Api c'Udāyi tiṭṭhatu pubbanto tiṭṭhatu aparanto, dhammaṃ te desessāmi: Imasmim sati idam hoti, imass'uppādā idam uppajjati; imasmim asati idam na hoti, imassa nirodhā idam nirujjhatī ti.
But, Udāyi, let be the past, let be the future, I shall set you forth the Teaching: When there is this this is, with arising of this this arises; when there is not this this is not, with cessation of this this ceases.
Majjhima viii,9 <M.ii,32>
Imasmim sati idam hoti, imass'uppādā idam uppajjati; yadidam avijjāpaccayā sankhārā, sankhārapaccayā viññānam, viññānapaccayā nāmarūpam, nāmarūpapaccayā salāyatanam, salāyatanapaccayā phasso, phassapaccayā vedanā, vedanāpaccayā tanhā, tanhāpaccayā upādānam, upādānapaccayā bhavo, bhavapaccayā jāti, jātipaccayā jarāmaranam sokaparidevadukkhadomanass' upāyāsā sambhavanti; evam etassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti.
When there is this this is, with arising of this this arises; that is to say, with nescience as condition, determinations; with determinations as condition, consciousness; with consciousness as condition, name-&-matter; with name-&-matter as condition, six bases; with six bases as condition, contact; with contact as condition, feeling; with feeling as condition, craving; with craving as condition, holding; with holding as condition, being; with being as condition, birth; with birth as condition, ageing-&-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair, come into being; thus is the arising of this whole mass of unpleasure (suffering).
Imasmim asati idam na hoti, imassa nirodhā idam nirujjhati; yadidam avijjānirodhā sankhāranirodho, sankhāranirodhā viññānanirodho, viññānanirodhā nāmarūpanirodho, nāmarūpanirodhā salāyatananirodho, salāyatananirodhā phassanirodho, phassanirodhā vedanānirodho, vedanānirodhā tanhānirodho, tanhānirodhā upādānanirodho, upādānanirodhā bhavanirodho, bhavanirodhā jātinirodho, jātinirodhā jarāmaranam sokaparidevadukkhadomanass' upāyāsā nirujjhanti; evam etassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hoti.
When there is not this this is not, with cessation of this this ceases; that is to say, with cessation of nescience, ceasing of determinations; with cessation of determinations, ceasing of consciousness; with cessation of consciousness, ceasing of name-&-matter; with cessation of name-&-matter, ceasing of six bases; with cessation of six bases, ceasing of contact; with cessation of contact, ceasing of feeling; with cessation of feeling, ceasing of craving; with cessation of craving, ceasing of holding; with cessation of holding, ceasing of being; with cessation of being, ceasing of birth; with cessation of birth, ageing-&-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair, cease; thus is the ceasing of this whole mass of unpleasure (suffering).
Majjhima iv,8 <M.i,262-3 & 264>
1. The traditional interpretation of paticcasamuppāda (of its usual twelve-factored formulation, that is to say) apparently has its roots in the Patisambhidāmagga <i,52>, or perhaps in the Abhidhammapitaka. This interpretation is fully expounded in the Visuddhimagga <Ch. XVII>. It can be briefly summarized thus: avijjā and sankhārā are kamma in the previous existence, and their vipāka is viññāna, nāmarūpa, salāyatana, phassa, and vedanā, in the present existence; tanhā, upādāna, and bhava, are kamma in the present existence, and their vipāka is jāti and jarāmarana in the subsequent existence.
2. This Note will take for granted first, that the reader is acquainted with this traditional interpretation, and secondly, that he is dissatisfied with it. It is not therefore proposed to enter into a detailed discussion of this interpretation, but rather to indicate briefly that dissatisfaction with it is not unjustified, and then to outline what may perhaps be found to be a more satisfactory approach.
3. As the traditional interpretation has it, vedanā is kammavipāka. Reference to Vedanā Samy. iii,2 <S.iv,230> will show that as far as concerns bodily feeling (with which the Sutta is evidently dealing) there are seven reasons for it that are specifically not kammavipāka. Only in the eighth place do we find kammavipākajā vedanā. This would at once limit the application of paticcasamuppāda to certain bodily feelings only and would exclude others, if the traditional interpretation is right. Some of these bodily feelings would be paticcasamuppannā, but not all; and this would hardly accord with, for example, the passage: Paticcasamuppannam kho āvuso sukhadukkham vuttam Bhagavatā. ('The Auspicious One, friend, has said that pleasure and unpleasure are dependently arisen.') (Nidāna/Abhisamaya Samy. iii,5 <S.ii,38>).
4. There is, however, a more serious difficulty regarding feeling. In Anguttara III,vii,1 <A.i,176> it is clear that somanassa, domanassa, and upekkhā, are included in vedanā, in the specific context of the paticcasamuppāda formulation. But these three feelings are mental, and arise (as the Sutta tells us) when the mind dwells upon (upavicarati) some object; thus they involve cetanā, 'intention', in their very structure. And the Commentary to the Sutta would seem to allow this, but in doing so must either exclude these mental feelings from vedanā in the paticcasamuppāda formulation or else assert that they are vipāka. In either case the Commentary would go against the Sutta we are considering. This Sutta (which should be studied at first hand) not only treats these mental feelings as included in vedanā but also specifically states that to hold the view that whatever a man experiences, pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, is due to past acts, is to adopt a form of determinism making present action futile—one is a killer on account of past acts, a thief on account of past acts, and so on. To take these mental feelings as vipāka would be to fall into precisely this wrong view; and, in fact, the traditional interpretation, rather than that, prefers to exclude them from paticcasamuppāda, at least as vedanā (see Visuddhimagga, loc. cit.). Unfortunately for the traditional interpretation there are Suttas (e.g. Majjhima i,9 <M.i,53>) that define the paticcasamuppāda item nāmarūpa—also traditionally taken as vipāka—in terms of (amongst other things) not only vedanā but also cetanā, and our Commentary is obliged to speak of a vipakācetanā. But the Buddha has said (Anguttara VI,vi,9 <A.iii,415>) that kamma is cetanā (action is intention), and the notion of vipakācetanā, consequently, is a plain self-contradiction. (It needs, after all, only a moment's reflection to see that if, for example, the pleasant feeling that I experience when I indulge in lustful thoughts is the vipāka of some past kamma, then I have no present responsibility in the matter and can now do nothing about it. But I know from my own experience that this is not so; if I choose to enjoy pleasure by thinking lustful thoughts I can do so, and I can also choose [if I see good reason] to refrain from thinking such thoughts.)[a]
