Notes on yoniso manasi kāra

background

I am currently revising my translation of the key technical term yoniso manasi kāra. I haven’t reached any conclusions as of yet, but I’m feeling the need to gather my sources, so I’ll be dumping things in this thread as I find them, and hopefully shaping something meaningful out of them in the end. If you know of any resources that might be useful, please pop them in the notes. I’m especially interested in any pre-Buddhist precursors to the idea, or to relevant grammatical/semantic discussions of the term as used in the suttas.

Yoni is a central term in the Vedas, but manasikāra is not. I believe the term as a whole is almost exclusively Buddhist. I’ve only come across a couple of passing references in much later grammatical and logical treatises, but it seems the term never crossed over to the general philosophical vocabulary and remained distinctively Buddhist. But I may well be wrong on this, which is one of the things I’m interested to learn.

To get started, Analayo has a nice general survey of the term in the suttas:

But first let me speak to the importance of cultural context. That this is something that needs to be taken into consideration is not obvious from most if not all Buddhist exegesis. If you look at Analayo’s article, he doesn’t touch on any question of pre-Buddhist usage. And this is common to every Buddhist source that I’ve looked at.

In the Middle Length Discourses, for example, Ven Bodhi says:

Wise attention (yoniso manasikāra) is glossed as attention that is the right means (upāya), on the right track (patha). It is explained as mental advertence, consideration, or preoccupation that accords with the truth, namely, attention to the impermanent as impermanent, etc. Unwise attention (ayoniso manasikāra) is attention that is the wrong means, on the wrong track (uppatha), contrary to the truth, namely, attention to the impermanent as permanent, the painful as pleasurable, what is not self as self, and what is foul as beautiful. Unwise attention, MA informs us, is at the root of the round of existence, for it causes ignorance and craving to increase; wise attention is at the root of liberation from the round, since it leads to the development of the Noble Eightfold Path. MA sums up the point of this passage thus: the destruction of the taints is for one who knows how to arouse wise attention and who sees to it that unwise attention does not arise.

Imagine you are reading a review of a play. In this play, a Korean mother is helping prepare her daughter for Olympic tryouts in downhill skiing. They speak Korean to each other, except for the moment when she says last words of encouragement to her daughter: “May the force be with you!”

The reviewer analyzes that passage purely in terms of the meaning and function of the words. The mother is simply blessing her daughter, wishing that she has force (energy, power, strength) in her tryout. As to why she suddenly switches to English, well, sometimes people do that.

But obviously there is more to it. She’s speaking English because she is quoting Star Wars, and that speaks to a shared cultural tradition between them, one that is shared implicitly with the audience. That does not fundamentally change the meaning of what is said, but it carries with it a whole range of nuance and context without which any analysis of the passage is inadequate. It’s quite impossible to interpret the passage fully without knowing that context.

As readers of the review, we’d be incredulous that the reviewer just missed this point. It’d come across as embarrassingly naive. It is the context that gives meaning, and literary texts are constantly engaging with context in this manner.

My point is, if we simply look at Buddhist usages of the term, we are simply skipping over the surface, engaging in a shallow form of inquiry that is, ironically, not yoniso manasikāra.

Why am I doing this? Because this term is odder than we credit. It’s grammatically unusual and striking. It sticks out, like someone suddenly speaking English in a Korean dialogue. I wonder if there is a specificity to it that we are overlooking, a hidden meaning that can be unearthed only by applying yoniso manasikāra to the term yoniso manasikāra.

And of course, I ultimately want to capture that specificity in a translation, as I am concerned that current renderings, including my own, are too vague. But I will hold off discussing translations until the end of my research.

