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The Translation of the Term "Samskara" in the Chinese Buddhist Literature Ven. Hsing-kong

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佛教與中國文化國際學術會議論文集上冊 1995年出版



The concept of samskara, together with dharma and karma, represents one of the key-stones on which our understanding of Buddhist philosophy depends.

Most of translators of Buddhist literature into English at present time render this term by the word 'formation[s]', however, in view of the rather negative connotation this term is endowed with in Buddhist philosophy, this rendering seems to be still far from satisfactory. The other renderings, culled from many authors, such as activities, Habitual tendency, effort, aspiration, accumulation, constructions, karmic forces, karmic residues, condition, propensity, factor, impressions, component thins, created things, complexes, determinants, determinates, pre-natal forces, volitions, potentialities, synergies, etc., seem either to cover only a limited area of usage, or to bring unnecessary and undesirable implications with them. None of them is ali-English dictionary [p.664 ] and Fan he da zi dian [p.1375],both propose preparations , as their first rendering of this term(註1).

This rendering, as pointed out by Ven. Nanananda [Towards calm and insight, 1993] may best do justice to Buddha's effort to make his language understood to all, who are ready to open themselves to his massage of salvation, without discrimination as to one's social and educational P.286 background. 'Preperations' is indeed a word significant to all, and the function of samskaras is exactly making one ready to reap the fruits of one' s actions, of whatever kind they may be. Without samskaras life in this world would be unthinkable, because pre-perations give meaning to life, and one's interest in life mostly consists of an uninterrupted series of preperations, which lead from one kind of activity into another.

Thus the meaning one gives to life is defined by his samskaras. In India, whose civilization has been equally formed by the culture of brahmanas and sramanas, priests and ascetics, samskaras came to mean purificatory rites giving meaning to one's life and preparing one for Heaven for the first, while in the culture of sramanas samskaras came to be identified with impurities in mind, responsible for one's suffering in this world . Buddha, whose most important contribution was without any doubt his explanation of both suffering and liberation on the basis of Interdependent origination, used the word sankhara as synonym of dhamma(註2), and this clearly shows, that sankharas, preparations, meant for him a key word for under standing his philosophy of liberation.

Since everything in this world is conditioned, all preparations, based on ignorance, which consists of appropriation, that is individualization of the world, are necessarily bound to suffering. (註3) The preperations are thus conceived as negative energies structuring the suffering of samsara, which in itself is nothing but continuity of preperations [sankharasantati], issuing from a wrong view of reality (micchaditthi). The liberation is reached by struggle to suppress, abandon preparations, and finally by their appeasement [sankharavupasama].(註4) 'Visankharagatacitta' [DH v. 154 etc.] , the mind free from preparations, means freedom, nibbana, while the mind with preparations means bondage, samsara. However, even for a liberated man, for one who merged with the ocean of nectar of 'asankhata' unprepared, the samskaras continue to function, not as bases for samsara, but as pure samskaras, activities, without individuation. (註5) Samskaras, preperations of a man in bondage, or samskaras as aggregate of appropriation P.287 [upadanaskandha] become pure activities of a liberated man. Though the process of Interdependent origination continues, even in a liberated man, it is another kind of interdependence, freed from the suffering of samskaras based on individualization. The supreme importance of the term samskara for a correct understanding of Buddha's teachings was clearly recognized by early translators of Buddhist literature into Chinese, and therefore their renderings and interpretations of this term may be of great help for students of Buddhism. Before analysing various renderings of the word samskara in Chinese, we shall briefly mention the usage of this complex word in Indian literature in general and in Buddhist literature in particular for our better understanding . b /

The general usage of the word samskara in Indian literature The term samskara was in common use in India before the time of Buddha, and it is unlikely, that he has added any other meanings to it than those commonly understood, except interpreting it in the light of his philosophy of pratityasamutpada, which was an unpreceded revolution. The multifarious meanings of this word relevant to our topic may be summerized as follows ;

l / everything prepared, cooked, as opposed to raw food.
2 / make-up, stage preparations, ornaments as opposed to a natural state of affairs.
3 / rafination, cultivation, civilization, holy rites, purifications as opposed to vulgarity or barbarity.
4 / energy, that keeps things going, impetus, urge, tension as opposed to state of tranquility, peace, where the momentum is often strengthened by the prefix 'abhi' .
5 / restructuring , reconditioning, entanglement , multiplicity as opposed to unity, oneness.

