Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 3.2.7 

Bījavaggo - Neem and Sugarcane

The preceding paragraphs of this sutta, also known as Dutivaggo, from Aṅguttaranikāyo, Ekakanipātapāḷi, specify how wrong and right view are the respective one and only thing—Nāhaṃ, bhikkhave, aññaṃ ekadhammampi samanupassāmi—that support, multiply and increase the growth or dwindling of corresponding unwholesome or wholesome states. Different paragraphs refer to micchādiṭṭhi and sammādiṭṭhi and explain their respective results in unwholesome or wholesome states as well as detail how distracted attention—ayonisomanasikāro—or thoroughly fixed and well applied attention—yonisomanasikāro—help to increase or reduce wrong or right view and how ours views (diṭṭhi) and attention (manasikāra) foreshadow after the breakage of the body either a painful birth and life in the lower fields or of a bright future thereafter.

The selected passage shows with the famous simile of bitter and sweet seeds as to how and why the respective negative or positive effects will be expected, as they result in different conditionings—saṅkhārā. The expression saṅkhārā, that is used here, describes one of the five parts of the physical-mental phenomena, the groups that constitute the upholding of existence, attachment or clinging1 and is here translated as: mental conditioned reaction, wherever it is related to a volitional, mental activity that gives rise to (kammic) results. It is an expression that is described by PTS as: … “a term in which the blending of the objective-subjective view of the world and of happening, peculiar to the East, is so complete, that it is almost impossible for Occidental terminology to get at the root of its meaning in translation”.

The noun is derived from the combination of the prefix: saṃ—together and the universal verb: karoti—to do, make; and thus expresses manifold possible creations, formations, relations, the sum of conditions or properties making up or resulting in life or existence: “… thus saṅkhārās are both things which put together, construct and compound other things, and the things that are put together, constructed and compounded.” (Bhikkhu Bodhi) 

Saṅkhārās can only be grasped and properly understood in the Pāli-context: Therefore different approaches in translation will be needed to fit according for its Pāli-usage, for example when it appears as all conditioned things: Aniccā vata saṅkhārā uppādavaya-dhammino or as link in the dependend origination in the Paṭicca Samuppāda: Avijjā-paccayā saṅkhārā; saṅkhāra-paccayā viññāṇaṃ…… or as the pañca upādānakkhandha: iti rūpaṃ, iti vedanā, iti saññā, iti saṅkhārā, iti viññāṇaṃ ……(For more detail see PTS dictionary p. 664 and also Bhikkhu Bodhi in the introduction to his translation of the Saṃyuttanikāyo). 

Of course the best way to realize how saṅkhārās arise, develop, maintain themselves, spread, influence, disappear or get dissolved is through self-observation in meditation. A meditator will notice that they are wholesome or unwholesome and generate a certain volition that again manifests itself in mental, verbal or physical conditioned thoughts, words or actions. Saṅkhārās are described as maintaining different lasting effects with threefold input of week and subtle character, of lasting substance or of deep and thorough influence. (see lesson 3.3.8)

1 These five aggregates of attachment and clinging are the material aggregate of body and the mental aggregates of feeling sensation, of perception, of conditioned mental reaction and consciousness:—Pañcime, bhikkhave, upādānakkhandhā. Katame pañca? seyyathidaṃ– rūpupādānakkhandho, vedanupādānakkhandho, saññupādānakkhandho, saṅkhārupādānakkhandho, viññāṇupādānakkhandho (see lesson 5.9)

Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.2.7

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Last modified: Tuesday, 21 February 2017, 6:59 PM