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Abhidhamma in daily life
Nina Van Gorkom

Chapter 5



Lobha, attachment, leads to sorrow. When we really understand this, we would like to eradicate lobha. The eradication of lobha, however, cannot be done at once. We may be able to suppress lobha for a while, but it will appear again when there are the right conditions for its arising. Even though we know that lobha brings sorrow, it is bound to arise time and again. However, there is a way to eradicate it: it can be eradicated by the wisdom which sees things as they are.

When we study cittas more in detail it will help us to know ourselves. We should know not only the coarse lobha but also the degrees of lobha which are more subtle. The following sutta gives an example of lobha which is more subtle. We read in the 'Kindred Sayings' (I, Sagatha-vagga IX, Forest Suttas,par.14):

A certain monk was once staying among the Kosalese in a certain forest-tract. Now while there that monk, after he had returned from his alms-round and had broken his fast, plunged into the lotus-pool and sniffed up the perfume of a red lotus. Then the deva who haunted that forest-tract, moved with compassion for that monk, desiring his welfare, and wishing to agitate
him, drew near and addressed him in the verse:

'That blossom, water-born, thing not given,
You stand sniffing up the scent of it.
This is one class of things that may be stolen.
And you a smell-thief must I call, dear sir.'

The Monk :
'Nay, nought I bear away, I nothing break.
Standing apart I smell the water's child.
Now for what reason am I smell-thief called?
One who does dig up water-lilies, one
Who feeds on lotuses, in motley tasks
Engaged: Why have you no such name for him?'

The Deva :
'A man of ruthless, wicked character,
Foul-flecked as is a handmaid's dirty cloth:
With such the words I say have no concern.
But this it is meet that I should say (to you):
To him whose character is void of vice,
Who ever makes quest for what is pure:
What to the wicked but a hair-tip seems,
To him does great as a rain-cloud appear....'

We should also know the more subtle lobha which arises when we enjoy a fragrant smell or beautiful music. It seems that there are no akusala cittas when we do not harm others, but also the more subtle lobha is akusala; it is different from generosity which is kusala. We cannot force ourselves not to have lobha, but we can get to know the characteristic of lobha when it appears.

Not only the suttas, but the Vinaya (Book of Discipline for the monks) also gives examples of lobha which is more subtle. Each part of the teachings, the Vinaya, the Suttanta and the Abhidhamma can help us to know ourselves better. When we read the Vinaya we see that even the monks who lead a life of contentment with little, still have accumulated conditions for lobha. Every time there was a case where monks deviated from their purity of life, a rule was laid down in order to help them to be more watchful. Thus we can understand the usefulness of the rules, which go into even the smallest details of the monk's behaviour. The rules help the monk to be watchful even when performing the most common actions of daily life such as eating, drinking, robing himself and walking. There are rules which forbid seemingly innocent actions like playing in the water or with water (Pacittiya 53), or teasing other monks. Such actions are not done with kusala cittas, but with akusala cittas.

We read in the Vinaya ('Suttavibhanga', Pacittiya 85) that the monks should not enter a village at the wrong time. The reason is that they would indulge more easily in worldly talk. We read:

Now at that time the group of six monks, having entered a village at the wrong time, having sat down in a hall, talked a variety of worldly talk, that is to say: talk of kings, of thieves, of great ministers, of armies, of fears, of battles, of food, of drink, of clothes, of beds, of garlands, of scents, of relations, of vehicles, of villages, of little towns, of towns, of the country, of women, of strong drink, of streets, of wells, of those departed before, of diversity, of speculation about the
world, about the sea, on becoming and not becoming thus and thus....

This passage is useful for laypeople as well. We cannot help talking about worldly matters, but we should know that our talking, even if it seems innocent, often is motivated by lobha-mula-cittas or by dosa-mula-cittas (cittas rooted in aversion). In order to know ourselves we should find out by what kind of citta our talking is motivated.

Every time a lobha-mula-citta arises lobha is accumulated. When the conditions are there, lobha can motivate ill deeds through body, speech or mind. When we see to what kind of deeds lobha can lead we shall feel a stronger urge to eradicate it.

Ill deeds are called in Pali: akusala kamma. Kamma is the cetasika (mental factor arising with the citta) which is 'intention' or 'volition';, in Pali: cetana. However, the word 'kamma' is also used in a more general sense for the deeds which are intended by cetana. The term 'kamma-patha' (literally 'course of action') is used as well in this sense. There are akusala kamma-pathas and kusala kamma-pathas, ill deeds and good deeds, accomplished through body, speech and mind. As regards akusala kamma-patha, there are ten akusala kamma-pathas and these are conditioned by lobha, dosa and moha. Moha, ignorance, accompanies every akusala citta, it is the root of all evil. Thus, whenever there is akusala kamma-patha, there must be moha. Some akusala kamma-pathas can sometimes be performed with lobha-mula-citta and sometimes with dosa-mula-citta. Therefore, when we see someone else committing an ill deed we cannot always be sure which kind of citta motivates that deed.

The ten akusala kamma-pathas are the following:

1. Killing
2. Stealing
3. Sexual misbehaviour
4. Lying
5. Slandering
6. Rude speech
7. Frivolous talk
8. Covetousness
9. Ill-will
10. Wrong view (ditthi)

Killing, stealing and sexual misbehaviour are three akusala kamma-pathas accomplished through the body. Lying, slandering, rude speech and frivolous talk are four akusala kamma-pathas accomplished through speech. Covetousness, ill-will and wrong view are three akusala kamma-pathas accomplished through the mind. As regards akusala kamma-patha through the body, killing is done with dosa-mula-citta. Stealing can sometimes be performed with lobha-mula-citta and sometimes with dosa-mula-citta. It is done with lobha-mula-citta if one wishes to take what belongs to someone else in order to enjoy it oneself. It is done with dosa-mula-citta if one wishes someone else to suffer damage. Sexual misbehaviour is Performed with lobha-mula-citta.

Of the akusala kamma-pathas through speech, lying, slandering and frivolous talk are performed with lobha-mula-citta if one wishes to obtain something for oneself, or if one wishes to endear oneself to other people. As regards lying, we may thing that there is no harm in a so-called 'white lie' or a lie said for fun. However, all kinds of lies are motivated by akusala cittas. We read in the 'Discourse on an exhortation to Rahula at Ambalatthika'; (Middle Length Sayings II, no. 61, Bhikkhu-vagga) that the Buddha spoke to his son Rahula about lying. The Buddha said:

Even so, Rahula, of anyone for whom there is no shame at intentional lying, of him I say that there is no evil he cannot do. Wherefore, for you, Rahula, 'I will not speak a lie, even for fun' - - this is how you must train yourself, Rahula.

Lying can also be done with dosa-mula-citta and this is the case when one wants to harm someone else.

As regards slandering, we all are inclined to talk about other. When there is no intention to harm the reputation of others, there is no akusala kamma-patha. However, when talking about others becomes a habit, there can easily be an occasion for akusala kamma-patha. This kind of akusala kamma-patha is performed with lobha-mula-citta if one slanders in order to obtain something for oneself or to please others. It is performed with dosa-mula-citta if one wants to harm someone else. We will be less inclined to talk about others or to judge them when we see ourselves and others as phenomena which arise because of conditions and which do not stay. At the moment we talk about other people's actions, these phenomena have fallen away already; What they said or did exists no more.

Rude speech is performed with dosa-mula-citta.

Frivolous talk is talk about idle, senseless things. This kind of talk can be performed with lobha-mula-citta or by dosa-mula-citta. Frivolous talk is not always akusala kamma patha. It can be done with by akusala citta which does not have the intensity of akusala kamma-patha.

As regards akusala kamma-patha through the mind, ill-will, the intention to hurt or harm someone else is performed with dosa-mula-citta and covetousness and wrong view are performed with lobha-mula-citta. There is akusala kamma-patha which is covetousness when one intends to obtain what belongs to someone else by dishonest means. As regards ditthi (wrong view), there are many kinds of ditthi; however, three kinds of ditthi are akusala kamma-patha through the mind. One of them is ahetuka-ditthi, the belief that there is no cause for the existence of beings and no cause for their purity or corruption.

