BuddhaSasana Home Page
English Section

Abhidhamma in daily life
Nina Van Gorkom

Chapter 14



When we see, hear, smell, taste, experience an object through the body-sense or through the mind-door, there is not only one citta experiencing the object through the appropriate doorway, but a series or process of cittas. A rupa which impinges on one of the senses is experienced by a series of cittas. When that sense-door process is over, the object is experienced by cittas through the mind-door. Sense-door processes and mind-door processes arise and fall away continuously.

We may not know that both in a sense-door process and in a mind-door process there are akusala cittas or kusala cittas arising. Because of our accumulated ignorance we do not clearly know our akusala cittas and kusala cittas and we do not recognize our more subtle defilements.

In a sense-door process the object is experienced first by cittas which are not kusala cittas or akusala cittas ; it is experienced by kiriyacittas and by vipakacittas. The sense-door-adverting-consciousness (panca- dvaravajjana-citta) is an ahetuka kiriyacitta (a kiriya-citta without beautiful roots or unwholesome roots). It is succeeded by one of the dvi-panca-vinnanas (the five pairs, which are : seeing-consciousness, hearing-consciousness etc.) and this citta is ahetuka vipaka. Then there are two more ahetuka vipakacittas : the sampatic-chana-citta which receives the object and the santirana-citta which investigates the object. The santirana-citta is succeeded by the votthapana-citta (determining-consciousness) which is an ahetuka kiriyacitta. The votthapana-citta determines the object and is then succeeded by kusala cittas or by akusala cittas. In the case of those who are arahats there are no kusala cittas or akusala cittas succeeding the votthapana-citta but kiriyacittas. When the cittas of the sense-door process have fallen away, cittas of the mind-door process experience the object. First there are bhavanga-cittas and then the mano- dvaravajjana- citta arises which has the function of adverting to the object through the mind-door. The mano- dvaravajjana-citta is succeeded by kusala cittas or by akusala cittas in the case of those who are not arahats. The mano-dvaravajjana-citta is not kusala or akusala, it is an ahetuka kiriyacitta.

Since cittas arise and fall away very rapidly it is hard to know the different cittas which arise. Often we might not even know when we have kusala cittas or akusala cittas. For example, after there has been seeing we may not realize when there is attachment to the object, when there is aversion towards it, or when there is ignorance of realities. If we study the Dhamma we will learn about our more subtle defilements. Ignorance of our akusala cittas is dangerous. If we do not realize when we have akusala cittas we will continue accumulating akusala.

The kusala cittas or akusala cittas which arise perform a function ; they perform the function of javana or 'running through the object'. In the sense-door process the votthapana-citta has determined the object already when the javana-cittas arise and in the mind-door process the mano-dvaravajjana-citta has adverted to the object already when the javana-cittas arise. Thus, the kusala cittas or akusala cittas which follow have as their only function to 'run through' the object. Usually there are seven cittas in succession which perform the function of javana. If the first javana-citta is kusala, the succeeding six cittas are also kusala cittas ; if the first javana-citta is akusala, the succeeding six cittas are also akusala cittas. Do we realize it when javana-cittas are cittas rooted in lobha, dosa or moha, or when they are kusala cittas? We are ignorant most of the time, even of javana-cittas.

There are fifty-five kinds of citta which can perform the function of javana. Twelve akusala cittas (eight lobha-mula-cittas, two dosa-mula-cittas and two moha-mula-cittas), eight kamavacara kusala cittas, which are called maha-kusala cittas (Kamavacara cittas are cittas which are of the sensuous plane of consciousness, not jhanacittas or lokuttara cittas.), eight maha-kiriyacittas of the arahat (kiriyacittas which are not ahetuka, but accompanied by sobhana hetus). The arahat has maha-kiriyacittas instead of maha-kusala cittas since he does not accumulate any more kamma. Maha-kiriyacittas are of the sensuous plane of consciousness; they are not jhanacittas or lokuttara cittas. Arahats also have kamavacara citta ; they see, hear or think of objects experienced through the senses. However, on account of what is experienced no kusala cittas or akusala cittas arise.

