Abhidhamma with Ven. Dhammadipa Day 5
Nammo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa
Nammo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa
Nammo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa
So far, we have started with the analysis of the sublime cognitions - as I have pointed out- for the reason that we are following the order how these dhammas are taught in the living tradition. So we started there. We have covered the jhana angas and we have covered the panca the phassopancaka. That means the five kandas being the most dominant factors determining the cognition. They appear in each and every cognition. We have especially emphasized on that. We started with phasso: where there is phasso there is an object. The object is rupa. Where there is an object there is vedana, the stands for the reception of the object – so it is the first mental dhamma determining the course of cognition. Then where there is reception of the object, there is taking note of the object or taking the nimitta of the object, the form of the object. Where there is taking form of the object, there has to be the act of willing which is the power that enables the mind to go to the object, to penetrate the object. Without these forces there is no question of mind cognition arising. When these three aggregates of existence are present- vedana, sanna and cetena - the phenomenon of cognition is also present. So we come to the vinnana khanda which we have already discussed before. These are the phassopancaka – the five phenomena arising together with phasso - contact.
Now we have emphasized that in the Theravada tradition each and every moment of cognition has to be connected to seven mental dhammas/phenomenon. If they are not there then there is no question of any cognition arising.
We have covered five of the Sabacittasadarana seven mental dhammas common to all cognitions without exception. We have cover so far five two are remaining. Which five:
1 Phasso – Contact
2 Vedana – Reception of the object.
3 Sanna – Perception of the object
4 Cetana – The act of Volition
5 Samadhi – Ability of the mind not to disperse.
Two are remaining:
6 Jivita-indriya – Meaning life faculty. The classification of this dhamma among the mental factors is one of the peculiarities of the Theravada system of Abhidhamma. In the other systems of Abhidhamma that we know (we have already mentioned that the Vaibhasika system and the Yogacara system, we do not know any other systems about the other systems of Abhidhamma we only know from the fragmentary teachings but not completely) In the others, in the Yogacara tradition, especially the Vaibhasika system, this dhamma – the life faculty, comes under the category of cittavipryukshas dhammas. Cittavipryukshas means dharmas which are crucial for the understanding of the mind and mental processes and everything that is happening in the world. They are such dharmas as arising, duration and impermanence or this very life faculty which, strictly speaking, belongs neither to mind nor rupa. They are neither rupa nor mind factors connected with the mind. So they are, in the Sarvastivada tradition or the Yogacara tradition, categorized as Cittavipryukshas samskaras. They are formations which are arisen, disconnected with mind. In the Sarvastivada especially in the Yogacara, we have the whole list of them. – I will not go into detail because that would be too complex for you. –
The difference is that Theravada postulates only four groups of dhammas, the other system postulates five groups of dhammas. Besides citta, cettasikas, rupa and nonconditioned dhammas (which in Theravada only includes Nibbana but in other systems involves more. In the Vaibhasika we get three so-called asamskrita dharmas, in the Yogacara even nine. In Theravada the asamskrita, the non-compounded, is only Nibbana. In Vaibhasika or the Yogacara, there is another category – these are the cittavipryukta samskaras, the formations which are disconnected from mind. These formations which are disconnected from mind contain many dharmas which are classified in Theravada usually as rupas but in the case of jivita-indriya, in the Theravada tradition, jivita-indriya belongs to Nama; belongs to the cetasikas. This is a particularity of the Theravada system.
What is the jivita-indriya? What is the life faculty? Life faculty is the base for the phenomena of heat and cognition, which are the necessary conditions of life. Where there is life there is heat and cognition. Without heat and mind, there is no organic life. The base for appearance of heat and mind is then this jivita-indriya “the faculty of life” The faculty of life in the Mahayana sutras, is explained as the mind is like a horseman and the jivita-indriya or prana. Jivita-indriya is a synonym of prana or chi, this jivita-indriya is the horse. Without this horse, the ‘horseman’ of mind cannot go anywhere. There necessarily has to be this dharma, this element of existence so there appears the nama and rupa. Without this phenomena of existence, there is no appearance of nama and rupa. In the Theravada tradition we distinguish two kinds of jivita-indriya … one is nama- jivita-indriya, one is rupa- jivita-indriya. The nama- jivita-indriya is that which makes things organic in the sense that they have life cognition. It makes them the living sentient organism. In Buddhism the definition for a sentient being is: The one who has jivita-indriya. This is a living being. Strictly speaking, the killing of sentient beings is defined as cutting the life faculty. Non sentient beings like plants, suppose we cut the plants. As far as Buddhism goes, there is no harm because the plant has no nama-jivita-indriya only rupa-jivita-indriya. For example, there is a rule in the Vinaya that the monk and nun is not allowed to cut the plants. Strictly speaking this is only conventional. From the Buddhist point of view there is absolutely no harm in this, they have no nama-jivita-indriya. But yet it is not allowed because some brahmans in the time of Buddha, they considered plants to be eka- jivita-indriya, an organism with one jivita-indriya. Complying to this convention, the Buddha also made this rule. But strictly speaking, taking life is only taking nama-jivita-indriya. The rupa-jivita-indriya is not concerned.