Some of the odd features I am referring to:

  • Is it a phrase or a compound? Technically it is a phrase, because the three terms are declined. But manuscripts waver between spelling it with spaces or without, and in usage it became quite compound-ish.
  • What is the significance of the very specific declination of the terms?
  • Why yoni? Is the fact that it is a central Vedic term significant? If so, how or why?
  • It appears that the Buddha may have invented the term manasikāra. Again, why? There were already many words of similar meaning.
  • It is used in a variety of senses. Is there a common thread to these?

grammar

Grammatically, it breaks down to something like:

  • yoniso: an adverb in an instrumental sense, “in a yoni-ish manner”, “by yoni”, “sourcewise”. Compare dīghaso, “lengthwise”.
  • manasi: locative of manas “mind”, literally “in the mind”, “in relation to the mind”, or “mental”.
  • kāra or karoti: “doing”, “work”, “action”.

It is frequently negated, in which case the negative applies to yoniso, not to the phrase as a whole.

commentary

The commentary consistently glosses yoniso with upāyena, pathena, which is quite interesting, and not what I would have expected. I would have thought it was a word for “cause”, but instead it is “means, way, range”. Authros that I have seen have simply accepted this without mentioning this suprising aspect of it.

I haven’t located a commentarial gloss for manasikāra yet.

See Nyanamoli’s discussion here.

As for the Abhidhamma, in Vibhanga 17 we find:

Therein what is “improper attention”? There is improper attention thus, “In impermanence there is permanence”; there is improper attention thus, “In pain there is pleasure”; there is improper attention thus, “In absence of soul there is a soul”; there is improper attention thus, “In absence of beauty there is beauty”; or, turning of the mind, repeated turning, cognition, advertence, attention to what is contrary to truth. This is called improper attention.

This is clear and helpful: turning the mind to what is contrary to truth.

I’ve briefly skimmed a range of Sanskritic Abhidharma texts and haven’t come up with any definitions of the term.

yoni in the veda

For studies of the Veda I am relying on the Sanskrit edition at Gretil and the translation by Jamison and Brereton.

Yoni is found commonly in the Rig Veda, probably a hundred times or so. J&B appear to translate it consistently as “womb”, with notes or expansions in square brackets to highlight different meanings. The Vedas are, so far as i know, completely composed by men, so this obviously informs the perspective. For example, the yoni is not closely identified with pleasure, only with reproduction (but see RV 10.8.3 quoted below).

The dominant senses are the literal womb, the altar or seat of soma in the sacrifice, and the philosophical notion of the “womb of truth”.

In more detail, we find:

  • “womb” in literal or metaphorical sense
    • RV 5.45.3: “the womb of the mountain (gapes open) for the primordial birth of the great ones [=dawns].”
    • sometimes explicitly stated as a metaphor: RV 5.79.5: “O tree, spread apart, like the womb of a woman about to give birth.”
  • “seat”, “throne”, “altar”
    • RV 5.67.2: “O Varuṇa and Mitra, when you two take your seat upon the golden womb”
    • RV 9.2.2 “his seat upon the metal-hammered womb”
  • “nest”
    • RV 9.62.4: “like a falcon on his womb”.
  • source
  • native abode or resting place
    • RV 1.63.4: Indra cuts apart the Dasyus in their remote “womb”, i.e. sanctuary.
    • RV 2.38.8: Varuna’s watery womb.
    • RV 3.53.4, “the wife is the home; she is the womb.”
  • race or birth lineage
    • RV 2.20.7: “Indra razed the Dāsa (fortresses) with their dark wombs.”
  • place of rebirth
    • RV 5.29.10: “You crushed the Dasyus mouthless with your murderous weapon; you wrenched those of slighting speech down into a woeful womb.”
  • cup or receptacle
    • RV 1.164.33: “My womb is within the two open cups [=Heaven and Earth]”

The yoni is not restricted to women, as we find eg. “sit down at the womb of the father” (RV 8.10.21).

The Veda constantly plays with these meanings, eg. at RV 3.1.6 we hear of sevens sisters from the same “womb” (here= seven rivers and/or priests) and in the next verse Agni has ghee as his “womb”, i.e. source. Thus in the Veda there is both a closeness and vividness to the fundamental biological/generative sense of yoni, while also a free and creative play on that sense. This constantly produces striking images, like Brhaspati whose “womb is the ear” (RV 2.24.8).

