What unwholesome sankharas can be created from too much focus on dhamma concepts, reading and intellectual pursuits, and practice?

What kind of results do those sankharas produce?

What blockades are created?

What are the common associative thinking patterns and behaviours that emerge out of persistent preoccupation with dhamma concepts?

In the Mahayana tradition, Japanese Zen Master Hakuin, has this to say:

“People see it as if it is far away. What a pity! They are like a man who, standing in water, complains of thirst”

In the Theravada tradition, they have a similar outlook, gesturing their practitioners to not become fixated on the signs and features of their perceptions, which should include dhamma concepts. Although helpful at the outset, a hindrance may develop, and this is Theravada's recognition of that hindrance alongside many others.

In my own understanding, I have this to say about it:

The Plateau of Diminishing Returns

It is only when all effort has been exhausted that the seeker lays down their ordinance and armaments amounting to their spiritual techniques, their religious paraphernalia, and their pride. This might happen to be rather elongated and messy affair, but never mind. From here onwards, one becomes strikingly honest with oneself and receives absolutely nothing in return.

4 Answers 4


I think that one of the problems, or at least one of the symptoms, may be people arguing.


Māna (Sanskrit, Pali; Tibetan: nga rgyal) is a Buddhist term that may be translated as "pride", "arrogance", or "conceit". It is defined as an inflated mind that makes whatever is suitable, such as wealth or learning, to be the foundation of pride. It creates the basis for disrespecting others and for the occurrence of suffering


Some people learn the Dhamma to use it to criticize others or argue with others.

“Here, bhikkhus, some misguided men learn the Dhamma—discourses, stanzas, expositions, verses, exclamations, sayings, birth stories, marvels, and answers to questions—but having learned the Dhamma, they do not examine the meaning of those teachings with wisdom. Not examining the meaning of those teachings with wisdom, they do not gain a reflective acceptance of them. Instead they learn the Dhamma only for the sake of criticising others and for winning in debates, and they do not experience the good for the sake of which they learned the Dhamma. Those teachings, being wrongly grasped by them, conduce to their harm and suffering for a long time. Why is that? Because of the wrong grasp of those teachings.
MN 22

Or some may learn the Dhamma to teach it for worldly gain.

They assemble the community
for business rather than Dhamma.
They teach the Dhamma to others
for gain, not for the goal.
Thag 16.10


And what are the six kinds of renunciation distress? The distress coming from the longing that arises in one who is filled with longing for the unexcelled liberations when — experiencing the inconstancy of those very forms, their change, fading, & cessation — he sees with right discernment as it actually is that all forms, past or present, are inconstant, stressful, subject to change and he is filled with this longing: 'O when will I enter & remain in the dimension that the noble ones now enter & remain in?' This is called renunciation distress. (Similarly with sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, & ideas.) Salayatana vibhanga

There are also states where one would neglect practicing in favor of thinking about the training.

Conceit, doubt & restlessness in regards to the training...

Things like this i guess


The following teachings create sankharas:

And what is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions? 'There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are contemplatives & brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.

MN 117

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