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The Eighth Lesson
The 10th Lesson
[MN 9]
WP, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, #9: Right View, Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, trans, pp134
[MN 117]
ATI: MN 117: The Great Fourty, Bhk. Thanissaro, trans.

Pāḷi MO Hare Horner Punnaji Bodhi Nanamoli Rhys Davids (Mrs)Rhys Davids Thanissaro Walshe Woodward
saṅkappa Principles purpose [AN 6.63], aim [AN 7 42], resolve[AN 7 42] thought Goal Visualization intention intention aspiration aim intention, resolve Thought Intention


Pāḷi Text Society
Pāḷi English Dictionary
Edited by T. W. Rhys Davids and William Stede


Sankappa: [saṅ+k'p, cp. kappeti fig. meaning] thought, intention, purpose, plan D III.215; S II.143 sq.; A I.281; II.36; Dh 74; Sn 154, 1144; Nd1 616 (=vitakka ñaṇa paññā buddhi); Dhs 21; DhA II.78. As equivalent of vitakka also at D III.215; A IV.385; Dhs 7. --kāma- a lustful thought A III.259; V.31. paripuṇṇā- having one's intentions fulfilled M I.192; III.276; D III.42; A V.92, 97 sq.; sara- memories & hopes M I.453; S IV.76; vyāpāda-, vihiṅsa-, malicious, cruel purposes, M II.27 sq.; sammā- right thoughts or intentions, one of the angas of the 8--fold Path (ariya--magga) Vin I.10; D II.312; A III.140; VbhA 117. Sankappa is defd at DhsA 124 as (cetaso) abhiniropana, i. e. application of the mind. See on term also Cpd. 238.

On Sankappa

Adapted from an off-line discussion.

San = one's own Kappa = fit and proper
'principles'; what is fit and proper given one's point of view
Nekkhamma-Sankappo; Avyaapaada-Sankappo; Avihimsa-Sankappo

High Sankappa: The Principle of Letting Go, The Principle of Non Cruelty (no mental pain); The Principle of Non-Harm (no physical pain)

Discussion in footnote of PTS: The Dialogues of the Buddha; Vol II; Sattipatthana Suttanta, pp345:

Nekkhamma: Burnouf derives this word from nis+karma; Oldenberg from nis+kama, and Childers from nis+kramya. These three derivations would give the meaning respectively as having no Karma, being devoid of lust, and going forth from home. Daraminpola explains it here as meaning either the second or the third. No doubt Oldenberg is right as to the derivation. But Daraminpola is also right if we take his not as exegetical, not philological. The fact is that the derivation had been, from very early times, forgotten or confused; and the connotation of the word was renunciation generally, with special reference to these two kinds. It never had anything to do with Karma.

Here the word is derived from NI KA MA; Put down Shit Making; Dump Shit; Leave the Out House; No more work; dump pleasure seeking; end kamma.

Avyaapaada: A = no; vya= via; apada = the not path; vyapada = wrath, cruelty, inflicting mental pain
avihimsa: a = no; vihimsa = violence, (can you hear it? What? The Violinsa.); inflicting physical pain, put'n a hurt on.

Bhikkhu Bodhi, Majjhima Nikaya #117: Mahacattarisaka Sutta (The Great Forty), pp934ff:

For another version of this see: ATI: [MN 117]

"And what, bhikkhus, is wrong intention? The intention of sensual desire, the intention of ill will, and the intention of cruelty: this is wrong intention."

And what, bhikkhus, is right intention? Right intention, I say, is two fold[ 1 ]...

"And what, bhikkhus, is right intention that is noble, taintless, supramundane, a factor of the path? The thinking, thought, intention, mental absorption, mental fixity, directing of mind, verbal formation in one whose mind is noble, whose mind is taintless, who possesses the noble path and is developing the noble path: this is right intention that is noble . . . a factor of the path.

Bhikkhu Bodhi notes: "In this definition, the factor of intention (sankappa) is identified with applied thought (vitakka), which is further specified as the factor responsible for absorption by fixing and directing the mind upon its object.

Horner translates:

"And, what, monks, is wrong purpose? Purpose for sense-pleasures, purpose for ill-will, purpose for harming. This, monks is wrong purpose.