The sense of yoni as the sacrificed ghee, or as the altar in which the ghee resides, is very common. Cf. RV 1.104.1 “A womb has been prepared for you to sit down in, Indra”.

As a word for female genitals, yoni can be used in a general sense, or in specific reference to the vulva, vagina, or uterus. Each of these referents informs a spectrum of metaphorical senses. The vulva, the primary appearance of the yoni in iconography, is the place from which things are born. The vagina is a passage or means. The uterus is the seat or abode or resting place.

Cf. my surprise above that commentarial explanations emphasize “means, way” rather than “source”, i.e. they draw on the metaphorical aspect of the vagina, the passage or means by which the semen flows, rather than the uterus, the destination or resting place. For example, see RV 3.33.3, 4: “proceeding along our womb” (i.e. rivers in their beds).

We commonly find the idea of the “womb of the truth”, often applied in the sense of “sitting in the womb of the truth” (Rig Veda 9.13.9 yonāv ṛtasya sīdata). This is most commonly found in the case of Soma, and there is a fundamental connection between this idea and the god Soma. It seems that the visionary aspect of Soma (some kind of stimulant) heightens awareness of the connectivity of things. The well-performed sacrifice—not taken as a party drug, but hedged about with infinitely complex rules and procedures—stimulate the idea that the yoni (altar), towards which the soma rushes is the source of an overarching unifying truth, the higher-dimensional reality expressed in the Vedic verses themselves.

Here “truth” is ṛta, which is one of the fundamental ideas of the Vedas.

The creative power of the word is evidenced by the hundreds of relatives it has in other languages, including English.

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:English_terms_derived_from_the_Proto-Indo-European_root_*h₂er-

Ṛta means the natural order or pattern, a system of truth or reality that governs and guides. It is a precursor of the idea of dhamma. And it can be seen as the fundamental philosophical insight, the leak in the wall of the dam, that leads to the death of the gods. They, no less than us, are subject to ṛta, so if we know how to manipulate ṛta, we can bend the gods to our will. And if so, it does not take long before we think to ask: who really is the god here?

Here are the bulk of the Vedic verses that reference this idea.

RV 1.65.4 (Agni)
With wonder the waters strengthen the lovely child,
well-begotten in the lap of truth, in its womb.

RV 3.1.11 Agni:
In the womb of truth lay the lord of the house, Agni, within the work of the kindred sisters

RV 3.53.6 All Gods:
The sage poet, (though) having a man’s sight, has looked upon them: the two [=Heaven and Earth], separated but becoming exhilarated (together) in the womb of truth.

(The divine insight of the poet/seer transcends mere human sight to see that the supposedly different realms of heaven and earth are unified “in the womb of truth”, i.e. they are both produced by the same all-encompassing natural laws.)

RV 3.62.13 Soma
Soma proceeds, finding the way; he goes to a rendezvous with the gods, to sit in the womb of truth.

(Here the womb is the destination, i.e. the uterus, towards which the soma proceeds. This is both the literal movement of the pressed soma as it drips or pours into the receptacle in the sacrifice, and the semen as it moves to the uterus.)

RV 5.21.4 Agni
O blazing one, shine when you are kindled. Take your seat upon the womb of truth. Take your seat upon the womb of grain.

The fire burning in the altar, ready to consume the offering.

RV 9.8.3 Soma Pavamāna
O Soma, rouse the heart of Indra to generosity, as you are being purified to take your seat on the womb of truth.

RV 9.13.9 Soma Pavamāna
Striking away the non-givers, purifying yourselves, looking like the sun, sit on the womb of truth.

Related: RV 9.25 Soma Pavamāna (cf. 9.50)
2: the dear poet in his womb,
6: sit in the womb of chant

The “womb of truth” is the inspired reality conveyed by the poet (= seer). This corresponds with the Buddhist idea that the dhamma is the reality seen by the Buddha and expressed in his teaching (dhamma).

