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  Anicca Vata Sankhara

  by Bhikkhu Bodhi

  Anicca vata sankhara — "Impermanent, alas, are all formations!" — is the phrase used in Theravada Buddhist lands to announce the death of a loved one, but I have not quoted this line here in order to begin an obituary. I do so simply to introduce the subject of this essay, which is the word sankhara itself. Sometimes a single Pali word has such rich implications that merely to sit down and draw them out can shed as much light on the Buddha's teaching as a long expository article. This is indeed the case with the word sankhara. The word stands squarely at the heart of the Dhamma, and to trace its various strands of meaning is to get a glimpse into the Buddha's own vision of reality. Anicca vata sankhara——“诸行无常!”——这是上座部佛教国家通报亲人去世的用语; 不过我在此引用这个偈句,非是作为讣告的开端,仅是为了介绍本文的主题—— sankhara[行]这个词本身。有时候,一个巴利单词具有如此丰富的内涵,仅仅坐下把它们勾画出来,对于阐明佛陀的教导,作用不亚于一篇义理长文。Sankhara一词的确可当此说。该词正居于佛法的核心,对其内涵的种种线索探究一番,即是对佛陀本人的现实观作一管窥。

  The word sankhara is derived from the prefix sam, meaning "together," joined to the noun kara, "doing, making." Sankharas are thus "co-doings," things that act in concert with other things, or things that are made by a combination of other things. Translators have rendered the word in many different ways: formations, confections, activities, processes, forces, compounds, compositions, fabrications, determinations, synergies, constructions. All are clumsy attempts to capture the meaning of a philosophical concept for which we have no exact parallel, and thus all English renderings are bound to be imprecise. I myself use "formations" and "volitional formations," aware this choice is as defective as any other. Sankhara一词来自前缀 sam 与名词 kara 的组合; 前者意谓“共同”,后者意谓“做、造”。 诸行因此就是“合造”,即与其它事物共同行动的事物,或者被其它组合事物造作起来的事物。对这个词的译法,众译家已有种种表达: 造作、合成、活动、过程、力量、化合、组成、制造、决意、协同、构造。这都是为了把握一个我们并无准确对应的哲学概念所作的粗陋尝试,因此一切英译必然是不准确的。我自己用的是 formations [ 造作]与 volitional formations[有动机的造作/意志的造作],亦知其缺憾不少于任一别译。

  However, though it is impossible to discover an exact English equivalent for sankhara, by exploring its actual usage we can still gain insight into how the word functions in the "thought world" of the Dhamma. In the suttas the word occurs in three major doctrinal contexts. One is in the twelvefold formula of dependent origination (paticca-samuppada), where the sankharas are the second link in the series. They are said to be conditioned by ignorance and to function as a condition for consciousness. Putting together statements from various suttas, we can see that the sankharas are the kammically active volitions responsible for generating rebirth and thus for sustaining the onward movement of samsara, the round of birth and death. In this context sankhara is virtually synonymous with kamma, a word to which it is etymologically akin. 不过,虽不可能为sankhara找到一个确切对应的英语词汇,透过对其用法的探讨,我们仍然可对它在佛法“思维世界”中的功能获得领悟。在经文中,该词出现于三类主要的教义语境。一类是十二因缘的连锁公式,在其中 sankhara[行/造作]居系列的第二位。经文中说,它们以无明为缘,又作为意识的缘。把诸经中有关句子归纳起来,我们可以看见,诸行乃是负责造作重生、从而维持生死轮回继续运行的有业力活性的意志。在这个语境当中,诸行与语源学上一个相近的词kamma[业] 基本上同义。

