Abhidhamma with Ven. Dhammadipa Day 4
Nammo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammasambudhassa
Nammo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammasambudhassa
Nammo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammasambudhassa
Citta is cognition. Its characteristic is vijanana. It has three factors: agent, instrument and action.
Hadayavatthu is the base of cognition in the Theravada tradition. In the Sarvastivada tradition, the base is citta. This is very important to understand. Due to this difference, you will also find out that in the Saravastika tradition we have 10 mahabhumi cetasika, the cetasika that appear in each and every kind of cognition. These are different from the Theravada tradition because their way of meditating and way of seeing is very different.
So, in the Vaibhasika and Saravastivada system, because the base of cognition is the previous mind, their way of meditation and way of understanding the cetasika is very different. These systems do not analyze, strictly speaking, the different stages of cognition, but for them the mind and mental factors explode, or come into appearance and disappearance. Wherever there is a prevalent and most clear object, there the mind goes, and it goes there with all the mental factors. There, it appears and disappears in each and every moment of cognition – this is a particularity of the Vaibhasika system. That is why, among the mental factors that are present in each and every moment of cognition, we also find adhimokka (determination), sati, mati- which is equivalent to wisdom or differentiation of the object.
These Dhammas are not qualified the sabbha citta saranas as the mental factors always present in each and every moment of cognition in the Theravada. I hope you will see very clearly why. The Theravada school analyzes the cognition process as a step-by-step, not as sudden arising and sudden disappearance in each and every moment of cognition. It is a sequence. This idea of sequence appears later in the Sarvastivada tradition, for example, in the Sangitiparyaya of Sariputra, the famous book studied in the Chinese tradition. They also describe the mental process, but not so detailed as in the Theravada. They also slightly change the sabbha citta saranas cetasikas which appear in each and every moment of cognition.
Then there’s the Vijnanavadans, and they differ from the other traditions. For them, instead of one mind, there are three kinds of mind, the alaya, manas and the pravitthivinannas they are applied to the differentiation of the object. This is the base of the cognitions active in differentiation of the object, manas, and the base of manas and pravitthivinnanas is alaya-vijnana. So, their way of meditation and distinction among the many cittas and cettasikas is also different due to this principle of alaya-vijnana. Instead of the 10 mental factors common to all cognitions in the Sarvastivada system, or the 7 common to all cognitions discussed in the Theravada tradition, there are only 5 in the Vijnanavada tradition. These are the mental factors of the alaya-vijana. Because the alaya-vijnana is the base of all cognition, the alaya-vijnana is then connected with only 5 mental factors, and not with concentration as we have seen in the Theravada or Sarvastivada. Why? Because in the Theravada or Sarvastivada traditions the mind can only have one object, it is not possible for a mind to have more than one object. But, because alaya-vijnana is the base of all the phenomena inner and outer, it is that which appropriates one’s body and the world, therefore it can have not only one object but many objects. So, just like one wave can appear, also 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 waves can appear all together. So, they do not need for mental process to take place, they do not necessarily need concentration, because when there is concentration one can only concentrate on one object.
As we have seen, the rasa, function or taste, of concentration is sahajatanam sampindana, which means it molds objects together in the mind, and all appear together at the same moment of cognition. Because of this quality of samadhi, concentration, the mind can only appear in regard to one object, it cannot appear in regard to 2 or 3 objects at the same time. It is not possible.
In the Theravada tradition, especially in samadhi, this quality of molding of objects appearing together, not letting them disperse, this power of mind of putting the mental factors in the same condition together, is a prerequisite for any moment of cognition. It is very important to understand this difference when studying Northern and Southern Buddhism, the difference between the different schools of Abhidhamma. So far, we have only discussed the 3 works of the 3 schools – the Vaibhasika, Yogacara and Theravada. The Madyamika cannot be taken strictly as an Abhadhamma school because they are concerned with rather breaking the idea of self existence rather than the detailed analysis of the mental processes as other schools of Abhidhamma do. There are some special works, especially appearing in the Chinese Tipitaka, which are not aligned to any school that we know, but these are exceptions. All the major works of the Abhidhamma that we have are either aligned to Sarvastivada or Yogacara or Theravada.
The study of these three systems of Abhidhamma, if you want to really understand them, their way of analysis is directly connected to their meditation practice. If we have time, later, we can talk more about this, but for the present moment we want to understand one system thoroughly. But, Keep this in mind. If you study any other system, you will only get clarity when you know one system thoroughly. If you don’t know one system thoroughly and you start mixing the systems too early, you cannot expect to get good results. So best way is to learn one system thoroughly then you can start to appreciate other systems.