And what, monks, is the right purpose that is ariyan, cankerless, supermundane, a component of the Way? Whatever, monks, is reasoning,(takka) initial thought (vitakka) purpose, an activity of speech through the complete focussing and application of the mind in one who, by developing the ariyan Way, is of ariyan (thought)( added this word here), of cankerless (thought)( added this word here), and (is conversant with)( added these words here) the ariyan Way-- this, monks is right purpose that is ariyan, cankerless, supermundane, a component of the way.

down a little further:

Right purpose, monks, proceeds from right view, right speech from right purpose...


In one of right view, right intention comes into being..."

And Bhikkhu Tanissaro has:

And what is wrong resolve? Being resolved on sensuality, on ill will, on harmfulness. This is wrong resolve.

And what is the right resolve that is without fermentations, transcendent, a factor of the path? The thinking, directed thinking, resolve, mental absorption, mental fixity, focused awareness, & verbal fabrications in one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without fermentations, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right resolve that is without fermentations, transcendent, a factor of the path.

So making side by side comparisons that should flow together as a coherant thought or show what is discordant, we get:

There are two sorts of

Sa.mkappo: B/N: intention; Horner: purpose; Thanissaro: resolve; MO: principles.

1. Low (Micchaasa.mkappam), which is defined as consisting of three sorts (in other words, the translator's word should read X-TYPE-SA.MKAPPO, Y-TYPE-SA.MKAPPO, z-type sankappo):

Kaamasa.mkappo: kaama: B/N: sensual desire; Horner: sense pleasures; Thanissaro: sensuality; MO: Pleasure, particularly carnal pleasure
Vyaapaadasa.mkappo: cruelty (mental harm)
Vihi.msaasa.mkappo: violence (physical harm)


2. High (Sammaasa.mkappam) which is defined as with:

Nekkhammasa.mkappo: B/N: renunciation; Horner: renunciation; Thanissaro: renunciation; MO: Renunciation (if not exclusively intended as meaning to leave the household life, at least it MUST mean at least this) Letting Go, Giving Up, Leaving behind (NI = NE = Down, Put Down)
Avyaapaadasa.mkappo: Non Cruelty
Avihi.msaasa.mkappo: Non Violence

and further, High Sa.mkappo consists of:

Takko: B/N: thinking; Horner: reasoning;Thanissaro: thinking; MO: thought;
Vitakko B/N: thought; Horner: initial thought; Thanissaro: directed thinking; MO: rethinking; for more on Vitakka,
SA.MKAPPO: B/N: intention; Horner: purpose; Thanissaro: resolve; MO: Principles;

Appanaa-vyappanaa cetaso abhi-niropanaa vaacaa-sa.mkhaaro

B/N: mental absorption, mental fixity, directing of mind, verbal formation
Horner: an activity of speech through the complete focussing and application of the mind
Thanissaro: mental absorption, mental fixity, focused awareness, and verbal fabrications
MO: application, reapplication and super application of the mind intent on making the word it's own.

Appanaavyappanaa Cetaso:

Appanaa: determining, fixing, esp. the fixing of thought on an object, complete concentration; APply to fix, turn, direct one's mind; application (of mind), ecstasy, fixing of thought on an object, conception

Appeti: Indogermanic: ar (to insert or put together; er, under) Latin: arma (armature), arms, artus, fixed, tight, also limb. 1. to move forward, rush on, run into... but they do not relate to syllable pana, with it's generalized meaning of but..furthermore...further

Vyappanaa: vi+appanaa: application (of mind), focusing (of attention)
Where I would read Via Appana for directing by way of directing Cetaso: The mind, but with the special Indian connotation of the heart as the seat of the mind,
So Fixing the Mind by way of Fixing on
or Fixing on Fixing the mind on.


New Pāḷi Dictionary: Abhi Iniropeti (typo?): applies, fixes (of thought)
PED: Abhi Niropeti: to implant, fix into (one's mind, inculcate; fixing one's mind on.
MO: abhi; more, over nir=nis=out; o (probably meaningless transitional sound) pana


Vaacaa: talk
Sa.mkhaaro: Sankhara, to make by way of identification with an intentional act.

In elaborating on the details of the Eightfold path we have Samma Sankappa discussed this way:

The question is asked: What is Samma Sankappa?

And the answer given is: It is: nekkhamma, avyapado and avihimsa.

So here we should be able to reword this exposition like this:

If the sort of Principles that are connected to faults, ignoble, of the ordinary world are: carnal, cruel, and harmful, what then are the sort of Principles that are faultlesss, aristocratic, otherworldly?

