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When it is said in dependent origination that "sankhara conditions consciousness", in what way and how does sankhara condition consciousness?

And also, how is consciousness conditioning nama rupa? And then nama rupa conditions salayatana again how?

Also, nama rupa -- I have heard many different descriptions of what it is, so i would be happy if someone could give the right meaning of nama rupa.

Going back to "sankhara conditions consciousness", what consciousness are they refering to -- is it the pure consciousness or limited consciousness?

And how can avidja or ignorance and sankhara come before consciousness in dependent origination (because i must first be conscious before i can have ignorance and do sankharas!)?

  • This question was asked very well, which made it very easy to answer. – Dhammadhatu Aug 15 at 1:12
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When it is said in dependent origination sankhara conditions conciousness in what way and how does sankhara condition consciousness

If you use hair shampoo & hair conditioner, this conditions your hair so your hair becomes soft & shiny. It does not create your hair. It only conditions it.

enter image description here

In the same way, sankhara conditions consciousness so to make consciousness: (i) pre-occupied with & (ii) polluted/tainted/dirtied by; those ignorance sankharas.

For example, the Pali suttas refer to consciousness 'landing' on & getting 'involved with' objects, as follows:

As long as consciousness remains, it would remain involved with form (feeling, perception, sankhara, consciousness), supported by form, founded on form. And with a sprinkle of relishing, it would grow, increase, and mature.

SN 22.53

Also, imagine consciousness is like a clear window and sankharas are like dust & dirt on the window.

For example, you try to meditate and watch your breathing but you cannot because distracting thoughts keep arising and all your mind is conscious of is those distracting thoughts.

Those distracting thoughts are 'sankhara' and they condition consciousness by causing consciousness to become pre-occupied or involved with those sankharas; as well as tainted/soiled by those sankharas.

and also how is conciousness conditioning nama rupa (also nama rupa I have heard many different descriptions of what it is so i would be happy if someone could give the right meaning of nama rupa)

The Buddhist (redefined) meaning of nama-rupa is mentality-materiality or mind-body. It is not 'name-form' (which is Brahminism). Consciousness conditions nama-rupa when consciousness remains pre-occupied with ignorant sankharas therefore the nama-rupa also becomes affected by those ignorant sankharas and gives inappropriate attention to those sankharas and forms intentions that incline with the power/direction of those sankharas.

The Pali suttas (MN 9; SN 12.2, etc) define nama-rupa as feeling, perception, intention, contact, attention and the physical form composed of the four elements of earth, wind, fire & water.

Therefore, when consciousness is conscious of a sankhara; what happens is nama then feels, perceives, has contact with and makes intentions towards and gives attention inappropriately to those sankhras.

Also, the body (rupa) is affected by those sankharas. The body becomes agitated and moved by those sankharas; such as when a person cannot control their bodily movements when the urge of an addiction arises. In this picture, the lady is trying to control the inner urges controlling her nama-rupa; to give up the ignorant choice and make the wise choice; but the ignorant choice is tormenting her nama-rupa, inwardly:

enter image description here

Its not rocket science. Just look inside.

and then nama rupa conditons salayatana again how??

When nama-rupa inclines or is enslaved with the power/direction of those sankharas, then the salayata also incline and become activated by the power of those ignorant sankharas.

The picture below shows bulging eyes, which are salayata conditioned by ignorant sankharas. The nama-rupa (mind-body) of the men are also aroused by the ignorant sankharas.

enter image description here

For example, an ignorant sankhara may arise of wanting to eat chocolate. This causes the salayatana to become aroused to look for chocolate, such as to walk to the cupboard or fridge to look for, hold and eat chocolate.

Going back to sankhara conditions consciousness what conciousness are they refering to is it the pure conciousness or limited conciousness and how can avidja or ignorance and sankhara come before conciousness in dependent origination because i must first be concious before i can have ignorance and do sankharas??

Consciousness in Dependent Origination is defined as the six types of consciousness (MN 9; SN 12.2, etc). However, this is merely a general explanatory principle, because the Buddha is listing 12 conditions that may not arise in that exact order. However, what is certain is what I explained previously, above, namely, the whenever ignorant sankhara arises then mind-consciousness (mano-vinnana) will become pre-occupied with those ignorant mental sankharas.

Its only later, when eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, etc, may arise, because there must be an 'external' object for the arising of these consciousnesses.

But 'sankhara' in dependent origination as an 'internal' object therefore the arising of the internal (mind or body) consciousness will occur after the arising of the sankhara.


While more complicated, sankhara also includes the breathing, which is called 'kaya-sankhara'. When the mind has concentration, it can be aware of the breathing in meditation. Sometimes in concentrated meditation, an ignorant impulse can arise and be felt in the breathing. If this occurs, the consciousness knowing the breathing affected by an ignorant impulse is both body-consciousness (which knows the breathing) & mind-consciousness (which feels any mental quality of that impulse).



In conclusion, it is not rocket science, if you have a determined meditation effort to examine internally what the Buddha taught. But if you wish to learn something from a book, it will never be truly understood.

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Sankhara has the seed to attached a future experience. For this to happen you need consciousness. For consciousness to arise you need a being which is nama-rupa. A being automatically gets sense bases without one cannot experience.

This is like a painting canvas. Without the canvas, there cannot be painting in thin air. Likewise, consciousness cannot exist without nama-rupa. Nama-rupa always gives rise to sense bases. When there are sense bases there will always be contact.

Nama-rupa is mind and body of a being (Satta).

Sankara is created due to the need to experience, which intern gives rise to conciusness to experiance the external world though the faculties.

Having, ignorance is what relates conditioning or Sankhara. Without ignorance, one will not create Sankhara.

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