Abhidhamma in Daily life
may know when we have akusala cittas rooted in lobha (attachment) or akusala
cittas rooted in dosa (aversion), but do we know when we have akusala cittas
rooted in moha (ignorance) ? What is the characteristic of moha? We may
think someone ignorant who does not have much education, who does not speak
foreign languages, who does not know anything about history or politics.
We call someone ignorant who does not know what is happening in the world.
Is that the kind of ignorance which should be eradicated? If that were
true it would mean that there is more wholesomeness in one's life if one
speaks foreign languages or if one knows about history and politics. We
can find out that this is not true.
In order to understand the characteristic
of moha we should know what we are ignorant of when there is moha. There
is the world of concepts which in our daily, ordinary language are denoted
by conventional terms and there is the world of paramattha dhammas or ultimate
realities. When we think of the concept which in conventional language
is denoted by 'world', we may think of people, animals and things and we
call them by their appropriate names. But do we know the phenomena in ourselves
and around themselves as they really are: only nama and rupa which do not
The world of paramattha dhammas is
real. Nama and rupa are paramattha dhammas. The namas and rupas which appear
in our daily life can be directly experienced through the five sense-doors
and through the mind-door, no matter how we name them. This is the world
which is real. When we see, there is the world of visible object. When
we hear, there is the world of sound. When we experience an object
through touch there is the world of tangible object. Visible object and
seeing are real. Their characteristics can be directly experienced; it
does not matter whether we call them 'visible object' and 'seeing', or
whether we do not name them at all. But when we cling to concepts which
are denoted by conventional terms such as 'tree' or 'chair', we do not
experience any characteristic of reality. What is real when we look
at a tree? What can be directly experienced? Visible object is a paramattha
dhamma, a reality; it is a kind of rupa which can be directly experienced
through the eyes. Through touch hardness can be experienced; this is a
kind of rupa which can be directly experienced through the body-sense,
it is real. 'Tree' is a concept or idea of which we can think, but it is
not a paramattha dhamma, not a reality which can be directly experienced.
Visible object and hardness are paramattha dhammas and they can be directly
experienced, no matter how one names them.
The world experienced through the
six doors is real out it does not last; it is impermanent. When we see,
there is the world of the visible, but it falls away immediately. When
we hear, there is the world of sound, but it does not last either. It is
the same with the world of smell, the world of flavour, the world of impressions
through the body-sense and the world of objects experienced through the
mind-door. However, we only seem to know the world of conventional terms,
because ignorance and wrong view have been accumulated for so long. Ignorance
of paramattha dhammas is the kind of ignorance which should be eradicated;
it brings sorrow.
The world in the sense of paramattha
dhammas is in the teachings called 'the world in the ariyan sense'. The
ariyan has developed the wisdom which sees things as they are ; he truly
knows 'the world'. We read in the 'Kindred Sayings' (IV, Salayatana-vagga,
Kindred Sayings on Sense, Second Fifty, Ch. IV, par. 84, Transitory) that
Ananda said to the Buddha:
' "The world! The world"
is the saying, lord. Pray,
' What is transitory by nature, Ananda, is called "the
how far, lord, does this saying
world" in the ariyan sense. And what, Ananda, is
transitory by nature? The eye, Ananda, is transitory
by nature. . . objects. . . tongue. . . mind is transitory by
nature, mind-states, mind-consciousness, mind-contact,
whatsoever pleasant feeling, unpleasant feeling
indifferent feeling which arises owing to mind-contact,
that also is transitory by nature. What is thus transitory,
Ananda, is called "the world" in the ariyan sense.'
Someone may think that he can truly
know himself without knowing the world as it appears through the six doors.
He may think that he knows his anger and attachment, but, in fact, he has
not experienced them as they are: only different types of nama and not
self. As long as he takes realities for self he does not really know himself
and he cannot eradicate defilements. He clings to an idea, to the concept
of self; he has not directly experienced any characteristic of reality.
It is difficult to know when there are lobha, dosa and moha and it is difficult
to be aware also of the more subtle degrees of akusala. When one starts
to develop 'insight' one realizes how little one knows oneself.
When there is moha we live in darkness.
It was the Buddha’s great compassion which moved him to teach people Dhamma.
