Research Study

Ignorance And Conditioning
Six Sense Bases / Cognition /
Karma And The Ending Of Karma
'I' And The Ending of 'I'
Cause-Effect (Paticca Samuppada)


Sabbe sankhara anicca'ti;
yada pannaya passati,
atha nibbindati dukkhe,
esa maggo vissuddhiya.

- Dhammapada - 277.

Impermanent are all compounded things. (conditionings)
When one perceives this with true insight,
one becomes detached from suffering; this is the path
of purification.

Sabbe Sankhara anicca'ti, yada pannaya passati,
atha nibbindati dukkhe, esa maggo visuddhiya.
Sabbe Sankhara dukkha'ti, yada pannaya passati,
atha nibbindati dukkhe, esa maggo visuddhiya.
Sabbe Dhamma anatta'ti, yada pannaya passati,
atha nibbindati dukkhe, esa maggo visuddhiya.


Impermanent and suffering are all compounded things (conditionings) and all formations have the characteristic of impersonality (egolessness). When one perceives this with insight one ends suffering - this is the path of purification.

Anicca vata sankhara, uppadavaya-dhammino;
uppajjitva nirujjhanti, tesam vupasamo sukho.


Impermanent truly are compounded things (conditionings), by nature arising and passing away. Having arisen when they are extinguished (with insight), their eradication brings happiness.

Visankhara gatam chittam, tanhanam khayamajjhaga.

- Dhammapada 154 (Jaravagga)

-conditionings of the mind have been eradicated, craving has ended. - (This is the state of an arahat-an enlightened / liberated one)

1) Chayime avuso vinnanakaya : cakkhuvinnanam sotavinnanam ghanavinnanam
jivhavinnanam kayavinnanam manovinnanam
(M. i, 53; also M. i, 259; iii, 216, 281).

2) Vijanati vijanatiti kho avuso, tasma vinnanan ti vuccatiti (M. i, 292).

3) Sutava rupam attato sannam...
na vinnanam attato samanupassati, na vinnanavantam attanam, na
attani vinnanam na vinnanasmim attanam
(M. i. 300).

4) Tam kim mannatha bhikkhave. Vinnanam niccam va aniccam va ti? Aniccam bhante
(M.i, 138; also S. iv, 67-68).

5) Yo bhikkhave evam vadeyya : aham annatra rupa annatra vedanaya annatra sannaya
annatra sakkharehi vinnanassa agatim va gatim va cutim va upapattim va vuddhim va
virulhim va vepullam va pannapessami ti n'etam thanam vijjati
(S. iii, 53.)

Majjhimanikaya (M) and Samyutta nikaya (S) state: Vinnana is ''consciousness''. Six kinds of vinnana exist - with each designation dependent upon the sense organ through which the faculty performs its function. (There are 6 sense organs and hence 6 kinds of vinnana, the six sense organs are the 5 physical sense organs and the 6th is the mind). Therefore we find vinnana associated with each of the 6 sense doors.

The function of the vinnana is to ''vinnanize'' (cognize, mere cognition, pure congnition, cognition without perception, pure consciousness, mere attention).

Vinnana displays the characteristics of all conditioned phenomena: namely the truths of impermanence and selflessness. For example, the Cullavedalla-sutta condemns the attempt to regard not only vinnana but any of the five aggregates as the seat of individuality (atta), while the Alagaddupama-sutta stresses that vinnana itself is impermanent. And it is mentioned elsewhere that those who believe that Vinnana has a destiny of its own, distinct from the other four khandha, are misled as to its true nature.

Therefore, it is clear that within the realm of Pali Dhamma neither vinnana nor any of the other aggregates can be considered as permanent or as occupying the place of an everlasting self. (All the 5 aggregates of mind-matter : that is to say rupa (matter/body) and the 4 parts of mind-consciousness (vinnana), perception (sanna), sensation (vedana) and reaction or conditioning (sankhara) are all impermanent, suffering and egoless.)

Yato ca kho avuso ajjhattikan c'eva cakkhum aparibhinnam hoti bahira ca rupa
apatham agacchanti tajjo ca samannaharo hoti, evam tajjassa vinnanabhagassa
patubhavo hoti
(M. i, 190).

Majjhimanikaya states:

Whenever there is a functioning sense-organ (eye, ear, tongue, nose, body and mind), a sense-object (visual form, sound, taste, smell, touch and thought) entering into the field of the sense- organ then, with these brought together, there is the manifestation of the part of consciousness referring to the specific sense organ.

dvarasangahe dvarani nama cakkhudvaram
sotadvaram ghanadvaram jivahadvaram
kayadvaram manodvaran ca ti chabbidhani

-Abhidhammattha Sangaha of Acariya Anuruddha Chap.III-12 (Narada-Bodhi, BPS)

In the compedium of doors, there are 6 doors, namely : eye door, ear door, nose door, tongue door, body door and mind door.
When no active cognitive process is taking place, the bhavanga (life-continuum) flows on as a series of cittas (mind moments) the very moment a sense object enters a sense door...then...bhavanga-cittas vibrate owing to the impact of the object....and launches into a cognitive process (vithipata)...

