Abhidhamma with Ven. Dhammadipa Day 2
We as usual will start with the salutation to the Buddha because our source of wisdom is the triple gem.
Nammo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa
Nammo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa
Nammo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa
Because our time is very limited, I will have to think of some skillful way of teaching you Abhidhamma. The Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma is a summary. I will teach you a summary of a summary, especially in the reference to the living tradition.
We have the chance of learning Abhidhamma due to the special diligence of certain Burmese monks who have preserved the tradition through the ages. This tradition is not just a scholastic discipline, it is a living tradition. All these Dhammas, all these “real elements of cognition” that we need in order to attain clarity about the nature of the world and the nature of liberation, we can learn them not only in theory but learn them in practice. As far as I am aware - being a student of Northern Abhidhamma for quite some time - I have been trying to find out if this tradition has been preserved in Northern Buddhism but I was unable. I have asked many scholars in the Chinese and in the Tibetan tradition, but I could only get fragmentary information how this vast field of knowledge and especially northern Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism in particular this Abhidhamma is the most vast literature available on Abhidhamma,. So, it seems, in the Northern tradition, Abhidhamma is only preserved as a scholastic discipline, not any more as a living tradition.
So, yesterday we started with the four Paramatas, the four “supreme meanings” or the “supreme subjects” that one needs to know in order to understand the subject matter of Abhidhamma, this is the sudesa or the summary of the whole content of the book. This book is concerned with the explanation of the four supreme objects or supreme meanings. We have also pointed out that the approach of the Abhidhamma, the Abhidhamma of the Sravakhas especially emphasizes the liberation of the Arahants. This does not explain in detail the liberation of the Buddhas. This Adbhidhamma, it does not matter whether it is in the Theravada, Sravastivada tradition, the Vaipashika tradition in the Northern tradition or in the Southern tradition. This tradition has a pluralistic approach. This approach - for the students of Indian philosophy it make it related to the Samkia school.
Cittam cetasikam rupam
Nibbanam iti sabbatha.
(The things contained in the Abhidhamma, spoken of therein, are altogether four fold from the standpoint of ultimate reality: consciousness, mental factors, matter, and Nibbana.)
There are three aspects of mind - citta, mannas, vinnana. Citta we can translate as mind, or a better translation may be cognition,. Or the three synomyms for mind as it is used in the Pali and Sanskrit tradition. The one being Citta, defined on the one hand as “alambanam cinte iti cittam” . Another aspec as we have especially emphasized in the Nothern tradition “cinotti iti cittam” meaning that which accumulates kamma. Then another, Mannas - “yena manyate iti mana” meaning that which thinks. Vinnana - that which differentiates.
So we have mentioned there are three aspects of the mind. One is an agent, one is an instrument, and one is kriya the action itself. These are the three aspects of mind which necessarily have to be understood.
The most important aspect of the mind is kriya , cinta the action of thinking - mind is cintana, “consciousness.” There is no place for the misunderstanding that occurs so often in the western philosophy in, “cogito ergo su’,’I think therefore I am.” The mind is merely the action thinking, there is no place for the thinker. It is merely the action of thinking that is mind. This is most important for understanding Buddhist philosophy.
Among these four Paramatas, supreme meanings or supreme objects, we have already defined mind in terms of the common tradition, the abhidhamma tradition, which defines mind as an element, as a cognition, which is nothing, an element, a phenomena like everything else in the world, arisen in interdependent origination, therefore we have defined the mind as it is presented in the abhidhamma tradition and in the Vissudhimagga as the characteristic of mind being vijjanana the differentiation of the object the rasa, the function, the taste, how we experience the object.
As we mentioned yesterday, the pubbangama as we have emphasized, strictly speaking pubbhangama refers to patisandhi citta - the re-linking consciousness. But in the sense that we mentioned yesterday, mind is the forerunner of all things. Mind the worldy mind can only arise in reference to objects. This gives it its content. It has no content of its own. But yet, because all is dependent on this functioning of mind, so we can take it with the senses we have mentioned. Everything that we experience we can only experience through mind. In this sense the mind is the forerunner of all things. Everything then is contained in the mind. This is not particular to this way of thinking. It is the idea of all Buddhists. So, the paccupatthana, the manifestation of mind it is sandhana - putting things together, without mind there is no putting things together. That is why, strictly speaking, we are living by putting things together, by mind. It is the primary cause of its arising. In the Theravada tradition it is very important that in contrast to the Sravastivada, the self-nature, self-characteristics of all the entities, it is defined always in reference to the interdependent origination. Because, most of the students of Northern Buddhism do not study Theravada, they automatically associate Theravada with the Vaipasika which believes in the non changing existence of entities in the three times. This is not the approach of Therevada. Even the self-nature of the entities can only arise due to causes, it cannot exist by itself. This is why in the definition of Dhammas of entities, there is always the primary cause.
