SuttaCentral

"Conditioned": what it means

english
conditionality
psychology
Tags: #<Tag:0x00007f788eb7a058> #<Tag:0x00007f788eb79c98> #<Tag:0x00007f788eb79a90>

#1

In english, as a psychological or sociological term, “Conditioned” refers to learned expectation(s) or responses. In english, “Conditioned” also sometimes means, materially preparation for use or endurance, as in “conditioned leather” or “hair conditioner”.
In terms of the EBTs and Buddhism, what is Conditioned? What are distinctions between a mundane psychological definition and Buddhist teaching?

A starting point for discussion might be

“Mendicants, conditioned phenomena have these three characteristics. What three? Arising is evident, vanishing is evident, and change while persisting is evident. These are the three characteristics of conditioned phenomena.”

Characteristics of the Unconditioned

“Unconditioned phenomena have these three characteristics. What three? No arising is evident, no vanishing is evident, and no change while persisting is evident. These are the three characteristics of unconditioned phenomena.”

It seems, as one distinction, that Conditioned in a Buddhist sense does not entirely or exclusively apply to a psychological state. (Or does it?)

I am also reading SN 22.81.

Hoping discussion remains impersonal, dispassionate, skillful and beneficial for many. :wink:


#2

I can’t quote from an EBT, but as this is the Watercooler I’ll risk it.

‘Conditioning’ in psychology implies/involves training. Skinner with his operant conditioning and all that. In Buddhism I take it to have ontological/existential implications that are outside of direct human control. From this perspective, to say that ‘X is conditioned by Y’ is equivalent to asserting that ‘Y is dependent on X’ (partially or wholly doesn’t matter) and both statements can have ontological status.

I happened to be listening to a very interesting podcast from a Tibetan tradition teacher this morning Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel: On Faith and Dependent Arising - The Wisdom Experience. They get into her understanding of dependent origination twenty minutes before the end. I find it too difficult to summarise what she says adequately, but I have to say it made me think about ‘conditioned’ and ‘depend’ in a new way.


#3

This definition of sankhata might help. It seems to mean phonomena arising in dependence upon causes or conditions, and appears to have a broad scope. “Conditioned” also implies transience and instability.


#4

Perhaps within Buddhism, it is the inter-relationship of causality and conditioning that gives the Buddhas teachings their extraordinary power. This describes the mechanism that drives ‘the way things are’… Knowing this, one is able to practice skillfully, see beyond the conditioning, and work towards liberation.

MN60 Apannakasutta

Psychology just describes how mundane conditioning operates…


#5

Closely related, there is idappaccayata, or this/that conditionality. “When this is, that is…”.
This principle underlies dependent origination, and is mentioned in several DO suttas.


#6

What generous responses from @Gillian @Martin @Viveka ! You’ve given me a lot to consider, so it might take some time for a full response. (In fact, MN60 alone might imo take a life or lifetimes; it’s full of goodness!)
An a non-secular Western Buddhist, with formal education in psychology, I am particularly interested in noting and deconstructing conditioned ideas or views about conditioning, causality, DO, attachment to form, etc. So thank you all!


#7

ok. I have reviewed all the suggestions; thank you.

The first spoke almost directly to how a western perspective might shift to something new, in Tibetan Buddhist terms. Examining the Stick, Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel seems to me to perhaps have come up with something original (although I lack sufficient knowledge of works and teachers in her Tradition to know, or interest to learn that!). That purpose, even condition, is relative, perhaps unknowable, non static, perhaps a creative fabrication of particular perspectives… interesting. Not quite on the focus of my question, but I can see how this might open up vocabulary and thoughts related to causality. TY, @Gillian I’ll probably review it more later.

@Martin the pali definitions were useful, very on point. But my question regarding possible differences between contemporary psychological sociological even political definitions of conditioning and Buddhist understandings aren’t going to be in pali definitions - though they will perhaps guide my mind in a journey towards it. So I will be studying the pali, thank you, and I am hopeful.

@Viveka honestly I feel you have given me a friendly teasing.

Perhaps within Buddhism, it is the inter-relationship of causality and conditioning that gives the Buddhas teachings their extraordinary power. This describes the mechanism that drives ‘the way things are’… Knowing this, one is able to practice skillfully, see beyond the conditioning, and work towards liberation.

… would you care to expand on these, especially the interrelationship? It is for me a bit daunting. I understand some things, but I cannot be sure right now I perceive fully what I do and do not understand.
MN 60 has a lot of content. I went through nya by nya, taking notes; this was very helpful, thank you for inspiring it. I accept (had accepted) that there really is causality; in a biopsychosocial limited kamma way, I can see it directly. In a rebirth full kamma way, I have not directly seen that entirely, though I do see what I consider to be examples I don’t want to discuss right now. Really beautiful sutta, and I understand it as a demonstration (explicit account?) of Causality of /in the Path, especially as it might be understood by other seekers contemporaneous with the Buddha.

Perhaps I need to set this aside and tackle the mechanics of rebirth, which I strongly suspect would clear the fog between a biopsychosocial view of kamma, and my not fully articulated belief in kamma and rebirth.


split this topic #8

2 posts were split to a new topic: Texts about the unconditioned


#9

Continuing thoughts:
One difference between modern psychological and Dhamma -based understandings regarding Conditioned might be revealed in differing understanding of Delusion. In modern psychology, a delusion is a specific technical term for a particular pathological symptom or condition. It is exceptional; it is not considered a default condition of a human life, but as a heavily weighted label, to be applied sparingly. It is a-typical.
But from a Dhamma -based perspective, it is typical; ordinary worldlings experience dukkha because of craving, ill will, and delusion. Delusion /ignorance seems to be a natural state in samsara, which only can be escaped by the disciplined training of the Noble 8 Fold Path. It might be the most pernicious of the three poisons.
If, in “english, as a psychological or sociological term, “Conditioned” refers to learned expectation(s) or responses”, then perceiving delusion as atypical or as typical suggests significantly differing remedies or approaches.

@Ryan I saw your question; can’t answer it at the moment, but it might be a broader question than what I was raising, unless you saw a specific connection.


#10

Note for reading: modern Buddhist philosophers, K. N. Jayatilleke and … his student David Kalupahana