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The Mind in Early Buddhism

Bhikkhu Thich Minh Thanh

New Delhi, 2001

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The headings in the 2 previous chapters are set up on the basis of the gist of the meanings that the attributes and predicates of citta throughout the canonical texts mark out. Their being put into discussion, therefore, is on account of textual occurrence. The headings in this chapter, on the other hand, arise out of ideological interest, be it of ontology, psychology, ethics, and metaphysics. In fact, they are essential aspects of citta as the title of this chapter states, and require deeper analytical and critical study that will be attempted at in the following pages.

1. Where does Citta come from?

The ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF BUDDHISM warns us that the question regarding the origin of consciousness is the most difficult one. The early Indian thinkers as well as some of the modern scientists have considered the origin or emergence of consciousness a mystery. This prompted them to attribute such origin to superhuman creation. In the following pages we shall elaborate upon the issue on the basis of the information yielded by the Nikāya texts. The elaboration would be in accordance with the identification of the three terms citta, viññāṇa, and mana, by the canonical literature [1] attributed to the Buddha himself. The traditional identification would allow us to consider the three as identical and interchangeable in use.

(a) From Saṅkhāra

Saṅkhāra is one of the most difficult terms in Buddhist metaphysics, in which the blending of the subjective-objective view of the world and of happening, peculiar to the East, is so complete that it is almost impossible for Occidental terminology to get at the root of its meaning in a translation. Here, we just state briefly certain ideas about its three lexically basic meanings.

First, it denotes an aggregate of the conditions or essential properties for a given process or result, such as āyusaṅkhāra (the sum of the conditions or properties making up or resulting in life or existence), or as kāyasaṅkhāra, vacīsaṅkhāra, cittasaṅkhāra (essential conditions, antecedents or synergy, mental co-efficients, requisite for act, speech, thought, respectively).

Secondly, saṅkhāra as one of the five khandhas can be rendered as accumulative dispositions that decide which direction one's personality is going to be in.

Lastly, saṅkhāra in popular meaning implies the mental constitutional element as well as the physical, although the latter in customary materialistic popular philosophy is the predominant factor. Saṅkhāras are in the widest sense the "world of phenomena", i.e. all things which have been made up by pre-existing causes.

Saṅkhāra as dispositions described above in the second meaning is considered the most important element in a discussion of human personality. The Saṃyutta Nikāya says that disposition is so-called because it processes rūpa, which has already been dispositionally conditioned, into its present state. This statement is repeated with regard to vedanā (feeling), saññā (perception), saṅkhāra (dispositions), and viññāṇa (consciousness)[2]. Saṅkhāra is the complementary factor to the more passive, receptive phase of consciousness.

In the somewhat later elaboration of doctrine in the Abhidhamma, this constructive aspect is reserved for the first-named of the 52 elements of consciousness comprised under saṅkhāras, namely, cetānā that can be rendered as volition[3]. So dispositions in the Sutta Nikāyas as well as in the later texts take the decisive position for itself and for all the remaining 4 khandhas (constituent factors of an individual). While dispositions are themselves causally conditioned, they process each of the five factors of the human personality, thereby providing them with the stamp of individuality or identity. Hence the most important function of individuating a personality belongs to the dispositions, which are inalienable part of the personality. In the most extreme way they can function in creating an excessively egoistic tendency culminating in the belief in a permanent and eternal ātman (self). This may be one reason the Buddha considered the self as a mere "lump of dispositions"[4].

Dispositions determine our perspectives. Without such perspective we are unable to deal with the sensible world in any meaningful or fruitful manner. The Buddha, however, realized that subdued dispositions are enlightened perspectives - hence his characterization of nibbāna (freedom) as the appeasement of dispositions.

D. J. Kalupahana is of the opinion that the dispositions, while carving an individuality out of the immensity of sensible ocean, also play a valuable role in the continuity of experiences. The development of one's personality in the direction of imperfection or perfection rests with one's dispositions. These, therefore, are the determinants of one's viññāṇa (consciousness)[5], a less active phase in one's mentation process. That can be considered the reason why saṅkhāra is the preceding link of consciousness in the paṭiccasamuppada series, and is the preceding khandha in the numbered dhammas of five khandhas in which viññāṇa comes up after the former in the succession. In other words, in the origination of viññāṇa, saṅkhāra takes the most important and active role.

(b) From Upādāna, Āyatana, Anusaya

First, what is upādāna? Upādāna (nt.) is formed by upa+ā+dā. The term literally means 'that (material) substratum by means of which an active process is kept alive or going', fuel, supply, provision[6].

The verb corresponding to upādāna is upādāyati, which means "heap up", "bind", "kindle". It must, therefore, mean something like "grasp", "collect", and "build up". The Saṃyutta Nikāya says, "He is called an Ariyan disciple who reduces and does not heap up; who abandons and does not collect; who scatters and does not bind together; who quenches and does not kindle"[7]. The function of upādāna seems to be suggested by another passage in the Majjhima Nikāya, "While he, observing the satisfaction, is attached, bound and infatuated, the five upādāna-factors go on to accumulation for the future"[8].

In the paṭiccasamuppāda context, upādāna is defined by enumerating its four parts: (1) the building up of love-relations, (2) of speculation, (3) of rules and rituals, and (4) of a soul-theory. These seem to represent aspects of personality formation. The first part, i. e. building up of love-relation stands for habits of sense-gratification, a dependence on the world: a pleasure-loving personality. The second one stands for collection and remembrance of information and observations in order to explain the world, absorption in theoretical construction. Hence an abstract and speculative type of personality. The third one stands for those that may become important and dominate life: compulsive mind; and the last one stands for one's misunderstanding about oneself, as a result, he builds up an ego-image and project it into eternity; this is again an edifice of mind.

So in terms of Dependent Origination we can say that conditioned by upādāna there arise compulsive mind and edificed mind[9].The two kinds of mind mentioned above are just aspects of mind (citta) as the resultant tendency that is resulted from total tendencies of one's personality in the process of re-becoming.

Yes, in the paṭiccasamuppāda context, upādāna is the closest link that conditions the next one bhava, and bhava stands in the position of and can be identified with gandhabba a phase of viññāna, which is synonymous to citta, given that viññāṇa is the strongest candidate for the executive chief in the process of re-becoming. In other words, it is not exactly that viññāṇa comes from upādāna but the generation of viññāṇa is directly conditioned by upādāna.

About the upādāna in the connection of mind and personality, R. E. A. Johansson in DPEB gives a supportive account for the above said. His exposition can be shortly paraphrased as follows: upādāna is the ninth link in the conventional paṭiccasamuppāda series, conditioned by taṇhā, "thirst", "craving", and a condition for bhava, "becoming", as long as the five khandhas are regarded as the coming personality. Its function is, generally speaking, to bridge the gap between craving and production.

So upādāna is closely connected with the process of, and preparations for, rebirths. "At the time when a being lays aside this body but is not yet born into another body - this I say is built on craving. For craving becomes at that time upādāna (agent) for that"[10]. This point is clearly confirmed by another passage from the Majjhima Nikāya: "Whatever is ambition and desire (chandarāgo) for the five upādāna-factors that are upādāna of them"[11]. This passage seems to yield out that upādāna would simply express the intensified wish that itself can be sufficient cause for certain type of rebirth[12].

Āyatana has three basic meanings. Firstly, it denotes stretch, extent, reach, compass, region; sphere, locus, place, spot; position, occasion. Secondly, it covers exertion, doing, working, practice, performance. And, lastly, its third meaning includes sphere of perception or sense in general, object of thought, sense organ and object; relation, order. Āyatana cannot be rendered by a single English word to cover both sense organs (māno being regarded as the sixth sense) and sense objects[13]. The āyatanāni (plural of āyatana here mean relations, functions, reciprocalities) are divided into two groups, ajjhattikāni and bāhirāni, inner and outer, respectively, and comprise the following: (1) cakkhu: eye, (2) sota: ear, (3) ghāna: nose, (4) jivhā: tongue, (5) kāya: body, (6) mano: mind; (7) rūpa: visible object, (8) sadda: sound, (9) gadha: odour, (10) rasa: taste, (11) phoṭṭhabba: tangible object, and (12) dhamma: cognizable object. The first six belong to ajjhattikāni, and the remaining six, to bāhirāni[14].