What are the characteristics of the life faculty?
Protecting the phenomena which arises together with it. It is compared like water to the lotus, or the nurse to a child. The jivita-indriya is to the other mental phenomenon, without the jivita-indriya the other mental phenomenon will perish like a lotus without water or a child without a nurse/mother.
Wherever there is action of mind, it is considered to be a manifestation of life faculty. Like the horseman cannot move without the horse, so the mind cannot function without the life faculty.
We know for example in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta that Buddha has given up his life faculty in Vasali and after giving up his life faculty, he still lived three months till he came to Kushingar. There he enters into Nibbana. For exceptional beings like Buddha who have exceptional powers it is possible to maintain life by power of determination. But normally, once the life faculty is cut (but in this case it is not cut but rather given up) when the life faculty stops functioning the other mental dhammas necessarily stop functioning as well. So the manifestation of the life faculty or of prana is that these mental faculties are established. When they are established it means that there is the life faculty is functioning. When the mental dhammas are not established then the life faculty is not functioning. We have to emphasize that the same characteristics that refer to the nama- jivita-indriya also function in regard to rupa. The rupa-jivita-indriya is also that which keeps the rupa dhammas going on. So as that means as soon as there is a Santana, continuity of nama and rupa, there necessarily has to be this jivita-indriya, the life faculty. The life faculty is the primary cause of the continuity of nama and even rupa. But in the case of rupa we have the rupa life faculty.
We have the six mental dhammas, six mental phenomenon which appear in each and every moment of cognition. We come to the seventh, very, very important phenomenon, without which nothing can happen and no cognition can appear.
7 Manasikara – normally translated into English as attention but it is more than just attention. For the lack of a better translation we will leave it as attention. But literally “manasi” is the locative of manas, which means: (in the) manas, in the mind and “kara” means making. Manasikara is the mental dhamma which makes things appear in the mind, which puts things in the mind. So it is a very important dhamma, in all systems of Abhidhamma it much exist in each and every moment. Without which there can be no cognition. Unless we make things in the mind, how can there be cognition?
Especially in the Theravada system, this dhamma is of crucial importance for understanding the whole Theravada system. Without understanding manasikara, there is no way of understanding the citta-vittis, the processes of cognition, which appear exactly only, because we make things in the mind. When we don’t make things in the mind, nothing will appear. We have pointed out that in the Vaibhasika system for example, we have the dasha-maha-bhumika dharma, the ten dharmas corresponding to the Sabacittasadarana dhamma, the mental dhammas corresponding to all cognition. Among them, besides those mentioned in Theravada, we have also adhimokti, chanda, smirti, mati - all these dharmas. Why are these classified like that is connected to their system of seeing; their system of meditation. Why Theravada analyze these cittavittis in such a detail and all the teaching of Interdependent Origination is based on the detailed analysis of the mental process – without them no question of understanding the teachings of 24 paccayas, in the Patana and so on. The whole Theravada system of abhidhamma is based on the understanding of the mental processes, this is the backbone of understanding the Visuddhimagga in the wisdom section of vipassina. All is based on the special analysis of the manasikara, in order to understand this Theravada abhidhamma, we have to understand the mental processes. Now is a good time to talk about it in regard to the manasikara, which is the key to understanding the mental process.
We have mentioned yesterday the concept of bhavanga (which is crucial for the understanding of Theravada Abhidhamma), meaning: the cause of mind which is the cause of existence - the support existence or support of active cognitive processes. Without this mind, no active cognitive process can take place. And we have pointed out that according to Theravada system when the mind is not confronted with an object it is in the state of contemplating the bhavanga object, which is the object of the last cognitive process of our past last life. As long as we will be in samsara, our next life will depend on our last cognitive process from this life. Our next bhavanga, next continuity, next cause of existence, with be that cognitive process. So, it is very important to understand.
