Abhidhamma with Ven. Dhammadipa Day 6
Nammo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambudhassa
Nammo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambudhassa
Nammo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambudhassa
We have covered the sabbacitta sadharana, the mental factors present in each and every moment of cognition, without exception. In the Vaibhasika system, they are called maha bhumika, “the great stage,” which means in each and every mind they are present. Buddha taught of 2 ways of teaching: 1) desana kamma, when the teaching is presented in a way to make the teaching clear, powerful and lasting, and 2) the other desana is according to the order of arising. Because dhammas, mental factors, arise simultaneously, the order is by importance.
There are 7 mental factors arising in each and every mental moment:
1) Phasso: Contact. If there is contact, then everything comes with it, and without contact nothing appears. So, without phasso, there is no question of cognition or anything.
2) Vedana: King among the mental factors, because it receives the object. When there is touch or contact, the vedana is that dhamma which receives the object, which experiences the object, and the other dhammas are responsible for the content of experience.
3) Sanna: There is no question of ANY kind of cognition, even the most rudimentary (eg, reflecting the object in the eye or ear), without sanna, the taking or grasping the sign of the object.
4) Cetana: The act of willing. When the mind takes the sign of the object, it is moving, so the cetana, the act of willing, comes in. When the cetana is there, what happens? As we have seen, the manifestation of cetana is that it coordinates the other dhammas, and when the other dhammas are coordinated they are put together.
5) Samadhi: The mental force that keeps co-arising is called samadhi. So, whenever cetana appears there must be samadhi, otherwise the mind will scatter. Samadhi is the opposite of scattered mind. Even if we are excited, even if we have doubt, we still have to keep the mental factors together, otherwise there is no continuity in cognition.
6) Jívitindriya: So, when there are these forces, there has to be someone to take care of them, to make them appear, make them run, and that is the jivitindriya, the life faculty (2 kinds: mental and material life faculty).
7) Manasikara: Literally, “making in the mind.” In accordance with what we make in the mind, we then cognize the object. So, making in the mind, or attention, comes last as the necessary mental dhamma whose presence is inseparable from any kind of cognition. It is automatic mind.
So, these are the 7 sabbacitta sadharana. Understanding them is very important in analyzing the different systems. It has to do with methods of meditation.
In the Yogacara system, we have only 5 mental factors appearing in each and every moment of cognition, and these belong to alaya vijnana.
According to the Yogacara tradition, all that can be experienced can only experienced in the world on the basis of alaya vijnana, because alaya vijnana is a depository of all our experience, and it is where all our experiences, on the one hand, are stored, and on the other hand, are being appropriated.
So, alaya vijnana appropriates all that we experience in the world and stores it. Therefore, we see that samadhi is not present among the mental factors present in each and every cognition. Because alaya vijnana is the simultaneous support for all doors of cognition, these different cognitions can appear at the same time.
In Northern Buddhism, the jivitindriya belongs to the category of formations separated from mind, a category that does not exist in Theravada. That’s where it is classified in Northern Buddhism, in Vaibhasika or Yogacara.
Also, we have pointed out that in the Yogacara system we have 5 formations and in the Vaibhasika we have 10. It is very important to understand why 10. It also has to do with the way of seeing. What we make in our minds, we see, and the Vaibhasika school makes things in the mind in a different way.
How? They do not analyze the different stages of the process of cognition, but for them the process of cognition is the momentary appearance and disappearance of all dhammas concerned. They appear together and disappear together in each and every moment of cognition. That means, whatever object is prominent to the cognition, that object appears and disappears as long as this kind of cognition takes place.
If we meditate in this way, then no wonder that among the mental dhammas present in each and every moment of cognition (6 dhammas not counting jivitindriya, which belongs to the cateogry of citavithi sankhara and not nama), they add 4 other factors: 1) mati, wisdom in the sense of discrimination, which has to exist in each and every moment of cognition regardless of whether it is correct or faulty discrimination; then 2) sati, mindfulness, which in Theravada belongs to the wholesome mental factors; then, 3) adhimokkha, determination, which also belongs to the scattered pakinnaka mental factors in the Theravada tradition; and 4) chanda, the desire to do something, which also belongs to the pakinnaka factors, scattered factors in the sense that they appear in different types of cognition – wholesome, unwholesome, resultant, and automatic. In all 4 types of cognition these can appear. We will speak about this pakinnaka later.