We have especially emphasized that Burma, as far as I am aware, is the only place where the living tradition of Abhidhamma is completely preserved in its entirety, only in Burma. We get only fragmentary knowledge of Abhidhamma as a living tradition in Tibet and China, not speaking of Japan and other countries related to the Chinese tradition.
So, last time we discussed the analysis of the mahagata cittas, the sublime cognitions. How many sublime cognitions are there? There are 5 sublime cognitions in the rupa viccara sphere, in the sphere of cognition where subtle rupa is the object of cognizing. Then, there are 4 other formless cognitions. So, all together, there are 9 types of cognitions that are called mahagata -sublime. Why sublime? Because, the mind and the object of cognition is sublime. This is very important to understand. Unless you understand this very clearly, you will not get any further in the Abhidhamma. The cognition is the interdependent phenomena. What does this mean? It means that the gross mind cannot contemplate the subtle object. Only subtle the mind can contemplate the subtle object. This means, in these different levels of cognition, only the higher cognition can contemplate the object corresponding to that cognition plus the lower or grosser objects, but it cannot contemplate the more subtle objects. The more subtle the mind, the more subtle the object becomes. This is very important to know. And the more subtle the object, the more appeased the mind.
The mind, this sublime mind is learning step by step, the more and more appeased condition of mind by understanding the more and more sublime objects.
What is the main mental factor that makes the mind and the mental object sublime? It is nothing else but the one-pointedness of mind, ekkagata. The more subtle the object, the more one-pointed and sharp the mind becomes. So, the subtler the object the more one-pointed the mind becomes. This is very important to understand.
In this process we will see later, when we speak about cognition in the rupa viccara plane, the plane dominated by subtle objects, the process of sublimating the mind and the object is a process of removing the so-called 8 apalakas, the 8 hindrances to a completely appeased cognition. You should know something about the 8 apalakas. The sublimating cognition and it object in the rupa vaccara plane, the cognitions dominated by subtle object, this cognition is sublimated by removing the 8 apalakas. In the arupa in the four kinds of arupa cogntions, the more subtle cognition is sublimated. In this plane, the cognitions are sublimated step-by-step by having more and more subtle object. The mind in the arupa cognitions remains always the same. The mental factors do not change only the objects become more and more sublimated. But in the rupa viccara cognition, the cognition dominated by subtle objects, the mind is especially more and more sublimated. The object of the rupa viccara cognition is sublimated only in regard to the sublimation of the mind, not in regard to the sublimation of the object so much…. But, in the arupa viccara the mind remains the same, its sublimation is only in regard to the object. “Mind remains the same” means the same quality of the mental factors, not one-pointedness. This is very different.
So, what are the 8 apalakas? The first is the applied sort, vitakka. This vitakka is removed in the 2nd rupa viccara absorption. So, in this 2nd rupa viccara absorption, you have instead of 5 causes of absorption only 4 causes of absorption. The applied thought does not exist anymore. In the 3rd absorption, you have the sustained though that disappears.
There is a famous story in the commentary of Dhammapada. There were 3 disciples of the Buddha, and the Buddha was having a discourse with them. The 3 disciples were listening to the discourse of the Buddha. One of them was listening to the discourse with great pleasure and with full attentiveness, full concentration. The other one, while listening to the discourse of the Buddha, he was digging in the ground. And the other one was always catching the branches of the tree under which they were sitting. So, what happened? After the Buddha finished the discourse, the one disciple who was listening very carefully got the clarity and was beaming from his face with Dhammarama , Dhamma pleasure Dhamma satisfaction. The other two sat without expression on their faces. Ananda who was listening behind he saw this and asked, “What is the reason that the one who was listening carefully is beaming and the other two have no expression at all?” The Buddha smiled and said, “The one who was listening carefully, who had many merits accumulated in past life, now I brought this discourse especially for him and he has come to enlightenment due to this. Now he is beaming with Dhammarama. The other, who was digging in the earth, in his previous life he has been an earthworm. He was this for many many lives and this is his habit. Because of his habit he was not able to listen. The other one catching the branches had been a monkey for many past lives. His habit is to catch branches, and he could not listen because of his monkey habit.”
So, never mind some people listen; some people not so well - everyone according to their ability.