5. Let us now consider sankhārā, which we shall make no attempt to translate for the moment so as not to beg the question. We may turn to Nidāna/Abhisamaya Samy. i,2 <S.ii,4> for a definition of sankhārā in the context of the paticcasamuppāda formulation. Katame ca bhikkhave sankhārā. Tayo'me bhikkhave sankhārā, kāyasankhāro vacīsankhāro cittasankhāro. Ime vuccanti bhikkhave sankhārā. ('And which, monks, are determinations? There are, monks, these three determinations: body-determination, speech-determination, mind-determination. These, monks, are called determinations.') But what are kāyasankhāra, vacīsankhāra, and cittasankhāra? The Cūlavedallasutta (Majjhima v,4 <M.i,301> & cf. Citta Samy. 6 <S.iv,293>) will tell us. Kati pan'ayye sankhārā ti. Tayo'me āvuso Visākha sankhārā, kāyasankhāro vacīsankhāro cittasankhāro ti. Katamo pan'ayye kāyasankhāro, katamo vacīsankhāro, katamo cittasankhāro ti. Assāsapassāsā kho āvuso Visākha kāyasankhāro, vitakkavicārā vacīsankhāro, saññā ca vedanā ca cittasankhāro ti. Kasmā pan'ayye assāsapassāsā kāyasankhāro, kasmā vitakkavicārā vacīsankhāro, kasmā saññā ca vedanā ca cittasankhāro ti. Assāsapassāsā kho āvuso Visākha kāyikā, ete dhammā kāyapatibaddhā, tasmā assāsapassāsā kāyasankhāro. Pubbe kho āvuso Visākha vitakketvā vicāretvā pacchā vācam bhindati, tasmā vitakkavicārā vacīsankhāro. Saññā ca vedanā ca cetasikā, ete dhammā cittapatibaddhā, tasmā saññā ca vedanā ca cittasankhāro ti. ('But, lady, how many determinations are there?—There are, friend Vis&aacuute;kha, these three determinations: body-determination, speech-determination, mind-determination.—But which, lady, is body-determination, which is speech-determination, which is mind-determination?—The in-&-out-breaths, friend Visākha, are body-determination, thinking-&-pondering are speech-determination, perception and feeling are mind-determination.—But why, lady, are the in-&-out-breaths body-determination, why are thinking-&-pondering speech-determination, why are perception and feeling mind-determination?—The in-&-out-breaths, friend Visākha, are bodily, these things are bound up with the body; that is why the in-&-out-breaths are body-determination. First, friend Visākha, having thought and pondered, afterwards one breaks into speech; that is why thinking-&-pondering are speech-determination. Perception and feeling are mental, these things are bound up with the mind; that is why perception and feeling are mind-determination.') Now the traditional interpretation says that sankhārā in the paticcasamuppāda context are kamma, being cetanā. Are we therefore obliged to understand in-&-out-breaths, thinking-&-pondering, and perception and feeling, respectively, as bodily, verbal, and mental kamma (or cetanā)? Is my present existence the result of my breathing in the preceding existence? Is thinking-&-pondering verbal action? Must we regard perception and feeling as intention, when the Suttas distinguish between them (Phuttho bhikkhave vedeti, phuttho ceteti, phuttho sañjānāti... ('Contacted, monks, one feels; contacted, one intends; contacted, one perceives;...') [Salāyatana Samy. ix,10 <S.iv,68>])? Certainly, sankhārā may, upon occasion, be cetanā (e.g. Khandha Samy. vi,4 <S.iii,60>); but this is by no means always so. The Cūlavedallasutta tells us clearly in what sense in-&-out-breaths, thinking-&-pondering, and perception and feeling, are sankhārā (i.e. in that body, speech, and mind [citta], are intimately connected with them, and do not occur without them); and it would do violence to the Sutta to interpret sankhārā here as cetanā.
6. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to suppose from the foregoing that sankhārā in the paticcasamuppāda context cannot mean cetanā. One Sutta (Nidāna/Abhisamaya Samy. vi,1 <S.ii,82>) gives sankhārā in this context as puññābhisankhāra, apuññābhisankhāra, and āneñjābhisankhāra, and it is clear enough that we must understand sankhārā here as some kind of cetanā. Indeed, it is upon this very Sutta that the traditional interpretation relies to justify its conception of sankhārā in the context of the paticcasamuppāda formulation. It might be wondered how the traditional interpretation gets round the difficulty of explaining assāsapassāsā, vitakkavicārā, and saññā and vedanā, as cetanā, in defiance of the Cūlavedallasutta passage. The answer is simple: the traditional interpretation, choosing to identify cittasankhāra with manosankhāra, roundly asserts (in the Visuddhimagga) that kāyasankhāra, vacīsankhāra, and cittasankhāra, are kāyasañcetanā, vacīsañcetanā, and manosañcetanā,—see §16 --, and altogether ignores the Cūlavedallasutta. The difficulty is thus, discreetly, not permitted to arise.
7. No doubt more such specific inadequacies and inconsistencies in the traditional interpretation of paticcasamuppāda could be found, but since this is not a polemic we are not concerned to seek them out. There remains, however, a reason for dissatisfaction with the general manner of this interpretation. The Buddha has said (Majjhima iii,8 <M.i,191>) that he who sees the Dhamma sees paticcasamuppāda; and he has also said that the Dhamma is sanditthika and akālika, that it is immediately visible and without involving time (see in particular Majjhima iv,8 <M.i,265>). Now it is evident that the twelve items, avijjā to jarāmarana, cannot, if the traditional interpretation is correct, all be seen at once; for they are spread over three successive existences. I may, for example, see present viññāna to vedanā, but I cannot now see the kamma of the past existence—avijjā and sankhārā—that (according to the traditional interpretation) was the cause of these present things. Or I may see tanhā and so on, but I cannot now see the jāti and jarāmarana that will result from these things in the next existence. And the situation is no better if it is argued that since all twelve items are present in each existence it is possible to see them all at once. It is, no doubt, true that all these things can be seen at once, but the avijjā and sankhārā that I now see are the cause (says the traditional interpretation) of viññāna to vedanā in the next existence, and have no causal connexion with the viññāna to vedanā that I now see. In other words, the relation sankhārapaccayā viññānam cannot be seen in either case. The consequence of this is that the paticcasamuppāda formulation (if the traditional interpretation is correct) is something that, in part at least, must be taken on trust. And even if there is memory of the past existence the situation is still unsatisfactory, since memory is not on the same level of certainty as present reflexive experience. Instead of imass'uppādā idam uppajjati, imassa nirodhā idam nirujjhati, 'with arising of this this arises, with cessation of this this ceases', the traditional interpretation says, in effect, imassa nirodhā idam uppajjati, 'with cessation of this, this arises'. It is needless to press this point further: either the reader will already have recognized that this is, for him, a valid objection to the traditional interpretation, or he will not. And if he has not already seen this as an objection, no amount of argument will open his eyes. It is a matter of one's fundamental attitude to one's own existence—is there, or is there not, a present problem or, rather, anxiety that can only be resolved in the present?