Yesterday, we started talking about the process of cognition. Understanding this process is key to the understanding of the whole Theravada system of Abhidhamma. We also discussed a particularity of the Theravada system, the 3 kinds of manasikara, making in the mind. The first is common manasikara, which has to appear in each and every moment of cognition. The second and third are manasikara in the sense that they are not just one mental factor but moments of cognition where mind is dominated by attention, dominated by making objects in the mind, dominated by turning toward the object. They are pancadvaravajjana, regarding the mental object of the 5 senses, and manodvaravajjana, the turning toward the object.
When the object comes from inside, from the bhavanga itself, then it is manodvaravajjana, which also interrupts the flow of bhavanga. Towards what object does the bhavanga flow to? The last active process of cognition of our past life is the object of bhavanga. If there is no active cognition, then our mind stays with that object. In deep sleep, where is our mind? In bhavanga. If you become unconscious, where is your mind? In bhavanga. That’s why there is continuity of mind. Otherwise, how can you explain remembering past experiences? How can you explain that you get up from sleep and you can still carry on, because where have you been? In bhavanga. Very nice. Stay there.
But, as long as bhavanga is there, there is nothing to learn. Everything that one can learn can only be learned from the active processes of cognition. From bhavanga, nothing to learn.
In order for the active process of cognition to take place, what has to happen? The bhavanga has to be interrupted. Then, when the bhavanga is interrupted, what happens? The automatic attention mind. If it is the object of the 5 senses, pancadvara, if it is object of mind, manodvara. We distinguish following the 5 door cognition.
Suppose you see a tree outside. Then, by visual consciousness, you only notice it is a tree. Then, you start thinking, what kind of tree is it? What are the characteristics of this tree? What can I do with it? What kind of wood is it? All these different things, which come connected with the tree, are no longer connected with visual consciousness, but are mental consciousness.
Suppose I see Sasha there typing on his computer. I see him very clearly, but when I look at him with the visual consciousness, I only know the shape. But, then I think, Sasha massages like this, he’s pleasant or unpleasant, he comes from here, he does this – all this is mental consciousness following the visual consciousness. So, after a few visual consciousnesses, the mental consciousness arises and we evaluate what we have seen. This is called the mental consciousness that follows the cognition at the 5 doors.
Then, we also have visum visum manodvara. Visum visum means independent. Suppose someone is tired, like some of you may be. You start dozing off. Then, you suddenly remember something, like what your mother did, your father did, your brother did, or what you have to do the day after tomorrow, or you may suddenly remember your childhood – all this is visum visum, independent mental cognition that does not follow the 5 doors cognition. It may continue renewing. It is a cognition that leads to a whole chain of cognition, but they do not follow the intermediate, the object perceived by the 5 doors.
Of course, they are connected to the object perceived by the 5 doors, but not intermediate. So, they come from memory, from sanna, from the perception in the distant past.
So, we have started discussing that all that happens to our active mind are just the processes of cognition and understanding. In Theravada, understanding interdependent origination practically is directly linked to these processes of cognition. So, understanding these processes of cognition is a link, a base, for the understanding the whole basis of Theravada Abhidhamma. This is a particularity of Theravada.
The other traditions briefly mention the mental processes, like the Yogacara bhumi, but compared to Theravada, the analysis of the mental processes is very rudimentary. The particularity of the Theravada Abhidhamma is that we have a very detailed and thorough analysis of the mental processes. And we are very fortunate, in the Theravada tradition, that it is still a living tradition. One gets to learn it, see the mental processes, and analyze the mental factors.
So, if you want to enter deeply into this science, and even understand how the teachers of the past evaluated these mental and rupa dhamma traditions, it is very useful to learn the living tradition and not a dead tradition. Try your best to understand as much as you can.
