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Abhidhamma in daily life
Nina Van Gorkom
THE CHARACTERISTIC OF DOSA
When we are angry with other people we harm ourselves by our anger. The Buddha pointed out the adverse effects of anger (dosa). We read in the 'Gradual Sayings' (Book of the Sevens, Ch.VI, par. 10, Anger) about the ills a rival wishes his rival to have and which are actually the ills coming upon an angry woman or man. The sutta states:
We then read about other ills a rival wishes for his
rival, which come upon an angry woman or man. We read that a rival wishes his rival to be
without prosperity, wealth and
The text states:
A rival wishes his rival to have an unhappy rebirth and this can happen to an angry person. We read:
We would like to live in a world of harmony and unity among nations and we are disturbed when people commit acts of violence. We should consider what is the real cause of war and discord between people: it is the defilements which people have accumulated. When we have aversion we think that other people or unpleasant situations are the cause of our aversion. However, our accumulation of dosa is the real cause that aversion arises time and again. If we want to have less dosa we should know the characteristic of dosa and we should be aware of it when it arises.
Dosa has many degrees; it can be a slight aversion or it
can be more coarse, such as anger. We can recognize dosa when it is coarse, but do we
realize that we have dosa when it is more subtle? Through the study of the Abhidhamma we
learn more about the characteristic of dosa. Dosa is an akusala cetasika (mental factor)
arising with an akusala citta. A citta rooted in dosa is called in Pali: dosa-mula.citta.
The characteristic of dosa is different from the characteristic of lobha. When there is
lobha, the citta likes the object which it experiences at that moment, whereas when there
is dosa, the citta has aversion towards the object it experiences. We can recognize dosa
when we are angry with
someone and when we speak disagreeable words to him. But when
we are afraid of something it is dosa as well, because one has aversion towards the object
one is afraid of. There are so many things in life we are afraid of: one is afraid of the
future, of diseases, of accidents, of death. One looks for many means in order to be cured
of anguish, but the only way is the development of the wisdom which eradicates the latent
Dosa is conditioned by lobha: we do not want to lose what is dear to us and when this actually happens we are sad. Sadness is dosa, it is akusala. If we do not know things as they are, we believe that people and things last. However, people and things are only phenomena which arise and fall away immediately. The next moment they have changed already. If we can see things as they are we will be less overwhelmed by sadness. It makes no sense to be sad about what has happened already.
In the 'Psalms of the Sisters' (Therigatha, 33) we read that the king's wife Ubbiri mourned the loss of her daughter Jiva. Every day she went to the cemetery. She met the Buddha who told her that in that cemetery about eighty-four thousand of her daughters (in past lives) had been burnt.
The Buddha said to her:
After Ubbiri pondered over the Dhamma thus taught by the Buddha she developed insight and saw things as they really are; she even attained arahatship.
There are other akusala cetasikas which can arise with cittas rooted in dosa. Regret or worry, in Pali: kukkucca, is an akusala cetasika which arises with dosa-mula-citta at the moment we regret something bad we did or something good we did not do. When there is regret we are thinking of the past instead of knowing the present moment. When we have done something wrong it is of no use having aversion.
Envy (issa) is another cetasika which can arise with
dosa-mula-citta. There is envy when we do not like someone else to enjoy pleasant things.
At that moment the citta does
Stinginess (macchariya) is another akusala cetasika which may with dosa-mula-citta. When we are stingy there is dosa as well. At that moment we do not like someone else to share in our good fortune.
Dosa always arises with an unpleasant feeling (domanassa vedana). Most people do not like to have dosa because they do not like to have an unpleasant feeling. As we develop more understanding of realities we want to eradicate dosa not so much because we dislike unpleasant feeling but rather because we realize the adverse effects of akusala.
The doorways through which dosa can arise are the five sense-doors and the mind-door. It can arise when we see ugly sights, hear harsh sounds, smell unpleasant odours, taste unappetizing food, receive painful bodily impressions and think of disagreeable things. Whenever there is a feeling of uneasiness, no matter how slight, it is a sign that there is dosa. Dosa may often arise when there are unpleasant impressions through the senses, for example, when the temperature is too hot or too cold. Whenever there is a slightly unpleasant bodily sensation dosa may arise, be it only of a lesser degree.
Dosa arises when there are conditions for it. It arises so long as there is still attachment to the objects which can be experienced through the five senses. Everybody would like to experience only pleasant things and when we do not have them any more, dosa can arise.
Another condition for dosa is ignorance of Dhamma. If we are ignorant of kamma and vipaka, cause and result., dosa may arise very easily on account of an unpleasant experience through one of the senses and thus dosa is accumulated time and again. An unpleasant experience through one of the senses is akusala vipaka caused by an unwholesome deed we perforrned. When we, for example, hear unpleasant words from someone else we may be angry with that person. Those who have studied Dhamma know that hearing something unpleasant is akusala vipaka which is not caused by someone else but by an unwholesome deed we performed ourselves. A moment of vipaka falls away immediately, it does not stay. Are we not inclined to keep on thinking about an unpleasant experience? If there is more awareness of the present moment one will be less inclined to think with aversion about one's akusala vipaka.