8. If paticcasamuppāda is sanditthika and akālika then it is clear that it can have nothing to do with kamma and kammavipāka—at least in their usual sense of ethical action and its eventual retribution (see KAMMA) --; for the ripening of kamma as vipāka takes time—vipāka always follows kamma after an interval and is never simultaneous with it. It will at once be evident that if an interpretation of the paticcasamuppāda formulation can be found that does not involve kamma and vipāka the difficulties raised in §§3&4 will vanish; for we shall no longer be called upon to decide whether vedanā is, or is not, kamma or vipāka, and there will be no need for such contradictions as vipākacetanā. Irrespective of whether or not it is either kamma or vipāka, vedanā will be paticcasamuppannā. We shall also find that the apparent conflict of §§5&6 disappears; for when sankhārā, as the second item of the paticcasamuppāda formulation, is no longer necessarily to be regarded as kamma, we shall be free to look for a meaning of the word sankhāra that can comfortably accomodate the kāya-, vacī-, and citta-sankhārā of the Cūlavedallasutta, as well as the puñña-, apuñña-, and āneñja-abhisankhārā of Nidāna/Abhisamaya Samy. vi,1. (We may note in passing that though kamma is cetanā—action is intention—we are in no way obliged, when we deal with cetanā, to think in terms of kamma and its eventual vipāka. Present cetanā is structurally inseparable from present saññā and present vedanā; and thoughts about the future are quite irrelevant to the present problem of suffering—Yam kiñci vedayitam tam dukkhasmin ti. ('Whatever is felt counts as unpleasure (suffering).' [See Vedanā Samy. ii,1, quoted in NIBBĀNA.])[Nidāna/Abhisamaya Samy. iv,2 <S.ii,53>].[b]
9. It will be convenient to start at the end of the paticcasamuppāda formulation and to discuss jāti and jarāmarana first. To begin with, jāti is 'birth' and not 're-birth'. 'Re-birth' is punabbhavābhinibbatti, as in Majjhima v,3 <M.i,294> where it is said that future 'birth into renewed existence' comes of avijjā and tanhā; and it is clear that, here, two successive existences are involved. It is, no doubt, possible for a Buddha to see the re-birth that is at each moment awaiting a living individual who still has tanhā—the re-birth, that is to say, that is now awaiting the individual who now has tanhā. If this is so, then for a Buddha the dependence of re-birth upon tanhā is a matter of direct seeing, not involving time. But this is by no means always possible (if, indeed, at all) for an ariyasāvaka, who, though he sees paticcasamuppāda for himself, and with certainty (it is aparapaccayā ñānam), may still need to accept re-birth on the Buddha's authority.[c] In other words, an ariyasāvaka sees birth with direct vision (since jāti is part of the paticcasamuppāda formulation), but does not necessarily see re-birth with direct vision. It is obvious, however, that jāti does not refer straightforwardly to the ariyasāvaka's own physical birth into his present existence; for that at best could only be a memory, and it is probably not remembered at all. How, then, is jāti to be understood?
10. Upādānapaccayā bhavo; bhavapaccayā jāti; jātipaccayā jarāmaranam... ('With holding as condition, being; with being as condition, birth; with birth as condition, ageing-&-death...') The fundamental upādāna or 'holding' is attavāda (see Majjhima ii,1 <M.i,67>), which is holding a belief in 'self'. The puthujjana takes what appears to be his 'self' at its face value; and so long as this goes on he continues to be a 'self', at least in his own eyes (and in those of others like him). This is bhava or 'being'. The puthujjana knows that people are born and die; and since he thinks 'my self exists' so he also thinks 'my self was born' and 'my self will die'. The puthujjana sees a 'self' to whom the words birth and death apply.[d] In contrast to the puthujjana, the arahat has altogether got rid of asmimāna (not to speak of attavāda—see MAMA), and does not even think 'I am'. This is bhavanirodha, cessation of being. And since he does not think 'I am' he also does not think 'I was born' or 'I shall die'. In other words, he sees no 'self' or even 'I' for the words birth and death to apply to. This is jātinirodha and jarāmarananirodha. (See, in Kosala Samy. i,3 <S.i,71>, how the words birth and death are avoided when the arahat is spoken of. Atthi nu kho bhante jātassa aññatra jarāmaranā ti. N'atthi kho mahārāja jātassa aññatra jarāmaranā. Ye pi te mahārāja khattiyamahāsālā... brāhmanamahāsālā... gahapatimahāsālā..., tesam pi jātānam n'atthi aññatra jarāmaranā. Ye pi te mahārāja bhikkhu arahanto khīnāsavā..., tesam pāyam kāyo bhedanadhammo nikkhepanadhammo ti. ('—For one who is born, lord, is there anything other than ageing-&-death?—For one who is born, great king, there is nothing other than ageing-&-death. Those, great king, who are wealthy warriors... wealthy divines... wealthy householders...,—for them, too, being born, there is nothing other than ageing-&-death. Those monks, great king, who are worthy ones, destroyers of the cankers...,—for them, too, it is the nature of this body to break up, to be laid down.')) The puthujjana, taking his apparent 'self' at face value, does not see that he is a victim of upādāna; he does not see that 'being a self' depends upon 'holding a belief in self' (upādānapaccayā bhavo); and he does not see that birth and death depend upon his 'being a self' (bhavapaccayā jāti, and so on). The ariyasāvaka, on the other hand, does see these things, and he sees also their cessation (even though he may not yet have fully realized it); and his seeing of these things is direct. Quite clearly, the idea of re-birth is totally irrelevant here.
11. Let us now turn to the beginning of the paticcasamuppāda formulation and consider the word sankhāra. The passage from the Cūlavedallasutta quoted in §5 evidently uses sankhāra to mean a thing from which some other thing is inseparable—in other words, a necessary condition. This definition is perfectly simple and quite general, and we shall find that it is all that we need. (If a sankhāra is something upon which something else depends, we can say that the 'something else' is determined by the first thing, i.e. by the sankhāra, which is therefore a 'determination' or a 'determinant'. It will be convenient to use the word determination when we need to translate sankhāra.)
12. Some discussion will be necessary if we are to see that sankhāra, whenever it occurs, always has this meaning in one form or another. We may start with the fundamental triad: Sabbe sankhārā aniccā; Sabbe sankhārā dukkhā; Sabbe dhammā anattā. ('All determinations are impermanent; All determinations are unpleasurable (suffering); All things are not-self.') (Dhammapada xx,5-7 <Dh. 277-9>) A puthujjana accepts what appears to be his 'self' at face value. When he asks himself 'What is my self?' he seeks to identify it in some way with one thing or another, and specifically with the pañc'upādānakkhandhā or one of them (see Khandha Samy. v,5 <S.iii,46>). Whatever thing (dhamma) he identifies as 'self', that thing he takes as being permanent; for if he saw it as impermanent he would not identify it as 'self' (see DHAMMA). Since, however, he does see it as permanent—more permanent, indeed, than anything else—he will think 'Other things may be impermanent, but not this thing, which is myself'. In order, then, that he shall see it as impermanent, indirect methods are necessary: he must first see that this thing is dependent upon, or determined by, some other thing, and he must then see that this other thing, this determination or sankhāra, is impermanent. When he sees that the other thing, the sankhāra on which this thing depends, is impermanent, he sees that this thing, too, must be impermanent, and he no longer regards it as 'self'. (See SANKHĀRA.) Thus, when sabbe sankhārā aniccā is seen, sabbe dhammā anattā is seen. And similarly with sabbe sankhārā dukkhā. We may therefore understand sabbe sankhārā aniccā as 'All things upon which other things (dhammā) depend—i.e. all determinations (sankhārā)—are impermanent' with a tacit corollary 'All things dependent upon other things (sankhārā)—i.e. all determined things (sankhatā dhammā)—are impermanent'. After this, sabbe dhammā anattā, 'All things are not-self', follows as a matter of course.[e]
13. Every thing (dhamma) must, of necessity, be (or be somehow included within) one or more of the pañc('upādān)akkhandhā, either generally—e.g. feeling in general, feeling as opposed to what is not feeling—or particularly—e.g. this present painful feeling as opposed to the previous pleasant feeling (present as a past feeling). In the same way, every determination (sankhāra) must also be one or more of the pañc('upādān)akkhandhā. Thus the pañc('upādān)akkhandhā can be regarded either as sankhārā or as dhammā according as they are seen as 'things-that-other-things-depend-on' or simply as 'things themselves'. See Majjhima iv,5 <M.i,228>.
