Definition of Ignorance

Never intended to suggest that you are ignorant. If you took that meaning, my apologies. As for the rest of it, I didn’t even read Knigarian’s post and was responding to yours. My name is Megan. You are free to call me that if you dislike Meggers, which is one of my nicknames.


I think DO is also about craving ‘tanha’, the origin of suffering, the second noble truth. The five factors in DO run from (1) craving to (5) “aging-and-death, along with grief, lamentation, pain, depression and despair”. These five factors in DO are the most concise formula, corresponding directly to two of the four noble truths. See p. 19:
Pages 18-9 from Notion of Emptiness in Early Buddhism @Choong Mun-keat.pdf (242.3 KB)

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Okkanti points to entering, descent (into), and conception, so in this context it can mean with conception there is name and form. Again, conditional processes leading to other conditional processes.

Gandhabba is a word that;'s hard to define. It is sometimes translated as “spirit” – but in this case it differs from how this word is used in the West, for example, as pointing to an eternal soul.
It can be understood as a conditional “life force”, perhaps similar to how ayusaṅkhārā is used in some suttas, as in MN43:

" “Are the life forces the same things as the phenomena that are felt? Or are they different things?” “Teva nu kho, āvuso, āyusaṅkhārā, te vedaniyā dhammā udāhu aññe āyusaṅkhārā aññe vedaniyā dhammā”ti?

“The life forces are not the same things as the phenomena that are felt. “Na kho, āvuso, teva āyusaṅkhārā te vedaniyā dhammā. For if the life forces and the phenomena that are felt were the same things, a mendicant who had attained the cessation of perception and feeling would not emerge from it."

Exactly. In the sense that without being established there is no rebirth in any world, neither in this world or the next, because there is no next world. This is the knowledge (vision) of cessation of rebirth and dukkha.

I take it metaphorically, as the growing and increasing of the many aspects of experiences in the six sense world.

All Best Wishes.

Do you have p. 20? :sweat_smile: It seemed to get pretty interesting at the end there, where the link to emptiness was made.

Pages 20-1 from Notion of Emptiness in Early Buddhism @Choong Mun-keat.pdf (238.0 KB)

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Dependent arising doesn’t say that ignorance leads to toothache. It only says that what in the case of arahat is experiencing as toothache and is reflexively known as: “there is toothache”, is experiencing by the puthujjana as “I have a toothache” or there is something wrong with my tooth.

Thank you this is very good. Actually that link to Emptiness seems to parallel/confirm my initial suspicion.

Is there an Introduction to Buddhism by this author?

I’ve never considered the placement of “consciousness” in DO as an obstacle to defining “sankhara” and “avijja”. But thank you for showing how the apparent contradiction arises.

It’s a good question and the three life model succinctly puts an end to any confusion, if you choose to subscribe to it. I do not.

I prefer the one life model, simply because when DO is explained in reference to the ending of suffering and birth, it clearly states things like:

With the complete ending of avijja comes the ending of sankhara … the ending of consciousness … the ending of name and form … etc.

All these factors are occurring in this single life. The depth of DO rests on the idea that we carry this process in us at all times. It is literally upon the contingency that we are ignorant in this very life that we experience birth in this very life. With the ending of ignorance comes the “undoing” of the conditions supporting birth “in this very life” and the ending of suffering “in this very life”.

How can the birth in this life be ended? It’s already happened? The factor of “birth” may only seem to make sense in reference to the life to come, but that is what makes DO so deep. The ending of craving in this very life “undoes” the condition for birth which we constantly carry around and feed (on the basis of being ignorant). Ie. it undoes the birth which occurred in this life. Ie. we experience the deathless, the unborn. That is, birth is destroyed. It is as if we’d never been born, since all suffering has ceased, even past sufferings have no weight. Even the birth experienced prior to the moment of enlightenment is undone in that supreme unbinding.

Obviously, future births are ended, but also (non-obviously) all past and present births are ended. “Birth” is ended. That samsaric condition … “birth” is done with. The architect of the house has been identified. No longer will he build that house. We are one large, timeless, house which requires dismantling … and if we dismantle it once and for all in “this very life” we have dismantled it for all of samsara … all past suffering, present suffering, and future suffering are done with.

That’s my take on it. So, how to understand sankhara and avijja in the absence of consciousness …?

“Sankhara” means “formation” or “fabrication”. There are three: mental, verbal, and bodily.

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

SN 12.2

Bhikkhu Bodhi calls them “volitional formations”.

They exist completely on the basis of ignorance. As you know, they end with the destruction of ignorance. However, Do the sankharas act as the requisite condition for consciousness? Not so, it appears.

