Difference Between Dhammā and Sankhāra

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    • #17009
      firewns
      Participant

      Sabbe sankhara anicca
      Sabbe sankhara dukkha
      Sabbe dhamma anatta

      In the post on Difference Between Dhammā and Sankhāra, Lal said: 2. Sankhāra are our intentions, hopes, and dreams, followed by our speech and actions to fulfill them… 3. If those sankhāra (or abhisankhāra) that we generate lead to the arising of an inert object or a living form, it is said to lead to the arising of a sankata… Basically, anything that belongs to this world (including Buddha Dhamma) is called dhammā.

      Are there any dhammas that are not sankata? Or can we say that all dhammas are sankata?

      For example, can we say that kamma beeja are sankata too, since they arise due to abhisankhara, and their kammic energy will fade after 91 aeons?

      Why didn’t The Buddha say Sabbe sankata anicca or Sabbe dhamma anicca?

      Can we say that kamma beeja (which is a dhamma) is dukkha? This is because under the right conditions, they can give rise to rebirths among the 31 realms, which are filled with dukkha. This is a bit strange for me, as the Buddha did not say Sabbe dhamma dukkha.

      Thank you very much in advance for your answers to my questions. Do pardon me if I have worded my questions in a confusing manner to you.

    • #17010
      y not
      Participant

      firewns,

      greetings

      In the post you refer to, it is also stated :

      .. ’14. When we do abhisankhāra (strong types of sankhāra), that lead to the formation of good or bad kamma beeja, or dhammā. Those strong kamma beeja can lead to the arising of sankata (LIVING BEINGS and even inert things)., Capitals mine.

      Is it not that living beings have ‘no discernible beginning’? … that is,that there was never a time when they were not? How is it that here it is said that they ‘come to be’, they being sankata arising from strong kamma beeja, these in turn having arisen from abhisankhara?

      As to your question/s, what I see is that since everything arises from Abhisankhara (emphasize ARISES), that is has a beginning, all that results therefrom will ultimately prove to be unsatisfactory and cease to be. Hence my query as far as beings are concerned.

      I hope I have been clear.

      y not

    • #17014
      Lal
      Keymaster

      firewrns questions:
      “For example, can we say that kamma beeja are sankata too, since they arise due to abhisankhara, and their kammic energy will fade after 91 aeons?”

      • Yes.

      “Why didn’t The Buddha say Sabbe sankata anicca or Sabbe dhamma anicca?”

      • Anicca is a perception, a state of mind. Based on the wrong state of mind of “nicca” (the opposite of anicca), we do abhisankhara (think, speak, and act or do mano, vaci, and kaya sankhara) to perpetuate this suffering-filled existence. But all those sankhara can NEVER lead to happiness in the long run. That is why it is said that “sabbe sankhara anicca“.
      • A tree or a house (sankata) is not sankhara and do not lead to suffering. Also, Buddha Dhamma is not a sankhara, and does not lead to suffering.
      • So, I hope the distinction is clear, as to why it is not said that sabbe sankata anicca or sabbe dhamma anicca.

      “Can we say that kamma beeja (which is a dhamma) is dukkha?”

      Kamma beeja itself is not dukkha. But dukkha can arise due to a kamma beeja.

      It is essential to understand key concepts/terms like sankhara:
      Mental Aggregates“.

    • #17015
      firewns
      Participant

      y not,

      greetings to you too.

      you said: Is it not that living beings have ‘no discernible beginning’? … that is,that there was never a time when they were not? How is it that here it is said that they ‘come to be’, they being sankata arising from strong kamma beeja, these in turn having arisen from abhisankhara?

      This is how I understand it: Living beings come to be due to the arising of the five skhandhas in a new bhava. These five skhandhas in a new bhava are merely the infinite different manifestations or existences of individual streams of kammic energy. These kammic streams of energy have no discernible beginnings. However each of these various existences linked to an individual kammic stream of energy has a beginning and an end, which depends on the strength of the kamma beeja that gave rise to it.

      Hope I have not confused you even more with my explanation.

    • #17047
      Akvan
      Participant

      Hi firewns,

      You said: Living beings come to be due to the arising of the five skhandhas in a new bhava.

      Though you say that living beings arise due to five skandha, we can go back further to find the actual root cause of this through paticca samuppada. According to PS the root cause is avijja (ignorance) and this in turn leads to bava and jati.