14. Sankhārā are one of the pañc'upādānakkhandhā (or, in the case of the arahat, one of the pañcakkhandhā—see Khandha Samy. v,6 <S.iii,47>). The Sutta mentioned in §5 (Khandha Samy. vi,4) says explicitly, in this context, that sankhārā are cetanā. If this is so, cetanā must be something that other things depend on. What are these things? The answer is given at once by the Khajjaniyasutta (Khandha Samy. viii,7 <S.iii,87>): they are the pañc('upādān)akkhandhā themselves.[f]
15. This leads us to the puññābhisankhāra, apuññābhisankhāra, and āneñjābhisankhāra, of §6. These determinations are clearly cetanā of some kind—indeed the Sutta itself (Nidāna/Abhisamaya Samy. vi,1) associates the words abhisankharoti and abhisañcetayati. A brief discussion is needed. The Sutta says: Avijjāgato'yam bhikkhave purisapuggalo puññañ ce sankhāram abhisankharoti, puññūpagam hoti viññānam. ('If, monks, this individual man, who is involved in nescience, is determining a meritorious determination, consciousness has arrived at merit.') The word puñña is commonly associated with kamma, and the traditional interpretation supposes that puññūpaga viññāna is puññakammavipāka in the following existence. Puñña is certainly kamma, but nothing in the Sutta suggests that puññūpaga viññāna is anything other than the meritorious consciousness of one who is determining or intending merit. (When merit is intended by an individual he is conscious of his world as 'world-for-doing-merit-in', and consciousness has thus 'arrived at merit'.) In §14 we saw that cetanā (or intentions) of all kinds are sankhārā, and these are no exception. As we see from the Sutta, however, they are of a particular kind; for they are not found in the arahat. They are intentions in which belief in 'self' is implicitly involved. We saw in §10 that belief in 'self' is the condition for birth, and that when all trace of such belief is eradicated the word birth no longer applies. Belief in 'self', in exactly the same way, is the condition for consciousness, and when it altogether ceases the word consciousness no longer applies. Thus, with cessation of these particular intentions there is cessation of consciousness. The arahat, however, still lives, and he has both intentions (or, more generally, determinations) and consciousness; but this consciousness is niruddha, and the intentions (or determinations) must similarly be accounted as 'ceased'. (This matter is further discussed in §22. See also VIÑÑĀNA.) Sankhārapaccayā viññānam, which means 'so long as there are determinations there is consciousness', is therefore also to be understood as meaning 'so long as there are puthujjana's determinations there is puthujjana's consciousness'. Even though the Khajjaniyasutta (§14) tells us that determinations are so called since 'they determine the determined' (which includes consciousness), we must not conclude that the determinations in 'determinations are a condition for consciousness' (sankhārapaccayā viññānam) are determinations because they are a condition for consciousness: on the contrary, they are a condition for consciousness because they are determinations. Thus, vitakkavicārā determine vacī, which is why they are called vacīsankhāra; and it is as a sankhāra that they are a condition for viññāna. In particular, puññābhisankhāra, apuññābhisankhāra, and āneñjābhisankhāra, are cetanā that determine viññāna as puññūpaga, apuññūpaga, and āneñjūpaga, respectively. They are certain intentions determining certain consciousnesses. Since they determine something (no matter what), these intentions are determinations (as stated in the Khajjaniyasutta). As determinations they are a condition for consciousness. And as puthujjana's determinations they are a condition for puthujjana's consciousness (which is always puññūpaga, apuññūpaga, or āneñjūpaga). Exactly why determinations are a condition for consciousness will be discussed later.
16. There is nothing to add to what was said about kāyasankhāra, vacīsankhāra, and cittasankhāra, in §5, except to note that we occasionally encounter in the Suttas the terms kāyasankhāra, vacīsankhāra, and manosankhāra (not cittasankhāra). These are to be understood (see Nidāna/Abhisamaya Samy. iii,5 <S.ii,40>) as kāyasañcetanā, vacīsañcetanā, and manosañcetanā, and should not be confused with the former triad.[g] Other varieties of sankhārā met with in the Suttas (e.g. āyusankhārā, 'what life depends on', in Majjhima v,3 <M.i,295>), do not raise any particular difficulty. we shall henceforth take it for granted that the essential meaning of sankhāra is as defined in §11.
17. Consider now this phrase: Tisso imā bhikkhave vedanā aniccā sankhatā paticcasamuppannā... ('There are, monks, these three feelings, which are impermanent, determined, dependently arisen...') (Vedanā Samy. i,9 <S.iv,214>). We see in the first place that what is sankhata is anicca; this we already know from the discussion in §12. In the second place we see that to be sankhata and to be paticcasamuppanna are the same thing. This at once tells us the purpose of paticcasamuppāda formulations, namely to show, by the indirect method of §12, that all the items mentioned therein are impermanent, since each depends upon the preceding item. The question may now arise, 'What about the first item—since there is no item preceding it, is it therefore permanent?'. In several Suttas (Dīgha ii,1 <D.ii,32>; Nidāna/Abhisamaya Samy. vii,5 <S.ii,104>; ibid. vii,7 <S.ii,112-5>) the series runs back to nāmarūpapaccayā salāyatanam, viññānapaccayā nāmarūpam, and then forward again with nāmarūpapaccayā viññānam. ('with name-&-matter as condition, six bases; with consciousness as condition, name-&-matter; ...with name-&-matter as condition, consciousness.') This is remarked upon by the Buddha (Dīgha ii,1 & Nidāna/Abhisamaya Samy. vii,5) as follows: Paccudāvattati kho idam viññānam nāmarūpamhā nāparam gacchati; ettāvatā jāyetha vā jīyetha vā mīyetha vā cavetha vā uppajjetha vā yadidam nāmarūpapaccayā viññānam, viññānapaccayā nāmarūpam, nāmarūpapaccayā salāyatanam, ('This consciousness turns back from name-&-matter, it does not go further; thus far may one be born or age or die or fall or arise; that is to say, with name-&-matter as condition, consciousness; with consciousness as condition, name-&-matter; with name-&-matter as condition, six bases;...') and so on. In this formulation it is clear that there is no 'first item with no item preceding it'—nāmarūpa depends upon viññāna, and viññāna depends upon nāmarūpa, each being determined by the other. If the puthujjana decides upon viññāna as 'self', he finds its permanence undermined by the impermanence of nāmarūpa; and if he decides upon nāmarūpa as 'self', its permanence is undermined by the impermanence of viññāna. (We may note in passing that the traditional interpretation of nāmarūpa as 'mind-&-matter'—see Visuddhimagga Ch. XVIII—is quite mistaken. Rūpa is certainly 'matter' [or perhaps 'substance'], but nāma is not 'mind'. Further discussion is out of place here, but see NĀMA. We may, provisionally, translate as 'name-&-matter'.)