The sort of Principles that are faultless, aristocratic, otherworldly are whatever principles of renunciation, non-cruelty, and non-harm that are the thoughts, rethinking, the principles; whatever application, reapplication and super application of the mind there is, that is intent on making the Dhamma one's own, of that pure hearted, aristocratically minded beggar developing the Way.

What are unwholesome intentions? They are the intention of sensual desire, the intention of ill will, and the intention of cruelty. These are called unwholesome intentions.

"And what do these unwholesome intentions originate from? Their origin is stated: they should be said to originate from perception. What perception? Though perception is multiple, varied, and of different aspects, there is perception of sensual desire, perception of ill will, and perception of cruelty. Unwholesome intentions arise from this." (MN 78 pp 650)

Horner: (Uses "Intentions" here) "And which, carpenter, are unskilled intentions? Intention for sense-pleasures, intention for malevolence, intention for harming.

And how, carpenter, do these skilled intentions originate? Their origination is spoken of too. It should be answered that the origination is in perception. Which perception? For perception is many, various, diverse; perception of sense-pleasures, perception of malevolence, perception of harming...

Kaama Sa.Mkappo:

NPD: 1. wish, desire, love, longing; 2. pleasure of the senses, sensual enjoyment; esp. sexual pleasure; the objects of pleasure, what gives pleasure to the senses;
PED: [Latin: carus, Gothic hors, English whore] to desire 1. Objective: pleasantness, pleasure giving, an object ofsensual enjoyment. 2. subjective a. enjoyment, pleasure, on occasion of sense b. sense desire "Kama as sense-desire and enjoyment plus objects of the same is a collective name for all but the very higher or refined conditions of livfe. ... The term is not found analyzed til the later books of the Cannon are consulted...

I take the word as the root for kamma, and meaning ka ma, shit/make going to khamma mother's work or weaving, to kamma making karma.

Sa~n~naa: usually "perception", but my bet is this is used very much in the same way as we use perception today: I perceive you to be angry is generations past the perception of unpleasant sensation.

PED more or less gives us permission for such an interpretation: sense, consciousness, perception. 2. sense, perception, discernment, recognition, assimilation of sensations, awareness. 3. consciousness "according to later teaching differs from and pa~n~na only as a child's perceiving differs from an adult's or an expert's. 4. conception, idea, notion; 5. sign, gesture, token, mark.

MO: And how do unskillful principles occur? They find their origination in notions concerning lust, cruelty and harm.

"But why are the three wrong intentions non-renunciation (intention to sensual pleasure), ill will, and cruelty? Ill will and cruelty seems greatly overlapping..."

Non mental harm and Non physical harm are divided out I believe just to make it clear to different perceivers. The whole system could be encompassed (considering that we are trying to end dukkha) by non-harm (to ourselves/others)...the rest is explanation of subtle differences in detail.

The Eightfold path is, in my view an aid in locating a general area where one might find grasping and to point out the best way to handle letting go of each type. So you get the main headings for those for whom the main headings will suffice, then you give sub-headings for the next level. And you can keep going. Every one of those definitions of the main terms in the 8-fold path could be the subject of a whole study, and for the most part each of the terms used to define them could also be given such an analysis...and so on...I believe, limitlessly.

Then as to KAAMA and how encompassing it may be. I think that gets broken out in the analysis of the word above. At its root level it applies to anything at all that we enjoy in the world.

Q: As I contemplate sankappa and observe this mind, sankappa does seem to bridge view and action, as it is laid out in the 8-fold path. Action would issue in thought, speech, or body.

MO: Keep in mind this business of circling round. The image of the hologram is a good simile for the Dhamma. While it is correct to see that the Magga is a thing like a step ladder, it is also a thing like a series of paths each leading to the goal and folding into themselves the attributes of the other paths. High View informs one's Principles, one's Principles inform one's actions, evaluating one's actions (satipatthana) inform's one's (understanding of the) view, and so on.

Q: There is a gathering of mind, as thought informed by right or wrong view gathers around an object of perception and is drawn in by the sensual or renounces it.

MO: This is this applying, reapplying and superapplication of the mind

Q: Something may be attractive at the earlier level of habitual grasping at forms, sounds, etc. but the attraction is cut off by virtue of right view leading to right intention — right intention does the cutting off, the not accepting of that attraction.