As the Brahmanical literature came to emphasize the first and the third meaning with the positive implications, and the sramana tradition the P.288 negative ones, there always existed a potential for opposition between the two traditions. c / T

The usage of the term samskaras in Buddhist literature It seems to have been a special intention of Buddha to widen the sphere of usage of the term ' preperations', in order to lead people to disgust with themselves and thus with the world, all in accordance with the key principle of Sramana culture ; bondage, liberation and path are to be searched for only within one's six feet long body, and nowhere else. [S.N.4.98] To my knowledge, we do not find such a wide range of usage of the term samskaras in any other branches of Sramana culture in India, even though the term often bears the same negative connotation in them as well. As Kalupahana [The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, p.84] has pointed out; In Buddhism, samskara means disposition when referring to psychological fact, otherwise it refers to anything in the world.


As the liberation from suffering is the only concern [eka rasa) of Buddha's teachings, the prepared [abhisankhata] and created by will [ adhisancetayita] are used as synonyms, in interest of knowledge of the supreme dharma, nirvana. [see Culasunnatasutta, M.N.3,108 etc.] In order to turn the mind towards the supreme dharma, all existing things are to be regarded as samskaras, preperations , and liberation from preparations [including the holy rites) is explained as ending of pain (dukkha), ending of samsara.

[S.N.ver.731 etc.] In a famous passage, recurring on several places in Pali, [D.N.3,212,S.N.2,82, 3.87 etc.] samskaras are explained as that, which prepares the prepared ..., preparing form into the state of form, feeling into the state of feeling etc. ( with all other aggregates) (註6) Samskaras, represented as potter kneading pots in Tibetan tanka representations, prepare the world in two ways, by causes and conditions and by one's will or effort, both being but two aspects of the same process of preparing.

It is significant to note in this connection, what words Buddhagosa uses in Atthasalini [DHSA p.156] to explain the mind with [[samskaras sasankharacitta]. They are ussaha P.289 (effort), payoga [[[Wikipedia:exertion|exertion]]], upaya [expedient], paccaya (condition) and gahana [entanglement], where the first two refer to volitional aspect in causality, the second two to the functional aspect, and the last seem to refer to both.

The volitional factor in samskaras is motivated by desire, which gives rise to karma (Tanha paccaya kammam, A.N.3, 31 etc.) and hence many scholars ( Childers, Warren, Aung...) identified all samskaras with karma. However, this identification should be restricted to places where samskaras fulfill the function of cankers only, in connection with the second member in the Interdependent origination series.

Though the samskaras are only products of one's will and causes and conditions, they appear as something meaningful, as something pithy, [like a plantain tree, to which they are often compared, S.N.3, 142 etc.] to an unenlightened man.

For the sake of disgust with the world, essential to spiritual cultivation, the samskaras in Buddhism are identified with supreme suffering (sankhara parama dukkha, DHP, v. 203 etc.), because they create the samsara. The recognition of the nature of samskaras, understanding them as carriers of all fears (sankhara bhayavaha, Namarupapariccheda v.1707), disgust with them and finally indifference to them is the path of purification of insight, as described in Pali treatises, dealing with the subject of meditation.

Pali does not recognize any other way to liberation, except one leading through a progressive understanding of the nature and functioning of samskaras. Ii is only by understanding them as being impermanent, sorrowful and not self, by abandoning them progressively in absorbtions [sankharanam niro dho=jhana, see S.N.4, 216 etc.] , and finally by appeasing them sankharanam vupasamo, that one attains nirvana, in the Theravada tradition.

In the highest stage of insight in the world, before the actual experience of nirvana, that is in the stage of knowledge of indifference to all samskaras (sankharupekhanana), the meditator is said to be in a condition of a bird released by sailors to search for land. He remains bound to samskaras [ship] P.290 as long as he does not see the other shore. [see Paramavinicchayo verse 1016 etc.]