The failure of Sāti in grasping properly the doctrine of dependent origination of all saṅkhāra as taught by the Buddha got culminated into his misunderstanding about the nature of viññāṇa, looking upon it as immutable entity surviving life after life. The Buddha reproved him, saying: "Now then, foolish man, whence got you such a doctrine as being teaching of mine? Have I not taught you by many methods that viññāṇa arises from a cause; and except from a cause, viññāṇa cannot come to be?... And viññāṇa is designated only in accordance with the condition causing it: visual viññāṇa from the seeing eye and the seen object; auditory viññāṇa from the hearing ear and the sound... manoviññāṇa from mano and mental object. Just as a fire is different according to the kind of fuel..."[15]. The above passage in a nutshell contains the whole of the Buddhist theory of the origination of viññāṇa, in which cakkhu: the seeing eye and rūpa: its specific seen object... and so on are inevitable for the arising of viññāṇa.

Another numbered dhamma or more exactly the unwholesome motives that have much to do with the arising of viññāṇa are anusayas. Anusayas are sometimes misunderstood as the sub-consciousness in the parlance of psychoanalysis because they imply the dormant or latent disposition. PTSD defines them as bent, bias, proclivity, and the persistence of a dormant or latent disposition, predisposition, tendency of mind leading to various kinds of evil inclinations. The term anusaya, derived from the root anusi to lie, connotes 'to live along with' or 'to cling to'.

Buddhaghosa says that a passion is called anusaya because of its pertinacity. Seven such tendencies are numerated: (1) kāma-rāga (sensuous lust), (2) paṭighapratigha (grudge), (3) diṭṭhi (speculative views), (4) vicikicchā (skeptical doubt), (5) māna (conceit), (6) bhavarāga (craving for continued existence), and (7) avijjā (ignorance)[16]. Among the unwholesome motives anusayas are always in bad sense. In the oldest texts the word usually occurs in a grammatical absolute structure where there is no mention of the cause or direction of the bias.

In addition to the above seven, some other tendencies are also mentioned: ahankāramamankāra-mānānusaya[17] (tendency to pride that produces 'I' and 'mine'), sakkāya-diṭṭhānusaya (tendency to form a theory about an individuality), sīlabbataparāmāsānusaya (tendency to cling to duties and rituals), byāpādānusaya (tendency to agressiveness)[18].

All the above mentioned terms refer to undesirable traits and with one exception they seem to belong the area of consciousness rather than behaviour. As in other similar enumerations, no distinction is made between different functions of consciousness: The three anusayas, kāmarāga, bhavarāga and byāpāda seem to belong to the area of motivation proper; the two anusayas, paṭigha and māna are emotional ones; diṭṭhi, sakkāya-diṭṭhi and avijjā are cognitive, sīlabbataparāmāsa may refer to a type of behaviour or attitude, and the rest to combinations of the areas. There are few indications in the texts to show what types of activity are produced by the anusaya. It is, for instance, said in the Saṃyutta Nikāya that "the tendencies to pride that produces 'I' and 'mine' have been rooted out from the venerable Sāriputta; therefore a deterioration and change even in the Teacher would not give rise to grief, lament, suffering, sorrow and despair"[19]. The presence of anusaya would, then, in this case produce emotional attachment.

The Nikāya records that "what one plans, intends and has a tendency to, that becomes a basis for the establishment of viññāṇa"; the next passage of the text corrects this and says that a tendency is enough as basis for the establishment of viññāṇa[20]. From these passages we can conclude that anusaya figures rather strongly as condition for the emergence of viññāṇa.

(c) From Nāma-Rūpa

Rūpa occurs frequently in two contexts, namely, as the first khandha and in the compound nāma-rūpa that is one of the links in the paṭiccasamuppāda series. In stereotyped flow, nāma-rūpa is said to be conditioned by viññāṇa, and is itself a condition of phassa (contact). The Saṃyutta Nikāya says that sensation, ideation, will, contact, attention - this is called name. The four elements and the form depending on them - this is called rūpa[21]. The nāma-part has a certain similarity to the four last khandha-factors and consists of central psychological functions. The meaning of rūpa is probably the same in both cases, namely "body"[22].

Nāma, therefore, in a specified meaning is defined as a metaphysical term opposed to rūpa. It comprises the 4 immaterial factors of an individual. These as the noetic principle combinated with the material principle make up the individual as it is distinguished by "name and body" from other individuals. Hence nāmarūpa is identical with individuality, individual being. These two components in an individual being are inseparable[23].

Rūpa terminologically covers form, figure, appearance, principle of form. According to Pāli expositors, rūpa takes its designation from rūpati which is (not quite correctly) given as "change". Its rendering 'form' is opposed by modern interpretations and discussions; and as better philosophical terms 'matter' and 'material quality' are recommended. Rūpa- (as prefix) means of such and such a form, like, kind, of a certain condition or appearance. In this application rūpa is very frequent and similar to English -hood, i.e. an abstract formation. As philosophical technical term rūpa refers to principle of (material) form, materiality, visibility. There are various groups of psychological and metaphysical systematization, in which rūpa functions as the material gross factor, by the side of other more subtle factors[24].

Now, let us go to the meanings that the term citta suggests. On one hand, citta is sometimes used in a way that suggests a personal identity from existence to existence. The Udāna says, "Without understanding the thoughts of his inner sense he runs with restless citta from existence to existence". Hence citta seems to signify a surviving entity[25]. This is one end of the spectrum. On the other hand, citta is clearly used for thought processes. Citta is called samudaya-dhamma (something that comes to be) and vaya-dhamma (something that passed away)[26]. As mentioned above, one extreme is the decision that citta is surviving entity from existence to existence, the other extreme is that citta is merely a thought or an idea. It seems to be that 'middle path' should be relative. In R. E. A. Johansson's opinion, citta typically has meaning between these extremes, referring to a personal psychological factor responsible for the unity and continuity of the human being but without any suggestion of permanence substance[27].

But in terms of the latter extreme, the Saṃyutta Nikāya says, nāmarūpa-samudayā cittassa samudāyo[28]: Citta (as a thought) arises as a result of the arising of name and form. It is interesting to note that this is one among the rare contexts in which citta is said to arise from a cause[29]; that cause being nāma and rūpa. In the same line, elaborating upon the manner in which viññāṇa comes to be, the Buddha says that it is dependent upon nāmarūpa[30].

The Buddhist system considers the five khandhas as conditioned processes[31]. In the Saṃyutta Nikāya, they are clearly defined in process-terms. The body is "the four elements and the form building on them... The body is produced from food"[32]. "There are six groups of sensations: sensation produced by contact with the eye, ...with the ear, etc."[33] In the same way, saññā, sankhārā, and viññāṇa are defined as sensory processes and classified according to sense modalities. We conclude this section with the Buddhist conviction that all of the khandhas are derived from phassa (contact) with the unique exception that viññāṇa is derived from nāmarūpa[34].

(d) Origination of Citta

The ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF BUDDHISM supplies us with authentic ideas about the origin of citta: Citta is not a metaphysical entity in the sense in which entity is defined as a thing's existence as opposed to its qualities and relations. Citta is included under the generic term dhamma and all dhammas which consist of the five Aggregates of Grasping (pañcupādānakkhandhā) arises invariably as a result of the collocation of a wide variety of causal factors[35].

While recognizing the difficulty of providing a philosophical solution to this age-old problem, and yet not assuming the existence of a superhuman creator, the Buddha explained the emergence of consciousness as a natural causal process denying that consciousness would emerge in the absence of the necessary conditions[36]. In the Majjhima Nikāya emergence of consciousness is compared to the arising of fire, which depends upon various conditions such as dry-wood, etc. This analogy of fire should not be taken to mean that the Buddha accepted the reductionism that would consider fire to be stored up in the form of energy in the material that goes to produce it. In fact, on another occasion, the Buddha insisted that an extinguished fire does not get stored up elsewhere[37].

The Buddha has in various ways spoken of the independent origination of the mind and has also stated that there is no arising of the mind except through the collocation of causal factors[38]. The Madhupiṇḍika Sutta sets out clearly the causal connection between the conceptualising activity of the mind and the birth of illusions, obstacles, obsessions and hindrances to spiritual progress: dependent on mind and mental object there arises mental consciousness: the coming together of these three is contact; conditioned by contact there arises feeling; what one feels one cognises; what one cognises one reasons out; what one reasons out one becomes obsessed with; on account of the obsessions the individual is assailed by imagined notions in respect of what can be known by the mind in the past, present and future[39]. So the origination of citta or viññāṇa - a phase in the processes of life of an individual mental and physical as well - cannot be visualized in separation with the other ones.

2. The Psychological Subjectiveness of Citta

In ancient Buddhism, there was a faith in citta as infinitely ductile and plastic[40], and in the sense-apparatus as so many indriyas - that is, ruling or controlling things, faculties, not passive as mirrors, but engaged in clash and collision[41]. Judged by its general usage in the Pāli Nikāya, citta appears basically to refer to the center and focus of man's emotional nature as well as to the seat and organ of thought in its active, dynamic aspect. Citta plays a more central and crucial role in Buddhism than in any other Indian system of philosophic thought and religious practice. It is probably to base on this that citta is defined in its most general sense as the invisible and incorporeal energiser of the body and as the activator of the personality of man[42].