MO: I shy away from using "intention" for SANKAPPA. The clearest word for that Idea that we have seems to me to be this MANOSANCITTANA "Mind one with Heart" which is the third of the Four Foods. I always think we must keep intact the real meaning of the word in Pāḷi, where, as I have said before, my contention is that the words still meant what their component syllables meant. So: SAN KAPPA One's own KA shit PA pass: One's own Time. To that which is Propper use of Time. To that which is Fitting. To Fitting, as in harness, or boat rigging, or the way that the Bhikkhus destroy a brand new bed or bowl or robes because it is not fitting that beggars use such things. So it is not so much what one intends as what is the right thing (what one SHOULD intend) based on one's views and whether one follows one's principles comes one step after that.

Q: Ill will and cruelty both involve, it would seem, other creatures, not ugly or smelly objects. This is not yet clear to me.

I am not sure I understand the problem here. The thing we are trying to do is to escape kamma. Kamma is made by our actions. If we react to a smelly object by ill-will towards our neighbor, then we have acted in a way contrary to our Principles.

Q: It does seem to be the inflexion point for kamma, so cetana would be tied in with sankappa, yes?

MO: "inflection point"? are you reading George Soros?

Cetanaa: the state of mind in action, thinking as active thought, intention, purpose, will (defined as a kamma-making action). In our culture we do not distinguish between "having a thought" and an "act of thought" as a consequence of identification with thought as "My Thoughts" and forming an intent etc. In the Pāḷi there is a distinction between a thought which occurs to the mind (in the same way as a visual object occurs to or appears to the eye), and an act of thought, which must be connected to intent before it becomes an act of kamma. Cetanaa is this latter category: "O,O,O, May such and such happen".

So yes this "intending thought" would follow after a "review" of one's principles (in an ideal world), not that it would "be" those principles.

This is the way I need to deal with "intent" (since this is not the way I translate Sankappa).

Intent is implied in wishing: chanda

Intentions: manosancittana (mind one with heart) one intends to cause pleasure, one intends to cause pain, one intends to end kamma

Sankhara like kamma (it is both the doing and the result); is the identification with the intent to create a personal outcome that is pleasurable through an act of body, speech, or mind (imagining) and it is the result of that intent.

Perception of Pleasure appears dependant on the element of pleasure in things.

Based on the Perception of Pleasure one establishes the Attaining of Pleasure as a Purpose, one Sets up the attaining of pleasure as a mode of action, one Aims at getting pleasure, one resolves to get pleasure, one thinks about getting pleasure, one has as an underlying intent — the intent to get pleasure.

Having such an intent desire is given scope

Desire having been given scope passion follows,

Following after passion is going after getting that which will satisfy the passion. This can be done without reference to principles. So I think there is a need to introduce principles, (something like you suggest, a bridge between one's point of view and action that will act as a means of guiding intent; so given intent, one's principles can be aimed at the goal or not.

Based on one's point of view one formulates the ways one will go about taking courses of action (that is, not "an" intent, but that which guides intent) — what it is fitting to do based on the way one sees things, that will achieve the purposes of those views.



[1] I am strongly of the opinion that Sariputta is, in this sutta, developing a special application that is true, but is not intended really to supplant the idea that Samma Sankappa is nekkhamma, etc. I hear this as like: "Nekkhamma is correct, but since it can be used in both a worldly way and an unworldly way, it needs to be understood as being of This Way only when it is applied in a way which is intent on The Way.

So he is saying that although a person may have the High Principles of Letting Go, Non-Harm and Non-cruelty; if these are not directed at, aimed at the goal of ending kamma, then they are worldly.

How can a person have "letting go" as a worldly principle? There are those who understand the power of letting go in attaining worldly goals. They let go to get. Others exercise non-harm and non-cruelty in limited ways that do not lead to the entire abandoning of harm and cruelty.

This way of thinking about the Dhamma is not uncommon, but this sutta is one of the few places where it is stated in such a straight out (if not so easy to understand) way.

Elsewhere we get the same thought, for example, in the simile of grabbing the snake by the wrong end.
This dhamma should not be used for gain, etc.

Rhys Davids quotes the Comy. in DN33, p208,n3: 'There is no difference in the meaning (content, attha) of sankappa and vitakka.' Comy. Cf. Compendium, p.238.

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