Saṁskṛtasya saṁskṛtalakṣaṇāni 有為有為相 in EA 22.5 & it's source text

So, I was looking through the (Saṁskṛta)lakṣaṇasūtra (有為)相經 Taishō 125.607c13 Ekottarāgama 22.5 parallel Aṅguttaranikāya 3.47 Saṅkhatalakkhaṇasutta, when I encountered this interesting phrasing of the opening statement:

Jñānaprasthānaśāstra: (yathāha bhagavānsaṁti) trīṇi saṁskṛtasya saṁskṛtalakṣaṇāni
Aṅguttaranikāya: Tīṇimāni (bhikkhave) saṅkhatassa saṅkhatalakkhaṇāni.
Ven Sujāto: (Mendicants,) conditioned phenomena have these three characteristics.

The Chinese is clearly translated from some language that directly preserves this wording of saṅkhatassa saṅkhatalakkhaṇāni. Look at the odd duplication, 有為有為相, in the Chinese.

I would like to tag @Sylvester here, as his Chinese is better than mine, and I think his eventual input, if he is so inclined, would be valuable. I would also similarly seek Venerable @vimalanyani’s opinion, if she is likewise inclined.

The genitivity of the initial saṅkhatassa seems more-or-less completely lost or unobserved in the Chinese? Or is the genitive for 有為 implied by the initial 此 somehow? If so, this could be an odd Indianism in the Hybrid Chinese, parallel to 內外法法觀住 in the Smṛtyupasthānasūtra SA 176, where the locativity of the first object of semantic duplication, 法 dharmeṣu, is perhaps poorly observed? (adhyātmabahirdhā dharmeṣu dharmānupaśyī viharati, Sanskrit Sarvāstivāda Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra SF 293).

Secondly, regarding the nature of the construction in a source language, and I am leaving out “bhikkhave” from the Pāli simply because the Chinese does not have it, but otherwise seems to preserve the wording of the idiom, I would like to ask Venerables @sujato and @Dhammanando if they are likewise so inclined as to comment on exactly how the genitive in this construction relates to the seemingly-redunant duplication of the word in the following construct, saṅkhatalakkhaṇa. Once again, for the sake of clarity:

trīṇi saṁskṛtasya saṁskṛtalakṣaṇāni
tīṇimāni saṅkhatassa saṅkhatalakkhaṇāni
Ven Suj: conditioned phenomena have these three characteristics

What is this genitive & it’s seeming duplication up to? It is a textual redundancy for the sake of specificity? Could the text have read tīṇimāni saṅkhatassa lakkhaṇāni and still been just as clear?


Incidentally, is SuttaCentral able to acquire this Sanskrit Jñānaprasthānaśāstra Abhidharma text? There seems to be only Chinese recensions hosted at present, as far as I can tell.

It’s a pretty common kind of idiom in Pali. The genitive indicates possession, and functions where English would use the verb “to have” (Pali lacking such a verb.) Lit:

There are these three conditioned characteristics of the conditioned.

But this is a place where literalism is not our friend.

We can, but I have my doubts about it. IIRC, the only Sanskrit text of this is a modern reconstruction. I can’t find any info about the publication on the web, and the Wikipedia page only mentions the Chinese versions.

The version to which you link cites the Digital Sanskrit Canon, but the text there seems to be missing.


From the DDB entry for 有爲 -

[ウイ] [Buddhism] All the conditioned phenomena in existence. That which arises, changes, and decays. Transient phenomena. As distinguished from 無爲. [source(s): Gakken, Hanyu](Charles Muller)

as well as -

Compounded, created, caused, active, changing, phenomenal, the processes resulting from the laws of karma 有作; unconditioned opposite of 無爲. The three compounded phenomena 三有爲法 are 色法 material, or things which have form, 心法 mental and 非色非心法 neither the one nor the other. The four forms of activity 四有爲相 are coming into existence, abiding, change, and extinction 生住異滅; they are also spoken of as three, the two middle terms being treated as having similar meaning (Skt. saṃskṛta, abhisaṃskṛta, abhisaṃskṛta, ābhisaṃskārika, saṃskāra, saṃskāra-gata, saṃskṛtatva, saṃskṛta-dharma, saṃskṛta-lakṣaṇa, saṃskṛtādharmāḥ; Pāli saṃkhata; Tib. 'dus byas; Tib. 'dus byas pa). 〔大般若波羅蜜多經 T 220.6.2a18〕 [Charles Muller; source(s): Soothill, Stephen Hodge, Hirakawa]

The genitive 之 is not rendered. I am tempted to say “lost” but I’ve not spent enough time with the EA to be familiar with the translation idiom and method for this Agama. If you pop next door into EA 22.6, you get -

有此三有 為之相

So, the latter text had the genitive rendered, although compressing 有為有為相 into 有 為之相 in the process.