When we study the Abhidhamma we learn that there are two types of dosa-mula-citta; one is asarikharika (unprompted) and one is sasankharika (prompted). Dosa is sasankharika prompted) when, for example, one becomes angry after having been reminded of the disagreeable actions of someone else. When dosa is sankharika (unprompted) it is more intense than when it is sasankharika. Dosa-mula-cittas are called patigha.sampayutta, or accompanied by patigha, which is another word for dosa. Dosa.mula-cittas are always accompanied by domanassa (unpleasant feeling). The two type of dosa-mula-citta are:
As we have seen, there are many degrees of dosa; it may be coarse or more subtle. When dosa is coarse, it causes akusala kamma-patha (unwholesome deeds) through body, speech or mind. Two kinds of akusala kamma-patha through the body can be performed with dosa-mula-citta: killing and stealing. If we want less violence in the world we should try not to kill. When we kill we accumulate a great deal of dosa. The monk's life is a life of non-violence; he does not hurt any living being in the world. However, not everyone is able to live like the monks. Defilements are anatta (not self); they arise because of conditions. The purpose of the Buddha's teachings is not to lay down rules which forbid people to commit ill deeds, but to help people to develop the wisdom which eradicates defilements.
As regards stealing, this can either be performed with lobha-mula-citta or with dosa-mula-citta. It is done with dosa-mula-citta when there is the intention to harm someone else. Doing damage to someone else's possessions is included in this kamma-patha.
Four kinds of akusala kamma-patha through speech are performed with dosa-mula-citta: lying, slandering, rude speech and frivolous talk. Lying, slandering and frivolous talk can either be done with lobha-mula-citta or with dosa-mula-citta. Slandering, for example, is done with dosa-mula-citta when there is the intention to cause damage to someone else, such as doing harm to his good name and causing him to be looked down upon by others. Most people think that the use of weapons is to be avoided, but they forget that the tongue can be a weapon as well, which can badly wound. Evil speech does a great deal of harm in the world; it causes discord between people. When we speak evil we harm ourselves, because at such moments akusala kamma is accumulated and it is capable of producing akusala vipaka. We read in the 'Sutta Nipata' (the Great Chapter, 'Khuddaka Nikava'):
As regards akusala kamma-patha through the mind performed with dosa-mula-citta, this is the intention to hurt or harm someone else.
People often speak about violence and the ways to cure It. Who of us can say that he is free from dosa and that he will never kill? We do not know how much dosa we have accumulated in the course of many lives. When the conditions are there we might commit an act of violence we did not realize we were capable of. When we understand how ugly dosa and to what deeds it can lead we want to eradicate it.
In doing kind deeds to others we cannot eradicate the latent tendency of dosa, but at least at those moments we do not accumulate more dosa. The Buddha exhorted people to cultivate lovingkindness (metta). We read in the 'Karaniya Metta-sutta'; (Sutta Nipata, vs. 143-152 : I am using the translation by Nanamoli Thera, Buddhist Publicafion Society, Kandv, Sri Lanka.) what one should do in order to gain the 'state of peace'. One should have thought of love for all living beings:
The Buddha taught us not to be angry with those who are unpleasant to us. We read in the Vinaya (Mahavagga X, 349 : Translation by Nanamoli Thera.) that the Buddha said to the monks:
At times it seems impossible for us to have metta instead of dosa. For example, when people treat us badly we may feel very unhappy and we keep on pondering over our misery. When dosa has not been eradicated there are still conditions for it to arise. In being mindful of all realities which appear the wisdom is developed which can eradicate dosa.
Dosa can only be eradicated stage by stage. The sotapanna (who has attained the first stage of enlightenment) has not yet eradicated dosa. At the subsequent stage of enlightenment, the stage of the sakadagami (once-returner), dosa is not yet eradicate completely. The anagami (non-returner, who has attained the third stage of enlightenment) has eradicated dosa completely; he has no more latent tendency of dosa.
We have not eradicated dosa, but when dosa appears, we can be mindful of its characteristic in order to know it as a type of nama, arising because of conditions. When there is no mindfulness of dosa when it appears, dosa seems to last and we take it for self; neither do we notice other namas and rupas presenting themselves. Through mindfulness of namas and rupas which present themselves one at a time, we will learn that there are different characteristics of nama and rupa, none of which stays; and we will also know the characteristic of dosa as only a type of nama, not self.
When a clearer understanding of realities is developed we
will be less inclined to ponder for a long time over an unpleasant experience, since it is
only a type of nama which does not last. We will attend more to the present moment instead
of thinking about the past or the future. We will also be less inclined to tell other
people about unpleasant things which have happened to us, since that may be a condition
both for ourselves and for others to accumulate more dosa. When someone is angry with us
we will have more
Right understanding of realities will help us most of all to have more lovingkindness and compassion towards others instead of dosa.
Source: Dhamma Study Group, http://www.dhammastudy.com
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