What are bodily fabrications?

“There are three fabrications, householder: bodily-fabrications, verbal fabrications, & mental fabrications.”

“Very good, venerable sir.” And, delighting in and approving of Ven. Kamabhu’s answer, Citta asked him a further question: “But what are bodily-fabrications? What are verbal fabrications? What are mental fabrications?”

“In-&-out breaths are bodily fabrications. Directed thought & evaluation are verbal fabrications. Perceptions & feelings are mental fabrications.”

The above is often taken as a definition of bodily fabrications. But it is not clear to me that the above was meant to be exhaustive. It could easily be read in a more informal tone:

“What are bodily fabrications? Well, in and out breaths are.”

In this informal tone the precise meaning is more like “in and out breaths are one example.”

People speak like this all the time. Somebody might ask, “what are healthy behaviors?” and the questioned could reply, “going for walks is a healthy behavior!”

I do not see why bodily fabrications should not be taken to refer to a more general category. Thoughts?


This fails to recognize the simplified and essential nature of the teaching, and the epistemology of the Buddhist path. In and out breathing is the most critical function to life and accordingly in Buddhist terms has elevated status, next to space and consciousness and above the other elements by virtue of the quality of air which is less material, and where the inherent potential of space for movement becomes active. Cultural ignorance of the ascendancy of air in the environment has resulted in the present global crisis. This separation is being corrected with meditation apps:

"Each of these meditations focuses on a different element to allow you to commune with the divine forces that reside within you. "

—Insight Timer

“We know too well that the stresses of daily life can shift our mind and body out of alignment. There is, however, a way to fix this imbalance: by harnessing the power of the Five Elements!”

—Wild Divine

Yes. I also take bodily fabrications as a separate category.

Mental fabrications: Perceptions & Feelings
Verbal fabrications: Thoughts
Bodily fabrications: Intentions associated with body
- Intention of moving your arms
- Intention associated with breathing
- Intention associated with itching sensations

1 Like

Yes, this seems clearly correct to me. It is common in the suttas for there to be non-exclusive lists like this. For example, in the anguttara, one often finds statements like “there is one thing which does x,” only to have it followed by a second example of “one thing which does x.” In English, if we said there is one thing, we would take it to be the thing, ie the only thing, whereas in the suttas, it just means a thing.


I think that’s right. The sutta you’re referring to uses the term in a very specific context, namely deep meditation. But in a wider context, such as Dependent Origination, the term refers to karma, including all sorts of bodily actions, such as stealing, killing, etc.

Consider for example MN57:

And what, Puṇṇa, is dark action (kamma) with dark result? Here someone generates an afflictive bodily formation (kaya-sankhara), an afflictive verbal formation, an afflictive mental formation. Having generated an afflictive bodily formation, an afflictive verbal formation, an afflictive mental formation, he reappears in an afflictive world. When he has reappeared in an afflictive world, afflictive contacts touch him. Being touched by afflictive contacts, he feels afflictive feelings, exclusively painful, as in the case of the beings in hell. Thus a being’s reappearance is due to a being: one reappears through the actions one has performed. When one has reappeared, contacts touch one. Thus I say beings are the heirs of their actions. This is called dark action with dark result.

I think it goes without saying that the in and out breath do not lead to rebirth in hell. Otherwise, we’re all in for a lot of trouble! :laughing:


Problem is in MN 57, the mind is using manosaṅkhāraṁ,

While DO use cittasankhara.

So it is not a kamma in DO, but more related to progressive attaintment in samma samadhi. See MN 43 and SN 41.6.

Citta vs Mano needs to be understood. Buddha used then very differently. See SN 12.61

But when it comes to that which is called ‘mano’ and also ‘citta’ and also ‘vinnana’, an unlearned ordinary person is unable to become disillusioned, dispassionate, or freed.

Yañca kho etaṁ, bhikkhave, vuccati cittaṁ itipi, mano itipi, viññāṇaṁ itipi, tatrāssutavā puthujjano nālaṁ nibbindituṁ nālaṁ virajjituṁ nālaṁ vimuccituṁ.

But that which is called ‘mind’ and also ‘sentience’ and also ‘consciousness’ arises as one thing and ceases as another all day and all night.
Yañca kho etaṁ, bhikkhave, vuccati cittaṁ itipi, mano itipi, viññāṇaṁ itipi, taṁ rattiyā ca divasassa ca aññadeva uppajjati aññaṁ nirujjhati.

Here they are used as synonyms.
True, in some contexts they refer to different aspects of “mind”. But here the terms are all referring to the same conditional “mind.”

1 Like

Do you ever see Buddha explain kamma with cittasankhara in Sutta?

I never see one yet. Please let me know if you can find one. I’m very interested.

If one needs to see kamma, they need to see the nama part in nama rupa link.

Vedanā, saññā, cetanā, phasso, manasikāro—

This is called name.

idaṁ vuccati nāmaṁ.

