Is Sankhara translated as "Choices"?

In the sutta I read “…contemplate the phenomena there—included in feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness…”

Is it Sankhara that is translated as “choices”?

Yes. This was discussed in the topic below:



My opinion.

Using the English word Choice to translate Sankhara seems to do away with the root san . Further how can it then be used with the terms kaya sankhara, vacci sankhara, and even with mano sankhara which is defined as perception and feelings, both which are not choices?

I have not read the complete thread above. However, if a reader is required to read such a prologue, then the choice of word is even more questionable.

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Why do you think “san” is a root here?

Could sankhara have different meanings in different contexts?

The Norwegian translation by Kåre A. Lie uses “reactions”:

“Primary sense impressions, feelings, identifications, reactions and distinguishing consciousness”.

It clearly does, as any dictionary will tell you.

  • intentions or choices
  • conditions
  • conditioned phenomena
  • cause
  • etc.

This is a very difficult word to translate I suppose.
For instance how do we translate “Sabbe Sankhara Anicca”?
I think best way to translate is to use different translation in different context.

That’s exactly the point - almost all translators use different words depending on context:

Thanks Mike
Hence to translate above as “all conditioned phenomena is impermanance” make sense to me.

How did “Fabricate the fabricated” (Thanissaro) is translated by BB and BS?

Here is the famous line from DN16 that one hears chanted at funerals. Clearly, “Choices are impermanent” wouldn’t work…

Oh! Conditions are impermanent,
“Aniccā vata saṅkhārā,

Thanissaro Bhikkhu:

‘They fabricate the fabricated,’ thus they are called ‘fabrications.’
SN 22:79  Khajjanīya Sutta | Chewed Up

Bhikkhu Sujato:

Choices produce conditioned phenomena; that’s why they’re called ‘choices’.
Saṅkhatamabhisaṅkharontīti kho, bhikkhave, tasmā ‘saṅkhārā’ti vuccati.

Bhikkhu Bodhi:

‘They construct the conditioned,’ bhikkhus, therefore they are called volitional formations.

The Pali in that sutta uses wordplay. So there is:

It’s deformed; that’s why it’s called ‘form’.
Ruppatīti kho, bhikkhave, tasmā ‘rūpan’ti vuccati.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s translation “fabricate the fabricated”, or alternatives such as “construct the constructed”, retains that aspect of the Pali.

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Yes that translation make sense.

I guess most words in most languages will have multiple meanings. If so it wouldn’t be accurate to render every occurrence of the same term, in the same manner. I believe someone asked for it.

Sometimes some use ‘conditioned phenomena’ in a psychologically conditioned way (as in childhood abuse conditions our responses…). While valid, I don’t think that’s what meant by sankhara, in that particular context. The meaning is better understood if we look at the opposite term ‘unconditioned’ (asankata).

“Reactions” is an interesting take, but it sounds quite passive? Is all behaviour reactive, or is there a creative aspect too?
For example if I see some ice-cream on special offer in the supermarket freezer cabinet, my initial reaction might be to buy it. But on reflection I will probably decide not to buy it, because I don’t want to put on weight…probably.:yum:

Sankhara clearly does have different meanings in different contexts. The tricky bit is working them out.
Sometimes people decide on an interpretation of the context first (eg with DO), and then choose a meaning of sankhara that fits their interpretation, but IMO this approach isn’t reliable or objective.

Yes, this is always going to be a problem with translation. And when you have a word like saṅkhāra with multiple meanings :

Bodhi: (1) volitional activity; (2) formation; (3) strenuous exertion; (4) conditioned phenomenon
Sujato: (1) choice; (2) condition; (3) active [effort]
See: Pali glossary for Bhikkhus Bodhi and Sujato

and those English words each have multiple meanings, there is plenty of room for (unavoidable) confusion…

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as i undestand it, the appropriate translation is formation and all formations are volitionally formed.

Fwiw Sujato Bhikkhu also translates Cetana as both a Choice and Intention.

It is intention that I call deeds.
Cetanāhaṃ, bhikkhave, kammaṃ vadāmi.
For after making a choice one acts
Cetayitvā kammaṃ karoti—SuttaCentral