As per buddhism what is the difference between volition and intention?

If there is any difference what is right pali word for volition and what is right pali word for intention? I presume sankhara is volition. and cetnā is intention.

There are other word also that we should throw light. they are Chanda, and Sankappa, vaci sankhara. kaya sankhara.

And If you answer is that they are same then.

(1) the wastrn philosopher descriminates that.

(2) Moreover There is volition in every feeling/phassa as said by buddha. When we do breath observation.There is intention to observe breath and that is boosted time and again. But at the same time there is volition to scratch/move my body or to suffer my bodily pain.. there must be different between this two volition. isn't it.?

I guess one of the two(volition/intention) is conscious and other is unconscious!!

  • 1
    i am no expert, not the least, but these those two, volition and intention, seem to be the same, while sankhara is referring to formation, the way one puts things together.
    – blue_ego
    Jul 7, 2022 at 18:27
  • 1
    thinking on the matter some, perhaps there is a difference. the definitions are different. volition is choice (action), intention is choice guided by an anticipated outcome
    – blue_ego
    Jul 9, 2022 at 0:35
  • Yes exactly. There is volition in every feeling/phassa as said by sutta. when we do breath observation. even that is intetion to observe breaht and that boosted time and again. But at the same time there is volitionto scratch/move my body or to suffer my bodily pain.. there must be different between this two volition. isnt it.
    – enRaiser
    Jul 9, 2022 at 5:23
  • The road to hell is paved with good intentions
    – blue_ego
    Jul 10, 2022 at 12:51
  • Intention, choosing, willing...all of these fall under the category of desire...that’s how I think about it...there may be nuance but essentially desire drives causality
    – blue_ego
    Jul 28, 2022 at 0:24

4 Answers 4


I want to answer - mostly my own question - without starting a new thread and because the topic is similar. Prior, I was under the impression these two ideas, volition and intention, are different, but for all intensive purposes they are the same. mind(citta) has 7 primary mental factors(cetasika): feeling(vedana), perception (sanna), voltion(cetana), one-pointedness(ekagatta), life faculty (jivitindriya), attention(manasikara), contact (phassa).
The metal factors come together to form mindset(citta).

The text (dhamma) basically says volition (cetana) is kamma (A 6.63). Although this is completely true, I would point out that actions without intention - underlying tendencies(anusaya) and karmic imprint(bija) - rely on the karma principle. This is quite clearly stated in SN 12.38. Even though every moment presents a choice, it's not practical. I don't choose to make my tea in the morning, it just happens from habit. The other side of this coin indicates a acute awareness of our choices. Does being more aware of choice produce altered outcomes? Sometimes. Does ignorance absolve one of karma? My guess is no. That only intentional acts produce karma is misleading. Things happen all the time without our being aware, but that doesn't mean the process of causality skips a beat.

If there is a distinction to be made between intention and choice, I would opine it's expectation; intention implies expectation, but that's minutia I suppose.

  • imo, samskara is not mental factors, but the combination of mental factors that result in mental formations or samskara.
    – blue_ego
    Jul 27, 2022 at 16:52
  • this raises another idea, the karma of children vs adult....if a child steals a candy bar and doesn't get caught, is there a consequence for the ignorant child? perhaps ignorance does excuse individuals from certain effects. In fact, they say ignorance is bliss.
    – blue_ego
    Jul 27, 2022 at 17:00
  • Exectly and thats why there are grades of volition. Subtle to gross. Thought sutta never descriminate gradation of volition. But enflish language is making 2 grade. Intentiob is subtle volition. And volition is gross intention. Volition has same root as volunteering. So volition is more conscious then intention
    – enRaiser
    Jul 29, 2022 at 2:36
  • i should not have said speculation, I should say nuance...for example, perception and recognition....similiar right? but perhaps differences arise through association
    – blue_ego
    Jul 29, 2022 at 21:49

They're similar, but sankhara has broader meaning in different contexts than cetana. For more details see the dictionary's definition here and here


I guess you are looking for either a work of philology and translation, which is too deep to ask from any stackexchange, and anathema to some, or an instance of someone lacking volition and retaining what some people might call intention; or vice versa.

Right Resolve or Intention: the giving up of home and adopting the life of a religious mendicant in order to follow the path

Emphasis added.

Can we lose "right intention" in the process of being reborn and retaining volition (be that unconsciously or otherwise)? Do we lose "right intention" when we momentarily want to escape the monastic life? etc.

Perhaps this argument appears too cute or clever to appease anyone: but it does show that in some sense - whether or not it's in a relevant sense - the will to be a mendicant is not the same as right intention.

Unless, of course, "the path" does not even exist conventionally or is identical to what we want.


And what are fabrications? These six classes of intention — intention with regard to form, intention with regard to sound, intention with regard to smell, intention with regard to taste, intention with regard to tactile sensation, intention with regard to ideas: these are called fabrications.
SN 22.56

"Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect."
AN 6.63

And what are fabrications? These three are fabrications: bodily fabrications, verbal fabrications, mental fabrications. These are called fabrications.

"In-&-out breaths are bodily; these are things tied up with the body. That's why in-&-out breaths are bodily fabrications. 

Having first directed one's thoughts and made an evaluation, one then breaks out into speech. That's why directed thought & evaluation are verbal fabrications.
SN 41.6

And why, bhikkhus, do you call them fabrications? ‘They fabricate the conditioned,’ bhikkhus, therefore they are called fabrications.
SN 22.79

And what is the conditioned that they fabrications?

They fabricate conditioned form as form; they fabricate conditioned feeling as feeling; they fabricate conditioned perception as perception; they fabricate conditioned fabrications as fabrications; they fabricate conditioned consciousness as consciousness.
SN 22.79

"From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form...

"From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness...

"From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications.
SN 12.2

"And what is name-&-form? Feeling, perception, intention, contact, & attention: This is called name.
SN 12.2

what's called 'mind,' 'intellect,' or 'consciousness' by day and by night arises as one thing and ceases as another.
SN 12.61

It is as if two sheaves of reeds were to stand leaning against one another. In the same way, from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness, from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form.
SN 12.67

  • 3
    people her have habit of just putting large text from tripitak. completely ignoring the question. I have scanned many such suttas before asking this question. particularly this I have gone through at list 20 time.... Still I have this question. i want fresh explaination.
    – enRaiser
    Jul 9, 2022 at 5:21

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