Now, we come to the pancadvara cognition, the cognition of the 5 doors. What happens when a color strikes the eye or when sound strikes the ear? What happens is the bhavanga mind is vibrated. Having been vibrated, it is interrupted. We compare it to the stone being thrown into the pond. When the stone sinks, then the waves, vibrations, appear and spread all around. Similarly, when the bhavanga is struck by outer or inner object, it first vibrates, then it is interrupted.
If it is an object of the 5 doors, then what happens? The pancadvaravajjana citta, the mind whose function is attention, manasikara. It contains many other mental dhammas, like the 7 sabbacitta sadharana, applied thought, and sustained thought. Yet, nevertheless, it is manasikara in the sense that the function of that cognition is making the object in the mind or turning toward the object. This mind, pancadvaravajjana, as we have said, is automatic mind. It is not a result of kamma. It has no wholesome or unwholesome nature. It happens automatically. Just like when you throw the stone, automatically the waves appear when it sinks. There is no question of it being resultant of any kamma or being wholesome or unwholesome.
When this has happens, automatically, this is citta niyama. The Theravada tradition speaks about niyama as “the law.” Buddhism is about understanding the law. Beside the citta niyama, the law of the mind, the commentaries also speak of dhamma niyama, the law of dhamma, kamma niyama, the law of kamma, bhija niyama (?), the law of genetics. All these are the niyamas, the rules – it cannot but happen. We have no choice. Even if you don’t want it to happen. No way. We are like waves on the ocean, and when the wind blows we have to start moving. So, there is no question of any individual influencing this process or any outer force influencing this process. It is the law of the process itself. It is very important to understand that because it is the law of the process itself, it is completely selfless. Then, whether you like it or not, after the bhavanga has been interrupted and the mind has turned toward the object, if the object is a visual object, it will be reflected in the sensitivity of the eye by visual consciousness, and if it is sound, it will be reflected by the sensitivity of the ear, and so on. If it is a tangible object, it will be reflected in the sensitivity of the body, and the sensitivity of the body is spread throughout the whole body.
What is the difference among the many differences between the mental cognition and mental cognition at the 5 doors? The cognition at the 5 doors has only 1 base. And this base, according to the Suttanta, is bhavanga, and according to Theravada, it is hadayavatthu, a particularity of the Theravada system widely criticized by the Yogacara and Vhaibhasika systems. It is corporeality, heart based. We can analyze this corporeality and it is not a fantasy. If you meditate a certain way, you can see it. Even the shape has been mentioned as like an upside-down lotus flower, and it is in the blood and in the heart.
This idea, that the base of cognition is in the heart, is nothing new. It is a very old idea of Indian philosophy. It is pre-Buddhistic, came in the Upanishads, and the old Indians never considered the seed of cognition in the head, which is just supporting, but the base of cognition is heart. Buddhism is just continuing this tradition.
There are many Indian schools. The most common jhana was on prana and the chakras. They also worked on the kasinas. That’s what Buddha learned with 2 teachers, the color kasina object. There was also the concept of God. It depends on the teacher and the system. Jhana on the breath is a very old Indian tradition, but the difference between Buddhist and common Indian system is that in anapanasati we don’t try to influence the breath. In Indian systems, before letting go, they influence the breath, but eventually they let it go. Pranayana is forcing the flow of the breath. In Theravada, you never force the flow of breath.
So, the process of cognition related to the 5 senses is connected with 2 bases – bhavanga base and hadayavatthu, which always must be there. Strictly speaking, in the Abhidhamma, the bhavanga is the door of cognition and the hadayavatthu is the base of cognition. So, in the cognition by the senses, you have 2 bases. The bhavanga has to be there and the hadayavatthu has to be there, and the sensitivity of the eye has to be there. After the mind has turned toward the object, it is reflected. Then, the cognition comes to the eye. It is reflected in the eye. Having been reflected to the eye, it is again received by the mind door. This is what we call sampaticchana citta, the receiving mind. This receiving mind, as we have said, is resultant consciousness. Just like eye consciousness.