18. Since to be sankhata and to be paticcasamuppanna are one and the same thing, we see that each item in the series of §17 is preceded by a sankhāra upon which it depends, and that therefore the total collection of items in the series depends upon the total collection of their respective sankhārā. In this sense we might say that the total collection of items is sankhārapaccayā. But since this statement means only that each and every particular item of the series depends upon a particular sankhāra, it does not say anything fresh. Sankhārapaccayā, however, can be understood in a different way: instead of 'dependent upon a collection of particular sankhārā', we can take it as meaning 'dependent upon the fact that there are such things as sankhārā'. In the first sense sankhārapaccayā is the equivalent of paticcasamuppanna ('dependently arisen'), and applies to a given series as a collection of particular items; in the second sense sankhārapaccayā is the equivalent of paticcasamuppāda ('dependent arising'), and applies to a given series as the exemplification of a structural principle. In the second sense it is true quite generally of all formulations of paticcasamuppāda, and not merely of this formulation (since any other formulation will consist of some other set of particular items). Paticcasamuppāda is, in fact, a structural principle (formally stated in the first Sutta passage at the head of this Note), and not one or another specific chain of sankhārā. It is thus an over-simplification to regard any one given formulation in particular terms as paticcasamuppāda. Every such formulation exemplifies the principle: none states it. Any paticcasamuppāda series, purely in virtue of its being an exemplification of paticcasamuppāda, depends upon the fact that there are such things as sankhārā; and a fortiori the series of §17 depends upon the fact of the existence of sankhārā: if there were no such things as sankhārā there would be no such thing as paticcasamuppāda at all, and therefore no such thing as this individual formulation of it.
19. But though it is an over-simplification to regard any one series as paticcasamuppāda, it is not entirely wrong. For we find a certain definite set of items (viññāna, nāmarūpa, salāyatana, phassa, and so on) recurring, with little variation (Dīgha ii,2 <D.ii,56>, for example, omits salāyatana), in almost every formulation of paticcasamuppāda in particular terms. The reason for this recurrence is that, though paticcasamuppāda is a structural principle, the Buddha's Teaching is concerned with a particular problem, and therefore with a particular application of this principle. The problem is suffering and its cessation; the sphere in which this problem arises is the sphere of experience, of sentient existence or being; and the particular items, viññāna, nāmarūpa, and the rest, are the fundamental categories of this sphere. In consequence of this, the series, nāmarūpapaccayā viññānam, viññānapaccayā nāmarūpam, nāmarūpapaccayā salāyatanam, salāyatanapaccayā phasso, and so forth, is the fundamental exemplification of paticcasamuppāda in the Buddha's Teaching, and the particular items are the basic sankhārā. (See KAMMA for a Sutta passage where the paticcasamuppāda is exemplified on an entirely different level. Failure to understand that paticcasamuppāda is essentially a structural principle with widely different applications leads to confusion.) These particular items, then, being the fundamental categories in terms of which experience is described, are present in all experience; and this basic formulation of paticcasamuppāda tells us that they are all dependent, ultimately, upon viññāna (this is obviously so, since without consciousness there is no experience).[h] But since all these items, including viññāna, are dependent upon sankhārā, the series as a whole is sankhārapaccayā. (Though this is true in both the senses discussed in §18, the first sense yields us merely a tautology, and it is only the second sense of sankhārapaccayā that interests us.) If, therefore, we wish to express this fact, all we have to say is sankhārapaccayā viññānam. Since sankhārapaccayā (in the sense that interests us) is the equivalent of paticcasamuppāda, sankhārapaccayā viññānam presumably means 'viññāna is paticcasamuppāda'. Let us try to expand this phrase.
20. Any given experience involves paticcasamuppāda, but it may do so in a number of different ways at once, each of which cuts across the others. Thus (experience of) the body is inseparable from (experience of) breathing, and (experience of) speaking is inseparable from (experience of) thinking; and both (experience of) breathing and (experience of) thinking are therefore sankhārā. But in all experience, as its fundamental categories and basic sankhārā, there are viññāna, nāmarūpa, and so on. Thus whenever there is breathing (kāyasankhāra), or thinking (vacīsankhāra), or, of course, perception and feeling (cittasankhāra), there are viññāna, nāmarūpa, and so on, which also are sankhārā. Similarly, all experience is intentional: it is inseparable (except for the arahat) from puññābhisankhāra, apuññābhisankhāra, and āneñjābhisankhāra. But in all experience, once again, there are viññāna, nāmarūpa, and so on, its fundamental categories and basic sankhārā.[i] In other words, any exemplification of paticcasamuppāda in the sphere of experience can be re-stated in the form of the fundamental exemplification of paticcasamuppāda in the sphere of experience, which is, as it must be, that beginning with viññāna. Thus viññāna and paticcasamupāda are one. This, then, is the meaning of sankhārapaccayā viññānam; this is why 'with determinations as condition there is consciousness'.
21. This discussion may perhaps have made it clear why sankhārā in the usual twelve-factored paticcasamuppāda series can include such a mixed collection of things as intentions of merit, demerit, and imperturbability, in-&-out-breaths, thinking-&-pondering, and perception and feeling. These things, one and all, are things that other things depend on, and as such are sankhārā of one kind or another; and so long as there are sankhārā of any kind at all there is viññāna and everything dependent upon viññāna, in other words there is paticcasamuppāda. (We may ignore the irrelevant exception of āyusankhāra and saññāvedayitanirodha, lying outside the sphere of experience. See Majjhima v,3 <M.i,295>.) Conversely, viññāna (and therefore paticcasamuppāda) ceases to exist when sankhārā of all kinds have ceased. (It might be asked why kāyasankhāra and the other two are singled out for special mention as sankhārā. The answer seems to be that it is in order to show progressive cessation of sankhārā in the attainment of saññāvedayitanirodha—see Majjhima v,4 <M.i,301> and Vedanā Samy. ii,1 <S.iv,216>—or, more simply, to show that so long as there is paticcasamuppāda there is body, speech, or [at least] mind.)
22. It should be borne in mind that paticcasamuppāda anulomam ('with the grain'—the samudaya sacca) always refers to the puthujjana, and patilomam ('against the grain'—the nirodha sacca) to the arahat. Avijjāpaccayā sankhārā is true of the puthujjana, and avijjānirodhā sankhāranirodho is true of the arahat. This might provoke the objection that so long as the arahat is living he breathes, thinks-&-ponders, and perceives and feels; and consequently that cessation of avijjā does not bring about general cessation of sankhārā. It is right to say that with a living arahat there is still consciousness, name-&-matter, six bases, contact, and feeling, but only in a certain sense. Actually and in truth (saccato thetato, which incidentally has nothing to do with paramattha sacca, 'truth in the highest [or absolute] sense', a fallacious notion much used in the traditional exegesis—see PARAMATTHA SACCA) there is, even in this very life, no arahat to be found (e.g. Avyākata Samy. 2 <S.iv,384>—see PARAMATTHA SACCA §4 [a]); and though there is certainly consciousness and so on, there is no apparent 'self' for whom there is consciousness. Yena viññānena Tathāgatam paññāpayamāno paññāpeyya, tam viññānam Tathāgatassa pahīnam ucchinnamūlam tālāvatthukatam anabhāvakatam āyatim anuppādadhammam; viññānasankhāya vimutto kho mahārāja Tathāgato... ('That consciousness by which the Tathāgata might be manifested has been eliminated by the Tathāgata, cut off at the root, dug up, made non-existent, it is incapable of future arising; the Tathāgata, great king, is free from reckoning as consciousness...') (Avyākata Samy. 1 <S.iv,379>). There is no longer any consciousness pointing (with feeling and the rest) to an existing 'self' and with which that 'self' might be identified. And in the Kevaddhasutta (Dīgha i,11 <D.i,223>), viññānam anidassanam,[j] which is the arahat's 'non-indicative consciousness', is also viññānassa nirodho. While the arahat yet lives, his consciousness is niruddha, or 'ceased', for the reason that it is ananuruddha-appativiruddha (Majjhima ii,1 <M.i,65>). In the same way, when there is no longer any apparent 'self' to be contacted, contact (phassa) is said to have ceased: Phusanti phassā upadhim paticca / Nirūpadhim kena phuseyyum phassā. ('Contacts contact dependent on ground -- How should contacts contact a groundless one?') (Udāna ii,4 <Ud.12> This matter has already been touched upon in §§10 & 15. (See also VIÑÑĀNA & PHASSA.)
