Piti, translated as
enthusiasm, zest or rapture, is another cetasika among the six "particulars"
which arise with cittas of the four jatis but not with every citta. Piti
can be kusala, akusala, vipaka or kiriya
think of enthusiasm we presume that it is always kusala. We praise people
who are enthusiastic. However, when we study the Abhidhamma we learn that
enthusiasm is not always kusala, that it arises also with akusala cittas.
There are many more akusala cittas in our life than kusala cittas and thus,
when there is enthusiasm it is more often akusala than kusala. Don't we
often take for kusala what is in fact akusala? Through the study of the
Abhidhamma we will have more understanding of kusala and akusala and of
the different conditions for their arising.
The Visuddhimagga (lV, 94) gives the following definition of piti:
refreshes (pinayati, gladdens, satisfies), thus it is happiness (piti)
(1 Pinayati is the causative of pineti which means: to gladden, please,
satisfy or invigorate.). It has the characteristic of satisfaction (2 The
English translation uses here: endearment.) (sampiyayana). Its function
is to refresh the body and the mind; or its function is to pervade (thrill
with rapture). It is manifested as elation..
( I, Part lV, Chapter 1, 115) gives a similar definition of piti (3 see
also Dhammasangani 9).
an interest in the object which citta cognizes and which is also experienced
by the accompanying cetasikas. It is satisfied, delighted with the object
and it "refreshes" citta and the accompanying cetasikas.
case of the kamavacara cittas (cittas of the sense-sphere) piti arises
with the cittas which are accompanied by pleasant feeling (somanassa).
Thus, whenever there is somanassa, there is also piti. Piti is not the
same as pleasant feeling, its characteristic and function are different.
Piti is not feeling, vedanakkhandha, but sankharakkhandha (the khandha
which includes all cetasikas except vedana and sanna).
Pleasant feeling experiences the flavour of the object, its function is
to exploit in one way or other the desirable aspect of the object (Vis.
XIV, 128). Piti does not feel, its characteristic is, as we have seen,
satisfaction and its function is refreshing or invigorating body and mind,
or to pervade them with rapture. Piti takes an interest in the object and
is delighted with it, it has its own specific function while it assists
the citta; its function is different from the function of feeling.
The Visuddhimagga (IV, 100) explains in the section on the first
jhana the difference between pleasant feeling (sukha, translated here as
"bliss") and piti (translated here as "happiness") which are both jhana-factors.
the two are associated, happiness (piti) is the contentedness at getting
a desirable object, and bliss (sukha) is the actual experience of it when
got. Where there is happiness there is bliss; but where there is bliss
there is not necessarily happiness (1 This is in the case of the rupavacara
cittas of the fourth stage of jhana (of the five-fold System), which are
accompanied by happy feeling, sukha, but not by piti.) Happiness is included
in the sankharakkhandha; bliss is included in the vedanakkhandha. If a
man exhausted in a desert saw or heard about a pond on the edge of a wood,
he would have happiness; (he went into the wood's shade and used the water,
he would have bliss...
The different words which
are used to describe pleasant feeling and enthusiasm and also the above-quoted
simile can help us to have theoretical knowledge of these two realities.
If there is mindfulness of realities when they appear, a more precise understanding
of their characteristics can be developed. However, we should not try to
"catch" particular realities, it depends on conditions of which reality
sati is aware.
As we have seen, in the case of the kamavacara cittas, piti arises with
the cittas which are accompanied by pleasant feeling. Whenever there is
interest in the object and delight with it there is also pleasant feeling;
in such cases there cannot be indifferent feeling or unpleasant feeling.
In the case of akusala cittas, piti arises with the types of lobha-mula-cittas
which are accompanied by pleasant feeling (1 See Abhidhamma in Daily Life,
Chapter 4.). When the lobha-mula-citta is accompanied by pleasant feeling,
the lobha is more intense than when it is accompanied by indifferent feeling.
Piti which arises together with lobha-mula-citta accompanied by pleasant
feeling takes an interest in the desirable object, it is delighted, thrilled
with it. For example, when we have thoroughly enjoyed listening to beautiful
music we may applaud with great enthusiasm. When we admire a musician,
a painter or a famous sportsman, there may be many moments of lobha-mula-citta
with piti. Whenever we are attached to an object with pleasant feeling,
there is also piti. The object may be a pleasant sight, a beautiful sound,
a fragrant odour, a delicious flavour, a pleasant tangible object or an
agreeable object experienced through the mind-door. There are many moments
of akusala piti we are not aware of.