Thus samskaras, which are said to be unreal(註7), imaginary things, are unreal only from the perspective of the other shore, otherwise they are what gives meaning to life for a man in the world, the ship that carries him on his worldly journeys.

To summerize, the word samskara is used in Buddhism to refer to all the world, individualized as five aggregates of existence. It is used in active sense to refer to everything creating, preparing one's existence, and in passive sense to everything prepared, created in it, because samskaras tempered by previous samskaras constitute the causal relations in the world on all levels of existence.


In it's most fundamental form, the term samskaras is used to refer to the second member [ nidana) in Interdent origination. Here it stands for mental stimuli (manosancetana), quivering in mind [ citta praspanda, see A. Kosa Vyakhya, ed. Sastri, p. 187], which bestows it with a primary motivation. This motivation is identified with root defilements; desire, dislike and ignorance, which are the primary causes of one's worldly existence. (註8)

When used in this sense, the term samskara is most closely linked with karma, defined as motivation [ cetana) and being motivated [[[catayitva]], A.N.3, 415 etc.], but though both terms have a parallel meaning , their point of emphasis is not the same. When the word cetana is used, the emphasis is generally on heaping one's existence in a certain manner, while samskaras refer to action of preparing oneself to reap the fruits of one's karma.

In Buddhagosa's interpretation (Visuddhimaggga p.545 ) samskaras at this stage are said to be happening in a previous existence, but this interpretation seems to be doubtful, due to the dynamic nature of the process of conditioning which has always been emphasized in the scriptures.

As the second member in the Interdependent origination samskaras form, or prepare the consciousness and through it by means of nama-rupa [[[Wikipedia:individuality|individuality]]] they grow up [[[sankharanam vuddhi]], S.N.2,101] to contain all functionings within this created world. P.291 That is to say, they grow as preparations preparing for bodily, vocal and mental functions [ kaya, vaci and cittasankhara, M.N.130], preparations for meritorious, non meritorious or unmovable perception of the world punnapunnanejabhisankhara, S. N.2p.82 etc., and preparations for perception of the world in terms of six kinds of motivations chacetanakaya, S. N.60 etc.].

All these usages clearly show, that samskaras in early Buddhism meant primarily forces arising from cankers [ sasava upadaniya, S.N.3,p.47 , products of attachment to the world, and forces giving rise to new attachments (upadana) and hence existence.

This process is meaningful only when observed from the perspective of the present moment, as the scriptures clearly say , arising of preperations comes from arising of contact and disappearing of preparations from disappearing of cibtact. (註9) In its second important aspect, the term samskara is used to refer to all factors preparing the conditioned elements of existence.

In the Theravada tradition samskara as aggregate is usually taken to refer to all mental factors [51 cetasikas) except feeling and conceptualization, which form separate aggregates. However this differentiation is only a matter of emphasis, because the late two are also referred to as mind preparations [ cittasankharas ] in the scriptures. [M. N.1 , 301]

Thus samkara as the fourth aggregate is taken to mean all mental factors operating in juxtaposition with vocal and bodily actions, while other three mental aggregates do not require these to be functional [ as in absorbtions in the formless sphere ].


According to the Mahavibhasa [T.27, 384c ] all the five aggregates are samskaras, but still the fourth aggregate is differentiated from the other aggregates, just as the dharmadhatu is differentiated from the other seventeen dhatus, though all of them are dhamadhatu also.

Hence the commentary to Abhidharmakosa says, the other aggregates have different names, because they comprise a few preperations, the aggreggate 'samskara' comprises many preperations, and therefore it is called the aggregate of preperation.

(註10) Thus samskara as the fourth aggregate refers to forces preparing the world. (註11) P.292 From this function, the usage of the term is extended to mean all forces essential for functioning of beings in the world [ ayusankhara, jivitasankhara, bhavasankhara ] on hand, and on the other hand all things in the world as products of karma.

This last usage of the term samskara, here always employed in plural number, sankharas, points out very clearly at the accumulative function with which is this world always associated.

