Abhidhamma in Daily life
The Abhidhamma teaches us about different kinds of wholesome cittas. There
are kamavacara kusala cittas (kusala cittas, belonging to the sensuous
plane of citta), rupavacara kusala cittas (which are rupa-jhanacittas)
and arupavacara kusala cittas (which are arupa-jhanacittas). All these
types of citta are kusala but they do not eradicate the latent tendencies
of defilements. Only lokuttara kusala cittas (magga-cittas) eradicate the
latent tendencies of defilements. When all defilements are eradicated completely
there will be an end to the cycle of birth and death.
B. Can lokuttara kusala cittas really
eradicate defilements so that they never arise again? There are many defilements.
We are full of lobha, dosa and moha. We have avarice, jealousy, worry,
doubt, conceit and many other kinds of defilements. The clinging to the
concept of self is deeply rooted: we take our mind and our body for self.
I cannot imagine how all these defilements can be eradicated.
A. Defilements can be eradicated
and there is a Path leading to it. We have, however, accumulated defilements
to such an extent that they cannot be eradicated all at once. Ditthi or
wrong view has to be eradicated first; as long as we take realities for
self there cannot be eradication of any defilement. There are four stages
of enlightenment: the stages of the sotapanna, the sakadaghmi, the anagami
and the arahat. Defilements are eradicated stage by stage, until they are
all eradicated at the attainment of arahatship. The sotapanna, the ariyan
who has attained the first stage of enlightenment, has eradicated ditthi
B. When the sotapanna has eradicated
ditthi, can it never arise again?
A. If ditthi arises again, it means
that it has not really been eradicated; in that case that person has not
really attained enlightenment and thus he is not a sotapanna. The sotapanna
has eradicated all latent tendencies of ditthi, so that it can never arise
B. How does one know that one has
A. The lokuttara citta is accompanied
by panna (wisdom), which has been developed in vipassana. One does not
attain enlightenment without having developed insight-wisdom (vipassana).
There are several stages of insight-wisdom. First, doubt about the differences
between nama and rupa is eliminated; one realizes when a characteristic
of nama presents itself and when a characteristic of rupa presents itself
and one is not confused as to their different characteristics. In order
to attain even this stage of wisdom, which is only a beginning stage, mindfulness
has to be accumulated of the different kinds of nama and rupa which appear
in daily life; in this way the panna which knows the characteristics of
nama and rupa more clearly can be developed. Later on panna can realize
the arising and falling away of nama and rupa, but this stage of wisdom
cannot be realized when there is still doubt about the characteristics
of nama and rupa. Several more stages of insight-wisdom have to be developed
until panna can realize the nama and rupa which appear as impermanent (anicca),
dukkha and not-self (anatta), and then enlightenment will be attained.
When panna has been developed to this degree, could there be any doubt
as to whether one has attained enlightenment or not?
B. Can the sotapanna develop vipassana
in the wrong way?
A. This is ditthi and ditthi has
been eradicated by the sotapanna. In the Abhidhamma defilements are classified
in different ways and also different kinds of wrong view are classified
in various ways. For example, different kinds of wrong view are classified
under the group of defilements which is clinging (upadana). Three of the
four kinds of clinging mentioned in this group are clinging to different
forms of ditthi; these three kinds of clinging are eradicated by the sotapanna.
One of them is: 'clinging to rules and ritual' (silabbatupadana), which
includes the wrong practice of vipassana. Thus, the sotapanna cannot practise
vipassana in the wrong way. Some people think that they can attain enlightenment
by following some path other than the Eightfold Path.
B. Why are there not more ways leading
A. The Eightfold Path is developed
by being mindful of the nama and rupa which appear at the present moment,
such as seeing, visible object, hearing, sound, thinking, or different
kinds of feelings. When there is mindfulness of nama and rupa, panna can
know their characteristics more clearly and thus wrong view can be eradicated.
If the Eightfold Path is not developed, wrong view of realities cannot
be eradicated and thus not even the first stage of enlightenment, the stage
of the sotapanna, can be attained. Therefore, there is no way leading to
nibbana other than the development of right understanding of realities,
which is the wisdom (panna) of the Eightfold Path.
B. What is right understanding?
A. Seeing nama and rupa as they are:
impermanent, dukkha and not self. Right understanding can be developed.
When we still have wrong view, we take realities for self: we take seeing
for self, we take visible object for self, we take feeling for self, we
take sanna ('perception' or remembrance) for self, we take thinking for
self, we also take mindfulness and wisdom for self. In being mindful of
the characteristics of nama and rupa when they appear, we will see them
as they are; there will be right understanding.
B. Could you give an example of wrong
practice of vipassana?