The same hymn has the image (verse 2) “Self-purifying one, sped by insight, ever roaring toward your womb”. The yoni (= uterus) is the destination towards which the soma (= semen) rushes. Cf.

  • RV 9.37 “He, the tawny one, wide-gazing, rushes steadily into the filter, continually neighing toward his womb” (also at 9.38.6)
  • RV 10.123.2 the ““brides-to-be” have roared toward the same womb”
  • RV 10.148.5 “roared toward your ghee-filled womb”.

RV 9.32.4 Soma Pavamāna
O Soma, looking down on both (worlds?), like a great wild bird launched in flight you rush,
settling down on the womb of truth.

RV 9.37.6: Soma Pavamāna
United they have roared. They impel the tawny one with the stones,
(saying,) “Sit in the womb of truth.”

RV 9.64: Soma Pavamāna
11: Your wave which, pursuing the gods, has streamed around in the filter,
sitting on the womb of truth.

17: Continually being groomed, the lively drops
have come at will to the sea, to the womb of truth.

20: When the swift one sits on the golden womb of truth,
he leaves behind the undiscerning.

22: For Indra with the Maruts, o drop, purify yourself as the most honeyed,
to sit on the womb of truth.

RV 9.66.12 Soma Pavamāna
Toward the sea have the drops gone, like milk-cows toward home, to the womb of truth.

RV 9.72.6 Soma Pavamāna
The cows and the thoughts in uninterrupted array, ever regenerating, go together to him in the womb, the seat of truth.

RV 9.73.1 Soma Pavamāna
In the jaw (of the pressing stones) while the droplet was blowing its blast,
they sounded in unison. The ties of lineage have joined together in the womb of truth.

(The image is that the sheep’s wool that filters the soma, and the tongue of the reciter are unfied by the thread of truth).

RV 9.86.6 Soma Pavamāna
Seven milk-cows roar toward the tawny one being purified on the
sheep’s fleece in a wave all around.
Into the lap of the waters, into the womb of truth have the Āyus, the
buffaloes propelled the poet.

RV 9.107.4 Soma Pavamāna
O Soma, you rush while being purified in a stream and clothing yourself in the waters.
Conferring treasure, you sit here upon the womb of truth as the golden wellspring, o god.

RV 10.8.3 Agni
At his flight the ruddy females [=flames? dawns?] with the horse [=fire?] as their foundation find pleasure in their own bodies within the womb of truth.

A rare reference to female sexual pleasure in reference to the yoni.

10.65.7, 8 All Gods
7. Those ruling over heaven, with Agni as their tongue, growing strong through truth, sit stroking the womb of truth.
Having propped up heaven, they brought the waters here by their might.
Having given birth to the sacrifice, they clasped it to themselves.
8. The two parents born of old, encircling, sharing the same home, rule in the womb of truth:
Heaven and Earth, who obey the same commandment to Varuṇa, swell the ghee-filled milk for Varuṇa, the buffalo.

RV 10.68.4 Br̥haspati
Spraying the womb of truth with honey, flinging (it=honey?) down like a firebrand from heaven when the chant (sounded),
Br̥haspati, when he brought the cows up out of the stone, split asunder the skin of the earth as if (just) with water.

RV 10.85.24 Wedding Rites (attr. to Sūryā Sāvitrī)
In the womb of truth, in the world of the well-performed (sacrifice?)
I place you unharmed along with your husband.

implications of context

We are beginning to see how the idea of yoniso manasi kāra can be informed by the Vedic context in a way that makes sense of some of the peculiar features of the phrase.

Clearly the most important idea is the “womb of truth”. This is a major Vedic image. As with all such rich metaphors, it encompasses a range of meanings and implications. But the idea is that the altar, when unified with soma, is the source of a fundamental insight that unifies heaven and earth, a recognition of the cosmic patterns of meaning that bind us all and which are perfectly expressed in the words of the poet seers, i.e. the Vedas themselves.