Starting from the basical impurities in mind, its usage is extended to include all forces preparing the world for perception in terms of one's volition or motivation, and finally to include all things [ dharmas) existing in the world as products of karma.

Thus in the Buddhist conception of the world, the samskaras function as dynamic forces preparing one's karma, which define everything experienced in one's worldly existence. With this in mind, we can procede to the problem of translation of this into Chinese. D / The various translations of the term samskara in Chinese.

The standardization of translation of key Buddhist terms in Chinese is generally considered to have been one of Kumarajiva's great contributions to Buddhism in China. He was first to use almost without exception the same term,‘行’to translate the term samskara into Chinese, and ever since this rendering has enjoyed such a popularity that it eventually overshadowed all other translations, which are nevertheless as numerous in Chinese as they are in English.

Though the list that follows is far from being complete, more than twenty renderings have been culled from various dictionaries and scriptures in order to show that the translation of this complex term was also a matter of interpretation in China as in the West, often reflecting different approaches and interests of the translators themselves. So beside the standard translation,‘行’, we also have ; ‘業行’,‘諸行’,‘有為行’,‘作行’,‘資助’,‘將養’,‘功用’,‘所作’,‘能作’,‘有為法’,‘餘氣’,‘資糧’,‘有為’,‘生死’,‘精’,‘情’,‘心數法’,‘等引’,‘業功能’,‘作功用心’,‘作別故意’,‘加行方便’,‘發起加行’,‘造作’,and others. Let us now consider these various renderings from the perspective of frequency of their occurrence and their philosophical implications.

1 /

Butter Lam.jpg

Sometimes written as □ has been from the very inception of Buddhism in China the most frequent rendering. In Chinese Buddhist literature, it translates beside "Samskara" also other important words like practice, conduct, path, meditation, yoga, duties, etc. all connected with the notion of activity, or motion, words which are its closest literal equivalents in English.

see Sakurabe; Shoki butsuden ni awareru kyo no kotoba ni tsuite].

The negative implication is not evident from the word itself, and so Chinese translations, beside putting the word karmic, before , making it karmic activity, ‘業行’, used many other skillful means to impart to their readers the negative meaning or aspect in its usage筵.

To couple the meaning of activity with volition, agitation or will in the sense of factor responsible for prolification of nama-rupa and hence suffering in the world, the word is juxtaposed with si cetana' [will] (註12), and consequently with mind, as the base of samsara.

As the term samskara is traditionally explained as the six bodies of volition(註13), and as such easily confused with mind, early translators as An Shi gao and his disciples, often failed to distinguish clearly between mind as manas [[[意]]), as consciousness [[[識]]) and as mental concomitants [心數法], and thus identified ‘’, with all mental activities perpetuating the suffering of samsara.

In his ‘大安 般守意經’, An Shi gao states explicitely that the worldly existence is thought, or volition which is opposed to 'dao' [思惟無為道, T. 15, 168b], and identifies it with mind [[[意]]) which is the product of agitation of heart [[[心]]) by all the worldly phenomena. In a commentary to陰持入經, [T.33 p.9c] ‘’, as samskara is defined clearly as the running mind accumulating good and bad karma and permeating everywhere(註14) and the path of liberation [[[dao]]) is indicated in the same work and elsewhere [T.l5, 168 etc.] to be the process of getting rid of samskaras.

An Shi gao himself characterizes samskara as the perpetuation of worldly existence(15), and it is significant to note in this connection that the earliest translation of Dirghagama translates the second rddhipapa (padhana sankhara, effort of will] as succeding in annihilation of samskaras 滅行成就T.1. P.50), and 十報法經’,[T.1.237a], identifying samskara with cetana, or thought [si wei may mean both] translates the appeasement of samskaras [ sankharavupassamo ] by abandonning the whole aggregate of activities [行陰已除,T.i, 237a]. Thus in the early Chinese translations, particularly in those connected with An Shi gao and his disciples, the negative aspect contained in the concept of samskara is stressed most explicitly, often at the expense of lucidity of meaning.

