Last night I discovered something interesting. It seems that "abhisankhāra" is not even mentioned in any suttas! It may still be in some, but most suttas do not seem to have that word.
The Dangers in Just Focusing on Suttas – Tipitaka Has Two More Pitakas!
1. Even though I learned about the true meaning of vinnana and sankhāra from Waharaka Thero, I had known the difference between sankhāra and abhisankhāra even as a child.
- Now the picture is becoming clear to me. At least those who are commenting here have not known about the term "abhisankhāra".
"Abhi" means "high" or "strong".
- An Arahant would have sankhāra (would think, speak, and do bodily actions that are NOT defiled), but no abhisankhāra (would NOT think, speak, and do bodily actions that are defiled, i.e., with greed, hate, or ignorance).
2. The difference between sankhāra and abhisankhāra is clearly discussed only in the original commentaries (Vibhangapakarana, nettipakarana, and petakopadesa) that are included with the Tipitaka.
- I have not had time to see whether abhisankhāra is discussed in later commentaries like Visuddhimagga. If some one knows, please comment on that.
3. The fact that sankhāra in the "avijja paccaya sankhāra" step is really "avijja paccaya abhisankhāra" is in the Paticcasamuppāda Vibhanga in the Vibhangapakarana
"Tattha katame avijjāpaccayā saṅkhārā? Puññābhisaṅkhāro, apuññābhisaṅkhāro, āneñjābhisaṅkhāro, kāyasaṅkhāro, vacīsaṅkhāro, cittasaṅkhāro
- For the akusala-mula Paticca Samuppāda, the main contribution comes from apuññābhisaṅkhāra (apunna abhi saṅkhāra).
From the same source:
"Tattha katamo apuññābhisaṅkhāro? Akusalā cetanā kāmāvacarā—ayaṃ vuccati “apuññābhisaṅkhāro
"apuññābhisaṅkhāra are those akusala done with akusala cetana or basically immoral thoughts, speech, and actions" or simply dasa akusala.
- I have discussed apuññābhisaṅkhāra in the posts "Paticca Samuppāda and Viññāna" Dec 23, 2018 (p. 57); "Connection Between Sankhāra and Viññāna" Dec 29, 2018 (p. 57); "Vinnana and Sankhara – Connection to Paticca Samuppada" Jan 01, 2019 (P. 57).
4. The other important point is that there are "three Pitakas" or "three parts" in the Tipitaka. If one just focus on the Sutta Pitaka, one may not have the right background. Of course, the original commentaries are very important too.
- Looking back, I can see why I had to spend so much time writing about the fact that it took several days for the Buddha to describe the material in the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta to the five ascetics; see, "On the Group of Five Ascetics", October 12, 2018 (p. 38), where I pasted text from the Vinaya Pitaka. That discussion went on for a while.
- Because that account was in the Vinaya Pitaka, and is not there in the Sutta Pitaka. So, if one is just reading suttas, one would not have known that fact.
5. In order to get the "full picture" one needs the whole Tipitaka. Of course, no one can read the whole Tipitaka.
- Good teachers know (from their teachers) know which sections are important. That is how the essence of Buddha Dhamma is passed down from one generation to the next.
- As I said, I knew about the difference between sankhāra and abhisankhāra since my childhood. And some people reading this thread may also know at least that "abhisankhāra are strong sankhāra".
- But I learned the true meaning of viññāna from Waharaka Thero.
6. Here is another important aspect of this. I am pointing out this for no other reason than to clarify the present situation.
- Most people (including bhikkhus) who write books or translate suttas to English are Westerners. They MAY NOT have had been exposed to this additional material from the other two pitakas.
- Of course, there are exceptions. For example, Bhikkhu Nānamoli (who was a Westerner) included that account in the Vinaya Pitaka on the five ascetics in his book, “The Life of the Buddha”.
- Based on what I have read, Bhikkhu Bodhi may be another exception. He definitely knows about the difference between sankhāra and abhisanhara.
- I am sure some other bhikkhus also know that difference, but they have not pointed that out in sutta translations in the context of viññāna as "defiled consciousness".
7. All these bhikkhus are dedicated to Buddha Dhamma and I have no doubts that they have high faith in the Buddha and his teachings. But their faith will increase 1000-fold if they can grasp the realm meaning of viññāna.
- The key to “nāmarūpa pariccēda ñāna“ is to see the link between mind and matter. Viññāna is that link. It happens at the "viññāna paccayā nāmarūpa" step in Paticca Samuppāda.
- This is pointed out succinctly in the Majje Sutta (AN 6.61), where it is stated that nama is at one end, rūpa is at the other end, with viññāna in the middle: “nāmaṃ kho, āvuso, eko anto, rūpaṃ dutiyo anto, viññāṇaṃ majjhe
- As I pointed out, vviññāna cannot be understood without realizing the difference between sankhāra and abhisankhāra.
8. For the last time, I am pointing out that the main issue here is to understand how the "whole mass of suffering" arises starting with avijja, (abhi)sankhāra, and viññāna.
"Avijjāya tveva asesavirāganirodhā saṅkhāranirodho; saṅkhāranirodhā viññāṇanirodho; viññāṇanirodhā nāmarūpanirodho; nāmarūpanirodhā saḷāyatananirodho; saḷāyatananirodhā phassanirodho; phassanirodhā vedanānirodho; vedanānirodhā taṇhānirodho; taṇhānirodhā upādānanirodho; upādānanirodhā bhavanirodho; bhavanirodhā jātinirodho; jātinirodhā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā nirujjhanti. Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hotī”ti
. - Paṭiccasamuppāda Sutta (SN 12.1, and basically all the suttas in SN 12)
Which I translate as:
“But with the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance comes cessation of (ABHI)SANKHARA; with the cessation of (ABHI)SANKHARA, cessation of DEFILED consciousness; with the cessation of DEFILED consciousness, cessation of name-and-form
; with the cessation of name-and-form, cessation of the six AYATANA; with the cessation of the six AYATANA, cessation of SAMPHASSA (SAN +PHASSA); with the cessation of SAMPHASSA, cessation of feeling; with the cessation of feeling, cessation of craving; with the cessation of craving, cessation of clinging; with the cessation of clinging, cessation of existence (BHAVA); with the cessation of existence, cessation of birth (JATI); with the cessation of birth, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair cease. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering