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The Connection Between Atta and Dukkha
Buddhist Analysis of Human Experience and the Ways to Transcend Unsatisfactoriness

Bhikkhuni Dhammanandā
(Ven. Pham. T. Minh Hoa)

Colombo, Sri Lanka 2007

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Chapter IV. Khandha Doctrine

In this chapter we will mainly discuss the five khandhas as the components of personality[1] in relation to the Paṭiccasamupāda as the first Noble Truth (dukkha sacca) and the second Noble Truth (samudaya sacca) which is identical with kāmataṇhā, bhavataṇhā, and vibhavataṇhā mentioned elsewhere as the three principal causes of the truth of suffering. The discussion will focus on the analysis of personality in terms of khandhas according to the dependent arising perspective (paṭiccasamuppāda). Before going into detail, a general overview of khandhas is a necessary step.

I. The Khandha Doctrine

Birth is generally described as ‘khandhānaṃ pātubbhavo’- the appearance of the aggregates. What are exactly the aggregates? A typical account of aggregates is:

And what, bhikkhus are the five aggregates? Whatever kind of material there is, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near: this is called the material aggregate (rūpakkhandha). Whatever kind of feeling there is...this is called the feeling aggregate (vedanākkhandha). Whatever kind of perception there is...this is called the perception aggregate (saññākkhandha). Whatever kind of volitional formation there is...this is called the formative aggregate (saṅkhārakkhandha). Whatever kind of consciousness there is, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near: this is called the aggregate of consciousness (viññāṇakkhandha).[2]

Commenting on this kind of description, Sue Hamilton in her treatise writes:

[...] the term khandha is distinctively Buddhist, not being found in the earlier Vedic literature except in the sense of ‘trunk”. Most frequently, the khandha are referred to by name without giving any explanation as to what the name means or implies; where descriptions are given, there are sometimes so brief that it is difficult definitively to ascertain the precise characteristics and functions of each one.[3]

The term khandha (skandha in Sank.) means a mass, a heap (rāsi), a collection of something. In Buddhist terminology khandha has two meanings: (1) multipliable physic-psychological phenomena; (2) something that hinders, an obstacle. The first meaning is widely used and is especially applicable to the five khandhas as groups or aggregates; the second meaning is found only in some Chinese translations of the word skandha as “am” which means hindrance or concealment, and “uan” meaning collection, or over lay upon each others. Bhikkhu Bodhi in his introduction to the Khandhasamyutta (SN) writes: “The five aggregates are so called because they each unite under one label a multiplicity of phenomena that share the same defining characteristic.”[4] This kind of definition corresponds to the Chinese translation of ‘uẩn’ which means a heap, a mass, or a collection of something that shares similar characteristics.

Returning to the typical description of five aggregates above, each in eleven modes in regard to time (past, future, present), situation (subjective or internal, objective or external, near, or far), and quality (coarse, subtle, low, high), we can infer that the purpose of this description is to enable many aspects to be included. In this way the five khandha include all material and mental phenomena found in the range of human experience. This also explains why five khandha are sometimes shortened into nāma-rūpa which means mentality and materiality. Nāma consists of the four aggregates of feeling, perception, volition and consciousness of which three of them (vedanā, saññā and viññāṇa) are inseparable.[5] Volitional formation (saṅkhāra) is also included in mentality (nāma); rūpakkhandha alone stands for all materiality (rūpa), whether internal, i.e, pertaining to the body, or external, the objective world. But in Buddhist philosophy and psychology, the objective world or external existence is not of much interested. According to some passages of the Buddha, the world is described as follows: “In this fathom long body with its perception and mind that there is the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world, and the path leading to the cessation of the world.”[6] In another instance, he stated: cakkhuna lokasmiṃ hoti lokasaññī lokamati ayaṃvuccati bhikkhave ariyassa vinaye loke. “Via eyes one is conscious of the world, thought of the world; this is called the world in the training of the nobles”[7]. The same statement is applied to other sense organs. Thus the whole conscious physical body, i.e., the six sense organs in their interrelations and interactions with their corresponding objects are what makes sense of the world, not what is ‘out there’[8]. This reflects a subjective attitude in which the world is qualified only through what one perceives, conceptualizes and thinks of. This philosophy exerts a great influence on the doctrine of khandhas as we will see presently in the analysis of human experience by the way of khandhas. It is noteworthy that this method of teaching has been taken to prove the omniscience (sabbaññū) of the Buddha.[9]

The term nāma-rūpa as the fourth link of Paṭiccasamuppāda also implies the five khandhas as analyzed above. There is a deviation in the definition of nāma-rūpa in Samyutta Nikāya as follows: “Catumahābhūtānañ ca upādāyarūpaṃ idaṃ vuccati rūpaṃ. Vedanā saññā cetanā phasso manasikāro idaṃ vuccati nāmaṃ. The four great elements and derived materiality are called rūpa. Feeling, perception, volition, contact (and) attention, these are called nāma.”[10] Herein we can see cetanā being substituted for saṅkhāra, but does phasso and manasikāra stand for viññāṇa? If it is so, in what sense can it be substituted for consciousness? I will discuss this later in a diagram that reveals the relationship of psychological factors and in the definition of viññānakkhandha.

There are three ways to translate the term nāma-rūpa in Indian psycho-philosophy. (1) As ‘name and form’; wherein nāma or name is our concept of something, and rūpa is the object that is so called, or the thing that is so conceived. (2) As ‘mind and matter’: this translation is copied from the definition given in the quoted passage above; and (3) as a ‘psycho-physical complex’. This is the most accurate meaning for the term nāma-rūpa as it is used in Buddhist psychology and philosophy, and in this sense, it is a synonym of ‘pañcakkhandha’, the five aggregates.

A being (satta or sattva) is described in terms of the five aggregates[11]. The enlightened nun Vājira stated ‘a being’ is a conventional term for the ‘assembly of aggregates’. The Buddha plays on the word and indicates that one is struck (literally taking delight in, craving for, lusting after, desiring) in the experiences which are described as form, feeling, perception, formations and consciousness and it is through this one is called a being.[12] From these two instances, we might conclude that the theory of the five aggregates represents a comprehensive analysis of human experience. Here we will not go into detail about what is meant by each aggregate; actually, we can not isolate them one by one and declare that this is materiality that is feeling and so on. Even a skillful meditator who contemplates the five aggregates does so by conceptualizing his experiences into categories, and seeing them as objects of observation, not to be identified with as ‘I’ or ‘mine’ or ‘myself’. Perhaps that is why in the original scriptures (Tipitaka) aggregates (khandha) are presented in a very sketched form appearing as though they need naming only without a clear comprehensive explanation of what each actually contain. Contrary to that, the so-called ‘universal characteristics’ of aggregates as impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha) and selflessness (anatta) are repeatedly stated. This serves a purpose for it induces the students of Buddhism to deal with the five aggregates as sourses of identification and clinging. The khandhas should be understood according to their functions, and not as metaphysical entities which would lead to dogmantic view of a permanent self or a fixed identity (sakkāyadiṭṭhi), and grasp at the manifestations of existence (ātman in Sanskrit or atta in Pāḷi).

1. Rūpakkhandha

Rūpakkhandha is defined as consisting of the four great elements (mahābhūta) and the materiality derived from them (upādāya rūpā)[13]. Each element is described according to its characteristics. For example, Paṭhavidhātu, the earth element, is described in term of its materiality internally and subjective or externally and objective that is hard, hash, clung to (born of kamma). The Visuddhimagga explains that the earth element is that which extends, or occupies (space); internally or subjectively they are hair, teeth, nails, skin, flesh, sinews, bone, bone-marrow, kidney, heart, liver, midriff, pleen, lungs, bowels, entrails, small intestines, dung.[14]

Interestingly, the six sense organs are not included in the list.

Āpodhatu, the water element, is also viewed as twofold according to its position, internally and externally. The internal water element is a liquid, pertaining to liquid, born of clinging, such as bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, spittle, snot, oil of the joints, and urine[15]. The water element, according to commentators, has the characteristic of cohesion[16], i.e., binding substance.

Tejodhātu, the fire element, refer to the temperature. “And what is the element of fire? It is that which heats, that which causes thing to decay, that which consumes, and that through which things reach an entice change.”[17] The internal fire element is that which makes the body warm, aging, burning, and digesting (of food, drink, etc). Tejodhātu also keeps the living body soft and flexible. Somewhere else (Dhp), it is termed usmā, or heat, being one of the three factors (āyu, usmā, and viññāṇa) that animate the body.

Vāyodhātu, the wind element, is motion and its characteristic is distension[18]. “Whatever there is internally in oneself that is air, airy, and clung to, that is to say, up-going winds, down-going winds in the belly, wind in the bowels, wind that course through the limbs, in-breath and out-breath”.[19]

Thus internal earth and water elements make up thirty-two parts of the body. The purpose of this analysis, according to the author of Visudhimagga, is to discard the concept of ‘human being’ in the rūpakkhandha as a separate and unique entity, along with the tendency to cling to it as ‘self’. For this reason, in Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna sutta (D.22; M.10) the Buddha taught:

Bhikkhus, just as though a skilled butcher or butcher’s apprentice had killed a cow and were seated at the cross roads with it cut up into pieces, so too, bhukkhus, a bhikkhu review this body however placed, however disposed, as consisting of elements: in this body there are the earth element, the water element, the fire element and the air element.[20]

As we can see above in the account of the elements, they are all described as “clung to”- upādinnaṃ, in the sense that they are born of kamma as well as being the objects of clinging, identifying “this is I, mine, myself”. However, the Mūlapariyāyasutta gives an account of how different people perceive things in different ways. About an ordinary person, it is said:

Here, bhikkhus, the not learned ordinary man, not seeing Great Men, not clever and not trained in the noble Teaching, perceives earth, thinking it is earth, becomes earth, thinks it is mine, delights. What is the reason: I call it not knowing thoroughly. Perceives water, thinking it’s water, becomes water, thinks it’s mine, delights. What is the reason: I call it not knowing thoroughly. Perceives fire, thinking it’s fire, becomes fire, thinks it’s mine, delights. What is the reason: I call it not knowing thoroughly. Perceives air, thinking it’s air, becomes air, thinks it’s mine, delights.[21]

The sutta gives an account of twenty-four kinds of experiences or phenomena, beginning with earth (paṭhavi), in which the ordinary person (puthujjana) conceives of each as a concrete entity, and identifies with it, taking delight in it because he fails to comprehend it (apariññātaṃ). However, for a leaner (Sikkho, one who has an authentic experience of the Dhamma but is not fully enlightened yet), he experiences the same phenomena but is able to resist from identifying with it (paṭhaviṃ meti mā maññi), not taking delight in it (paṭhaviṃ mābhinadi) because he must strive to understand it correctly (pariññeyyaṃ). To an Arahant who has transcended all psychological afflictions (khīnāsavo), and is fully liberated from all conceptual proliferations (Nippapañca), he does not think (in terms) of earth, nor does he identify with earth, not taking delight in earth. The reason is that he has fully comprehended all experiences (pariññātaṃ)”[22].

In regard to the four great elements, an interesting story in Dīgha Nikaya narrates that there was once a monk in seclusion who pondered over the questions: “where (do) the four great elements, that is the earth element, water..., fire..., wind element cease without remainder?”[23] By his physic power, in persuit of the answer to his questions, he traveled throughout the world starting from the lowest heaven realm (of The Four Great Kings) to the highest realm, that is the realm of the Great Brahma who is believed by common folk to be the Creator, the All-seeing, the All-powerful, etc., to have his question answered. Yet none of the celestial beings or their kings, including the great Brahma, knew where the four great elements actually ceased. Finally, following the advice of the great Brahma, the monk returned to the Buddha with his question. The Buddha restated his question as follows:

“Where do earth, water, fire and air no footing find?
Where are long and short, small and great, fair and foul-
Where are ‘mind-and –matter totally destroyed?”
And the answer given by the Buddha is:
Where consciousness is signless, limitless, all-luminous,

That is where earth, water, fire and air find no footing,
There both: long and short, small and great, fair and foul-
There ‘mind-and-matter completely destroyed.
With the cessation of consciousness this is all destroyed.”

It is noteworthy that the concept of the four great elements is given here along with the discriminative mind with regard to the material object. The duality-notion that discriminates subject (nāma, the knowing mind) and object (rūpa, the characteristics that perceived) always perceives a thing in its dual dimension, i.e., long and short, big and small, beautiful and ugly, etc. Thus the four great elements only arise as the conceptual construction of our mind about the object. Therefore, they are not real; but how can something unreal cease? This is the reason why the Buddha said his question was wrongly put. In its ordinary mode (or an untrained mind), consciousness (vi-ñāṇa) always perceives things through discrimination. However, when the mind is purified (in jhāna or mental absorption), when consciousness is freed from the duality-notion, or the notion of subject-object based on sensory experiences ceaced, it does not grasp at signs (anidassanaṃ), and is not limited to an established concept (anantaṃ). Rather it shines every- where (sabbato pabhaṃ) and thus the four great elements find no footing and the dual notion also ceases. With the cessation of discriminative consciousness (viññāṇa), conceptual thinking also ceases, and thus all these (dual notions) cease.[26] For a more profound treatment of this subject, we will return to it in chapter seven.

Nowhere does the sutta mention what derived materiality is. The Abhidhamatthasangaha elaborates twenty-four upādāyarūpā. They are: (1) the group of sensitive materiality consisting of five pasādarūpa, i.e., eyes, ears, noses, tongue, body; (2) the materiality that is perceived via sense faculties called gocararūpa consisting of form, sound, smell, taste, and tangibility – the three elements of earth, fire, air; (3) bhavarūpaṃ: feminity and masculinity; (4) manovatthu: the heart base (also called hadayarūpa); (6) Kabbaḷikarāhāra: nutriment; (7) jīvitindriya, life faculty. These are eighteen kinds of nipphannarūpa, concretely produced matters grouped into the seven groups above. These material phenomena are so-called because they possess svabhāvalakkhana, i.e., intrinsic characteristics which mark their existence. Besides, there is ‘non-concretely produced matter (anipphannarūpa) such as the space element (ākāsadhātu) intimating material phenomena (viññattirūpa), mutable material phenomena (vikārarūpa: lightness, malleability, suppleness), marks of materiality such as generation (upacaya), continuity (santati), decay (jaratā), and impermanence (aniccatā). We must bear in mind that rūpa is not described as substance. Etymologically, rūpa is that which has the nature of breaking down or disintegration (ruppati). This is certified by a definition of rūpa we found in Samyutta Nikaya:

And why, rūpa is so called? It is disintegrated (or) affected, therefore it is called rūpaṃ. By what it is affected? It is affected by cold, by heat, by thirst and hunger, by contact with flies, insects, mosquito...It is affected (or) disintegrated, therefore, monks, it is called rūpa [Kiñca bhikkhave, rūpaṃ vadetha: rūppatīti kho bhikkhave, tasmā rūpanti vuccati. Kena rūppati: sītena'pi ruppati uṇhena'pi ruppati jighacchāya'pi ruppati pipāsāya'pi ruppati daṃsamakasa-vātātapasiriṃ-sapasamphassena'pi ruppati. Ruppatīti kho bhikkhave, tasmā rūpanti vuccati] [27]

This clearly means our body, for inorganic materiality is not affected by thirst, hunger, or contact with flies, etc. Only sensitive materiality or the bodies of sentient beings are disturbed by these factors. Thus rūpakkhandha especially denotes the material aspect of sentient beings or a human being only. This qualification of rūpakkhandha is supported in Khandhasamyutta, Upādānaparipavaṭṭasutta in which it is stated that the material aggregate originated in nutriments and with the cessation of nutriments comes the cessation of the material aggregate.[28] Somewhere in the sutta when the account of four great elements is given, it mentions the external concrete materiality as found in mountains, water in the seas, wind blown on the field, forest fire, etc. are mentioned, but its purpose is only to point out that even such a mass of materiality is impermanent and changing[29].

The four great elements and four derivative materials, i.e., smell, color, taste and nutritive essence are termed a ‘pure octet’ (suddhaṭṭhaka). The group of rūpa (kalāpa) forms the base unit of material existence found in all materials. They are inseparable, each being an aspect of materiality, and each of the group of eight represents a distinctive characteristic of materiality as it is perceived by human sensitivities (pasadarūpa), not substantiality. In other words, materiality is perceived by its instrinsic characteristics and is named after it.

It is a common saying among Buddhists that having a body is suffering. This saying is connected with the definition of rūpakāya or material body as above and it is quite common knowledge. Everyone knows that our bodies are vulnerable to many kinds of afflictions. Since it is conceived as an embryo, it needs much care. It is so tender when it is born that every touch hurts like being stuck by needles. Its maintenance and development depend on many conditions such as fresh air to breathe, food of different kinds to eat, clean water to drink, clothes to ward off sunlight and wind, flies, mosquitoes, insects, etc. Thus is our body which we often take for granted as “I” or “mine”and take delight and conceit in it when it is beautiful, young, and strong; yet we feel depressed, angry and rejected when that very body gets old and sick, going beyond our control and finally lying on the death bed in great pain and agony. That is why the Buddha said that identifying with the body is pain and distress itself as well as the cause of pain and distress.

2. Vedanākkhandha

The sensation aggregate is of six kinds according to where it is ‘touched’.[30] Sensations arise when we are conscious of a visible object through the eye, a sound through the ear, a smell through the nose, a tactile object through the skin (literally body), and ideas through the mind’s door (manodvāra). Vedanā is also translated as feeling:

And why, Monks, do you call it feeling? It feels,...And what does it feels? It feels pleasure, it feels pain, it feels neither pain-nor-pleasure; It feels, therefore it is called feeling.- Kiñca bhikkhave, vedanaṃ vadetha: vediyatīti ..., tasmā vedanāti vuccati kiñca vediyati sukhampi vediyati dukkhampi vediyati adukkhamasukhampi vediyati. Vediyatīti kho bhikkhave, tasmā vedanāti vuccati.[31]

Whether vedanā is cognitive or emotive is a matter to be examined. The word vedanā comes from the root -/vid, which means ‘to know’and thus etymologically it is part of a cognitive process. Vedanā is a feminine noun often rendered into English as sensation or feeling. Both English translations are accurate in that each shows a special aspect of the word vedanā as is conveyed in Pali. Since vedanā originated through sense contact, so it is sensation as in the simple definition of vedanā above and it is also cognitive. But since it does not only feel or sense, being conditioned by previous experiences, and at the same time paves the way for further reactions. From vedanā comes taṇhā, and therefore it is also emotive. We will see this more clearly in the following analysis of vedanā.

There are three kinds of feelings: sukhā-vedanā, pleasant feeling, dukkhā-vedanā, unpleasant feeling, and adukkhamasukhā-vedanā, neither pleasant-nor-unpleasant feeling[32]. Another way of classifying feelings is into the following five: bodily pleasant feeling (sukhā-vedanā), mentally pleasant feeling (somanassa), bodily unpleasant feeling (dukkhā-vedanā), mentally unpleasant feeling (domanassa), and neutral feeling (upekkhā-vedanā)[33]. The texts mention two, three, five, six, eighteen, thirty-six kinds of vedanā, one hundred and eight kinds.[34] The Buddha also stated that he has classified feelings into different kinds (variety in number) according to his different audiences, however, in the case of those disciples who were not informed about this concept, they held fast to the idea that only what he has heard was correct, and therefore, this was a ground for controversies to arise.[35]

In another text from the Vedanā Samyutta, the classification of feelings is divided into degrees of defilements or worldliness (sāmisa) on the one hand, and freedom from defilement or spirituality (nirāmisa) on the other. In an interesting simile, the Buddha compared our body to a guest house where various classes of people may come and go from different directions. Likewise different feelings arise in this body, feelings that are carnally-originated, but also feelings that are spiritually-originated.

So too, bhikkhus, various feelings arise in this body: pleasant feeling arises, painful feeling arises, neither pleasant-nor painful feeling arises; canal pleasant feeling arises; canal painful feeling arises, canal neither pleasant-nor painful feeling arises; spiritual pleasant feeling arises; spiritual painful feeling arises; spiritual neither pleasant-nor painful feeling arises.” Evameva kho bhikkhave imasmiṃ kāyasmiṃ vividhā vedanā uppajjanti: sukhāpi vedanā uppajjanti, dukkhāpi vedanā uppajjanti, adukkhamasukhāpi vedanā uppajjanti, sāmisāpi sukhā vedanā uppajjanti, nirāmisāpi sukhā vedanā uppajjanti sāmisāpi dukkhā vedanā uppajjanti, nirāmisāpi dukkhā vedanā uppajjanti, sāmisāpi adukkhamasukhā vedanā uppajjanti, nirāmisāpi adukkhamasukhā vedanā uppajjantīti.[36]

This sutta reminisces about a paragraph in M 137, Salāyatana vibhanga sutta, in which feeling is viewed from the perspective of worldliness and also from that of renunciation. A similar classification is found in S IV, 36:22. In M.137, there is a further elaboration on the subject to make the distinction clear between what worldly and what spiritual emotions. In this context, the word ‘emotion’ coresponds more closely to the Pāli word vedanā.

The thirty-six states to which beings are attached (sattapāda) should be known': thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said? Six kinds of household joy and six kinds of renunciation joy; six kinds of household distress and six kinds of renunciation distress; six kinds of household equanimity and six kinds of renunciation equanimity.[37]

These states of mind, being described in terms of feeling, correspond to the different patterns of human reactions to reality through the emotions, not sensations.

From a soteriological perspective, the number of feelings is less important than the comprehension of their nature, its cause and its potentiality. It is stated that to be skillful in the Dhamma, vedanā (and the same for the other aggregates) should be understood in seven cases.[38] I will return to this theme later in chapter seven. The Buddha said for those ascetics and Brahmins who do not understand feelings as they really are, i.e., the gratification (assāda) of feeling, the danger (ādināvā) in feeling, and the escape (nissaraṇa) therefrom, they are not considered to be ascetics among ascetics, or brahmins among brahmins.

Whatever pleasant and happy feeling there is, that is the gratification in feeling; (but) feelings are changing, impermanent, and unsatisfactory, that is the danger/insecurity in feeling. Whoever restrains from taking delight in feeling, abandons lust for feeling, this is escape from feeling. [Yaṃ vedanaṃ paṭicca uppajjati sukhaṃ somanassaṃ, ayaṃ vedanāya assādo; yā vedanā aniccā dukkhā vipariṇāmadhammā, ayaṃ vedanāya ādīnāvo. Yo vedanāya chandarāgavinayo chandarāgappahānaṃ, idaṃ vedanāya nissaraṇaṃ. (Vedanā samyutta. SN)][39]

Vedanā has its cause in contact (phassa paccaya vedanā). Feeling gives rise to lust, hate or delusion depending on the quality or subjective appreciation of the feeling of the bearer. This is a crucial point which shows feeling to stand out as an important factor in our experience, or, in other words, contact>feeling>craving, is its samsāric origination. The importance of feeling that stands out as a distinctive aggregate is seen in the Law of Dependent Origination, vedanā paccaya taṇhā; we must bear in mind that taṇhā is the ‘house-builder’. From an experimental point of view, being caught in feelings is equivalent to samsāric involvement. The text reads:

Owing to the eye and visible object, arises eye-consciousness. The coming together of the three is contact. Depending on contact is feeling. Depending on feeling is craving. Depending on craving is grasping. Depending on grasping is becoming. Depending on becoming is rebirth. Depending on rebirth is decay and death, sorrow and grief, woe, lamentation and despair. This is the arising of the world.[40]

When the eye meets a visible object and if that object is pleasant to the beholder, the tendency towards lust arises; if the object is unpleasant, the tendency towards hatred arises. This ascertains that vedanā is the base for emotions to arise. However, judging from the classification above, we are tempted to view vedanā as emotion itself (such as joy-somanassa, happiness-sukha, sorrow-soka, distress-parideva, aversion- domanassa). These are the emotive aspect of experience as we have a glimpse from earlier analysis: our feelings are subjective and very emotive[41]. The Buddha said that a person experiencing a painful feeling with aversion is shot immediately by another arrow of pain. This point is missed out in Hamilton’s work: our reactions to feelings generate suffering[42]. Here we also see clearly how tanhā plays the role of saṅkhāra which works in a mechanical way to refresh experience. A text in Vedanāsamyutta (SN) vividly describes these kinds of unskillful reactions in the ordinary persons as follows:

Monks, when the uninstructed worldling is being contacted by a painful feeling, he sorrow, grieves and laments; he weeps beating his breast and becomes distraught. He feels two feelings- bodily one and mental one...Being contacted by the same painful feeling, he harbors aversion towards it. When he harbors aversion towards painful feeling, the underlying tendency towards painful feeling lies behind this. Being contacted by painful feeling, he seeks delight in sensual pleasure. For what reason? Because the ordinary people do not know any escape from painful feeling other then sensual pleasure. When he seeks delight in sensual pleasure, the underlying tendency to lust for pleasant feeling underlies this.[43]

Perhaps we should make the point of “subjective and emotional” in feeling more clear. Being in touch with the same object, one person may feel it pleasant, another may feel it unpleasant, and yet still another may have a neutral feeling about it. Modern psychologists also confirm that the objective world is rather neutral, but the way each individual feels about and reacts to it reveals his/her own type of character. From a Buddhist perspective, one’s feelings are conditioned by previous karma as well as one’s mood at the moment one experiences an object. For instance, our tastes are different; a very spicy dish may appear tasty to some, but repugnant to others and yet a mindful meditator may feel neutral about it. The same can be applied to feelings that arise via other senses. Here we might consider the quality of objects, too. Although, the object inherent in it certain inherent qualities, which make itself known to our senses, but we have different standards of evaluation. The criteria that we apply to evaluate the object in the present is conditioned by our past experiences. Thus we pay for former debt(s), and the way we deal with or react to what we feel now generates new karma, and in this way we invest something in the future.

By reacting to feelings, we generate personal kamma and under the influence of group or society, by adopting the common aesthetic standards or ethical evaluations we generate conlective kamma. The following diagram shows the relationship between our reactions to feelings through six sense faculties and how these reactions generate suffering:




Saṅkhārā taṇhā, upadāna-


Eyesàß Form


Like, taking delight, craving

Fear & worry of losing the pleasant feeling or object

Earsàß Sound

Noseàß Smell


Dislike, hatred,
wanting to

Multiplied suffering, ‘being pierced by two arrows’

Tongueàß Taste

Bodyàß Tactile


Neglectful, indifferent,

Bored, wanting something else

Mindàß Mental objects


As the above diagram shows, three kinds of suffering are the outcome of our reactions to different feelings. This is the first and second noble truth as perceived in the dependent arising view. In S IV, 36:11, the Buddha indicated that “whatever one feels is included in suffering” (yaṃ kiñci vedayitaṃ taṃ dukkhasmin’ti.). In this context, the Buddha explained further that what he has stated was with regard to the fleeting nature of feelings being described in terms of saṅkhārānañceva anicca, khayadhamma, vayadhamma, viparināmadhamma. In another sutta, it is stated: sukhā vedanā dukkhato daṭṭhabbā; dukkhā vedanā sallato daṭṭhabbā; adukkhamasukhā vedanā aniccato daṭṭhabbā: pleasant feelings should be seen as suffering; painful feelings should be seen as arrows; and neutral feelings should be seen as impermanent”[44]. Even the enlightened disciples and the Buddha felt these three kinds of feelings but the difference is that they did not react to those feelings with greed, aversion or delusion. Without any reactions, there will be no mental suffering.

Feeling is a conditioned phenomenon resulting directly from contact and indirectly, it is conditioned by previous experiences. A certain woman might appear pleasant and delightful to a particular man, but the same reaction does not arise in others who see her. The reasons may either be that in the past she had good kamma or had shared pleasant experiences with that particular man, or that she and others had a neutral kamma or not any special experience, or she might have a bitter experience with someone among them. With those who she had a good experience with, pleasant feelings will arise mutually (sometimes not mutually but only from one party); with the person who had no experience or no special connection with her in the past, neutral feelings arise amongst them; whereas in the person who had experienced a bitter experience with her, her appearance will be an unpleasant sign, and anger and hostility would arise on seeing her. This happens because feelings entail perception, which carry with it past impressions.[45] The process is described in the text as follows:

Cakkhuñca paticca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhuviññānaṃ; tiṇṇaṃ sanghati phasso; phassa paccayā vedanā, yaṃ vedeti taṃ sañjānati, yaṃ sañjānati taṃ vitakketi, yaṃ vitakketi taṃ papañceti[46] Because of the eye and visible form, eye-consciousness arises; the meeting of the three is contact; contact arouses feeling. What one feels, one perceives; what one perceives, one thinks of; what one thinks of, one conceptualizes.

This also explains why vedanā, saññā and viññāṇa always occur together and, as I have mentioned on the previous page, they are inseparable. From this passage we can see that they are all viewed from a different aspect and stage of a cognitive process in which each involved the other. Later, Abhidhamma works classified them as citta (viññāṇa) and cetasikas (vedanā, saññā, saṅkhāra) which share four common basics: 1- they arise together; 2- they cease together; 3- they share the same object; and 4- they share the same base.[47]

3. Saññākkhandha

The apperception aggregate arises when the sense faculty meets its corresponding object which it is conscious of. There are six sense faculties in the Buddhist classification system; accordingly, there are six kinds of apperception: (1) apperception via the eye (cakkhusamphassajā-saññā), (2) apperception via the ear (sotasamphassajā-saññā), (3) apperception via the nose (ghānasamphassajā-saññā), (4) apperception via the tongue (jivhasamphassajā-saññā), (5) apperception via the body (kāyasamphassajā-saññā), and (6) apperception via the mind (manosamphassajā-saññā).[48]

The word saññā comes from the root jña meaning to know plus the prefix sam meaning ‘with’, ‘together’. This root also forms the other two popular words we will discuss in turn, i.e., viññāṇa and paññā, each with a different prefix. Sam+ jña > saññā; the verb form is sañjānāti which means to perceive, to recognize, to figure out. According to Abhidhamma, saññā perceives general features of the object such as color and shape and offers an idea or concept of the object; therefore sometimes it is rendered as ideation or conceptualization. We know that ideation or conceptualization can not function unless they have enough raw data, i.e, a prior experience of the object, and as a result, some ideas has been formed. This way of the interpretation of a cognitive process fits with the usage of the word saññā in saññā vipallāsa, the distortion of perception.

According to the definition in Khandhasamyutta, apperception is so-called because it (directly) perceives and therefore it is called apperception. What does it perceive? It perceives blue, yellow, red, white; it (directly) perceives, therefore it is called apperception.[49] Thus, the function of saññā is to perceive colours, however, this rather oversimplifies saññā, and is not at all in harmony with the meaning of saññā in saññā vipallāso in A.IV, 52 or the sasaññā in A.IV, 45 (I quoted this on page 4), or in other passages in Aṅguttara Nikāya; and Dīghanikāya, Poṭṭhapāda sutta.

Some authors[50] indicate that while vedanā gives rise to defilements (klesa), saññā gives rise to the wrong view (diṭṭhi); this makes both vedanā and saññā stand out as a distinctive aggregate. In the Vedanākkhandha section we have seen how vedanā gives rise to taṇhā and other kilesas; in this section we will see how saññā involves view. However, first I will discuss saññā vipallāsa, a distortion of perception: “Monks, there are four kinds of distortion of perception. One perceive what is impermanent as permanence, what is suffering as happiness, what is non-self as self, what is foul as beauty.”[51] Thus in the cognitive process, saññā would be the first point to lead one astray. That is the reason why, in the same sutta, the distortion of perception is mentioned first. This leads to the distortion of thought (citta vipallāso) and to the distortion of view (diṭṭhi vipallāso). For example, in a dim light when one sees a wound-up rope on the road, one may perceive (saññā) it as a snake and the thought (citta) arises that it might bite, which is frightening. The person jumps or runs away, being obsessed with (diṭṭhi) the idea that there is a snake.

Saññā Vipallāsa

Just how our present perception is distorted by past ideas and experiences is illustrated by the following example. In some cultures, crows and owls are considered as evil symbols and therefore the sign and sound of crow(s) or owl(s) are perceived as bad luck or an ill-omen. When someone, especially if s/he is alone, hears the cry of these birds, the person may become very emotionally disturbed because the sound appears frightening to him/her. Even people may believe that owls are messengers from the demon world or the world of death, so if someone is sick in the family, the hoot of an owl is regarded as the call of death and thus perceived as evil or frightening. But in some other cultures, an owl may be a symbol of good luck and of fortune and therefore the sign of that animal is greeted with joy, and not as a frightening omen. Then the animal is not seen as ugly and repulsive. To someone who has no concept of good or bad about these animals, the sign or sound of them appear as normal as any other sign or sound. When we look closely at the eyes of an owl, we may see that they are quite beautiful, not ugly or evil because of our cultural bias.

Another commonly distorted perception is about our own self-image. Most adults have a certain self-image: I am a man or a woman of such and such a stature (short or tall, fat or thin, attractive or not attractive, etc), such and such is my family, such and such is my nationality or my religion, such and such is my status in my family or in society, etc. Most people like to think that they are good, kind and attractive in some way or other and therefore it is very hard to tolerate the idea that we may in fact be quite remote from our own self-image. We like to perceive ourselves as good and noble in character, and attractive in appearance. Whatever is disagreeable to our self-image, we may develop a defense mechanism in order to avoid the pain or hurt that perception may cause. A defense mechanism is an unconscious systematic self-deception used in order to cope with frustrating situations. We do not want to see ourselves as we truly are, but only as what we imagine about ourselves. We easily feel hurt, upset and frustrated when our self-image is injured. Due to our misconception of ourselves, our experiences of ourselves are inevitably partial, and thus our perceptions about ourselves are often distorted.

The right perception is that of impermanence in a changing world, of suffering in an imperfect world, of non-self in everything, of impurity in what is foulness. In youth, the prime phase of life, people are often very optimistic and naive. They perceive life as an endless road covered in roses and they travel on that road joyously and carefree, believing that their happiness would last forever. However, this appears to be a rather unrealistic view, for life is a mixture of happiness and suffering due to the changing nature of things. When life is hard to cope with, sweetness turns bitter, youth and strength turns to infirmity, illness and finally, old age and death. In disappointment and despair, people would beat their breasts, crying out: Alas! We have betrayed by our naïve ideas about life and world!

However, the philosophical aspect of the saññāvipallāso is much more profound. In the Brahma world, according to Buddhist cosmology, the life span of celestial beings is very long, of many world cycles and therefore the Brahmas think that they are permanent, and the omniscient creators of the world (See Brahmajalasutta, DN). The idea of permanence also comes from a belief in reincarnation, that an indestructible ‘soul’ (as depicted in the Upaniṣads) transmigrates from this body to another body at death; and that the body being impermanent, whereas the soul is considered permanent. The Buddhist teachings deny the existence of such unchanging identity or soul or self, which I will discuss in the next chapter. The (wrong) perception of permanent and the (wrong) perception of the soul are a corollary of each other. Similarly, the (wrong) perception of happiness in what is actually suffering is due to taṇhā, thirst or craving; this thirst, being but a consequence of the perception of beauty (sukha saññā).

Therefore, saññā emerges as a neutral faculty that may be right or wrong, correctly or incorrectly function in the act of perceiving. In other words, in the cognitive process, saññā plays an important role in giving an idea of the object perceived, and as I stated earlier, it might be the first factor leading one astray. What caused perception to be perverted? In a philosophical sense, it is ignorance about the real nature of things (the three signata: anicca, dukkha, and anatta) and therefore one perceives it in opposite ways. In an epistemological sense, perception or discrimination and identification are a more accurate rendering of saññā. It can not, however, take place without the previous conceptions. Such and such is called blue, red, etc., and thus, according to the knowledge acquired earlier, one identifies what one sees presently as having such and such a colour. The same thing applies to the perception of shape: big or small, round or square, long or short; these perceptions build up the conception of things such as woman, man, monkey or cow, a dog or tree, etc. Perceiving, discriminating and identifying are the functions of saññākkhandha. It is conditioned by what one has learnt, intellectually or practically.

In the Madhupiṇḍika sutta (M.I, sutta No18), it seems that perception comes after feeling, but careful investigation reveals that this is not true; they are, in fact, simultaneous. We cannot stop feeling, for already we sense it or are conscious of it. However, the crucial point is that the average mind does not stop at what is perceived, it makes a comparison with past experiences and identifies what is experienced with reference to oneself, either taking delight in or rejecting it. Thus the process entails all khandhas with an ego-centered attitude (papañcasaññāsaṅkhā). This is what we have come across when saying that the five aggregates are not something one can pick up one by one separately. The experience which is described in terms of khandhas is an overall process, it piles up and overlays one upon the other; that is why it is called khandha.

In Dīghanikāya, Poṭṭhapāda, when a wandering ascetic asked the Buddha whether saññā is one’s self (attā)[52], they argued that perception arises and ceases without causes or conditions; when perception enters one’s body, one is conscious; when perception leaves the body, one is said to become unconscious. Though it seems the argument around saññā among ascetics is something very similar to consciousness (viññāṇa in Buddhist terms), this certainly is not in accordance with saññākkhandha in the Buddhist sense; the answer of the Buddha concerning this matter is that saññā being caused, arises and ceases according to conditions, and saññā, in fact, can be trained. This certainly refers to citta or mind which consists of the four arūpakhandhas (vedanā, saññā, saṅkhāra, and viññāṇa) as a whole.

There seem some conflicts in the usage of the word saññā in different places in the texts. In A.IV, 45, the Buddha talked about the ‘world’ as a compound of kalebare sasaññimhi samanake lokaṃ - “in this body with perception and mind”, whereby the word saññi (being an adjective of saññā) may be translated as ‘conscious’, thus making a distinction between “conscious body” and “mind”. This meaning is also in accordance with saññisatta - conscious being, and asaññisatta - a being without perception; and in the description of the seventh jhāna nevasaññā-nāsaññā – “neither perception, nor non-perception”, and more subtle in the ninth attainment “saññā-vedayita-nirodha sammāpatti” which is a state described as being the extinction of feeling and perception. Now we see that saññākkhandha is not always a necessary part of human experience.

Saññā in some other contexts may be understood as “thought’ or “reflection” or “contemplation”:

Sattimā bhikkhave, saññā bhāvitā bahulīkatā mahapphalā honti mahānisaṃsā amatogadhā amatapariyosānā. Katamā satta: Asubhasaññā, maraṇasaññā, āhāre paṭikkūlasaññā, sabbaloke anabhiratasaññā, aniccasaññā, anicce dukkhasaññā, dukkhe anattasaññā. There are seven ways of contemplation which developed and frequently practiced yield great fruit and benefits, lead to deathless and ripen in deathless. What are the seven? The reflection of foulness, the reflection of death, the reflection of repulsiveness in food, the reflection of disenchantment with the whole world, the reflection of impermanence, the reflection of suffering in impermanence, the reflection of non-self in suffering.[53]

In Girimānandasutta (A.X), ten reflections are recommended by the Buddha. They are: the reflection on the impermanence (aniccasaññā), the reflection on the non-self nature of things (anattasaññā), the reflection on the repulsive nature of things (asubhasaññā), the reflection on the peril inherent in things (ādīnavasaññā), the reflection on abandonment (pahānasaññā), the reflection on dispassion (virāgasaññā), the reflection of cessation (nirodhasaññā), the reflection of disenchantment with the whole world (sabbaloke anabhiratasaññā), the reflection of the impermanence of all compounded things (sabbasankhāresu aniccasaññā), and the contemplation on the breath (ānāpānasati). Here, too, saññā is contemplation, i.e., bearing in mind, or frequently paying attention to.

Perception is a part of a cognitive process as we have seen earlier: cakkhuṃ ca rūpaṃ...yaṃ vedayāti taṃ sañjānāti, but both, vedanā and saññā, can be temporarily detached in the experience of jhāna that might culminate in the highest attainment of extinction (Nirodhasammāpatti). Therefore saññākkhandha is a part of a cognitive process that is only experienced on a mundane level, which Hamilton called “samsāric-experience”[54]. This, perhaps, is the reason for comparing it with mirage, which is unreal; the developed Buddhist thought even went so far as to confirm that all samsāric experiences result from unreal illusions of a deluded mind. We can compare this idea with a passage in SN in which the Buddha admonished Ven. Anuruddha that, indeed, the Tathāgata can not be conceived of in terms of five aggregates even when still alive, so how can this be the case after his Parinibbāna? The Hadayapajñāparamitā- Śūtra states that when the Bodhisatva is in a state of imperturbable jhana, a deep reflection, s/he sees the five aggregates as empty; as he/she has transcended all suffering. What is meant by ‘empty’ here should be made clear. Perception is compared to mirage in SN.III.141:2; we will analyze this in the next chapter. A similar passage is found in Aksayamatinirdesa Śūtra as follows:

The form aggregate is like a ball of foam; it cannot withstand being held and separated. The feeling aggregate is like a water bubble; because it is momentary, it is impermanent. The aggregate of discrimination is like a mirage; because it is mistakenly apprehended by the thirst of attachment. The aggregate of compositional factors is like the stalker of a lotus; when it is destroyed it has no core. The aggregate of consciousness is like a dream; it is mistakenly conceived. Therefore the five aggregate are not a self, not a person, not a sentient being, not a life, not a nourished being, not a creature. The five aggregates are naturally empty of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, unproduced, unarisen, non-existent the sphere of space, unconditioned and naturally passed beyond sorrow.[55]

4. Saṅkhārakkhandha

Saṅkhārakkhandha is usually translated as a mental formation aggregate. This aggregate includes many mental factors within three worlds, to wit: kāmaloka, rūpaloka, and arūpaloka. The word saṅkhāra is translated into English as mental formation, volitional activity, disposition, karmic formation, fabrication, synthesis, etc. In different contexts, the word conveys a different meaning. Due to various usages of this term, Sue Hamilton remarks: “The term saṅkhāra occurs in many different contexts in the Nikāyas, and has been notoriously difficult to explain and understand.”[56] This idea is shared by other modern scholars of early Buddhism, too, for instance R.C. Childer and Johansson[57]. Traditional expositions of the term gave two mainstream meanings of saṅkhāra: (1) as conditioned, compounded things which are constantly changing and becoming; in short, saṅkhāra is a state of instability; (2) volitional activity or karmic formation. Merely translating saṅkhāra as volition (equal to cetanā) only conveys one aspect of this term; as ‘disposition’ it also does not embrace the wide-ranging connotations of the word saṅkhāra.

Etymologically the word comes from the root -/kar meaning to make, to do, to perform plus the prefix ‘sam’ meaning ‘together’, ‘combined together’, equal to the prefix ‘sync’ in Latin. Thus the noun form saṅkhāra literally means ‘make together’, ‘combination’, ‘compound’, ‘composition’. This meaning is widely accepted as sabbe saṅkhārā anicca/ dukkha – all compounded things are impermanent and suffering; vayadhammā saṅkhārā - change is the nature of conditioned things (D.I, sutta No 16); and in S III, 22: 96, all wordly achievements, materiality as well as status, fame, etc are called saṅkhāra: “Thus, bhikkhus, all those formations have passed, ceased, changed. So impermanent are formations, bhikkhus, so unstable, so unreliable.”[58]

Texts mention three kinds of saṅkhārā connected with ignorance (avijjā); this is saṅkhāra as the second link of the formula of Dependent Origination (paticcasammupāda). In the Dependent Origination formula, saṅkhārā denotes: (1) puññābhisaṅkhārā, wholesome effort conducive towards one’s own welfare (kusalacittā ranging from kāmavacana to rūpavacana); (2) apuññābhisaṅkhārā, unwholesome effort leading to bad kammic results; (3) ānenjābhisaṅkhārā- imperturbable attainment (in arūpajhāna)[59]. In this sense, saṅkhāra is translated as kammic formations; Johansons renders it as ‘creative activity’[60] in the sense that it triggers a process. Beside the word saṅkhāra, there is the word abhisaṅkhāra and the verb form abhisaṅkharoti which are found quite often in the texts. According to R.C. Childer, abhisaṅkhārā is used equally as saṅkhārā[61], and its verb form is virtually a synonym of saṅkharoti which means ‘cause to form’, ‘compile’, ‘construct’, ‘produce’. In another sense, saṅkhāra is understood as mental activity (cittasaṅkhāra), verbal activity (vacīsaṅkhāra), and bodily activity (kāyasaṅkhāra)[62]. In this context, breath is the activity of the body or bodily functions, thinking (vitakka) and articulating (vicāra) are verbal activities or verbal functions, perception (saññā) and feeling (vedanā) are the activities of the mind or mental functions. Thus according to this definition, saññā and vedanā are both subsumed under saṅkhāra[63]. Evidently, this meaning of saṅkhāra cannot apply to the word saṅkhāra in saṅkhārakkhandha where vedanā and saññā each standing out as a separate khandha. The definition of saṅkhārakkhandha in SN is as follows:

How, monks, are they called saṅkhārā? They construct (what is) constructed, monks, therefore they are called saṅkhārā. How do they construct the componded things? They construct material things (to be) the body/materiality; they construct composite feeling as feeling; they construct conditioned perception as perception; they construct volitional activities to be motivation; they construct composite consciousness as consciousness; therefore they are called saṅkhārā.- Kiñca bhikkhave, saṅkhāre vadetha: saṅkhataṃ abhisaṅkharontīti bhikkhave, tasmā saṅkhārāti vuccanti. Kiñca saṅkhataṃ abhisaṅkharonti: rūpaṃ rūpattāya saṅkhataṃ abhisaṅkharonti. Vedanaṃ vedanattāya saṅkhataṃ abhisaṅkharonti. Saññaṃ saññattāya saṅkhataṃ abhisaṅkharonti. Saṅkhāre saṅkhārattāya saṅkhataṃ abhisaṅkharonti. Viññāṇaṃ viññāṇattāya saṅkhataṃ abhisaṅkharonti. Saṅkhataṃ abhisaṅkharontīti kho bhikkhave, tasmā saṅkhārāti vuccanti[64].

This passage contains perhaps the most controversial of all the semantic definitions of the terms. Woodward translates it as: “Because they compose a compound...”. Whereas E.A.Johansson translates it as: “Because they create what is created...They create form by form-process, sensation by sensation-process, image by ideation-process, saṅkhāra by saṅkhāra-process, consciousness by consciousness-process.”[65] Sue Hamilton is not much different; she translates the word saṅkhātaṃ as ‘conditioned phenomena’, and abhisankharonti as ‘they volitional construct’[66]; Bhikkhu Bodhi also renders a similar translation:

They construct what is conditioned...and what is the conditioned that they construct? They construct conditioned form as form; they construct conditioned feeling as feeling; they construct conditioned perception as perception; they construct conditioned volitional formation as volitional formation; they construct conditioned consciousness as consciousness...[67]

Herein I prefer to translate the word saṅkhātaṃ in different ways in order to convey its different meanings; and saṅkhāra as motivation to indicate the dynamic nature of the fourth aggregate. Saṅkhārakkhandha is best translated as “volitional formations” or “volitional activities” as Bhikkhu Bodhi did. This is justified as the definition of volition is: (1) The act of willing or choosing; the act of forming a purpose; the exercise of the will [1913 Webster]; (2) Volition is the actual exercise of the power the mind has to order the consideration of any idea, or the forbearing to consider it. [Locke - 1913 Webster]; (3) Volition is an act of the mind, knowingly exerting that dominion it takes itself to have over any part of the man, by employing it in, or withholding it from, any particular action [Locke, 1913 Webster].

According to the above quoted text, saṅkhāra plays an active role in forming other aggregates. In my opinion, the word saṅkhāra in saṅkhārakkhandha resembles the English word ‘motivation’ the most if we choose ‘volition’[68] as its core. The reason is that according to the Abhidhamma method, saṅkhārakkhandha includes under it fifty mental factors (wholesome as well as unwholesome and neutral ones), which determine the quality of thought (citta), and of these, cetanā, volition, is the most significant one. (I will discuss cetanā and other Pāli terms for motivation further in a separate chapter.) In S III, 60, saṅkhāra is identified with sañcetanā, a volitional act. Cetanā is a dynamic force motivating one to action. The Buddha affirmed that cetanā is kamma; as the cognitive process starts from phassa>vedanā>saññā> cetanā, it is this cetanā that determines the quality of action upon the object; it may be called reaction, or attitude as well. This also explains why tradition has the word saṅkhāra in the Paṭiccasamuppāda denoting the implication of taṇhā, upādāna and kammabhava which make it a mentally active force destined for further manifestation (bhava). As the second link of Dependent Origination, it constructs consciousness (viññāṇa) which is the conception of one’s present life. Saṅkhāra as a khandha is our reaction to stimulations via sense media which is given in the following classic definition of saṅkhāra as found in SN:

And what, monks, is volitional activity? There are six classes of volition: volition regarding to forms, volition regarding to sounds, volition regarding to odours, volition regarding to tastes, volition regarding to tactile objects, volition regarding to mental phenomena. This is called volitional activity. With the arising of contact there is the arising of volitional activity; with the ceasing of contact, volitional activity ceases.[69]

Our reactions to experiences might be positive (bring good results) and skillful (kusala), or alternatively, negative (bring bad result) and unskillful (akusala). The scriptural terms for them are puññābhisaṅkhāra and apuññābhisaṅkhāra respectively. These reactions are conditioned by many factors, and in turn, they form a pattern of behavior; in other words, they construct personality as the sketched definition in the quoted text above. In this sense, saṅkhārā are volitional activities corresponding to a synomym of cetanā, and restricted to mental activity other than vedanā and saññā. Making a differentiation between the usages of the word saṅkhāra, Sue Hamilton writes:

[...] the volition of saṅkhārakkhandha is concerned with how the individual operates: his or her day to day volitions during this life. This difference is compatible with the fact that the paṭiccasamuppāda formula is a synthetical explanation of how a human being functions, why the khandha formula is analytical: the former is creative and the latter is not...[70]

This dichotomy between the different connotations of the word saṅkhāra appearing in two very important places in Buddhist philosophy and psychology is not necessary. In both instances, saṅkhārā are both conditioned and creative (as we have discussed on the preceding page). In the first place, i.e. in Paṭiccasamuppāda formula, saṅkhāra is classified as the past cause, along with avijjā, ignorance, for this present life, i.e. the five khandhas; but even in that past creativities they did not come by themselves, they were conditioned by a former set of khandhas which were swayed under the charm of taṇhā and upādāna. Craving (taṇhā) and clinging (upādāna), two psychological factors that spring and interfere in experiences are made possible by ignorance (avijjā) and, at the beginning of samsāra it is even said they are indiscernible. In S II, 15:1, it is stated: “This samsāra is without discoverable beginning. A first point is not discerned of being roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.”[71] That is why in Buddhism we do not discuss on the ‘first cause’, because there is no first cause which can be discerned that responsible for the whole process; rather it is “conditioned by this, that come to be; by the arising of this, that arise; by the absent of this, that is not; by the cassation of this, that disrupted.”(imasmiṃ sati idaṃ hoti; imass’ uppādā idaṃ uppajjati; imasmiṃ asati idaṃ na hoti, imassa nirodhā idaṃ nirujjhati)[72]; and the Paṭiccasamuppāda is presented as a cycle, while saṃsāra experiences are perpetuated in an endless cycle. Saṅkhāra is called hetu- cause, but the qualities attributed to it such as taṇhā, upādāna, chandārāgā, etc, belong to kilesavatta- the round of defilements.

We see that in A. IV, 171 Sañcetanā and saṅkhārā are used as synonyms. The phrase kāyasañcetanāhetu, vacīsañcetanāhetu, and manosañcetanāhetu occuring in the first paragraph; and kāyasaṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti, vacīsaṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti, manosaṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti occuring in the following paragraphs denote the same role: the creative ability of the volitional activities. These kammic volitions which are enacted through the three doors: body, speech, and mind generate either happiness (sukha in the cases of puññābhisaṅkhārā), or suffering (dukkha in the cases of apuññābhisaṅkhārā) for oneself (ajjhattaṃ). At the end of the sutta, the Buddha stated that “in all these states, monks, ignorance is involved”[73] (Imesu bhikkhave dhammesu avijjā anupatitā). In S II, 12:2 saṅkhāra is defined as: “And what bhikkhus, are the volitional formation? There are these three kinds of volitional formations: the bodily volitional formation, the verbal volitional formation, the mental volitional formation.”[74] This definition is given in the analysis of Dependent Origination, so therefore there is no doubt that it is intended for the saṅkhārā as the second link of Paṭiccasamuppāda. Sue Hamilton also suggested that the triads of kāya vacī, and citta is specially refer to saṅkhārā of the Paṭiccasamuppāda formula.[75] According to Bhikkhu Bodhi, the commentary on the above passage of SN made a distinctive definition that this threefold saṅkhārā should not be mistaken with those passages on S.IV, 41: 6, and of M .44; for the definition in Paṭiccasamuppādavibhanga specially denotes twenty kinds of thoughts in sensual sphere (12 akusala citta and 8 kusala citta of kāmavacara)[76].

The present saṅkhārakkhandha is a conditioned set of volitional activity, but they do not passively reacting to experiences, it does activate and govern the other sets (khandhas). Purposefulness and motivation under self-centered-principle are the nature of saṅkhārā or cetanā in an ordinary person. We will return to this nature of saṅkhārā in Chapter VI, under the heading of motivation. The world of formations (saṅkhāra loka as distinguished from satta loka, the abode of beings; and okāsa loka, the spatial world) is specially referred to as the five khandhas; thus all khandhas are saṅkhārā composing a microcosmic world. In a psychological term, samsāra is defined as the cycle of birth and rebirth in this very microcosmic world by virtue of the recurrence of thoughts and the repetition of habitual behaviors. This is considered as suffering regardless of whether the person is conscious of it or not. At this juncture, we should recall sañcetanā as one of the nutriments mentioned in Buddhist texts, - the effect on one’s mind and personality constructed over and over again.

Like vedanā and saññā, saṅkhāra has ‘contact’ as its immediate cause. Contact should be understood in two ways: (1) paṭighāsamphassa, impingement through material sense faculties (pasadarūpā) and their corresponding objects (gocarā), (2) adhivacanasamphassa, abstract contact, i.e. mental faculty (manindriya) and ideas (dhammā). Thus, saṅkhārā constitute our reactions to sense experiences. Through our eyes, we perceive visible objects; through the ears, sounds are registered; etc. Sense data give us information of the objective world, and saṅkhāra is the faculty that makes use of this information. First, it personally evaluates the object along the same line as vedanā and saññā are presented; it then deals with the experience in subjective and personal ways such as showing likes or dislikes, taking delight in or rejecting the perceived object. These mental reactions do not pass without leaving any trace; in fact, they leave impacts on the mind in terms of memories, which in turn condition the new experiences. Since these mental activities might exert their power beyond the mental realm (manokamma), one triggers the other in a chain of saṅkhārā; they are verbalized (vacīkamma), and acted accordingly (kāyakamma). Having subjectively appreciated the object, saṅkhārā motivates one to perceive and reckon it in a personal way, then conceptualize or reconstruct it in one’s mind, making a mental image. Thus, what follow is verbalization of what one feels which entails thinking (vitakka) and pondering (vicāra) which is called vacīsaṅkhāra; then one’s attitude is expressed by bodily functions such as the heart rates change, the breath becoming grosser (kāyasaṅkhārā); this not withstanding, one may still take some certain actions. This kind of human behavior is described by the Buddha in M18, as follows:

Bhikkhu, on whatever account there is reconstructed in the manifoldness of the (microcosmic) world, you should not be pleased, or welcome it and appropriate it , then all demeritorious things that rise from the latent tendencies to lust, to be hostile, to hold views, to doubt, to measure, to be greedy, to be ignorant, to wield sticks and weapons, to fight, to take sides, to dispute, to slander, to tell lies, all these cease without remainder[77]

Returning to the question of how saṅkhārā forms our personality: it determines our personal attitudes and subjective reactions to experiences as in the above analysis. This also explains why a person is often prone to reacts or behaves in a certain pattern of behavior. This habitual tendency defines a man’s character. The influence of the environment such as family, society, culture, religion and so on also plays an essential part, but the psychological trait called anusaya- latent tendencies are perhaps the most powerful force governing one’s activities. In this way, personality is constructed, inherited from the past saṅkhārā (in terms of viññāṇa as the second link of the law of Dependent Origination, and anusaya kilesas), or recently accumulated (in terms of taṇhā and upādāna), all is but a phase in a perpetual process.

Saṅkhārā are not always attributed to negative qualities (akusala), but they can be positive, too, such as faith (saddha), energy (viriya), concentration (Samādhi), resolution (paṇidha), mindfulness (sati), shame of wrong doing (hiri), fear of evil consequences in immoral act (anottappa), etc. For the negative force, they are described in term of taṇhā- craving, and upādāna- grasping, or kilesas, defilement, in general, but for the positive force they are called indriyā- spiritual faculties or bala- will power. For instance, (1) “the assurance: I shall know what I did not yet know! -aññātañ-nassāmi’t’indriya”; (2) the faculty of highest knowledge- Aññindriya; (3) the faculty of him who knows- aññātāvindriya. These three acts of will are called three supramundane faculties; the first one arises on the path when the practitioner enters the sotāpatti magga, the second when he reaches the fruition of sainthood (sotāpatti phala), and the third one occurs at Arahantship (arahatta phala).

What is the difference between the cetanā of an ordinary person (puthujjana) and the cetanā in a noble person (ariya puggala)? As we have discussed earlier, the will of an ordinary person is always self-centered, and ego-building, but the will of a noble person is less so; only in a fully awakened person (Buddha and Arahant) who has destroyed the seed of an egoistic attitude, ceased I-making (ahaṃkāra) and ‘mine-making’ (mamaṃkāra), and has eliminated the tendency of conceit (manānusaya) is freed from this kind of personality-build up. The five khandhas may still remain (sa-upādānakhhandha nirvāna), but the accumulated function of saṅkhārakkhandha has been neutralized. To summarize the account in saṅkhārakkhandha, an authoritatively sketched typical commentary in the Theravāda tradition can be cited as follows:

Whatever has the characteristic of forming should be understood, all taken together, as the saṅkhārakkhandha...They has the characteristic of forming. Their function is to accumulate. They are manifested as intervening. Their proximate causes are the remaining three mental aggregates. So according to characteristic, they are singlefold. And according to kind they are threefold, namely: profitable, unprofitable, and indeterminate.[78]

5. Viññāṇakkhandha

The consciousness aggregate is a popular translation of the fifth factor of personality. This is perhaps the most important factor in Buddhist psychology; different from the concept of consciousness in the Upaniṣads, this aspect of the personality is not viewed as a permanent and ever-abiding self (ātman) in Buddhist philosophy. Being one of the khandhas, perhaps, the most subtle aggregate of all, consciousness is a causal event, not a substance. Viññāṇa in early Buddhist texts appeared in many different contexts, but for a convenience, we will select to discuss it in three main contexts only: (1) as cognitive element (manodhātu viññāṇa); (2) as a stream of consciousness (viññāṇasota); and (3) as a link from life to life (samvattanika viññāṇa or paṭisandhi citta). According to the author of Visuddhimagga, viññāṇa, citta and mano are synonyms.[79]

Viññāṇa occurs in many classifications in early Buddhist texts. In Paṭiccasamuppāda, viññāṇa is the third link; in khandha doctrine, it is the fifth aggregate; in the analysis of element (dhātu), it is one of the six elements (the six elements being paṭhavi, apo, vāyo, tejo, okāsa, and viññāṇa); in the four kinds of nutriments, viññāṇa is one kind of the nourishment that feeds living beings. Earlier, we have observed that man is such a creature that he or she would never tire of the thought of ‘I am’ because the thought connected with and rotating around an “I” is the most favorite toy man plays with! In the drama of daydreaming he is normally the main character and the mind is the stage. In this sense, viññāṇa is identical with citta, thought, is a kind of nutriments. As an aggregate, Viññāṇakkhandha is defined as:

What, bhikkhus, is the consciousness aggregate? There are six class of consciousness: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, and mind-consciousness - Chayime bhikkhave, viññāṇakāyā: cakkhuviññāṇaṃ sotaviññāṇaṃ, ghānaviññāṇaṃ jivhāviññāṇaṃ, kāyaviññāṇaṃ, manoviññāṇaṃ. Idaṃ vuccati bhikkhave, viññāṇaṃ[80]

This sixfold of consciousness is also found in the classification of eighteen elements. In addition to these six kinds of consciousness, Mahāyana sutras classify consciousness into eight kinds, the seventh consciousness is being the thinking mind: “that which continues to possess discerning nature even in the absence of sense data”[81], and the eighth consciousness is ālaya-viññāṇa, the store-consciousness which has some characteristics in common with the concept of bhavaṅga citta in the Abhidhamma. And in Vimuttimagga, the viññāṇakkhandha is counted as seven in number: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body- consciousness, and mind-element (manodhātu) depending on the five doors adverting. “The cognizing immediately after the five kinds of consciousness is called mind element.”[82] The mind-consciousness element (manoviññānadhātu) is the seventh. “These seven kinds of consciousness should be known in three ways: through organ-object, through object, through states.”[83]

The definition of viññāṇadhātu in dhātuvibhangasuta (M.140) is different from other suttas. After giving the definition of other element beginning with earth, through to the space element, the Buddha said to a new comer:

There remains only consciousness: pure and bright. What does one cognize with that consciousness? One cognizes 'pleasure,' one cognizes 'pain,' or one cognizes 'neither pleasure nor pain.' Athaparaṃ viññāṇaṃyeva avasissati parisuddhaṃ pariyodanaṃ, tena ca viññānena kiṃ vijānāti. Sukhaṃtipi vijānāti, dukkhaṃtipi vijānāti, adukkhamasukhaṃ vijānāti [M.140].

This consciousness, being pure and bright is a mental faculty that recognizes. This reminisence is found in a passage in A I, iv:1-2, in which is described the mind (citta) is described as being pure and illuminous (pabbhassaṃ). The commentary on the passage explains that this refer to bhavangacitta, the unbroken stream of consciousness that serves as undercurrent from which all the cognitive processes ‘surged out’ and ‘drop in’. As concerns to the function of viññāṇa, all texts agree on the point ‘it recognizes-vijānāti’. The above quoted texts seem to talk about the viññāṇasota-stream of consciousness in D 28 (PTS. D.III, 105). Viññāṇasota is a rare term describing the kammic force that flows on unbroken from life to life (in samsāra). According to the same sutta, this life-force can be observed when a meditator has made a certain progress in jhāna. The text reads: “purisassa ca viññāṇa-sotaṃ pajānāti ubhayato abbocchinnaṃ idhaloke patiṭṭhitañca paro loke patiṭṭhañca. Ayaṃ tatiyā dassana-sammāpatti”- He discerns the unbroken stream of consciousness established both in this world and in the other world. This is the third vision-attainment.” In M 106, another term describing the function of consciousness at the death-rebirth event is presented. This is called samvattanīkaṃ viññānaṃ, the ‘rolling on consciousness’ occuring when the body is broken; this consciousness may then pass on to take rebirth in the imperturbable realm. (kayassa bhedā paraṃ maraṇā ṭhānametaṃ vijjati yaṃ taṃ samvattanīkaṃ viññāṇaṃ assa āṇañjūpagaṃ.) Perhaps these kinds of expressions about the continuity of consciousness made Sati, a monk at the Buddha’s time mistook it as something that is unchanging which migrates from life to life. We will return to this kind of misunderstanding, i.e. that consciousness is in fact a causal event in the following chapter on anatta.