-Pg 157 Abhidhammattha Sangaha, A comprehensive
manual of Abhidhamma by Bhikkhu Bodhi, BPS Srilanka.

Buddha's teaching is to move from the gross, apparent truth to the subtlest, ultimate truth, from olarika to sukhuma. The apparent truth always creates illusion and confusion in the mind. By dividing and dissecting apparent reality, you will come to the ultimate reality. As you experience the reality of matter to be vibration, you also start experiencing the reality of the mind: vinnana (consciousness), sanna (perception), vedana (sensation) and sankhara (reaction). If you experience them properly with Vipassana, it will become clear how they work.

Suppose you have reached the stage where you are experiencing that the entire physical structure is just vibration. If a sound has come in contact with the ears you will notice that this sound is nothing but vibration. The first part of the mind, consciousness, has done its job: ear consciousness has recognized that something has happened at the ear sense door. Like a gong which, having been struck at one point, begins vibrating throughout its structure, so a contact with any of the senses begins a vibration which spreads throughout the body. At first this is merely a neutral vibration, neither pleasant nor unpleasant.

The perception recognizes and evaluates the sound, "It is a word-what word? Praise! Oh, wonderful, very good!". The resulting sensation, the vibration, will become very pleasant. In the same way, if the words are words of abuse the vibration will become very unpleasant. The vibration changes according to the valuation given by the perception part of the mind. Next the third part of the mind starts feeling the sensation: pleasant or unpleasant.

Then the fourth part of the mind will start working. This is reaction; its job is to react. If a pleasant sensation arises, it will react with craving. If an unpleasant sensation arises, it will react with aversion. Pleasant sensation: "I like it. Very good! I want more, I want more!" Similarly, unpleasant sensation: "I dislike it. I don't want it." Generating craving and aversion is the part played by the fourth factor of the mind-reaction.

Understand that this process is going on constantly at one sense door or another. Every moment something or the other is happening at one of the sense doors. Every moment the respective consciousness cognizes; the perception recognizes; the feeling part of the mind feels; and the reacting part of the mind reacts, with either craving or aversion. This happens continuously in one's life.

At the apparent, surface level, it seems that I am reacting with either craving or aversion to the external stimulus. Actually this is not so. Buddha found that we are reacting to our sensations. This discovery was the enlightenment of Buddha. He said :

Salayatana-paccaya phasso
phassa-paccaya vedana
vedana-paccaya tanha.

With the base of the six senses, contact arises with the base of contact, sensation arises with the base of sensation, craving arises.

It became so clear to him: the six sense organs come in contact with objects outside. Because of the contact, a sensation starts in the body that, most of the time, is either pleasant or unpleasant. Then after a pleasant or unpleasant sensation arises, craving or aversion start-not before that. This realization was possible because Buddha went deep inside and experienced it himself. He went to the root of the problem and discovered how to eradicate the cause of suffering at the root level.

Working at the intellectual level of the mind, we try to suppress craving and aversion, but deep inside, craving and aversion continue. We are constantly rolling in craving or aversion. We are not coming out of misery through suppression.
Buddha discovered the way: whenever you experience any sensation, due to any reason, you simply observe it:

Samudaya Dhammanupassi va kayasmim viharati
vaya Dhammanupassi va kayasmim viharati
samudaya-vaya-Dhammanupassi va kayasmim viharati.

He dwells observing the phenomenon of arising in the body.
He dwells observing the phenomenon of passing away in the body.
He dwells observing the phenomenon of simultaneous arising and passing away in the body.

Every sensation arises and passes away. Nothing is eternal. When you practise Vipassana you start experiencing this. However unpleasant a sensation may be-look, it arises only to pass away. However pleasant a sensation may be, it is just a vibration-arising and passing. Pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, the characteristic of impermanence remains the same. You are now experiencing the reality of anicca. You are not believing it because Buddha said so, or some scripture or tradition says so, or even because your intellect says so. You accept the truth of anicca because you directly experience it. This is how your received wisdom and intellectual understanding turn into personally experienced wisdom.

Only this experience of anicca will change the habit pattern of the mind. Feeling sensation in the body and understanding that everything is impermanent, you don't react with craving or aversion; you are equanimous. Practising this continually changes the habit of reacting at the deepest level. When you don't generate any new conditioning of craving and aversion, old conditioning comes on the surface and passes away. By observing reality as it is, you become free from all your conditioning of craving and aversion.