Coming back, in the 2nd absorption, the applied thought disappears. In the 3rd absorption, the sustained thought disappears. In the Suttanta tradition then disappear together but in the Abhidhamma tradition – we call it a “special” tradition in the sense that it is for special people and also because it is more detailed – we differentiate. Instead of the 4 absorptions named in the Suttanta , we have 5 absorptions.
So what are the other apalakas the other hindrances to a perfect sublime state of mind? The other 4 are are dukkha, domanassa, sukha and somanassa. Domanassa disappears in the 1st jhana. There is no place for it. Dukkha disappears in the 3rd jhana according to the Abhidhamma, and according to Suttanta system, in the 2nd jhana. The sukha and somanassa disappear in the 5th jhana, together with in-breath and out-breath. So, starting from the end, the order of disappearing hindrances: in-breath and out-breath, sukkha somanasa, dukkha somanasa, vitakka (applied thought), vicara (sustained thought). These are the 8 hindrances of the perfect sublime state of mind. These 8 apalakas then disappear in the 5th absorbtionof the rupa viccara sphere.
In the absorptions of the formless sphere, the mind is the same as the mind of the 5th absorption, only the object becomes more and more sublime. The concentration becomes more and more clear, sharp, until the sharpest concentration is connected nevasaññana aña is connected with the most sublime object that one can experience in this world. This sublime object and sublime cognition are called “The Top of the World,” because there is no sublime mind or object of cognition more sublime than that. We will connect our analysis of the mental factors with these minds first, because these cognitions are the ones studied first in the living tradition of Abhidhamma. Due to the detailed study of these mental factors and mind in these conditions, one will be able to undergo that very detail and thorough study of the lower cognitions in the kamma viccara sphere, in the sphere dominated by sense objects, and also in the highest cognition, in the supramundane cognition.
We have started with the 1st absorption in the rupa viccara, in the first, lowest cognition in the sphere of cognitions dominated by subtle objects, the 1st jhana. And we have pointed out the 5 jhana angas that enable that cognition. Without these 5 jhana angas being prominent, it is not possible to attain the cognition and the subtle objects. So, because these subtle objects are very prominent and clear, it is very easy for the meditators who have stabilized their minds in the 1st absorption to see them. We have already given the hint how they see them. Because in all absorption – dhyana or samapati is different from the normal mind we are using – the object of absorption does not change, it remains the same for a long time, as long as one is engaged in that absorption. That is why these mental factors become very powerful. Otherwise, they also exist in the mind, but they are not powerful enough to prevent the mind from going to other objects. They can become very powerful, to the extent that they have stabilized the mind on the desired object, the preliminary stage to this stabilization is upacara samadhi, which differs from the full apana asbsorption.
The upacara and apana samadhi are different in this sense: in upacara samadhi the mind can still fall into the base of consciousness, bhavanga - the cause of existence. Bhava means: existence, anga means: cause. Same as, jhana-anga: cause of absorption. Here we have Bhava-anga; The cause of existence. The cause of existence is nothing else but the consciousness its self. Without consciousness, there is no existence. So, which consciousness? Not active consciousness, but consciousness that exists in the moment when there is no active consciousness, bhavanga. This is to answer the question, where is the mind when it has no object? Mind cannot exist without an object. Paticcasamupada Dhamma, which is the phenomena of existence arising from interdependent origination. The mind cannot exist without interdependent origination. This is a particularity of Buddhism. You should be very clear on that. This is what makes Buddhism different from other systems or philosophy. If you do not understand that, you will be misled about the meaning of Buddhism. This cognition can only exist with an object to be cognized. Without an object to be cognized, there is no cognition as such there is no mind.
When we do not see any colors, when we do not taste, hear, smell, or touch, and when we do not think and when there is no dhamma, where is the mind? The answer is the mind is in bhavanga. Because it is in the bhavanga, it has a continuity. Therefore, the mind is something that appears and disappears in every moment of cognition. Still, it has a continuity so you cannot say that your mind yesterday was the same mind, and you cannot say that it was a different mind. Neither same, nor different.
And not only mind, which is the base of all phenomena we can cognize in this world. All the other dhammas, the feelings and so on, they also cannot be said to be the same nor different. They are simply arising in interdependent origination. Even though they arise, they are always in the process of change. They arise in one single continuity (santati), and the one who is responsible for this continuity is nothing else but this bhavanga we have mentioned. So, as long as there is bhavanga, there is one single continuity.
