Concepts (III)

Lobha-mūla-citta (consciousness with attachment) without wrong view, diṭṭhigata vippayutta, which arises in our daily life, is not only attached to visible object, sound, odour, flavour, tangible object and concepts, it is also attached to micchā samādhi, wrong concentration. Someone may, for example, apply himself to yoga exercises such as concentration on the breath in order to improve his bodily strength. Then, there is a kind of samādhi.

When the citta is not kusala, at such moments there is lobha-mūla-citta with micchā-samādhi, wrong concentration. There may only be attachment to samādhi with the aim of improving one’s bodily health. There is not the wrong view that this is the way to realize the noble Truths. At that moment there is only attachment to concentration. Someone believes that he needs concentration for his bodily wellbeing. He has no wrong view that he should apply himself first to samādhi so that he afterwards can consider nāma and rūpa and have right understanding of them more quickly, and that this is the way to realize the Noble Truths. If he has such wrong understanding, he will not know the characteristics of right mindfulness, sammā-sati. He will not know that sati is not self, anattā.

It is not true that when someone applies himself first to micchā-samādhi, it will help paññā to know the characteristics of nāma and rūpa. In order for sati to be sammā-sati, a factor of the Eightfold Path, it must accompany sammā-diṭṭhi, right understanding, which understands the characteristics of the realities that are appearing. These are the objects sati should consider in the right way. It should be mindful of them so that right understanding can become more and more refined.

Right understanding of nāma and rūpa is accumulated as saṅkhārakkhandha and thus conditions are being developed for the arising of direct awareness of the realities that are appearing. When there is seeing, one should know when the object is a paññatti, a concept, and when a paramattha dhamma. It is the same in the case of hearing, smelling, tasting, the experience of tangible object and the experience of an object through the mind-door.

When we watch television, a football game or tennis match, when we read a newspaper or look at pictures, we should know when the object is a concept and when a paramattha dhamma. If we do not know this, we may mistakenly think that only the story on television is a concept. In reality, however, there are concepts when we watch television and also when we do not watch television. Even the names of all of us here are nāma-paññattis; they are words of conventional language, which refer to citta, cetasika and rūpa which arise together and thus we know that there is this or that person.

Micchā-samādhi (wrong concentration) can accompany lobha-mūla-citta without wrong view or with wrong view. In the latter case one believes that this kind of samādhi is the way to realize the four noble Truths. There is micchā-samādhi all over the world. While people apply themselves to concentration with citta which is not kusala citta accompanied by paññā, there is micchā-samādhi. When they believe that this is a faster way leading to mindfulness of the characteristics of nāma and rūpa, there is wrong understanding. Sammā-sati of the Eightfold Path can be mindful in the right way of the realities that appear if first the difference between the characteristics of nāma and rūpa is understood. Micchā-samādhi cannot condition right mindfulness.

Questioner: It is said that samādhi (concentration) is the proximate cause of vipassanā.

Sujin: What kind of samādhi is meant?

Questioner: It must be sammā-samādhi (right concentration) which is the proximate cause.

Sujin: It must be sammā-samādhi which arises together with sammā-sati, sammā-diṭṭhi (right understanding), sammā saṅkappa (right thinking) and sammā-vāyāma (right effort).

Concepts are the object of citta in daily life, at the moments that it does not have paramattha dhammas as object. We should find out ourselves how often we have concepts as object. There is seeing and then we think of a story about what appears through the eyes. There is hearing and then we think about what appears through the ears. It is the same with regard to the other sense-doors. The cittas that arise in a mind-door process experience visible object, sound, odour, flavour and tangible object, and they think in many different ways about all these objects.

Can there be other kinds of objects in our daily life, apart from paramattha dhammas or concepts? There can be either paramattha dhammas or concepts as objects in this life, in previous lives, or in future lives, in whatever plane or world one is living. There cannot be other kinds of objects. There are only six classes of objects (the objects which are experienced through the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind) and in these classes paramattha dhammas as well as concepts are included.

