piṭaka.

(3) In the widest sense, saṅkhārā comprises all conditioned things, everything arisen from a combination of conditions. In this sense all five aggregates, not just the fourth, are saṅkhāras (see III 132,22–27 SN 22.90), as are all external objects and situations (II 191,11–17 SN 15.20). The term here is taken to be of passive derivation—denoting what is conditioned, constructed, compounded—hence I render it simply “formations,” without the qualifying adjective. This notion of saṅkhārā serves as the cornerstone of a philosophical vision which sees the entire universe as constituted of conditioned phenomena. What is particularly emphasized about saṅkhāras in this sense is their impermanence. Recognition of their impermanence brings insight into the unreliable nature of all mundane felicity and inspires a sense of urgency directed towards liberation from saṃsāra (see SN 15.20; SN 22.96).

(4) A triad of saṅkhāras is mentioned in connection with the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling: the bodily formation, the verbal formation, and the mental formation (IV 293,7–28 SN 41.6). The first is in-and-out breathing (because breath is bound up with the body); the second, thought and examination (because by thinking one formulates the ideas one expresses by speech); the third, perception and feeling (because these things are bound up with the mind). Two of these terms—the bodily formation and the mental formation—are also included in the expanded instructions on mindfulness of breathing (V 311,21–22 SN 54.1; 312,4–5 SN 54.1).

(5) The expression padhānasaṅkhārā occurs in the formula for the four iddhipādas, the bases for spiritual power. The text explains it as the four right kinds of striving (V 268,8–19 SN 51.13). I render it “volitional formations of striving.” Though, strictly speaking, the expression signifies energy (viriya) and not volition (cetanā), the qualifier shows that these formations occur in an active rather than a passive mode.

Apart from these main contexts, the word saṅkhāra occurs in several compounds—āyusaṅkhāra (II 266,19; V 262,22–23 SN 51.10 ), jıvitasaṅkhāra (V 152,29–153,2 SN 47.9) bhavasaṅkhāra (V 263,2 SN 51.10)—which can be understood as different aspects of the life force.

The past participle connected with saṅkhārā is saṅkhata, which I translate “conditioned.” Unfortunately I could not render the two Pāli words into English in a way that preserves the vital connection between them: “formed” is too specific for saṅkhata, and “conditions” too wide for saṅkhārā (and it also encroaches on the domain of paccaya). If “constructions” had been used for saṅkhārā, saṅkhata would have become “constructed,” which preserves the connection, though at the cost of too stilted a translation. Regrettably, owing to the use of different English words for the pair, a critically important dimension of meaning in the suttas is lost to view. In the Pāli we can clearly see the connection: the saṅkhāras, the active constructive forces instigated by volition, create and shape conditioned reality, especially the conditioned factors classified into the five aggregates and the six internal sense bases; and this conditioned reality itself consists of saṅkhāras in the passive sense, called in the commentaries saṅkhata-saṅkhārā.

Further, it is not only this connection that is lost to view, but also the connection with Nibbāna. For Nibbāna is the asaṅkhata, the unconditioned, which is called thus precisely because it is neither made by saṅkhāras nor itself a saṅkhāra in either the active or passive sense. So, when the texts are taken up in the Pāli, we arrive at a clear picture in fine focus: the active saṅkhāras generated by volition perpetually create passive saṅkhāras, the saṅkhata dhammas or conditioned phenomena of the five aggregates (and, indirectly, of the objective world); and then, through the practice of the Buddha’s path, the practitioner arrives at the true knowledge of conditioned phenomena, which disables the generation of active saṅkhāras, putting an end to the constructing of conditioned reality and opening up the door to the Deathless, the asaṅkhata, the unconditioned, which is Nibbāna, final liberation from impermanence and suffering.
:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Sankhara

Post by pulga » Tue Apr 14, 2015 4:36 am

From Ven. Ñanamoli's Three Cardinal Discourses of the Buddha:
DETERMINATIONS: a great many different renderings of this term are current, the next best of which is certainly "formations." The Pali word sankhara (Sanskrit samskasa) means literally "a construction," and is derived from the prefix sam (con) plus the verb karoti (to do, to make); compare the Latin conficere from con plus facere (to do), which gives the French confection (a construction). The Sanskrit means ritual acts with the purpose of bringing about good rebirth. As used in Pali by the Buddha it covers any aspects having to do with action, willing, making, planning, using, choice, etc. (anything teleological); and contact (q.v.) is often placed at the head of lists defining it. Otherwise defined as bodily, verbal, and mental action.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Sankhara

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Apr 14, 2015 5:05 am

For a modern account which deals in terms of psychology, you might want to have a look at Ajah Sucitto's book on Kamma.
In the course of [that] enquiry, we can get a useful handle on the second strand of mental behaviour,
sankhāra – ‘activities’ or ‘formations.’ They’re activities because they’re the agents of kamma.
Intention is the leader of these, but it’s not on its own. Activities are everything that causes or is
liable to cause, action. What this means is that all those qualities that seem to be ‘I’ as an agent (as in
‘I do, I speak, I feel’) are not, and aren’t issuing from, a solid being but are repeated activities;
programs if you like. But when these programs get established, they have solidity: hence ‘formations.’
Furthermore all those moods and states that seem to be ‘me’ or ‘my self’ as an object (as in ‘my real
self is a tragic romantic’, or ‘a misunderstood genius’) are formed programs of sorrow, frustration or
self-importance. Heart-contact (classically called ‘designation contact’) will etch these on our personal
map and thereby establish the perceptual references that we judge current experience by. So a
mishap gets read as ‘Life is tragic’; or ‘No one understands me.’ True enough in a way, but no-one
understands anyone all of the time; and life is also comic, resilient, and the optimal occasion for
Awakening. So the perception is a truth of our own mapping, and the mistake is turning it into an
activity.
You can download the whole thing at
http://www.cittaviveka.org/files/books/ ... 0Kamma.pdf

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Mr Empty
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Re: Sankhara

Post by Mr Empty » Tue Apr 14, 2015 8:19 am

Thanks all for your help :)

So would it be fair to say that sankhara ARE suffering? - due to contact-feeling/perception-SANKHARA (some kind of thought/emotion/mental state) which proliferates (papanca) and results in a small self in a mental prison? Is this the essence of buddhism? - or am I completely wrong? :)

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Sam Vara
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Re: Sankhara

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Apr 14, 2015 8:43 am

More fair to say that they are a condition of suffering - what makes it happen.

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Re: Sankhara

Post by SarathW » Tue Apr 14, 2015 10:00 am

Sa'nkhaaraa according to Abhidhamma:

1.Universal mental factors (sabba citta saadhaaranaa)
2.Particular mental factors (paki.n.nakaa)
3.Unwholesome mental factors (akusalaa)
4.Beautiful mental factors (sobhanaa)

For details:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el322.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Sam Vara
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Re: Sankhara

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Apr 14, 2015 10:14 am

To supplement Mike's quote from Bhikkhu Bodhi, you might also want to look at BB's essay on Sankharas:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_43.html

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piotr
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Re: Sankhara

Post by piotr » Tue Apr 14, 2015 10:37 am

Hi,

You can find some useful information about saṅkhārā in Analāyo's entry in Encyclopaedia of Buddhism, 2006.
Bhagavaṃmūlakā no, bhante, dhammā...

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Mr Empty
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Re: Sankhara

Post by Mr Empty » Tue Apr 14, 2015 1:30 pm

Thanks all :thumbsup: I will get stuck into the recommended material - with the wholesome desire of truly understanding.

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