And why is it so? According to the Theravada system, the object of cognition is the same. So, the bhavanga, even though it is always changing, remains. It is always arising and passing away as any other dhammas. As it is conditioned, it cannot but arise and pass away in each and every moment of cognition. Whatever is conditioned must do so. There is no option. In the Theravada system, this bhavanga citta arises in regard to an object. It cannot arise without an object. And it always arises in regard to a single object, called the citta vitthi vimmuta, “the citta liberated from the active process of cognition,”. All the other cittas appear in the active process of cognition, except bhavanga.
Bhavanga here also implies the last and first mind of our existence (this mind also is bhavanga). At the beginning of our existence bhavanga is called patisandhi, and at the end of our existence bhavanga is called cuti. And in between the beginning and ending of our existence innumerable millions and billions of bhavangas appear, but they appear in regard to one object. Therefore, there is continuity. So, this is a particularity of the Theravada system.
For example, if you read Xuen Tsang’s Vijaptimagtattra Siddhi book, he says, among the proofs of the existence of alaya-vijnana in other systems – he mentions the Vaibhadhins which are Theravadins – bhavanga is another name, for him, for alaya-vijnana, but he does not mention a difference between the concepts of bhavanga and alaya-vijnana. As far as he is concerned, the object of alaya-vijnana is non-manifested and non clear. But the object of bhavanga we can actually know. This is a particularity of the living tradition of abhidhamma as preserved in Burma. You do not need supernatural powers. You analyze the object of bhavanga by vipassana. The object of bhavanga in this life is nothing but the last active cognition in the past life, and the object of our future bhavanga ( if we are going to be reborn)is nothing else but the last object of our active mind in this life. Then, as long as we live in one santati, in one continuity of life, the bhavanga, the basic consciousness, remains on this object. It is bound to that object. So, when the active cognition has no object, then our mind is bound to this bhavanga object. This is very important to understand.
Sublime cognitions are also the states of active mind, the bhavuti citta. They only differ from the other kamma vicara processes, processes of cognition in the lower sphere of existence, in the sense that just as in the case of bhavanga mind, when we are in the sublime condition, our mind is also bound to the single object. It does not go to any other object. This rule becomes similar to the bhavanga mind. The mind in sublime cognition does not change objects just like the mind in the bhavanga cognition.
Last week we started with the 5 jhana angas, which we analyzed. We have said that after the 5 jhana angas, in the living tradition, come the phasso-pancaka-dhammas, which stand for the 5 aggregates of existence. So, they are the most important mental dhammas. After analyzing the most prominent mental dhammas, factors of cognition, we have started analyzing the most important mental dhammas, which come to prominence whenever there is a touch. Whenever there is a touch, there is no need to say that the touch is with the object. So, Rupa must be there.
As soon as the object appears except the abstract mental concepts, all other objects belong to the category of rupa. Why do they belong to the category of rupa? Because they are being broken in each and every moment of cognition. So, it is very important to understand the Buddhist concept of corporeality or object is very different from concept of object in the Western philosophy. The object is which is broken. By what? By hunger, heat, cold, bites of insects. Very practical. But the most important part of it is the broken by understanding. That means if the mind has understanding, if it has concentration, wisdom, just like the perception of the outer object, like this table and glass and sound I hear in the street. When I concentrate on it, and I have a certain knowledge, it will disintregrate into the rupa kalapas, into the compounds of cognition, which can be further broken into individual parts of cognition. This happens outside just like in inside.
So, suppose I contemplate this glass and then close my eyes. This glass that appears in my inner eye can also be broken into rupa kalapas, which proves that it is nothing but rupa also. Even the image of Buddha, if I concentrate on it in my inner eye, it can be broken into the rupa kalapas, and nothing of its stability will remain. Whenever there is a touch, except in cases of the abstract concepts like truth and so on, whatever is the object of touch is something which is necessarily in the process of being broken of rupa as we shall see in our further analysis of the active cognitions, in the kamma viccara sphere, the cognition dominated by sensual objects, the impermanence of the rupa – this is a particularity of the Theravada system – is 17 (according to the Vissudhi Magga) or 16 (Subcommentaries) times slower than mind. Because – we will see later when we explain the mental processes – the past moment of bhavanga is also considered a process belonging to active cognition, we speak of 17 instead of 16, but we will talk about this later when you get more knowledge, otherwise you will get confused with too much information.