After it has been received by the mind, it is investigated by the mind. The investigating moment of consciousness is also resultant consciousness. What kind of resultant consciousness is the eye, receiving, and investigating mind? There are 2 types of resultant consciousness: with causes and without causes. What is the cause? There are 6 causes. Due to the 6 causes, the samsara, the state of impermanence, continues as long as the causes are there. On the wholesome side, the cause is non-greed, non-hate, and non-delusion. On the unwholesome side, it is the opposite: greed, hate and delusion. These are the causes of the worldly cognitions.
So, visual consciousness, receiving consciousness and investigating consciousness are resultant consciousness without causes. That means, in them there can appear only sabbacitta sadharana, only the 7 mental factors common to each and every moment of cognition and some of the pakinnakas, the 6 scattered factors of consciousness. Scattered means they can appear in wholesome, unwholesome, automatic and resultant cognition – they can be scattered throughout all types of cognition. So, these scattered factors can appear not only in visual consciousness, but also in receiving and investigating consciousness. Which scattered factors appear? Let us leave it for later, when we talk about the cetasikas.
So, in these moments of cognition, that means receiving mind, investigating mind and also visual consciousness, there is no question of wholesome or unwholesome mental factors appearing. These wholesome or unwholesome mental factors have no place in these moments of cognition.
After the receiving mind has received and investigated the object, next comes the automatic mind, which decides about the object. This automatic mind deciding about the object is votthapana, deciding mind. This deciding mind, after investigating, just like pancadvaravajjana (mind turning toward the 5 door cognition), are automatic minds, kiriya cittas. And they are automatic minds without causes. No question of being accompanied with wholesome or unwholesome factors of cognition.
So, automatically, after the object of the 5 door cognition has been investigated, the decision about the object happens. Strictly speaking from the Abhidhamma point of view, the paramattha point-of-view, if the decision is anicca, dukkha, anata, asubha, then what follows will be wholesome active process of cognition, wholesome javana, or wholesome running through the object. This is the longest part of cognition. If the decision is manasikara, this anicca, dukkha, anata are the non-changing, are giving satisfaction, are self and pure, then what follows will be an unwholesome process of cognition in the running through the object.
This is a challenge for you: find out how much of our cognition is wholesome and unwholesome in the sense of paramattha, supreme reality. Try to find out how much of your cognition is wholesome and unwholesome. Here, wholesome means leading to liberation. Unwholesome means not leading to liberation. In the absolute sense, the only wholesome is that which leads to liberation. Nothing else is wholesome in the absolute sense. In the relative sense, of course, wholesome also means connected with wholesome kamma, like giving and so on. But as long as there is self in the giving, the wholesome is always connected with unwholesome.
This is the nature of samsara. As long as samsara exists, the wholesome is always connected with unwholesome. If the unwholesome is not there anymore, then samsara comes to an end. So, you should be very clear about this Abhidhamma perspective, which is not quite the same as the perspective we normally use. In Abhidhamma there is a place for the relative perspective, but this relative perspective cannot be complete without understanding the highest perspective, the perspective of liberation.
So, this running through the object is the longest part of the process of cognition. It lasts 7 moments. Some acariyas (?) accept 6 moments. 7 or 6 moments is normal, but usually 7 moments of running through the object, or active enjoyment of the object. Then, after the mind has run through the object, after it has thoroughly experienced the object, it falls again into bhavanga. If the object is atimahanta, very clear, then before the mind falls into bhavanga, there will appear two moments of tadarammana citta, which is also a resultant mind just like visual consciousness, receiving the object or investigating the object. Tadarammana literally means “that object.”
After the mind has run through the object and experienced it thoroughly, and before it falls into the bhavanga, there is a kind of affirmation of “that was the object of our cognition.” How to understand it? We have mentioned the example of the mango-eater, and I will illustrate it with this most common example in the tradition. Sometimes the example of the spider is also used, and it is also a very good example, because a spider is the symbol of being caught in the net, because we are not aware that these mental processes are happening automatically and are perfectly selfless in nature. Therefore, we are caught in these mental processes, cling to them and want to change them. We resist them if the object is unpleasant and we cling to them if the object is pleasant. This is being caught in the net. There is a wonderful verse in the Dhammapada: “Those who are finding enjoyment in desire, they follow the stream of samsara, the stream of suffering, of impermanence, just like a spider following, or caught in, his own net. The wise men, having cut off this net, go on with equanimity having abandoned all suffering.”