A. There is wrong practice if, for
example, one thinks that in the beginning, one should be aware only of
certain kinds of nama and rupa, instead of being aware of whatever kind
of nama or rupa appears. There is wrong practice if one thinks that there
should not be mindfulness of the characteristics of lobha, dosa and moha
when they appear. Then one selects the nama and rupa one wants to be aware
of and the wrong view of self cannot be eradicated. Another example of
wrong practice is thinking that vipassana can only be developed when sitting.
In that way one sets rules for the practice, one thinks that one can control
awareness. Thus one cannot see that mindfulness too is anatta (not self).
B. What other defilements has the
A. The sotapanna has eradicated doubt
or vicikiccha. Doubt is classified as one of the 'hindrances': it prevents
us from performing kusala. We may doubt about the Buddha, the Dhamma, the
Sangha, about the right practice. The sotapanna has no more vicikiccha.
Another akusala cetasika, eradicated
by the sotapanna, is macchariva or stinginess. The 'Visuddhimagga' (XXII,
52) mentions five kinds of avarice:
The kinds of avarice are the five,
namely, avarice about dwellings, families, gain, Dhamma and praise, which
occur as inability to bear sharing with others any of these things beginning
The 'Atthasalini (Expositor, Book
II, part II, Ch. II, 374, 375) gives an explanation of these five kinds
of stinginess concerning the monk's dwelling-place, the family he is used
to visit in order to receive the four requisites (robes, food, shelter,
medicine), the four requisites themselves (mentioned as 'gain'), knowledge
of the Dhamma and praise (concerning personal beauty or virtues).
It is explained that there is stinginess
if one does not want to share any of these things with others. However,
there is no stinginess if one does not want to share these things with
someone who is a bad person or someone who would abuse any of these things.
For instance, if one does not teach Dhamma to someone who will abuse Dhamma,
there is no stinginess as to Dhamma. Thus we see that the eradication of
macchariya does not mean sharing everything one has with anybody. The sotapanna
has eradicated macchariya; the five kinds of stinginess just mentioned
do not arise.
Furthermore, the sotapanna has eradicated
issa or envy, lssa can arise with a dosa-mula-citta (citta rooted in aversion).
The 'Visuddhimagga' (XIV, 172) states
Envying is envy. It has the characteristic
of being jealous of other's success. Its function is to be dissatisfied
with that. It is manifested as averseness from that. It proximate cause
is another's success...
B. It is so human to be jealous.
I heard that some psychiatrists are founding an institute where they will
train people not to be jealous.
A. Psychiatrists may try to cure
people of jealousy, but how could they eradicate the tendencies of jealousy
in the citta of others? Only the wisdom which is developed to the degree
of the sotapanna can eradicate jealousy completely, so that it never arises
B. It is marvelous that such ugly
things as stinginess and jealousy can be eradicated. It is right to call
the sotapanna an ariyan ('noble one'), although not all defilements are
eradicated by him.
A. The sotapanna is an ariyan because
at the moment of enlightenment the sotapanna has become a different person;
he is no longer a 'worldling' (puthujjana). There is no more latent tendency
of ditthi accumulated in the citta, nor are there latent tendencies of
vicikiccha (doubt), macchariya (stinginess) or issa (envy) either.
B. What is exactly a latent tendency?
A. When you desire something you
have lobha. When the lobha-mula-cittas have fallen away, there are other
kinds of citta which are not accompanied by lobha. However, the lobha which
arose before has been accumulated, it is latent. When there are conditions,
it can arise again with the akusala citta. Latent tendencies are accumulated
in every citta, even in the bhavanga-citta (life-continuum) which does
not experience an object through one of the sense-doors or through the
B. Is ditthi eradicated gradually
A. One cannot attain enlightenment
without having cultivated the right conditions. We see that in the Buddha's
time some people could attain enlightenment quickly, even during a discourse;
some could attain enlightenment after a more detailed explanation of the
truth, while others had to develop the Eightfold Path for a longer time,
sometimes for many years, before they could attain enlightenment. It all
depends on how much wisdom has already been accumulated, including accumulation
from previous lives. As to who can attain enlightenment in the present
time, the right conditions have to be cultivated; enlightenment cannot
occur quickly. There should be awareness of all kinds of nama and rupa
appearing in our daily life and panna has to consider their characteristics
over and over again. In this way panna can gradually develop. We cannot
expect a great deal of sati and panna in the beginning. However, each moment
of right awareness is fruitful, because it can
condition further moments of awareness
and thus it can be accumulated. When panna realizes a phenomenon which
appears are nama or rupa, there is less clinging to the concept of self
and in this way ditthi is gradually eradicated, until finally all latent
tendencies of ditthi are eradicated by the magga-citta (lokuttara kusala
citta) of the sotapanna; then ditthi will never arise again.