It should be reminded here that man in Buddhist system is a psychophysical combination of nāma and rūpa (mind and body). Vedanā (sensation), saññā (perception), saṅkhārā (mental formations) and viññāṇa (consciousness) are the non-physical factors in man collectively regarded as nāma (mind) and cattāri mahābhūtāni (the four great primaries or elements) which are described as extension (i.e. earth-paṭhavi), cohesion (i.e. water-āpo), heat (i.e. fire-tejo) and vibration (i.e. wind-vāyo) are the physical factors in man collectively regarded as rūpa (body). In Buddhism, the personality of man is conditioned and sustained by the activity of citta and consequently the character and destiny of man are also likewise determined by citta[43]. As being responsible for the character and destiny of man citta is the center of understanding to which the higher knowledge called abhiññā is attributed. There are expressions such as cittena... ñassati[44] (he shall understand by citta); and aññācittaṃ upaṭṭhapeti[45] (he applies his citta to understanding)[46].

In regard to the social life of a person and the world he lives in citta takes the pre-eminent role, swaying its ideological leadership. All schools of Buddhism agree on the primacy of citta in this respect. The pervading agreement seems to be resulted from the saying, "The world, monks, is led by thought, is swept away by thought. The world comes under the power of thought"[47], which is attributed to the Buddha. More specifically speaking, citta seems mainly to refer to the purposeful organization of activities. This unity of purpose is normally a characteristic of the human individual, but it is also possible to submit more or less completely to the will or purposes of others; this is in early Buddhism expressed as a function of citta[48].

In the Nikāyas, citta is viewed as an arsenal of dispositional properties that take the form of mental predispositions, proclivities, tendencies and dormant and latent forces that activate themselves at the subliminal level of consciousness. This tendency and potentiality to act as and when occasion and opportunity dictate is termed anusaya. The moment of explosion and active manifestation is called pariyuṭṭ-hāna. Citta is also viewed as a conscious center of activity, purposiveness, continuity and emotionality. In the context of the teaching on non-substantiality citta may be considered as the best single psychological term most appropriate for denoting the character of man's personality[49].

Citta has been functionally subjected to a three-fold classification represented by the distinction between the effective (vedanā), cognitive (saññā), and conative (cetanā). It is categorically stated that the effective and the cognitive are mental states dependent on citta. And cetanā clearly is the causative form of citta (cinteti > ceteti, cetayati > cetanā). The affective aspect refers to the feeling tone of citta; the cognitive aspect is concerned with knowing, believing, reasoning and perceiving; and the conative aspect is concerned with acting, willing, striving, and desiring. These three aspects do not, of course, function separately. As mental processes all three aspects operate all at once by way of concurrent action and inter-action. Cognition is associated with conation that in turn is bound up invariably with the hedonic quality to feeling. Manifold are the functions of citta, moral as well as epistemological[50].

In terms of psychoanalysis, the ego of human personality which is experienced as the "self" or "I" and is in contact with the external world through perception. It is the part, which remembers, evaluates, plans, and in other ways, is responsive to and acts in the surrounding physical and social world. The ego coexists, in psychoanalytic theory, with the id and superego, as one of three agencies proposed by Sigmund Freud in his attempt to describe the dynamics of the human mind. Ego (Latin for "I") comprises, in Freud's terminology, the executive functions of personality; it is the integrator between the outer and inner worlds, as well as between the id and the superego.

The ego gives continuity and consistency to behaviour by providing a personal point of reference, which relates the events of the past (retained in memory) and actions of the present and of the future (represented in anticipation and imagination). So the Buddhist citta reminds us of the Freudian ego as mentioned above in its function as the center of perceptual and cognitive activity. "Ideation and sensation are mental processes dependent on citta; therefore they are called activity of citta"[51].

3. Citta as Ego being Criticized by Superego

This is a sort of self-accusation or self-censorship. According to Freud there is a superego, that is in position to be critical of the ego, so there is in Buddhism an "I" who may be critical of citta and may want to subjugate it and change it by means of the Buddhist training[52]. The individual's identification with his citta is far from complete. There is frequently a clear distinction between "me" and "my citta". The text says: "For a long time indeed I have been defrauded, deceived and cheated by this citta, for I have been collecting body, sensation, ideation, activities and consciousness. Conditioned by this collection there was growth for me..."[53]. Here citta is made responsible for all the false values and activities that keep the paṭiccasamuppāda development going. "I" am something different. "I" can see that all this is false[54].

It is noted that a fool is usually supposed not to contemplate on the activities of citta so that citta eludes itself in the guile of himself per se. He is ignorant of the action of citta. Citta activates itself through dependent origination but aside of this causal activity citta in its true nature does not yield itself to perception and conception[55].

The Theragāthā records the story of Thera Tālapuṭa who previously was born professional actor of talent. He led his happy life in the belief that as being an actor whose performance is to amuse others he should be reborn in the heavenly realm of laughing. In his interview with the Buddha he recognized that this was a false belief and became a bhikkhu, after due study he attained arahantship. It is in the process of attaining that the interesting dramatic dialogue within him took place.

Here Tālapuṭa's personality is dualized and put on the theater stage. And the Theragāthā relates the loudly spoken dialogue between Tālapuṭa and his citta. In the dialogue we meet the "I" (Tālapuṭa) who carried out his right of choice - leaving behind the household life and leading a monk's one - and his citta who was fraudulent. It can be referred that as being collected into the canonical text Theragāthā, Tālapuṭa should not be a monk of low elevation. Nevertheless, there was still the dissonance between the appearance of his chosen life and the processes of his inner spiritual life.

Previously, citta had begged him to give up worldly life, and he had followed its intention and tasted the meditational life:

'Tis many years since thou, my heart, didst urge:
'Come now, enough of this house-life for thee!'
See then! I've left the world. Wherefore, O heart,
Dost lack devotion to thy task?[56]

In general, citta had begged of him all the good activities including good processes, outwardly of course but, more important, inwardly. For example, the development of human capacities, culminating in threefold knowledge in the Buddha's teaching, of which the final process is release from influxes, or achievement of the deathless[57]. Citta had begged him of a close observation of the factors as originally suffering. He should be devoid of their causes[58]. Citta had begged him to stop ceto's preoccupation with mano by way of insight and to understand the impermanent as suffering, the emptiness as not-self, the pain as destruction[59]. In all prescribed circumstances of life, citta had begged of him the well-controlled self[60].

But he was a man in conflict. Citta was then tempting him toward the impermanent and transient, called "cala" whereas "acala" is often an attribute of nibbāna. In fact, his citta was obstructing him from reaching his goal[61]. This process within a state of conflict must be calmed down. Citta, which is formless, far going, wandering alone, must be guided by the thinking of nibbāna[62]. He had chosen his way of life in obedience with his citta, and now that same citta begged him to go back to the old way of life[63]. In a good sense he had done what citta asked of him throughout many births, knowing that samsāra's suffering was caused by citta, whether he reached human existences, deva-like existence, or he reached downward existences[64]. It was all very frustrating and he accused his citta of playing with him as with a lunatic:

Nay now, thou shalt not dupe me as of old
Time after time, again, ever again,
Like mountebank showing his little masque;
Thou playest guileful trics with me,
As with a lunatic[65].

He closed his blaming words with the question, "Tell me, my heart, wherein am I at fault?"[66]. But all this came to an end. This was time for him to make a summary statement: "To-day that heart I'll hold in thorough check,"[67]. He had learned by experience. The teacher had made him see things in the world as they are; "Now, heart, leap forward in the Conqueror's rule"[68]. This is something new for the process of citta; it was governed, under the control of the great Seer's teaching. Citta will be well guarded and developed, without support in any existence[69]. In the last three stanzas we hear the last fading echo of the conflict between him and his citta, because citta had led him around instead of living with the teaching of the great compassionate Seer[70]. The echo of the conflict was fading away within a firm belief of a prosperous future:

Like creature of the wild roaring at large
In the fair flowering jungle, so thou too
Hast gone up on the lovely cloud-wreathed crest.
There on the mountain, where no crowd can come,
Shalt find thy joy, O heart, for never doubt
But thou shalt surely win to the Beyond[71].

4. Citta and Emancipation

We have already been in touch with the issue in the previous chapter but the elaboration then is descriptive in character and based mainly on the textual occurrences of the key word citta and the ideas that the text concerned suggests. In this section the emancipation of citta is further dealt with in a more analytical and critical manner.