As we have said no entity arises due to one cause. The primary cause of the arising of mind is namarupa. Rupa is “that which breaks continually”, “that which is molested continually.” The characteristic of Nama is “that which bends to the object.”
When there is the bending of the mind due to the presence of mental factors, when there is an object that is continually in the process of being broken, molested, then appears the mind which differentiates, which cognizes this process. Where there is this process of bending towards the object and the object being broken, there appears this worldly consciousness aware of the process.
Analyzing of the mind and it’s mental factors is the main point of the book we will be discussing. In the Abhidhamma Sangaha there are 9 chapters. More than half of the book is concerned with mind and mental factors and explains the process of cognition. The description of cognition and the understanding of the process of cognition is, to use the Milinda Panha, the ‘Questions of Milinda. It is one of th most popular expotions in the Theravada tradtions. The analysis of the mind and its mental factors one by one is according to the Milinda Panha the greatest thing the Buddha has done. To quote the great King Milinda asks, “What is the greatest contribution of Buddha? The analysis of mind and its mental factors, one by one. It is the most difficult feat to do, which the Buddha has accomplished.” At which point the King not being very intelligent asks for an illustration, so it is explained, “Supposed that someone in the Bay of Bengal, in the Indian ocean, sees water and distinguishes ‘this is the water of the Ganges river, this is the water of the Yamuna, the Sarisvatti river’ and so on for all the other Indian rivers flowing into the Indian Ocean. This feat is virtually impossible. Similarly, the Buddha has done this almost impossible deed in one mind, distinguishing all the different mental factors, pointing out the characteristics, the function of each and every one.”
Now the King still a little puzzled by the meaning, so he asks for more examples, and the other example is, “suppose the king’s curry contains hundreds of spices, and even jewels are ground and put in the king’s curry. If someone can distinguish all the different spices in the king’s curry, this is jeera this is cardimon and so on… this is saffron this is gold power in ones kings curry, this is indeed a great cook. The Buddha’s understanding of the mind is like this.”
The nature of the mind as we have seen is nothing but a process, the process of cognition. There is no cognizer. There is only cognition. Buddha was able to see this very clearly, due to determining everything that is involved in cognition. This is what we are going to do now. This is indeed a very important thing, very important to understand. The mind is a process. The first five chapters of the Abhidhammattha Sangaha are nothing but an explanation of all the important aspects of this process. Only by understanding them can we say that we know the supreme meaning and the supreme objects, the citta and the cetasikas. The more detailed the analysis of the mind and its factors and of the different stages of the process of cognition, the easier it becomes to practice the vipassana.
The necessary prerequisite of vipassana, and the first knowledge that is a condition for understanding the interdependent arising, interdependent arising is Dhamma. As said in the Agamas,
Yo patticcasamupada pasati so dhammam pasati yo dhammam pasati so patticcasamupadam pasati
The condition for understanding the patticasamupada is the analysis of nama and rupa, “nama rupa pariceda nanna” .We have seen that nama and rupa, besides the Nibbana, is all that one can know. The knowledge of nama rupa and the interdependence of nama and rupa, is then nyataparinya - nyata means “object of nanna, wisdom, knowledge.” Parinya means “thorough knowledge, all around.” This thorough knowledge of nama and rupa is presented in the comprehensive Abhidhamma is then, so to say, the base for our understanding of vipassana. Without this seeing in accordance to knowledge, seeing nama and rupa is an ordinary experience. We have defined Abhidhamma as a special Dhamma in that it is the dhamma of the enlightened ones, not the non-wise. The base of the Dhamma of the wise ones is that nama and rupa are in all one can experience in this world. If one sees something else in this world - one sees the horns on the hare andd one sees the hair on the turtle - these are the objects of knowledge, in the sense that they lead to liberation.