This explains why we see yoni chosen in this sense, rather than any of the myriad other words for cause or source, or indeed, means or way. It is the yoni, and only the yoni, that is the mystical seat of this cosmic insight, an awareness heightened not by a drug or a rite, but by meditation.

Now we can begin to see how the Buddhists took yoniso from the meaning “womb” and arrived at the meaning “correct” or “right”.

We can also look again at a key passage (MN 42:13). The two conditions for the arising of right view are:

parato ca ghoso, yoniso ca manasikāro
The voice of another and yoniso manasikāra

The voice of another is external, a mere representation of the truth, and it only bears fruit when it is traced back to the source, where the inspired words are unified with the patterns of reality in a state of heightened awareness to reveal the underlying truth.

We can also start to understand some of the other peculiar linguistic choices here. Why do we have manasi and why is it in locative? The Vedic sources evidence a range of contexts in which the yoni is meaningful, from the organic to the allegorical to the mystical. The Buddha is explicitly narrowing the scope of application, asserting that he is speaking psychologically: in the mind.

We can also see parallels to the final element of the term, karoti, to do or act. The Vedic images repeatedly emphasize the virile, active work of “roaring” to the yoni, drawing on the sexual metaphor of an orgasmic roar. The use of karoti maintains this active sense, giving the phrase an impulsion and an energy. It’s not just awareness or wisdom or insight, it’s an exercise.

remaining questions

A couple of things are still bugging me.

Is the real sense of yoniso to do with “source” or, as per the commentary, “means”? Both, as noted above, can be derived from the biology of the yoni. The yoni as “seat of truth” is, however, clearly identified with the destination, the uterus or altar, rather than the course or path to the destination. This would suggest that the sense is “source” and that the commentarial gloss of upāyamanasikāra is wrong. But I want to check some other Buddhist sources before coming to a conclusion here.

Next, what exactly is the implication of the -so ending? If yoni is the “source”, then the most obvious read would be that it is, as in Ajahn Brahm’s formulation, “the work of the mind that goes back to the source.” But -so, with its ablative/instrumental sense, doesn’t seem to support that. It means, rather, “from” or “with” or “by way of” or “in terms of”.

Perhaps it is simply idiomatic and we shouldn’t insist too hard on a particular grammatical reading. But then why use this very specific form? Pali offers a ready-made solution for cases when you don’t want to specify the case: just compound it. But we never find yonimanokāra. Surely the cases must be meaningful.

Most likely the sense is something like, “asking questions that pertain to the source”. That is, applying the mind in a “rational” manner that is guided by the understanding that things have causes that create suffering or freedom from suffering.

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Ah! Getting to the heart of the matter I see! Wonderful! :pray:

Perhaps a paper on Ayoniso Manasikāra in Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakosa might be interesting?

direct.pdf (1.2 MB)

I look forward to seeing what you come up with, Bhante! :pray:

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Thanks, but it seems to mostly focus on later readings, it assumes the meaning and doesn’t really get into it. It seems a common thing, most authors I’ve seen more or less assume the basic meaning and start from there.

I did briefly look on academia for things and didn’t find this essay, so if you find anything else, please do share!

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Wow, this text has considerably … changed :open_mouth: since I first saw it!

So if I understand you correctly you are saying it means something along the lines:

“pertaining-to-the-source-wise” (yoniso) “in the mind” (manasi) “doing” (kāra)?

I.e. using the mind in a way that pertains to the source?

Still digesting … :hourglass_flowing_sand:

I am wondering if “applying the mind” is in fact more specific than “attending”? It seems to me still rather vague and general. But I find it hard to do any better …


Added:
Just wondering (while looking at MN 2): Do you in English “pay application of mind”?

