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Abhidhamma in Daily life
 Chapter 7

IGNORANCE

We 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 stay?

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,
 how far, lord, does this saying go?' 
         ' What is transitory by nature, Ananda, is called "the
         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  or
         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 of defilements. 

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 doors.

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 of ditthi.

The two types of moha-mula-citta are:
         1. Arising with indifferent feeling, accompanied by
            doubt (Upekkha-sahagatam., vicikiccha-
            sampayuttam)
        2. Arising with indifferent feeling, accompanied by
            restlessness (Upekkha-sahagatam, uddhacca-
            sampayuttam)

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
         attainment.

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 said:

         '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 clearly.

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 or rupa. 

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 vicikiccha-sampayutta. 

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 are dangerous.

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 moha. 

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 all akusala.

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.
 
 

  Questions

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?
 


January 6, 2001