Now we have pointed out the similarity between the bhavanga mind cognition and the sublime cognition. Both the bhavanga cognition and the sublime cognition are the cognitions which occur continuously in regard to the same object. While we have pointed out the kamavacaracitta, the mind dominated by perception of the five senses. This is a weak mind. Why is it a weak mind, because, the objects of cognition in the sphere of cognition dominated by sensual perception, is unstable so therefore mind in this sphere of the world is also unstable, not strong. The mind in the sublime cognition is a strong mind because it stays for a long time with the same object. It does not change the object. We have specially emphasized the difference between the kamavacara cognition and the sublime cognition is that in the kamavacara cognition the object doesn’t stay long, and the sublime cognition the object stays very long. For expert meditators, hours even days we can stay with the same object. According to Abhidhamma, up to seven days one can stay in this state of cognition. However, there are some meditators who can stay even longer. In china there is a very famous monk Shuyin Fashir who can state for months in this state. Strictly speaking seven days, but it can be more. In Taiwan Quanyin tsa lau
What is important for us is to understand the difference between the sublime mind and the kamavacara mind, unstable mind. Once you have become the masters of the sublime mind, and you have especially practiced the iddhipadas, the basis of mastering, then you can practice so called abhinyas-cittas, the so called “supernatural minds”. In these supernatural minds, even if you stay in the sublime mind. According to the Theravada system, only the fifth jhana is used for the abhinyas, but in the Mahayana they find in the Yogacara system they allow other jhanas for the abhinyas. Abhinyas are the mind. We will discuss this mind later, if we have enough time.
When you are using supernatural mind, due to supreme mastery of the absorptions and doing certain exercises which are explained in the Visuddhimagga, jumping from one meditation object to another, from different levels of absorption due to strong will, then the mind becomes so pliable that you can use this sublime mind towards changing objects. Normally when we speak of sublime mind we mean the mind that doesn’t change object -the exception being these supernatural minds. The sublime minds are also kind of special cognition, sublime cognition. They are also connected with special mind processes. The other special mind processes discussed in the Abhidhamma are the mind processes of the realization. When one attains the sotapanna, sacadagami, anagami and arhant states, these are also special cognitions comparable to the sublime conditions we have been discussing so far. In order to understand the normal, sensual-object-bound cognition, to understand the sublime cognition, to understand the supernatural mind cognition, to understand the super-worldly cognition – the key is understanding manasikara. Understanding of the manasikara we connect with understanding of the mental processes. Everything, all cognitions that happen with other minds than the mind of bhavanga, the base mind, all these cognitions are called, technically in Theravada, cittavitti (literally: path mind) the active mind can only appear in the path of cognitions. The key to understanding the path of cognitions, which is the backbone of the whole Theravada Abhidhamma, is understanding of the manasikara. You should be specially careful to make sure you understand manasikara well. In the Theravada system of Abhidhamma, we have three kinds of manasikara:
1. 1 sabacittasatavana manasikara – common, which occurs in each and every moment of cognition, even the bhavanga cognition. When we don’t make an object in the mind, there is no question of cognition.
WHAT IS THE CHARACTERISTIC OF MANASIKARA OF ATTENTION ?
According to the texts manasikara’s characteristic is sarana, which means driving the associated states (all the other mental factors appearing in the same mind) towards the object. In the Abhidhamma commentary, this act of driving mind and mental factors to the object is compared to the rudder in the boat of the mind. Without this force, the mind has no direction. You should always keep in mind that these sankaras, these mental factors, these are all forces which determines the nature of cognition. Cognition is nothing else but the assembly of forces.
We have said, the force that pulls mind towards the object is the act of will – cetana plus vitakka – applied thought. These are like two oars, which push the boat of cognition toward the object. Manasikara is the rudder, which gives the boat direction. In order for the boat of cognition to move you need to have direction and the propelling power. When you do not have these two cognition cannot take place. The rudder which gives direction to the mind is nothing other than manasikara. Without it, the cognition has no direction and when cognition has no direction cognition cannot occur.
How do we know that this power of driving mind with its mental factors to the object is there? We know by the fact that the mind and its mental factors get connected to the object. Connecting the mind and its mental factors to the object this is the function of manasikara. Without it the mind and mental factors will not connect with the object.