When you pay irrational application of mind, defilements arise, and once arisen they grow. (MN 2:3.4)


Added again:
There’s also sammāmanasikāra (for example in DN 1:1.31.1), which would then be

“right” (sammā) “in the mind” (manasi) “doing” (kāra).

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(Sanskrit) Grammatical POV for yoniśo manasikāraḥ/manaskāraḥ

Yoni means source, place of origin, womb etc.

yoniśas (or yoniśaḥ or yoniśo which are sandhi variants of the former) is yoni ending with the śas adverbial affix. It would normally have the meaning “according to each of their origins”, “by each place of origin”. By extension, it could also mean “completely” (i.e. “right from the origins onwards progressively until the end”)

Here the -śas suffix is a taddhita (nominal affix) and is used in the sense of enumerative ordering.

Other examples:
ekaikaśaḥ (eka-eka-śaḥ) or just eka-śaḥ = one by one, one after the other
dvi-śaḥ = two by two, two after two
yugma-śaḥ = pair by pair, pair after pair
varga-śaḥ = varga by varga, varga after varga
kati-śaḥ = how many after how many
bhāgaśaḥ (bhāgaso in pāli) = part by part, part after part
khaṇḍaśaḥ (pāli khaṇḍaso) = bit by bit, part after part
āyatanaśaḥ (pāli āyatanaso) = āyatanam by āyatanam (sphere by sphere)
dhātuśaḥ (pāli dhātuso) = dhātu by dhātu
etc.

Now for manaskāra/manasikāraḥ:
manas = mind.
manas-kāraḥ or manasi-kāraḥ (manasi = locative singular of manas) = placing in the mind, application of the mind, mental investigation

So yoniśaḥ manasikāraḥ I think means:
Investigating something mentally - thoroughly and progressively from its start to finish.

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This topic is timely for me! In a JIBS article, a certain Aggadhamma states that " Yoniso mānasikāra is also a synonym of paccavekkhana which means wise consideration, contemplation, and reflection." He goes on to use suttas about yoniso mānasikāra to explain paccavekkhana. I’m not sure which Ven. Aggadhamma is this author or what their qualifications are. It seemed to me that paccavekkhana-suddhi is closer to appamāda, and yoniso mānasikāra closer to yathābhūtañāṇadassana

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Yoni (womb), as mentioned above, seems to be referring to the direction origination, and from that point of view, yoniso manasikāra would be attention that takes origination into account. Or even more specifically, attention that takes truth into account. Attention that mirrors that of the four noble truths:

By not attending to things unfit for attention and by attending to things fit for attention, unarisen taints do not arise in him and arisen taints are abandoned.

“He attends wisely: ‘This is suffering’; he attends wisely: ‘This is the origin of suffering’; he attends wisely: ‘This is the cessation of suffering’; he attends wisely: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ When he attends wisely in this way, three fetters are abandoned in him: personality view, doubt, and adherence to rules and observances. -MN 2

There are often a multitude of ways to consider why a certain experience manifests, and significance depends on the perspective: the direction of attention. For instance, there is often deep consideration for why there is either painful or [lack of] pleasant feeling in the experience, and an ordinary person who is unaware of the Dhamma will more often than not dwell on arrangement of circumstance to discover the reason for suffering (and attempt to mitigate it), failing to take into account that even if desirable circumstances are achieved, craving (in regard to feeling) - the true origin of suffering - remains unnoticed and untouched.

So, it isn’t enough to just investigate circumstance to discover why there is suffering - all that can tell is that there is suffering, in this way or that. And for the ordinary person, merely giving attention to circumstances in this way will most often give rise to sensuality, ill will, etc. To discern what is in the direction of yoni, as described in MN 2, the perspective must endure circumstances in order to discern the broader principles of suffering and craving. Same applies when investigating any form liability, which is how both impermanence and suffering apply to the experience: an enduring liability to change, and therefore cannot be me, not myself and not “I am”.