For the arahat there is also an ahetuka kiriyacitta performing the function of javana, which may arise when he smiles : the hasituppada-citta

Those who attain rupa-jhana (fine material jhana) can have five types of rupavacara kusala cittas performing the function of javana, since there are five stages of rupa-jhana. Arahats who attain rupa-jhana can have five types of rupavacara kiriyacittas which perform the function of javana.

For those who attain arupa-jhana (immaterial jhana) there can be four types of arupavacara kusala cittas performing the function of javana, since there are four stages of arupa-jhana Arahats who attain arupa-jhana can have four types of Arupavacara kiriyacittas performing the function of javana.

Those who directly experience nibbana have lokuttara cittas. There are eight lokuttara cittas, four of which are magga-cittas ('path-consciousness', 'magga' means path) and four of which are lokuttara vipakacittas, called phala-cittas (' fruit-consciousness', 'phala' means fruit. There are four pairs of lokuttara cittas since there are four stages of enlightenment). Vipakacittas of other of consciousness cannot perform the function of javana, the function of javana. Thus, all eight lokuttara cittas perform the function of javana. Summarising the fifty-five cittas which can perform the function of javana.

[colectively known as 12 akusala cittas]
8 lobha-mula-cittas (cittas rooted in attachment)
2 dosa-mula-cittas (cittas rooted in aversion)
2 moha-mula-citta (citta rooted in ignorance)

8 maha-kusala cittas (kamavacara kusala cittas)
8 maha-kiriyacittas
1 hasituppada-citta (ahetuka kiriyacitta which may arise
when the arahat smiles)
5 rupavacara kusala cittas (rupa-jhanacittas)
5 rupavacara kiriyacittas (rupa-jhanacittas of the arahat)
4 arupavacara kusala cittas (arupa-jhanacittas)
4 arupavacara kiriyacittas (arupa-jhanacittas of the arahat)

[colectively known as 8 lokuttara cittas]
4 magga-cittas (lokuttara kusala cittas)
4 phala-cittas (lokuttara vipakacittas)

It is useful to know that when akusala cittas arise on account of an object, there arise not just one, but seven akusala cittas in one process and this process of cittas can be followed by other processes with akusala javana-cittas. Each time we dislike something there are processes of cittas which experience the object, and in each of these processes there are seven akusala javana-cittas. Many akusala cittas may arise on account of something we dislike or are attached to.

There is no self who can prevent akusala cittas from arising ; when they arise in the sense-door process the votthapana-citta has determined the object already, and when they arise in the mind-door process the mano-dvaravajjana-citta has adverted to the object already. When the first javana-citta has arisen it has to be succeeded by the following javana-cittas. The first javana-citta conditions the second one and this again the following one ; the third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth javana-cittas are the same.

Processes with kusala javana-cittas and processes with akusala javana-cittas can arise shortly one after the other. For instance, people have the intention to offer food to the monks. However, when one has bought the ingredients for the food one is going to offer, one may find the cost rather high. At that moment there may be cittas with stinginess and then the javana-cittas are akusala cittas. Thus we see that accumulated defilement can appear at any time when there are conditions, even if one has the intention to do a good deed.

It is during the time of the javana-cittas that we accumulate wholesomeness or unwholesomeness. It is not possible to control javana-cittas, but knowing the conditions for wholesomeness will help us to have fewer akusala cittas.

The Buddha, out of compassion, taught people the way to have less akusala. He encouraged them to perform all kinds of kusala, no matter whether it is dana (generosity) sila (morality) or bhavana (mental development). He taught the development of the wisdom which can eradicate all kinds of akusala. There are different degrees of panna. If panna merely knows what is kusala and what is akusala, it is not of the degree that it can eradicate akusala. When panna has not been developed to the degree of 'insight-wisdom', there is still a concept of self who cultivates wholesomeness and abstains from ill deeds. When there is the concept of self, defilements cannot be eradicated.