B. Can the sotapanna still talk in
an unpleasant way to others?
A. Of the ten kinds of akusala kamma-patha
there are four akusala kamma-patha through speech which are: lying, slandering,
rude speech and useless talk. The sotapanna has eradicated lying. He can
still say unpleasant things about others or use harsh speech, but not to
the extent that it would lead to rebirth in a woeful plane. The sotapanna
cannot be reborn in a woeful plane any more. Useless talk, which is talk
not connected with dana, sila or bhavana, is not eradicated by the sotapanna;
it can only be eradicated by the arahat.
B. Why is it necessary to classify
defilements in such a detailed way?
A. Learning about the different ways
of classifying defilements helps us to see their different aspects. For
instance, ditthi is classified under the group of defilements known as
the latent tendencies or proclivities (anusayas) and it is also classified
as one of the 'asavas' or 'influxes', which is another group of defilements.
Furthermore, defilements are classified as ways of clinging (upadanas);
as we have seen, three classes of ditthi are classified under this group
of defilements. Defilements are also classified as 'bonds' (ganthas), as
'hindrances' (nivaranas), and in several other ways. Each way of classifying
shows us a different aspect of defilements and thus we understand better
how deeply accumulated defilements are and how difficult it is to eradicate
them. Only magga-cittas (lokuttara kusala cittas) can eradicate them. Not
all defilements can be eradicated by the magga-citta of the first stage
B. How many types of lokuttara citta
are there in all?
A. There are eight types of lokuttara
citta. There are four types of magga-citta, because there is a magga-citta
for each of the four stages of enlightenment (the stages of the sotapanna,
the sakadagami, the anagami and the arahat). There are four types of phala-citta
(phala means fruit) which are the four results of the four magga-cittas
(lokuttara kusala cittas). Only the magga-citta eradicates defilements;
the phala-citta is vipaka, result of the magga-citta.
B. Is a great deal of study necessary
if one wants to develop vipassana? It seems that we have to learn endless
classifications and distinctions, groups and sub-groups.
A. The purpose of the study of the
Abhidhamma is right understanding of realities, If one does not study at
all one will not be able to judge what is the right Path and what is the
wrong Path. It depends on one's own inclination how much one will study.
We do not live in the Buddha's time and since we therefore cannot hear
the teachings directly from him, we are dependent on the teachings as they
come to us through the scriptures.
B. What is exactly nibbana? Is it
a plane of life?
A. If nibbana were another plane
of exsitence in which we could continue to live, it would mean that there
would continue to be for us nama and rupa arising and falling away. Life
is nama and rupa arising and falling away. Our life is dukkha, because
what arises and falls away is unsatisfactory; it is dukkha. Nibbana, however,
is the unconditioned dhamma, it does not arise and fall away. Nibbana is
therefore the end of dukkha. When one has attained enlightenment, even
if it is only first stage of enlightenment, it is certain that there will
eventually be an end to birth, old age, sickness and death, and thus, an
end to dukkha. When the person who is not an arahat dies, the last citta
of his life, the cuti-citta death-consciousness) is succeeded by the patisandhi-citta
(rebirth-consciousness) of the next life and thus life goes on and on.
As long as there are defilements life has to continue. The fact that we
are here in the human plane is conditioned by defilements. Even if there
is birth in a heavenly plane, in a rupa-brahma plane or in an arupa-brahma
plane, it is conditioned by defilements. The arahat has no more defilements,
he does not have to be reborn in any plane; for him there will not be,
after the cuti-citta, the arising of nama and rupa any more. The arahat
has to die, because he was born and birth has to be followed by death.
Since his death-consciousness, however, is not succeeded by rebirth-consciousness,
it is for him the end of the cycle of birth and death
B. It seems to me that nibbana is
something negative, it is the annihilation of life.
A. Nibbana is the destruction of
lobha, dosa and moha. Is that not something positive?
B. I agree that the eradication of
defilements is probably the highest attainable goal in one's life. But
is no more rebirth not sorrowful?
A. It depends on the way you see
life. As we have seen, life is nama-elements and rupa-elements which arise
and fall away. Can nama and rupa which arise and fall away be true happiness?
B. I think that life can give us
much joy, in spite of dark moments.
A. True, there are moments of what
we call happiness, but these moments arise and fall away, they are extremely
short. We can make ourselves believe that life is good and that it should
continue, or, we can search for the truth in order to see things as they
are. It depends on what we really want in life: to be ignorant or to know
the truth. If we develop insight we will see more and more the impermanence
and the unsatisfactoriness of life. Then the ideas we used to have about
life and happiness will be changed. The ariyan knows that what the non-ariyan
takes for happiness is dukkha; the non-ariyan takes for misery what the
ariyan knows is happiness. The development of wisdom brings a kind of happiness
which is different from what one used to take for happiness.