Piti does not arise with dosa-mula-citta. When dosa-mula-citta arises,
the citta dislikes the object and then there cannot be at the same time
a pleasurable interest. Piti does not arise either with moha-mula-citta;
at the moment of moha-mula-citta there is no enthusiasm, .
As regards ahetuka cittas (2 See Abhidhamma in Daily Life, Chapter 8 and
9. There are eighteen types of ahetuka cittas, without akusala hetus
or sobhana hetus, "roots". They are the sense-door-adverting-consciousness,
the "five pairs" of sense-cognitions (seeing, hearing, etc.), two types
of receiving-consciousness, three types of investigating-consciousness,
the mind-door-adverting-consciousness and the smile-producing consciousness
of the arahat.), only the two types which are accompanied by pleasant feeling
arise with piti: 'one type of santirana-citta which is kusala vipaka and
investigates an extraordinarily pleasant object (3 Abhidhamma in Daily
Life, Chapter 13.) and the hasituppada-citta, the smile-producing consciousness
of the arahat (4 Abhidhamma in Daily Life, Chapter 9.).
When there is seeing, which is one of the dvi-pancavinnanas (sense-cognitions),
there is no delight or enthusiasm about visible object, seeing merely sees
it. If visible object is an extraordinarily pleasant object, the santirana-citta
in that process which investigates visible object is accompanied by pleasant
feeling and piti. The javana-cittas of that process may or may not be accompanied
by piti. If they are accompanied by pleasant feeling they are also accompanied
As regards the kamavacara sobhana cittas (beautiful cittas of the
sense-sphere), only the types of citta which are accompanied by pleasant
feeling arise with piti. when we, with generosity and full of joy, help
someone else, the kusala citta is accompanied by pleasant feeling and also
by piti which invigorates body and mind. Even if there was tiredness before,
it is gone; one is refreshed. The same may happen when one reads a sutta
with kusala citta accompanied by joy and enthusiasm. At such a moment one
is not bored or tired, there is piti which takes a pleasurable interest
in the object.
Sometimes we are full of joy and enthusiasm while we help others, while
we give something away or while we are performing other ways of kusala,
but it is not always possible to have joy and enthusiasm at such moments.
There are also moments of kusala citta accompanied by indifferent feeling,
upekkha, and then there is no piti. It depends on conditions whether piti
arises or not. when one has great confidence in kusala and sees the benefit
of it there are conditions for the arising of joy and enthusiasm while
applying oneself to it. When kusala citta with pleasant feeling arises
the accompanying piti invigorates the citta and the other cetasikas. viriya,
for example, is intensified by piti. We may be able to notice that, when
there is joy and enthusiasm for kusala, we also have more energy to perform
There is another aspect of piti: it can become an enlightenment factor.
The other enlightenment factors are, as we have seen, mindfulness, investigation
of the Dhamma (dhamma vicaya), energy (viriya), calm (passaddhi), concentration
(samadhi) and equanimity (upekkha) (1 see Chapter 9, viriya.) . when the
enlightenment factors have been developed through satipatthana, they lead
to the realization of the four noble Truths. when we have just started
to be mindful of nama and rupa, we cannot expect the enlightenment factors
to be developed yet. They will develop through satipatthana.
The Atthasalini (75) mentions the following factors which are conducive
to the arising of the enlightenment factor of piti:
of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, of sila, of generosity, of devas,
of peace (nibbana), avoidance of rough (I.e. ill-tempered persons), serving
meek persons, reflection on a Suttanta which instills confidence and a
tendency to all this.
When we read a sutta,
ponder over it and test the meaning by being mindful of the realities the
Buddha taught time and again we can prove the truth of his teachings. Thus
our confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the sangha can grow and we
will be inspired to continue to develop the eightfold Path. There can be
conditions for the arising of enthusiasm which invigorates citta; and the
accompanying cetasikas. Also piti can be object of mindfulness so that
panna can see it as it is, as not self. We should remember that without
the development of satipatthana the enlightenment factor of piti and also
the other enlightenment factors cannot develop.
We read in the "Mahanama-sutta" (GradualSayings,Book of the sixes,
chapter I, 10) that the Buddha recommended Mahanama to recollect the Buddha,
the Dhamma, the sangha, sila, generosity and devas (their good qualities).
According to the Visuddhimagga Mahanama was a sotapanna, thus, he had right
understanding of nama and rupa and he did not take any reality for self.
what time the ariyan disciple minds the Tathagata, his heart is never overwhelmed
by passion, never overwhelmed by hatred. never overwhelmed by delusion;
then, verily, is the way of his heart made straight because of the Tathagata.