Visuddhimagga XIV, 84 states: “whatever has the characteristic of cognizing should be understood, all taken together, as the consciousness aggregate.” Further, referring to the classification of consciousness, Buddhaghosa followed the Abhidhamma method, classifying consciousness according to its ethical kammic force (kusalacitta, akusalacitta, abyākatacitta) that distributed among the three planes of existences (kāmaloka, rūpaloka, and arūpaloka) which is lokiya citta, mundane consciousnesses, and that of beyond the world (lokuttara citta). The method of classifying consciousness according to where it is stationed (viññāṇaṭṭhiti) is also founded in some suttas such as in Mahānidāna sutta (DN), A. vii. 41, wherein the seven stations of consciousness are mentioned. However, in the suttas, the location or station (ṭhiti) is not described in terms of the concept of “vertical world”*.

Viññāṇa serving as a rebirth-linking factor (paṭisandhicitta) is found in D. II, 63: viññānañca hi Ānanda mātu kucchiṃ na okkamissatha, api nu kho nāmarūpaṃ mātukucchismiṃ samuccissatha?”-If, Ananda, the conception does not descend into the mother’s womb, will there name and form be generated?” This is the viññāṇa as the third link of the paṭiccasamuppāda formula. According to the Abhidhamma method, there are twenty-four resultant consciousnesses serving as rebirth-linking factor. Where does this viññāṇa come from? In the concise formula, this consciousness is said to be conditioned by genetic activities (saṅkhārā paccaya viññāṇaṃ) carried out in the past. However, it is apparent that consciousness cannot operate by itself, as Hamilton pointes out, it is not an independent agent.[84] Consciousness, being one of the khandhas, depends on other khandhas, and “with the arising of nāma-rūpa, viññāṇa arises, with the ceasing of nāma-rūpa, viññāṇa ceases”[85]. Viññāna and nāma-rūpa are mutually dependent (D II, 62,63). Nāma-rūpa with co-operation of viññāṇa is five khandhas at a tender phase of being; salāyātana is, but that same five khandha at a more mature phase. One’s present consciousness, supported by other aggregates (D.33; S. III, 22:9, 54), “bound by desire and thirst, takes delight, that delighting in what is present, it collects” (chandarāga paṭibandhattā viññānassa tad abhinandati; tad abhinandanto paccuppannesu dhammesu saṃhirati)[86]. This passage describes how viññāṇa got caught up in what it is experiencing; being thus caught up, it acts as saṅkhāra itself, i.e. collecting materials and embeding them into the undercurrent that serves as fuel to be renewed moment to moment. In S II, 12: 64, Viññāṇa comes to be established when the person takes delight in edible food, contact, volitional profiting, and thought reviewing sense impressions. Also in the same context, the pain that viññāṇa would bring (as a kind of poisoned food) is compared with a man being hit by thousands of spears in a single day! For a single consciousness arising in a causal process, as a cognitive factor, the following description is a standard in the early texts:

Friends, on account of eye and forms arises eye consciousness. The simultaneously meeting of the three is contact, on account of contact feelings, what is felt is perceived, of what is perceived there is thinking, in thoughts there is diffusion on account of that, diffused perceptive components of forms of the past, future and present cognizable by the eye consciousness arise and assault in that man.[87]

This passage aroused a controversy as regards the order of the perceptive process. It is clear that when there is a visible object within the eye-sight, eye-consciousness arises. The meeting of these three is contact. Thus the contact and eye-consciousness is simultaneous. Contact is an immediate condition for feeling; and what one feels that one perceives; what one perceives that one thinks about...This description gives an impression that consciousness (viññāna) must be there first, and feeling, perception etc, only arise as a means of co-operation. This might be the case, as the practitioner can detaches oneself’s from feeling and perception in the highest absorption (Saññāvedayitanirodha samāpatti), but in sense-impression (paṭigha-samphassa), feeling and perception is part and parcel of the process.     

As we have seen earlier, viññāṇa, saññā, and paññā come from the same cognitive root -/jñā meaning to know; therefore it seems the functions of saññā and viññāṇa in the cognitive process are somewhat overlapping each other. The definitions of each khandha in S III, 22: 79 also do not justify the overlapping function of at least three aggregates: vedaṇā, saññā, and viññāṇa. According to these definitions, vedanā’s function is to feel (vediyati) and saññā’s function is to perceive (sañjānāti) and discriminates between different colors, and the function of viññāṇa is to recognize (vijānāti) different tastes. Thus we can see that it is really vedanā which feels pleasure and pain, and the above quoted text indicates “what one feels one perceives”, and therefore, what is the use of viññāṇa to recognize pleasure and pain again as stated in Dhātuvibhanga? If we content that vedanā is feelings, and viññāṇa is the factor cognizing what is being felt, then what does saññā do?

The great commentator Buddhaghosa tried to explain that saññā knows only shape and color, and not any thing details of the object, whereas viññāṇa knows the nature of the subject slightly better, but paññā for its part, knows all of these which amplify the quality of the object. He gave a simile of three people who see a heap of coins: a child sees it as a round or a square object with such and such color; a villager knows they are coins which can be used in monetary exchange; a money-changer knows all of these and furthermore, whether or not these coins are genuine, where they are produced, etc[88]. However, the author of Visuddhimagga admitted that one cannot always find the exact location of perception and consciousness is. He cited to Milinda Pañhā, a book that was compiled earlier which stated that to declare “this is contact, this is feeling, this is perception, this is volition, this is consciousness” in a single act of cognition of an object is a very difficult task that perhaps, only Buddhas can accomplish.[89]

Returning to the definition of nāma-rūpa in S II.3 stating that vedanā, saññā, cetanā, phassa, and manasikāra are nāma; and according to the Abhidhamma method, phassa being one of the seven universal mental states belongs to saṅkhārakkhandha. This is also agreed by the author of the Buddhist Dictionary, Ven. Nyanatiloka (third revised and enlarged edition 1998. P. 142), but this is true or not need to be examined in order to ascertain that whether phassa and manasikāra is belonged to viññāṇakkhandha as I have suggested earlier.

Phassa is not a physical event, but a conscious point arrived at when the stimulation is able ‘to wake up’ the subconscious stream (bhavangacitta)[90]. There are always many stimuli around us but we do not pay attention to all of them, only a few enter our minds. Even they do not all enter our minds at one as the mind works with only one object at a given moment. The mind of an ordinary man is said to be ‘flicking’, and like a monkey in the forest keeps on jumping from branch to branch; in the same way, our mind shifted from one object to the other in a very quick succession, leaving no room for a complete examination of the object or a proper appreciation the feeling that affects one’s mind. When an object enters the mind, the event is called phassa, it arouses attention (manasikāra); thus mind is adverted to the object. Phassa and manasikāra occur more or less simultaneously; it is a conscious event, or in other word, the mind recognizes the object in a process called viññāṇa. Thus viññāṇa is the arousing of the mind to perceive the stimulation.

Viññāna is that which recognizes the object through sense doors; with the cognition, there is ideation (saññā) and feeling (vedanā), and reactions (saṅkhārā) [quoted texts]. This will be seen more clearly in the thought process as described in the Abhidhamma method and in Visuddhimagga. Therein, the mind (citta) is said to perform seven functions in a thought-process (citta-vithi) requiring conscious dealing with a tempting stimulation. Normally, the stream of consciousness (viññāna sota) is flows on evenly, but an object comes into its notice (the tempting stimulation again and again strikes on it!) The stream vibrates (bhavanga calite) triggering the five sense-doors into an active mood (pañcadvārāvajjana); if it is a visible form, eye-consciousness (cakkhu viññāna) arises and the mind receives it (sampaticchana citta), investigating it (santīraṇa citta) and determining (votthapana citta); this is followed by a full experience of the object called javana. In these javanā moments the mind valuates the object (being conditioned by previous experiences which conscious or unconsciously piled up in bhavangacitta); being thus valuated, the whole experience is registered (tadalambana citta). If the object occurs at the mind-door (manodvāra) in the form of a clear idea, a memory, a feeling etc, the inner sense (manodhātu) or mind door is activated to perceive the object. Then the whole process continues in a similar way.

According to Abhidhamma and Visuddhimagga XIV, Viññāṇa performs fourteen functions (viññāṇa-kicca): rebirth (patisandhi citta), sub-consciousness (bhavanga citta), advertence (āvajjana), seeing (cakkhu viññāṇa), hearing (sota viññāṇa), smelling (ghāna viññāṇa), tasting (jīvha viññāṇa), sensing (kāya viññāṇa), receiving (sampaṭicchana), investigating (santīrana), determining (votthapana), experiencing (javana), registering (tadārammaṇa), and death consciousness (cuti citta).

It should be emphasized that, in a very important phase of the thought process when the mind reacts to the object in a quick succession that “partaking” of the object is called javana. Being conditioned by past experiences, an unmindful mind habitually deals with the present experience with like (piya) or dislike (apiya) an emotive reaction, and good/ agreeable or bad/disagreeable derives from the intellectual superstructure; all is, but a personal valuation. Thus a thought process (citta vithi) is a complexity that engages all five khandhas. Therefore it is justifying stated that the arising of a thought is birth (jāti).

Thoughts arise from manodvāra- mind door. Whosoever has mastered his own mind is the one has all his senses guarded, this including mano as a sense; by guarding over the senses, he can tame his mind and thus becomes a master of his thoughts or states of mind, not a slaver to them[91]. A person who is aware of his thoughts and knows their quality: whether beneficial or unbeneficial can direct them to be developed or discouraged; thus he deliberately alters his mind.[92] This is done with volition (cetanā), not without volition. This kind of person is called a trainee (sekkhā), one whose trains his mind. In one whose cankers (āsava) have all been destroyed (asekkhā oe Arahant), there are no more unbeneficial states of mind, and therefore, such a person is described as someone who “has done what should be done”[93], in whom the will to be good becomes unnecessary as this person is naturally wholesome and skillful (kusala). The mind of an asekkhā is visaṅkhārāgataṃ cittaṃ, a non-genetically mind that has ceased piling up, and there is no more grasping, instead, it is letting go. Another term for such a liberated mind is khīnāsava. But this does not mean “one’s volitional activity is ceasing” (Hamilton. P. 113) as Hamilton had stated. The Arahant still has volitional activities but these volitions are not associated with a notion of an “I” (ahaṃkāra), or “me” (mamaṃkāra); they are not governed by an ego-centric tendency (mānānusaya), and therefore these actions are merely functional (kiriya), not giving results for future becoming.

II. Conclusion on Khandhas

In many suttas it is affirmed that all khandhā are saṅkhārā: “These five clinging components are dependently arising- paṭiccasamuppannā kho pan’ime yadidaṃ pañcupādānakkhandhā[94]. And it is said that an enlightened disciple is able to see thus:

One understands as it realy is conditioned form as ‘conditioned from’. One understands as it realy is conditioned feeling as ‘conditioned felling’. One understands as it realy is conditioned perception as ‘conditioned perception’. One understands as it realy is conditioned volitional activities as ‘conditioned volitional activities’. One understands as it realy is conditioned consciousness as ‘conditioned consciousness’. [Saṅkhataṃ rūpaṃ 'saṅkhataṃ rūpanti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti. Saṅkhataṃ vedanaṃ saṅkhataṃ vedananti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti. Saṅkhataṃ saññaṃ 'saṅkhataṃ saññan'ti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti. Saṅkhate saṅkhāre 'saṅkhatā saṅkhārā'ti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti. Saṅkhataṃ viññāṇaṃ 'saṅkhataṃ viññāṇanti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti][95]

Obviously this passage implies that khandhā are dependently arising; they are conditioned phenomena in conjunction with the fact that they are impermanent, unsatisfactory and non-substantial nature. E.A.Johansson translated the word saṅkhārā here as “creative process” is perhaps not justifiable. The word saṅkhārā here should be understood as denoting whatever that is created (kataṃ) or conditioned (saṅkhātaṃ); processes that are ever changing (vayadhamma), become otherwise (aññathābhavati) and come to naught (vinābhāvo); in short, it is a state of instability. Due to this instability of khandhā, they are known as unsatisfactory (dukkha), and essenseless (anatta). It should be emphasized again that, in this injunction the famous statement sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā, sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhā, the term saṅkhārā are strictly referred to the five khandhas.