This tendency becomes even more prominent with the commentators, who identify‘行’in its creative aspect [作行] with the essence of samsara 生死精行, that is with the mental aggregate which is the seed and the proliferation of the whole of worldy existence, [see 阿含解十二因經, T.25, n.1508 ]. The aggregate of proliferation, which samskara is called 行為盛 陰,便作生死行, is easily interchanged with consciousness, , which is explained as the invisible aggregate 莫睹其形,故曰陰, T.33,9c] and therefore, when the early Buddhist literature in China speaks of the aggregate of samsara it is often virtually impossible to decide which one of them is meant.


The cluster of samskaras [ sankharapunja ], is translated as 陰聚 skandha samudaya) [T.2, 227b], and so in the early Chinese Buddhist literature the identification of samskara with samsara, and mind which creates it, is complete.

The Chinese rendering of samskara as ‘’ emphasizes particularly it's dynamic aspect, as evident from the early translations of the Prajnaparamita literature, where we find such passages as 設使行空,則無所作, if samskaras are empty, nothing is prepared, [T.8,153c] , or 不行色,不生色行, when form is not prepared, no such preparation as form aggregate arises, etc.

This dynamic aspect of samskaras as forces preparing the consciousness and through it the way both to suffering of Samsara or bliss on Nirvana, accords also perfectly with the outlook of the early meditation scriptures in China, (修行道地經,陰持入 經,法光經,道地經等等 ), where‘行’is used almost exclusively to translate samskara, even in the numeration of five aggregates, where ‘生死’ , is usually used in the early Buddhist literature. [T. 15, p. 173, 183, 240 etc.]

2 / 生死或生死陰

‘生死’, literally meaning birth and death, or samsara in the sense of painful worldly existence, was a general term to render the word samskara in the early Buddhist literature before Kumarajiva. It occurs almost as frequently as‘行’, however it is used most often in a collective numeration of five aggregates: 色、痛痒、思想、生死、識(註16). When used individually, it may appear accompanied by ‘’, ‘生死陰’ understood as 'samskaraskandha' [ T.15, 164c, etc. ] and differentiated from samsara as such.

However this differentiation is usually completely obliterated in the early period. It is also frequently used together with‘行’, in the sense of involvement in worldly existence as opposed to liberation(17), or blind wandering in Samsara as opposed to truth(18). Since the samskaras are said to arise in virtue of three factors: karma, desire and ignorance [T.2, 88b] ,the translation of samskara by samsara is philosophically impeccable.

It clarifies its function as the architect of other four skandhas, but it fails to translate many particular usages of samskara in Pali, such as preparations of. body, speech and mind (kaya, vaci, manosankhara), or preperation of life, or of age [ jivitasankhara, ayusankhara ] etc., where always other words had to be used. 身、口、意行作…T. 15, 175b].

As the translation of samskara as‘’ is used in juxtaposition with the description of Nirvana as unmoved (acala) , or constant [[[dhuva]]), so its translation as ‘生死’, brings to light its unborn [[[ajata]]) and deathless acuta, amara nature.

This contrast is often used by the commentators as for example Xi Chao for whom samskara as‘生死’, seems to signify the process of arising and passing of [a defiled] mind. (19) The commentator of 'Shi er yin jing [ dvadasanidanasutra ] identifies samskara with the root defilement of anger or dislike, lust with ignorance and consciousness with not knowing or essential unclarity(註20).

These three (consciousness, samskara and ignorance) are here undistinguishable, as in many other places in the early Buddhist literature. In accordance with the old sramana tradition, describing the mind as Samsara [[[cittam eva samsara]]), the mind is said to arise due to one's ignorance about samskaras and has to be stopped by the practitioner.

(註21) Thus the translation of samskara as samsara in early Chinese Buddhist literature brings to light the accumulative function of samskaras as forces or factors creating the universe in terms of proliferation of mind. This rendering is intended to include all five aggregates of existence and is also often used in this sense(註22).

It is not surprising that a question crops out in this connection in the Mahavibhasa [T.27, 384c] ; why the samskara is not called the aggregate of self [我蘊] , which is answered by saying, because the pudgala is not the real characteristic of all samskaras.