If you want to be a wise man, you have to cut off the net. Learning Abhidhamma is a good way to cut off this spider net. First, you have to learn it, then you have to cut it off. There is no better way than with the Abhidhamma.
Let us return to the mango-eater example. Imagine you are sleeping under a mango tree with your robe over your eyes, peacefully. What cognition is that? That is nothing but bhavanga. As long as the base of consciousness is there with its object, it is like being in a deep sleep. You don’t recognize any self. Then, suddenly, the wind blows and a ripe mango falls from the tree. BOOM! What does a sleeper do? He wakes up, takes off the cloth from his face – this is like pancadvaravajjana, turning towards the object of the 5 door perception. Then, what does he do? He sees the mango – this is the cakkhuvinnana (?), the moment of reflecting the object in the sensitivity of the eye. When the object has been reflected in the sensitivity of the eye, what happens to the mango eater? He stretches his hand – manodhatu vinnana vipaka citta, receiving the object, a most rudimentary mind, a resultant consciousness. Then, mano vinnana dhatu, the more complex receiving. Then, after he receives it, what happens? He takes it in his hands and investigates it – this is santirana, investigating consciousness. The investigating is already the most developed consciousness, because it is already related to the act of deciding and experiencing the object. Then, he squeezes it in his hand, this is the investigating. When he has squeezed it, he finds out that it is indeed a good mango. He smells it and finds out it is good to eat. Then, CHOMP. So, smelling it is like deciding about the object. Then, javana, the 7 moments of running, or experiencing, the object, in the sense of wholesome or unwholesome cognition (and if he is an Arahant, then automatic cognition). Then, he runs through the object, which means he eats the mango. After he has eaten the mango, if the taste is really very clear, then when he has swallowed it, some saliva still remains in his mouth, and he swallows this saliva. This is like tadarammana, affirmation of the object. Then, he again takes the cloth and puts it on his eyes and continues to sleep quietly.
In one snap of the fingers happen tens and even hundreds of thousands of such processes. The speed of the mind is incredible. Yet, if you have trained in concentration – concentration is like the microscope, if you look at something through the microscope, then one cell can look as big as a house – even though these processes are so fast, you can bring them to a stop and investigate each and every constituent part of the process. This is the secret of Abhidhamma.
So, before the mind can take a new object, it necessarily must fall into bhavanga, and only then can it cognize a different object. It is impossible that one process of cognition follows another process of cognition without the mind first falling into the base of cognition, bhavanga, and then turning to another process. But, because the speed of this process is so great, we normally do not notice. We have started with mahaggata citta, sublime mind. If you have trained your mind in the art of staying continuously with the same object for a long, long time, then it is able to actually see these processes.
What we have described is ati mahanta, a very clear object of the mental process. If the object is very clear, then the process of cognition lasts for 17 moments. This has been decided by the panditas, not by me. What are these 17 moments? First, the panditas count: 1) the past bhavanga, 2) the bhavanga calana (vibration of bhavanga), 3) bhavanga upaccheda, the moment of cutting off the bhavanga, 4) turning toward the object, 5) receiving the object, 6) investigating the object, 7) deciding about the object, 8-14) 7 moments of running through the object, 15-16) 2 moments of reaffirming the nature of the object – tadarammana, 17) then falling back to bhavanga.
We can hear the present sound because the speed of the present rupa is 16 times slower than the impermanence of mind. 16 is a good number. If you insist, you can make it 17 or 18 or 19, but 16 is a good number to remember, because in India many things are measured by 16. If you read the Buddhist literature, you will understand – the pleasure of the lower heaven is 16 times less than the higher heaven. In one rupi, in the old times, there used to be 16 units, called anas.
We have discussed the 5 door process. Next time, we will discuss the mind-door process and the special mind-door process, which is used to enter the different stages of jhana and also with realizing the supermundane path and fruit.