I was reading SN 12.51 and found the sutta difficult to follow. The sutta appears to begin & end with a standard description of dependent origination. However, in the middle, the sutta departs into a discussion about generating formations, as follows:
Now, in Pali, sankhara refers to many types of mental formations. For example, merely within the 12 conditions of dependent origination, at the very least, the conditions of ignorance, sankhara, components of nama-rupa such as volition, craving, attachment & becoming for most Buddhists would be regarded as types of mental formations, i.e., falling within the scope of sankhara khandha.Avijjāgato yaṃ, bhikkhave, purisapuggalo puññañce saṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti, puññūpagaṃ hoti viññāṇaṃ. Apuññañce saṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti, apuññūpagaṃ hoti viññāṇaṃ. Āneñjañce saṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti āneñjūpagaṃ hoti viññāṇaṃ. Yato kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno avijjā pahīnā hoti vijjā uppannā, so avijjāvirāgā vijjuppādā neva puññābhisaṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti na apuññābhisaṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti na āneñjābhisaṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti. Anabhisaṅkharonto anabhisañcetayanto na kiñci loke upādiyati; anupādiyaṃ na paritassati, aparitassaṃ paccattaññeva parinibbāyati. ‘Khīṇā jāti, vusitaṃ brahmacariyaṃ, kataṃ karaṇīyaṃ, nāparaṃ itthattāyā’ti pajānāti.
Bhikkhus, if a person immersed in ignorance generates a meritorious volitional formation, consciousness fares on to the meritorious; if he generates a demeritorious volitional formation, consciousness fares on to the demeritorious; if he generates an imperturbable volitional formation, consciousness fares on to the imperturbable. But when a bhikkhu has abandoned ignorance and aroused true knowledge, then, with the fading away of ignorance and the arising of true knowledge, 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. Not clinging, he is not agitated. Not being agitated, he personally attains Nibbāna. He understands: ‘Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more for this state of being.’
In SN 12.51, when reading the sutta superficially, based on its structure & emphasis, the impression is gained that meritorious, demeritorious & imperturbable formations are the 2nd condition of dependent origination. Thus, many scholars & commentaries follow this view.
However, when reading the sutta more carefully, the sutta states:
This sentence (which is common phrase in the suttas regarding contexts of clinging; e.g. MN 37; MN 140) also gives the impression meritorious, demeritorious & imperturbable formations might be the 9th condition of dependent origination, i.e., types of clinging (upadana).Since he does not generate or fashion volitional formations, he does not cling to anything in the world.
Any opinions? What do we think about this?