What are Sankhara Mind Formations and Conditions?

  • 12 October 2020 – Deep Dig

“What are Sankhara Mind Formations and Conditions?” by Steve Linder

  • Introduction
    • Today begins a very deep and important series about The Buddha’s teachings on Sankhara mind formations and conditions.
    • In this series, we will be looking closely at the pali word meaning of Sankhara and it’s use by The Buddha throughout many suttas in the Pali Canon.
    • In “The Daily Cushion” teachings, teachers will be integrating meditation teachings with the suttas about sankhara.
    • We will also add occasional Dhamma in Action scenarios about practical life situations related to these sankhara thought conditions.
  • Key Sutta
    • “And what, bhikkhus, is dependent origination? With ignorance as condition, volitional formations (SANKHARA) come to be; with volitional formations as condition, consciousness; with consciousness as condition, name-and-form; with name-and-form as condition, the six sense bases; with the six sense bases as condition, contact; with contact as condition, feeling; with feeling as condition, craving; with craving as condition, clinging; with clinging as condition, existence; with existence as condition, birth; with birth as condition, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair come to be. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. This, bhikkhus, is called dependent origination. (Bhikkhu Bodhi, translation)
  • Lesson One: Sankhara is Influence BY Ignorance from Past Existence  
    • The Buddha lists sankhara (mind conditions or volitional formations) as the second factor in the twelve links of Dependent Origination.
    • Sankhara mind conditions, choices, and formations are from past kamma, experiences and views.
    • These past views and kamma are primarily based upon ignorance (avijja).
    • You are alive today because of samasara rebirth, the result of past ignorance.
    • Igornance, kamma choices, and kamma thoughts determine these sankhara mind conditions.
  • Lesson Two: Sankhara Mind Formations are a Significant Cause and Influence on All Current and Future Existence 
    • The Buddha taught that Sankhara is the cause or conditions for consciousness or awareness, mind awareness of body, awareness of the six senses, and so forth.
    • Each time that the six senses are in contact with an object, the sankhara mind conditions influence the awareness or consciousness of that contact.
    • Our past experiences influence whether the contact of an object is pleasant, unpleasant, or neither pleasant nor unpleasant.
    • The sankhara mind conditions influences whether the arising experiences becomes something we crave or something we want to cling to.
    • For this reason, it is very important to understand how to train the mind and cultivate noble sankhara mind fabrications and choices. These thoughts influence our cravings and attachments.
    • Thoughts easily become fuel for craving and desires.
    • Even though sankhara are impermanent, they can have a huge impact on our lives, minds, and practice.
  • Personal Application
    • Do you ever feel like you are making decisions without much thought or mindfulness?
    • Have you made a decision that you later regretted? What were the results?
    • Do you have habits that seem impossible to break? Do you keep feeding the habits by your choices?
    • Have you ever contemplated on your mind conditions or thought formations to gain insights?

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