In the Majjhima Nikāya, the word citta itself or its compounds occurs in around 1,500 contexts, which can be reduced to some basic coherent patterns. The important coherence within the Majjhima Nikāya can be illustrated by the Sutta 148 in which 36 processes, constituting human beings, are mentioned. Among them are mano, mind and/or thought, and viññāṇa, mind and/or consciousness. It is said about either of them that they are anattā (not-self). Citta, however, is not mentioned, whereas the idea of this very sermon by the Buddha becomes clear at the end through the often recurring phrase, "the minds (cittāni) of as many as sixty monks were released from influxes with no grasping (remaining)"[72]. Citta here expresses the experience of nibbāna-release.

The "I" that is referred to in the vimutti-process as it is given through arahant-formula and its contexts brings into focus citta as being released. Within the Majjhima Nikāya this is the case recurring in 21 of the 152 suttas. It reinforces the view held by R. E. A. Johansson who looks upon citta as "the core of our personality around which all personal processes revolve"[73] as referred to above.

The understanding of the Four Noble Truths is responsible for the freedom of citta. In numerous texts of the Majjhima Nikāya that we read about the mind in the process of being released; this is the recurrent pattern, 'cittaṃ vimuccittha' (mind was released), which is preceded by the realization of Four Noble Truths. The release is of threefold, the translation running, "...for me knowing thus, seeing thus, my mind was released from āsavā (influxes) of sense pleasures... of existence... of not knowing, and in the release my knowledge came to be 'citta is released...'"[74].

Jan T. Ergardt comments that on seeing reality as it is, the human mind is released from āsavā. Through the word āsavā, and its connection with dukkha, we may see that this threefold release as mentioned above is a departure from existential suffering in any form. We may also see the culmination in the knowledge that is built upon the actual experience of release[75].

The release of citta, in the highest sense, refers to cetovimutti attained by following the ariya-magga: the noble path, or by conforming to the brahma-cariya: the noble life. In this context, the term is almost always coupled with another term, paññāvimutti[76]. In this state of freedom, citta becomes perfectly free from all āsavā: "āsavehi cittāni vimucciṃsu"[77]. This refers to the attainment of arahantship, the highest and the noblest state[78], the final release from saṃsāra. The term paññāvimutti appears to be complementary to its preceding term cetovimutti, and stresses the fact that emancipation of citta is attained by insight. The person whose citta is thus emancipated is called vimuttacitta[79].

Cetovimutti, according to Buddhaghosa, is synonymous with cittavimutti, and is named for the consciousness of the fruit of arahantship that is also free from the bondage of all passions. The term cetovimutti is also used in different contexts with reference of variant stages of emancipation of mind that is lower than the perfect freedom referred to above. The different names by which these stages of emancipation are referred to indicate rather the means that they are attained with[80].

That the term paññāvimutti appears to be complementary to its preceding term cetovimutti, therefore, to stress the fact of emancipation of mind is not fully satisfactory to readers of the critical types. Hence the two vimutties are later on further interpreted by R. E. A. Johansson who assigns equal footing to both of them and somehow keeps them asunder as this: Cetovimutti is the same as freedom from desire and attained by practicing "calm", i. e. samādhi. Paññāvimutti means freedom from ignorance and is attained through vipassanā, i. e. introspective observations of the impermanence, impersonality, suffering etc. of all processes[81]. Another noticeable elaboration on this issue is from D. J. Kalupahana who attributes cetovimutti to the attainment of nirodha-samādhi: state of cessation[82].

Cetovimutti is described by suññā, animitta, and appaṇihita. All of the descriptive terms meant by cetovimutti are negative. But D. J. Kalupahana safeguards any misunderstanding impressed by their negativity, saying that emerging from the "state of cessation" one does not necessarily, however, lose the "freedom of thought", if one had attained the knowledge of the "waning of influxes"[83].

In fine, the freedom of mind consists in eliminating the restrictions that it imposes upon itself. The system of Buddhist meditation points the way in which citta can outgrow its own confines. One who achieves freedom comprehends thus: Thus indeed states that have not been in me come to be; having been they pass away. He, not feeling attracted by these states, not feeling repelled, independent, not infatuated, freed, released, dwells with a mind unconfined, comprehending: there is greater freedom further on[84].

According to the teachings embodied in the Nikāyas it is thus clear that the purified citta alone is capable of understanding what is best for oneself, what is best for others and the truth that transcends the sphere of the untutored citta[85]. So the separateness of paññāvimutti and cetovimutti as suggested by R. E. A. Johansson does not sound convincible.

5. Ethical Citta

As regard to ethical institution citta is the determinant of one's purity or impurity. The Saṃyutta Nikāya says that beings become defiled on account of the defilement of their citta and, therefore, become purified on account of the purification of their citta[86]. The Nikāya also gives us the cause and the reason of the defilements: that is because their citta is given to pleasure and is overwhelmed with pleasure and also is in pursuit of pleasure, therefore beings are infatuated with pleasure, are bound with pleasure and being in such bondage are thereby defiled and corrupted by pleasure[87]. But in other cases citta plainly takes the role of one among several motives deciding one's purity or impurity. Motives of behavior are frequently enumerated in the Nikāyas. Greed, hatred, illusion, not paying proper attention, a wrongly directed citta is the cause of doing bad action, of committing a bad action[88]. In a parallel passage, the opposites of these are given as motives of good actions: freedom from greed, freedom from hatred, freedom from illusion, proper attention, and rightly directed citta[89].

But in general, citta plays a central role in the moral and intellectual behaviour of the individual. In the untrained worldly individual citta is afflicted with morally reprehensible needs and emotions[90].

6. Citta's Feasibility

That a man with well-controlled citta can shake the earth is a conviction of the Buddhists who are convinced by the following Nikāya passage: "A recluse or a brahmin with magic power who has his citta well controlled... may, by intense concentration on the minutest portion of earth and on the image of the widest expanse of water, make this earth move and tremble"[91]. Citta is used instrumentally for discerning something in itself. The Pāli text says, "cetasā ceto paricca"[92]. And it is rendered in the case as 'grasping fully with one's mind'[93]. The meditational mind can also enable a bhikkhu to ascend to the heavens. The Dīgha Nikāya relates a story about a bhikkhu who by his meditational mind went up to the deva realms where he could speak to the Maha Brahma, questioning about the magga. We, by the way, could make the interesting note that the Maha Brahma, in the manner he dealt with the bhikkhu, is so human in terms of psychological trait. About the ability of the Buddha it is noticeable that thanks to citta in formlessness-meditation, and to elimination of some feelings, the Buddha could make his physical body not subjected to painful sensation.

Similarly, the Nikāya texts also recorded the case where a monk who "attained so high a degree of samādhi that with concentrated citta (samāhite citte) he could see the way leading to the Brahmā-world and spoke to them[94]. Another case is that by means of meditation a monk entered upon the fire-element (tejo-dhātuṃ samāpajjitvā), rose in the air to the height of seven palm trees and projected a flame to the height of another seven palm trees, so that it blazed and glowed[95]. Psychologically speaking, it is possibly taken to mean that the monk visualized light and fire during his samādhi and experienced this so intensely that he projected it as real light into the physical world. But in his experience there was no difference between objective and subjective[96].

As we have already mentioned in the previous chapter, the three kinds of unwholesome vitakka are expelled in all and quite exclusively by those whose citta is already well settled in the Foundations of Mindfulness, and those who advance in 'animittaṃ samādhiṃ' (meditation of formlessness). The Dīgha Nikāya says, "There are these three evil ways of thought, brethren: thoughts of lust, thoughts of ill-will, thoughts of hurting. And these evil ways of thought cease utterly without remainder in him whose heart abides established in the four stations of mindfulness, or who practices concentration that is withdraws from objects"[97].

Citta trained and developed by meditation can be of many healthy states expressed in compounds as citta-kallatā: readiness of mind; citta-anupassanā: introspective awareness of mind; citta-ujukatā: rectitude of mind; citta-ekaggatā: one-pointedness of mind; citta-passadhi: calmness of heart and serenity of mind; citta-bhāvanā: development of mind; citta-kammaññatā: pliancy of mind; citta-pāguññatā: proficiency of mind; citta-lahutā: buoyancy of mind; citta-visuddhi: purification of mind; citta-samādhi: concentration of mind; citta-samodhāna: calming of thought; citta-vimutti or ceto-vimutti: freedom of mind; citta-vūpasama: tranquility of mind; citta-sampadā: attainment of bliss by the mind[98].

