The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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A second major sphere to which the word sankharas applies is among the five aggregates. The fourth aggregate is the sankhara-khandha, the aggregate of volitional activities. The texts explicitly define the sankhara-khandha as the six classes of volition (cha cetanakaya): volition regarding forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile objects, and ideas. Though these sankharas correspond closely to those in the formula of dependent origination, the two are not exactly the same. The sankhara-khandha, the aggregate of volitional activities, has a wider range. It comprises all kinds of volition, not merely those volitions that are karmically potent but also those that are karmically passive and karmically inoperative.
In the later Pali literature, the sankhara-khandha becomes an umbrella category for all factors of mind except feeling and perception, which are aggregates on their own. Thus the sankhara khandha comes to include wholesome factors such as non-greed, non-hatred, and wisdom; unwholesome factors such as greed, hatred, and delusion; and ethically variable factors such as contact, attention, thought, and energy. Since all these factors arise in conjunction with volition, the early Buddhist teachers decided that the most fitting place to assign them is in the aggregate of volitional activities.