“If one is asked, ‘From what requisite condition does name-and-form come?’ one should say, ‘Name-and-form comes from consciousness as its requisite condition.’

"If one is asked, ‘Is there a demonstrable requisite condition for consciousness?’ one should answer, ‘There is.’

"If one is asked, ‘From what requisite condition does consciousness come?’ one should say, ‘Consciousness comes from name-and-form as its requisite condition.’”

DN 15

Which I’ve always thought was an inconsistency in the doctrine as a whole, largely because I would have expected sankharas to act as the requisite condition. It still remains a complicated aspect of the doctrine as far as my own understanding of it goes.

However, If we accept the one life model of DO and simply assume that consciousness is merely a technical term for the arising of contact then the answer to: can we have sankhara and avijja without consciousness? … is a simple “yes”.

And even better, can we be aware in cessation of perception and feeling? Also, a simple yes. And why? Because to “not know” that state, would be “to be ignorant” of that state. And, in as much as the cessation attainment is the highest state of unbinding we can achieve next to nibbana, the state of unbinding is associated with knowledge.

Consciousness is a carrier factor for contact. It’s a technical term that simply explains how contact arises on the basis of three things: media, faculty, and awareness.

And what, bhikkhus, is consciousness? There are these six classes of consciousness: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, mind-consciousness. This is called consciousness.

SN 12.2

In that technical sense, it need not apply to primordial states of being like the unborn. It need only apply to the five sense faculties and the faculty of mind. If we allow for a faculty of knowledge to exist outside of consciousness, we erase the apparent confusion about ignorance existing ahead of consciousness inside of the links of dependent origination.

The choices that Sujato translates for sankhara have two levels. First of all there must be an element of volition that is prerequiste for catching minds attention in the first place, and becoming aware of something. Becoming aware of something (vinnana), in this contexts, always implies that minds has become directed upon something. Upon what? Upon a certain stirring of the mind. This is mind receptivity. Like the snares of a guitar. Something touches minds receptivity and that causes a stir. Or like water in which a stone is thrown.

This moment there is not yet an recognition of what stirs the mind but only that something stirs the mind is detected. This is the basic function of mind. Mind detects. Mind is receptive. We would not speak of mind without this basic element of receptivity.

Now, the mind is inclined to see what causes that stir. It wants to engage, as it were, and see what guest is there. Its attention is caught by it. Only with these as conditions, a sense vinnana can establish. If there is no subconscious choice to engage with what stirs the mind, also no sense vinnana can establish.

To make it more graphical: there is someone who knocks on the sense door. We do not yet know what (or who). But now we want to see, who is there? So, our attention goes to that knocking on the door. We move towards it. We open the door. Become aware of the guest (vinnana), we shake hands (phassa), that comes with a certain touch (vedana), we recognise the guest or see its specifics (sanna). And this all is called a vinnana moment, an awareness of something sensed.

Now we know not only the stir but now we also know what did stir the mind. Dependend on the kind of sense contact as pleasant, painful, neutral, reactions can take place. Maybe we shut the door immediately and flee away, maybe we hug the guest, maybe we do not care at all about this guest.

So, choice, is happening on different levels but in fact no choice is ever made. All is just conditionally arising. It is not our choice that minds attention on a subconscious level goes towards what stirs the mind. Not our choice mind engages. And also not the reactionof like and dislike that arise upon feeling, is a choice.

Choice, suggest there is someone who makes a choice. Also neurologists talk about brain making choices. But does that really happen. What does it mean? Choice, suggest almost that brain or mind is some intelligent entity that makes decisions. Choice is the language of atta, i feel, and therefor i feel choice is not really a good translation for sankhara.

But apart of that, as i see it, avijja rules over how the mind develops by the forces of habit.
It describes conditioning, a snowball effect, and by that it describes unfreedom.
And when avijja is uprooted the mind becomes freed out of this grip of habitual patterns that are build up in endless lives. These fetters. When mind is not anymore on drift by forces of conditioning, and condiitioning goes a long time back, it is freed, pliant, easy to use, unburdened.

This freedom is a way to talk about nibbana. Liberated.

That things dependenly arise such as trees, pain, clouds etc is an sich not ignorance or result of ignorance, i believe. That is just law of nature i believe. But PS is about how mind becomes fettered from the first moments and builds up states of mind (in one life cycle) and states of existence (in many life cycle). All what is build up must also desintegrate. The freed mind does not build up.

Some, believe PS describes how mind is caused in third nidana. I believe this is a mistake. Vinnana is not mind. Vinnana’s arise from mind basic receptivity, its basis awareness, its ability to receive info.
Vinnana is the result of processing that info after receiving it. Mind in its ability to receive info, is more subtle then vinnana.

