Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 3.3.1
What is sammāsaṅkappo (right thought)?

Although sammāsaṅkappo here is translated in its traditional rendering of right thought it has to be understood as mental activity, the intention or the drive, the base for a succeeding action, whether verbal or physical which is paving the avenue one intends to walk. Whatever the quality of mental activity, the intention and the objective of thoughts created – they precede and terminate in the result of physical and verbal activity by generating wholesome or unwholesome effects of matching and corresponding quality. Even more, those attached to wrong thoughts will perceive the objective world through the eyes of their intention and never realize a higher perspective of their lives: -‘Te sāraṃ nādhigacchanti, micchāsaṅkappagocarā’ (“Thus attached to the wrong kind of thoughts they will never realize the essence.’) - while those who foster right thoughts will thus develop a base for wholesome, healthy livelihood and the realization of truth: - ‘Te sāraṃ adhigacchanti, sammāsaṅkappagocarā’ – ‘Thus attached to the right kind of thoughts they will realize the essence.’ (see lesson 3.2.1) 1

This present short exposition of sammāsaṅkappo from Vibhaṅgasuttaṃ, the sutta that elucidates the Noble Eightfold Path and is split into parts describing the respective links here (see lessons 3.1.4; 3.2.2; etc.), presents the three characteristics that oppose and correct their respective three opposites of micchāsaṅkappo: kāmasaṅkappo, byāpādasaṅkappo, vihiṃsāsaṅkappo - thoughts filled with desire, with ill will and cruelty. Thus driven by these thoughts and intentions without giving consideration to moral behaviour and the potential harmful results that might derive from actions based on these thoughts one may find it easy to legitimate even the most harming outcome. It is sammāsaṅkappo, if based on sammādiṭṭhi, which opposes, invalidates and reverses these unwholesome attitudes by slowly turning them into wholesome qualities. It needs sammāvāyāmo to put into effect the zeal to leave behind and abandon wrong, unwholesome thoughts however difficult it may appear and how much attached to them one may find oneself and to replace them with wholesome, beneficial thoughts and intentions: ‘So micchāsaṅkappassa pahānāya vāyamati, sammāsaṅkappassa upasampadāya, svāssa hoti sammāvāyāmo.’ - In this way he strives hard to avoid wrong thought, to get established in right thought, in this way he is one with right thought. (see lesson 3.3.5)

Sammāsaṅkappo thus builds the bridge from the first link of the Noble Path, sammādiṭṭhi, on which it is based and opens up the avenue to the three links of moral helpful and supportive behavior and connects to wholesome conduct well established in perfect sīla of sammāvācā (see chapter 3.4) sammākammanto (see chapter 3.5) and sammā-ājīvo (see chapter 3.6)


1 —Te sāranti te pana taṃ micchādiṭṭhiggahaṇaṃ gahetvā ṭhitā kāmavitakkādīnaṃ vasena micchāsaṅkappagocarā hutvā sīlasāraṃ, samādhisāraṃ, paññāsāraṃ, vimuttisāraṃ, vimuttiñāṇadassanasāraṃ, paramatthasāraṃ, nibbānañca nādhigaccha’’ti — Those who thus having taken up wrong views and maintain wrong thoughts by upholding thoughts of sense desires and so on will not realize the essence of sīla, nor the essences of samādhi and paññā, nor of liberation nor the essence of the understanding of annihilation and will not come into the possession of the essence of the highest goal, which is Nibbāna


Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.3.1

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Last modified: Monday, 4 March 2019, 12:37 PM