Probably not; it seems to coincide with the Pali that goes “There are these 3”, where 此 is the pronominal “these”.


IMO the above looks like my aforementioned tīṇimāni saṅkhatassa lakkhaṇāni. Without the second saṅkhata before lakkhaṇāni

trīṇi saṁskṛtasya saṁskṛtalakṣaṇāni
there are three, of the conditioned, conditioned-marks

What an interesting way to say that. My English grammar would want to try to incorporate some sort of adjectival quality to the second saṁskṛta, some kind of saṁskṛtatā-lakṣaṇāni, bit I don’t even know if that is a valid sort of compounding. That seems to be IMO the sense meant by the duplication.

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Actually, it just occurred to me, a better sense of what is perhaps meant behind the seemingly-redundant duplication in the phrase trīṇi saṁskṛtasya saṁskṛtalakṣaṇāni: "there are three that are of the created, (these are the) marks of the created”. “saṁskṛtalakṣaṇāni” as a compound can be also read as “marks of the created/conditioned” instead of the more laborious “conditioned-marks” that is more direct, yes?

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the repetition may itself imply conditioning. Instead of saying:

form-instance is a vital condition for form-instance

One might simply rely on the temporally successive utterance of

form-instance form-instance


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What do you mean by “form-instance” here?

Something to be had? (just a wild guess)
有 為

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IMO “having creation”. Compare it with 無為法 asaṁskṛtadharma in SA 890.

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No. If it were phrased that way then the scope might be characteristics of any sort exhibited by sankhata things, both those that differentiate them from asankhata things and those that differentiate one sankhata thing from another, such as being kusala, akusala or avyaakata, being past, future or present, etc. But the addition of sankhata makes it unambiguous that the concern is only with the former.


So the duplication makes the marks in question exclusive, essentially? With saṅkhatassa lakkhaṇāni they could be just random marks, but saṅkhatassa saṅkhatalakkhaṇāni means that these are a) the only marks, and b) the marks that define something as in the set of “saṅkhata”? As in, “these are the (three) marks of the conditioned that are the only (three) marks themselves that make something to be conditioned”?

In my opinion, it is appropriate to translate tīṇimāni (bhikkhave) saṅkhatassa saṅkhatalakkhaṇāni as ‘these three, o monks, are the conditioned characteristics of conditioned things’, and trīṇi saṁskṛtasya saṁskṛtalakṣaṇāni as ‘the three conditioned characteristics of conditioned things’.

There’s no redundancy: the debate is about the relationship of the conditioned characteristics to things ( factors) that are conditioned. This is tied-up with disagreements about:

  1. Are the terms ‘conditioned’ and ‘dependently-originated’ synonymous?
  2. Are the characteristic marks of conditioned things 3 or properly 4?
  3. Are the characteristic marks themselves material or immaterial and are they discrete entities nor not?
  4. Does the compound term_saṃskṛta-_ refer to the quality of the characteristic marks of the conditioned things themselves, or the quality of being conditioned which is determined by the 3 characteristics (birth, change, passing away)?

This isn’t my area of specialty at all but if you have access to academic journals, this precise issue is dealt with by:

Dessein, B. (2011). “Time, Temporality, and the Characteristic Marks of the Conditioned: Sarvāstivāda and Madhyamaka Buddhist Interpretations.” Asian Philosophy vol. 21(4):341-360.


Well, if one has “these are the three marks of the conditioned” one doesn’t need to specify the marks as further being marks that mark a given subject as “conditioned,” does one? But I suppose Ven @Dhammanando’s point above is that it is actually more ambiguous than it seems without the second asankhata.

It was more the curious Chinese that sparked the question, the genitive being lost or unobserved seemingly. How does the Chinese read with no knowledge of the Pāli or Sanskrit? It is an odd phrasing, yes?

Thank you for your reply.

Collectively, the triad utpāda, sthityanyatātva and vyava are known as the saṃskrtalakṣanāni; it should be kept in mind this is a technical term. Further, some schools would allow for the attribution of the three conditioned marks to what is unconditioned (asaṃskṛta).

Regarding the Chinese, you might find this quote (from the above cited article, p.346) interesting:

“The Chinese translation of samskrtasya samskrtalaksana (conditioned characteristic marks of the conditioned) as ‘youwei zhi youweixiang’ in the above quotation from the 􏰀[Abhidharmamahā]vibhāsā[śāstra], i.e. with the genitive zhi, reveals that the Vaibhāsikas indeed attributed a ‘real essence’ to the characteristic marks. This is affirmed in the Shi’er men lun shu (T.vol.42, nr. 1825, p. 198c2–3): ‘The three characteristic marks [of the conditioned] are conditioned factors (samskrta dharma)’. They therefore also possess the characteristic marks of the conditioned.”