Dosa, aversion, is
another akusala cetasika. When the citta dislikes the object it experiences
there is dosa, aversion. When there is dosa, the feeling which accompanies
the citta is always unpleasant feeling. We do not like to feel unhappy
and we want to suppress our unpleasant feeling. However, dosa-mula-citta
arises when there are conditions for its arising. We may try to suppress
unpleasant feeling because we cling to pleasant feeling; we are ignorant
of the real cause of unpleasant feeling and of the disadvantages of akusala.
We should study the factors which condition dosa-mula-citta. The scriptures
and the commentaries show us many aspects of dosa and if we study these
aspects we will have more understanding of the disadvantages and the danger
of dosa. Right understanding sees the danger of akusala and conditions
kusala. It is more beneficial to have right understanding of dosa than
just trying to suppress it without any understanding of it.
There always seem to be numerous causes for dosa and they invariably seem
to be outside ourselves: other people's actions or unhappy events which
occur. However, the rear cause is within ourselves. Dosa has been accumulated
and it can always find an
object. We are attached
to pleasant objects and when we do not experience pleasant objects there
is bound to be dosa. When dosa arises it shows that the attachment which
conditions it must be very strong.
The Atthasalini (II, Book I, Pan IX, Chapter III, 257) defines dosa
flying into anger or churlishness as characteristic, like a smitten snake:
spreading of itself or writhing as when poison takes effect as function;
or, burning that on which it depend (1 Namely, its physical base, which
is the heart-base. The rupa which is the physical base of all cittas other
than the sense-cognitions of seeing, hearing, etc., is called the heart-base.
See Abhidhamma in Daily Life, Chapter 17 ) as function. like jungle-fire;
offending or injuring as manifestation. like a foe who has got his chance;
having the grounds of vexation as proximate cause, like urine mixed with
(XlV, 171) gives a similar definition of dosa (1 Compare also Dhammasangani
We read that the characteristic of dosa is flying into anger like a smitten
snake. When a snake has been hit he h likely to become fierce and attack.
Dosa is aggressive, just like a snake which has been hit. The function
of dosa is spreading of itself or writhing as
when poison takes
effect. When poison has been taken it affects the whole body and it causes
suffering. Dosa has likewise an ill effect, it is harmful. The function
of dosa is also compared to a jungle-fire which burns that on which it
depends. Dosa is destructive
like a jungle-fire
which consumes the forest. The proximate cause of dosa are "grounds for
annoyance, like urine mixed with poison". Urine mixed with poison is not
liked by anybody, although urine was taken as a medicine in India. It is
useful to study the proximate cause of dosa, the "grounds for annoyance".
Dosa often arises on account of what others are doing or saying to us or
to someone else. Even a good deed done to someone else can be a reason
for annoyance if we dislike that person. We read in the Book of Analysis
(chapter 17, 960) about nine reasons for dosa:
Therein what are "nine bases of vexation "? "He has done me harm". Thus
vexation arises; "He is doing me harm", thus vexation arises: "He will
do me harm", thus vexation arises: "He has done harm, … he is doing harm.
... he will do harm to are dear and pleasant to me", thus vexation arises;
"He has done good. ... he is doing good. ... he will do good to one not
dear and not pleasant to me", thus vexation arises. These are nine bases
Dosa arises with two types
of citta, of which one is "unprompted" (asankharika) and one "prompted"
(sasankharika) (2 See Abhidhamma in Daily Life, Chapter 6.). There
are many degrees of dosa. It may be a slight aversion or it may be stronger,
appearing as moodiness, bad temper, anger or hate. When dosa is strong
one may speak harsh words or throw things about the house. One may feel
desperate and commit suicide, one may hit others and even commit murder.
When we hear about crimes other people have committed with dosa, we wonder
how it could happen. When strong dosa arises it can lead to the committing
of akusala kamma which we may not have thought ourselves capable of. Strong
dosa can even motivate "heinous crimes" ( anantarika kamma) which produce
an unhappy rebirth immediately after the life during which one committed
the crime has ended. We read about five heinous crimes in the Gradual
Sayings (Book of the Fives, Chapter 13, 9, Festering):
Monks, five are lost in hell who lie festering, incurable. What five? (By
him) has his mother been deprived life: his father; an arahat: (by him),
with evil thought, has the Tathagata’s blood been drawn; (by him) has the
Order been embroiled.
Dosa can motivate akusala kamma patha (unwholesome courses of action) through
body, speech and mind. The akusala kamma patha through body which is killing
is motivated by dosa. As to stealing, this can be motivated by lobha or
by dosa. It is motivated by dosa when one wants to harm another person.
