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Mind and Craving 57 13. Sankhara as Volition Not infrequently sankhara is used synonymously with other conative Pali terms. Thus in A.1.32 we read: Monks, in a man of wrong view (mieohad-itthikassa) all deeds of body done according to that view, all deeds of speech...of thought...of volition (oetana), aspiration (patthana), mental resolve (panidhi), and willing (sankhara); all such things contribute to the unpleasant , the distasteful, the repulsive, the unprofitable, in short, to painfulness . Here as elsewhere (S.3.60) the central notion of willing is identified with sankhara. In A.1.32 sankhara is used in the sense of effecting a course of action leading to "dark results" now and to rebirth at death, an import found in other passages as well, notably A.1.122 and M.I.389: And what, Punna, is the deed that is dark with dark results? Here, Punna, someone effects a harmful or malevolent (sabyabajJham) activity of the body (kayasankharam), of speech, of the mind. He, having effected an activity of the body that is harmful, arises in a world that is harmful. Elsewhere sankhara assumes the sense of making a calculated choice between courses of action, as in D.3.217 (three sankhara: those effecting meritorious, demeritorious and neutral actions—tayo sankhara: punnabhisankharo} apuunabhisankharo^ anenjabhisankharo) , M.I.391 and A.2.230: Monks, I have come to understand, realize, and know these four deeds. What four? There is the dark deed with a dark result, a bright (sukkam) deed with a bright result; a deed that is both dark and bright, with a dark and bright result; and the deed that is neither dark nor bright, with a result neither dark nor white, which being itself a deed contributes to the dissolution (samvattati) of deeds. And of what sort is the deed that is dark with a dark result? In this case ...a certain one effects willed bodily action (likewise action of thought 58 Craving and Salvation and speech) that is harmful (savyapajjham kayasankharam abhisankharoii). And what sort is the bright deed with the bright result? In this case, one effects willed bodily action that is not harmful.... And what sort is the deed that is both dark and bright, with a result that is both dark and bright? In this case, one effects willed bodily action that is joined with both harm and harmlessness. And of what sort is the deed that is neither dark nor bright, with a result that is similar, which, being itself a deed, contributes to the dissolution of deeds? In this case, monks, it is volition (cetana) that abandons this dark deed with the dark result... bright deed with the bright result, deeds both dark and bright. This passage points out how sankhara describes consciously performed acts initiated by the conative attitude of the individual. But the text is important also for a different yet crucial reason. As in M.I.391, sankhara is here used in conjunction with volition (cetana)—only with this distinction, that in these passages cetana is the volitional term used for that act of deliberation which does away with acts that are prone to rebirth. Does this mean that sankhara is limited only to gross and detrimental willing, whereas cetana refers to pure and refined willing? This sometimes seems to be the case, but it is not always so. For instance, as in S.3.60 above, in certain contexts sankhara and eetana are used synonymously. Even more telling is the relation which obtains between cetana and "dark" deeds (kammam kanham), for, as in A.3.415, cetana is equated with deeds that are often "dark," and cetana is not therefore always a pure kind of willing. As for sankhara there are circumstances when it is used affirmatively, as in M.I.297, where the compound abhisankhara is used to describe the preliminary act of volition needed to achieve certain stages of spiritual trance. The term sankhara is not always a pejorative one. Sankhara is not necessarily a disadvantageous conative force. Mind and Craving 59 The use of the compound abhisankhara just mentioned raised another important question. How does this term complement and further elucidate the conative role of sankhara? Itself a complicated term, abhisankhara is best looked at in the context of one or two critical passages, which will make its psychological function evident. 14. Abhisankhara and the case of A.1.111 Like sankhara the structural breakdown of abhisankhara does little to help delineate the...


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