3 / 有為

[the created], 有為法[the created elements, formations), 所作,所住[(karmic) products].====

Candles 1.jpg

All these words are synonyms, used to render the meaning of samskaras [in plural] as all perceived things, created by causes, and as such subjected to changes and to outflow of cankers asravadharma .

These terms are usually used in the agamas in connection with the idea of impermanence, as opposed to non created [na uppada) and non-destructed [na vaya) nature of nirvana(註23). They are seldom used to render the word samskaras in the sutras, where they usually translate the word samskrta, created delements(註24). In the Abhidharma literature, it seems, the term‘有為法’, is used to render the word samskara only in the technical term citta viprayukta samskara 與心不相應有為法 , otherwise it translates the word samskrta only.

4 / 造作

[preparation, abhisamskaranal, 能作and能造 [creation.accumulation], 作行 and 作加行 prayoga, effort, practice], 作功用心 [creative intention, aspiration), 功用and功能 (determination, power, samartha) , 作別故意 and 加行方便(determination).

All these words, though endowed with different connotations, are used to render the sanskrit term ' abhisamskara', in the sense of preparation, or super (abhi) preparation = supernatural powers, intention , or karmic act determining the function of body speech and mind.

In the case of words 造作,能造,能作 the point of emphasis in rendering the term samskara is on the creative activity, in the sense of forming, preparing the world in accordance with one's volition.

They are used to convey the idea of samskaras as dynamic forces creating the world from causes and conditions arisen due to impurities in mind(註25).

In the words 作功用心,功用,作別故意, the point of emphasis is either on determination capable of forming one's existence in terms of fruits of one's karma, (註26)or on determination capable of forming one's supernatural powers .

(註27) The words 作行作加行 or加行方便 as renderings of samskara all refer to effort in practice aiming at attainment of certain fruits of practice, either wisdom or supernatural powers. [T.29, 64c, T.28, 790 b, etc.]

5 / 將養


[[[accumulation]]), 資糧 [[[habitual tendency]], factor, accumulation by practice. Sambhara),資助 [[[activity]] assistance]. These words, rarely used in agamas, refer all to samskaras as habitual activities, tendencies or practices, (註28) including ritual bating (T.29,169 a) .

6 / and 精氣

[[[essence]], seed], [[[predisposition]], mind, feeling), 餘氣,餘習,習氣, [residue of impurities , tendencies].

The first two words do not occur in the sense of samskaras in the agamas, but were used by commentators to explain the concept of samskara in terms familiar to Chinese readers[T.25, n. 1508] , as essential volitional forces in transmigration.

The word’, beside its usual meaning, desire, passion or sometimes even mind [T.29, 65c], is also employed in the early period to translate the word will, volition (cetana) and hence also samskara, in the sense of predispositions.(註29)

The last three words usually translate the concept to residual tendencies (vasana) or seeds of passions (klesabija) , but were also sometimes used, it seems, to translate the concept of samskaras as habitual tendencies for defilement. (註30)



"Samskara" is a complex term, difficult to explain, however a correct understanding of this concept is an invaluable asset for study of all the multifarious facets of Buddhism.

As the variety of rendering of this term in Chinese and Western languages suggests, the translation of this word in different contexts presupposes an interpretation on the part of translator, including an evaluation in the light one 's culture and personal experience.

In this connection a study of various Chinese renderings of this term may be of great assistance for our understanding of different approaches to Buddhism, but such a study requires a systematic investigation, far beyond the scope of present work.

The present paper is but an incomplete attempt to gather a few renderings of samskara in Chinese agamas and Abhidharma literature, with the aim of linking them with the use of this term in Pali and Sanskrit.

To summerize our investigation a few points of interest may be raised:

l / A correct understanding of the concept of samskara must necessarily be linked with understanding of two casual processes, one in terms of samsara, and other in terms of nirvana. In the first process, the function of samskara is to prepare the conscious and unconscious processes forming one's existence on the base of five aggregates of clinging.

Here, in this connection, the samskaras arise due to wrong views accumulated in mind by volition (cetana), connected with a wrong view of universe.