We may wonder whether the Buddha experienced objects that were concepts. Let us first speak about the daily life of ordinary people. When the cittas of an eye-door process have fallen away and there have been bhavanga-cittas that arise in between, there is one series of mind-door process cittas that have as object the same paramattha dhamma as the eye-door process cittas that have just fallen away. After bhavanga-cittas that arise in between, there can be mind-door process cittas that think of the shape and form of what appeared. What appears through the eyes is a kind of rūpa, visible object, and this arises together with the four Great Elements of earth, water, fire and wind.

We cannot separate colour from these four Great Elements. Wherever the four Great Elements are, the rūpas that are colour, odour, flavour and nutritive essence also have to be together with them. These eight rūpas cannot be separated from each other. Thus, since we cannot take colour away from the four Great Elements, there can, after we have seen colour through the eyesense, be a concept on account of colour. Saññā remembers the meaning of the shape and form; we can have a concept of a whole, we can know that there is this or that thing, this or that person. Seeing conditions thinking of concepts. If there were no colour impinging on the eyesense and no seeing, could we then notice people, beings and different things?

The Buddha certainly had concepts as objects. When we listen to the Dhamma, we should also consider which cause leads to which effect. There are paramattha dhammas as well as concepts that can be the object of citta. At the moment a paramattha dhamma is not the object, a concept must be the object. The fact that this has been repeated time and again is a supporting condition for sati to be aware of the characteristics of the realities that appear.

Thus, it can be understood correctly that what appears through the eyes are only different colours. Since colour arises together with the four Great Elements and cannot be separated from them, different concepts are conceived on account of the colour that was seen. If satipaṭṭhāna arises, it can distinguish visible object, it can consider it and be aware of it, so that it can be correctly known that what appears are just different colours. Colour can be realized as only a kind of reality appearing through the eyes. It can be correctly understood that when one knows what different things are, there are, at the same time, mind-door process cittas that know concepts.

When we have studied the Dhamma and considered it, we shall see that the cittas of all beings, which arise in daily life, sometimes have a paramattha dhamma and sometimes a concept as object. There are not only cittas of the eye-door process that have colour as object. When the cittas of the eye-door process have fallen away and there have been bhavanga-cittas in between, mind-door process cittas arise experiencing the colour that was just before experienced by the eye-door process cittas. After the mind-door process cittas have fallen away and there have been bhavanga-cittas in between, there can be another series of mind-door process cittas that have a concept as object. If we do not know concepts, how can we lead our daily lives? If one didn’t know what different things are, such as a table, a chair, food, a bowl, a plate or a spoon, one could not lead one’s daily life. Also, animals must have concepts as objects, otherwise they could not stay alive. They must be able to know what is food and what is not.

Is there a difference in the way different people experience concepts, namely in the way the Buddha, the arahat, the anāgāmī, the sakadāgāmī, the sotāpanna and the ordinary person experience them? There is a difference between ariyans and non-ariyans as to the way they experience concepts. Ordinary people who do not know anything about paramattha dhammas take concepts for things that are real. The ariyans who have realized the noble Truths know that all dhammas are anattā. The realities that arise and appear through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind-door are impermanent, whereas concepts are not realities with the characteristics of impermanence and anattā. Concepts are not realities but they are the means to make things known. Concepts are the object of citta and cetasika when we know the meaning of the things that appear, when we know what different things are.

We should carefully consider phenomena and the conditions for their appearing; we should consider which cause leads to which effect. If there were no citta and cetasika, could there be concepts? That would be impossible. If there were only rūpas but no nāmas, no cittas and cetasikas, there could not be concepts. Rūpa is the reality that does not know an object, whereas citta and cetasika are the realities that know an object. Therefore, if citta and cetasika would not arise, concepts could not be known. Ariyans as well as non-ariyans have concepts as object, but there is a difference. Non-ariyans take concepts for realities whereas ariyans know when citta has a paramattha dhamma as object and when it has a concept as object.

