Formations By Venerable Amatha Gavesi

3. Formations

By Venerable Amatha Gavesi

Dated: 09/10/1994

Venerable bhikkhus, brothers & sisters, the subject of the discourse today is Formations.  Volitional of activity you call it, in other aspect. In the dependent origination, Buddha clearly analyses the wordling; in that analysis he has clearly indicated that if a worldling has been misled completely as a result of his ignorance of formation of volitional activities he commits.  That is the starting point of his cause for delusion. The dependent origination is “Avijja paccaya sankhara, Sankhara paccaya vinnanam, Vinnana paccaya namarupam, Namarupa paccaya salayatanam, Salayatana paccaya phasso, Phassa paccaya vedana, Vedana paccaya tanha, Tanha paccaya upadanam, Upadana paccaya bhavo, Bhavo paccaya jati, Jati paccaya jaramaranam soka parideva dukkha domanassu-payasa”, that is the Pali rendering of the dependent origination.

This chain of events commences with Ignorance.  Because of ignorance, you commit sankhara.  The normal explanation given in the scriptures is that ignorance refers to non-attainment of the 4 Noble Truths, non-realization of the 4 Noble Truths.  If one realizes the 4 Noble Truths, one is supposed to be ignorant.  But this ignorance refers to a clear act committed by you. In ignorance you commit the formation of volitional activities. Ignorance of what, is the question.  And before we explain that, let me explain to you that, the formation of volitional activities we refer to, which the worldling commits are the activities of the 6 sense bases.  They are seeing with the eyes, hearing with the ears, smelling with the nose, experiencing taste through the tongue, contact to the body and the creation of thoughts. These are all the activities a worldling can commit. When you analyse these sankharas, or formation of volitional activity, we find in these 6 which he refers to as sankhara, everything is there; when I say everything is there, it is these 6 sense bases that create the world around you.  In that world of yours which you have created there is everything found and you do not know anything beyond the world you have created. Therefore, there cannot be more sankharas or formation a worldling can commit, this is all that you can do.  And with these 6  experiences  you gain through the 6 sense bases you create the world.  Buddha refers to this world as yourself. You are the world.  You create this world, the world I create is quite different from the world you create.  In another words, each one of us creates a different world.  According to the abilities that each one of us possess: to see, to smell, to hear, to experience taste, to contact and to think.  Maybe if you are a person who had experience in traveling all over the world, the creation of the world around him is widen than the creation you have committed in your experiences. But wherever you maybe and wherever you may go, you only can do 6 things.  You can see with your eyes, you can hear with your ears, you can smell with your nose and experience taste with the tongue, contact with the body and thinking, thats all you can do.  When we think of the worldling, we always refer to or imagine that there is a being within us.  But Buddha has categorically said there is no such being in any person as such.  For all OUR activities are, the activities of the mind and body.  If we have created the world with the activities of the mind and body, in that world, there is everything.  And that is all where you are concerned.  Where another individual is concerned, that is all he is concerned. 