Thanks for your answers folks, reading all of them, but is more that I can reasonably handle at this time.

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I hate to be a sophist here, @Pondera @knigarian , but:

Let’s take my example of a toothache again. Or, if you whish, of a heel spur or the like. I certainly do not whish these on anyone to illustrate my claim.

The pain of these is a feeling. Feeling is the seventh link in the chain of D/O, overall going back to ignorance as the first link.

Now according to the Buddha, if ignorance ceases, feeling ceases. But the pain of the toothache or hernia doesn’t dissappear by accepting the 1st and 2nd noble truths.

So suffering did not end in this life.

It seems to follow that, if you want to keep to the one life theory, avijja cannot mean ignorance of the 1st and 2nd truths as you are suggesting. It would have to mean something else.

Thank you for answering on how you see these points.

I suppose you meant “there is no next world for the person whose rebirth is ended”. I see it a bit differently in the sense they clearly see vinnana not established in this world or next(other) world right now (which might imply what you’ve stated for some person but I’m not sure if it does for all based on this only).

I explore these various interpretations to see which one can stand being pressed, pursued and grilled - as the true teaching can. Also If I find a new interpretation (such as vinnana as “discrimination”) I invite others to press, pursue and grill it and if it were not to be able to stand to it, it would be beneficial for me and others to see where are the problematic points.

On this point, there is sati(mindfullness/awareness) and panna(wisdom) as two of the five spiritual faculties

What would your thoughts be about Dependent Origination as explained by Venerable Ajahn Sucitto:

To the extent which (paccaya) the mind has not comprehended (avijja) Truth, habitual drives (sankhara) manifest and condition (paccaya) awareness into a discriminative mode (vinnana) that operates in terms of (paccaya) subject and object (nama-rupa) held (paccaya) to exist on either side of the six sense-doors (salayatana).

These sense-doors open dependent (paccaya) on contact (passa) that can arouse (paccaya) varying degrees of feeling (vedana). Feeling stimulates (paccaya) desire (tanha) and, according to (paccaya) the power of desire, attention lingers (upadana) and so personal aims and obsessions develop (bhava) to give (paccaya) the cycle of maturing and passing away (jaramaranam) with the resultant sense of sadness (soka) varying from sorrow (parideva) depression (dukkha) and emotional breakdown (upayasa).

When the mind looks into the sense of loss and comprehends Truth (avijja- nirodha), habitual drives cease (sankhara-nirodha) and the awareness is no longer bound by their discrimination (vinnana-nirodha); so that the separation of the subject and object is no longer held (nama-rupa nirodha). The sense-doors open for reflection, rather than being dependent on contact (phassa-nirodha) and impingement does not impress itself into the mind (vedana-nirodha). So there is freedom from desire (tanha-nirodha) and attention does not get stuck (upadana-nirodha) and grow into selfish motivations (bhava-nirodha). When no personal image is created, it can never bloat up, nor can it be destroyed (jara-maranam-nirodha). So there is nothing to lose, a sense of gladness, uplift, joy and serenity (soka-parideva- dukkha-domanass-upayasa-nirodha).

This Reflection by Ajahn Sucitto is from The Way It Is, pp. 9-10.

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While greed, anger, and ignorance have been extinguished, the aggregates and senses remain operative for an awakened one.
So while there is no “mental” anguish or self-identification, the sheer presence of feelings and the other aggregates – which are intrinsically dukkha, as in SN12.15, SN22.19, and AN6.99 – remain until the final death without rebirth.
In this sense, all dukkha does not finally cease until after the final death.

Also, regarding “this is the end of suffering” – the Pāli present tense can point to the future. The phrase can also be understood as the knowledge that the practice has been completed and all dukkha will end at death.

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There is a difference between mind that instinctively, by forces of habit engages and becomes involved in perceptions and feelings (vinnana’s) and a mind that does not.

For example, if the mind engages with pain, loaded with a notion of me and mine towards that pain, that is already a distorted situation. That moment pain obsesses the mind and probably dislikes it very much, wants to escape it. Mind is now fully caught by pain. Pain now becomes your world, bhava. Avijja is what brings all this load to the mind and turn what is sensed into our world.

But what IF there is pain but all this engagement and involvement, all this load of me having pain, my pain, dislike pain… does not happen? That is what it means, i believe, when avijja ceases.

I believe minds contacts now also change. Mind now remains contacting stilling, emptiness, cessation, dispassion, emptiness, the signless.
It is hard to see and understand what it means when even such things as pain have for the mind not any sign of me, mine, my self, unattractiveness anymore, right?