Three of the four akusala kamma pathas through speech, namely lying, slandering
and idle talk, can be motivated by lobha or by dosa. They are motivated
by dosa when one wants to harm someone else. The akusala kamma patha which
is rude speech is motivated by dosa. The akusala kamma patha through the
mind which is ill-will is motivated by dosa. This is the intention to hurt
or harm someone else. Akusala kamma brings sorrow both in this life and
the next. The person who has committed akusala kamma may become afraid
of the result it will bring and he has no peace of mind. Dosa is harmful
for mind and body. Because of dosa our appearance becomes ugly: we may
become red in the face, our features become unpleasant and the comers of
our mouth droop. If we remember that it is not considerate to show others
an unpleasant face it can condition patience instead of dosa. There are
many ill effects of dosa. It causes sleeplessness, the loss of friends,
the loss of one's good name, of prosperity and wealth. And after this life
has ended one may have an unhappy rebirth because of dosa.
Verily. monks. them are the five lost in hell who lie festering, incurable.
We should remember
that all degrees of dosa are dangerous, even the lesser degrees. If we
do not develop right understanding we accumulate more and more dosa without
realizing it. Therefore, it is helpful to study the different aspects of
We may not have dosa of the intensity to motivate the committing of akusala
kamma patha, but even dosa which is of a lesser degree can condition unpleasant
behaviour and speech. We can easily, before we realize it, utter harsh
speech to someone else. When there is dosa, even if it is a slight annoyance,
there is no loving kindness, no consideration for other people's feelings.
When, for example, unexpected visitors arrive at a time we do not want
to be disturbed, we may be annoyed. At such a moment there is mental rigidity,
we are unable to adapt ourselves to a new situation with kindness and hospitality.
The Book of Analysis (Chapter 17, 833) gives us a short but very
effective reminder in a section in which pairs of realities are summed
up (Twofold Summary):
of softness and inhospitality.
This statement is meant
as a reminder to be aware of realities of daily life. How true it is that
inhospitably goes together with absence of softness, with mental rigidity.
However, although there may be aversion at first when we are, for example,
disturbed by unexpected visitors, right understanding can change our attitude.
We may see the disadvantage of being inconsiderate to others and of absence
of softness, of gentleness. Then we can receive our guests with kindness
and we can see for ourselves that there is no longer mental rigidity and
harshness, but pliancy of mind.
Dosa can also appear as fear. When there is fear one dislikes the object
which is experienced. Fear is harmful for mind and body. One may have fear
of people, of situations, of sickness, old age and death. So long as dosa
has not been eradicated it will always find an object.
People have different accumulations: some people may have aversion at certain
occasions while others do not. Dosa does not only arise because of what
other people do or don't do, it can arise on account of any object experienced
through one of the six doors. One may even be cross with the rain, the
sun or the wind. We read in the Atthasalini (II, Book II, Part II,
Summary, Chapter II, 367):
... "Or when
vexation (springs up) groundless" means anger without reason: for example,
someone gets angry saying "it rains too much" " it does not rain", "the
sun shines too much". "it does not shine "; gets angry when the wind blow,
when it does not blow, gets angry at being unable to sweep away the Bodhi
leaves, at being unable to put on his robe: he gets angry with the wind,
in slipping he gets angry with a tree-stump...
The Buddha compares someone
who gets angry very easily with an open sore. An open sore hurts at the
slightest touch, it is foul and unpleasant to look at. We read in the Gradual
Sayings (Book of the Threes, Chapter III, 25, The open sore):
... of what
sort, monks, is the one whom mind is like an open sore? Herein a certain
person is irritable and turbulent. When anything, no matter how trifling,
is said to him, he becomes enraged, he gets angry and quarrelsome: he resents
it and displays anger, hatred and sulkiness. Just as, for instance, when
a festering sore, if struck by a stick or sherd, discharges matter all
the more, even so, monks, a certain person… displays anger, hatred and
sulkiness. This one is called "He whom mind is like an open sore"...
The Buddha then spoke
about the "lightning-minded", the person who has realized the four noble
Truths but who is not yet arahat, and about the "diamond-minded", the arahat.
Just as a diamond can cut everything, even a gem or a rock, even so has
the arahat cut off, destroyed, the "asavas" (1 "Intoxicants", a group of
So long as we cling to the pleasant "worldly conditions" (loka-dhammas)
of gain, fame, praise and well-being, we are bound to have aversion when
they change. They change all tie time but we forget that they are impermanent.
When we lose possessions, when we do not receive honour, when we are blamed
or when we suffer pain, we have aversion and sadness. Right understanding
of realities, of kamma and vipaka, can help us to be more even-minded about
pleasant and unpleasant things which happen to us. When we experience unpleasant
objects through the senses, it is caused by akusala kamma, by unwholesome
deeds which have been committed already, and nobody can avoid akusala vipaka
when it is the right time for its arising. When we understand that aversion
about akusala vipaka is not helpful, there can be "wise attention" instead
of "unwise attention" to the objects which are experienced. There may be
intellectual understanding of realities but this understanding cannot eradicate
dosa and the other defilements. Only right understanding developed in vipassana
can eradicate them.