The impermanence of rupa, according to the Theravada system, is 17 or 16 times slower than the impermanence of mind. The reason why we can see a present object, like present colors and sounds, is because the object of cognition of these objects appears in 17 moments of cognition. So, it is interdependent origination. We have now pointed out that the particularity of cognition in the sphere of sublime objects in the rupa viccara sphere and arupa viccara sphere happens in regard to the same object, so that mind appears and disappears always in regard to the same object. So, according to Abhidhamma, within one snap of my fingers there appear thousands of mind arising and passing away. Even hundreds of thousands. The mind is the fastest moving thing in this world. There is no phenomena in this world moving faster than the mind. Even electricity is moving like a snail compared to the mind.
Now, this fast mover, when it is moving always towards the same object becomes very powerful, of course. That is why the quality of these mental factors which we have in this mind, always moving towards the same object, become sublime.
We started our analysis with these sublime objects and sublime minds. The sublime mind of the 1st absorption – we have pointed out its 5 jhana factors. The phassopancakka. We analyzed phassa, then vedana, then sanna. Then, with touch, comes cettana, or will. There is no question of any cognition without the will being concerned. The will comes as the third most prominent mental factor and the third aggregate of existence. It is the aggregate of existence of sankara. Strictly speaking, the sankara is usually translated as: will formations, and the most important will formation is the will itself. Strictly speaking, the will stands for sankara-kanda, but in a wider sense the sankara-kandha is will plus all the other mental formations, except vedana and sanna. We have explained why – because vedana and sanna, the reception of the object and making note of the object, are the most important mental dhammas which determine the nature of our cognition, beside the will. And all the other mental factors are determined by will, so the will is also called khettasami (?), which means “lord of the field.”
Why is it the lord of the field? Because, it is the most powerful among all mental factors. It is compared to a powerful man who leads the other workers in the field, the other mental factors that determine how we experience our object. And what is the lakkhana, or characteristic, of will, cetana? It is only the cettaita, it is only the act of willing. There is no one who is willing. There is only a pure act of willing. This is how we experience the will. Nobody wills but there is the act of willing, and the act of willing is the necessary condition for the appearance of cognition. Without the act of willing there will be no cognition, and the act of willing is the oar that brings the mind to the object.
In the lower types of cognition, dominated by the sensual objects or of the cognition of the 1st absorption, this act of going to the object is assisted by applied thought, vitakka. The taste or function of vitakka is beating the object, or repeated striking of the object. Its characteristic is planting the mind at the object. Its manifestation is repeated bringing of the mind to the object, which is also the second oar that takes mind to the object. But it exists only in the lower types of cognition. In the higher types of cognition, the other mental factors are so well coordinated – the function of sati, manasikara and these other important factors – that the mind no longer needs to rely on the applied source. It goes to the object due to the better coordination of the other mental factors. That’s why the samadhi becomes deeper.
So, the lakkhana, the characteristic, of cettana, is a state of willing and is a necessary component of any state of cognition. We know and taste this presence of the state of willing. What is the function of the will? Ayuhana, the karmic accumulation in the mind. The act of willing becomes functional when there is a karmic accumulation in the mind, without which the act of willing cannot become functional. This accumulation being the taste, or how we know that there is a will in our mind, is nothing else but the effort of the mind, and this effort of the mind can be either wholesome or unwholesome. If it is a wholesome accumulation, it becomes most powerful when the mind becomes aninjha, when the mind gets to the 5th jhana and in the arupa jhanas when the mind becomes unmovable by the 8 disturbing factors or hindrances. Therefore, if it is connected with the active, wholesome will, then it is a will for the unmoved mind. This is the most wholesome accumulation in the world.
Then the manifestation of the will – when there is accumulation, what happens? Samvidhana (?), the coordinating. It is by an act of willing that one coordinates also. When the act of willing occurs, the coordinating of the other mental factors also appears automatically with it. How to understand it? The Vissudhi Magga explains it with the example of the jetta sisiya, which means “the senior apprentice.” The senior apprentice of the carpenter, what does he do? He does his own job of making a chair or making a table, but at the same time he sees to it that all the other apprentices do their job properly. He does his own job, bringing mind to the object, and he sees to it that all the other apprentices also do their job properly, so that there is unity in the mind. That is why padatthana, the main cause, of the appearance of the act of willing is the appearance of the other aggregates of the existence, like the other apprentices to guided by the will.