23. Sankhārapaccayā viññānam, as we now see, can be taken to mean that any specific series of sankhāra-sankhatadhamma pairs (one or more) of which the first contains viññāna is dependent upon the very fact that there are sankhārā at all. Avijjāpaccayā sankhārā will then mean that the very fact that there are sankhārā at all is dependent upon avijjā; and with cessation of avijjā—avijjānirodhā—all sankhārā whatsoever will cease—sankhāranirodho. This is perhaps most simply stated in the lines from the Vinaya Mahāvagga: Ye dhammā hetuppabhavā / Tesam hetum Tathāgato āha / Tesañ ca yo nirodho / Evamvādī mahāsamano. ('Of things originating with conditions, The Tathāgata has told the condition, And what their cessation is. The Great Recluse speaks thus.') Here, Ye dhammā hetuppabhavā are all things whatsoever that depend upon hetū ('conditions'—synonymous with paccayā). Since each of these things depends upon its respective hetu (as in any paticcasamuppāda formulation), it shares the same fate as its hetu—it is present when the hetu< is present, and absent when the hetu is absent. Thus the hetu of them taken as a whole (all things that are hetuppabhavā) is no different from the hetu of their individual hetū taken as a whole. When there are hetū at all there are hetuppabhavā dhammā, when there are no hetū there are no hetuppabhavā dhammā; and hetū, being nothing else than sankhārā, have avijjā as condition. Tesam hetum ('their condition'), therefore, is avijjā. To see the Dhamma is to see paticcasamuppāda (as noted in §7), and avijjā is therefore non-seeing of paticcasamuppāda. Avijjāpaccayā sankhārā will thus mean 'paticcasamuppāda depends upon non-seeing of paticcasamuppāda'. Conversely, seeing of paticcasamuppāda is cessation of avijjā, and when paticcasamuppāda is seen it loses its condition ('non-seeing of paticcasamuppāda') and ceases. And this is cessation of all hetuppabhavā dhammā. Thus tesam yo nirodho is cessation of avijjā.
24. We must now again ask the question of §17: 'What about the first item of the paticcasamuppāda formulation—since there is no item preceding it, is it therefore permanent?'. The first item is now avijjā, and the Buddha himself answers the question in a Sutta of the Anguttara Nikāya (X,vii,1 <A.v,113>). This answer is to the effect that avijjā depends upon not hearing and not practising the Dhamma. It is not, however, the only way of answering the question, as we may see from the Sammāditthisutta (Majjhima i,9 <M.i,54>). Here we find that avijjā depends upon āsavā, and āsavā depend upon avijjā. But one of the āsavā is, precisely, avijj'āsava, which seems to indicate that avijjā depends upon avijjā.[k] Let us see if this is so. We know that sankhārā depend upon avijjā—avijjāpaccayā sankhārā. But since something that something else depends upon is a sankhāra, it is evident that avijjā is a sankhāra. And, as before, sankhārā depend upon avijjā. Thus avijjā depends upon avijjā. Far from being a logical trick, this result reflects a structural feature of the first importance.[l] Before discussing it, however, we must note that this result leads us to expect that any condition upon which avijjā depends will itself involve avijjā implicitly or explicitly. (In terms of §23 the foregoing argument runs thus. Avijjāpaccayā sankhārā may be taken as 'with non-seeing of paticcasamuppāda as condition there is paticcasamuppāda'. But this itself is seen only when paticcasamuppāda is seen; for paticcasamuppāda cannot be seen as paticcasamuppanna before paticcasamuppāda is seen. To see avijjā or non-seeing, avijjā or non-seeing must cease. Avijjā therefore comes first; for, being its own condition, it can have no anterior term that does not itself involve avijjā.)
25. The faculty of self-observation or reflexion is inherent in the structure of our experience. Some degree of reflexion is almost never entirely absent in our waking life, and in the practice of mindfulness it is deliberately cultivated. To describe it simply, we may say that one part of our experience is immediately concerned with the world as its object, while at the same time another part of our experience is concerned with the immediate experience as its object. This second part we may call reflexive experience. (Reflexion is discussed in greater detail in Shorter Notes & FUNDAMENTAL STRUCTURE.) It will be clear that when there is avijjā there is avijjā in both parts of our experience, the immediate and the reflexive; for though, in reflexion, experience is divided within itself, it is still one single, even if complex, structure. The effect of this may be seen from the Sabbāsavasutta (Majjhima i,2 <M.i,8>) wherein certain wrong views are spoken of. Three of them are: Attanā va attānam sañjānāmī ti; Attanā va anattānam sañjānāmī ti; and Anattanā va attānam sañjānāmī ti. ('With self I perceive self; With self I perceive not-self; With not-self I perceive self.') A man with avijjā, practising reflexion, may identify 'self' with both reflexive and immediate experience, or with reflexive experience alone, or with immediate experience alone. He does not conclude that neither is 'self', and the reason is clear: it is not possible to get outside avijjā by means of reflexion alone; for however much a man may 'step back' from himself to observe himself he cannot help taking avijjā with him. There is just as much avijjā in the self-observer as there is in the self-observed. (See CETANĀ [b].) And this is the very reason why avijjā is so stable in spite of its being sankhatā.[m] Simply by reflexion the puthujjana can never observe avijjā and at the same time recognize it as avijjā; for in reflexion avijjā is the Judge as well as the Accused, and the verdict is always 'Not Guilty'. In order to put an end to avijjā, which is a matter of recognizing avijjā as avijjā, it is necessary to accept on trust from the Buddha a Teaching that contradicts the direct evidence of the puthujjana's reflexion. This is why the Dhamma is patisotagāmī (Majjhima iii,6 <M.i,168>), or 'going against the stream'. The Dhamma gives the puthujjana the outside view of avijjā, which is inherently unobtainable for him by unaided reflexion (in the ariyasāvaka this view has, as it were, 'taken' like a graft, and is perpetually available). Thus it will be seen that avijjā in reflexive experience (actual or potential) is the condition for avijjā in immediate experience. It is possible, also, to take a second step back and reflect upon reflexion; but there is still avijjā in this self-observation of self-observation, and we have a third layer of avijjā protecting the first two. And there is no reason in theory why we should stop here; but however far we go we shall not get beyond avijjā. The hierarchy of avijjā can also be seen from the Suttas in the following way.
