Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa


Introduction to 3.3.10
Lekhasuttaṃ
(Generating Saṅkhāra like Rock, Earth or Water)


The Lekhasuttaṃ, a sutta well known to meditators, describes the impact that the various saṅkhārā inflict on the mind. The importance of getting rid of their influential conditioning on the path towards liberation is well highlighted in the following famous first utterance of the Buddha: - Visaṅkhāragataṃ cittaṃ, taṇhānaṃ khayamajjhagā, - following directly his enlightenment:

Gahakāraka diṭṭhosi, puna gehaṃ na kāhasi;
Sabbā te phāsukā bhaggā, gahakūṭaṃ visaṅkhataṃ;
Visaṅkhāragataṃ cittaṃ, taṇhānaṃ khayamajjhagā1

O’ builder of the house! Now you are seen. You shall not build any house again for me.
All your beams are broken, the ridgepole shattered.
The mind has become freed from all conditioning; the end of craving has been reached.

The expression saṅkhārā2, one of the five parts of the upādānakkhandhā, here generally translated as mental conditioned reaction wherever connected with volitional, mental activity that gives rise to (kammic) results. Although the Lekhasuttaṃ here dwells on the input of obviously stronger influential thoughts based on negative expressions of anger, ill will and similar feelings –byāpādavitakka– (or even much stronger –vihiṃsāvitakka–) a meditator understands through thorough self-observation that on a more subtle level the same influence is enforced by thoughts based on – kāmavitakka. While the reactions that may fall under the first categories are perceivable more easily because whenever one encounters them they go along with easily visible and cognisable unpleasant reactions – nobody wants to roll in anger – the influence from those that can be substituted under the last category are more delicate to accept – everyone likes his wishes and desires!

The analogy depicted in this sutta compares the dominating influence, that may be based on past or present mental but also material conditioning with three kind of individuals:

- one whose anger is maintained for a long time - an individual (pāsāṇalekhūpamo puggalo) compared with a line drawn on rock;
- one whose anger is reconciled after some period – an individual (pathavilekhūpamo puggalo) compared with a line drawn on sand;
- and someone who even when addressed harshly, sharply, or rude gets easily reconciled and becomes agreeable and friendly quickly – this individual (udakalekhūpamo puggalo) is compared to a line drawn on water.

Whether these different lasting effects will have variable input of weak and subtle dominance, long or shorter lasting effect with deep and feeble impact can be realized and influenced by each and every one. A serious meditator should never allow any saṅkhārā to perpetuate their dominion but remain aloof by accepting and simply observing the various sensations that he experiences without reacting to them with like or dislike! Although there is no need nor any necessity to understand a possible relation with the saṅkhārā he will try to remain fully aware yet perfectly equanimous with the arising, manifestation, development, influence, disappearance and dissolution of his conditioned reactions manifesting themselves in vedanā based on the vast field of saṅkhārā till he can also exclaim:

Visaṅkhāragataṃ cittaṃ, taṇhānaṃ khayamajjhagā!


[1] Dhammapadapāḷi, Jarāvaggo

[2] See lesson 3.2.7 for detailed description

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Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.3.10

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Last modified: Tuesday, 21 February 2017, 7:19 PM