Cittasaṅkhāra as "emotions" in Ānāpānassati Sutta MN118


@sujato perhaps I will mention here, I’ve been on a bit of a mission studying the occurences of ‘kāyena phusitvā’ and its variations. And I really feel that the specific mention of the body is significant. I’m feeling that the Buddha was specifically pointing to the affective experience, and I feel that that is often given in contrast to the wisdom aspect which I believe may be specifically cognitive (penetrating with wisdom etc.).

I’ve come to see the mind as having two basic sides to it, affective; and cognitive. And I find this framework very useful for understanding neuroscience, psychology, and also now Buddhism, and I feel like I’m seeing the Buddha differentiating these two aspects fairly clearly. It’s very interesting.

I also feel the argument for ‘touched with the body’ as being merely an analogy for ‘direct experience’ to be false. And I believe I can demonstrate that. I feel he was being deliberate with his use of the expression to refer to the bodily experience of the objects he was referring to, which I feel were possibly specifically affective states.

I speak with some hesitation since I’m not sure if they would all fall into the category of ‘affect’ - but neuroscience might not have the words yet for some states which are so un-ordinary. However my sense is that they would fall into the category of emotional affect, if not all of them then perhaps some might have to be classed as a new kind of affect.

I’m curious what you might think of that idea. And of course I’m happy to share my research with you. It’s not properly written up yet.


Also in case anyone here is interested in affective neuroscience, I highly recommend work written by the founder of the field, Jaak Panksepp.

Here’s his paper that should be very interesting for anyone interested in the evolution of mind, ‘The flow of anoetic to noetic and autonoetic consciousness: A vision of unknowing (anoetic) and knowing (noetic) consciousness in the remembrance of things past and imagined futures’

And here is his book about emotions, including those of animals, which is very interesting and also suitable for lay readers:


Also does anyone know if paṭisaṃvedeti is always used with feelings such as emotions, or ever anything specifically cognitive?

In AN 3.54 we have:

“A greedy person, overcome by greed, intends to hurt themselves, hurt others, and hurt both. They experience mental pain and sadness.

“Ratto kho, brāhmaṇa, rāgena abhibhūto pariyādinnacitto attabyābādhāyapi ceteti, parabyābādhāyapi ceteti, ubhayabyābādhāyapi ceteti, cetasikampi dukkhaṃ domanassaṃ paṭisaṃvedeti.

That seems obviously affective.

DN 2:

All sentient beings, all living creatures, all beings, all souls lack control, power, and energy. Molded by destiny, circumstance, and nature, they experience pleasure and pain in the six classes of rebirth.

Sabbe sattā sabbe pāṇā sabbe bhūtā sabbe jīvā avasā abalā avīriyā niyatisaṅgatibhāvapariṇatā chasvevābhijātīsu sukhadukkhaṃ paṭisaṃvedenti.

Again pleasure and pain are affective. And more affect from the same sutta:

When they have this entire spectrum of noble ethics, they experience a blameless happiness inside themselves.

So iminā ariyena sīlakkhandhena samannāgato ajjhattaṃ anavajjasukhaṃ paṭisaṃvedeti.
When they have this noble sense restraint, they experience an unsullied bliss inside themselves.
So iminā ariyena indriyasaṃvarena samannāgato ajjhattaṃ abyāsekasukhaṃ paṭisaṃvedeti.

And again on affect from the same sutta, the typical 3rd jhāna formula:

Furthermore, with the fading away of rapture, a mendicant enters and remains in the third absorption, where they meditate with equanimity, mindful and aware, personally experiencing the bliss of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous and mindful, one meditates in bliss.’

Puna caparaṃ, mahārāja, bhikkhu pītiyā ca virāgā upekkhako ca viharati sato sampajāno, sukhañca kāyena paṭisaṃvedeti, yaṃ taṃ ariyā ācikkhanti: ‘upekkhako satimā sukhavihārī’ti, tatiyaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati.

In DN 1 we have the following:

Tatra, bhikkhave, ye te samaṇabrāhmaṇā pubbantakappikā ca aparantakappikā ca pubbantāparantakappikā ca pubbantāparantānudiṭṭhino pubbantāparantaṃ ārabbha anekavihitāni adhimuttipadāni abhivadanti dvāsaṭṭhiyā vatthūhi, te vata aññatra phassā paṭisaṃvedissantīti netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati.

Now, when those ascetics and brahmins theorize about the past and the future on these sixty-two grounds, it is not possible that they should experience these things without contact.

This one I’m less sure of but would be interested if it is pointing out that you can speculate all you want with your thinking, but maybe he’s saying it’s the more direct experience that counts, perhaps that’s why he is referring to affect which is in some sense more ‘real’ than abstract thought - and he emphasises it with ‘touch’, phassa.


If anyone knows, I’m curious if ‘cittasaṅkhāra’ (in ‘cittasaṅkhārapaṭisaṃvedī’) and ‘cittasaṅkhāraṃ’ are both singular or plural in Pali?


OP: “But with pīti and sukha beeing emotions, the subsequent item (item 3 of tetrad 2) merely reiterates the former two.”

Since the Anapanasati sutta’s culminating section deals with the seven factors of awakening, the second tetrad (and all four tetrads) should be related to it. In the seven factors of awakening, piti is followed by tranquillity, so the second tetrad’s piti, sukha, sensitive to mental fabrication, calming mental fabrication (Thanissaro), becomes logical in the overall context of the path.

This process of developing a factor then calming it is related to the balancing of the active factors connected with investigation and energy, and the passive of samadhi.

“Perceptions & feelings are mental fabrications.”—MN 44, Thanissaro


In compounds such as cittasaṅkhārapaṭisaṃvedī, the endings that define plural or singular are dropped and only the stem form is used. Thus there is no way from the morphology to determine what the number is, it must be inferred from context.