So, it is very important to understand. In the Theravada tradition, this is also considered one of the supreme meanings or objects. Most of you are students of the Northern tradition. I was requested from time to time to mention a few points of the Northern tradition for comparison. We have seen that in order to understand Buddhism, it is absolutely necessary, what is emphasized in all tradtions without exception is to understand the two truths - even though all the religions agree that the truth is only one. Never the less, o understand the one truth, one has to understand two - the conventional truth samuti and the supreme truth, the supreme meaning the supreme objects the Paramata.
In the Theravada tradition, the Paramatas are four. It is a pluralistic approach. The conventional truth definitely exists in the world and must be recognized, but we must know that this truth cannot be in conflict with the supreme truth. That is why, only by understanding the supreme truth, one can also understand the worldly truth as it really is.
There will always be misunderstanding of the worldly truth as long as one doesn’t understand the supreme truth. But understanding of the worldly truth does not necessarily help you to understand the supreme truth. On the contrary, it hides the supreme truth. For example Chandrakirti in the Prasadhapada he interprets the conventional truth as, “that which covers the truth”. The conventional truth - That which covers the truth.
Now, the approach of the Mahayana Abhidhamma is non-pluralistic. The thinkers, especially of the Yogacara school, an old tradition even mentioned by the students of Abhidhamma. This school was not defined as an independent before Asanga. However, it existed in the Sravastivada tradition long before the works of Asanga. And this school has defined, instead of two truths, three truths. We have the samvirti satya and parimartha The parimartha is nothing else but nirvana. These citta, cetasika and rupas, they define as “dravyasat” the truth of the nature of the things in the world.
Then, later in the developed Yogacara tradition, for example if you read Asanga’s Yogacarabhumi a wonderful book on meditation in the northern tradition, we get into four truths. The division of reality into four truths, worldly truths, like Dhammadipa, this glass or this alarm clock. All of this is definitely true, but not true in the supreme sense. Then, the logical truth is also very important to study. For suppose I see smoke, I can deduce that there is a fire. It is a certain truth. And then the amalabpajna the truth of the spotless wisdom of the Arhants.
The wisdom is deprived of the limitations due to defilements and disturbing emotions. Then there is the truth of the Buddhas which is a truth free from the limitations of knowledge. We have all different kinds of realities or truths. The object of our study here of the Abhidhammattha Sangaha is the amala prajna, is the spotless wisdom of the Arhants. And, Buddha is of course also an Arhant.
And now we return to our book, and we see the subject matter of the first chapter: from one mind that has only one single characteristic of cognition of vijanana, we get 89 or 121 different minds, but even so, they have the same lakkhana characteristic of vijanana. Even though the mind is one there can be two minds, three minds or four minds in the sense that the mind is divided according to “bhumi” - the level of cognition. According to jati, according to the nature of mind, if it is Akusala, kusala, vipakka, kiriya. Four jatis, then four we have natures of mind.
Thus, we have mentioned the four levels of cognition, which from one mind we make many different minds.
We have kammavicara citta the level of cognition, or sphere of cognition, where the sensual objects dominate cognition. Kamma here epescially refers to the five door sensual cognition. The world in which we live is the world of the lower cognition, but even so, among the beings dominated by senses we belong to the privileged ones, but we still belong to the sphere of cognition that is the lowest. Most of our thinking is done about what we see, what we hear, taste, smell, touch. We have very few other objects of thinking. So, according to kammavicara the level of cognition where mind avachada (”going down”) a place of cognition where the mind is always bound to the sensual perception. This is one sphere of perception
A higher sphere of perception is the rupavicara sphere. The beings in the rupavicara sphere, they have a really wonderful life not bothered by taste, smell, or touch, and what they contemplate, is only the subtle (rupa) objects. These beings, their mind is dominated by perception of subtle objects. Because of this they are not interested in us at all, because we are most of the time only thinking about the rough objects, and an even higher types of cognition than this, the formless (the subtle objects still have forms).
So, the highest beings in the world are the beings whose cognition is bound to formless objects. But even this cognition is still impermanent. The beings who are connected with these subtle objects they are always in bliss, and yet, the nature of that cognition is still impermanent. The highest cognition is that which is not defined by impermanence - free from all limitations. That cognition is lokuttara, “the cognition that is beyond the world,” Loka means “that which is breaking.” The cognition which goes beyond the world is the cognition which goes beyond impermanence, and only that cognition leads to final liberation.
