When one analyzes Saṅkhāras, where does 'unconditioned' fit in?

The word means 'formations'[1] or 'that which has been put together' and 'that which puts together'.

I take this to mean something about parts and wholes, as well as causation. But what about "the unconditioned": will it appear as cognitive residue or by-product of establishing every conditioned thing, or is it an object of cognition one gets to? Or what exactly?

4 Answers 4


The word 'unconditioned', as is the thought of & the understanding of this word, all these are Sankhara and are conditioned.

That which is rightly thought of as unconditioned is not a sankhara, that which one understands as 'unconditioned' is not conditioned even tho one's thinking of it is conditioned.

If one is fixated in wrong views one can think of something conditioned and think of it as unconditioned due to stupidity.

Having discerned the cessation of the conditioned as a principally unconditioned reality, it is proclaimed to be unconditioned.

  • 1
    It would be helpful for the person who downvoted this answer to explain why they downvoted as I cannot see what this issue is here?
    – user17652
    Jan 26, 2021 at 10:07

I think of it this way: The Buddha's concept of "dependent origination" is similar to the modern idea of "emergence".

It's just a way of creating "maps" of sensory experience which enable us to better predict sensory experience.

Like so:

We notice, when THIS set of conditions is present, THIS phenomenon arises/emerges.

If, however, we remove one of these required conditions, the phenomenon will no longer arise/emerge.

The phenomenon has become "unconditioned".

For example: Consider avijjā: the choice to ignore uncomfortable truths.

Avijjā is the root condition of the dependent origination of suffering.

If the first arrow penetrates the heart (condition 1: dukkha), and we choose to respond to this by craving and clinging to a desired sensory experience (condition 2: taṇhā & upādāna) and thereby go to war with the part of us which desires to see the world the way it actually is (avijjā), the inner conflict between these 2 parts manifests as "suffering".

i.e. All suffering is a conflict between these 2 parts.

i.e. The purpose of dukkha is to alert us to mispredictions in our model which predicts sensory experience so that we can humbly correct the error in the model which gave rise to the misprediciton. If we, instead, cling to the broken model, this is unskillful. The wise part of us that knows it is unskillful will continue to protest until we correct the error.

If we, instead, choose to resolve the inner conflict between the 2 parts by (1) renouncing craving and clinging (condition 2) and seeking to see the world the way it actually is (condition 3), then we are removing the conditions for the emergence of the phenomenon of suffering.

i.e. We are "unconditioning" the phenomenon of suffering.


The purpose of unconditioned is to help unfix one's grasping of self (sankhara aggregate). Anytime it happens a person finds a good self, Buddha pulls the rug out from under them offering the conditions for their self. Then without those, self is unstableness. Unconditioned is nirvana? Unbinding? I guess also space? Not sure what else..

Edit: well i guess unbinding has attachment as its condition, perhaps, but hard to imagine it

  • The conditioned/unconditioned dichotomy is a tough one to reconcile with, especially using the intellect. It's just not compatible. All logical reasoning falls apart due to the sheer simplicity of everything. That's why the mind goes quite: it's been stunned into the truth.
    – user17652
    Feb 14, 2023 at 8:28
  • i agree it's a fickle answer, but what else can you reconcile with if not the intellect? 2 sides of the same coin. both string us along. both bound us to reason.
    – blue_ego
    Feb 14, 2023 at 18:51
  • Well, I up voted your answer. I'm not sure what the down vote was about. Down votes should only be applied upon the condition that a comment is left to explain the down vote. But you're right, though. The intellect is all you have to work with up until a certain point.
    – user17652
    Feb 14, 2023 at 19:45
  • If buddha wasnt then whats with the attraction...should not be that way
    – blue_ego
    Feb 15, 2023 at 0:08

Formation is okay, back two other meaning are not okay.

Sankhara are coworker originators.

Sankhata are lucky men or victims.

Every aggregates must be many cause states (conditioners) and many effect states (conditioned).

There are only two unconditioned, Nibbāna and Illusion (Paññatti, included name).

Nibbāna, a reality, is not conditioned by any Sankhara because it is the cessation state of Sankhara. It is the opposite of conditioned. Whoever , aggregates, knew Nibbāna must going to never born by conditioners again in 7 births. It is never arise but it is still a state either one know it or not. And who want to know this reality must practice hard follow the Buddha only, except SammāSambuddha and PaccekaSambuddha.

Illusion (Paññatti, included name) is not conditioned because it is just imagination which must imagined by someone. It is not reality, not truth. And it is not the opposite of aggregates because erything, all aggregates, Nibbāna and all Illusions, can be imagined by thinking (mind;Cittu-Uppāda).

See Abhidhamma, especially Patthāna (24 conditions), for more information.

  • .. But is not Paññati conditioned by the one that imagines? Dec 22, 2020 at 19:23
  • Nibbana and Pannatti never arise because they never be conditioned by anything. If one say "Paññati conditioned by the one that imagines" it means every imagine must has the right conditioners' relations to be a really arising conditioned effect. It is impossible. One imagines "I am a world's commander", but it is never arise, unreality, because it is never conditioned by any realities. All imaginations are lacking of conditioners to be real. (to be continue...)
    – Bonn
    Dec 23, 2020 at 0:09
  • (continue) However, minds can image an imagination by collecting realities and imaginations, so some Pannatti look really real, such as human is Pannatti which minds generate it from Aggregate-Realities and Real+Unreal Aggregates' Pannatti. Another, this is just the beginning of the insight meditation there are many other things to know to meditate the meditations such as the smallest elements of minds' millisecond, etc. The smallest real elements are the way to make sure we understand everything real, not just an imagine. It causes Abhidhamma and causes the Buddha is the only best teacher.
    – Bonn
    Dec 23, 2020 at 0:12
  • Form is illusion no?
    – blue_ego
    Jan 15, 2023 at 18:50

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