I believe, Buddha knows this is possible. He teaches the signless.
Although it might seem signs are part of sense object, i believe, a Buddha shows this is not true.
Signs are part of minds bagage.

There is a huge difference between feelings and perceptions (vinnana’s) that arise and cease, and those that establish. Establish…means: that they have caught mind attention and mind is engaged and involved in it. Those perceptions and feelings, as it were take root and catch attention.
But in a detached mind this is not possible. Feelings and perceptions can arise but not establish in a purified mind.

Has it been brought up in this thread yet that always ascribing a single strict linear temporal order to DO might be in error? There is co-arising and co-dependencies among the links for instance. Ah, I see my friend @knigarian might be alluding to this :joy:

Something that might help (or might not) @Malunkyaputta is to realize that none of the twelve links (including the root ignorance) can be found as saccato thetato when analyzed with penetrative analysis. They are all empty of a core or essence. The links being empty of a core or essence, dependent co-arising is itself empty of a core or essence and cannot be found with penetrative analysis. :pray:

I don’t need to google that term to understand that it will mean circular argument or petitio principii. I get it. But this is still not explaining away the apparent inconsistencies within the proposed list (at least with the “one life” argument): Consciousness and feeling not actually ceasing when ignorance is taken away.

I get this idea, too. But I think it may be illusionary. If I accept a proposition despite the saccato thetato I have to at least see it happen or be able to relate to it.

And the way I see it, suffering is intrinsic to “just being alive and breathing”. If e.g. just taking some food means that some other human being gets less, I have already suffered, ignorance or not.

Because of all this I feel that you can’t have Nibbana without rebirth.

Channeling my inner Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” :joy: Although to be fair, it is often used as a conclusion to point out petitio principii.

I am not a translator, but this is what I’ve been able to come up with:

Saccato (सत्यतः in sanskrit): This term conveys the idea of “truth” or “reality.” In a philosophical context, it’s used to describe something as genuine, actual, or true. In the passage provided, “saccato” is used to suggest that one does not apprehend or perceive the Tathagata (Buddha) as “true” or “real” in the present life as Anurādha perceived.

Thetato (स्थितिः in sanskrit): This term refers to “establishment” or “existence.” It is used to indicate that something is established or exists in a certain way. In the passage, “thetato” is used to convey that the Tathagata (Buddha) is not established or perceived as existing in the present life in the way that Anurādha perceived.

Again, I am no translator nor have any expertise at translation so please take the above with heaping grains of salt.


Possibly means an Axiom (self evident truth)

This suggests that you’ve been able to find suffering as saccato thetato. Do you think that is true?

So living is suffering and death is happiness? Funny that living beings try so hard to avoid death then isn’t it? Is a final death what we truly should seek and what we should truly try to find in order to escape suffering? Maybe you think just this is our ignorance?

Are rocks and such truly happy since they are not alive and seemingly do not suffer? Rocks don’t experience toothaches after all unless I’m greatly mistaken :joy:

If the problem really is life and our choosing to be reborn again and again rather than face a final death, then what is life exactly? Often it is said that a flame is “alive” and “dancing” … does a flame experience suffering when it is doused with water? Does it experience suffering when it is “hungry” for lack of fuel? Should a flame accept a final death and no longer arise again to experience the horror of being doused by earth or water?

What is death for that matter? What is the difference between a final death and just regular old death? When a flame is doused and another flame arises elsewhere is that the same flame or different? When a person is born and then grows older is it the same person or different? Are persons “dying” every moment?

When a person visits a river it is said that the person can never visit that river again? Why? Because the person is no longer the same person and the river is no longer the same river. Did the person and river die? Was a different person and river reborn? What is the difference between the person and the river in the manner of “life”. We don’t regard the river as alive, but we regard the person as alive. What is this “life” that we attribute to the person but not the river? The river flows and changes and the person does as well. The river doesn’t suffer, but it does change and dry up and is “reborn” later with the rainy season, etc.

The river is constantly undergoing change, but nary a bit of suffering. The river can be stopped up by a beaver and then the dam can be broken. How is the person different? What is suffering exactly that makes the river not suffer, but the person suffer? If the river “dies” a final death - it dries up and no rainy season ever comes again - can we say that any suffering ended? If the person “dies” a final death - the body breaks up and the mind is blown out - can we say that any suffering ended? If so, what was this suffering?

Just some questions that spontaneously arose to my mind. Or maybe the questions originated from causes and conditions? :joy:

Hope you don’t mind my babbling and feel free to ignore :joy: :pray: