Abhidhamma in Daily life
FUNCTIONS OF CITTA IN THE
SENSE-DOOR PROCESS AND IN THE
citta has its own function to perform ; no citta arises without performing
a function. For example, seeing and hearing are functions performed by
citta. We are not used to considering seeing and hearing as functions,
because we cling to a self. If we want to know more about cittas we should
learn about their different functions.
The first function is the function
of patisandhi which is the function of the first citta in life. The second
function is bhavanga. The bhavanga-citta keeps the continuity in a lifespan.
As long as one is still alive bhavanga-cittas arise and fall away during
the time there is no sense-door process or mind-door process of cittas.
Bhavanga-cittas arise in between the different processes of cittas which
experience an object through one of the six doors. For example, when there
is seeing and after that thinking about what was seen, there are different
processes of citta and there have to be bhavanga-cittas in between the
When a rupa impinges on one of the
senses the current of
bhavanga-cittas is interrupted;
there are a few more bhavanga-cittas arising and falling away, and then
the panca-dvaravajjana-citta (five-sense-door-adverting-consciousness)
arises. The panca-dvaravajjana-citta is the first citta of the process
of cittas experiencing the rupa which has come into contact with one of
The panca-dvaravajjana-citta performs
the function of avajjana or adverting to the object which impinges on one
of the five senses; it adverts to the object through that sense-door. The
panca-dvaravajjana-citta is an ahetuka kiriyacitta.
The 'Visuddhimagga' (XIV, 107) states
Herein, the mind-element
has the characteristic of
The panca-dvaravajjana-citta is the
'forerunner' because it arises before panca-vinnana (seeing, hearing, etc.).
When it adverts to an object which has contacted the eye-sense, it adverts
through the eye-door and it is eye-door-adverting-consciousness (cakkhudvaravajjana-citta).
When it adverts to an object which has contacted the ear-sense it is ear-door-adverting-consciousness
(sota-dvaravajjana-citta). The panca-dvaravajjana-citta is named after
the sense-door through which it adverts to the object. The panca-dvaravajjana-citta
arises countless times a day, but we do not notice it. Whenever there is
seeing, the eye-door-adverting-consciousness (cakkhu-dvaravajjana-citta)
has adverted already to the visible object which has impinged on the eye-sense,
and it has fallen away already. Whenever there is hearing or any one of
the other panca-vinnanas, the panca-dvaravajjana-citta has adverted to
the object already and it has fallen away already.
being the forerunner of eye-consciousness,
cognizing visible data, and so on.
Its function is to advert.
It is manifested as confrontation
of visible data, and so
on. Its proximate cause is the interruption
continued occurrence of consciousness
(bhavanga). It is associated with
The panca-dvaravajjana-citta is succeeded
by the other cittas of the sense-door process which experience that same
object. When that process is over, the object is experienced through the
mind-door. First there are bhavanga-cittas and then the mano-dvaravajjana-citta
(mind-door-adverting-consciousness) performs the function of avajjana (adverting)
through the mind-door.
Thus there are two kinds of citta
which perform the function of adverting (avajjana-kicca): the panca-dvaravajjana-citta
adverts to the object through one of the five sense-doors and the mano-dvaravajjana-citta
adverts to the object through the mind-door. The mano-dvaravajjana-citta
is an ahetuka kiriyacitta ; it is not accompanied by unwholesome roots
(akusala hetus) or by beautiful roots (sobhana hetus). After it has adverted
to the object it is followed by kusala cittas or by akusala cittas.
When visible object contacts the
eye-sense the eye-door-adverting-consciousness (cakkhu-dvaravajjana-citta)
adverts to visible object through
the eye-door. When the
cakkhu-dvaravajjana-citta has fallen
away it is succeeded by
The function of seeing (in Pali : dassana-kicca) is performed by seeing-consciousness
(cakkhu-vinnana). Seeing is vipaka: it is the result of kusala kamma or
akusala kamma. We are born in order to receive the results of our deeds
and therefore the current of bhavanga-cittas is interrupted and vipakacittas
arise after the panca-dvaravajjana-citta.