Independently, each one of us have created a world of our own. And according to the Dependent Origination, in the creation of the sankhara or formations, it produce the consciousness which gives rise to the name and form. These are the 3 things that created these formations.  And if these formations are not the work of an individual, are not the product of an individual but the natural outcome of the consciousness giving rise to name and form; who is the creator of all these things?  There is no creator. Circumstances have produced these things, as a result of cause and effect and nothing else.  The being is subject to the suffering, as a result of the formations he creates.  And these formations are the outcome of causally created activities by the body and the mind.  That is why Buddha clearly indicated that there is suffering in the world but there is no sufferer. That one would understand, who created this so call suffering in us, it is the creation by the consciousness.  In every activities of producing formation volitional activities in respect of every sense base, there is always the sense base in contact in the sense object in the first instance; and then that leads to the attraction of that consciousness to that incident.  And this consciousness then takes over the entire operation, by the creation of the thought with the 5 mental factors participating.  This is a natural process, there is no person as such who is performing this activity. But the worldling foolishly believes that there is a being in us and he is the creator of all these.I have been emphasizing that in the formation of volitional activities of the 6 sense bases, there is no desire.  Though such activities are spontaneous activities of the mind.  Then who pursue these activities further?  When I see something, I see.  But who is the person who pursue what I saw further? To create an attachment to aversion to that object. It is the creation of this imaginary person within you by the consciousness. When the consciousness participating creating a thought for you to produce the formation, he not only create a thought with the five mental factors but he also produce a delusion in you.  The delusion of the creation of a person in you as the author of such activity. To every formation that you create, there is the author of that activity created by the consciousness as a delusion.  We asked the question, how is this delusion created in the consciousness? The very mental factor which you produced to create the thought, while creating the thought to enable you to commit the formation or create the formation, there is also the delusion, the delusion aspect of that commitment in the way of a creation of a being and it is this being that pursues the activity of the formation or the creation of the formation further then that creation.  To explain it clearly, after you have seen something, that activity of the consciousness is over because it has created the thought in you to enable you to see.  But what made, what pursue is you to go beyond that stage, to create either an aversion or attachment about the object that has attract the sense base?  It is the delusion created by the consciousness, in a way of a being within you that enable the activity to go further or in another words to enable this so call individual to go further and then pursue what is pleasant or creating aversion to what is unpleasant. But for the formation of this individual which is a delusion by the consciousness, the activity in the formation would have stopped, ceased at merely enabling you to see, or hear, or smell, or taste, or contact, or think. In every sense base, this occurrence of the creation of a delusion in the way of the author of that act or the person responsible for that act as you is created in the thought. Of the mental factors that directly helps this creation are contact, which puts forth your critical form as the person responsible for this act.  Then the possessor of that form undergoes the feeling in the mental factor feeling. He identifies the objects with the mental factor Perception. He creates the activity of seeing as that person has committed that act.  And it is the consciousness that give the energy, provided the energy and also produce the mental factor that help to create this so call being in you.  When you summarize all these activities carefully, you will see in making use the 6 sense bases, in only experiencing an object that has attracted the sense base, by the creation of a thought, we have also created an imaginary being with the author of the activity of seeing, author of the activity of hearing, author of the activity of smelling, author of the activity of tasting, author of the activity of contacting and author of the activity of thinking.  And it is this imaginary person, brothers and sisters, that pursue this activity further in the way of creating an attachment to the object that has attract to the sense base or that object is not your like to create a dislike to that object and create an aversion.  Buddha clearly indicates that attachment and aversion are the two things that has created the desire.  Therefore brothers and sisters, desire is not the direct outcome of the creation of formation, desire is what you have yourself created.  That is the important aspect of this question.  You are responsible for that creation.

