Are they same? What is the relation between kilesa and sankhara?

Is it that, kilesa are tendency to build new sankhara?

Which gets cleared first?


2 Answers 2


'Sankhara' is a very broad term.

Sometimes 'sankhara' is used in an explicity unwholesome context, such as in Dhammapada 203 or SN 38.14:

  1. Sankhara (mental proliferating) is the worst suffering

SN 38.14 There are these three forms of suffering, my friend: the suffering generated from pain, the suffering generated from mental fabrications (sankhara-dukkha), the suffering generated from change

However, 'sankhara' can neutrally refer to mere thinking or thought aggregate. In other words, per SN 22.85, for example, a Buddha or Arahant has sankhara khandha (thinking aggregate). Or a Buddha has kaya-sankhara (breathing), citta-sankhara (feeling & perception), vaci-sankkhara (initial & sustained thought that facilitates speech), ayu-sankhara (vitality formations or life-force), etc (refer to MN 43 & MN 44).

'Kilesa' (greed, hatred & delusion) is a defiled type of sankhara (mental formation/fabrication). For example, SN 22.81 says the self-delusion is a sankhara. Therefore, the idea 'kilesa' creates 'sankhara' sounds like the inaccurate ideas the guru Goenka used to teach.

However, to attempt to answer the question in the most practical way using how the word 'sankhara' is used in Dependent Origination, what is cleared first is 'sankhara', that is, 'thoughts' ('vaci-sankhara'). In addition, the kaya-sankhara (breathing) & citta-sankhara (feelings) are calmed first (refer to Anapanasati Sutta MN 118). When thoughts are cleared and breathing & feelings are calmed, this results in concentration. When both concentration & direct insight/seeing develop, the underlying defilements (which are drives or energies rather than thoughts) can be dissolved and uprooted.

  • Thanks a lot.. By the way what is idiosyncratic ideas of Goenka. Can you share link to where Goyanka talks about defilement.
    – enRaiser
    Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 3:44
  • Here is a link about Goenka sankharas. dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?t=19885 Commented Apr 16, 2022 at 11:06
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    When there is meditative concentration, "vibrations" or "tensions" can be felt in the body and mind. Goenka appears to use the term "sankhara" for all of these vibrations or tensions. This appears to be inaccurate or a generalization. Commented Apr 16, 2022 at 22:28

I liked the answer of Dhamma Dhatu, but still some confusions

I also like this article : The Demons of Defilement

On many occasions it has been said that arhant is free from
defilement.. but never told that free from sankhara.

So until an appropriate answer arrives I am making this conclusion

Defilements are collective intelligence of more then one sankhara. One or more sankhara collectively builds tendency to create new similar sankhara.This tendency is defilements. In a sense we can say that defilement are craving (Tanha)....

in modern Psychology we talk about parts of mind or submind.. Or personalities. but in buddhist documentary its many a time talked about Mara.

This mara is nothing but one or many sub-minds. and sub-minds is nothing but a part mind revolves around a set of sankhara. Or we can say the tendency to create similar sankhara and its compulsiveness, and obsessiveness and all skills builds around not just creating but fighting any attempt to tame that tendency. all together as unit is sub-mind or mara.


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