Pañcuppādānakkhandha as a whole is the living conscious body that an unenlightened person takes delight in, clings to, and identifies with as it is expressed by Saccaka, a Jain follower that:

Like these seed groups and vegetable groups that grow and develop, established and supported on earth. So also all powerful work, that has to be done, should be done, established and supported on earth. In the same manner this person, established in matter, with the material self accrues merit or demerit. This feeling person established in feelings accrues merit or demerit. The perceiving person established in perceptions accrues merit or demerit. The determining person established in determinations, accrues merit or demerit. The conscious person established in consciousness, accrues merit or demerit.[96]

Thus identifying and involving with the five khandhas, which constitute one’s personality (ātman). Jains are among the eternalists (atthikā) of those who advocate that there is an eternal soul fare on from life to life. S.III.22:22 states that the khandhas are burdens and the person who identifies with them is the carrier of the burden:

I will teach you the burden, the carrier of the burden, the taking up of the burden and the putting down of the burden. The five aggregates of clinging is the burden...the form aggregate of clinging; the feeling...perception...mental formation...consciousness aggregate of clinging...The person, such a venerable of such a name, such a clan is the carrier of the burden...

The five aggregates are truly burden; the burden carrier is the person. Taking up of burden is the suffering in the world, laying the burden down is blissful.”[97]

The question of why it is five, is not addressed by any sutta gives any explanation. We only find in the Visuddhimagga, the work of the commentator Buddhaghosa, who justifies the number on account of three reasons: (a) because all formed things that resemble each other fall into these groups; (b) that is the widest limit as the basis for the assumption of self and what pertains to self; (c) because of the inclusion by them of the other sorts of aggregates.[98]

As concerns to the order in listing the aggregates, we can easily agree that it goes from gross to subtle, from oblivious to a more complicated and abstract aspect of our experience. Rūpakkhandha is quite visible and touchable; vedanākkhandha is also gross, so most people can identify their feelings, and they know it is desirable or undesirable; the knowing is saññākkhandha which apprehends the aspect of feeling, for “what one feels that one perceives” (M.I. 293). Thus the first three aspects of personal components are more or less easy apprehended. The saṅkhārakkhandha that works dependent on saññā and vedanā is not always evident to us.

We do not always apprehend the volitional aspects of our activities, which cause us quite often to become helpless in our reactions. In Buddhist terms, it is known as “avijjā paccayā saṅkhārā”. Perhaps this helplessness is the cause of defense mechanisms in psychological terms. In Buddhist psychology, the saṅkhārakkkhandha is nothing other than three kinds of taṇhā. When one perceives a desirable feeling or object via sense impression (Phassa-contact), one seizes it, taking delight in it; this type of reaction is termed kāmataṇhā- the craving for sensual pleasures which is a parallel of the Freudian concept of ‘pleasure-principle’. The kāmataṇhā is governed by rāgānusaya- the latent tendency of lust or sensuous motivation. In the law of kamma, kāmataṇhā or the thirst for loves and pleasures is the cause of rebirth in the sensual realm (kāmaloka). When an undesirable feeling/object is perceived, one is repelled; one’s reaction is trying to escape from or to annihilate the thing or object that is unwanted and rejected. This is termed vibhavataṇhā- the craving for annihilation that is governed by paṭighānusaya- the latent tendency of hatred or destructive desire, or in Freudian terms, the death- instinct.

Contrary to that is the constructive desire or the thirst of becoming- bhavataṇhā which is governed by an ignorant tendency- avijjānusaya and a perpetual tendency- bhavānusaya. When there is an ambiguous feeling, one is either perplexed or forced to look for another experience that would solidify one’s identity. This kind of motivation occurs under the influence of delusion, uncertainty or confusion termed avijjā, the background of samsāric experience. On the other hand, bhavataṇhā as a constructive desire is part and parcel of the survival instinct (bhavānusaya). Bhavataṇhā solidifies one’s sense of an authentic personality or it motivates one’s to be fitted, to be better in one way or another under the influence of the ego.

The following diagram shows how the mind reacts to different feelings that arise through sense contact that generate suffering.



[1] I use two English words for khandha in Pali: components in the sense that they are part & parcel of personality, and the word aggregate to denote each of them is a collection itself.

[2] S. III, 48:6. Khandhasamyutta:

[3] Sue Hamilton 1996. Identity and experience, Introduction. xxix.

[4] Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Connected Discourses of The Buddha. P. 840 [Wisdom Publication, USA. 2000]

[5] MN, Mahāvedalla sutta: vedanā yā ca saññā yañca viññāṇaṃ ime dhammā saṃsaṭṭhā no visaṃsaṭṭhā. Na ca labbhā imesaṃ dhammānaṃ vinibbhujitvā vinibbhujitvā nānākaraṇaṃ paññāpetuṃ. Yañcāvuso vedeti taṃ sañjānāti, yaṃ sañjānāti taṃ vijānāti, tasmā ime dhammā saṃsaṭṭhā no visaṃsaṭṭhā. Na ca labbhā imesaṃ dhammānaṃ vinibbhujitvā vinibbhujitvā nānākaraṇaṃ paññāpetunti

[6] A. IV, 45 : Imasmiṃ yeva vyamamatte kalebare sasaññiṃhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca, lokanirodhagamini paṭpadañca.

[7] S. IV, 95; Similar definitions of the loka-world are found in S IV, 15, M I, 3-4

[8] I use the word of Sue Hamilton in her article named “The Dependent Nature of the Phenomenal World”.

[9] For further information, see Prof. Tilak Kariyawasam’s article: The Development of the Concept of Omniscience. Assays in Honour of Ananda W.P. Guruge, Colombo 1990. This idea was expressed by him also in his (unpublished) PhD Thesis, Lancaster University, (England 1973).

[10] SN. II. P.3

[11] S.I, 5:10; S. III, 23:2

[12] S. III, 23:2: Rūpe kho rādha, yo chando yo rāgo yā nandi yā taṇhā. Tatra satto tatra visatto tasmā sattoti vuccati. Vedanāya yo chando yo rāgo yā nandi yā taṇhā tatra satto tatra visatto tasmā sattoti vuccati. Saññāya yo chando yo rāgo yā nandi yā tañhā tatra satto tatra visatto tasmā sattoti vuccati. Saṅkhāresu yo chando yo rāgo yā nandi yā taṇhā tatra satto tatra visatto tasmā sattoti vuccati. Viññāṇe yo chando yo rāgo yā nandi yā taṇhā tatra satto tatra visatto tasmā sattoti vuccati.

[13] S.III, 22:56, 57; M.9,para. 100: cattāni ca mahabhūtāni catunnañca mahābhūtānaṃ upādāyarūpaṃ, idaṃ vuccati rūpaṃ.

[14] M. 38, Mahāhatthipadopamasutta: paṭhavidhatu...ajjhattikā siyā bāhirā... paccattaṃ kakkhalaṃ kharigataṃ upādinnaṃ...kesā, loma, nakhā, daṇda taco mamsaṃ nahāru atthi atthimimjaṃ vakkhaṃ hadayṃ yakanaṃ kilomakaṃ pihakaṃ phapphāsam antaṃ, antagunaṃ udariyaṃ karisaṃ.

[15] M. 38. Āpodhatu siyā ajjhattikā siyā bāhirā. Ajjhattikā āpodhātu: āpo, āpogataṃ, upādinnaṃ pittaṃ semhaṃ pubbo lohitaṃ sedo medo assū vasā kheḷo singhānikā lasikā muttaṃ.

[16] Vism. XI, 36. The Path of purification. P. 345

[17] M. I, 188, 422

[18] Ibid. p.346.

[19] M.I, 188: Vāyodhātu siyā ajjhattikā siyā bāhirā. Katamā cāvuso ajjhattikā vāyodhātu? Yam ajjhattam, paccattam vāyo vāyogatam upādinnam - seyyathīdaṃ: uddhāgamā vātā, adhogamā vātā, kucchisayā vātā, koññhasayā1 vātā, aṅgamaggānusārino vātā, assāso passāso iti vā, yam vā panaññampi kiñci ajjhattaṃ paccattaṃ vāyo vāyogataṃ upādinnaṃ - ayaṃ vuccatāvuso ajjhattikā vāyodhātu

[20] Seyyathāpi bhikkhave dakkho goghātako vā goghātakantevāsī vā gāviṃ vadhitvā cātummahāpathe khīlaso vibhajitvā nisinno assa, evameva kho bhikkhave bhikkhu imameva kāyaṃ yathāṭhitam yathāpanihitam dhātuso paccavekkhati: atthi imasmim kāye padhavīdhātu āpodhātu tejodhātu vāyodhātū ti.

[21] M.I,1: Idha bhikkhave assutavā puthujjano ariyānaṃ adassāvī ariyadhammassa akovido ariyadhamme avinīto sappurisānaṃ adassāvī sappurisadhammassa akovido sappurisadhamme avinīto paṭhaviṃ paṭhavito sañjānāti. Paṭhaviṃ paṭhavito saññatvā paṭhaviṃ maññati paṭhaviyā maññati paṭhavito maññati paṭhaviṃ me’ti maññati. Paṭhaviṃ abhinandati. Taṃ kissa hetu? Apariññātaṃ tassā'ti vadāmi. The same account is for other elements. [Ref. translation of Metta Net:www.metta.lk].

[22] Mūlapariyāyasutta, M I, 1.

[23] DN, Kevaddha sutta: kattha nu kho bhante ime cattāro mahābhūtā aparisesā nirujjhanti seyyathidaṃ: paṭhavidhātu āpodhātu tejodhātu vāyodhātu'ti?

[24] D.11. PTS: D.I. 223: Kattha āpo ca paṭhavi tejo vāyo na gādhati. Kattha dīghañca rassañca aṇuṃ thūlaṃ subhāsubhaṃ, Katta nāmañca rūpañca asesaṃ uparujjhatīti.

[25] Ibid: Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ anantaṃ sabbato pabhaṃ. Ettha āpo ca paṭhavi tejo vāyo na gādhati
Ettha dīghañca rassañca aṇuṃ thūlaṃ subhāsubhaṃ. Ettha nāmaca rūpañca asesaṃ uparujjhati.
Viññāṇassa nirodhena etthetaṃ uparujjhatīti

[26] This passage was interpreted in many different ways by the English translators. E.g. anidasanaṃ was translated as “non-manifestative’ by Ven. Ñāṇananda, but Ms Hornor had it translated as ‘can not be characterized’; the word sabbato pahaṃ or pabhaṃ is also another controversial one. The commentary explains it as a port that accessible from all sides.

[27] S.III. 22:79

[28] S.III, 22: 56, 57: âhārasamudayā rūpasamudayo, āhāranirodhā rūpanirodho

[29] MN, Mahāhatthipadopama sutta.

[30] S. III, 22: 56, 57: Chayime ca bhikkhave, [PTS P. 060] vedanākāyā: cakkhusamphassajā vedanā, sota samphassajā vedanā, ghānasamphassajā vedanā, jivhāsamphassajā vedanā, kāyasamphassajā vedanā, manosamphassajā vedanā ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave, vedanā. Phassasamudayā vedanāsamudayo, phassanirodhā vedanānirodho.

[31] S.III. 22: 79.

[32] Vedanā samyutta: Tisso imā bhikkhave vedanā, katamā tisso,* sukhā vedanā dukkhā vedanā adukkhamasukhā vedanā. Imā kho bhikkhave tisso vedanāti

[33] S. IV, Vedanasamyutta:

[34] Bahuvedanāsutta, MN; S IV, 36: 19; 22 :Dvepi mayā-1. Bhikkhave vedanā vuttā pariyāyena, tissopi mayā vedanā vuttā pariyāyena, pañcapi mayā vedanā vuttā pariyāyena, chapi-2. Mayā vedanā vuttā pariyāyena, aṭṭhārasapi-3. Mayā vedanā vuttā pariyāyena, chattiṃsāpi mayā vedanā vuttā pariyāyena, aṭṭhasatampi mayā vedanā vuttā pariyāyena

[35] S. IV, 36: 19 ; B.Bodhi, P 1275: “When the Dhamma has been taught by me in such a way through different methods of exposition, it may be expected of those who will not concede, allow, and approve of what is well stated and well spoken by others that they will become contentious & quarrelsome, and engage in disputes, and that they will dwell stabbing each other with verbal daggers.

[36] S IV. 36: 14; Samyutta Atthakathā said that the word sāmisā denotes bodily feelings connected with sensuality; nirāmisā are feelings connected with spiritual development, i.e, bhāvana or jhāna. In the course of spiritual training ones might encounter discontent (domanassa), that is nirāmisā dukkha vedanā; and the joy (piti) and happiness (sukha) as factors of attainment (jhāna) are that nirāmisā sukha vedanā. Neutral feeling (upekkha) in the fourth jhāna is the last one in the above passage.

[37] M.137: Chattiṃsa sattapadā veditabbāti iti kho panetaṃ vuttaṃ, kiñce taṃ paṭicca vuttaṃ: cha gehasitāni somanassāni, cha nekkhammasitāni somanassāni, cha gehasitāni domanassāni, cha nekkhammasitāni domanassāni, cha gehasitā upekkhā, cha nekkhammasitā upekkhā [Ref. Trans. Of Thanissara Bhikkhu Fr. Accesstoinsinght Net]

[38] S. III, 22: 57: Vedanaṃ pajānāti, vedanāsamudayaṃ pajānāti, vedanānirodhaṃ pajānāti, vedanānirodhagāminiṃ paṭipadaṃ pajānāti, vedanāya assādaṃ pajānāti, vedanāya ādīnavaṃ pajānāti, vedanāya nissaraṇaṃ pajānāti.