Western psychologists refer to the "conscious mind" Buddha called this part of the mind the paritta citta (a very small part of the mind). There is a big barrier between the paritta citta and the rest of the mind at deeper levels. The conscious mind does not know what is happening in the unconscious or half-conscious. Vipassana breaks this barrier, taking you from the surface level of the mind to the deepest level of the mind. The practice exposes the anusaya kilesa (latent mental defilements) that are lying at the deepest level of the mind.

The so-called "unconscious" mind is not unconscious. It is always conscious of body sensations, and it keeps reacting to them. If they are unpleasant, it reacts with aversion. If they are pleasant, it reacts with craving. This is the habit pattern, the behaviour pattern, of the so-called unconscious at the depth of the mind....

-from a discourse given by S N Goenka in Bangkok Thailand in September 1989. (for details see "looking within-living and dying from moment to moment" in the introduction of this study)

(please refer to the Dhamma teachings as quoted under ''Sensations-the root of misery and sorrow and the key to insight and freedom'' in this study)

Panc' upadanakkhanda : rupupadanakkhando,
Vedanupadanakkhando, sannupadanakkhando,
Sankharupadanakkhando, vinnanupadanakkhando.

-Abhidhammattha Sangaha of Acariya Anuruddha
Chap VII-35.

The 5 aggregates of clinging are :-(1) the materiality (body) aggregate of clinging (2) the sensation aggregate of clinging (3) The perception aggregate of clinging (4) the conditioning aggregate of clinging (5) the consciousness aggregate of clinging.

(Much of the discussion above is of abhidhamma -the analytical study of mind-matter. This study is experiential with insight ('what is') and not intellectual. For details please refer to 'A comprehensive mannual of abhidhamma' by Bhikkhu Bodhi-BPS Sri Lanka)

Yam hi, bhikkhave, mannati,
Yasmim mannati, yato mannati,
Yam meti mannati,
Tato tam hoti Annatha
Annathabhavi bhavsatto Loko bhavmev abhinandti.

-Samyutta Nikaya (dutiya eja sutta)

Monks, what one believes to be 'I', 'me', 'atma' (soul), In which one believes resides 'I', 'me', 'atma' (soul), Like which one believes is the 'I', 'me', 'atma' (soul), what one believes ''(This is) mine'', when one sees (by Vipassana)-and sees that it is impermanent-then it becomes clear to him that-one who is attached to this impermanent existence-considers this existence to be worthwhile (and keeps giving it importance).

Kammassaka, bhikkhvave, satta kammadayada, kammayoni, kammabandhu, kammapatisarana, yam kammam karonti-kalyanam va papakam va-tassa dayada bhavanti

Oh meditators, beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs of their deeds, born of their deeds, kin to their deeds; their deeds are their refuge. Whatever actions they perform, whether good or evil, such will be their inheritance.

Aneka jati samsaram,
Sandhavissam anibbisam;
Gahakarakam gavesanto,
Dukkha jati punappunam.
Gahakaraka ditthosi,
Puna geham na kahasi;
Sabba te phasuka bhagga,
Gahakutam visankhitam;
Visankharagatam cittam,
Tanhanam khayamajjhaga.

-Udana uttered by the Buddha after His enlightenment.

So many births I have taken in this world, seeking in vain the bui1der of this house; in my search over and over, I took new birth, new suffering.

Oh! house builder, now I have seen you, you cannot make a new house for me; all your beams are broken, the ridge pole is shattered; my mind is freed from all the conditionings of the past, and has no more craving for the future.

[ The 'house builder' referred to above is avijja (ignorance). 'house' or 'new house' referred to above is nama-rupa (the mind-matter continuum) which is infact the 5 aggregates (pancakkhanda)-matter or body (rupa) and the 4 parts that constitute the mind, consciousness (vinnana) perception (sanna), sensation (vedana), reaction or conditioning (sankhara).]

This has been discussed in more depth later on under "cause-effect (paticca-Samuppada)".

Sabba kamma jahassa bhikkhuno
dhunamanassa pure katam rajam;
amamassa thitassa tadino,
attho natthi janam lapetave.
-Khuddaka-nikaya, Udan

The monk who does not make new kamma (Karma), and combs out old defilements as they arise; has reached that meditative state where there remains no 'I' or 'mine'. For him mere babbling makes no sense. He remains engrossed in silent observation (Vipassana).

...Annanmula-bhedaya, kammayanta-vighatano....

-Sayings of arahat Ven. Migjalatissa Thera on the Dhamma as taught by Lord Buddha

Ven Migjalatissa Thera who was an Arahant (Liberated one) had this to say about Dhamma Teachings (Vipassana) as Taught by Lord Buddha:

...breaks the roots of ignorance, dismantles the Karma-machinery...

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