And with his heart's ways straightened. Mahanama, the ariyan disciple becomes
zealous of the goal, zealous of Dhamma, wins the joy that is linked to
Dhamma; and of his joy zest (piti) is born; when his mind is rapt in zest,
his whole being becomes calm; calm in being, he experiences ease; and of
him who dwells at ease the heart is composed.
The same is said with
regard to the other recollections. According to the Visuddhimagga
(VII, 121) only the ariyan disciple can cultivate the above mentioned subjects
with success, since the non-ariyan cannot really fathom the meaning of
these subjects. If one has not attained enlightenment, how could
one know what it means to be enlightened and how could one clearly understand
the meaning of "Buddha"? Nevertheless, also the non-ariyan can think of
the Buddha with confidence and then piti may arise as well.
Mahanama, of this
ariyan disciple it is said: Among uneven folk he lives evenly; among troubled
folk he lives untroubled; with the ear for Dhamma won, he makes become
the ever minding of the Buddha.
We cannot induce the arising of kusala piti, it can only arise because
of its own conditions. shortly after kusala piti has arisen and fallen
away, attachment is bound to arise. we may feel very satisfied about "our
kusala" and we may find it very important to have piti. we may think that
it can last, but in reality it falls away immediately. It is essential
to realize the difference between kusala citta and akusala citta; thus
we will see that there are not kusala cittas all the time, even when we
think that we are performing kusala. we may expect pleasant things from
other people, we like to be praised by them, we want to show others our
good qualifies and our knowledge, or we are attached to the company of
people. Defilements are so deeply rooted and they arise whenever there
is an opportunity for their arising. There are many objects which can condition
lobha and lobha can be Accompanied by somanassa and piti. Enthusiasm which
is unwholesome can arise very shortly after enthusiasm which is wholesome
and it is hard to know their difference. we may find it discouraging to
discover that there are many more akusala cittas than kusala cittas, but
at the moment of knowing akusala citta as it is there is right understanding.
At such a moment the citta is kusala citta and there is no aversion nor
feeling of discouragement.
Not only maha-kusala cittas, kusala cittas of the sense-sphere, which are
accompanied by somanassa arise with piti, but also the maha-vipakacittas
and the maha-kiriyacittas which are accompanied by somanassa arise with
piti. As regards maha-vipakacittas, these are produced by kamma, and thus
it depends on the kamma which produces the maha-vipakacitta whether it
is accompanied by somanassa and piti or not. Among those who are reborn
with maha-vipakacitta, some are born with somanassa and piti, others with
upekkha and in that case there is no piti. If one is born with somanassa
and piti, all bhavanga-cittas of that life and also the cuti-citta (dying-consciousness)
are accompanied by somanassa and piti as well (1The other jhana-factors
are: vitakka, vicara, sukha (happy feeling) and samadhi.)
Piti has many intensities. The Visuddhimagga (IV, 94) and the Atthasalini
II, Part IV, Chapter 1, 115, 116) explain that there are five kinds
of piti. We read in the Visuddhimagga :
... But it
is of five kinds as minor happiness, momentary happiness, showering happiness,
uplifting happiness, and pervading (rapturous) happiness.
Piti is able to condition
bodily phenomena. The "uplifting happiness" which is the fourth kind of
piti can even levitate the body. One example given by the Visuddhimagga
and the Atthasalini is the case of a young woman whose parents did
not allow her to go to the monastery to listen to the Dhamma. She looked
at the shrine which was lit by moonlight, saw people worshipping and circumambulating
the shrine and heard the chanting. Then "uplifting happiness" made her
jump into the air and arrive at the monastery before her parents.
Herein, minor happiness is only able to raise the hairs on the body.
(Abhidhamma in Daily Life, Chapter 11). If the function of patisandhi is
performed by an ahetuka vipakacitta (santirana-citta accompanied by upekkha
which can be kusala vipaka or akusala vipaka), piti does not accompany
the citta. Momentary happiness is like flashes of lightning at different
moments. Showering happiness breaks over the body again and again like
waves an the sea shore.
Uplifting happiness can be powerful enough to levitate the body and make
it spring into the air...
But when pervading (rapturous happiness) arises, the whole body is completely
pervaded, like a filled bladder, like a rock cavern invaded by a huge inundation
In the case of kamavacara cittas; piti always arises together with somanassa.
