one of the most difficult terms in Buddhist metaphysics, in which the blending of the subjective-objective view of the world and of happening peculiar to the East, is so complete, that it is almost impossible for Occidental terminology to get at the root of its meaning in a translation. We can only convey an idea of its import by representing several sides of its application, without attempting to give a “word” as a def. translation
■ An exhaustive discussion of the term is given by Franke in his Dīgha translation (pp. 307 sq. esp. 311 sq.); see also the analysis in Cpd. 273–⁠276
■ Lit “preparation, get up”; applied: coefficient (of consciousness as well as of physical life, cp. viññāṇa), constituent constituent potentiality; (pl.) synergies, cause-combination, as in SN.iii.87; discussed, B. Psy., p. 50 sq. (cp. Dhs-a.156, where paraphrased in defn of sa-saṅkhāra with “ussāha, payoga, upāya, paccaya-gahaṇa”); composition aggregate.

  1. Aggregate of the conditions or essential properties for a given process or result-e.g. (i.) the sum of the conditions or properties making up or resulting in life or existence; the essentials or “element” of anything (-˚), e.g. āyusaṅkhāra, life-element DN.ii.106; SN.ii.266; Pv-a.210; bhavasankhāra, jīvitasaṅkhāra DN.ii.99, DN.ii.107. (ii.) Essential conditions, antecedents or synergy (co-ordinated activity), mental coefficients requisite for act, speech, thought: kāya˚, vacī˚ citta˚, or mano˚, described respectively as “respiration,” “attention and consideration,” “percepts and feelings,” “because these are (respectively) bound up with,” or “precede” those MN.i.301 (cp. 56); SN.iv.293 Kv.395 (cp. translation 227); Vism.530 sq.; Dhs-a.8; Vb-a.142 sq.
  2. One of the five khandhas, or constitutional elements of physical life (see khandha), comprising all the citta-sampayutta-cetasikā dhammā-i.e. the mental concomitants, or adjuncts which come, or tend to come, into consciousness at the uprising of a citta or unit of cognition Dhs.1 (cp. MN.iii.25). As thus classified, the saṅkhāra’s form the mental factor corresponding to the bodily aggregate or rūpakkhandha, and are in contrast to the three khandhas which represent a single mental function only. But just as kāya stands for both body and action, so do the concrete mental syntheses called saṅkhārā tend to take on the implication of synergies, of purposive intellection, connoted by the term abhisaṅkhāra, q.v
    ■ e.g. MN.iii.99, where saṅkhārā are a purposive, aspiring state of mind to induce a specific rebirth; SN.ii.82, where puññaṃ opuññaṃ, āṇeñjaṃ s. abhisankharoti, is, in DN.iii.217 & Vb.135, catalogued as the three classes of abhisankhāra SN.ii.39, SN.ii.360; AN.ii.157, where s. is tantamount to sañcetanā; Mil.61, where s., as khandha, is replaced by cetanā (purposive conception). Thus, too, the ss. in the Paṭiccasamuppāda formula are considered as the aggregate of mental conditions which, under the law of kamma, bring about the inception of the paṭisandhiviññāṇa, or first stirring of mental life in a newly begun individual. Lists of the psychologically, or logically distinguishable factors making up the composite saṅkhārakkhandha, with constants and variants, are given for each class of citta in Dhs.62, etc. (N.B
    ■ Read cetanā for vedanā, § 338. Phassa and cetanā are the two constant factors in the s-kkhandha. These lists may be compared with the later elaboration of the saṅkhāra-elements given at Vism.462 sq.