They form mind in such a way as to give rise to series of minds with outflow of cankers [ sasravacitta ], and thus they perform the function of architects of samsara, via their primarily function of forming and directing consciousness.

To an unenlightened person samskaras appear as an "I", universaly diffused in the way they do to ascetic Sena in the Chinese Parinirvanasutra, but this wrong notion of "I" disappears immediately, as soon as nirvana is seen.

When this happens, the samskaras by process of deepening of insight, eventually cease to function in the sense of suffering, but operate as energies or preparations assisting mind in attaining the goal, nirvana.

Finally, when the goal is realized, the samskaras become merely forces, directing mind in certain direction {}(註31), in accordance with universal laws and without outflows of ignorance.

Their connection with other four aggregates does not function in terms of "I" and mine any more, they become the aggregate of pure energies [ suddhasamskarapunja ] .

2 / There is a clear difference in interpretation of samskaras in so called Hinayana and Mahayana literature, which became more outspoken in the course of development of Buddhism.

In the early period of Buddhism in China, the samskaras were understood as vehicles of suffering by all translators and interpreters.

This fact is attested by translation of this term by samsara.

However the influence of Prajnaparamita literature, which came to China as early as the agamas, was equally important. Chinese thinkers of the early period, seem to have stressed both emptiness of samskaras and their function as architects of samsara side by side, without any clear preference.

The teachings of the Saddharmapundarikasutra, where all samskaras are understood as being contained in one single Buddhasamskara, did not seem to conflict in any way with their depiction as the dark forces of the universe, accompanying the spirit on the painful journey of transmigration [[[Hui yuan]]), and so the Chinese thinkers from the earliest period, seem to have searched for a synthesizing view .


3 / Among all the various renderings of the term samskara in Chinese, the term‘’, standing for activities, forces or motion, seems to be best qualified to render the multifarious shades of meanings.

It presents also a kind of synthetic concept, avoiding a onesided interpretation, as the term ‘生死’does.

However, without the background of original Buddhism, this term is too neutral to convey the notion of samskaras as architects of suffering of samsara.

The early Buddhist thinkers in China did their best to explain this concept in terms of suffering, but with the advent of purely Chinese forms of Buddhism in; Tian Tai, Hua Yan, Chan and Pure land, and with the replacement of ideal of Nirvana by ideal of enlightenment, samskaras seem to have been given a new meaning, not used in early Buddhism.

4 / Other renderings of the term samskara in Chinese, besides "" and "生死", briefly mentioned in this paper may also add to our understanding of functioning of samskaras. Chinese language seems to be more suitable than English in rendering the meaning of samskaras as both passive 所造 and active 能造 forces.

They represent a certain potential in mind 功能,功用 to prepare 造作 the world in accordance with one's karma. When connected with meditation practice 加行, 加行方便, they guide the mind to perform feats of supernatural powers 作別故意, or activate the otherwise dormant supernatural faculties [as special creations = abhisamskaras ], becoming also the equipment 資糧 for the attainment of the goal of practice.

Otherwise the samskaras assist, or support 資 助,將養 the per-formance of one's duties in life, so as to enable beings to live in accordance with their principles, or else, they assist the seeds of impurities in mind (anusayas, 習氣,餘氣 ) to continue to manifest samsara to mind.

To my knowledge, a research into translation and use of the term samskara in different contexts in Chinese has been a neglected area of study, but may prove awarding for a better understanding of meaning of this concept in Buddhism.



(註 l) Though R. Davids in reference to it's meaning in epic &class. Sansdrit.

(註 2) Sabbe sankhara aniccati, sabbe sankhara dukkhati, sabbe dhamma anattati....... DHP vs.277-279 etc.

(註 3) Ye ca cetana, yaca patthana, ya ca panidhi, ye ca sankhara, sabbe te dhamma anitthaya, akantaya, amanapaya, A. N.5 p.212.

(註 4) Imassa kho me dukkhanidanassa sankharam padahato sankharappadahana virago hoti, M.N. 2 p.223.

(註 5) Suddhasankharapunjo'yam, nayiddha sattupalabhati, S.N.l p.135.