That subtle shift in attention changes the priority when it comes to freedom from suffering. Whereas the ordinary person would find a solution to suffering with a more agreeable arrangement of circumstance, the person training in Dhamma would go in the direction of developing the mind as to not be at the mercy of circumstance. So, any rendering should emphasize the placement of the mind/attention to the source/womb, which implies going through the particulars of a given experience to discern the principles that give it meaning. “Appropriate” or “wise” don’t necessarily fail to take this into account, but either does require some unpacking.

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And it may well change again!

Yes, I think so. Perhaps it could be expressed even more loosely, “applying the mind in a manner that is guided by an awareness that the sources of things shape their manifestations.”

Happy to hear alternatives. But to me, “applying” is more active and ongoing. Attention is a little static, like soldiers standing at attention.

No, a mistake, I’ve fixed it.

“right application of mind” (which actually fits the context better.)

I’m sure there will be other cases, too!

This is one sense of the ending, and thanks for the examples. But in Pali at least—not sure about Sanskrit—this ending can take a number of senses. We previously discussed it a little here.

In this case, the commentary typically glosses it with an instrumental upāyena pathena.

Looking at couple of the other examples, it’s not clear to me that they all have an enumerative sense. Consider SN 22.57:

Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu dhātuso upaparikkhati, āyatanaso upaparikkhati, paṭiccasamuppādaso upaparikkhati.

Paṭiccasamuppāda is always treated in singular as an abstract principle, and one cannot examine “paṭiccasamuppāda by paṭiccasamuppāda”. Surely the instrumental applies here:

It’s when a mendicant examines by way of the elements, sense fields, and dependent origination.

As a different usage, consider āyatanaso in AN 4.61. There a householder is lauded for their financial prudence with the phrase:

Idamassa paṭhamaṁ ṭhānagataṁ hoti pattagataṁ āyatanaso paribhuttaṁ.

It’s not an easy idiom, (I have reconsidered and changed my translation just now), but I have rendered it as:

This is his first expenditure in an appropriate sphere on a deserved and fitting cause.

Here too the commentary glosses āyatanaso with an instrumental (kāraṇeneva).

Other cases are less clear. dhātuso could be “by way of the elements” or “element by element”.

Anyway, the main point is that the enumerative usage of the -so ending is just one application in Pali, but in relevant contexts the Pali tradition typically interprets the ablative in an instrumental sense.

I have been trying out the rendering “application of mind”. It seems to work fairly well.

Again, that article only considers the Buddhist usage, i.e. what it went to, not where it came from. That’s one half of the equation.

But sure, in general Buddhist usage that’s fine.

Umm, I’m not really sure what you’re getting at here. Appamada is “diligence”, which is not really the same as “reviewing”. Yoniso maniskara isn’t quite the same as yathābhūtañāṇadassana. Normally it leads to it, but sometimes the meaning overlaps, like when Yoniso maniskara is applied to the four noble truths.

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I was just noting that yoniso manasi kāra is in no way a synonym for paccavekkhana, despite what the author Aggadhamma wrote. We see paccavekkhana in the exhortations to be diligent in reviewing or checking the skillful and unskillful deeds and states of mind, eg MN 61, AN 10.48, AN 10.51, AN 10.52, AN 10.53, AN 10.54, AN 8.7. While Yoniso manasi kāra is more about wisely choosing what to pay attention to, e.g to impermanence etc, and not to “what was I in the past” etc.

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It would be very kind to notify us if this happens. :grin:

Yes, exactly. My thoughts for German currently turn around a phrase that’s very similar to “apply”, in fact. … Not yet sure what comes out.


I also have to say, I am not too happy with “rational” for yoniso. Rational, to my ear anyway, sounds like a rather cold application of reason, with no emotional warmth. And I don’t understand the Buddhist way of using the mind to be of that sort.

Rather, a wise application of mind includes things like love and compassion, and the inspiration that comes from faith—these are not things that can be explained “rationally”. In fact, faith (a rather emotional thing) is said to be the very cause of yoniso manasi kāra, as per AN 10.61.