      The way I look at it, the beginning is avijja. The beginning referred to here is based on sequences rather than a time scale.

      This also leads us to how we can get out of this cycle and that is through eradicating avijja completely and without a trace.

    • #17061
      firewns
      Participant

      Hi Akvan,

      Thanks for your explanation! You are able to explain things clearly in a simple manner, like how you explained about why a Buddha does not attain any stages of magga phala way earlier before Enlightenment to y not in another post.

      This is what I think: I agree with you that to get out of this cycle, we have to eradicate avijja completely and without a trace. In order to do so, we cannot just focus on avijja, even though it is the formal starting point in paticca samuppada. PS is actually a cycle with no strict beginning or ending point, where each link is strengthened by other multiple links in forward or reverse order.

      We must also focus on reducing tanha (which is related to asavas and anusayas) as well. In order to weaken one of the pair (avijja and tanha) significantly, we need to focus on weakening both simultaneously.

      This is where the Noble Eightfold Path and Mundane Eightfold Path come in. Right action, right speech, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration, right view, right thought and right mindfulness on the Mundane Path help us to control our asavas and anusayas to an extent, preventing or at least reducing their further strengthening, and to a much lesser extent weakening them. It is only on the Noble Eightfold Path, however, that they start to weaken significantly. Anapana sati and sathipatthana are also vitally important in subduing anusayas and asavas.

      I think Lal has said that both avijja and tanha are needed to create suddhastaska. Hence the pair of avijja and tanha are deeply intertwined and (almost) inseparable. Looking at patticca samuppada, with the other links of sankhara,etc., I think both avijja and tanha also create or give rise to rupa below the suddhastaska level, i.e. sankhara, vinnana, vedana, etc.

      In patticca samuppada, avijja paccaya tanha through the intervening sankhara, vinnana, namarupa, salayatana, phassa, and vedana. Yet tanha can also paccaya avijja in the reverse order, I think.

      Of the two, a much more significant breakthrough would occur when avijja is dispelled, rather than trying to control tanha directly. However tanha must also be controlled to a certain degree via sila, or the mind would be agitated and would not be able to cultivate panna to dispel avijja.

    • #17063
      Lal
      Keymaster

      Akvan, firewrns:

      There are many suttas in the “Anamatagga Saṃyutta” that has the following verse describing the fact that there is no “discernible beginning”:
      Anamataggoyaṃ, bhikkhave, saṃsāro. Pubbā koṭi na paññāyati“.

      Translated: “There is no end to samsara (unless one attains Nibbana). I do not see a discernible beginning either“.

      “Discernible beginning” means a Buddha can go back and look at past lives at a very high rate, but cannot see a “beginning”.

      In a hetu-phala (cause and effect) process, logically there cannot be a “beginning”. Whatever the “beginning” status, it must have arisen due to a cause.

      We can look at it this way too: avijja and tanha cannot arise in a vacuum. They are in the mind of a living being. The mind of a living being (i.e., thoughts or citta) arise in the hadaya vatthu.
      – A hadaya vatthu itself cannot arise unless that living being had done kamma (abhisankhara) because of avijja and tanha.
      – This is why there is no “beginning”.

      When one attains Nibbana, both avijja and tanha are removed from the mind. Then, at Parinibbana (death of the physical body), no new bhava can be grasped.
      – That is the ONLY WAY to stop samsaric suffering.

    • #17261
      firewns
      Participant

      Thanks Lal for your explanation.

      In an earlier post, I wrote: I think both avijja and tanha also create or give rise to rupa below the suddhastaska level, i.e. sankhara, vinnana, vedana, etc.

      I now think this is a mistake. Vinnana, vedana and sanna are not rupa. Vedana, phassa and sanna are cetasika, while vinnana is the overall experience of the cittas and cetasikas we experience in any given moment. See ‘Vinnana, Thoughts, and the Subconscious’

      I apologize for any confusion arising from this mistake.

    • #17262
      Lal
      Keymaster

      I am glad to hear that firwrns has understood the basic concept of vinnnana: “I now think this is a mistake. Vinnana, vedana and sanna are not rupa. Vedana, phassa and sanna are cetasika, while vinnana is the overall experience of the cittas and cetasikas we experience in any given moment.”