Katamā pan'āvuso avijjā....
Yam kho āvuso dukkhe aññānam,
ayam vuccat'āvuso avijjā. (Majjhima i,9 <M.i,54>)
Katamañ ca bhikkhave dukkham ariyasaccam...
Katamañ ca bhikkhave dukkhasamudayam ariyasaccam...
Katamañ ca bhikkhave dukkhanirodham ariyasaccam...
Katamañ ca bhikkhave dukkhanirodhagāminīpatipadā ariyasaccam.
Ayam eva ariyo atthangiko maggo,
Katamā ca bhikkhave sammāditthi...
Yam kho bhikkhave dukkhe ñānam,
ayam vuccati bhikkhave sammāditthi.
(Dīgha ii,9 <D.ii,305-12>)
But which, friends, is nescience?...
That which is non-knowledge of suffering,
non-knowledge of arising of suffering,
non-knowledge of ceasing of suffering,
non-knowledge of the way that leads to ceasing of suffering,
this, friends, is called nescience.
And which, monks, is the noble truth of suffering...
And which, monks, is the noble truth of arising of suffering...
And which, monks, is the noble truth of ceasing of suffering...
And which, monks, is the noble truth of the way that leads to ceasing of suffering?
Just this noble eight-factored path,
that is to say: right view...
And which, monks, is right view?...
That which is knowledge of suffering,
knowledge of arising of suffering,
knowledge of ceasing of suffering,
knowledge of the way that leads to ceasing of suffering,
this, monks, is called right view.
Avijjā is non-knowledge of the four noble truths. Sammāditthi is knowledge of the four noble truths. But sammāditthi is part of the four noble truths. Thus avijjā is non-knowledge of sammāditthi; that is to say, non-knowledge of knowledge of the four noble truths. But since sammāditthi, which is knowledge of the four noble truths, is part of the four noble truths, so avijjā is non-knowledge of knowledge of knowledge of the four noble truths. And so we can go on indefinitely. But the point to be noted is that each of these successive stages represents an additional layer of (potentially) reflexive avijjā. Non-knowledge of knowledge of the four noble truths is non-knowledge of vijjā, and non-knowledge of vijjā is failure to recognize avijjā as avijjā. Conversely, it is evident that when avijjā is once recognized anywhere in this structure it must vanish everywhere; for knowledge of the four noble truths entails knowledge of knowledge of the four noble truths, and vijjā ('science') replaces avijjā ('nescience') throughout.[n]
[a] A present intention (or action) is certainly determined, but it is determined by a superior (or more reflexive) intention that also is present: it is, therefore, not pre-determined. (To be future is essentially to be under-determined. See FUNDAMENTAL STRUCTURE.) Every voluntary (or reflexive) intention (i.e. every volition or act of will) is perpetually revocable, and every involuntary (or immediate) intention (i.e. every inclination or tendency) is voluntarily modifiable. (There is a mistaken idea, common [and convenient] enough, that our inclinations are in the nature of impulsions to which we can only submit, rather as a stone passively suffers the pressure that moves it. But, far from being an imposition that must be passively suffered, an inclination is an active seeking of a still only possible state of affairs. Cf. 'D'ailleurs, si l'acte n'est pas pur mouvement, il doit se définir par une intention. De quelque manière que l'on considère cette intention, elle ne peut être qu'un dépassement du donné vers un résultat à obtenir. ...Lorsque les psychologues, par exemple, font de la tendance un état de fait, ils ne voient pas qu'ils lui ôtent tout caractère d'appétit [ad-petitio].' --- J.-P. Sartre, L'Être et le Néant, Gallimard, Paris 1943, p. 556. ['Besides, if the act is not pure movement, it must be defined by an intention. In whatever way we may consider this intention, it can only be a passing beyond the given towards a result to be obtained. ...When the psychologists, for example, turn tendency into a state of fact, they fail to see that they are taking away from it all character of appetite <ad-petitio>.']) Cf. CETANĀ [e]. [Back to text]
[b] The anguish of the moment when a man apprehends that he is going to die is evidence of this perpetually present sankhāradukkha (see Vedanā Samy. ii,1, quoted in NIBBĀNA), and has to do with the changing joys and miseries of this life only in so far as they are, in fact, changing.[cf.17] It is this anguish that makes deliberate suicide, even if it is to be painless, such a difficult enterprise. Only the arahat has no anguish in the face of death:
Kālañ ca patikankhāmi
nibbisam bhatako yathā;
Kālañ ca patikankhāmi
I delight not in death,
I delight not in life,
I await my time
like a hireling his wage;
I delight not in death,
I delight not in life,
I await my time
composed and aware.
Theragāthā vv. 606 & 607. [Back to text]
[c] This, naturally, is not to be taken as denying the possibility of evidence for re-birth quite independent of what is said in the Suttas. (A curious view, that the Buddha was an agnostic on the question of re-birth and refused to pronounce on it, seems to be gaining currency. Even a very slight acquaintance with the Suttas will correct this idea. See e.g. Majjhima ii,2 <M.i,73-7>.) [Back to text]
[d] While maintaining the necessary reservations (see Preface) about his views, we may observe that Heidegger, in his Sein und Zeit (Halle 1927, p. 374), subordinates the ideas of birth and death to that of being, within the unity of our existential structure. I exist, I am, as born; and, as born, I am as liable at every moment to die. (This book, in English translation [by J. Macquarrie & E. S. Robinson, Being and Time, SCM Press, London 1962], has only lately  become available to me: I find that, where they disagree, Heidegger, as against Sartre, is generally in the right.) [Back to text]
[e] It may seem, upon occasion, that sankhāra and dhamma coincide. Thus the pañc'upādānakkhandhā are what attavād'upādāna depends on, and they are therefore sankhārā. But also it is with them that attā is identified, and they are thus dhammā. This situation, however, is telescoped; for in attavād'upādāna, which is a complex affair, what is primarily (though implicitly) identified as attā is upādāna, and the pañc'upādānakkhandhā are involved only in the second place. See PARAMATTHA SACCA §§3&4. (This, of course, is not the only way in which they are sankhārā, though §3 might give that impression. The reciprocal dependence of viññāna and nāmarūpa—with or without upādāna—is another. And see also what follows.) The word upādāna (lit. 'taking up') has a certain ambiguity about it. As well as 'holding' (seizing, grasping), which is eminently a characteristic of fire no less than of passion (the upādāna of pañc'upādānakkhandhā is chandarāga, 'desire-&-lust'), the word can also mean the fuel of a fire (Majjhima viii,2 <M.i,487>; Avyākata Samy. 9 <S.iv,399-400>). The burning fuel, being held by the 'holding' fire, is itself the fire's 'holding'. The fire is burning, the fuel is burning: two aspects of the same thing. [Back to text]