B. I do not like the idea of extinction
A. If one still clings to the 'self'
one is anxious about what will happen to the 'self after one's death. For
the arahat the question does not occur what will happen after his death;
he has no more defilements and thus he has no more clinging to life. People
who are not ariyans cannot understand yet what nibbana is. If we cannot
experience yet the true nature of the dhammas which arise and fall away,
we cannot experience the dhamma which does not arise and fall away, the
B. Each citta experiences an object.
What is the object experienced by the lokuttara citta?
A. The lokuttara citta experiences
the dhamma which does not arise and fall away, it experiences nibbana.
As we have seen, there are four paramattha dhammas: citta, cetasika, rupa
and nibbana. Citta, cetasika and rupa are realities which arise and fall
away, they are conditioned dhammas (sankhara dhammas). Nibbana does not
arise and fall away. It has no conditions through which it arises, it is
an unconditioned dhamma (visankhara dhamma). We cannot experience the unconditioned
reality unless panna is developed to the degree that it can experience
the conditioned dhammas as they are: impermanent, dukkha and anatta (not
B. Do both magga-citta and
phala-citta directly experience nibbana?
A. The magga-citta and the phala-citta
are lokuttara cittas, thus they have nibbana as the object. When the magga-citta
has fallen away, it is succeeded immediately by the phala-cittas which
experience the same object. When one performs kimavacara kusala kamma (kusala
kamma of the sensuous plane of consciousness) the vipaka does not follow
immediately. Even if the vipaka were to arise soon after the kamma, it
could never arise in the same process of citta( When one attains jhana,
the vipaka, if it arises, only arises in a next life.). It is different
with the lokuttara citta. The magga-citta has to be followed immediately
by the phala-cittas, which are two or three moments of citta, depending
on the individual.
B. When the sotapanna attains enlightenment
there are the magga-citta of the sotapanna and the phala-cittas of the
sotapanna. How often during a lifetime can these cittas arise again?
A. The magga-citta of the sotapanna
can arise only once in the cycle of birth and death, because its function
is to eradicate defilements: When the defilements which are to be eradicated
at the stage of the sotapanna have been eradicated, it is once and for
all. Thus, the magga-citta of that stage does not arise again.
The phala-citta can arise again in
other processes of citta if enlightenment is attained with absorption.
As we have seen (Ch. 22), lokuttara cittas accompanied by jhana-factors
can experience nibbana with absorption in the case of those who have accumulated
skill for jhana. Those who attain enlightenment have different accumulations
and according to one's accumulations the lokuttara cittas are accompanied
by jhana-factors of different stages of jhana. The phala-citta which is
accompanied by jhana-factors can arise many times again, experiencing nibbana
Cittas can be counted as eighty-nine
or as a hundred and twenty-one- When cittas are counted as a hundred and
twenty-one, there are, instead of eight lokuttara cittas, forty lokuttara
cittas, which are lokuttara cittas accompanied by jhana-factors. As we
have seen, there are five stages of rupa-jhana and at each stage jhana-factors
are successively abandoned (See Ch. 22), until at the fifth stage (or at
the fourth stage of the fourfold system) there are the remaining factors
of samadhi (concentration) and upekkha (indifferent feeling), which arises
instead of sukha (pleasant feeling). Lokuttara cittas can be accompanied
by jhana-factors of each of the five stages of jhana. For example, when
lokuttara cittas are accompanied by jhana-factors of the fifth stage of
rupa-jhana, it means that they are accompanied by samadhi and upekkha.
As regards the arupa-jhanacittas,
they have meditation subjects which are different from rupa-jhana, but
the jhana-factors which accompany them are the same as the jhana-factors
of the fifth stage of rupa-jhana, namely samadhi and upekkha. Thus, the
jhana-factors of only five types of jhanacitta have to be taken into account
when we classify lokuttara cittas which are accompanied by jhana-factors.
Consequently, each one of the eight lokuttara cittas can be resolved into
five classes and then they can be counted as forty lokuttara cittas
When cittas are counted as 89, they
can be summarized as follows:.
12 akusala cittas
18 ahetuka cittas
8 maha-kusala cittas
} 54 kamavacara cittas (cittas of the sensuous
8 maha-vipaka cittas
plane of consciousness)
15 rupavacara cittas
12 arupavacara cittas
8 lokuttara cittas
When cittas are counted as 121, there
are, instead of 8 lokuttara cittas, 40 lokuttara cittas.
B. It seems to me that the way to
nibbana is a long way. How could we ever attain it?
A. We should not be impatient and
wish for a result that is far off. Instead, we should consider what we
have to do at the present moment: to develop mindfulness of the nama and
rupa which appear right now. Thus we cultivate the condition for the attainment