The citta which performs the function
of seeing (dassana-kicca) only sees visible object. This citta does not
like or dislike, it is an ahetuka vipakacitta. Neither does it think about
the object. If one does not develop right understanding one does not realize
that the citta which only sees visible object is a reality different from
the citta which likes or disllikes the visible object and different from
the citta which pays attention to shape and form. Because of our accumulated
ignorance and wrong view we do not realize the impermanence of citta which
falls away as soon as it has arisen and which is succeeded by another citta
which is a different reality.
There are only two kinds of citta
which can perform the function of seeing: one is akusala vipaka and one
is kusala vipaka.
When sound has impinged on the ear-sense
and the ear-door-adverting-consciousness (sota-dvaravajjana-citta) has
arisen and fallen away, hearing-consciousness arises. The function of hearing
(in Pali: savana-kicca) is another function of citta. Hearing is ahetuka
vipaka. Two kinds of citta can perform the function of hearing: one is
akusala vipaka and one is kusala vipaka.
Another function of citta is the
function of smelling (in Pali: ghayana-kicca). Two cittas which are both
ahetuka can perform this function : one is akusala vipaka and one is kusala
There are two kinds of ahetuka citta
which can perform the function of tasting (in Pali: sayana-kicca) : one
is akusala vipaka and one is kusala vipaka. When the citta which performs
this function tastes, for example, a sweet or salty flavour, it merely
experiences that taste; it does not know the name of the taste. The cittas
which know the conventional name of the taste arise later on.
The function of experiencing impressions
through the body-sense (in Pali: phusana-kicca) is another function of
citta. When an object contacts the body-sense, the panca-dvaravajjana-citta
adverts to the object through the doorway of the body-sense. It is succeeded
by body-consciousness (kaya-vinnana) which performs the function of experiencing
an impression through the body-sense. Two kinds of citta which are both
ahetuka can perform this function: one is akusala vipaka and one is kusala
vipaka. The objects experienced by kaya-vinnana are the rupas which are:
solidity (experienced as
hardness or softness), temperature
(experienced as heat or cold), motion (experienced as motion or pressure).
Thus, summarizing the functions performed
by the cittas which are the panca-vinnanas, they are:
the function of seeing (dassana-kicca)
Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and
experiencing bodily impressions are different functions, not performed
by a self, but by citta. These cittas arise because of their own appropriate
conditions. In order to remind people of this truth, the Buddha often explained
how cittas experience objects through the five senses and through the mind-door.
He would point out the different conditions through which cittas arise
and the impermanence of these conditions. Since the conditions through
which cittas arise are impermanent, cittas cannot be permanent.
the function of hearing (savana-kicca)
the function of smelling (ghayana-kicca)
the function of tasting (sayana-kicca)
the function of experiencing bodily
impressions (phusana kicca)
We read in the 'Kindred Sayings'
(IV, Salatana-vagga, Kindred Sayings on Sense, First Fifty, Ch. IV, par.
93, Duality II) that the Buddha said to the monks.
Owing to a dual (thing),
monks, consciousness comes
In the process of citta, the panca-vinnana
is succeeded by sampaticchana-citta. This citta, which performs the function
of sampaticchana (receiving the object), receives the object after the
panca-vinnana has fallen away. Sampaticchana-citta is ahetuka vipaka. Two
kinds of citta can perform this function: one is akusala vipaka and one
is kusala vipaka.
into being. And what, monks, is
that dual owing
to which consciousness comes into
Owing to the eye and objects arises
The eye is impermanent, changing,
its state is
'becoming otherness'. So also are
objects. Thus this
dual, mobile and transitory, impermanent,
changing,- - its
state is 'becoming otherness'.
Eye-consciousness is impermanent,
changing, its state
is 'becoming otherness'. This eye-consciousness,
as it does from an impermanent relation,
how could it
Now the striking together, the falling
meeting together of these three
things (That is: eye, visible
object and eye-consciousness.),
is called 'eye-contact'. Eye-contact
changing, its state is 'becoming
condition, that relation of the
uprising of eye-contact,
they also are impermanent... This
as it does from an impermanent relation,
how could it be
Contacted, monks, one feels. Contacted,
aware. Contacted, one perceives.