WHAT IS THE MANIFESTATION OF THIS FORCE OF MIND TO DRIVE MIND AND MENTAL FACTORS TO THE OBJECT (MANASIKARA)?
The manifestation is that we are facing the object. When we are facing the object it means that the manasikara is there.
WHAT IS THE PRIMARY CAUSE FOR THE APPEARANCE OF THIS DHAMMA?
The object itself. When the object appears there has to be this manasikara. If the direction is not there, our mind will not take an object.
We have started with the three kinds of manasikara. The other two kinds are not strictly speaking not manasikara “making in the mind” but rather the types of cognition itself, which are dominated by manasikara. This moment of cognition, which we will see later, is the automatic moment of cognition. That means it appears automatically. When there is impact of the object on the bhavanga mind, the bhavanga mind will then be interrupted and the mind turns towards the object. When the mind turns towards the object it is due to the special function of the manasikara, of the making in mind, of the object of active perception.
That is to say, just like you throw a stone into a pond, the stone when it first lands it will make waves, then, it sinks to the bottom. Similarly, when the object makes impact on the bhavanga, it will vibrate first and then it will be cut. And what appears then is an active process of cognition and this active process of cognition starts with the mind, which is dominated by manasikara. It is the automatic mind of turning toward the object. We have two types of this mind that is dominated by manasikara.
1. Pancadvaravajjina: Panca – means 5, dvara – means door, What are the five doors? Starting with eye, ears, nose, tongue, body. These are the five senses beside the mind. Then turning towards the object, automatic turning towards the object when the bhavanga has been broken. The automatic turning towards the object through eye cognition, ear etc, this is called pancadvara avajjina. Avajjina – means turning towards. So, this is one type of special manasikara-mind. It has other mental factors besides manasikara, it has the seven mental factors necessary in all types of cognition. It has applied thought, sustained thought, but the manasikara is the main function of that mind.
2. The next is Manodvara avajjina. Mano (mind), dvara (door- they are six doors of perception eye-door, ear-door, nose-door, tongue-door, body-door, and finally, the bhavanga door – the door of mental perception, just like eye is the door of eye cognition bhavanga is the door of mental cognition.). So, manodvara avajjina means turning towards the object appearing at the mental door of perception. The difference between pancadvara avajjina and manodvara avajjina, is the object of manodvara avajjina arising from bhavanga itself, the object of mental cognition is the object which arises directly from the bhavanga itself so it arises from inside, from the mind itself. The object of the five door cognition does not arise from inside, but rather outside – there has to be color to be seen, sound to be heard. There as to be taste to be tasted, smell to be smelled, tangible things to be touched, in order for the five door perception to arise. If this is the case, then before the actual active process of cognition, which in Pali is called javana (running through the object), before the active running through the object, experience of the object appears, in the five-door perception there has to be a preliminary to direct the running through the object. That means when the stone is thrown, on the pond, what happens? First, the bhavanga, the basic mind, the rude mind, it’s cognition is vibrated then interrupted then automatically or what is called automatic mind (We have mentioned at the very beginning of our abhidhamma lesson that the one mind one cognition in the Theravada tradition is divided into 89 or 121 kinds of cognition, according to the level cognition - bumi, and the nature of cognition -jhati, in the bumi we pointed out that we have four levels of cognition: kamavacara - dominated by Sensual perception, rupavacara - dominated by Subtle forms, arupavacara - dominated by Formless objects, lokutara - dominated by Super-mundane. Then according to jhati – the nature of cognition: Kusala cognition-wholesome, Akusala cognition – unwholesome, Vipakka cognition- resultant- ripening of the previous kamma, Kiriya cognition – automatic, neither wholesome nor unwholesome, nor result of previous kamma, just happens automatically
This turning towards an object of the five senses or the mental object when bhavanga has been interrupted is the automatic mind. That means it is a mind which is not of the nature of wholesome and unwholesome, nor of the nature of the result of previous kamma.
When the bhavanga has been interrupted the mind will turn automatically toward the object. The next moment in the five door cognition is that the same object to which the mind has turned (if it is a visual object) will be reflected in the sensitivity of the eye if it is an eye cognition (nose, ear, tongue, body, respectively). When we come to rupa later you will learn that according to the Buddhist Abhidhamma, when we see the object we say that we see the object with the eye but it is actually only the conventional name, the real eye is only the sensitivity of the eye, which is only one of the 54 different rupas which we find in the eye. -You will learn them slowly later, hmmh- According to our wise disciple Sariputta, this sensitivity of the eye is smaller than the head of a louse. A louse is not very common in Germany but those who have lived in Burma or in India are very familiar with the louse. In India especially in the holy places you have to make them good company if you want to feel well. If not it may be very difficult. (laughs)… The head of a louse is very small without a magnifying glass you will not see it. So this sensitivity is not the whole eye but a very, very small part of the eye. This sensitivity of the eye is the only part that is sensitive to color. All the other parts of the eye are not sensitive to color. When you have learned the abhidhamma style of meditation you will learn for yourself but for now you will just have to believe me. It is so.
