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AN 4.233 sutta passage here in pali + english: https://notesonthedhamma.blogspot.com/2019/08/an-4233-what-exactly-is-relation.html

questions:

  1. what exactly are those 3 sankharas (bodily, voice, mind)? If they're the same ones from MN 44, it would be strange that in breath and out breath would cause karmic consequence, or if unvocalized thoughts (vitakka & vicara) cause the same karma as vaci-carena (vocal conduct).

  2. is citta sankhara the same as mano-sankhara?

  3. looking at bodhi's translation, what is actually being 'performed' (abhi-sankharoti)? Is the bodily-volitional-activity mean he just sets an intention to do a bodily action, such as hit someone. Or he actualizes the intention to hit someone, and actually hits someone? Now the fact that the sutta shows kamma being done, being reborn in hell, must mean it wasn't just a volition or intention to do harm, he actually did harm with the body. But the pali abhi-san-kharoti, and kaya-sankhara, it's hard to actually read and understand what is happening.

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'Abhisaṅkharoti' refers to 'generating', 'constructing' or 'concocting' using thought, as follows:

And why do you call them sankhara (mental formations)? Kiñca, bhikkhave, saṅkhāre vadetha?

Sankhara construct conditioned phenomena (sankhatam); that’s why they’re called ‘sankhara’. Saṅkhatamabhisaṅkharontīti kho, bhikkhave, tasmā ‘saṅkhārā’ti vuccati.

SN 22.79

In AN 4.233, the word 'sankhara' most likely refers to 'sankhara' as the mental formation of 'intention', as follows:

And what are choices? Katame ca, bhikkhave, saṅkhārā? There are these six classes of intention: Chayime, bhikkhave, cetanākāyā— intention regarding sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, and thoughts. rūpasañcetanā, saddasañcetanā, gandhasañcetanā, rasasañcetanā, phoṭṭhabbasañcetanā, dhammasañcetanā. These are called choices. Ime vuccanti, bhikkhave, saṅkhārā. SN 22.56

The above is supported by SN 12.25, which refers to "intention" ("cetana") together with the same genre of terminology, including 'manosankhara':

Ānanda, as long as there’s a body, the intention that gives rise to bodily action causes pleasure and pain to arise in oneself. Kāye vā hānanda, sati kāyasañcetanāhetu uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ. As long as there’s a voice, the intention that gives rise to verbal action causes pleasure and pain to arise in oneself. By oneself one instigates the choice that gives rise to bodily, verbal, and mental action, conditioned by which that pleasure and pain arise in oneself. Sāmaṃ vā taṃ, ānanda, kāyasaṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti, yaṃpaccayāssa taṃ uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ. SN 12.25

Therefore, AN 4.233 most likely refers to constructing (abhisaṅkharontī) intentions (saṅkhāraṃ) related to the body (kaya), speech (vaci) or thought (mano).

Also, AN 4.233 looks like 'puthujjana dharma'; not to be mixed up with Noble MN 44 Dhamma.

The word 'mano' is about 'thinking', as found in the term 'manokey mind'. Where as 'citta' refers to 'the heart', which is something directly felt & observed in Satipatthana; similar to how kaya-sankhara is an object of Satipatthana.

In the lofty Dependent Origination, the Buddha taught about 'citta sankhara' rather than 'mano sankhara'. The Noble Disciple takes an interest in 'citta sankhara' rather than grasps the banana of 'mano sankhara'.

In conclusion, kaya-vaci-citta sankhara are internal objects of deep Noble meditators. Where as kaya-vaci-mano sankhara are external kammic behaviours of puthujjana. AN 3.233 & MN 44 are as far apart as hell from heaven. MN 117 says:

And what is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions?.... There are fruits & results of good & bad actions (kamma).

And what is the right resolve that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The thinking, directed thinking, resolve, mental fixity, mental transfixion, focused awareness & verbal fabricators (vaci sankhara) in one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path.

Therefore, the Noble Kaya Sankhara is breathing (MN 44; MN 117; MN 118; SN 12.2) and the puthujjana kaya sankhara is physical behaviour.

Since physical behaviour is a form of 'becoming' or 'kamma-ripening' (AN 3.76), obviously the kaya sankhara of AN 4.233 is not the kaya sankhara of Dependent Origination because craving or intention in Dependent Origination is required before physical kamma can occur. SN 14.12 clearly explains this:

Mendicants, sensual, malicious, and cruel thoughts arise for a reason, not without reason.

And how do sensual, malicious, and cruel thoughts arise for a reason, not without reason?

The element of sensuality gives rise to sensual perceptions. Sensual perceptions give rise to sensual thoughts. Sensual thoughts give rise to sensual desires. Sensual desires give rise to sensual passions. Sensual passions give rise to searches for sensual pleasures.

An uneducated ordinary person on a search for sensual pleasures behaves badly in three ways: by body, speech, and mind.

The element of malice gives rise to malicious perceptions. Malicious perceptions give rise to malicious thoughts. … malicious desires … malicious passions … malicious searches …

An uneducated ordinary person on a malicious search behaves badly in three ways: by body, speech, and mind.

The element of cruelty gives rise to cruel perceptions. Cruel perceptions give rise to cruel thoughts. … cruel desires … cruel passions … cruel searches …

An uneducated ordinary person on a cruel search behaves badly in three ways: by body, speech, and mind.