  The suttas distinguish the sankharas active in dependent origination into three types: bodily, verbal, and mental. Again, the sankharas are divided into the meritorious, demeritorious, and "imperturbable," i.e., the volitions present in the four formless meditations. When ignorance and craving underlie our stream of consciousness, our volitional actions of body, speech, and mind become forces with the capacity to produce results, and of the results they produce the most significant is the renewal of the stream of consciousness following death. It is the sankharas, propped up by ignorance and fueled by craving, that drive the stream of consciousness onward to a new mode of rebirth, and exactly where consciousness becomes established is determined by the kammic character of the sankharas. If one engages in meritorious deeds, the sankharas or volitional formations will propel consciousness toward a happy sphere of rebirth. If one engages in demeritorious deeds, the sankharas will propel consciousness toward a miserable rebirth. And if one masters the formless meditations, these "imperturbable" sankharas will propel consciousness toward rebirth in the formless realms. 经文中把作用于十二因缘的诸行分为三类: 身、语、意。诸行又被分为福行、非福行、以及“不可扰动” —— 即四类无色界禅定中的存在意志。当无明与渴求主宰我们的意识流时,我们身、语、意的有动机行为,便成为造作果报的力量,在它们产生的果报之中,最重要的是死后该意识流的更新。以无明为促进,以渴求为燃料,是诸行推动着意识流,朝下一个重生模式行进,并且,意识的具体立足点,取决于诸行的业力性质。假若某人行福德事,那么该行或者说“有动机的造作”将会把意识推向喜乐的重生域界。假若某人行损福德事,则将把意识推向痛苦的重生。假若他掌握了无色界禅定,这些“不可扰动”的诸行将推动他的意识流重生于无色界。

  A second major domain where the word sankharas applies is among the five aggregates. The fourth aggregate is the sankhara-khandha, the aggregate of volitional formations. The texts 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 in all respects the same, for the sankhara-khandha has a wider range. The aggregate of volitional formations comprises all kinds of volition. It includes not merely those that are kammically potent, but also those that are kammic results and those that are kammically inoperative. In the later Pali literature the sankhara-khandha becomes an umbrella category for all the factors of mind except feeling and perception, which are assigned to aggregates of their own. Thus the sankhara-khandha comes to include such ethically variable factors as contact, attention, thought, and energy; such wholesome factors as generosity, kindness, and wisdom; and such unwholesome factors as greed, hatred, and delusion. Since all these factors arise in conjunction with volition and participate in volitional activity, the early Buddhist teachers decided that the most fitting place to assign them is the aggregate of volitional formations. “诸行”一词的第二个主要应用领域,是作为五蕴之一。第四蕴即为行蕴(sankhara-khandha),也就是有动机的造作的聚集体。经典上把行蕴定义为六类动机(cha cetanakaya): 即与色、声、香、味、触、法相关的动机。尽管这些“行”与十二因缘公式中的“行”密切对应,两者并非处处等同,因为行蕴的范畴更为广泛。有动机的造作蕴[行蕴]涵摄一切动机种类。不仅包括业力上有活性的造作,也包括造作的业果,还包括那些与业力无关的造作。在后来的巴利文献中,行蕴成为一个覆盖了除受蕴与想蕴之外的一切心理素质的类别,前两项各具独立的蕴。于是行蕴这个词便涵摄着诸如接触、专注、思维、能量等伦理上中性的素质,诸如慷慨、仁慈、智慧等善巧的素质,以及诸如贪、嗔、痴等非善巧的素质。既然这一切素质随着动机共同升起,并且参与动机的活动,早期佛教导师们认为它们最适合归类于有动机的造作。

  The third major domain in which the word sankhara occurs is as a designation for all conditioned things. In this context the word has a passive derivation, denoting whatever is formed by a combination of conditions; whatever is conditioned, constructed, or compounded. In this sense it might be rendered simply "formations," without the qualifying adjective. As bare formations, sankharas include all five aggregates, not just the fourth. The term also includes external objects and situations such as mountains, fields, and forests; towns and cities; food and drink; jewelry, cars, and computers. “行”的第三个主要语境,是作为一切有为[缘起的]事物的统称。在这个语境当中,该词有了一种派生的被动性,指凡是因缘造作的事物, 凡是有为的、被造作的、被合成的。在这个意义上,也许可以把它只译成不带限制性形容词的“造作”。作为广义的造作, 诸行不仅是第四蕴,而且包括了所有五蕴。该词还包括诸如山、地、林; 城镇; 饮食; 珠宝、车辆、电脑等外在的客体与状态。