Thus these states also
are mobile and transitory, impermanent
Their state is 'becoming otherness'...
The same is said with regard to the
Kamma does not only produce the dvi-panca-vinnanas
(the five pairs) and sampaticchana-citta, it also produces santirana-citta
(investigating-consciousness) which succeeds sampaticchana-citta.
Santirana-citta performs in the sense-door process the function of santirana
(investigating the object) ; it is ahetuka vipakacitta. .
As we have seen (Ch. 9), there are
three kinds of santirana-citta which can perform the function of investigating:
1. Santirana-citta which is akusala vipaka, accompanied
2. Santirana-citta which is kusala vipaka, accompanied
3. Santirana-citta which is kusala vipaka, accompanied
by somanassa (in case the object is extraordinarily
Santirana-citta is succeeded by votthapana-citta
(determining-consciousness). Votthapana is another function of citta; the
votthapana-citta determines the object in the sense-door process. After
it has determined the object it is succeeded by kusala cittas or by akusala
cittas. The conditions through which it arises are different from the conditions
for santirana-citta which is produced by kamma. Votthapana-citta is not
vipaka and it is not kusala or akusala but it is an ahetuka kiriyacitta.
As we have seen, the votthapana-citta is actually the mano-dvaravajjana-citta
which performs the function of votthapana in the sense-door process and
is then called votthapana-citta. The mano-dvaravajjana-citta performs two
function in the mind-door process it performs the function of adverting
to an object through the mind-door, and in the sense-door process it performs
the function of votthapana.
If we do not know about the cittas
arising in processes and their different conditions we may think that there
is a 'self' who decides at certain moments to do good deeds or bad deeds.
In reality there is no person, no 'self' who decides, but there are cittas
which are conditioned by accumulations of kusala and akusala.
Cittas experience pleasant or unpleasant
objects through the senses and through the mind-door. If someone has accumulated
a great deal of lobha and dosa, lobha-mula-cittas are likely to arise when
the object is pleasant and dosa-mula-cittas are likely to arise when the
object is unpleasant. These cittas arise because of conditions, they are
not self, they are beyond control. However, through the study of Dhamma
and above all through the development of 'insight' there can be conditions
for kusala cittas and then there is 'wise attention' (yoniso manasikara)
to the object. No matter whether the object is pleasant or unpleasant,
in the sense-door process the votthapana-citta can be succeeded by kusala
cittas and in the mind-door, process the mano-dvaravajjana-citta can, after
it has adverted to the object, be succeeded by kusala cittas.
We are inclined to think that in
the process of cittas, akusala vipakacittas which experience an unpleasant
object should necessarily be followed by akusala cittas, since we let ourselves
be ruled by the objects we experience. However, if there is 'wise attention'
there is no aversion towards unpleasant objects. Kusala cittas and akusala
cittas arise because of conditions which are entirely different form the
conditions for vipakacittas. Akusala vipaka and kusala vipaka are the result
of kamma. We wish to control our vipaka, but this is impossible. When it
is time for akusala vipaka, we cannot prevent it from arising. We should
realize that our life is nama and rupa, which arise because of condition
and fall away immediately. If we would only realize that vipaka is but
a moment of citta which falls away as soon as it has arisen, we would be
less likely to have aversion towards unpleasant objects we experience.
One may wonder whether it is necessary
to know in detail about cittas and their functions. Is it not enough to
know only about kusala cittas and akusala cittas? Apart from kusala cittas
and akusala cittas we should know also about other kinds of cittas which
perform different functions in the processes of cittas and which arise
because of different conditions. Then there will be more understanding
of the fact that there is no self which can direct the arising of particular
cittas at particular moments. There is no self which can decide for kusala
cittas. People have different accumulation and thus, when an object presents
itselt, there will, in the process of cittas which experience it, be the
arising of kusala cittas or akusala cittas, according to one's accumulations.