SN 14.12

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There are 2 kinds of Saṅkhāra word in the Tipitaka, Saṅkhāra which is used before the Buddha enlightened (Saṅkhāra in Samatha context), such as in MN44, and Saṅkhāra which is used after the Buddha enlightened (Saṅkhāra in Vipassanā context), such as in Paṭiccasamuppāda and Pañcupādānakkhandha.

So, Saṅkhāra in MN44 and AN 4.233 are not same.

The practitioner in MN44 is trying to stop Saṅkhāra, breath vitakavicāra vedanāsaññā, for the higher Samāpatti which happening only a period, but The practitioner in AN 4.233 is trying to stop Saṅkhāra, Cetanā (Karmma), for Nibbāna which having nothing anymore.

These both 2 kinds of Saṅkhāra are also appearing in MahāSatipaṭṭhānaSutta in the same context as well.

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OP: what exactly is the relation between kamma, saṅkhārā?

Sankhara is the seed which germinates into karmic effects. Sankhara conditions future experience for karma to give results.

OP: what exactly are those 3 sankharas (bodily, voice, mind)? If they're the same ones from MN 44, it would be strange that in breath and out breath would cause karmic consequence, or if unvocalized thoughts (vitakka & vicara) cause the same karma as vaci-carena (vocal conduct).

But what, ayya, is bodily formation, what is verbal formation, what is thought formation?

Visākha,

  • The in-and-out breaths, are bodily formation.

  • Thinking and pondering are verbal formation.

  • Perception and feeling are thought formation.

Cūla Vedalla Sutta

The breath maintains the body. Thought component of what is vocalised or what remains unvocalised is the karmic component.

But, ayya,

  • why are the in-and-out-breaths bodily formation;
  • why are thinking and pondering verbal formation;
  • why are perception and feeling thought formation?

The in-and-out-breaths, avuso Visākha—these are states bound up with the body.

  • Therefore, they are bodily formation.

Avuso Visākha, one, having first thought and pondered, then breaks out into speech.

  • Therefore, thinking and pondering are verbal formation.

Perception and feeling—these are mentally-connected states, bound up with the mind.

  • Therefore, perception and feeling are thought formation.

Cūla Vedalla Sutta

See my answer here for more details.

OP: is citta sankhara the same as mano-sankhara?

Yes.

As the 2nd link of the formula of dependent origination, (paticcasamuppāda), sankhāra has the active aspect, 'forming, and signifies karma, i.e. wholesome or unwholesome volitional activity (cetanā) of body (kāya-sankhāra), speech (vacī-sankhāra) or mind (citta- or mano-sankhāra). This definition occurs, e.g. at S.XII.2, 27.

Sankhara

OP: looking at bodhi's translation, what is actually being 'performed' (abhi-sankharoti)? Is the bodily-volitional-activity mean he just sets an intention to do a bodily action, such as hit someone. Or he actualizes the intention to hit someone, and actually hits someone? Now the fact that the sutta shows kamma being done, being reborn in hell, must mean it wasn't just a volition or intention to do harm, he actually did harm with the body. But the pali abhi-san-kharoti, and kaya-sankhara, it's hard to actually read and understand what is happening.

Abhisaṅkharoti, (& °khāreti in Pot.) (abhi + saṅkharoti) to prepare, do, perform, work, get up Vin.I, 16 (iddh’âbhisaṅkhāraṃ °khāreyya); D.I, 184 (id.); S.II, 40; III, 87, 92; IV, 132, 290; V, 449; A.I, 201; Sn.984 (ger. °itvā: having got up this curse, cp. SnA 582); PvA.56 (iddh’âbhisaṃkhāraṃ), 172 (id.), 212 (id.). — pp. abhisaṅkhata (q. v.). (Page 70)

Abhisankharoti

From the above definition, I believe born in hell is the consequence of accumulating bodily, verbal or mental conditioning/karma through the respective door, by means of action. In the context of AN 4.233 all actions are performed actions through the 3 doors. The doors and the type of karma are given below:

The 10 courses of action and the 3 doors

(Sappurisa) Sikkhā,pada Sutta Introduction by Piya Tan

Intention to do bodily or verbal action has much weaker karmic consequence than performing it.

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1) The sankhara (kaya, vaci, mano) in AN4.233 is different from MN44, SN12.2 (kaya, vaci citta). When sankhara is used for kamma (intentional action), the 3rd sankhara is always ‘mano’. When used as 2nd link of Dependent Origination (ie: fabrication, activation, formation), the 3rd sankhara is always ‘citta’.

Kaya sankhara in the context of kamma is deeds through bodily action. Kaya sankhara in Dependent Origination is in-and-out breathing. This is why an Arahant who does not create kamma anymore can still breathe. The sankhara of 2nd link of Dependent Origination of an Arahant is not conditioned by ignorance and craving, whereas for the rest of beings, they are conditioned by ignorance and craving.

2) They are different. Mano sankhara refers to mental kamma (ie planning, scheming). Citta sankhara refers to perceptions and feelings.

3) When one plans to hit someone, that’s “mano sankhara” or mental intention. When one actually hits someone (carry out the plan), that’s “kaya sankhara” or bodily intentional action. Note that this mano/kaya set which describes kamma (intention) is not the same as citta/kaya set that is used in MN44/SN12.2 (Dependent Origination).

Please read the Conditioned Arising of Suffering article below by Ven Dhammavuddho. It focuses on clarifying the exact questions you asked, which is related to sankhara. I am very sure it will help clear your doubt as it has done for me.

https://www.vbgnet.org/Articles/Conditioned-Arising-of-Suffering-2018.pdf

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