We always think that once we have experienced something to a sense base, then we follow that experience if it is something to our appreciation to create an attachment to it or if it is not to our appreciation to create an aversion to it. We always thought that these two activities are due to desire.  But if desire is the outcome of the creation of these two extremes of attachment to aversion, then desire is the result of these two activities. It’s not the desire that have produced these two activities.  But when you probed into the aspect of the formation of volitional activities, we find that it is the creation of the being in us that has led to the creation of the desire.  If there is no person to enjoy what is pleasant, if there is no person to create aversion to what is unpleasant, no person actually going through these two experiences even in your imagination; could there be something pleasant or could there be something unpleasant? Is unpleasant to the being, is unpleasant to the individual, is pleasant to the individual and to the being; and this being is purely a creation of the mind. At what stage does this consciousness create this being? Consciousness creates the being in creating the thought, which pursue that activity of the formation.  The thought that help one to see, the thought that is created help one to hear, in another words, all the formations are the result of a thought that is created in you. And in that very thought, the very mental factor that created the thought, by creating the thought, also has created the delusion in you in the way of a being been present in you when it is not so.  And it is this being, brothers and sisters who pursued this, what is pleasant and also create the aversion to what is unpleasant.  The outcome of this pattern of behavior created the desire. That is something which you must bear in mind.  We normally say that desire is the cause of suffering.  But asked the question, could there be suffering if there is no person to suffer? Who created this person when there is no person as such in this mental activity? Your imagination has created the person, and the consciousness has done their job, task well.  So when you think of ignorance as the first cause for the dependent origination, brothers and sisters, rationally we can say ignorance not of the final outcome of our development of realizing the 4 noble truths, ignorance of the fact that there is no being as such is the cause of all your misery. If we are aware there is no being in us, then one will not pursue what one sees, in the way of creating an attachment to what he likes very much or creating an aversion to what he did not like.  Because liking and disliking are not mere words, there is in those words the act of disliking and act of liking. And to commit those two acts there should be at least somebody in the nature of an imaginary person even.  So the consciousness has created that imaginary person in you, at the very time you committed the act of seeing, act of hearing, act of smelling, act of tasting, act of contacting and thinking. In the very thought you created to experience the sense base activity, this delusion is created in your mind.  And in fact, one would say that you commit the act of seeing as if somebody within you is committing that act. It’s just not merely an act but somebody within you is committing that act.  Somebody within you is committing the act of hearing, somebody within you is committing the act of tasting, somebody within you is committing the act of smelling, likewise the other sense base activities. You commit  those activities or in another words, create those formation as if somebody doing those things; it is that, brothers & sisters that has completely misled you. It is that person whom you have created who had pursued this experience he has gain through the eyes in a way of seeing something. Having seen something, having appreciated what he saw; he did not keep quiet, he went further in order to enjoy that. And the result was that he created the desire and it was not to his liking he create a distaste for it and create again desire. Both this two extreme creates desire as one. So in the dependent origination, bear in mind, the commission of formation there lies a secret to our continuity in samsara or cycle of birth.  And what is that secret? The secret is that you have committed, that you have created imaginary being in your formations as the author of the such formations.

He proceed further in the dependent origination, Buddha refers to that you commit the formation with the 6 sense bases and pursue that further saying there is contact and the contact results in feeling.  And the feeling give way to desire.  Activities of the 6 sense bases are the result of contact.  Without contact you can’t see, without contact you can’t hear, without contact you can’t perform any of these 6 sense base activities. Contact is the cause of the creation of thoughts. It is after contact that we create the thought.  Therefore that’s a very important link in the Dependent Origination – Contact.

Contact gives way to feeling, feeling is a mental factor.  One would ask the question, who is feeling?  Who is pursuing the feeling? “Contact” we can say well we open your eyes and then there was an object before you and the contact takes place.  But who felt about this? It’s just not a feeling, just not an incident of feeling, it’s somebody that felt about this. He has felt and he has pursue the feeling further, creating an attachment to the object and if it’s not to his liking, he has create a dislike to the object.  And these two extremes he has committed. Who has committed this imaginary person which you created in the Formation. He’s the person, the author of all this.  Otherwise, brothers and sisters,  you would have stopped your activity in creating formations at the conclusion of the creation of the thought to see, to hear, to smell, to taste, to contact and to think. You have committed that act, you saw, you heard, you smelt, you tasted, you contacted and you thought; what is there further to be done.  But the creation of this so call being in the formation, did not leave your activity as that; he pursued the feeling because he’s feeling it and if it’s just something pleasant, he pursue that further to enjoy it.  And if that something is unpleasant, he pursues that to create a distaste for that. This imaginary person, this delusion that was created by the consciousness, in the very thought that enable you to experience the sense base activity.  And that created the desire. That created the desire.