The Buddha develops a scale of pleasures in which superiority is given to the pleasure of the mind in ascending level of jhāna. There is pleasure to be attained from the five types of love-objects (kāmaguṇā), but better is the pleasure in the first jhāna. But even this is inferior to the pleasure in the second jhāna. Each level of samādhi gives a greater pleasure than the preceding one. The highest type of pleasure is experienced in the last stage of jhāna: the cessation of ideation and sensation[99].

Citta through meditative cultivation is able to get rid of emotional unstableness and characterized by vūpasanta: calmed[100], ānejjappatta: imperturbable[101], avera: free from anger[102], danta gutta rakkhita saṃvuta: tamed controlled guarded restrained respectively[103], anāvila: untroubled[104]. Instead of the emotion, mettā (friendliness) has been developed[105]. It should be clear that Buddhist friendliness is characteristically distinctive of emotional reaction. The Majjhima Nikāya affirms that though the desires have gone, there may still be motivation to activity, "that citta which is free from desire, hatred and illusion - originating from this there is skilled moral habits"[106]. Citta may incline towards ardour, devotion, perseverance and exertion[107]. As a result of the training, we find then a development from impulsiveness and desire to will and determination, from immaturity to maturity, from fickleness to character[108].

That citta properly trained would achieve wisdom and freedom from āsavā is recorded in the Dīgha Nikāya[109]. The monk can direct his citta and channel it towards the deathless element[110]. This supports the conviction that citta is that which attains nibbāna. "If a monk's citta is unattached to the form-element (sensation, ideation, the activities, consciousness) and is detached and free from the influxes without building up, then it is steadfast by it freedom, content by its steadfastness, and by being content it does not crave further: and free from craving it by itself attains to parinibbāna"[111].

We have already seen in the third chapter that a bhikkhu whose citta is well imbedded with desirable qualities can apply or direct it to others' citta and knows what are going on thereat, whether they are wholesome with vīta-rāgaṃ, vīta-dosaṃ, vīta-mohaṃ, and so forth; or unwholesome with sa-rāgaṃ, sa-dosaṃ, sa-mohaṃ, and so forth. Generally, citta being well cultivated would be equipped with many feasible qualities especially the penetrating and discerning keenness or power that helps in reading the citta of others. This ability in its full-fledged development forms one of the six abhinnas of the Buddhist highest sainthood, arahantship.

The Nikāyas mention many attributes of a well-elevated citta. Its plenty of healthy attributes are listed as follows: anātura: healthy; paribhāvita: fully developed; asallīna: unattached; santussita: contented; kammaniya: active and pliable; sammujujāta: straight and upright; viratta: detached; ṭhita: steady; vītarāga, vītadosa, vītamoha: free from covetousness, malevolence, and confusion; avipallattha: free from perversion; visuddha: pure; sappabhāsa: resplendent; ajjhattaṃ vūpasanta: full of inward calm and serenity; upasanto: tranquil; samāhita: concentrated; pariyodāta: cleansed; anaṅgana: free from blemmishes; vigatupakkilesa: purged of adventitious defilements; mudubhūta: supple; ānejjappatta: unperturbed; mutta: freed; and patisissanṭṭha: utterly released[112].

7. Citta of Negative Traits

In this aspect, citta seems to be similar to the Freudian concept of "ego" which in Buddhist system should be tamed otherwise it can go astray and invite undesirable aftermath: failure in the attainment of emancipation. Whereas the Buddhist "I" whose function is to keep the advance of one's personality to be always upwards is similar to the Freudian "superego". And the dispute between "I" and citta have already been disposed in the previous section.

(a) Negative Predicates and Attributes of Citta

The following is an exposition of the modifications of citta by the verbs predicated to it. More than 30 verbs can be taken out from the Saṃyutta Nikāya among which the most characteristic verb of citta is cinteti: to think[113]. Other verbs can be listed as follows,

Adhimuccati: It is drawn to, feels attached to, is inclined towards and indulges in its object[114].

Ārādheti: It pleases, propitiates and convinces[115].

Matheti: It agitates, disturbs, crushes, harasses and upsets an individual[116].

Namati: It bends, directs and applies[117].

Nivāreti: It keeps back, holds back, restrains, refuses, obstructs, forbids and warns[118].

Paggaṇhāti: It stretches forth, holds out, takes up, exerts, strains and vigorously applies itself in relation to its objects[119].

Pahaññati: It strikes, kills, destroys, and beats down[120].

Pakkhandati, asīdati, santiṭṭhati: It springs forward, jumps on to, takes to and rejoices in its object[121].

Panidahati: It aspires, longs for, prays for and intends[122].

Pariḍayhati: It is burnt and gets scorched[123].

Passambhati: It calms down and quietens[124].

Rāgo cittaṃ anuddhaṃseti: Citta is overcome easily by the animal emotions and the untutored passions[125].

Sajjati, hayhati, bajjhati: It clings to, and gets bound up with its objects[126].

Tathattāya upaneti: It leads to the truth[127].

Upasaṃharati: It disposes, collects, brings together, heaps up, gathers, arranges, focuses and concentrates, in a variety of ways[128].

Vikampati: It shakes, unsettles, wavers and is in doubt[129].

Vyāsiñcati: It defiles, corrupts and tarnishes[130].

It is neither easy to classify the above-listed verbs into active or passive thoroughly; nor is it, into wholesome and unwholesome in terms of ethics. Anyhow, we can with little arbitrariness drive them into three groups: negative, positive, and situationally decidable groups. The verbs in the last group can be decided only in virtue of the situation where they occur.

Table 10



Situationally Decidable





Rāgo cittaṃ anuddhaṃseti

Sajjati, hayhati, bajjhati











Pakkhandati, asīdati, santiṭṭhati

It is noted that in the 'Kāmavacara-Bhūmi' (sensuous world: an Abhidhamma term) the negative aspect of citta features prominently. Bigger in number than the negative verbs predicated to citta as exposed above are the attributes of citta in the morally unwholesome state. Those attributes are listed as follows,

Ahata: beaten, afflicted

Avimutta: bound and fettered

Ātura: sick

Bhanta: swerving, swaying, staggering and deviating

Duppaṇihita: misdirected

Duppavattiya: difficult to direct on a steady course

Khitta: upset and unhinged

Līna, atilīna: clinging, sticking, slow, sluggish and dull

Lola: longing, eager, greedy and unsteady

Nikaṭṭha: debased, low

Pariyādinna: obsessed

Pariyuṭṭhita: wavering, wandering, straying, and  confused

Saṃkilesa: corrupt

Sāratta: impassioned

Uddhata: unbalanced disturbed, agitated, and shaken

Upakkiliṭṭha: stained, depraved and impure

Vyāpanna: malevolent

Vyāsitta: defiled, corrupt, and tarnished

(b) Āsavā

We have already referred to āsavā casually in the previous section. In the following pages we will treat them more minutely. In early Buddhism there is the conviction that on getting rid of all kinds of āsavā one attains arahantship. It gives the impression that the two coincide and somehow can be identified with each other. Āsavā is a central concept in the Nikāyas, figuring prominently in the chief portion of scriptures of early Buddhism. It is intimately linked with the concept of citta on verge of the latter's liberation. "When he knows and sees this, his mind is set free from āsavā of love, of becoming, of ignorance, and as he is freed he knows it: 'Birth is destroyed. The pure life has been fulfilled. What had to be done is done. There will be nothing more of this'"[131].

The āsavā are literally rendered as intoxicating secretion, discharge from a festering wound, hence psychologically 'mental intoxicant'. The four types of mental intoxication are given as kāma, bhava, diṭṭhi, and avijjā whose renderings are sensuality, lust of life, speculation, and ignorance respectively. 'Influx', 'bias', 'flood' are also used as its rendering. 'Flood stands for ogha in Pāli[132].

But all the renderings suggested above do not seem satisfactory because, in R. E. A. Johansson's opinion, āsava connotes both the temptations inherent in the perceptions and our yielding to them, both the ignorance leading to misinterpretation and speculation and the ego interests which procure identification with external things and unrealistic hopes for the future. He suggests the new rendering "inflation" though "influx" is also preferable. "Inflation" signifies any tendency for a mental content to attain exaggerated importance to the individual. It is mainly used as "ego-inflation" or "inflated ego-values", meaning an exaggerated egocentrism[133].

Accordingly, kāmāsavā or "inflation sensuality" would mean a tendency to react emotionally to things, to find pleasure in beauty and sense gratifications, developing an aesthetic attitude to life. Bhavāsava, the "inflation of growth and perpetuation", would signify a desire to live in and for the future, to dream about immortality and to plan for a better existence in this or a future life. Diṭṭhāsava, the "inflation of speculation", would be the tendency to avoid realities and escape to theoretical speculations and also taking pride in winning debates. The last but the chief avijjāsava would mean "inflation of unrealism", i.e. a tendency to see personal references in external things and to find an ego within oneself. As a result, things like jewels and adornments are seen as valuable, one feels proud of success and gains, one becomes sensitive to the judgments of others and feels flattered or abused[134].

The tendency to self-assertion seems to be the most basic idea expressed through the word āsavā. That is why āsavā are the chief force behind the ego illusion. As long as the personality is kept focussed by egoistic ambitions, there will be a unity that can be reborn: the āsavā are "ponobhavikā" (leading to rebirth)[135]. The Majjhima Nikāya reserves its entire second sutta the Sabbāsavasutta for dealing with the elimination of āsavā. The sutta consists in seven methods for getting rid of āsavās, they being treated one by one in detail in the following.

(1) Dasana: "vision" is explained as man's patence of selection in regard to which kind of objects one should concern with and which kind of objects one should not. The text runs: "... (he) does not comprehend the things which should be wisely attended to, does not comprehend the things which should not be wisely attended to. He, not comprehending the things that should be wisely attended to, not comprehending the things that should not be wisely attended to, wisely attends to those things which should not be wisely attended to, does not wisely attend to those things which should be wisely attended to"[136]. In research term, the variable here is not wise attention but is the recommendable kind of object which attention is to be made to.

The passage seems to suggest on the one hand that 'wisely attending' is not enough, if 'wisely attending' is applied to the undesirable things, āsavās still have good chance. On the other hand, 'Wisely attending' as standing for yoniso manasikāraṃ implies 'attention to the means, the Way'; the opposite ayoniso manasikāraṃ is meant for not attending to the means, or attending to (or, in) the wrong way, turning the mind against the truth so that you think permanence is in the impermanent, happiness in suffering, self in what is not-self, and the fair in the foul[137] and since a lack of yoniso manasikāraṃ one 'wisely attends to those things which should not be wisely attended to'. In fine, yoniso manasikāraṃ seems to have double meaning: On one hand, it is characteristically good in nature; on the other hand, as to the selection of which that should be attended it in effect is helpful and decisive. This double meaning is also suggested by the modern psychologist William James who argues in The Principle of Psychology that attending to an idea is identical with believing it, which, in turn, is identical with willing that it be realized[138].

In the line with his psychological reasoning R. E. A. Johansson suggests a deviatory reliable interpretation. By dasana it is meant proper attention and insight as well. If sense information is accepted with a realistic attitude, it is properly understood, and theoretical constructions are avoided. In this case a change of attitude and act of insight may be most important and that would explain why it is sometimes pointed out that freedom from āsavā is attained suddenly. The Saṃyutta Nikāya relates that "When this instruction was given, the venerable Rāhula's mind was freed from the inflations without grasping"[139].

As a means for expelling āsavā (2) saṃvara, "control" conveys the idea of goading the sense channels so as to keep the information free from undue reaction.

Things are used only for their strictly functional purpose and all ego-purposes are avoided. For instance, clothes are used only for protection, almsfood is collected merely for keeping the body alive, and so on. That is the idea expressed by (3) paṭ-isevana: "use".

(4) Adhivāsana: "endurance" give the instruction that all difficult or unpleasant circumstances should be faced and endured without self-pity or other ego-involved reactions. For instance, due reactions should be applied to cold, heat, hunger, thirst, the touch of gadfly, mosquito, wind and sun, creeping things, ways of speech that are irksome and unwelcome. All those things may create feelings that are painful, acute, sharp, shooting, disagreeable, miserable, and deadly. By the way it is noted that a person under twenty years of age is not considered able to endure these hardships, and is therefore not to be ordained at such an early age[140].

(5) Parivajjana: "avoidance" is explained that dangerous objects or situations are to be avoided. Specified are fierce elephant, horse, bull, dog, snake; the stump of a tree, a thorny brake, a deep hole, a mountain slope, a refuse pool, a rubbish pit; unallowable seat, resort; those who are depraved friends so as to avoid being suspected of depraved qualities. (6) Vinodana: "elimination" determines that sensual, malevolent and aggressive thoughts must be expelled from the mind. (7) Bhāvanā: "application" here means the method that is explained as the seven "limbs of enlightenment". Mainly bhāvanā is used about meditation. By means of sati, "mindfulness", the sense-channels are continuously watched and no unrealistic reactions are admitted: "Having destroyed all building activity I live so mindful that the inflations flow no more into me"[141]. The arahant who has destroyed the inflations is called puggala appameyya[142], "an immeasurable person", which perhaps means that he is not self-centred or confined to his own narrow interests but has expelled all unrealistic superstructures and has become open and impersonal[143].

(c) Noxious Trio: Rāga, Dosa, and Moha

As fundamental blemishes of character, rāga, dosa, and moha are rendered as passion or lust, ill-will, and infatuation respectively. Their other variant renderings are uncontrolled excitement, anger, and bewilderment, respectively. These three appear in manifold combination with similar terms, all giving various shades of the "craving for existence" or "lust of life", or all that which is an obstacle to nibbāna. It should be noted that the set rāga, dosa, and moha is not strictly fixed in terms of number and of member as well. There are several variant versions: rāga, dosa, moha, and kilesa; rāga, dosa, moha, and kodha. Quite often is the version: rāga, dosa, moha, and māna; one more member diṭṭhi is sometimes added[144]. Dosa and moha in general are complementary to rāga. The combination of them forms the cardinal effects of citta, making a man unable to grasp the higher truths and to enter the Path[145].

In general, these three words are used almost exclusively to denote reprehensible motives, but they can also be found in more positive contexts. There is description of a monk who has reached a certain level of development and can attain first jhāna but can not realize the destruction of the influxes; "but by his desire for the doctrine, by his delight in the doctrine, he bursts the five fetters binding him to this world and is reborn in a spiritual world"[146]. Desire for the doctrine will, therefore, lead to a good result. In another context, chanda, dosa, moha, and bhaya (=ambition, hatred, illusion, and fear, respectively) are enumerated as motives for giving gifts to monks[147]. This observation that bad motives sometimes can be used for good purposes betrays an interesting insight into the intricacies of human motivation[148].

Other synonyms of rāga are kāma and taṇhā. In its objective aspect, kāma means pleasantness, pleasure-giving, and an object of sensual enjoyment. Subjectively, kāma denotes enjoyment, pleasure on occasion of sense; sense-desire. So kāma covers the sense-desire, enjoyment, and the objects of the same. In all enumerations of obstacles to perfection, or general definitions of mental conditions, kāma occupies the leading position. It is the first of the five nīvaraṇāni (obstacles), the three esanās (desires, or longings, or wishes), the four upādānas (attachments), the four oghas (floods of worldly turbulence), the four āsavās. In the last four, kāma is used in replacement of rāga.

Moreover, kāma also takes the leading position of the three taṇhās, the four yogas (yoke, connection, and bond). And kāma stands first on the list of the six factors of existence. Kāma is most frequently connected with rāga (passion), with chanda (impulse), and gedha (greed), all expressing the active, clinging, and impulsive character of desire. The following is the list of synonyms given at various places throughout the Buddhist scriptures for kāma-cchanda: chanda (impulse), rāga (excitement), nandī (enjoyment), taṇhā (thirst), sineha (love), pipāsā (thirst), pariḷāha (consuming passion), gedha (greed), mucchā (swoon, or confused state of mind), ajjhosāna (hanging on, or attachment).

Kāma is essentially an evil, but to the popular view it is one of the indispensable attributes of bliss and happiness to be enjoyed as a reward of virtue in this world as well as in the next, i. e. the other world. And the other-world pleasures are greater than the earthly ones[149]; but to the Wise even these are unsatisfactory, since they still are signs of, and lead to, rebirth. Kāma is characterized by evanescence, transience[150], and apāsādā (no real taste).

Kāmas do not give permanent satisfaction; the happiness that they yield is only a deception, or a dream, from which the dreamer awakens sorrowful and regretful. Therefore the Buddha says "Even though the pleasure is great, the regret is greater" and he repeatedly pronounces in terms of simile that the kāmas are likened to (1) aṭṭhi-kankhala: a chain of bones; (2) maṃsapesi: a piece of (decaying) flesh; (3) tiṇukkā: a torch of grass; (4) angāra-kāsu: a pit of glowing cinder; (5) supina: a dream; (6) yācita: beggings; (7) rukkha-phala: the fruit of a tree; (8) asisūna: a slaughter-house; (9) satti-sūla: a sharp stake; (10) sappa-sira: a snake's head, i.e. the bite of a snake[151]. Though kāma is rarely used in positive contexts we still find some, for example, "A man loving the good, loving the beneficial, loving security from bonds, this is a synonym for a Tathāgata"[152].

