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Saŋkhārā, [Saŋ + kara]

Own-making, Confounding, Activities, Formations, Fabrications

The act and consequence of identification with intent to create personal experience of pleasure through acts of body, speech and mind.


Puremind Press: Awakening Meditation, M. Punnaji, pp.7-16
[DN 33]
Sangiti Suttanta
PTS: Dialogs of the Buddha III, #33: The Recital, T.W. and C.A.F. Rhys Davids, trans., pp201
WP: The Long Discourses of the Buddha, #33: The Chanting Together, M. Walshe, trans., pp479
[DN 22]
PTS: Dialogs of the BuddhaThe Setting Up of Mindfulness
Soma Thera, ATI: The Discourse on the Arousing of Mindfulness
ATI: Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Frames of Reference
PTS: The Middle Length Sayings, I, #10: Applications of Mindfulness, Horner, trans., pp78
[MN 10]
WP: The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, #10: The Foundations of Mindfulness, Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, trans., pp152
[MN 44]
PTS: Middle Length Sayings, 44: Culavedallasutta, Horner, trans., pp 363

[AN 10.27] PTS: The Book of the Gradual Sayings, V: The Book of the Tens, The Great Chapter, The Great Questions, Woodward, trans., pp36ff

Pali MO Hare Horner Punnaji Bodhi Nanamoli Rhys Davids (Mrs)Rhys Davids Thanissaro Walshe Woodward Soma Thera Warren
Saŋkhārā own-making, confounding, personalization activities, the five skandhas of attachment; minding [AN 9.36]; work of mind [ibid.] (volitional) activities [MN 70], activities, constructions, (habitual) tendencies, formations Construction causal activities [AN 2.80], conditioned [AN 1 268], activities [AN 3 23], formations, exertion [AN 10.63] formations volitional complexes, dispositions volitional complexes, dispositions, synergies [AN 4.16 n.2], mental property [SN 2.18.21], mental adjuncts [SN 2.18.22] fabrications mental formations activities (SN 3), complex, trouble [AN 10.63] formations predispositions [bit 23c]

Middle Length Sayings, Culavedallasutta, Horner, trans., pp 363

"And how many activities (sankhara) are there, lady?"

"There are these three activities, friend Visakha: activities of body, activities of speech, activities of mind."

"And what, lady, is activity of body, what activity of speech, what activity of mind?"

"In-breathing and out-breathing, friend Visakha, is activity of body; initial thought and discursive thought is activity of speech; perception and feeling is activity of mind."

"But why, lady, is in-breathing, and out-breathing activity of body, why is initial thought and discursive thought activity of speech, why is perception and why is feeling activity of mind?"

"In-breathing and out breathing, friend Visakha -- these are bodily things dependent on the body, therefore in-breathing and out-breathing is activity of body. Having first had initial thought and discursive thought, one subsequently utters a speech, therefore initial and discursive thought is activity of speech. Perception and feeling -- these are mental things, dependent on mind, therefore perception and feeling is (each) activity of mind."

Sankhara; here with a different sense from sankhara as one of the khandhas, and meaning function or formation. "Being dependent on body it is put together (sankhariyati) by the body, produced by it," MA. Ii. 364; and similarly for speech and thought.

PTS; Trenckner, Majjhima-Nikaya, I, Culavedallasuttam, pp 301

Kati pan' ayye saṅkhārā ti. Ý Tayo 'me āvuso Visākha saṅkhārā: kāyasaṅkhāro, katamo vacīsaṅkhāro cittasaṅkhāro ti. Ý Katamo pan' ayye kāyasaṅkhāro, katamo vacīsaṅkhāro, katamo cittasaṅkhāro ti. Ý Assāsapassāsā kho āvuso Visākha kāyasaṅkhāro, vitakkavicāra vacīsaṅkhāro, saññā ca vedanā ca cittasaṅkhāro ti. Ý Kasmā pan' ayye assāsapassāsā kāyasaṅkhāro, kasmā vitakkavicārā vacīsaṅkhāro, kasmā saññā ca vedanā ca cittasaṅkhāro ti. Ý Assāsapassāsā kho āvuso Visākha kāyikā ete dhammā kāyapaṭibaddhā, tasmā assāsapassāsā kāyasaṅkhāro. Pubbe kho āvuso Visākha vitakketvā vicāretvā pacchā vācaṁ bhindati, tasmā vitakkavicārā vacīsaṅkhāro. Saññā ca vedanā ca vedanā ca cittasaṅkhāro ti.