  The fact that sankharas can include both active forces and the things produced by them is highly significant and secures for the term its role as the cornerstone of the Buddha's philosophical vision. For what the Buddha emphasizes is that the sankharas in the two active senses — the volitional formations operative in dependent origination, and the kammic volitions in the fourth aggregate — construct the sankharas in the passive sense: "They construct the conditioned; therefore they are called volitional formations. And what are the conditioned things they construct? They construct the body, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness; therefore they are called volitional formations" (SN XXII.79). 诸行既可包括主动的力量,也包括由它们产生的事物,这个意义的重要性,确立了它在佛陀的哲学观中的奠基石作用。这是因为,佛陀强调的是,两种主动意义上的诸行——即十二因缘中的有动机的造作,以及第四蕴的业力动机——造就了被动意义上的诸行: “它们造作有为的,因此被称为有动机的造作。它们造作的有为事物是什么? 它们造作色、受、想、行、识; 因此它们被称为有动机的造作。”(SN XXII.79)

  Though external inanimate things may arise from purely physical causes, the sankharas that make up our personal being — the five aggregates — are all products of the kammically active sankharas that we engaged in our previous lives. In the present life as well the five aggregates are constantly being maintained, refurbished, and extended by the volitional activity we engage in now, which again becomes a condition for future existence. Thus, the Buddha teaches, it was our own kammically formative sankharas that built up our present edifice of personal being, and it is our present formative sankharas that are now building up the edifices of personal being we will inhabit in our future lives. These edifices consist of nothing other than sankharas as conditioned things, the conditioned formations comprised in the five aggregates. 尽管外在的无活性的事物可以纯粹从物理因缘中升起,构成我们个人存在的诸行 ——五蕴——则完全是我们在宿世生命中所作的具有业力活性的造作产物。此生的五蕴也同样地被我们当下所作的有动机的活动不断地维持、替补、延续,这些活动再复成为将来的存在之缘。因此佛陀教导说,是我们自己的业力形成的诸行,建筑了我们当前个人存在的结构,是我们当下的诸行,正在建造我们未来生命中将进住的个人存在的结构。这些结构由有为的诸行组成,也就是,由有为的造作形成的五蕴。

  The most important fact to understand about sankharas, as conditioned formations, is that they are all impermanent: "Impermanent, alas, are formations." They are impermanent not only in the sense that in their gross manifestations they will eventually come to an end, but even more pointedly because at the subtle, subliminal level they are constantly undergoing rise and fall, forever coming into being and then, in a split second, breaking up and perishing: "Their very nature is to arise and vanish." For this reason the Buddha declares that all sankharas are suffering (sabbe sankhara dukkha) — suffering, however, not because they are all actually painful and stressful, but because they are stamped with the mark of transience. "Having arisen they then cease," and because they all cease they cannot provide stable happiness and security. 以有为的造作来理解诸行,其中最重要的事实是,它们无一持久: 所谓“诸行无常”。在意义上,无常不仅指诸行的那些粗糙形体终究完结,更重要的是,它们在微妙、精深的层次上,连续不停地升起、落下,永远出生,又在转瞬间败坏、消失: 所谓“是生灭法”。因此,佛陀宣称诸“行”皆苦(sabbe sankhara dukkha)。不过,这并非是因为它们本身痛苦、紧张,而是因为它们具有不持久的特征,所谓“生灭灭已”; 由于它们都趋向止息,因此不能够提供安稳的幸福。