  3. saṅkhārā (pl.) in popular meaning In the famous formula (and in many other connections as e.g. sabbe saṅkhārā) “aniccā vata sankhārā uppādavaya-dhammino” (DN.ii.157; SN.i.6, SN.i.158, SN.i.200; SN.ii.193 Thag.1159; Ja.i.392, cp. Vism.527), which is rendered by Mrs. Rh. D. (Brethren, p 385 e.g.) as “O, transient are our life’s experiences! Their nature ’tis to rise and pass away,” we have the use of s. in quite a general popular sense of “life, physical or material life”; and sabbe saṅkhārā means “everything, all physical and visible life, all creation.” Taken with caution the term “creation” may be applied as t.t. in the Paṭiccasamuppāda, when we regard avijjā as creating, i.e. producing by spontaneous causality the saṅkhāras, and saṅkhārā as “natura genita atque genitura” (the latter with ref. to the foll. viññāṇa). If we render it by “formations” (cp. Oldenberg’s “Gestaltungen,” Buddha 71920, p. 254), we imply the mental “constitutional element as well as the physical, although the latter in customary materialistic popular philosophy is the predominant factor (cp. the discrepancies of “life eternal and “life is extinct” in one & the same European term) None of the “links” in the Paṭicca-samuppāda meant to the people that which it meant or was supposed to mean in the subtle and schematic philosophy (dhammā duddasā nipuṇā!) of the dogmatists
    ■ Thus saṅkhārā are in the widest sense the “world of phenomena” (cp below ˚loka), all things which have been made up by pre-existing causes
    ■ At Pv-a.71 we find saṅkhārā in lit. meaning as “things” (preparations) in defn of ye keci (bhogā) “whatever.” The sabbe s. at SN.ii.178 (translation “all the things of this world”) denote all 5 aggregates exhausting all conditioned things; cp. Kv.226 (translation “things”); Mhvs.iv.66 (: the material and transitory world); Dhp.154 (vi-sankhāragataṃ cittaṃ = mind divested of all material things); Dhs-a.304 (translation “kamma activities,” in connection avijjā-paccaya-s˚); Cpd. 211 n. 3
    ■ The defn of saṅkhārā at Vism.526 (as result of avijjā & cause of viññāṇa in the P.S.) is: sankhataṃ abhisankharontī ti sankhārā. Api ca: avijjā-paccayā sankhārā sankhāra-saddena āgata-sankhārā ti duvidhā sankhārā; etc. with further def. of the 4 sankhāras.
  4. Var. passages for sankhāra in general: DN.ii.213 DN.iii.221 sq., MN.ii.223 (imassa dukkha-nidānassa sankhāraṃ padahato sankhāra-ppadhānā virāgo hoti); SN.iii.69 (ekanta-dukkhā sankhārā); SN.iv.216 sq. (sankhārāṇaṃ khaya-dhammatā; id. with vaya˚, virāga˚, nirodha etc.); Snp.731 (yaṃ kiñci dukkhaṃ sambhoti sabbaṃ sankhāra-paccayā; sankhārānaṃ nirodhena n’atthi dukkhassa sambhavo); Vism.453, Vism.462 sq. (the 51), Vism.529 sq.; Dhp-a.iii.264, Dhp-a.iii.379; Vb-a.134 (4 fold), Vb-a.149 (3 fold), Vb-a.192 (āyūhanā); Pv-a.41 (bhijjana-dhammā). Of passages dealing with the sankhāras as aniccā vayadhammā, anattā, dukkhā etc. the foll. may be mentioned: Vin.i.13; SN.i.200; SN.iii.24; SN.iv.216, SN.iv.259 SN.v.56, SN.v.345; MN.iii.64, MN.iii.108; AN.i.286; AN.ii.150 sq.; AN.iii.83 AN.iii.143; AN.iv.13, AN.iv.100; Iti.38; Dhp.277, Dhp.383; Pts.i.37, Pts.i.132 Pts.ii.48; Pts.ii.109 sq.; Cnd.444, Cnd.450; also Cnd.p.259 (s. v saṅkhārā).
  • -upekkhā equanimity among “things” Vism.161 Vism.162.
  • -ūpasama allayment of the constituents of life Dhp.368, Dhp.381; cp. Dhp-a.iv.108.
  • -khandha the aggregate of (mental) coefficients DN.iii.233; Kv.578; Tikp.61; Dhs-a.345; Vb-a.20, Vb-a.42.
  • -dukkha the evil of material life, constitutional or inherent ill Vb-a.93 (in the classification of the sevenfold sukkha).
  • -paccayā (viññāṇaṃ conditioned by the synergies (is vital consciousness), the second linkage in the Paṭicca-samuppāda (q.v.) Vism.577; Vb-a.152 sq.
  • -padhāna concentration on the sankhāras MN.ii.223.
  • -majjhattatā = ˚upekkhā Vb-a.283.
  • -loka the material world, the world of formation (or phenomena), creation, loka “per se,” as contrasted to satta-loka, the world of (morally responsible beings, loka “per hominem” Vism.205; Vb-a.456; Snp-a.442.

fr. saṃ + kṛ; not Vedic, but as saṃskāra Epic & Class. Sk. meaning “preparation” and “sacrament, also in philosophical literature “former impression, disposition” cp. vāsanā