[39] S. IV, 36: 27, 28

[40] SN. II, 12:44.

[41] My idea here is not in the same line with Abhidhamikas. According to Ven Revata Dhamma & Bhikkhu Bodhi who revised the Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma (BPS 1993), p 80, “Feeling (vedanā) is the mental factor that feels the object: it is the affective mode in which the object is experienced. The pāḷi word vedanā does not signify emotion (which appears to be a complex phenomenon involving a variety of concomitant mental factors), but the bare affective quality of an experience”.

[42] The Ven. Buddhadasa of Thailand said that “the world is led by feelings” – Dhamma talk retreat 1986.

[43] S. IV, 36:6: Assutavā bhikkhave puthujjano dukkhāya vedanāya phuṭṭho samāno socati kilamati paridevati urattīvā kandati sammohaṃ āpajjati so dve vedanā vediyati kāyikañca cetasikañca seyyathāpi bhikkhave purisaṃ sallena vijejhayyuṃ, tamena dutiyena sallena anuvedhaṃ vijjheyyuṃ, evaṃ hi so bhikkhave puriso dve sallena vedanā vediyetha...Tassāyeva kho pana dukkhāya vedanāya phuṭṭho samāno paṭighavā hoti. Tamenaṃ dukkhāya vedanāya paṭighavantaṃ yo dukkhāya vedanāya paṭighānusayo so anuseti, so dukkhāya vedanāya phuṭṭho samāno kāmasukhaṃ abhinandati. Taṃ kissa hetu, na bhikkhave pajānāti assutavā puthujjano aññatra kāmasukhā dukkhāya vedanāya nissaraṇaṃ, tassa kāmasukhaṃ abhinandato yo sukhāya vedanāya rāgānusayo so anuseti.

Bhikkhu Bodhi: The Connected Discourses of the Buddha. P. 1264

[44] S.IV. 207 (PTS)

[45] See Ven. Nanaponika Thera (BPS 1998): The Omission of Memory from the List of Dhammas.

[46] M.I, 18, Madhupiṇḍaka sutta.

[47] Abhidhammaṭṭhasangaha, cetasikasangahavibhāga: Ekuppāda-nirodha ca ekalambana-vatthukā.

[48] S.III, 22: 56, 57: Chayime bhikkhave, saññākāyā: rūpasaññā saddasaññā gandhasaññā rasasaññā phoṭṭhabbasaññā dhammasaññā, ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave, saññā. Phassasamudayā saññāsamudayo, phassanirodhā saññānirodho

[49] Kiñca bhikkhave, saññaṃ vadetha: sañjānātīti kho bhikkhave, tasmā saññāti vuccati kiñca sañjānāti: nīlampi sañjānāti; pītakampi sañjānāti; lohitakampi sañjānāti; odātampi sañjānāti; saññātīti kho bhikkhave, tasmā saññāti vuccati.

[50] Ven. Thich Thien Sieu: The Five Aggregates are non-self ; Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw: The Exposition of Anattalakkhaṇasutta [Buddhasasana CD-ROM, version 04.01].

[51] A.IV, 49: Anicce nicca saññino dukkhe ca sukha saññino anattani ca attā ti asubhe subhasaññino...

[52] D.I, 186 ( Poṭṭhapāda sutta): Saññā nu kho bhante purisassa attā...

[53] A VII, 46.

[54] Sue Hamilton 1996: Identity and Experience. P. 60.

[55] P 5220, Vol 94, 294.3.1; 294.4.5; The Heart sutra exposition, New Delhi 1990. P. 67, 68.

[56] Sue Hamilton: Identity and Experience, P.66

[57] R.E.A. Johansson 1978. P. 41: “Saṅkhāra is one of the least understood concepts in Theravada Buddhism.”

[58] S III, 22: 96; Bhikkhu Bodhi. P.955 : Iti kho bhikkhū, sabbe te saṅkhārā atītā niroddhā, viparinatā. Evaṃ aniccā kho bhikkhu, saṅkhārā, evaṃ addhuvā kho bhikkhu saṅkhārā, evaṃ anassāsikā kho bhikkhu saṅkhārā, [PTS Page 147]

[59] S.II. 12: 51; S IV, 41:6; D.33; Vibhanga 135, 340

[60] E.A. Johansson 1978. P. 50

[61] R.C. Childer, Pāli Dictionary. P. 455

[62] M.I, Cūlavedallasutta: “kati panāyye saṅkhārā’ti? Tayo me avuso Visākha saṅkhārā kāyasaṅkhāro vacīsaṅkhāro cittasaṅkhāro; S IV, 41:6 Kāmabhū sutta.

[63] S.III. 87: “Assāsapassāsa kho...kāyasaṅkhāro, vitakkavicārā vacīsaṅkhāro, saññā ca vedanā ca cittasaṅkhāroti.

[64] S.III, 79; Be S.II.72

[65] E.A Johansson 1978. P. 48

[66] S. Hamiolton 1996. P. 71.

[67] Bhikkhu Bodhi 2000. P. 915.

[68] The power of willing or determining; will [1913 Webster]

Syn. -- Will; choice; preference; determination; purpose. -- Volition, Choice. Choice is the familiar, and volition the scientific, term for the same state of the will; viz., an “elective preference.” When we have “made up our minds” (as we say) to a thing, i. e., have a settled state of choice respecting it, that state is called an immanent volition; when we put forth any particular act of choice, that act is called an emanent, or executive, or imperative, volition. When an immanent, or settled state of, choice, is one which controls or governs a series of actions, we call that state a predominant volition; while we give the name of subordinate volitions to those particular acts of choice which carry into effect the object sought for by the governing or “predominant volition.”  

[69] S III, 22: 56: Katame ca bhikkhave, saṅkhārā: Chayime bhikkhave, cetanākāyā: rūpasañcetanā saddasañcetanā gandhasañcetanā rasasañcetanā phoṭṭhabbasañcetanā dhammasañcetanā, ime vuccanti bhikkhave, saṅkhārā. Phassasamudayā saṅkhārasamudayo, phassanirodhā saṅkhāranirodho.

[70] Sue Hamilton 1996. P. 73

[71] Bhikkhu Bodhi, Wisdom Puclication 2000. P. 651, 652, 653: The original Pāḷi: Anamataggoyaṃ bhikkhave, saṃsāro, pubbā koṭi na paññāyati avijjānīvaraṇānaṃ sattānaṃ taṅhāsaṃyojanānaṃ sandhāvataṃ saṃsarataṃ.

[72] SN II, 12: 21: Dasabālasutta.

[73] Nyanaponika & Bhikkhu Bodhi, BPS 1999. P. 115

[74] S II, 12:2 Katamecabhikkhavesaṅkhārā?Tayomebhikkhave,saṅkhārā:kāyasaṅkhārovacīsaṅkhārocittasaṅkhāro.


Vibhanga 140 gives a similar definition; Vibhanga 135 gives two triads: in kāya, vacī, and citta added puññābhisaṅkhāra, abhuññābhisaṅkhāra, and ānenjābhisaṅkhāra.

[75] Sue Hamilton 1996. P. 75.

[76] Bhikkhu Bodhi 2000. P. 727, 728.

[77] M.18: Yatonidānaṃ bhikkhu purisaṃ papañcasaññāsaṅkhā samudācaranti, ettha ce natthi abhinanditabbaṃ abhivaditabbaṃ ajjhosetabbaṃ, esevanto rāgānusayānaṃ. Esevanto paṭighānusayānaṃ. Esevanto diṭṭhānusayānaṃ. Esevanto vicikicchānusayānaṃ. Esevanto mānānusayānaṃ. Esevantobhavarāgānusayānaṃ.Esevanto-vijjānusayānaṃ. Esevantodaṇdādāna-satthādānakalahaviggahavivāda tuvantuvampesuññamusāvādānaṃ. Etthete pāpakā akusalā dhammā aparisesā nirujjhantīti [PTS P. 110]

[78] The Path of Furification. P. 464. Visuddhimagga XIV. 129

[79] Vism. XIV, 82. The Path of purification. PTS 1999. P. 453

[80] S II, 12: 3; S.III, 22: 56:4

[81] Śūraṅgama sūtra. An English translation of Charles Luk. New Delhi 2001. P.17

[82] Vimuttimagga. The path of Freedom. Translated from Chinese by Somathera. PTS 1995. P. 251

[83] Ibid.

* “vertical world” is a term I use for the cosmic order in the Abhidhamma world,categonized in terms of the world from low to higher, from gross to subtle.

[84] Sue Hamilton 1996. P. 87: “In order to function, viññāṇa is dependent on this ‘fuel’ of samsāric existence; it is not function independently.”

[85] S III,22: 53,54: Nāmarūpasamudayā viññāṇasamudayo, nāmarūpanirodhā viññāṇanirodho

[86] M.III, 197.

[87] M.18, PTS Page 112: Cakkhuñcāvuso paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhuviññāṇaṃ. Tiṇṇaṃ saṅgati phasso. Phassapaccayā vedanā. Yaṃ vedeti, taṃ sañjānāti. Yaṃ sañjānāti taṃ vitakketi. Yaṃ vitakketi taṃ papañceti. Yaṃ papañceti tato nidānaṃ purisaṃ papañcasaññāsaṅkhā samudācaranti atītānāgatapaccuppannesu cakkhuviññeyyesu rūpesu

[88] Vism. XIV, 4,5; Nyanamoli, BPS 2004. P. 436.

[89] Ibid; Miln. 87

[90] Bhavanga citta or bhavanga- sota, according to some scholars, is a postulate term of Abhidhammikas. It occurs first in Patthana book, latter, it was exaggerated by the Abhidhamma commentators as the sine qua non of life, an unbroken process (lit. a stream-sota). This undercurrent is said to be carrying all the sense impressions from the immemorial time, and it conditions the perceptive process of the present. Its function is the foundation for the operation of cognition (viññāna); it also serves as death-consciousness and rebirth consciousness. This concept is very similar to the term ālaya-viññāna in a school of Mahāyana Buddhism.

[91] M.I. 214: bhikkhu cittaṃ vasaṃ vatteti, no ca bhikkhu cittassa vasena vattati

[92] M.I. Dvedhāvitakkasutta.

[93] S.III, 22:61: kataṃ karanīyaṃ.

[94] M I, 191; S I, P.135; S III, P. 115 (PTS).

[95] S.III.22. 54

[96] M 35, Cūlasaccakasutta: Seyyathāpi bho gotama ye kecime bījagāmabhūtagāmā vuddhiṃ virūḷhiṃ vepullaṃ āpajjanti, sabbe te paṭhaviṃ nissāya paṭhaviyaṃ patiṭṭhāya evamete bījagāmabhūtagāmā vuddhiṃ virūḷhiṃ vepullaṃ āpajjanti. Seyyathāpi vā pana bho gotama ye kecime balakaranīyā kammantā karãyanti, sabbe te paṭhaviṃ nissāya paṭhaviyaṃ patiṭṭhāya evamete balakaraṇīyā kammantā karīyanti. Evameva kho bho gotama rūpattāyaṃ purisapuggalo rūpe patiṭṭhāya puññaṃ vā apuññaṃ vā pasavati. Vedanattāya purisapuggalo vedanāyaṃ patiṭṭhāya puññaṃ vā apuññaṃ vā pasavati. Saññattāyaṃ purisapuggalo saññāyaṃ patiṭṭhāya puññaṃ vā apuññaṃ vā pasavati. Saṅkhārattāyaṃ purisapuggalo saṅkhāresu patiṭṭhāya puññaṃ vā apuññaṃ vā pasavati. Viññāṇattāyaṃ purisapuggalo viññāṇe patiṭṭhāya puññaṃ vā apuññaṃ vā pasavatī"ti

[97] SN. III, 22: Katamo ca bhikkhave bhāro: pañcupādānakkhandhātissa vacanīyaṃ. Katame pañca: rūpūpādānakkhandho vedanūpādānakkhandho saññūpādānakkhandho saṅkhārūpādānakkhandho viññāṇūpādānakkhandho. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave bhāro. Katamo ca bhikkhave bhārahāro: puggalotissa vacanīyaṃ, yo'yṃ āyasmā evannāmo evaṃgotto, ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave, bhārahāro.[97]... Bhārā bhave pañcakkhandhā bhārahāro ca puggalo, Bhārādānaṃ dukhaṃ- loke bhāranikkhepanaṃ sukhaṃ. Bhikkhus

[98] Vsm XIV. 216. Nyanamoli , BPS.P. 484.


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Sincere thanks to Venerable Nguyen Huong Dhammananda for giving the digital files (Binh Anson, 01-2009).

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