Now let us go back again to the Formations.  Buddha clearly indicates that the so call individual that one has in his imagination created is nothing but the 5 grasping groups. The 5 grasping group of form, grasping group of feeling, grasping group of perception, grasping group of volitional activity and the consciousness. What are these? They are all but the consciousness has created. Grasping group of form, naturally the author’s form is there, in his picture, he is the person. If I saw something, it is I who saw and my form is the form of the person who saw.  And contact creates that, after that this so call person who is, who owns the form, he has felt, he has perceived and identified it and he has committed the act of seeing. All those are the components of the very thought this consciousness has created.  There is no outside creation there. It’s the consciousness that created these. That is why Buddha, explained to us clearly that the consciousness is the conjuror, the deceiver.  He can create lots of deception and mislead you.  These 5 grasping groups created by the consciousness is actually the composition of this being within you.  Where did it arise? In the very thought that you create to experience the object that has attract your sense base.  So the creation of this being has not commenced at the latter part of the dependent origination; it has been created at the very inception in the formation itself.  And brothers and sisters, after this imaginary person has pursued the activity of the sense base to create an attachment to aversion which has contributed to the creation of desire.

What is the outcome of Desire? The outcome of desire is grasping. Grasping, putting together firmly, clinging together very firmly of what of 5 things? What are the 5 things? The form, the feeling, the perception, the volitional activity of the commitment of the act of either seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, thinking and the consciousness.  You can well imagine, what the desire has done to us.  Grasping is the outcome of Desire.  Grasping of what? These 5 groups created by the Consciousness; while creating the thought to enable us to experience an object through the sense base, also has created these 5 delusions in us. May I say a delusion created by the 5 things and that delusion has been grasped so well as the result of desire that is very well embedded in our mind as a person, very well embedded in our mind, we have no doubt that there is this being in us, because this desire has created that.

Buddha said clearly, when a person is about to die, he experiences a karmic act which he has committed, either this person will see the very act he committed or he will see the outcome of that act as a nimitta.  That is the last thing he sees in his mental vision and this so clear. And that be the last thing he has experience. And by that time all his sense bases have become inactive, they are not producing anything.  There is no life in his legs or in the body, it’s only the mind performing his last task of creation of a thought.  And what is in that thought? Thought about the vision he sees, thought about what the outcome of his activity in the past, in the nature of the nimitta, either the karma or the karma nimitta. Karma is the very act you have committed. And karma nimitta is the outcome of the act you have committed, which is the place of your next birth.  He has no alternative.  His existence is production of thoughts and when his vision appears before him, he hangs on that.  When he sees the act he has committed is something meritorious, something good, he will be happy about it and hangs on that. That thought is call the Viññāna, Kamma Viññāna.  And if you try to translate, I would say consciousness created by the Kamma you committed. And the outcome of the grasping of the good act which he has committed in the past, he gets a good birth; in keeping with that good consciousness. On the other hand, if he has committed something bad and if he sees that, the natural outcome is that his consciousness also reduces his self in agreement with that act which he has committed.  For instance, if he has killed an animal, he would have been very angry or he would have the desire to make use of the body of that carcass of that animal for his food or something like that or desire or animosity,one of these two things will be upper most in his mind. And his mental condition reduces such a low degree, in conformity with that state of the mental condition, he gets birth on the other side.  Buddha says, it is your consciousness that being pushed by desire, to get the next birth.  And in that consciousness you have grasped an object and create the thought, in that creation of that thought, you have also created the 5 grasping groups.  The 5 grasping is so well embedded in our mind, brothers & sisters, this activity does not stop merely because your body is dead. This activity pursue the thought you create at the last moment prior to your dying and it accompanies that thought, so to say the 5 grasping groups that settle down in the next birth. And that 5 grasping groups has created this being, therefore, there is always the feeling you get that there is a being now being born again in the next birth. Who creates that in you?  The 5 grasping groups, that is the nature of the formation. When Buddha says that the formation you have created is a composition of the world you live in, and there are no other formations that we can create except the 6 sense bases; therefore all the formations that you are aware of are these 6 formations and nothing else. These are the formations you are aware of.  