So, this sensitivity of the eye is concentrated only in the eye, the sensitivity of the ear is concentrated only in the ear, etc. The sensitivity of the body is spread all over the body. There is no place in the body where this sensitivity is not spread. When the bhavanga has been interrupted, after the automatic turning of the mind toward the object has happened – then automatically the object will be reflected in the sensitivity of the eye.
This is called cakkuvinnana. Cakkuvinnana is the most rudimentary mind that exists. The eye cognition is mere reflection of the object in the sensitivity of the eye (the eye door and the eye base) It is the most rudimentary mind that has only has these 7 Sabacittasadarana. It doesn’t have any other mental dhammas, mental factors. This mind is vipakk¬acitta, resultant consciousness, resultant cognition, meaning it happens as a result of our previous cognitions, as a ripening of our previous cognitions. If the object appearing to the eye is a pleasant object it is the result of a wholesome cognition in the past, if it an unpleasant object it is a result of an unwholesome cognition in the past. The more you enjoy the more wholesome karma you have done.
The problem of course is that what appears pleasant to one, may appear unpleasant to another one. This can pose a very intriguing question. So, it is a difficult question to solve. The more mastery of mind we have, the less our mind is dominated by the object. The wiser one becomes, the more of a master of one’s cognition one will become, and the less one will be a slave to one’s object cognition. Until the arhants and the buddhas who are complete masters of cognition, in regard to unpleasant objects, they can give rise to pleasant mind or to neutral mind. How do we solve this dilemma, which is a pleasant object, which is unpleasant? The pleasant object or unpleasant object is in accordance with the perception of the average person, not in accordance with the enlightened people but with the average. This is in a way also very intriguing but it is a better solution than no solution at all. So when you see a good color, this is a result of your previous good kamma. If you see a bad color, it is a result of your previous bad kamma. But don’t worry, we have all done millions and billions of kammas, so you can never know (laughs).
After this object, pleasant or unpleasant, is reflected in the sensitivity of the eye (just like a mirror), it is the most rudimentary kind of cognition. As we have said, it is characterized by the 7 factors of cognition present in every moment of cognition. After the object has been reflected it is received. This is the sampatitanacitta. This is also a very rudimentary cognition. But nevertheless besides the seven mental factors, it still has also applied thought and sustained thought. When the object has been received, the next happens. It will be investigated. This is called santiranacita – both the receiving and investigative mind they are also, just like the eye consciousness, resultant minds. Meaning if you receive a pleasant object it is a result of your previous wholesome kamma if it is an unpleasant object it is a result of your previous unwholesome kamma.
Once the object has been investigated, there happens the automatic mind which corresponds to the manodvara vajjana - turning towards the object which appears, at the bhavanga. This mind is called votapana which means: decision. In the five door cognition, this votapana mind is of decisive importance. In the manodvara vajjana cognition; in the mental cognition, the manodvara vajjina is the decisive mind in the cognition. Why? Because what follows is the active process after deciding about the five door object or after turning toward the mental object, what follows is the active process of cognition which is either wholesome or unwholesome in the case of non-enlightened, average people. If you become an Arhant or if you become a Buddha, the process becomes neither wholesome nor unwholesome but automatic, without question or ripening, because Buddha or Arhants have said “bye bye samsara”. No more maturing in future lives. But still, in this life, when they see a pleasant or unpleasant object it is still the maturing a wholesome or unwholesome action of the past, but it will not be carried forward into the future. Kiriya cognition.
Why is it so important this votapanna mind? Because if the manasikara, if the attention in that mind is yonisomanasikara then appears wholesome process of cognition. If appears ayonisomanasikara then appears unwholesome process of cognition. We have said Abhidhamma is the special teaching of the enlightened not of the unenlightened. So what is the yonisomanasikara? Strictly speaking is means nothing else than anicca, dukkha, anatta. And ayonisomanasikara is nicca, sukha and atta.