Dosa can be temporarily eliminated by the development of calm. When one
sees the disadvantages of clinging to sensuous objects and one has accumulations
for the development of calm to the degree of jhana, one can be temporarily
remote from sense-impressions. Rupavacara kusala cittas (of "fine material
jhana") can produce result in the form of rebirth in rupa-brahma planes
and arupavacara kusala cittas (of immaterial jhana) can produce results
in the form of rebirth in arupa-brahma planes. Although lobha and moha
can arise in these planes (1 Except in the rupa-brahma plane which is the
asanna-satta plane, the plane of "inconscious beings", where there is only
rupa.) , there are no conditions for dosa. However, dosa arises again when
there is rebirth in one of the sensuous planes. As we have seen, clinging
to sense objects conditions dosa. Only when the stage of the anagami has
been attained win dosa be eradicated. The anagami does not cling to sense
objects and thus he has no conditions for dosa.
Only if we develop right understanding of realities can dosa eventually
be eradicated. Right understanding sees dosa as it really is: as sankhara
dhamma, conditioned dhamma, non-self. Through mindfulness of dosa its characteristic
can be known. We believe that it is easy to recognize dosa, but we usually
think of the concept "dosa" or "aversion", and then its characteristic
will not be known. We win still take it for "my dosa", instead of realizing
that it is only a kind of nama which arises because of conditions.
It may happen that we have so much aversion about out aversion and about
the unpleasant feeling which accompanies it, that we believe that we cannot
be mindful of the reality of the present moment. In theory we know that
there can be mindfulness of any reality which appears now, but what about
the practice? When we see the benefit of right understanding of whatever
reality appear, there are conditions for the arising of mindfulness, even
when it seems that we are not "in the mood" for it.
It seems that we do not have hatred or anger, but this does not mean that
dosa has been eradicated. So long as there is still the latent tendency
of dosa, it can arise any time. We read in the Middle Length Sayings
(I, no. 21, The Parable of the Saw) about Videhika who was calm so long
as there was no opportunity for dosa. It seemed that she had no dosa at
all. She had an excellent reputation, she appeared to be gentle, meek and
cairn. Her servant Kali wanted to test her and she came to work later every
day. Because of this Videhika lost her temper: she hit Kali on her head
with the pin used for securing the door bolt. Because of that she acquired
an evil reputation. We read that the Buddha said to the monks:
Even so, monks, some monk here is very gentle, very meek very tranquil
so long as disagreeable ways of speech do not assail him. But when disagreeable
ways of speech assail the monk it is then that he is to be called gentle,
is to be called meek is to be called tranquil...
The Buddha exhorted the
monks to have a "mind of friendliness", even if other spoke to them in
a disagreeable way, even if low-down thieves would carve them limb by limb
with a double-handled saw.
Those who have eradicated dosa, the anagami and the arahat, never have
anger nor the slightest displeasure, even in circumstances which are very
difficult to bear, even when they have to endure sickness or pain.
We tend to have aversion when we have pain or when we are sick. When an
unpleasant object impinges on the bodysense, body-consciousness accompanied
by painful feeling experiences that object. Body-consciousness is vipakacitta,
it is in this case the result of akusala kamma. Shortly afterwards in that
process of cittas dosa-mula-cittas are likely to arise which experience
that object with aversion. It seems almost inevitable that aversion arises
after the body-consciousness which experiences an unpleasant object. In
order to have right understanding of the different phenomena which occur,
it is necessary to develop mindfulness of nama and rupa. There are many
different types of nama and rupa when we have pain and when we have aversion
about pain, and they can be objects of awareness one at a time. Right understanding
of nama and rupa will help us to bear great pains and to be patient in
case of sickness. If we begin to develop right understanding of realities
at this moment we accumulate conditions for its arising when we are sick
or when we are about to die.
i Is the suppression
of unpleasant feeling always done with kusala citta?
ii What are
the proximate causes for dosa?
iii When there are
unpleasant "worldly conditions" we are likely to have dosa. How can right
understanding of kamma and vipaka help us to have kusala citta instead
iv Why is there
no dosa in the rupa-brahma planes and in the arupa-brahma planes?
v Why can dosa
not be eradicated without developing right understanding of nama and rupa?
Why can it not be eradicated by just developing loving kindness?
vi When we
suffer from sickness and when we are about to die what is the most beneficial
thing that can be done in order not to be overcome by dosa? What should
be done if dosa arises in such circumstances?