Not to do
evil, to cultivate good, to purity one's mind, this is the teaching of
Dhammapada, vs. 183
The mind cannot
be purified if we do not thoroughly investigate it. When we try to analyse
the mind it seems to escape us, we cannot grasp it. The mind is variable,
it changes very rapidly. At one moment there is a mind with attachment,
at another moment a mind with generosity, at another moment a mind with
anger. At each moment there is a different mind. Through the Buddhist
teachings we learn that in reality the mind is different from what we mean
by the word "mind" in conventional language. What we call mind are in reality
different fleeting moments of consciousness succeeding one another very
rapidly. Since "mind" has in psychology a meaning different from "mind"
according to the Buddhist teaching, it is to be preferred to use the Pali
term citta (pronounced: chitta). Pali is the language of the Buddhist scriptures
of the Theravada tradition. Citta is derived from the PaIi word for thinking
(cinteti). All cittas have in common that they "think" of an object, but
we have to take thinking here in a very general sense, meaning, being conscious
of an object, or cognizing an object.
The Buddha's teachings explain in a very precise way the objects which,
each through the appropriate doorway, can be cognized by citta. For example,
colour or visible object can be known through the eye-door, sound through
the ear-door. Through each of the senses the corresponding object can be
known. Through the mind door all kinds of objects, also concepts and ideas,
can be known. Before we studied the Buddhist teachings we had a vague,
general idea of a thinking mind and we did not have a precise knowledge
of objects which are cognized each through their appropriate doorway. Citta
is varied because of the different kinds of objects it experiences. Seeing
is totally different from hearing.
Citta is varied because of the different mental factors or adjuncts which
accompany it in various combinations. The Pali term cetasika (pronounce:
chetasika) is to be preferred to the English translations of this term
which vary in different textbooks. Cetasika means literally: belonging
to the mind (ceto). There are fifty two different cetasikas which each
have their own characteristic and function. Later on I will explain the
rational of these cetasikas and their classification. There is only one
citta at a time, cognizing one object, and each citta is accompanied by
several cetasikas which also experience the same object, but which each
perform their own function while they assist the citta in cognizing that
object. They arise and fall away together with the citta.
Citta and cetasika are mental phenomena, nama, which are real in the ultimate
sense. Ultimate realities or paramattha dhammas have each their own characteristic,
their own function, they are true for everybody.
four paramattha dhammas:
Citta, cetasika and rupa
are sankhara dhammas, conditioned dhammas; they do not arise by themselves,
each of them is conditioned by other phenomena. Citta for example, does
not arise by itself, it is conditioned by the accompanying cetasikas. Nibbana
is the unconditioned dhamma, visankhara dhamma or asankhata dhamma; it
does not arise and fall away. Nibbana is the object of the supramundane
citta, lokuttara citta, arising at the moment of enlightenment. What we
call in convention language a "person" is in the absolute or ultimate sense
only citta, cetasika and rupa. There is no lasting person or "self", there
are only citta, cetasika and rupa which arise and then fall away immediately.
Citta and cetasika are both namas, realities which can experience something,
whereas rupa does not experience anything.
Citta and cetasika arise together, but they are different types of paramattha
dhammas. In order to explain the difference between citta and cetasika
the commentary to the first book of the Abhidhamma, the Atthasalini, uses
the simile of the king and his retinue. The king is the chief, the principal,
and his retinue are his attendants. Even so are the cittas which arise
in our daily life the leaders in cognizing the object, and the cetasikas
are the assistants of citta. The cetasikas have to perform their own tasks
and operate at each moment of citta. Citta with its accompanying cetasikas
arise each moment and then they fall away immediately.
The reader may wonder what the use is of knowing the detaiIs about citta
and cetasikas. Citta and cetasikas are not abstract categories, they are
active at this very moment. We could not see, hear, think, act, be angry
or have attachment without cetasikas. Seeing, for example, is a citta.
It is the citta which cognizes colour or visible object. In order to perform
its function it needs the assistance of cetasikas, such as contact, which
contacts visible object, or one-pointedness, which focuses on the object.
It is important to have more understanding of cetasikas. We should know
that defilements are cetasikas and that good qualities are cetasikas. They
arise in daily life and when they appear we should investigate their characteristics.
Otherwise we would not know what is right and what is wrong. We would not
know when defilements arise and how deeply rooted they are. If the Buddha
had not taught in detail about defilements we would only have a vague idea
about them. How could we see the danger of defilements when they are unknown
to us? How could we develop what is wholesome if we would not know the
characteristics of wholesome cetasikas and the different ways of good deeds?
There is a great variety of cetasikas accompanying the different cittas.
Akusala cittas are accompanied by cetasikas which are defilements, whereas
kusala cittas are accompanied by cetasikas which are good qualities. Apart
from defilements and good qualities there are also cetasikas which accompany
cittas which are unwholesome, cittas which are wholesome and cittas which
are neither wholesome nor unwholesome.
Citta and its accompanying cetasikas are closely associated and they
condition one another. There is a relationship and interdependence
between them. Citta conditions cetasikas. When the citta is wholesome,
kusala, all accompanying cetasikas are also kusala, even those kinds of
cetasikas which can arise with each type of citta. When the citta is unwholesome,
akusala, all the accompanying cetasikas are akusala. Feeling, for example,
is a cetasika which accompanies each citta. When there is pleasant feeling,
it can accompany kusala citta or akusala citta rooted in attachment, but
its quality is different in each case. Cetasikas condition the citta they
accompany, and the cetasikas which arise together also condition one another.
For example, the cetasika understanding, panna, conditions the citta and
the other cetasikas it accompanies. When the citta with generosity is accompanied
by panna which realizes that generosity is kusala, the degree of kusala
is higher than in the case of kusala citta without panna.
is generosity, there is no person who is generous, generosity is a cetasika
performing its function while it assists the kusala citta. When there is
attachment, there is no person who is attached, attachment is a cetasika
performing its function. The cetasikas which accompany the citta experience
the same object as the citta while they each perform their own function.
At one moment there can be attachment to colour which is experienced through
the eye-door, at another moment there can be attachment to sound which
is experienced through the ear-door, at another moment there can be
attachment to the concept of a person which is an object experienced through
the mind-door. Citta and its accompanying cetasikas arise and fall away
extremely rapidly. When right understanding has not been developed we cannot
distinguish between different objects experienced through the different
doorways. We are inclined to join different realities together into a 'whole",
and thus we cannot realize their arising and falling away, their impermanence,
and their nature of non-self. Through the study of the Buddhist teachings
there can first be more understanding of the true nature of realities on
the theoretical level. Only through the development of direct understanding
of realities one will know the truth through one's own experience.
is no abiding ego or self who can direct the operations of the mind. There
is a different citta all the time and it is accompanied by different cetasikas.
They arise because of their own conditions. We are so used to thinking
in terms of a mind belonging to the human person. It is difficult to understand
that there is no ego who can direct his mind, who can take his destiny
in his own hands and shape it. If everything is beyond control where is
the human dignity? If one walks the Buddha's Path one will know the difference
between what is true in the ultimate sense and what is only imagination
or a dream. There will be less delusion about the truth and there will
eventually be elimination of all that is impure and unwholesome. This is
mental emancipation and is that not the highest good one could attain?
may find it cumbersome to know which types of cetasikas can accompany which
types of citta, and to learn the different classifications of the groups
of defilements. Such details, however, help us to be able to see the danger
of unwholesomeness and the benefit of wholesomeness. When we know with
what types of citta the various cetasikas are combined we will come to
understand the underlying motives of our actions, speech and thought. Detailed
knowledge will prevent us from taking for kusala what is akusala.
In order to
help the reader to understand the variety of cetasikas which accompany
different cittas, I shall first summarize a few basic points on citta I
also dealt with in my Abhidhamma in Daily Life. Cittas can be classified
in many ways and one of these is the classification by way of "jati" (literally
birth or nature). Cittas can be of the following four jatis:
The cetasikas which accompany
citta are of the same jati as the citta they accompany. Some cetasikas
accompany cittas of all four jatis, others do not.
neither cause nor result)
Cittas arise and fall away very rapidly and we often do not know that a
different citta of another jati has arisen after the present citta has
fallen away. For example, we may think that the present citta is still
vipakacitta, the result of kamma, when it is actually akusala citta with
attachment or with aversion on account of the object which is experienced.