Among the negative motives, kāma is one of those most frequently mentioned and also one of the most categorically condemned. The term occurs alone but also combined with upādāna and āsavā. There is also kāmataṇhā[153] and kāmacchanda[154]. It is difficult to find a translation of kāma that can be used in all contexts. Its central meaning offered by R. E. A. Johansson is the description: an extroverted feeling and attachment, dependence on external things, a pleasure attitude, sensuality, a passion for life. It is only an emotion but also a strong motive, for pleasure-seeking activities, for building a pleasure-loving personality, for creating a kāma-world and prolonging, renewing existence in this world of sensuality[155].

To describe kāma it is tempting to use the psychoanalytical phrases, "the pleasure principle" and "libido investment" so as to cover its central meaning. Both can be used to mean the sexuality in its narrow sense as well as the enjoyment of the five senses in general. The libido as explained in modern psychology resembles the Buddhist concept of kāma-tanha: craving for the sense-gratification. Craving for sense-gratification is a manifestation of greed; and greed is a basic root of unwholesome motivation. This Buddhist term "root" is conceived in psychology as motive, force, drive, instinct, inclination, etc. But "root" is a more appropriate term, for while it suggests the cause of unwholesome (as well as wholesome) motivation, it also implies the possibility of rooting out completely those forces without leaving even that "bit of unconquerable nature in each of us" at which Freudian psychology as well as modern psychology stop[156].

The last term noticeable under this heading should be taṇhā. It literally means drought, thirst; figuratively, craving, hunger for, excitement, the fever of unsatisfied longing. All this is opposed to peace of citta. Taṇhā is one of the most frequently mentioned motives leading to undesirable results. It is, however, rarely said to motivate action, rather a sentiment of interest and dependence. "There are these six groups of craving: craving for forms, for sounds, for odours, for tastes, for contacts, for ideas"[157]; these are cravings for experiences and possessions.

There are three series of three types: kāma, bhava, vibhava (=craving for love, for growth, and for annihilation, respectively); kāma, rūpa, arūpa (=craving for love, for form, and for the formless, respectively); rūpa, arūpa, nirodha (=craving for form, for the formless, and for cessation, respectively)[158]. They probably refer to different types of existence now and in the future: Kāma is the world of sensuality, in which we are living now. Rūpa and arūpa are the form-world and the formless world in which a future rebirth is possible. Most interesting is nirodha, which refers to the cessation of everything that is negative, i.e. it is a word for nibbāna; this shows that even taṇhā can be a desirable motive. But usually "craving is the seamstress, for it sews a man just to this ever-becoming birth"[159].

(d) Cetokhila and Cetaso Vinibandhā

In Indian literature the term khila denoted "a piece of wasted and uncultivated land situated between cultivated fields," or a stretch of "desert" or "bare soil". This implies that khila was a gap or space not productively filled up. Buddhism has taken the term in its figurative sense of 'barrenness' and hence the meaning for cetokhila as 'barrenness of mind', implying an uncultivated gap, so to say, between one's mental and moral achievements reached up to a point, on the one hand, and the final goal in one's upward way to perfection, on the other. As one who has overcome or was never subject to this condition, the Buddha for instance describes himself as vigatakhila.

As factors causing mental barrenness khilas are placed in two categories of five and three; the two mutually differing both in concept and magnitude. Firstly, khila may be said to result through a lack of the pre-requisite for the cultivation of the citta in the Buddhist sense. This would promote the germination of good states of citta. This is the inclination of or desire of the bhikkhu for striving as expressed by the terms ātappa (ardour), anuyoga (application), sātacca (perseverance) and padhāna (exertion) which it is implied, stems directly from the absence of doubt and the presence of faith, trust and reassurance one has in the teacher, the doctrine, the community, the training and good-will and friendliness towards one's fellows in a higher life[160]. Therefore, the absence of such inclination (cittaṃ na namati) for striving resulting from doubt and lack of faith, trust and reassurance in the first four and through anger, dissatisfaction, unfriendliness and callosity towards the fifth is itself an obstruction to mental progress[161].

The three factors causing mental barrenness are identical with the three fundamental blemishes of character, which we have already discussed above, viz., rāga, dosa and moha. The eradication of which constitutes emancipation. As technical terms of Buddhist philosophy and ethics these three often appear in combination with other terms too, when dealing with the obstacles to the attainment of nibbāna. However, their classification as 'the three khilas' is referred to only once in the Nikāyas, viz. the Saṃyutta Nikāya. In this Nikāya, it is said that in order to recognize them, to understand them, to destroy them and to completely give them up the Noble Eightfold Path has to be followed[162].

The five cetokhilas are usually followed up by the five cetaso vinibandhā: (1) attachment to sense pleasures, (2) attachment to one's body, (3) attachment to beauty of form, (4) addiction to sleep after heavy meals, and (5) leading the higher life with a view to rebirth among the gods. The five are usually enumerated immediately after the five cetokhilas[163]. It is maintained that the five cetokhilas and the five cetaso vinibandhā are states of citta leading to one's downfall[164], and the bhikkhu or bhikkhuṇī who has not overcome them should day and night expect a decline and not progress in everything good[165]. Such a person cannot expect a growth, furtherance and a full development in the Buddhist religious life[166].

8. The Taming of Citta

By virtue of pursuing the religious life ardently, a monk has power over his citta; he is not the slave of his citta[167]. The method of getting one's citta under control is samādhi[168] though Citta is difficult to guard, difficult to hold back[169]. It is difficult but important task to train citta, because when citta is unguarded, bodily action is also unguarded, speech and mental action are also unguarded[170]. As regard to one's emancipation it is therefore necessary to distinguish between the untrained and the trained citta. The "natural" citta is the center of all undesirable qualities such as greed, hatred, and illusion[171].

 Let us come back to the notion of Freudian ego that in several aspects corresponds to Buddhist citta. In Freud's framework citta as ego is necessary to be tamed by the super-ego. Freud built up a new conception of the structure of personality: the id, ego, and superego. The id is the unconscious reservoir of drives and impulses derived from the genetic background and concerned with the preservation and propagation of life. The ego, according to Freud, operates in conscious and preconscious levels of awareness. It is the portion of the personality concerned with the tasks of reality: perception, cognition, and executive actions. In the superego lie the individual's environmentally derived ideals and values and the mores of his family and society; the superego serves as a censor on the ego functions. Just as we ordinarily identify ourselves with the ego, so citta is the "natural self" in a functional sense. But there, according to Freud, is a superego, that is sometimes critical of citta, as discussed in the previous section, and may want to subjugate it and change it by means of the Buddhist training[172].

Freudian system seems to be structural in language whereas early Buddhism pushes all the things into flow or process. And, there are good reasons to talk about citta as process or function. The compound for it is cittasaṅkhāra[173], which in sutta 9 of the Majjhima Nikāyas, is presented under "process of body, process of speech, process of mind"[174]. The whole sutta is an answer to the question about how to achieve saddhamma (the true dhamma)[175]. The context of the saṅkhāras shows that taking them as facts is due to not knowing and that the opposite possibility is sammādiṭṭhī (right view), as a part of the saddhamma[176].

These three processes are bound to have been ceased and calmed in a person who has achieved cetovimutti (release of the mind)[177]. This is known by one who has a developed citta, and he also realizes that citta-processes include activities of perception and feeling. These are dhammā-cittapatibaddha (dhamma depending upon mind)[178]. So too processes of citta can be experienced and calmed down as part of a whole training toward the goal of making citta, while still studied, into vimoceti (a released mind)[179].

The Sāmaññaphala Sutta of the Dīgha Nikāya describes eight stages of prescribed mental studies, in which the disciple, having carefully prepared himself by much cathartic elimination in mood and thought, "much brings out and much bends down the citta"[180] to these stages. He first considers his body, its origin and composition, and how "for me the viññāṇa (surviving-mind) is here nestled and bound just as a beauty cat's-eye of pure water (looks when) strung upon a coloured thread". We have here the viññāṇa viewed as somehow 'in' or dependent on the bodily life, and as influenced by it, as the translucent gem would be, optically, by the colour of the thread. Hence the taming of viññāṇa or citta have much to do with that of the body, both somehow being inseparable.

Citta subjugated and developed properly in Buddhist training is quite potential, the Nikāya texts say, "a recluse or a brahmin with magic power who has his mind well controlled... may, by intense concentration on the image of the widest expanse of water, make this earth move and tremble"[181]. And, free ideas are a function of citta that is said to be provided with ideas of impermanence, not-self, danger, disinterestedness and so on[182].