Dhamma is the light which can dispel darkness. If we do not know Dhamma
we are ignorant about the world, about ourselves; we are ignorant about
good and ill deeds and their results; we are ignorant about the eradication
The study of the Abhidhamma will
help us to know more about the characteristic of moha. The 'Atthasalini'
( Book II, Part IX, Ch.1, 249) states about moha:
'Delusion' (moha) has the characteristic of blindness
or opposition to knowledge; the essence of non-
penetration or the function of covering the intrinsic
nature of the object; the manifestation of being opposed
to right conduct or causing blindness; the proximate
cause of unwise attention; and it should be regarded
as the root of all akusala....
There are many
degrees of moha. When we study Dhamma
we become less ignorant about realities;
we understand more about paramattha Dhammas, about kamma and vipaka. However,
this does not mean that we can already eradicate moha. Moha cannot be eradicated
merely by thinking about the truth; it can only be
eradicated by developing the wisdom which knows 'the world in the ariyan
sense' : eye-sense, visible object, seeing-consciousness, ear-sense,
sound, hearing-consciousness, and all realities appearing through the six
When we study the Abhidhamma we learn
that moha arises with all akusala cittas. Lobha-mula-cittas have moha and
lobha as roots; dosa-mula-cittas have moha and dosa as roots. There are
two types of akusala citta which have moha as their only root, these are
moha-mula-cittas. One type of moha-mula-citta is moha-mula-citta accompanied
by doubt (in Pali: vicikiccha), and one type is moha-mula-citta accompanied
by restlessness (in Pali: uddhacca). The feeling which accompanies moha-mula-cittas
is always indifferent feeling (upekkha). When the citta is moha-mula-citta
there is no like or dislike; one does not have pleasant or unpleasant feeling.
Both types of moha-mula-citta are asankharika (unprompted).
The characteristic of moha should
not be confused with the characteristic of ditthi (wrong view), which only
arises with lobha-mula-citta. When ditthi arises one takes, for example,
what is impermanent for permanent, or one clings to the concept of self.
Moha is not wrong view, but it is ignorance of realities. Moha conditions
ditthi, but the characteristic of moha is different from the characteristic
The two types of moha-mula-citta
1. Arising with indifferent feeling, accompanied by
doubt (Upekkha-sahagatam., vicikiccha-
2. Arising with indifferent feeling, accompanied by
restlessness (Upekkha-sahagatam, uddhacca-
When one has the type of moha-mula-citta
which is accompanied by doubt, one doubts about the Buddha, the Dhamma
and the Sangha. One doubts whether the Buddha really discovered the truth,
whether he taught the Path leading to the end of defilements, whether there
are other people who can become enlightened as well. One doubts about past
and future lives, about kamma and vipaka. There are many degrees of doubt.
When we start to develop insight we may have doubt about the reality of
the present moment; we doubt whether it is nama or rupa. For example, when
there is hearing, there is sound as well but there can be awareness of
only one reality at a time, since only one object at a time can be experienced
by a citta. We may doubt whether the reality which appears at the present
moment is the nama which hears or the rupa which is sound. Nama and rupa
arise and fall away so rapidly and when a precise understanding of their
different characteristics has not been developed one does not know which
reality appears at the present moment. There will be doubt about the world
of paramattha dhammas until panna (wisdom) clearly knows the characteristics
of nama and rupa as they appear through the six doors.
The 'Atthasalini' (Book II, Part
IX, Ch. III, 259) states about doubt:
Here doubt means exclusion from the cure (of
knowledge). Or, one investigating the intrinsic nature
by means of it suffers pain and fatigue (kicchati)- - thus
it is doubt. It has shifting about as characteristic, mental
wavering as function, indecision or uncertainty in grasp
as manifestation, unsystematic thought as proximate
cause, and it should be regarded as a danger to
Doubt is different from wrong view
(ditthi). When there is ditthi one clings, for example, to the concept
that phenomena are permanent or one takes them for self. When vicikiccha
(doubt) arises, one wonders whether the mind is different from the body
or not, whether phenomena are permanent or impermanent. There is no other
way to eradicate doubt but by developing the panna (wisdom) which sees
realities as they are. People who have doubts about the person and the
teachings of the Buddha may think that doubt can be cured by studying historical
events. They want to find out more details about the time the Buddha lived
and about the places where he moved about; they want to know the exact
time the texts were written down. They cannot be cured of their doubt by
studying historical events; this does not lead to the goal of the Buddha's
teachings which is the eradication of defilements.
