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saṃskṛta (P. saṅkhata; T. 'dus byas འདུས་བྱས་; C. youwei 有爲) is translated as "conditioned," "compounded," "composite," etc., is a term that describes all impermanent phenomena (dharmas) – that is, all phenomena that are:

  • produced through causes and conditions
  • have the nature of arising, remaining and ceasing
  • are subsumed by the five aggregates

The Khenjuk states:

A conditioned thing is a thing which is created through causes and conditions. Its nature has arising, remaining and ceasing. Its defining characteristic (lakṣaṇa) is all phenomena subsumed by the five aggregates.[1]

Noa Ronkin states:

Conditioned dhammas arise and cease subject to numerous causes and conditions and constitute sentient experience in all realms of the round of rebirth (saṃsāra).[2]


Bhikkhu Bodhi states:

The past participle connected with saṅkhārā is saṅkhata, which I translate “conditioned.” Unfortunately I could not render the two Pāli words into English in a way that preserves the vital connection between them: “formed” is too specific for saṅkhata, and “conditions” too wide for saṅkhārā (and it also encroaches on the domain of paccaya). If “constructions” had been used for saṅkhārā, saṅkhata would have become “constructed,” which preserves the connection, though at the cost of too stilted a translation. Regrettably, owing to the use of different English words for the pair, a critically important dimension of meaning in the suttas is lost to view. In the Pāli we can clearly see the connection: the saṅkhāras, the active constructive forces instigated by volition, create and shape conditioned reality, especially the conditioned factors classified into the five aggregates and the six internal sense bases; and this conditioned reality itself consists of saṅkhāras in the passive sense, called in the commentaries saṅkhata-saṅkhārā.
Further, it is not only this connection that is lost to view, but also the connection with Nibbāna. For Nibbāna is the asaṅkhata, the unconditioned, which is called thus precisely because it is neither made by saṅkhāras nor itself a saṅkhāra in either the active or passive sense. So, when the texts are taken up in the Pāli, we arrive at a clear picture in fine focus: the active saṅkhāras generated by volition perpetually create passive saṅkhāras, the saṅkhata dhammas or conditioned phenomena of the five aggregates (and, indirectly, of the objective world); and then, through the practice of the Buddha’s path, the practitioner arrives at the true knowledge of conditioned phenomena, which disables the generation of active saṅkhāras, putting an end “to the constructing of conditioned reality and opening up the door to the Deathless, the asaṅkhata, the unconditioned, which is Nibbāna, final liberation from impermanence and suffering.[3]

David Karma Choephel states:

[The Tibetan term] 'dus byas is translated variously as compound, composite and conditional. All three are acceptable translations and should be considered synonymous.
The English words compound and composite are closer to the literal meaning of the Sanskrit saṃskāra and Tibetan 'dus byas. The word conditional is derived from the explanation the Buddha gave in the sutras that was repeated in the treatises. In Master Vasubandhu's words, "Those which are made by conditions coming together and meeting are composites. There is nothing at all produced by a single condition."[4]

Conditioned and unconditioned

In the Sanskrit tradition, all knowable things can be categorized as "the conditioned and unconditioned" (saṃskṛta-asaṃskṛta).

Alternative translations

  • Conditioned
  • Compounded
  • Composite

See also


  1. Mipham Rinpoche 2002, s.v. Chapter 22.
  2. Ronkin (2022)
  3. Bodhi 2000a, Introduction.
  4. Rangjung a-circle30px.jpg 'dus_byas, Rangjung Yeshe Wiki


Further Reading

  • S. Goodman, "The Conditioned and Unconditioned" Chapter of Mi-pham rgya mtsho's mkhas-pa'i tshul-la 'jug-pa'i sgo, M.A Thesis, University of Saskatchewan, 1979

External links