Tag Archives: samskara

Conditioned and unconditioned things

saṅkhārā aniccā — “all saṅkhāras (conditioned concepts) are impermanent”
sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhā — “all saṅkhāras (conditioned concepts) are unsatisfactory”
sabbe dhammā anattā — “all dharmas (conditioned or unconditioned concepts) are not self”

I have had a tough time translating sanskara (conditioned) and dharma (unconditioned) in this passage. The question is the what is conditioned and what is unconditioned.

Perhaps it is better to translate sanskara as subjective concepts and dharma as objective concepts. As the fourth category of the skandha (personality) sanskara comes after feelings (vedana, pleasant, unpleasant and neutral) perception (samjna, identification of differences).

So this could be summed up as all subjective concepts are temporary and unsatisfactory. And all concepts – subjective and objective – are without substance.

But what does that say about objective concepts? That they are permanent and satisfactory? But since both subject and objective concepts are without substantiality we are left to wonder what we should be placing our trust in.

So, being equally insubstantial, the objective concept (as a concept) can only be a temporary solution as well. Here lies the paradox.