  To win complete release from suffering — not only from experiencing suffering, but from the unsatisfactoriness intrinsic to all conditioned existence — we must gain release from sankharas. And what lies beyond the sankharas is that which is not constructed, not put together, not compounded. This is Nibbana, accordingly called the Unconditioned — asankhata — the opposite of what is sankhata, a word which is the passive participle corresponding to sankhara. Nibbana is called the Unconditioned precisely because it's a state that is neither itself a sankhara nor constructed by sankharas; a state described as visankhara, "devoid of formations," and as sabbasankhara-samatha, "the stilling of all formations." 为了从苦中彻底解脱——不仅从苦的体验,而且从一切有为存在的不满意属性中解脱——我们必须从诸行中解脱。诸行之外者,是那非构造、非组建与非合成。这就是涅槃,相应地又称“非行” (asankharas),它与sankhata[被造作]——诸行的被动分词——意义相反。涅槃之所以被称为非行,正是因为这个状态本身既非是一种“行”,也非由“行”造成; 它被描述为“离行”( visankharas),又被描述为“一切行的寂止”( sabbasankhara-samatha)。

  Thus, when we put the word sankhara under our microscope, we see compressed within it the entire worldview of the Dhamma. The active sankharas consisting in kammically active volitions perpetually create the sankhara of the five aggregates that constitute our being. As long as we continue to identify with the five aggregates (the work of ignorance) and to seek enjoyment in them (the work of craving), we go on spewing out the volitional formations that build up future combinations of aggregates. Just that is the nature of samsara: an unbroken procession of empty but efficient sankharas producing still other sankharas, riding up in fresh waves with each new birth, swelling to a crest, and then crashing down into old age, illness, and death. Yet on it goes, shrouded in the delusion that we're really in control, sustained by an ever-tantalizing, ever receding hope of final satisfaction. 因此,当我们把sankhara一词置于显微镜下观察时,便在其中窥见了整个佛法世界观的压缩版。主动的“行”借着业力上活跃的动机,持久地制造、构建着我们存在的五蕴。只要我们继续认同五蕴(此为无明的作用),在其中寻求享乐(此为渴求的作用),我们就继续喷放有动机的造作[诸行],建筑起未来的诸蕴组合。那正是轮回的本质: 空洞而有效的诸行连续推进,制造出更多的行,随着每一次新生,堆聚起新的波动,上升至顶峰后倾颓,又成为旧式的老、病、死。然而它继续着,被一团我自掌控的痴迷所笼罩,为一股对终极满足的冀望所维持,该冀望永具诱惑,永见退却。

  When, however, we take up the practice of the Dhamma, we apply a brake to this relentless generation of sankharas. We learn to see the true nature of the sankharas, of our own five aggregates: as unstable, conditioned processes rolling on with no one in charge. Thereby we switch off the engine driven by ignorance and craving, and the process of kammic construction, the production of active sankharas, is effectively deconstructed. By putting an end to the constructing of conditioned reality, we open the door to what is ever-present but not constructed, not conditioned: the asankhata-dhatu, the unconditioned element. This is Nibbana, the Deathless, the stilling of volitional activities, the final liberation from all conditioned formations and thus from impermanence and death. Therefore our verse concludes: "The subsiding of formations is blissful!" 不过,当我们开始修习佛法时,诸行的这场不屈不挠的生产就被缓止下来。我们学会看见诸行的真相,看见我们自己的五蕴: 它们是不稳定、有为的过程,无人主宰地滚动着。因此,我们关闭被无明与渴求所驱动的引擎,中止业力的筑造,那么诸行的主动生产,就被有效地卸除了。借着对有为现实的造作的终止,我们打开了通往无时相、但非是造作有为的非行元素(asankhata-dhatu) : 即,非缘起元素。这就是涅槃、不死、意志活动的止息、从一切缘起造作也就是从无常与死亡中的最后解脱。因此我们的偈句末尾如此结束:“寂灭为乐!”

  译按:“诸行无常,是生灭法。生灭灭已,寂灭为乐。”——此偈为帝释天王在佛陀般涅槃之际所诵,见于《大般涅槃经》等。常在南传佛国葬礼上持诵,首句亦为讣告之发端语。现代语中译为: “一切造作无常啊,生灭是其法则。既已升起,必然灭去,它们的止息是安乐!”








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