Besides being mastermind of the mental processes, Citta in the process of one's emancipation seems to be instrumental so it should be improved, sharpened or cleaned in order to become more effective. The ambition and desire in the eye (and other senses) is a defilement of citta. When these impurities are got rid of and citta is fortified with renunciation, then it appears to be pliable for penetrating those things that are to be realized[183]. The trained citta will attain paññā, and freedom from the āsāva (influx)[184].

That the Majjhima Nikāya reserves the entire second sutta dealing with āsāva suggests their importance in hindering the progress of one's emancipation. Āsāva literally means that which flow (out or onto), outflow and influx. In Buddhist psychology, it is a technical term for certain specified ideas that intoxicate the mind. Freedom from "āsavā" constitutes Arahantship, and the fight for the extinction of these āsavā forms one of the main duties of man[185]. The four types of mental intoxication are given as kāma: sensuality; bhava: lust of life; diṭṭhi: speculation; and avijjā: ignorance[186].

The Saṃyutta Nikāya says, "Suppose I were to collect body, sensation, ideation, activities, consciousness. Conditioned by that collection, there would be growth..."[187]. The passage indicates that a collecting or building activity goes on during the present life. On the contrary, the disciple of the noble one who "reduces and does not heaps up; who abandons and does not collect; who scatters and does not bind together; who quenches and does not kindle; and what does he reduce and does not heap it up? He reduces body (sensation, etc.) and does not heap it up". And further: "he is called a monk, further down qualified as vimutticitta: with a free mind"[188].

So vimutticitta here can be described as the citta freed from the heaping, collecting, binding, kindling, of the five factors. This gives the impression that the five factors, i. e. the whole personality should be retrograded; and to achieve vimutticitta is to complete the retrogradation. On the other hand, retrogradation of personality's five factors deliberately caused by oneself seems to be a type of suicide because in Buddhist system it is confirmed that one's whole personality consists in the five factors per se, and nothing else.

In regard to the speculative issue, R. E. A. Johansson offers a suggestion that after attaining nibbāna, the arahant still has his conscious life, which is the same as saying that he still has citta. But his citta is very much transformed, characterized by stability, reduction in the paṭiccasamuppāda series have ceased. Only activities and thoughts that do not produce kammic effects remain. All expansiveness and external engagement has disappeared. But citta has not lost its individual character, although stability and 'emptiness' prevail[189].


[1] S. ii: 94.

[2] S. iii: 87.

[3] C. A. F. Rhys Davids, BP.: 51-2.

[4] S. i: 135.

[5] D. J. Kalupahana, HBP: 74-5.

[6] PED: 149.

[7] S. iii: 89.

[8] M. iii: 287.

[9] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 69-70.

[10] S. iv:  400.

[11] M. iii: 16.

[12] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 66-67.

[13] Cpd.: 183.

[14] Abridged from PED: 105a.

[15] M. i: 256f.

[16] EBC. 1: 775b

[17] S. ii: 275.

[18] M. i: 433.

[19] S. ii: 275.

[20] Ibid.: 65.

[21] S. ii: 3f.

[22] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 31.

[23] PED: 350.

[24] Ibid.: 574.

[25] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 157.

[26] D. ii: 299.

[27] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 158.

[28] S. v: 184.

[29] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 158.

[30] D. ii: 62-3.

[31] M. i: 191.

[32] S. iii: 59f.

[33] Ibid.: 59.

[34] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 127.

[35] M. i: 191.

[36] Ibid. i: 257f.

[37] Ibid. i: 487.

[38] Ibid. i: 256-257.

[39] Ibid. i: 112.

[40] A. i: 5.

[41] C. A. F. Rhys Davids, BIPDB: 187-188.

[42] EBC. 4: 169.

[43] Ibid.: 378.

[44] A. i: 9.

[45] Ibid. iii: 437.

[46] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 160-161.

[47] A. ii: 177 and S. i: 39.

[48] R. E. A. Johansson, Op.cit.: 159.

[49] EBC. 4: 172.

[50] Ibid.: 170.

[51] S. iv: 293.

[52] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 160.

[53] M. i: 511.

[54] R. E. A. Johansson, Op. Cit.: 159.

[55] EBC. 4: 179.

[56] PEB: 373, v. 1107.

[57] Ibid. 1114-1115.

[58] Ibid. 1116.

[59] Ibid. 1117.

[60] Ibid. 1119.

[61] Ibid. 1121.

[62] Ibid. 1122.

[63] Ibid. 1123-1124.

[64] Ibid. 1126-1128.

[65] Ibid. 1129.

[66] Ibid. 1129.

[67] Ibid. 1130.

[68] Ibid. 1131.

[69] Ibid. 1140-1141.

[70] Ibid. 1143.

[71] Ibid. 1144.

[72] M. iii: 287.

[73] Jan T. Ergartd and other hands, BWP: 39-40.

[74] M. i: 23, 117, 249; M. ii: 93, 212; M. iii: 36

[75] Jan T. Ergartd, Op. Cit: 50-1.

[76] D. i: 156, iii: 78; S. i: 120; A. i: 123.

[77] M. iii: 20, 280.

[78] D. i: 156.

[79] M. i: 140.

[80] EBC. 4: 110.

[81] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 213-5.

[82] S. iv: 295.

[83] D. J. Kalupahana, HBP: 48.

[84] M. iii: 25.

[85] A. i: 9.

[86] S. iii: 151.

[87] Ibid.: 70.

[88] A. v: 86f.

[89] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 101.

[90] EBC. 4: 170.

[91] D. ii: 108.

[92] Ibid.: 14.

[93] PED: 424.

[94] D. ii: 220.

[95] Ibid. iii: 27.

[96] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 36.

[97] DB. iii. 79.

[98] EBC. 4: 173.

[99] M. i: 398-400.

[100] D. i: 71.

[101] Ibid.: 76.

[102] Ibid.: 247.

[103] A. i: 7.

[104] Ibid.: 9.

[105] M. i: 18.

[106] Ibid. ii: 27.

[107] D. iii: 239.

[108] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 163.

[109] D. ii: 81.

[110] A. iv: 423.

[111] S. iii: 45.

[112] EBC. 4: 173.

[113] S. i: 57.

[114] Ibid. v: 409-410.

[115] Ibid. ii: 107.

[116] Ibid. iv: 210.

[117] Ibid. i: 137.

[118] Ibid.: 7.

[119] Ibid. v: 9.

[120] Ibid. iv: 73.

[121] Ibid. i: 98.

[122] Ibid.: 133.

[123] Ibid.: 188.

[124] Ibid. v: 33.

[125] Ibid. i: 186.

[126] Ibid. ii: 198.

[127] Ibid. iv: 294.

[128] Ibid. v: 213-216.

[129] Ibid. iv: 71.

[130] Ibid.: 178.

[131] D. i: 84.

[132] EBC. 4: 154-155.

[133] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 181-182.

[134] Ibid.: 182.

[135] M. i: 250.

[136] MS. i: 10.

[137] Ibid.: 9f.

[138] PPR. Vol. LIX, No. 1, March 1999: 71.

[139] S. iv: 107.

[140] MS. i: 14f.

[141] S. ii: 54.

[142] A. i: 266.

[143] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 183.

[144] PTSD: 567.

[145] Ibid.: 543.

[146] A. v: 343.

[147] Ibid. iv: 236.

[148] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 105.

[149] S. v: 409.

[150] A. ii: 177.

[151] M. i: 130; A. iii: 197.

[152] Ibid.: 118.

[153] A. iii: 445.

[154] M. ii: 203.

[155] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 106.

[156] EBC. 4: 378-379.

[157] S. ii: 3.

[158] D. iii: 215.

[159] A. iii: 402.

[160] D. iii: 237f; M. i: 101f; A. iii: 248f.

[161] M. i: 101f.

[162] EBC. 4: 108.

[163] D. iii: 238; M. i: 103; A. iii: 249; iv: 461, 463 sq.

[164] D. ii: 278.

[165] A. v: 17.

[166] M. i: 101.

[167] Ibid.: 214.

[168] A. iv: 34.

[169] Dh. v. 33.

[170] A. i: 261.

[171] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 159.

[172] Ibid.: 160.

[173] See for examples M. Suttas ns. 9, 43, 44, 57, 118.

[174] M. i: 54.

[175] Ibid.: 46ff.

[176] Ibid.: 54.

[177] Ibid.: 296.

[178] Ibid.: 301f.

[179] Ibid. iii: 83f.

[180] D. i: 76f.

[181] Ibid. ii: 108.

[182] A. v: 107.

[183] S. iii: 232.

[184] D. ii: 81.

[185] PED: 114-115.

[186] EBC. 4: 154-155.

[187] S. iv: 94.

[188] Ibid. iii: 89, 90.

[189] R. E. A. Johansson, DPEB: 163-4.


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