The person who is not an ariyan may be able to observe the five precepts, but there is a difference between him and the ariyan who observes them. The non-ariyan may transgress them when there are conditions for it while for the ariyan there aren't any more conditions for transgressing them. Moreover, the ariyan who observes sila does not take the observing of sila for self any more, since he has eradicated the latent tendency towards wrong view. Thus his sila is purer. He is on the way leading to the eradication of all defilements.

When we are not mindful of realities, we take the objects we experience for self. When panna realizes the objects which are experienced as nama and rupa, elements which do not last, there is less opportunity for akusala javana-cittas.

In the 'Visuddhimagga' (I, 55) we read about the 'Elder' Maha-Tissa :

...It seems that as the Elder was on his way Cetiya-pabbata to Anuradhapura for alms, a certain daughter-in-law of a clan, who had quarrelled with her husband and had set out early from Anuradhapura all dressed up and tricked out like a celestial nymph to go to her relatives' home, saw him on the road, and being low-minded, she laughed a loud laugh. (Wondering) 'What is that?", the Elder looked up, and finding in the bones of her teeth the perception of foulness, he reached Arahantship. Hence it was said : 'He saw the bones that were her teeth, And kept in mind his first perception ; And standing on that very spot, The Elder became an Arahant.' But her husband who was going after her saw the Elder and asked 'Venerable sir, did you by any chance see a woman?' The Elder told him : 'Whether it was a man or woman That went by I noticed not ; But only that on this high road There goes a group of bones.'

Maha-Tissa was not absorbed in the object he experience, nor entranced by the details. He realized when he perceived the woman's teeth the 'foulness of the body' and he did not take what he perceived for 'self'. The perception of the 'foulness of the body' reminds us not to see the self in the body, but to realize bodily phenomena as rupas which do not stay. Maha-Tissa saw things as they are ; the panna arising at that moment was to the degree that it could eradicate all defilements.

There are countless javana-cittas in a day with lobha, dosa and moha, and therefore we should not be heedless, but we should be as mindful as we are able to. We read in the 'Kindred Sayings' (IV, Salayatana-vagga, Kindred Sayings on Sense, Second Fifty, par. 97, Dwelling heedless) :

At Savatthi was the occasion (of this discourse)...

'I will teach you, monks, of the one who dwells heedless, and of the one who dwells earnest. Do you listen to it.

And how, monks, does one dwell heedless?

In him, monks, who dwells with the faculty of sight uncontrolled, the heart is corrupted by objects cognizable by the eye. In him whose heart is corrupted there is no delight. Without delight there is no joy. Where joy is not, there is no calm. Without calm one dwells in sorrow. The sorrowful man's heart is not composed. When the heart is not composed, one has not clear ideas. Through not having clear ideas he is reckoned as one who dwells heedless. (And it is the same with regard to the faculties of taste, touch and mind).

And how, monks, does one dwell in earnest?

In him, monks, who dwells with the faculty of sight controlled the heart is not corrupted by objects cognizable by the eye. In him whose heart is not corrupted delight is born. In one delighted joy is born. When one is joyful the body is calmed. He whose body is calmed feels at ease. Composed is the heart of him who is at ease. When the heart is composed one's ideas are clear. Through having clear ideas one is reckoned as one who dwells earnest. (And it is the same with regard to the faculty of taste, touch and mind.)

Thus, monks, is one a dweller in earnestness.'



1. Are there for the arahat only lokuttara cittas performing the function of javana, or can he also have kamavacara cittas (cittas of the sensuous plane) performing the function of javana?
2. Are there vipakacittas which can perform the function of javana?


Top of Page | Previous Page | Contents | Next Page

Source: Dhamma Study Group, https://www.dhammastudy.com

[Back to English Index]