These are the four divisions of mind in accordance with the bhumi. In your book I believe is the next verse after the Paramathas.
Tattha cittam tava catubbidham hoti: (i) kamavacaram; (ii) rupavaicam; (iii) arupavicaram; (iv)lokuttaran cati.
Of them, consciousness, firstly, is fourfold: (i) sense-sphere consciousness, (ii) fine-material-sphere consciousness, (iii) immaterial-sphere consciousness; (iv) supermundane consciousness.
That is verse number three. Because we will not have time to go through the book verse by verse. I want to give you aspects of the most important contents.
We have said that one mind becomes 89 or 121 types of cogntion. Another divison is by way of jati. We have four natures of mind.
1- Kusala - means “wholesome”, in the sense that it cannot be blamed. It brings a result of birth in the higher sphere of existence. Brings wholesome result.
2- Akusala - means “unwholesome”, that which can be blamed. It brings undesirable, unwholesome results - birth in the lower existences, marked by more suffering.
3- Vipakka - “resultant consciousness.” It is neither wholesome or unwholesome. That which is in itself a result of the wholesome or unwholesome activities of mind.
4- Kiriya- “automatic mind.” A mind that does not happen as a result of previous wholesome or unwholesome cognitions, which is free, so to say, from creating any effect. Such as a mind adverting to the object when the conditions are there. It is not connected with wholesome or unwholesome karma. It is the mind of the Arhants, those who are beyond the bondage of good and evil. Therefore, they are not going to be born anymore because their actions do not give rise, they are not linked to ripening. It does not mean that they don’t do any good actions. They can do many good actions, but these actions are not connected with any ripening because they are not going to come anymore.
Whatever they do is beyond their own ripening. But they can certainly ripen the minds of others. There is no doubt about that The other mind can definitely ripen. The more paramitas one has, the more their deeds will ripen. So please do not be confused on that point.
The division of one mind into many is for the sake of upaya. For the sake of “better understanding” of the mind processes. This great understanding of the mind processes is the greatest contribution of Theravada.
The other division is according to sampayoga according to the connection with the mental factors determining the nature of cognition.
Our book starts with the analysis of the akusala citta, in contrast with the Abhidhamma tradition, which the author, Anaruddha Acariya follows himself. It is a tradition of the Dhamma Sanghani to start with the kusala cittas. What are the good reasons for the author to start with the akusala cittas? We can see that it is the intelligence of the Anuruddha that brings him to do this, because in the scholastic tradition things are different. In the actual practice of meditation, how the dhammas are seen is also different. Those who do not meditate may think themselves to be very smart but the more one meditates the more one sees first the bad, the unwholesome to understand the wholesome. The deeper our understanding of the unwholesome the deeper will be our understanding of the wholesome. This is very important to understand and where Anuruddha Acariya uses his intellect and his intellect is certainly of the highest quality.
The process of meditation is nothing else than the process of purification. The process of purification is nothing else than the understanding of the suffering of the unwholesome mind and the developing of the higher and higher wholesome cognitions, until the most wholesome cognitions, the super-worldly cognitions. Those who have developed the super-worldly cognitions, the neessary requirement for this cognition is that one has understood thoroughly the unwholesome. Those who do not understand the unwholesome cannot develop the sublime and supermundane cogntion.
Question: about the Citta and object.
Alambana - that on which one hangs. “One” is the mind. “That” is the object. The worldy mind cannot function without the object. The citta is defined as that which finds objects.
Lasting self nature - whenever there is earth, there will be the experience of hardness. We have said that the experience of hardness is also the experience of softness. The hardness appears only because of conditions. The primary cause of the appearance of hardness is the appearance of other elements. If they are not there, there is no possibility of any hardness. It can only exist in relation to the other.
There was a famous Tibetan yogi, Milarepa. He attended a meeting where Abhidhamma was explained. Some very proud scholars were explaining that hardness was the quality of the earth. Milarepa was not happy. He said, “I don’t think hardness is the quality of the earth.” At that moment, he looked like a village bumpkin, so they dismissed him. But he said, “No, no, no. The earth is not hard.” The scholars said, “You fool, put your hand on the rock. That is not hard?” And Milarepa put his hand through the rock and said, “No, I don’t think so.”