(註 6) sanhatam abhisankharoti bhikkhave, tasma sankhara'ti vuccati. Kinca sankhatam abhisankharoti? Rupam rupattaya.......

(註 7) "Vorgestellten Dinge", in the words of O. Franke, D.N. 1, 311, quoted by Har Dayal in Bodh. Doctr. p.340.

(註 8) See for ex. Santani ed. Arthaviniscayasutra p. 8 or Candrakirti, Prasannapada,Vaidya ed. p.246.

(註 9) phassasamudaya sankharasamudayo, phassanirodha sankharanirodho... S.N. 3,60

(註 10) 攝行少故,各受別名﹔行蘊攝行多故,故得行名 。see丁福保編佛學大辭典p.1082.

(註 11) Abhisamskarana, abhisamskaranalaksanah samskarah, -M. Vrtti p.343

(註 12) as in T. 1.737, 若本所行,本所思者,我不樂 彼,不求彼。where the first part translates Pali, yam kho pana kinci abhisankhatam, abhisancetayitam.......M.N. 3, 108 .

(註 13) sancetanakaya, see T. 15, 173b, 身六更,in 處持入經 or as 六身生死, in An shi gao's translation 七處三觀經, Samyuktagama T. 2. p.876b.

(註 14) 心馳無極,思善存惡,周旋十方,靡不匝也,故曰行。

(註 15) 行相謂何等﹖謂令後復有,是謂行相。

(註 16) T. 1, 237a, T. 2, 498c, 875b, T. 8. 509, T. 12, 983c, T. 15, 168c, etc.

(註 17) T. 12, 983c; 至于佛法亦不慇懃度生死行也。 does not strive to rid himself of involvement in the worldly existence

(註 18) T. 15, 168b ;行道得道是謂內法,外法謂度生死 謂生死行。the true dharma is practicing and accomplishing 'dao' , to misdemean oneself means to endulge in samskaras = samasara

(註 19) T. 33, 86c ; 心念起始為生想過意識滅為死, when thought arises, it is birth, when it pases, it is death

(註 20) T. 25, p.53b ;淫為癡,瞋恚為生死,精疑為識

(註 21) T. 25, 53b ;不識生死故為識,道人欲斷,there is mind [[[識]])due to ignorance about samskaras,a practitioner should stop mind.

(註 22) see for ex. T.27, 27a ;行者若得阿羅漢果,定 不復一切生死

(註 23) T. l, 24b; 有為法無常變異= sabbe sankhara anicca viparinama dharma

(註 24) T. 2, 11c, or T. 29, 164b ;能作功用起有為法,故說此為行取陰=samskrtam abhisassmskaroti, tasmat samskara upadanaskandha ity ucyate

(註 25) see for example T. 2, 714 or T. 27, 384c-85a;...... 行謂造作有為法中能造作者思為勝思但攝 在此行蘊中......; it is called samskara because it is preparing the prepared withvolition being the most prominent in it., or T.29, 204a; 能作有為,是故名行=it is called preparation, because it prepares the prepared

(註 26) T. 29, 183a, 宿世定業功能盡故; because the power of his upapatti samadhi has become exhausted in his previous life.

(註 27) T. 29, 296a ;若六聲聞由天眼欲見,作大功用心 ,能見中二千世界; if the six great sravakas wish to see by a divine eye, they make a great determination, which enables them to see dvisahasramadhyamalokadhatu.

(註 28) as T. 27 9l3a ; 佛初轉法界有說意資助緣= the Buddha tought in accordance with the habitual tendencies of beings, or T 29, 136a ; 善心價多,大資糧成故 = the meritorious mind is of great value, as it obtained by great, accumulated effort.

(註 29) see Robinson, early Madhyamika in India and China p.103, or Liebenthal's Hui Yuan's Buddhism as set forth in his writings, JAOS, 70/4, 1950.

(註 30) as in T. 33,275c; 得此三觀諦顯行習氣皆盡= when the third truth is realized, all the samskaras (potential defilements) come to an end?

(註 31) in this sense Xuan Zang translates; 如是二定心等引生; these two samapattis {asamjni and nirodhasam.} arise from directing the