AN10.61:6.20: Ko cāhāro yonisomanasikārassa?
And what is the fuel for rational application of mind?
AN10.61:6.21: ‘Saddhā’tissa vacanīyaṁ.
You should say: ‘Faith.’

So currently I am still inclining more to the direction of “gründlich” (thorough, to the ground) rather than “rational” (would be the same word in German, or else “vernünftig”).

Perhaps “gründlicher (yoniso) Gebrauch des Geistes” versus “oberflächlicher (ayoniso) Gebrauch des Geistes”. Or maybe “ergründend” would be better—and a lot clumsier! I love your “loose” translation above! :woozy_face: :thinking: :laughing:

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The four aspects of stream entry:

  1. association with kalyanamitta
  2. listening to the true dhamma
  3. yonisomanasikara (contemplating what is heard)
  4. dhammanudhammapatipada (practicing what has been heard).

2. and 3. give rise to Right view, which is a feature of a stream entrant. 4. gives rise to yatabhutanana.

Therefore I prefer ‘wise contemplation’. It must be differentiated from sati, which is why 3. and 4. are distinct.

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Hmm, in german we have a word “folgerichtig”, for instance “folgerichtiges Denken”. (Sherlock Holmes should be the master of such an ability of thinking… :slight_smile: ) I have always taken as hypothesis that something like this is meant, ability to think while aware of the source-effect-sequence. But I don’t know an english term which emits this nuance. DeepL proposes “consequent/logical/consistent/consequential thinking”, and LEO.org gives two more terms “congruously/coherent thinking”. One which sounds even more appropriate here is perhaps “deductive thinking” - this term focuses a technique in the thinking-process, while “consistent”,“congruously” and “coherent” rather focus the quality of the result of the thinking. “Logically thinking” is perhaps near, but seems more general than “deductive” which sounds to me more specific to point on the source-effect sequence in the process of thinking or of considering.

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“Folgerichtig” is not bad. It comes close to “rational” in meaning, but sounds less cold.

The difference to “gründlich” or “ergründend” is perhaps that these move backwards from a given point to the source, while “folgerichtig” has more of a forward movement.

Nice to discuss German terms here! Thank you, @Nessie!

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what about, in that direction, perhaps, “tiefgründig”?

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Since the author is also considering the interpretation of the term in question by different teachers, here is the venerable Nyanamoli:

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Sādhukam is also (often) combined with manasikāra. And this also has the sense of thoroughly. In ud1.1 for example ‘sādhukaṁ manasākāsi’ is used where you maybe would expect yoniso because it relates to depend origination. Do you think, Bhante, that sādhukam and yoniso are synonyms in this regard?

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It seems in fact. What is described here for the Buddha is actually the same as what Buddha Vipassi does in DN 14 (where yoniso is used). Good example!

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I think in Dutch it could work with one word as well maybe in German also? This would translate to something like this in German: ‘und ergründete das ,bedingte Entstehen’ in fortlaufender Richtung’ - ergründete is then a translation of sādhukam manasākāsi.

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Hmm, I’m not in such a rush here. The vinaya parallel to this in Kd 1 just has anulomapaṭilomaṁ manasākāsi. Sanskrit parallel has vyavalokayan (“scrutinize”).

And elsewhere (eg. sn12.37:2.1) we find sādhukaṁ yoniso manasi karoti. And not forgetting that 150+ times sādhukaṁ manasi karoti is used to call the audience’s attention at the start of a talk.

I think they’re similar, but not full synonyms. Sādhukaṁ means “carefully, thoroughly”, whereas as I point out above, yoniso has a deep range of doctrinal and metaphorical connections. There’s a reason why it became one of the most characteristic Buddhist terms.

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Thank you Bhante. I don’t have anything to offer, but I really like your use of the word trace here. It seems to encompass a lot of what is going on - investigation, finding, causal sequences.

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