In the case of the jhana-cittas, this is "not always so. Piti is one of
the jhana-factors which are developed in samatha in order to inhibit the
hindrances. Piti inhibits the hindrance which is ill-will (vyapada). When
there is delight in a meditation subject there is no ill-will or boredom.
As we just read, there are five kinds of piti with different intensities.
The fifth kind of piti the "pervading happiness", which has the greatest
intensity, is the "root of absorption" and "comes by growth into association
with absorption" (Vis. IV, 99).
At the first stage of rupa-jhana all five jhana-factors arise with the
jhanacitta. At each of the higher stages of jhana the jhanacitta becomes
more refined and more tranquil, and the jhana-factors are successively
abandoned. At the second stage (of the five-fold system) vitakka is abandoned
and at the third stage vicara. At that stage there are three jhana-factors
remaining: piti, happy feeling (sukha) and concentration (samadhi). At
the fourth stage piti has been abandoned but happy feeling still arises.
In the case of the kamavacara cittas, piti arises whenever there is pleasant
feeling, but this is not so in the case of the jhana-citta of the fourth
stage of jhana. The jhanacitta without piti is more tranquil, more refined.
The kind of piti which has been abandoned at this stage is the "pervading
happiness" which is of the highest intensity. The person who has experienced
this kind of piti and is able to forego it is worthy of praise as stated
by the Atthasalini (I, Pan v, Chapters 111, 175).
At the highest stage of rupa-jhana (the fourth of the four-fold system
and the fifth of the five-fold system) the jhana-factor of sukha has been
abandoned and piti does not arise either at this stage. As regards arupavacara
cittas, they are of the same type as the rupavacara cittas of the highest
stage of rupa-jhana, and thus they are not accompanied by piti. As regards
lokuttara cittas, they are not always accompanied by piti, this depends
on different conditions (1 See Atthasalini II, Part VIIl, Chapter
1, 228, and Vis. xxi, 112. For details on cittas accompanied by piti, See
There are many different kinds of piti as it accompanies different types
of citta. The piti which accompanies lobha-mula-citta is entirely different
from the piti which accompanies kusala citta. The piti which accompanies
jhanacitta is again very different. As we have seen, the "pervading happiness",
the fifth kind of piti which is of the highest degree, is the "root of
absorption". Piti which is an enlightenment factor and which develops through
mindfulness of nama and rupa is different again from all other kinds. We
read in the Kindred Sayings (IV, Salayatana-vagga, Part II, Kindred
Sayings about Feeling, Chapter III, 29, Purified and free from carnal taint)
about "zest", piti, that is carnal, piti that is not carnal and piti that
is still less carnal:
And what, monks, is the zest that is carnal?
We then lead about the
" zest that is not carnal", which is piti accompanying the jhanacitta.
At the moment of jhanacitta carnal zest is temporarily subdued, one is
not infatuated with the five "sensual elements". We read about the "zest
that is still less carnal than the other kinds:
There are five sensual
elements, monks. What five? Objects
by the eye, objects desirable, pleasant, delightful and dear,
to lust... There are objects cognizable by the
the nose... the tongue... There are things cognizable by the
tangibles, desirable, pleasant... These, monks, are the true
elements. Whatsoever zest, monks, arises owing to these five,
that is called "zest
that is carnal".
monks, is the zest that is still less carnal than the other?
The same is said about
pleasure, indifference and " release", which can be carnal, not carnal
and still less carnal. The term "still less carnal" refers to the arahat
who has eradicated all forms of attachment so that it never arises again.
This sutta reminds us again to be aware of the realities appearing through
the different doorways, one at a time. We are usually so absorbed in people
and things that we forget that they are not realities, only concepts. It
is not a person which is experienced through the eyes, but only a kind
of rupa which is visible object and does not last. We are infatuated with
the objects we experience and we do not realize when there is "piti which
is carnal". Piti which is carnal can arise on account of all the objects
we experience through the six doors. The sutta illustrates how different
piti is when it arises with different types of citta. Piti is conditioned
by the accompanying dhammas and, in its tun, it conditions the accompanying
dhammas. Piti is sankhara dhamma, not self. We may find it difficult to
know when enthusiasm is wholesome and when it is unwholesome, but through
mindfulness of it when it appears its characteristic can be known more
zest which arises in a monk who has destroyed the asavas (1 Asavas or "cankers"
are a group into which defilements are classified.). who can look upon
his heart as released from lust- that zest, monks. is called "the zest
that is still less carnal than the other"