Seeing, for instance, is vipaka-citta. The moment of seeing is extremely
short. Shortly after it has fallen away, cittas rooted in attachment, aversion
or ignorance may arise and these are of a different jati: the jati
which is akusala.
Cittas perform different functions. For examine, seeing is a function (kicca)
of citta. Seeing consciousness which performs the function of seeing arises
in a process of cittas; it is preceded and followed by other cittas which
perform their own functions. Whenever there are sense-impressions there
is not merely one citta, but several cittas arising in a process, and each
of these cittas performs its own function. It is the same with cittas arising
in a mind-door process. As for cittas which do not arise in either sense-door
process or mind-door process, they also have to perform a function. The
rebirth-consciousness (patisandhi-citta), the life-continuum (bhavanga-citta)
and the dying-consciousness (cuti-citta) do not arise in a process of citta.
There are bhavanga-cittas in between the different processes of citta.
Summarizing the cittas which perform their function in a sense door process
and then in a the mind-door process when a rupa impinges on one of
Then there are bhavanga-cittas
and the last two of these, arising before the object is experienced through
the mind-door, are specifically designated by a name. The process runs
bhavanga calana (vibrating
bhavanga, the last bhavanga arising before the object is experienced through
the sense door)
7 javana-cittas (kusala
cittas or akusala cittas in the case of non-arahats),
(tadarammana-cittas which may or may not arise).
After the mind-door process
has been completed there are bhavanga-cittas again.
is in this case the mind-door through which the cittas of the mind-door
process will experience the object)
(which may or may not arise) .
I think that it is useful for the reader to review the enumeration of cittas
I have given above, since I, in the following chapters on cetasikas, shall
refer to cittas performing different functions in processes and to cittas
which do not arise in a process. All these cittas are accompanied by different
types of cetasikas.
The study of cetasikas will help us to have more understanding of the intricate
operations of the mind, of citta and cetasikas. It will help us to understand
in theory that citta and cetasikas act according to their own conditions,
and that an abiding agent who could direct mental activities
is not to be found. The study of the realities as taught by the Buddha
can remind us to investigate them when they appear in our daily life. Theoretical
understanding of the truth is a foundation for the development of direct
under-standing of realities as they present themselves one at a time through
the six doors, through the senses and the mind. Since the aim of the study
of the Abhidhamma is the development of right understanding of the realities
of our life, I refer in this book time and again to its development. Right
understanding of nama and rupa is developed by being mindful of them when
they appear. Sati, mindfulness or awareness, is a wholesome cetasika which
is non-forgetful, aware, of the reality which appears at the present moment.
At the very moment of sati the reality which appears can be investigated,
and in this way right understanding will gradually develop. Eventually
nama and rupa will be seen as they are: as impermanent and non-sel. We
should not forget that also awareness, sati, is a cetasika arising because
of its own conditions. If we have understood this we shall not force its
arising or try to direct it to particular objects, such as this or that
cetasika. The study of the Abhidhamma can prevent wrong ideas about the
development of the Buddha's path. The realities of our life, including
out defilements, should be understood as not self. So long as we take defilements
for self or "mine" they cannot be eradicated. The direct understanding
of realities as non-self is the condition for not doing evil, for cultivating
the good and for purifying one's mind.
In the chapters which follow I shall deal with fifty two different types
of cetasikas. I shall first refer to seven types of cetasikas which accompany
every citta. These are the Universals. Then I shall refer to six types
of cetasikas which can arise with cittas of four jatis, cittas which are
kusala, akusala, vipaka and kiriya (neither cause nor result), but which
do not accompany each citta. These are called the Particulars. After
that I shall deal with the Akusala Cetasikas and finally with the Beautiful
(sobhana) Cetasikas .
l shall deal
with sati in Chapter 26.