Effect of volitional formations | Daily News


Effect of volitional formations

Avijjà paccayà sa§khàrà (Skt. sa§skàrà), dependent on Ignorance arise rebirth-producing Volitional Formations. The term sa§khàrà has also another meaning. In the statement 'sabbe sa§khàrà aniccà' or 'aniccà vata sa§khàrà' (all compounded things are impermanent), the term ' sa§khàra' applies to-all compounded and conditioned things, i. e., all things that come into being as the effect of causes and conditions and which, themselves, act as causes and conditions in turn again to give rise to other effects. In the Pañicca Samuppàda, however sa§khàra is restricted to mean simply all good and evil actions (kusala-akusala kamma), all actions, physical, verbal and mental (kàya sa§khàra, vaci sa§khàra, and citta sa§khàra) which will bring about reactions, It is difficult to give a satisfactory English equivalent to the term sa§khàra. Let us therefore, understand it in this context as rebirth-producing volitional activities, or volitional formations or simply as kamma (Skt. karma).

Ignorance, avijjà, which has taken root in man is the blindness that prevents a man from seeing his actions as they really are, and so it allows craving to drive him on to further actions. If there were no ignorance there would not be such actions (sa§khàra). In the absence of actions conditioned by ignorance, there will be no rebirth, and the whole mass of suffering will cease. In order to exemplify how the twelve factors of the Pañicca Samuppàda act upon a connected sequence of lives, the formula has been conceived as extending over three consecutive existences, past, present and future.

Ignorance and Volitional Formations belong to the previous birth. Wholesome sa§khàras are capable of bringing about a good rebirth, i.e., birth in a good state of existence. Unwholesome sa§khàras can cause a bad rebirth or birth in an evil state of existence. It must be mentioned that all sa§khàras, all good and evil actions, have ignorance as condition. Here a question may be raised as to how actions conditioned by ignorance could bring about good rebirth.

All attainment of good (kusala), from the state of the virtuous, worlding (kalyàõaputhujjaõa) and the 'lesser streamwinner' (cålasotàpanna) to that of the consummate one (arahat) is due to the balance of knowledge over delusion and of detachmnent over craving. Good actions are the direct consequence of whatever clear understanding there may be in the doer. It is not because of delusion and craving that a man gives up killing etc., but because he has the wisdom to see the evil consequence of such actions and also because he is moved by such qualities as compassion and virtue. It is not possible except for the perfect ones to act from complete knowledge or detachment. To the generality of men such knowledge is unthinkable. As Eddington says, "If 'to know'

means to be quite certain of the term is of little use to those who wish to be undogmatic. The Philosophy of Physical Science, p.i, Cambridge University Press, 1939.And if to be detached means to be neutral always such detachment is for the imperfect quite impossible, and meaningless. But occasional detachment is possible, and a measure of knowledge adequate for understanding the good is available for an intelligent man of virtue, for producing actions that are wise and unsoiled by the yearning for rewards in this life. There is much that is done in the world today with no hope of reward, or recognition, out of compassion or for the furtherance of knowledge, peace, and so forth. Such actions definitely are based on knowledge and detachment, not perhaps in the dogmatic, scholastic, or merely metaphysical sense, but in the light of sane, undogmatic thought. Good actions may well have ulterior motives, for instance, the yearning for the fruits of the good; but even in such instances, though tainted by greed and to that extent by delusion, there are in such good actions, for instance in liberality, the detachment to let go and the knowledge of seeing the evils of not giving at all, and the advantage of giving. The presence of craving and ignorance in a person does not mean that he can never act with knowledge and detachment.

Now it must also be understood that although man is, capable of performing good actions unsoiled by strong desire for rewards in this life, there may be in him, unconsciously working, a tender longing for good rebirth, or a feeling of desire for rewards in the hereafter. Again, though he may be doing an action out of compassion and without any ulterior motives, he may still be lacking in full awareness of the real nature of life-its being impermanent, sorrow-stricken, and void of an abiding entity or soul. This non-knowledge of the real nature of life, though not so gross and strong as the delusion that induces a heinous act, can yet induce karmically wholesome action leading to a good rebirth. A good rebirth even in the heavens is, however, temporary and may be followed immediately by an unhappy rebirth.

Such non-knowledge motivates and colours the good act. If, for instance, the performance of good actions is motivated by the desire for the resultant happiness in a good rebirth in a heavenly realm, or on earth, then that is the ignorance of the impermanence and unsatisfactory nature of all existence, which becomes a condition of good rebirth - i. e. an inducement - or support condition (upanissaya paccaya). In these and other ways, ignorance may act as a condition of good rebirth by motivating or colouring good volitional activities (sa§khàra) of a mundane (lokiya) nature. Such is the intrinsic nature of ignorance.

Ignorance of the real nature of life is primarily the ignorance of the four Noble Truths. It is because of this nonknowledge of the Truths that 'beings' take birth again and again. Says the Buddha:

'Monks, it is through not understanding, not penetrating the four Noble truths that we have run so long, wandered on so long in this long long way, both you and I... But when these four Noble Truths are understood and penetrated, rooted out is the craving for existence, destroyed is that which leads to renewed becoming, and there is no more coming to be.Digha Nikàya, Mahà Parinibbàna Sutta

Only the actions of a man who has entirely eradicated all the latent tendencies (anusaya), and all the varied ramifications of sorrow's cause, are incapable of producing rebirth; for such actions are issueless. He is the Arahat, the perfect One, whose clarity of vision, whose depth of insight penetrates into the deepest recesses of life, in whom craving has quite ceased through cognizing the true nature that underlies all appearance. He has transcended all appearance. He has transcended all capacity for error through the perfect immunity which penetrative insight vipassanà, alone can give. He is, therefore, released from ignorance (avijjà) and his actions no more bring about rebirth.

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