Another wrong view which is akusala kamma-patha through the mind is akiriya-ditthi, the belief that there are no good and bad deeds which produce their results.

The third wrong view which is akusala kamma-patha through the mind is natthika-ditthi or nihilism. Natthika-ditthi is the belief that there is no result of kamma and that there is no further life after death.

All degrees of lobha, be it coarse or more subtle, bring sorrow. We are like slaves as long as we are absorbed in and infatuated by the objects which present themselves through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body-sense and mind. We are not free if our happiness depends on the situation we are in, and the way others behave towards us. One moment people may be kind to us, but the next moment they may be unpleasant. If we attach too much importance to the affection of other, we shall be easily disturbed in mind, and thus become slaves of our moods and emotions.

We can become more independent and free if we realize that both we ourselves and other people are only nama and rupa, phenomena arising because of conditions and falling away again. When others say unpleasant things to us there are conditions which cause them to speak in that way, and there are conditions which cause us to hear such words. Other people's behaviour and our reactions to it are conditioned phenonomena which do not stay. At the moment we are thinking about these phenomena, they have already fallen away. The development of insight is the way to become less dependent on the vicissitudes of life. When there is mindfulness of the present moment, we attach less importance to the way people behave towards us.

Since lobha is rooted so deeply, it can only be eradicated in different stages. Ditthi has to be eradicated first and then the other kinds of attachment can be eradicated. The sotapanna (the person who has realized the first stage of enlightenment) has eradicated ditthi; he has developed the wisdom which realizes that all phenomena are nama and rupa, not self. Since he has eradicated ditthi, the lobha-mula-cittas with ditthi do not arise any more. As we have seen, four types of lobha-mula-citta arise with ditthi (they are ditthigata-sampayutta) and four types arise without ditthi (they are ditthigata-vippayutta). As for the sotapanna, the four types of lobha-mula-citta without ditthi still arise; he has not yet eradicated all kinds of attachment. The sotapanna still has conceit. Conceit can arise with the four types of lobha-mula-citta which are without ditthi (ditthigata-vippayutta). There may be conceit when one compares oneself with others, when one, for example, thinks that one has more wisdom than others. When we consider ourselves better, equal or less in comparison with others we may find ourselves important and then there is conceit. When we think ourselves less than someone else it is not necessarily kusala; there may still be a kind of upholding of ourselves and then there is conceit. Conceit is rooted so deeply that it is eradicated only when one has become an arahat.

The person who has realized the second stage of enlightenment, the sakadagami (once-returner), has less lobha than the sotapanna. The person who realized the third stage of enlightenment, the anagami (never-returner), has no more clinging to the objects which present themselves through the five senses, but he still has conceit and he clings to rebirth. The arahat has eradicated lobha completely.

The arahat is completely free since he has eradicated all defilements. We read in the 'Kindred Sayings' (IV, Salayatanavagga, Kindred Sayings on Sense, Third Fifty, Ch. IV, par. 136, Not including), that the Buddha said to the monks, while he was staying among the Sakkas at Devadaha:

Devas and mankind, monks, delight in objects, they are excited by objects. It is owing to the instability, the coming to an end, the ceasing of objects, monks, that devas and mankind live woefully. They delight in sounds, scents, savours, in touch, they delight in mindstates and are excited by them. It is owing to the instability, the coming to an end, the ceasing of mindstates, monks, that devas and mankind live woefully.

But the Tathagata, monks, who is Arahat, a fully-enlightened one, seeing as they really are, both the arising and the destruction, the satisfaction, the misery and the way of escape from objects, - - he delights not in objects, takes not pleasure in them, is not excited by them. It is owing to the instability, the coming to an end, the ceasing of objects that the Tathagata dwells at ease.. .



1. When the objective is not dana (generosity), sila (morality) or bhavana (mental development), can talking be done with kusala citta?
2. Which cetasika is kamma?
3. Which are the ten akusala kamma-pathos?
4. Are all kinds of ditthi akusala kamma-patha?
5. Why does attachment always lead to sorrow?
6. Who has eradicated all kinds of lobha?


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