Kati pan' ayye sankhaaraa ti. Ý Tayo 'me aavuso Visaakha sankhaaraa: kaayasankhaaro, katamo vaciisankhaaro cittasankhaaro ti. Ý Katamo pan' ayye kaayasankhaaro, katamo vaciisankhaaro, katamo cittasankhaaro ti. Ý Assaasapassaasaa kho aavuso Visaakha kaayasankhaaro, vitakkavicaara vaciisankhaaro, sannyaaa ca vedanaa ca cittasankhaaro ti. Ý Kasmaa pan' ayye assaasapassaasaa kaayasankhaaro, kasmaa vitakkavicaaraa vaciisankhaaro, kasmaa sannyaaa ca vedanaa ca cittasankhaaro ti. Ý Assaasapassaasaa kho aavuso Visaakha kaayikaa ete dhammaa kaayapatibaddhaa, tasmaa assaasapassaasaa kaayasankhaaro. Pubbe kho aavuso Visaakha vitakketvaa vicaaretvaa pacchaa vaacam bhindati, tasmaa vitakkavicaaraa vaciisankhaaro. Sannyaaa ca vedanaa ca vedanaa ca cittasankhaaro ti.


PED derives the word from the Epic and Classical Sanskrit sanskara, meaning sacrament, preparation; or, alternatively, former impression (as in mold) or disposition. "One of the most difficult terms in Buddhist metaphysics, in which the blending of the subjective-objective view of the world and of happening, peculiar to the East, is so complete, that it is almost impossible for Occidental terminology to get at the root of its meaning in a translation." Balderdash. As people's we have common roots, and a thousand years of Christianity is not going to have done anything to that.

Meanings according to PED:

Literal: "preparation, get up" applied: coefficient (of consciousness as well as of physical life, cp. Vinnana), constituent, constituent potentiality; (pl) synergies, cause-combination; composition, aggregate.

1. Aggregate of the conditions or essential properties for a given process or result — e.g. (i.) The sum of the conditions or properties making up or resulting in life or existence; the essentials or "element" of anything; (ii) Essential conditions, antecedents or synergy (co-ordinated activity), mental coefficients, requisite for act, speech, thought: kaya-; vaci-; citta-; or mano-, described respectively as "respiration" "attention and consideration," "percepts and feelings," "because these are (respectively) bound up with," or "precede" those.

2. One of the five khandhas, or constitutional elements of physical life — i.e. the mental concomitants, or adjuncts which come, or tend to come, into consciousness at the uprising of a citta, or unit of cognition. As thus classified, the sankhara's form the mental factor corresponding to the bodily aggregate or rupakkhandha, and are in contrast to the three khandhas [sanna, vedana, vinnana] which represent a single mental function only. But just as kaya stands for both body and action, so do the concrete mental syntheses called sankhara tend to take on the implication of synergies, of purposive intellection, connoted by the term abhisankhara, . . . a purposive, aspiring state of mind to induce a specific rebirth . . . tantamount to sancetana [will, mind one with heart] . . . a synonym for cetana (purposive conception). Thus, too, the sankharas, In the Paticcasamuppada formula are considered as the aggregate of mental conditions which, under the law of kamma, bring about the inception of the . . . first stirring of mental life in a newly begun individual.

3. In "popular" meaning: "life's experiences"; we have the use of sankhara in quite a general and popular sense of "life, physical or material life"; and "everything, all physical and visible life, all creation." Taken with caution the term "creation" may be applied as in the Paticcasamuppada, when we regard avijja as creating. I.e. producing by spontaneous causality [MO: this is a misunderstanding of the Paticcasamuppada, (see link), Avijja, etc. are not "causes" but conditions based upon which other things are possible.) the sankharas; If we render it by "formations" we imply the mental "constitutional" element as well as the physical, although the latter in customary materialistic popular philosophy is the predominant factor. . . Thus sankhara are in the widest sense the "world of phenomena" all things which have been made up by pre-existing causes.

MO: san = one's own; ka = shit ara = all round; kara = make; ra = ssun > ray > making, doing (as contrasted with kama = shit make): Identification with that which is created by the act of making — specifically, Identification with that which is made through acts of mind, speech, and deed. The gestalt. One's own personal world — the making of one's own personal world. For those who consider 'own-making' awkword, consider AN 3.32 and the following ahaŋkāra-mamaŋkāra.


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