On the meaning of yoniso

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There is a nice word for thinking accordingly from cause to effect in German, this is folgerichtig. Leo’s dictionary translations of this into english seem a bit artificial to me “cosequent” and the like. But english is not my native tongue, so I don’t know. In german it sounds very smooth to say: “you’re thinking much folgerichtig” (considering the right sequence of causes to some effect) and even the nagation “well, friend, this was not much folgerichtig considered, when you took the horn of the cow to get milk
Other answerers have mentioned that the term thinking rational has an overload of intellectualism, which seems no to be so with folgerichtig : I don’t feel any language/semantic problem on thinking/doing folgerichtig out of meditative attempt, out “of understanding by the physis”, out of “emotional intelligence”, out of unconscious processes, out of true compassion and so on.


I stumbled across this:

I’m not sure if I completely suscribe, but it’s a very interesting take on yoniso manasikāra.

I wonder what other more knowledgeable ones think?


The adjective ‘appropriate’ (or what is proper, correct) is the more general meaning of ‘yoniso’, applicable in all sorts of contexts. The same applies of course to its opposite ‘ayoniso’ in the meaning inappropriate (improper). The similes quoted by B. Sujato fit this general usage of ‘yoniso’ quite well, since in everyday life what is rational and reasonable is also the appropriate way of doing things. In other words what is reasonable is included in what is deemed appropriate.

Having ploughed through all conceivable options for years I have settled with the German ‘gebührend’ in the context of ‘manasikāra’ (attention). So in German that would be:

gebührende Aufmerksamkeit for ‘yoniso manasikāra’.
ungebührende Aufmerksamkeit for ‘ayoniso manasikāra’.

In English the closest equivalent would be:

due attention for ‘yoniso manasikāra’.
undue attention for ‘ayoniso manasikāra’.

‘Due’ in this context has the implied meanings of deserving, suitable, necessary, correct, which are all implied in the German ‘gebührend’ as well.

The context of ‘manasikāra’ (attention) is by far the most important usage in the canon as it is related to mental development along the lines of the Buddhist path. I believe this is the decisive point: ‘yoniso’ (due) receives a very specific meaning in this context because of its relatedness to mental training. In other words, attention is to be directed to things which deserve attention, the things which are suitable and necessary for progress along the Buddhist path.

Although I do agree with the general arguments of B. Sujato, I don’t think that what is rational or reasonable is what is primarily intended here. To make it short: to pay attention (direct one’s mind) to the four truths is not what most people would regard as rational or reasonable, but it is simply suitable and necessary to make progress along the path, for abandoning desire and realize awakening. That is the reason why the four truths ‘deserve’ attention, and hence should be given ‘due attention’ (yoniso manasikāra) as much as possible. I think this rendering is well in line with the usage of ‘yoniso’ in texts like the Sabbāsava Sutta (MN 2), and in the context of ‘manasikāra’ in general.


I noticed that the definitions of “sound” cover many of the words suggested in this thread.


  • free from damage, injury, decay, etc
  • firm; solid; substantial; a sound basis
  • financially safe or stable; a sound investment
  • showing good judgment or reasoning, sensible; wise sound advice
  • valid, logical, or justifiable; a sound argument
  • holding approved beliefs; ethically correct; upright; honest
  • (of sleep) deep; peaceful; unbroken
  • thorough; complete a sound examination
  • British informal; excellent
  • law (of a title, etc) free from defect; legally valid
  • constituting a valid and justifiable application of correct principles; orthodox sound theology
  • logic
  • (of a deductive argument) valid
  • (of an inductive argument) according with whatever principles ensure the high probability of the truth of the conclusion, given the truth of the premises
  • another word for consistent (def. 5b)


Yes, you’re quite right. A sound argument! Let me have a look and see if this works.


While I was reading this thread (very interesting, thanks everyone!), I thought that a further complexity is being stuck with manasikāra as attention, which has been hinted already. In the average meditation/Buddhist environment, attention is used very much non-discursively, while many of the examples being used here would be well conveyed as: thinking rationally about something, having an adequate perspective, looking at (something) rationally or intelligently, etc. Renderings that use attention or attending sometimes made me confused, like those sentences didn’t mean what they were trying to mean. For example, when ayoniso manasikāra refers to autobiographical rumination, as it’s cool to call it today in mindfulness circles. Perhaps contemplating is a good compromise, and it can go with rationally, sensibly, practically, intelligently… (Although it conflicts with anupassanā.)


Manasikāra seems to be a more basic process than contemplation, though. The suttas are full of places that teach various “contemplations” and “reflections” and so on, and Pali has a rich vocabulary for such; but manasikāra is not used in such cases.

I waver between “attention” and “focus”, though these days I tend to use “attention” in most cases.

As for anupassanā, these days I use “observe” rather than “contemplate” for exactly the same reason.


To think about (with verbal thought) one must attend to a particular topic. The addition of Yoniso to manasikara suggests incorporation of wisdom. Anupassana (anussati?) doesn’t contain the same element of exploration, I feel.


Not so sure about anussati. Given the implication of memory in sati and the content of the recollections, to me it suggests reflection. My speculation is that the anussatis could have been reflections that in the process of formation of the canon got settled to specific wordings/formulas.

@sujato I understand that the general concept refers to something quite basic, after all it’s to ‘make mind’, it’s where you put your mind. My reservations are that we don’t speak of “Was I in the past…” or “This is suffering…” as attending. It’s weird. Actually I like focus. But perhaps that’s just the limits of translation vs explanation.


PS: Focus helps convey the sense more of paying attention in a particular way (perspective) that either gives rise to autobiographical rumination or ‘dharma mode’.


My issue with focus is that it sounds more like mindfulness/awareness rather than a discursive/intentional verbal process.

Re: Buddhanussati, dhammanussati, sanghanussati etc they are contemplations to be done in a particular recommended manner…


Yes, I agree, focus would work better in such cases.