      This is a critical understanding that lead to the knowledge of the “namarupa paricceda nana”, i.e, how vinnana give rise to rupa formation starting with just nama (citta,cetasika). Very few people understand this key idea.

      Vinnana is the mindset (hopes/desires) that arises via in the “sankhara paccaya vinnana” step in paticca samuppada (PS). Here it is the javana power in (abhi)sankhara that creates kammic energy (kamma beeja) that gives rise to future rupa (namarupa) formation.
      – That is the “vinnana paccaya namarupa” step in PS.

      Also see, “Kamma Viññāna – Link Between Mind and Matter” and the post referred to at the end of that post.

      It takes an effort to understand such key ideas. But the result is fully worth the effort. As the Buddha explained (as quoted in the above post), vinnana does not belong truly in the nama or rupa categories. It is the “link between the two and is in the middle”.

    • #17336
      firewns
      Participant

      Thank you Lal for your further explanation.

      Lal:

      I would like to respectfully point out a possible inconsistency.

      In What are rūpa? – Dhammā are rūpa too!, you wrote under #18: Any rūpa (including those kamma beeja) that one makes for oneself, cannot be maintained to one’s satisfaction.
      Any type of rūpa with energy will eventually be destroyed or that energy will wear out. Furthermore, they can and will change unexpectedly while in existence too; that is the viparināma characteristic and is a root cause of suffering.

      And in Bhūta and Yathābhūta – What Do They Really Mean, you wrote under #19: Any rūpa that has existed or in existence now, has the “ghost-like transient nature”. That is the reason why they change unexpectedly (viparinama) and have the anicca nature.

      In an earlier reply to my question in this thread, you wrote: •A tree or a house (sankata) is not sankhara and do not lead to suffering.

      I understand it this way: Since a house is a rupa, it cannot be maintained to the owner’s satisfaction in the long run, and is of annica nature — but only when the owner thinks: This house is mine; I can derive much pleasure and comfort from it for as long as I want to. To those who are not owners of the house and do not desire it, it will not be of annica nature, since they have no desire to maintain it.

      Hence when it undergoes decay and goes into a state of disrepair and eventual destruction, it brings despair and suffering to its owner who mistakenly thinks the house is of nicca nature (i.e. can be maintained to the owner’s satisfaction indefinitely), thus it also has dukkha nature embedded in it — only when the owner has a craving for it. To the others, the house will not bring them any dukkha.

      The Buddha said: sabbe sankhara annica, sabbe sankhara dukkha, and not sabbe dhamma annica, sabbe dhamma dukkha. I think dhamma do not inherently have annica or dukkha nature, although they have anatta nature. The very act of coveting or desiring dhamma and rupa such as a house causes corresponding defiled mano sankhara, vaci sankhara and possibly kaya sankhara to arise, and it is these defiled sankhara that have the annica, dukkha and anatta nature.

      Would this understanding be correct? Thank you very much in advance for your explanations.

    • #17341
      firewns
      Participant

      One more thing that I do not understand is that the bodies of Buddhas and Arahants are rupa too, and can impart suffering in the form of aches and pains. Surely they are then of dukkha nature too?

    • #17399
      Lal
      Keymaster

      firewrns said: “One more thing that I do not understand is that the bodies of Buddhas and Arahants are rupa too, and can impart suffering in the form of aches and pains. Surely they are then of dukkha nature too?”

      Of course. Suffering for an Arahant completely ends only at the death of the physical body, i.e., Parinibbana. An Arahant is free only of sankhara dukkha until death.

      You said in the earlier post: “I would like to respectfully point out a possible inconsistency.”
      – What is the inconsistency?

      Yes. I did say, “A tree or a house (sankata) is not sankhara and do not lead to suffering.” Any sankata leads to suffering only when someone gets attached to it.

      Sankhara are basically thoughts. Sankata are rupa. There is a huge difference between them. “sabbe sankhara anicca” basically means our hopes and dreams about future are in vain in the long run.

    • #17404
      firewns
      Participant

      Lal:

      Thank you once again for clarifying some of my doubts.

      I think I finally understand why the Buddha said: Sabbe sankhara annica, Sabbe sankhara dukkha, Sabbe dhamma anatta, and not Sabbe dhamma annica, Sabbe dhamma dukkha, Sabbe dhamma anatta.

      Sabbe/Sabba as I understand it is the Pali word for all (without exception). All sankhara (even those initiated just to maintain life or to compassionately help others) have annica, dukkha (especially sankhara dukkha) and anatta nature. All dhamma have anatta nature. I think some dhamma (but not all) have annica and dukka nature. Therefore the Buddha did not teach Sabbe dhamma annica, Sabbe dhamma dukkha.

      What are those dhamma that have annica and dukkha nature?

      (Here can I use dhamma to refer interchangeably to rupa above the suddhastaka level as well?) Those dhamma that have dukkha nature are our bodies. Even Buddhas and Arahants have bodies subject to dukkha. Dhamma that impinge on our mano indriya to impart dukha vedana (as a result of previous immoral actions) are also of dukkha nature.

      Yet some dhamma that impinge on our mano indriya which happens when some stray thoughts come to our mind impart upekkha vedana. These dhamma do not have dukkha nature, I think.

      Those dhamma that have annica nature are those that we react with clinging and longing to, I think. These same dhamma will inevitably have dukkha nature as well, when they fail to satisfy us. For example, we may recollect a satisfying meal we had for lunch, and immediately savour that moment in our memories for quite some time, only to be jolted from our reverie by pressing daily issues that demand our attention. Thus our disappointment at being interrupted may linger for a while, and we may brush it off as a normal state of affairs, failing to recognise its dukkha and annica nature.

      Yet for other dhamma that impinge on our mano indriya, for example the sight of a familiar name triggering a memory of a distant relative one has neutral feelings for, one will not cling to the memory and it does not have annica nature for us.

      By the way, you have mentioned that everything falls under four categories: 1) citta; 2) cetasika; 3) rupa (which includes dhamma which are basically just rupa below the suddhastaka stage); 4) Nibbana. Which of the four categories does sankhara belong to? Are they cetasikas?

      Thank you very much in advance for your answers to my questions. I hope that I have not been rambling or bringing up old material repeatedly, and caused annoyance to anyone in the process. Please do tolerate this if it happens unintentionally.

    • #17405
      firewns
      Participant

      Please do correct me if I have provided any mistaken assumptions.

    • #17406
      Lal
      Keymaster

      firewrns:
      “What are those dhamma that have annica and dukkha nature?”

      None other than sankhara. Only sankhara have the anicca and dukkha nature. All sankhara eventually lead to dukkha and thus have the anatta nature too in the sense of becoming helpless. If you think there are, you can list them and we can discuss. Remember that anicca is a perception in the mind.

      Everything else is dhamma and anatta in the sense they are also not fruitful in the end. But of course, we do need Buddha Dhamma to attain Nibbana. Once the Arahanthood is attained, there is no need of that either, and that also needs to be abandoned. This is why the Buddha said just like a raft enables one to cross a river, but no point in carrying it once the river is crossed. Some who get to the Anagami stage have a hard time attaining Arahanthood, because of their attachment to Buddha Dhamma.

      Of course, there many other things that are included in “sabbe dhamma” category, including nama gotta (records of all sankhara that have come and gone to the past).

      The key is that sankhara are CURRENT thoughts. As soon as those thoughts expire, they become nama gotta. This is something that most people do not understand. This needs some contemplation. But you are on the right track. I have explained this in detail in the post, “Pancakkhandha or Five Aggregates – A Misinterpreted Concept” and “Pancupādānakkhandha – It is All Mental“. I don’t think that many people have read those posts. They are not an easy read, but necessary to understand things better.

      You may want to take a break for a couple of days and then go over things again. You may be putting too much effort into this in a short time.

    • #17676
      Lal
      Keymaster

      Firewns: I just published a post: “Dhamma, Sankhara, Sankata, Rupa, Vinnana, Gati, Asava, Anusaya“.

      Hopefully, this will answer some of the questions you may still have. Please don’t hesitate to ask further questions. It is important to get these fundamental, but complex, terms clarified. Many people do not really understand these terms, because these words have been badly translated to English.

      I have also revised the post: “Difference Between Dhammā and Sankhāra“.

    • #17685
      firewns
      Participant

      Thank you so much, Lal, for all your advice, help and answers. I really appreciate it! I will be sure to study those posts.

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