People in the Buddha's time too were
speculating about things which do not lead to the goal of the teachings.
They were wondering whether the world is finite or infinite, whether the
world is eternal or not eternal, whether the Tathagata (the Buddha) exists
drier his parinibbana or not. We read in the 'Lesser Discourse to Malunkya
(Middle Length Sayings II, no. 63) that Malunkyaputta was displeased that
the Buddha did not give explanations with regard to speculative views.
He wanted to question the Buddha on these views and if the Buddha should
not give him an explanation with regard to these views he would leave the
order. He spoke to the Buddha about this matter and the
Buddha asked him whether he had ever said to Malunkyaputta:
Come you, Malurikyaputta, fare the Brahma-faring
under me and I will explain to you either that the world
is eternal or that the world is not eternal... or that the
Tathagata is… is not after dying… both is and is not after
dying... neither is nor is not after dying?
We read that Malunkyaputta answered:
'No, revered Sir.’ The Buddha also asked him whether he (Maunkyaputta)
had said that he would 'fare the Brahma-faring' under the Lord if the Lord
should give him an explanation with regard to these views and again Maunkyaputta
answered: 'No, revered sir.' The Buddha then compared his situation with
the case of a man who is pierced by a poisoned arrow and who will not draw
out the arrow until he knows whether the man who pierced him is a noble,
a brahman, a merchant or a worker; until he knows the name of the man and
his clan; until he knows his outward appearance; until he knows about the
bow, the bowstring, the material of the shaft, the kind of arrow. However,
he will pass away before he knows all this. It is the same with the person
who only wants to 'fare the Braham-faring' under the Lord if explanations
with regard to speculative views are given to him. We read that the Buddha
'The living of the Brahma-faring, Malunkyaputta,
could not be said to depend on the view that the world
is eternal. Nor could the living of the Brahma-faring,
Malunkyaputta, be said to depend on the view that the
world is not eternal. Whether there is the view that
the world is eternal or whether there is the view that
the world is not eternal, there is birth, there is aging,
there is dying, there are grief, sorrow, suffering,
lamentation and despair, the destruction of which I
lay down here and now....
Wherefore, Malunkyaputta, understand as not
explained what has not been explained by me, and
understand as explained what has been explained by
me. And what, Malunkyaputta, has not been explained
by me? That the world is eternal.. that the world is
not eternal has not been explained by me.. And why,
Malunkyaputta, has this not been explained by me?
It is because it is not connected with the goal, it is
not fundamental to the Brahma-faring, and does not
conduce to turning away from, nor to dispassion,
stopping, calming, super-knowledge, awakening, nor
to nibbana. Therefore it has not been explained by
me, Malunkyaputta. And what has been explained by
me, Malunkyaputta? 'This is dukkha' has been explained
by me, Malunkyaputta. 'This is the arising of dukkha'
has been explained by me. 'This is the stopping of
dukkha' has been explained by me. 'This is the course
leading to the stopping of dukkha' has been explained
by me. And why, Malunkyaputta, has this been
explained by me? It is because it is connected with
the goal, it is fundamental to the Brahma-faring, and
conduces to turning away from, to dispassion, stopping,
calming, super-knowledge, awakening and nibbana... '
Doubt cannot be cured by speculating
about matters which do not lead to the goal; it can only be cured by being
aware of the nama and rupa which present themselves now. Even when there
is doubt it can be realized as only a type of nama arising because of conditions
and not self. Thus the reality of the present moment will be known more
The second type of moha-mula-citta
is accompanied by indifferent feeling, arising with restlessness (upekkha-sahagatam,
uddhacca-sampayuttam) . Uddhacca is translated 'restlessness' or 'excitement'.
Uddhacca arises with all akusala cittas. When there is uddhacca there is
no sati (mindfulness) with the citta. Sari arises with each wholesome citta;
it 'remembers' what is wholesome. There is sati not only in vipassana,
but also when one performs dana (generosity) observes sila (morality),
applies oneself to studying or teaching the Buddha's teachings or
cultivates samatha. Sati in vipassana is aware of a characteristic of nama
When there is uddhacca, the citta
cannot be wholesome; one cannot at that moment apply oneself to dana, sila
or bhavana. Uddhacca distracts the citta from kusala. Uddhacca is restlessness
with regard to kusala. Thus, uddhacca is different from what we in conventional
language mean by restlessness.