When, for example, different people smell delicious food, some people may
have akusala cittas while others may have kusala cittas. Those who are
attached to food are bound to have lobha-mula-cittas. In the case of someone
who has accumulations for dana (generosity), kusala citta may arise when
he has smelled the food ; he may wish to offer food to the monks. In the
case of others again there may be kusala cittas with panna which realizes
smell, for example, as only smell, a rupa which is not some 'thing', which
is devoid of 'self'. If there can
be 'wise attention' to the object
at this moment, there will be more conditions for 'wise attention' in the
Kusala cittas and akusala cittas
are bound to arise because we have accumulated both kusala and akusala.
People are inclined to blame the world for the arising of their defilements
since they do not know that defilements are accumulated in the citta; defilements
are not in the objects around ourselves. One might wish to be without the
six doors in order to have no defilements. However, the only way to
eradicate defilements is : knowing the realities which appear through the
six doors. We read in the 'Kindred Sayings' (IV, Salayatana-vagga,
Kindred Sayings on Sense, Fourth Fifty, Ch.III, par. 194, On fire) that
the Buddha said to the monks:
I will teach you, monks,
a discourse (illustrated) by fire
This sutta reminds us to be mindful
at this moment, when we are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, experiencing
objects through the body-sense or through the mind-door. All these moments
are functions, performed by different cittas which do not last.
a Dhamma-discourse. Do you listen
to it. And what,
monks, is that discourse?
It were a good thing, monks, if the
organ of sight were
seared with a red-hot iron pin,
on fire, all ablaze, a glowing
mass of flame. Then would there
be no grasping of the
marks or details of objects cognizable
by the eye. The
consciousness might stand fast,
being firmly bound by the
satisfaction either of the marks
or the details (of the
objects). Should one die at such
a time, there is the
possibility of his winning one of
two destinies, either hell
or rebirth in the womb of an animal.
Seeing this danger,
monks, do I so declare.
It were a good thing, monks if the
organ of hearing
were pierced with an iron spike,
on fire… if the organ of
smell were pierced with a sharp
claw, on fire... if the
organ of taste were seared with
a sharp razor, on fire...
if the organ of touch were seared
with a sword, on fire...
It were a good thing, monks, to be
asleep. For sleep,
I declare, is barren for living
things. It is fruitless for living
things, I declare. It is dull for
living things, I declare. For
(if asleep) one would not be applying
his mind to such
imaginations as would enslave him,
so that (for instance)
he would break up the Order. Seeing
this danger (of
being awake), monks, do I so declare.
As to that, monks, the well-taught
Ariyan disciple thus
'Let alone searing the organ of sight
with an iron pin,
on fire, all ablaze, a glowing mass
of flame, what if I thus
ponder: Impermanent is the eye,
objects, impermanent is eye-consciousness,
the pleasant or unpleasant or neutral
feeling which arises
owing to eye-contact, - - that also
So seeing, the well-taught Ariyan
disciple is repelled
by the eye, by objects, by eye-consciousness,
eye-contact. He is repelled by that
pleasant or unpleasant
or neutral feeling that arises owing
to eye-contact... Being
repelled he is dispassionate. Dispassionate,
he is set free.
By freedom comes the knowledge,
'I am freed', so that
he realises: 'Destroyed is rebirth.
Lived is the righteous life.
Done is the task. For life in these
conditions there is no
Such, monks, is the Dhamma-discourse
1. Which citta in a sense-door
process determines the object before it is succeeded by akusala a cittas
or by kusala cittas? Is it accompanied by hetus (roots) or is it ahetuka?
2. Which citta in the mind-door
process precedes the kusala cittas or akusala cittas arising in that process?
What is its function?
3. Is the citta which in the
mind-door process precedes the kusala cittas or akusala cittas the first
citta of that process experiencing the object ?
4. Can this citta be accompanied
5. Sound is experienced through
the ear-door and through the mind-door. Has the sound fallen away when
it is experienced through the mind-door?
6. How many types of citta
can perform the function of avajjana (adverting)?