That is, unless you are breathing with the intention to harm lol
There might be the case where someone enjoys going to group meditations and thinks: “I will breathe in such a way to annoy everyone while they meditate!” :laughing:

I suppose part of the reason that I asked is because it also seems like the statement in the anapanasati sutta could be taken to have a broader meaning. “Calm bodily fabrications” in the first tetrad, last step, refers to calming the breath (during samadhi the breath can become very slow) but it can also mean to simply relax and calm the body. What do you think?

Hi. The translation ‘in and out breaths’ is completely unambiguous. It is the translation ‘bodily fabrications’ that is ambiguous, as demonstrated by different translations by different translators.

Hi. In my view, they cannot be separated. When the breath calms, the body calms. I think the most efficient way of calming the body is by calming the breath. I am not sure how to calm the body without calming the breath. If I keep my body absolutely still but my mind remains very active with emotional thought, the body will not calm. To calm the body, I think the mind & breath must first be calmed. “Calm bodily fabrications” must refer to calming the breath (in my opinion).

Venerable, do you think that in the context of meditation kayasankhara can also include muscular movements, and not just breathing? It’s conceivable that during Anapanasati, we should not only calm our breathing, but also our muscular movements.

Well, it’s mindfulness of breathing after all, so it would make sense if it would refer to the breath in this context. The context here isn’t Dependent Origination. It doesn’t mean “stilling bodily karma” or something. :slight_smile: So I take it to mean slowing down the breathing. The rest of the body naturally calms down at that point, as well, as Dunlop also said, but technically I think it refers to the breath.

1 Like

Do you ever see the Buddha specifically differentiate these terms in the suttas?
It’s not just about kamma.

The sutta you cited has the context of this mind, Yañca kho etaṁ

In case you’re implying citta is not dependently arisen and is fundamentally different than mano and viññāna:
Nāmarūpasamudayā cittassa samudayo; nāmarūpanirodhā cittassa atthaṅgamo.”
The mind originates from name and form. When name and form cease, the mind ends.

Yes, Buddha differentiate cittasankhara and manosankhara.

He only use manosankhara when he speak on kamma, never in cittasankhara.

Because cittasankhara is sanna and vedana. As stated in MN 43. Only can be purified with Samma samadhi development as in N8FP.

They are all dependent originated.

1 Like

I understand what you’re expressing. I was responding to your earlier statement that citta and mano were fundamentally different, not the use of the more restrictive terms like cittasankhāra and manosankhāra.

In addition, cittasankhāra appears to point to the mental processes of rapture and bliss in the context of MN118. In other contexts it points to intention. And in MN44 to perception and feeling in a different context.

If the usage is different, then they are difference in the sense as described in SN 12.61. Both terms need to be understood, not just lump all in one meaning.

Can you quote the sutta where this is described? I would like to see.

Then why in MN 118 or MN 10 satipatthana sutta there is no manonupassana, but there is cittanupassana.

Also do you know why 4SP specifically the step vedananupassana first, then cittanupassana?

Or if you see in MN 118, it is experiencing piti, sukha first then cittasankhara. Why never mention manosankhara there too?

Who is lumping into one meaning?

This was meant in the broad sense of sankhārā as related to the ethical choices one makes, as in DO, including cittasankhāra in its broader meaning of mental activity.

In MN118 it’s not experiencing pīti and sukha first and then cittasankhāra– in a number of interpretations cittasankhāra is specifically referring to them in this context.
Admittedly, I’ve read different interpretations of this but given the context in MN118, this appears to be the most likely.

Why specific terms are used or not used in certain suttas is unanswerable – sometimes we say “car” and sometimes we say “automobile” and sometimes we say “vehicle.”

As I said, my first response was to what appeared to be a fundamental separation and distinguishing between citta, mano, and viññāna. in your post.

1 Like

Nah. Buddha and his disciples are very precise in the usage.

I guess i tried. Maybe time to leave it as is.

But IMO cittasankhara in DO is exactly as described in MN 43 and SN 41.6.

He never use cittasankhara in kamma or intention term.

The intention part is described in nama in DO as stated above.

Commen sense will conclude that mind cannot be the same as consciousness and mentallity or vice versa. It is not that difficult to see this. If a sutta still suggests that, suppose it does, i feel, that needs clearly more explanation. There is no need to threat all those sentences or statements in the sutta’s as some indisputable truth.
It is also likely the words are not the literaly words of the Buddha. So we also do not reject Buddha’s teachings when we feel some sentences or statements are unluckely formulated or need much more explanation.

Buddha’s advice is: “Please, Kālāmas, don’t go by oral transmission, don’t go by lineage, don’t go by testament, don’t go by canonical authority(Or just scriptures, Green), don’t rely on logic, don’t rely on inference, don’t go by reasoned contemplation, don’t go by the acceptance of a view after consideration, don’t go by the appearance of competence, and don’t think ‘The ascetic is our respected teacher.’ But when you know for yourselves: ‘These things are unskillful, blameworthy, criticized by sensible people, and when you undertake them, they lead to harm and suffering’, then you should give them up”…(fragment of AN3.65)

Very wise, i feel. You can also see when two people rely on scripture they can still develop very different understanding.