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?


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.



They ask a question without knowing its source i.e they dont know why they asking.
They answer a question without knowing what the question means.
When someone else answers a question correctly, they disagree with the answer because they don’t understand the relevance of the question(the source of the question) nor its meaning i.e they disagree with the answer without a valid reason.

"If you practise the spiritual life 'without knowledge of its source ', you can’t win the fruit, regardless of whether you make a wish,
‘āsañcepi karitvā ayoniso brahmacariyaṃ caranti, abhabbā phalassa adhigamāya;…"

"Because that’s not the source nor ground by which the fruit can be gained.
Ayoni hesā, bhūmija, phalassa adhigamāya"

Because its not the source nor ground by which oil can be gained
Ayoni hesā, bhūmija, telassa adhigamāya

"Because that’s the source and ground by which oil can be gained.
Yoni hesā, bhūmija, telassa adhigamāya"

Yes, the link you sent is interesting.

If manasikara is attention/ direction and yoniso is ‘source by which’.
We can get “source by which attention is

Yoniso manasikara implies the knowledge of the base by which attention is, i.e the ground on which it rests.

Ayoniso Manasikara is just attention/direction without the “background” knowledge/discernment of the presently arisen source or base by which attention is possible.

If one cannot ‘do’ yoniso manasikara, or is unaware of the simultaneous presence of the background because of which the foreground(attention) is, then there is no beginning of practice, for it is the basic structure of experience and without the knowledge of that structural base, one will not be able to understand the teaching of the Buddha/the words of THE other.

"There are two conditions for the arising of right view:
“Dve kho, āvuso, paccayā sammādiṭṭhiyā uppādāya—
the words of another and knowledge of the ground by which attention is.
parato ca ghoso, yoniso ca manasikāro." MN43

Some sections from Sabbasava sutta…

MN2" When you do not have the knowledge of the ground/source by which, defilements arise, then,once arisen they grow.
Ayoniso, bhikkhave, manasikaroto anuppannā ceva āsavā uppajjanti, uppannā ca āsavā pavaḍḍhanti;
When you have the knowledge of the ground by which (defilements arise), then defilements don’t arise, and those that have already arisen are given up.
yoniso ca kho, bhikkhave, manasikaroto anuppannā ceva āsavā na uppajjanti, uppannā ca āsavā pahīyanti"

Considering the source by which they use the lodgings
_ Paṭisaṅkhā yoniso senāsanaṃ paṭisevati”_

In other words they know and consider their background intentions in regard to their usage of requisites.

If one cannot understand and recognise the base structure of experience i.e the background and foreground simultaneously arisen,then it is impossible to be aware of your intentions while you are acting, because your intentions are in the background and your act is in the foreground.
Being able to know your intentions in the background while you act in the foreground can reveal the principle of paticcasamupada " with this, this is".
Thus the importance of understanding what is meant by yoniso manasikara.

Whatever one is attending, that is the foreground, and the determination/nutriment of that is the background.


For whatever my opinion is worth, my preferred translation is “thoroughly”


One thoroughly attends?
Why the use of that particular word?


Thoroughly means: completely, methodically, capturing the whole… “yoniso” (as mentioned above) means: down to the origin. When we understand something “yoniso” we understand it “down to its womb,” that is to say: thoroughly or completely or exhaustively.

“wisdom” is the result of such an understanding, so I disagree with “wisely” as a translation. “Rationally” is okay, but doesn’t capture the connotation of the Pāḷi to me. “Rationally” comes from “ratio” or “ration”: meaning to divide things up. But “yoniso” is more of a wholistic understanding.

For what its worth, I wouldn’t translate “manasikāra” as “attention” because it’s more active than that. I translate “manasikārā” as “consideration”.

So I would translate “yoniso manasikārā” (the phrase I assume you meant) as “thorough consideration”.

The important part is to not miss something.

Look at the suttas where it’s used. Vipassī concludes “When birth exists, there is old age and death.” To come to this conclusion, you’d have to really think hard: are there any counter examples? Coming to such a definitive conclusion requires more than “attending” or even “rationalizing,” it requires “thorough consideration.”

My two cents, at least :smile:


Thanks for the explanation. However, I would like to inquire further.
I understand the term ‘through consideration’ as you explained, but I am still skeptical about what you meant and how that works in practice, particularly with the example you gave:
When birth exists, there is old age and death.” To come to this conclusion, you’d have to really think hard:

Does this ‘thinking hard’ equate to your ‘thorough consideration’?
You continue to say that, the above conclusion is arrived at not by merely ‘attending’ and neither by ‘rationalizing’, but by doing something ‘more’/extra which is ‘thoroughly considering’.

So by doing all of those 3 things i.e attending and rationalizing and thoroughly considering, one can arrive at the conclusion of “with birth, ageing and death is”.
By thoroughly considering what you are attending while rationalizing, one arrives at the answer.
Is this what you meant?

Do you mean that one just ‘thoroughly considers’ without attending or rationalizing?

If this is so, then could you give an example sentence of what thorough consideration would ‘look’ like?
What I mean is, with the example you gave " with birth, ageing and death is", can you demonstrate the process of thorough consideration on that subject? Just with a few sentences( another two cents), how would you start this ‘consideration’?
How do you thoroughly consider?



That is an excellent question for another thread! Let’s keep the discussion here on topic: the translation of “yoniso”


For me, since there is “source” in the game, I think there is an option to think of a “flow” of a conditioned process (of dependencies) from the “source” to the expected result.
So something “considering the natural flow of <something> correctly from the source (deeply)”. Where / might be “the getting of the milk of the cow”. Or to recognize why/from where it comes, that trees are first small and then large.

Some more creative approximations: a) “source-rooted thinking”, b) “dependency-driven thinking” …


One can translate yoniso in whatever way one wants but it would be nice,from my point of interest, if it were backed up by an explanation or description of some kind which can show its validity or useful applicability.

The description of how a translation actually applies can show if it is a valid translation, otherwise its just a matter of opinion and or dictionary analyses i.e I like it and I don’t like that or the dictionary said so…etc

You did however, explain why you like using that translation, but how that translation applies would add weight to it i.e if you could demonstrate the translation through the description of how one can come to the conclusion ‘with birth, ageing and death is’ that would be a useful added extra.
Not only would you put forth a translation but you would show how its application results in the desired outcome, which then would validate your translation for those who want to apply it.