Uddhacca arises also with the moha-mula-citta
which is accompanied by doubt, since it arises with each akusala cilia.
The second type of moha-mula-citta, however, is called uddhacca-sampayutta;
it is different from the first type of moha-mula-citta which is called
The second type of moha-mula-citta,
the moha-mula-citta which is uddhacca-sampayutta, arises countless times
a day, but it is difficult to know its characteristic. If one has not cultivated
vipassana one does not know this type of citta. When one is forgetful of
realities and 'day-dreaming', there is not necessarily this type of citta.
When we are 'day-dreaming' there is not only the second type of moha-mula-citta
(uddhacca-sampayutta), but also lobha-mula-cittas (cittas rooted in attachment)
or dosa-mula-cittas (cittas rooted in aversion). When one is forgetful
of realities and the akusala citta is not rooted in lobha or dosa, and
the citta is not accompanied by doubt, then there is the second type of
moha-mula-citta accompanied by uddhacca.
Moha-mula-citta can arise on account
of what we experience through the five sense-doors and through the mind-door.
When, for example, we have heard sound, moha-mula-citta may arise. When
the second type of moha-mula-citta which is uddhacca-sampayutta arises,
there is ignorance and forgetfulness with regard to the object which is
experienced at that moment. We may not see the danger of this type of citta,
since it is accompanied by indifferent feeling. However, all kinds of akusala
Moha is dangerous, it is the root
of all akusala. When we are ignorant of realities we accumulate a great
deal of akusala. Moha conditions lobha; when we do not know realities as
they are we become absorbed in the things we experience through the senses.
Moha also conditions dosa; when we do not know realities we have aversion
when we experience unpleasant things. Moha accompanies each akusala citta
and it conditions all ten kinds of akusala kamma-patha which are accomplished
through body, speech and mind. Only when there is mindfulness of the realities
which appear through the six doors, the panna is developed which can eradicate
The sotapanna ('streamwinner', who
has attained the first stage of enlightenment) has eradicated the type
of moha-mula-citta which is accompanied by vicikiccha (doubt); he has no
more doubts about paramattha dhammas, he knows the 'world in the ariyan
sense’. He has no doubts about the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. He
has no doubts about the Path leading to the end of defilements. The sotapanna,
the sakadagami ('once-returner', who has attained the second stage of enlightenment)
and the anagami
('non-returner', who has attained
the third stage of enlightenment) still have the type of moha-mula-citta
accompanied by uddhacca (restlessness). Only the arahat has eradicated
Ignorance is not seeing the true
characteristic of realities, not knowing the 'four Noble Truths'. Out of
ignorance one does not see the first Noble Truth, the Truth of dukkha :
one does not realize nama and rupa as impermanent and dukkha. One does
not know the second Noble Truth: the origin of dukkha which is craving.
Because of clinging to nama and rupa there is no end to the cycle of birth
and death and thus there is no end to dukkha. One does not know the Noble
Truth of the 'ceasing of dukkha', which is nibbana. One does not know the
Noble Truth of 'the way leading to the ceasing of dukkha' which is the
Elghtfold Path. The ‘Eightfold Path' is developed through vipassana.
We read in the 'Kindred Sayings'
(lV, Salayatana-vagga, Kindred Sayings about Jambukhadaka, par. 9) that
the wanderer asked Sariputta:
' "Ignorance, ignorance!" is the saying, friend
Sariputta. Pray, what is ignorance?'
‘Not understanding about dukka, friend, not
understanding about the arising of dukkha, the ceasing
of dukkha, the way leading to the ceasing of dukkha- -
this, friend, is called “ignorance” ‘
“But is there any way, friend, any approach to the
abandoning of this ignorance?
‘There is indeed away, friend, to such abandoning.’
‘And what, friend, is that way, that approach to
the abandoning of this ignorance?’
‘It is this ariyan Eightfold Path, friend…’
The ariyan Eightfold Path leads to
the eradication of moha.
1. What is ignorance? Why should
it be eradicated?
2. How can it be eradicated?
3. When there is doubt (vicikiccha)
about realities, is there moha as well?
4. On account of experiences
through which doors can moha arise?