One would ask the question, if there is anything belong to the world that you have created ? There is nothing belong to the world that you have created. Because formation is what you have produced as a being. And you are merely a composition of formations and nothing else. Therefore, brothers and sisters, when you analyze the formation carefully how they are created? Who they create also that imaginary person within you through the 5 grasping groups produced by the consciousness. We’ll admit the fact that we have started our activity in ignorance to what we are. And that ignorance refers to in the Dependent Origination is nothing but the ignorance of the fact that there is no being within you.  You have accept the position that there is a being within you and committed that act of formation; either in the way of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, contacting and thinking. And till you die from the time you are born, up to the time you die, up to the time you breathe your last, there is complete activity by the consciousness in creating this delusion in you over a being present in you. And all you commit during this span of life, you have committed as a being who is living in you has committed these acts. When in fact and in truth, they are casually created. That nothing in you to indicate that there is a being in you. But there is everything indicated that there is a mind and body, the body reacts to what the mind directs.  The 6 sense bases are the composition of elements, the objects that attract the bases are also composition of elements. The mind participating in creating formations to these is responsible for the consciousness, is responsible for the delusions to be created in us.  And it is this delusion, brothers and sisters,  that has completely misled us.  To feel always there is this “I” in me, to create this ego in you, to create this personality so call personality in you as the person who is living in you.  And this false view has led to the creation of the desire which is the cause of your continuity in the cycle of birth. Therefore, in the analysis of the dependent origination, the most essential thing that you have to bear in mind is the formation which you commit to the 6 sense bases with the false view that there is somebody committing these formations, the author has been created in the commitment of the formation, this is the cause of all your misery.

Buddha said, attainment of Nibbana is stopping further births to occur. Now, how could this be done? You find that from the very start of the creation of formations, you have been misled by these false beliefs.  And in the continuity of this chain of activities in the dependent origination, the birth occur also because there is the 5 grasping groups in the last thought that you create which   becomes the first thought to occur in the mind of the new being.  In other words, the 5 grasping groups is the creation of the consciousness that settles in the new being. How could one stop this birth then?  It is very clear now brothers and sisters, that you could stop this births occurring further when you truly understand how these formations are created and also you could realize that the delusions created by the consciousness has led all of us to this misery.  Realistically when there is no person as such in us, he has created a false impression in us that there is a being in us. And you are well and truly caught in that false belief and we have continued to act, commit or produce formations with that as the nucleus. Who commits the formations? This person who’s responsible for the formations. This person who is responsible for the activities of the 6 sense bases. This person.  Who is this person?  The delusions created by the consciousness and the 5 grasping groups which are actually the components of the consciousness and its 5 mental factors that has produced this delusions. If you really understand that there is no such being in us; that all our activities are causally created by the mind directing the body to perform acts, then what is there to continue?  You see and see only that’s all; for you to see, the thought has been created and the 5 mental factors have contributed to the creation of the thought; the delusion aspect of the creation of that thought in the nature of the 5 grasping groups creating a person within you is something in addition to the creation of the thought. You just see, that’s all; you hear, that’s all. How are these activated? The mind directing the body, there’re causally created activities; activity of seeing is causally created, activity of hearing is causally created, activity of smelling is causally created, activity of tasting is causally created, activity of contacting is casually created and activity of thinking is causally created. It is cause and effect and nothing else.