[f] This Sutta shows that sankhārā—here cetanā—determine not only rūpa, vedanā, saññā, and viññāna, but also sankhārā: Sankhāre sankhārattāya sankhatam abhisankharonti.... Sankhatam abhisankharontī ti kho bhikkhave tasmā Sankhārā ti vuccanti. The question might arise whether these determinations that are determined by determinations do themselves determine (other) things or not. Are there determinations that do not, in fact, determine anything? The answer is that there cannot be. A determination is essentially negative—'Omnis determinatio est negatio' said Spinoza --, and a negative, a negation, only exists as a denial of something positive. The positive thing's existence is asserted by the negative in the very act of denying it (just as atheism, which exists as a denial of theism, is evidence that theism exists); and its essence (or nature) is defined by the negative in stating what it is not (if we know what atheism is we shall know at once what theism is). A negative thus determines both the existence and the essence of a positive. In what way is cetanā negative? A sheet of paper lying on a table is determined as a sheet of paper by its potentialities or possibilities—i.e. by what it is for. It can be used for writing on, for drawing on, for wrapping up something, for wiping up a mess, for covering another sheet, for burning, and so on. But though it can be used for these things, it is not actually being used for any of them. Thus these potentialities deny the object lying on the table as it actually is (which is why they are potentialities and not actualities); nevertheless if it were not for the fact that these particular potentialities are associated with the object on the table we should not see the object as a 'sheet of paper'. These potentialities, which are not the object, determine it for what it is. We know what a thing is when we know what it is for. Thus these potentialities can also be understood as the significance or purpose of the object, and therefore as its intention(s). (This account is necessarily restricted to the crudely utilitarian level, but will serve to give an indication.) One of these intentions, though of a special kind (present only when there is avijjā), is that the object is for me—it is mine, etam mama. And all these intentions are nothing more nor less than cetanā. (See also CETANĀ & ATTĀ.) Determinations generally, whether they are cetanā or not, have two essential characteristics: (i) they are bound up with what they determine and (ii) they are not what they determine (or not wholly). And, of course, determinations in their turn require other determinations to determine them; which is why sankhārā are themselves sankhatā. Thus, a sheet of paper is for wiping up a mess, which is for having my room clean, which is for my personal comfort, which is for attending to my concerns, which is for my future comfort. Cf. Heidegger, op. cit., p. 63 et seq. [Back to text]
[g] So far are the expressions cittasankhāra and manosankhāra from being interchangeable that their respective definitions actually seem to be mutually exclusive. Cittasankhāra is saññā ca vedanā ca; manosankhāra is manosañcetanā; and the passage from the Salāyatana Samyutta (ix,10) quoted in §5 makes an explicit distinction between vedanā, cetanā, and saññā. But the two expressions are really quite different in kind, and are not to be directly opposed to each other at all. (i) The citta of cittasankhāra is not synonymous with the mano of manosankhāra: citta, here, means (conscious) experience generally, whereas mano distinguishes thought from word and deed. (ii) The word sankhāra has a different sense in the two cases: in the first it means 'determination' in a quite general sense (§11); in the second it is a particular kind of determination, viz intention or volition. (iii) The two compounds are grammatically different: cittasankhāra is a dutiya (accusative) tappurisa, cittam + sankhāro, 'that which determines mind (citta)'; manosankhāra is a tatiya (instrumentive) tappurisa, manasā + sankhāro, 'determination (intention or volition) by mind (mano)', i.e. mental action (as opposed to verbal and bodily action)—cf. Majjhima vi,7 <M.i,389>. Clearly enough (ii) and (iii) will apply mutatis mutandis to the two senses of the expressions kāyasankhāra and vacīsankhāra. [Back to text]
[h] Viññāna, being the presence of the phenomenon, of what is present, is negative as regards essence. Other things can be described directly by way of their positive essence as this or that, but not consciousness. Consciousness, however, is necessary before any other thing can be described; for if something is to be described it must first be present in experience (real or imaginary), and its presence is consciousness. Since consciousness can be described only as that upon which other things depend, it is the existential determination and nothing else. This will explain also what follows. (Note that the word existential is used here in the simple sense of a thing's existence as opposed to its essence, and not in the pregnant sense of bhava. See VIÑÑĀNA.) [Back to text]
[i] See also the heterogeneous series of items (pariyesanā, lābha, and so on) appearing in the middle of the paticcasamuppāda formulation of Dīgha ii,2 <D.ii,58>. [Back to text]
[j] In the line Viññānam anidassanam anantam sabbatopaham, ('Non-indicative consciousness, limitless, wholly non-originating.') the compound sabbatopaham (in Majjhima v,9 <M.i,329>, sabbatopabham) is probably sabbato + apaham (or apabham) from apahoti, a + pahoti (or apabhavati [apabhoti]). (Note that in the Majjhima passage preceding this line there is a Burmese v.l., nāpahosi for nāhosi.) [Back to text]
[k] Cf. Avijjā kho bhikkhu eko dhammo yassa pahānā bhikkhuno avijjā pahīyati vijjā uppajjatī ti. ('Nescience, monk, is the one thing with a monk's elimination of which nescience is eliminated and science arises') Salāyatana Samy. viii,7 <S.iv,50> [Back to text]
[l] On the charge of 'circularity' that common sense may like to bring here, see Heidegger, op. cit., pp. 314-6. [Back to text]
[m] The Anguttara Sutta (X,vii,1) referred to in §24 begins thus: Purimā bhikkhave koti na paññāyati avijjāya, Ito pubbe avijjā nāhosi, atha pacchā sambhavī ti. Evañ ce tam bhikkhave vuccati, atha ca pana paññāyati, Idapaccayā avijjā ti. Avijjam p'aham bhikkhave sāhāram vadāmi, no anāhāram. ('An earliest point of nescience, monks, is not manifest: 'Before this, nescience was not; then afterwards it came into being'. Even if that is said thus, monks, nevertheless it is manifest: 'With this as condition, nescience'. I say, monks, that nescience, too, is with sustenance, not without sustenance.') (In the P.T.S. edition, for c'etam read ce tam and adjust punctuation.) [Back to text]
[n] Compare also the following: Rūpā [Saddā ... Dhammā] loke piyarūpam sātarūpam, etth'esā tanhā uppajjamānā uppajjati ettha nivisamānā nivisati ... Rūpatanhā [Saddatanhā ... Dhammatanhā] loke piyarūpam sātarūpam, etth'esā tanhā uppajjamānā uppajjati ettha nivisamānā nivisati. ('Visible forms [Sounds ... Images (Ideas)] are dear and agreeable in the world; herein this craving arises, herein it adheres ... Craving-for-visible-forms [Craving-for-sounds ... Craving-for-images (-ideas)] is dear and agreeable in the world; herein this craving arises, herein it adheres.')
And the converse:
...etth'esā tanhā pahīyamānā pahīyati ettha nirujjhamānā nirujjhati. ('...herein this craving is eliminated, herein it ceases.') Dīgha ii,9 <D.ii,308-11>
Not only is there craving, but there is craving for craving as a condition for craving: indifference to craving destroys it. (Tanhā, be it noted, is not the coarse hankering after what we do not have [which is abhijjhā or covetousness], but the subtle craving for more of what we have. In particular, I am because I crave to be, and with cessation of craving-for-being [bhavatanhā, which is itself dependent on avijjā and, like it, without first beginning—Anguttara X,vii,2 <A.v,116>], 'I am' ceases. Bhavatanhā, in fact, is the craving for more craving on which craving depends.) [Back to text]