When citta has a concept as object, is there wrong view, micchā-diṭṭhi? It depends on the kind of citta that has a concept as object. All ariyans have concepts as object but they do not have wrong view; they have completely eradicated the cetasika that is wrong view, micchā-diṭṭhi. If we do not carefully consider realities, we will not know the difference between lobha-mūla-citta with wrong view and lobha-mūla-citta without wrong view.

Lobha-mūla-citta without wrong view is attached to all objects. It is attached to what appears through the eyes and to the concept conceived on account of it. It is attached to sound that appears through the ears, and to a concept on account of the sound. It is the same in the case of the objects appearing through the other doorways. This is our ordinary daily life. Thus, lobha-mūla-citta can be attached to all objects without wrong view about them.

The sotāpanna and the sakadāgāmī have lobha-mūla-citta (consciousness with attachment) without wrong view, and this citta can be attached to all six classes of objects. The anāgāmī has lobha-mūla-citta without wrong view that is attached to the class of objects that are dhammārammaṇa, objects that can only be experienced through the mind-door. He has eradicated attachment to the sense objects that are visible object, sound, odour, flavour and tangible object. The arahat has neither kusala dhammas nor akusala dhammas on account of the six classes of objects. He has completely eradicated all defilements and akusala dhammas.

The person who is not an arahat may understand the characteristics of the objects as they are, he may know when the object is a paramattha dhamma and when a concept. However, so long as one has not eradicated all defilements, there are conditions for their arising. There can be happiness or sadness, like or dislike on account of the object, be they paramattha dhammas or concepts. To what extent defilements arise for the non-arahat depends on the degree of understanding that has been developed; it depends on whether a person is a non-ariyan or an ariyan who is a sotāpanna, a sakadāgāmī or an anāgāmī.

We should carefully consider when there is sakkāya-diṭṭhi, personality belief. Although concepts are not realities, paramattha dhammas, we may take them for things that really exist, and then there is wrong view. When someone clings to the concept of self, being, person or different things and really believes that they exist, there is the wrong view of sakkāya-diṭṭhi (personality belief). So long as sakkāya-diṭṭhi has not been eradicated, there are conditions for the arising of many other kinds of wrong view as well. There may be the wrong view that there is no kamma, no result of kamma. There may be the belief in an almighty god, the creator of the world and of all beings and all people. When we do not know the conditions for the arising of all saṅkhāra dhammas, conditioned dhammas, there can be different kinds of wrong view. However, clinging to wrong view does not occur each time citta has a concept as object.

Can concepts be the object of akusala citta? They can, and they are, in fact, usually the objects of akusala citta. There can be lobha-mūla-citta which is attached to a concept. Or, there can be dosa-mūla-citta which has aversion towards a concept. When one does not like this or that person, does one realize what the object is? At such moments a concept is the object of citta. Thus, we see that a concept can be the object of any kind of akusala citta.

Can a concept be the object of kusala citta? It can be the object of kusala citta. Concepts belong to our daily life and thus they are the objects of all kinds of cittas arising in our daily life. If we want to perform dāna (giving) but we don’t know concepts, we wouldn’t know what the gift is in conventional sense. In such a case, there could not be kusala citta that performs dāna. There cannot be abstention (virati) from wrong deeds or speech if one does not know what is there in conventional sense, if one does not know that there is a being or a person.

When someone develops samatha, can concepts be the object of citta? Someone may think that it is difficult to answer this question when he has not studied in detail the way of development of samatha and the subjects of calm. However, it is important to remember that when a dhamma is not the object of citta, a concept must be the object. Thus, also in samatha a concept can be the object of citta. All cittas, except the cittas that develop satipaṭṭhāna and the sense-door process cittas, can have concepts as object.