Now you begin to see clearly that in the formations, the creation of the delusion and the author of these formation, that has led us to this misery. And if you realize that aspect clearly, then you will not look forward to another birth, brothers & sisters.  Because the other births still has been created by this so call being that has been created in you by the consciousness and he proceed from birth to another as the 5 grasping groups. There can’t be a 5 grasping groups existing in you if you truly know how the consciousness by the 5 mental factors created the thought only and nothing more.  This imaginary aspect of a creation of a person is something which you have foolishly created and that is the contribution by the consciousness. That is why Buddha clearly stated Consciousness is a conjuror, don’t depend on it.  Now you clearly understand that Dependent Origination. This false view created in our mind in the commission of or creation of formations ultimately led us to another world. And the birth has created all the misery for us.  Therefore, our aim is to stop further births and if you stop further births, then naturally that is the outcome of your gaining Nibbana. You see, I won’t keep you longer than this, I have shown you  very intricate aspect of the formations and also clearly made you understand this ignorance is nothing but ignorance of not having a being in yourself.  There’s no such being as a generally term of it. It is that ignorance that has led to the continuity of birth in this world.

        Therefore brothers and sisters, there is food for thought. I would very much like to discuss this subject further with you all if there’re been difficulty in understanding what I have put across. It is something which you can grasped clearly because we have dealt with this subject on many occasions in various discourses. Therefore give thought to this, think about it, and you will then solve a riddle of this existence of human being in this world. And Buddha rightly said that after his attainment to Nibbana that there is suffering but there is no sufferer. The cause of all his sufferings is this so call being created in us in an imaginary sense. Pursing pleasures as a person who is experiencing the sensations.  And also pursuing unpleasant state to create an aversion.  This so call birth and there is no such person to realistically feel, even in the imagination the creation of this being is the person who is responsible for the experience this condition in the way of like and dislike, there is no such person, there would have been no dislike or liking.  That would have ended our misconception. Anyway, I’m not proceeding further because I have sufficiently explain through these things logically and it is left to you to hear this over and over again and understand the true implication of dependent origination.  This aspect is not generally shown in the explanation given about the dependent origination. They just go on repeating the link and say ignorance is the cause of all this.  One would ask the question what is this ignorance they refer to, ignorance of what?  Ignorance of the final outcome they say, but the ignorance has been created at the very very root of the dependent origination, very beginning of the dependent origination, and that ignorance is the ignorance that there is no being within you. You live in the full acceptance of the world that there is a being within you and you still live in that frame of mind.  So there is something where an effort has to be made with the developed mind to realize the true nature of things. The ordinary mind who has accepted this false views right through often many, many, many births, for him to think that there is no being in us is something which he cannot imagine, only a mind that has been developed in concentration, with that amount of depth can truly realise the true nature of things.

That is why Buddha has emphasized, brothers and sisters, that you must develop your mind in concentration.  What is the purpose in having a knife which is blunt, with a blunt blade.  If we have a knife with a blunt blade, we can’t cut anything out of that. The knife will produce value when the blade is sharp.  Similarly, the consciousness produces his best when it is sharp, when it is deep, when it can go probed into things. And that quality of the consciousness is the concentration.  Therefore, you can’t just neglect that.   You can think many things, what you think is on the surface not in depth.  To think in depth, you must have that concentration, then you begin to see many things, much more than what you can ever imagine. You could have seen, if you have that developed mind.

Therefore brothers and sisters, let us go through these processes carefully.  We can’t just say with a placard across our chest I have attained Nibbana. That will not take you to Nibbana. I can say all of you have attained Nibbana, but what is the purpose of my statement when you have not done so. Attainment to Nibbana is something which you personally realised.  It has nothing to do with what I say.  I may say anything, but that person realisation is the essential thing, I have attained Nibbana.  And that realisation will come to you, as a clear picture before you when that state of mind is reached, brothers and sisters.  No one can deceive you.  No one on this earth can deceive you when you attained that height that you have attained Nibbana.       Because it is something very, very clear before you.  So convincing, there’s nothing to doubt in that. Because you then feel I have nothing further to do, I have finished what I have to do.  That is the last thing that you will have to say once you have attained that height; I have nothing further to do, I have done what I’m expected to do, I have performed my task.  That task is attainment of Nibbana.  May you all attain Nibbana. Thank You.    






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