Only if we develop satipaṭṭhāna can we know whether a phenomenon is a paramattha dhamma. When satipaṭṭhāna does not arise, at such moments there is no awareness, no study and no investigation of the characteristics of paramattha dhammas. In our daily life, the object of citta is sometimes a paramattha dhamma and sometimes a concept. The development of satipaṭṭhāna is very intricate, because paññā must become very refined in order that it can see all the realities that appear as they are.

Questioner: Satipaṭṭhāna cannot have concepts as object and therefore, when we develop satipaṭṭhāna should we try to prevent citta from having a concept as object?

Sujin: That is not right because then we could not lead our ordinary daily life. We cannot prevent citta from having concepts as object. However, paññā can be developed so that it can be known that when a concept is the object, it is citta, a type of nāma that knows that concept. A concept could not be the object at that moment if there were no citta that knows it. When we develop satipaṭṭhāna, we should not force ourselves not to think of concepts. We should not try to stop knowing the different things that we normally see and recognize in daily life. If we did, we would not be able to know the characteristic of nāma dhamma, the reality that knows something. When a concept is the object, one should realize that citta and cetasika, which are nāma dhammas, have arisen and that, at that moment, they know an object that is a concept.

Satipaṭṭhāna can study and consider realities and be aware of them. Thus, it can be known that, when there is thinking, it is nāma which thinks, an element, a reality which experiences, not a self, a being or person. We should know that all dhammas are non-self, anattā, and that we cannot prevent citta from thinking of different things. Paññā should penetrate the characteristics of the different nāmas that experience different objects through the six doors. Then doubt about the characteristics of nāma dhammas can be eliminated. Nobody can prevent the arising of the phenomena of our daily life. It is because of ignorance that one tries not to think or not to know the concepts conceived on account of the things that appear. If someone tries to avoid thinking of concepts, paññā cannot be developed.

We should consider our way of practice. One may follow a kind of practice which is not the development of paññā (wisdom) which studies, notices, and considers the characteristics of nāma dhammas and rūpa dhammas. People don’t lead their usual daily lives when they try to follow a particular practice. Then they develop the wrong path, micchā-magga, which is wrong understanding, wrong thinking, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, wrong concentration. That is not the right path, which is the development of satipaṭṭhāna and vipassanā.

If someone does not know as they are the characteristics of the realities that appear, and if he does not understand which cause leads to which effect, there will be wrong understanding. He will cling to wrong view; he will search for a way of practice that is the wrong path. There will be ignorance while he sees different colours and perceives different things.

We read in the “Kindred Sayings” (V, Mahā-Vagga, Book XLV, Kindred Sayings on the Way, Ch. 1, §4, The Brahmin):

“Sāvatthī was the location for this discourse... Then the venerable Ānanda, robing himself in the forenoon and taking bowl and outer robe, entered Sāvatthī on his begging round. Now, the venerable Ānanda saw Jānussoṇi, the brahmin, driving out of Sāvatthī in his carriage, drawn by pure white mares. White were the steeds harnessed thereto and white the trappings, white the carriage. White were the fittings, white the reins, the goad, the canopy, his turban, his clothes and sandals, and by a white fan was he fanned. And when the people saw it they cried out, ‘Ah! There is the best of carriages! There is the best of carriages for beauty!’ ”

Someone may just see white colour and then there can be wrong understanding if he does not know realities and if he does not know the way to realize the truth of not self. He may look for another way to know the truth. He may have the wrong understanding that a white carriage is the best. We read further on that the venerable Ānanda, after going on his begging round, came back, ate his meal and visited the Exalted One. He told him that he had seen Jānussoṇi in his white carriage and that the people had cried out that it was the best of carriages. Ānanda asked the Buddha whether he could point out the best of carriages in the Dhamma and Discipline. The Buddha explained that the defilements could be eradicated through the development of the Eightfold Path, not by seeing a white carriage with white trappings. The best of carriages is the ariyan eightfold Path. The Dhamma carriage is unsurpassed for its conquest in the fight. The Buddha then said the following verse:

“Whoso has confidence (saddhā) and wisdom, these two states,
Forever yoked together lead him on:
Conscience (hiri) the pole, and mind the yoke thereof,
And heedfulness (sati) his watchful charioteer.
The carriage is furnished with righteousness (sīla),
Rapture its axle, energy its wheels,
And calm, yoke fellow of the balanced mind,
Desirelessness the drapery thereof,
Goodwill and harmlessness his weapons are,
Together with detachment of the mind.
Endurance is his leathern coat of mail:
And to attain the peace this carriage rolls on.
It is built by oneself, and thus it becomes
The best of carriages, unconquerable in battle.
Seated therein the sages leave the world,
And verily they win the victory.”

Thus, we can see that the white carriage and all the white paraphernalia, believed to be an auspicious sign, have nothing to do with the ‘carriage’ (yāna) which is the ariyan wisdom (ñāṇa).

In the commentary to this sutta, the “Sāratthappakāsinī”, it is said that when the Brahmin Jānussoṇi drove around town, he had people announce his coming ahead of time. When people had something to do outside of town, they would not leave, in order to see Jānussoṇi driving out. If people had already left town, they would return in order to see him. They believed it to be an auspicious sign to see the treasures and wealth of someone like Jānussoṇi. When the Brahmin Jānussoṇi was going to drive around the whole day, the people in town swept the roads from early morning on. They made them smooth with sand and scattered flowers all over. They helped each other to put up flags and banners and they caused the whole town to be filled with the smell of incense.

Jānussoṇi rode through the town in a white carriage with white paraphernalia, pulled by four white horses. The wheels and fittings of the carriage were made of silver. Jānussoṇi had two carriages, one for battle and one for all his paraphernalia. The battle carriage was four-sided and not so big; it could only take two or three people. But the carriage for all his paraphernalia was very large. There was room for eight to ten people who carried the canopy, the fan and palm leaves. These people could stand or comfortably lie down. The horses that pulled the carriage were all white and their ornaments were made of silver. The carriage looked white because its coverings were made of silver and it was decorated with ivory. The coverings of the other carriages were lion and tiger skins or yellow cloth. However, Jānussoṇi’s carriage was covered by very precious cloth. The reins, and even the bridles were covered with silver. The canopy erected in the middle of the carriage was white.

Jānussoṇi’s turban was seven inches wide and made of silver. His clothes were white, the colour of a lump of foam. His clothes and the coverings of his carriage were all of very expensive materials. His sandals, unlike the sandals of those that travel or go into the forest, were meant to be worn when he went in his carriage, and they were ornamented with silver. His fan was white with a handle of crystal.

He was the only person whose adornments were completely white. He used white face powder and white flowers to adorn himself. His jewellery, including the rings on his ten fingers and in his ears, was made of silver. His retinue consisted of ten thousand people and they were dressed in white clothes and adorned with white flowers and white jewellery.

Jānussoṇi enjoyed his wealth and dignity from the early morning, while he took his breakfast, applied perfumes and dressed himself in white. He went outside his palace and took off in his carriage. The brahmins of his retinue, who were also dressed in white, adorned with white cosmetics and white flowers, surrounded him while they carried his white canopy. Then, coins were scattered about for the children, and the people of the town would gather and cheer, tossing pieces of cloth. Jānussoṇi went around town to display his wealth. Thus, he would give people who wanted to have auspicious signs and blessings for good luck, an opportunity to see him. Those who were fortunate were able

to enter the palace and go up to the first floor, open the windows and look down for a good view. When people saw the carriage of Jānussoṇi, they exclaimed that this was the best of carriages.

The Buddha said to Ānanda that people want to be praised because of beauty and wealth. However, just by being praised, one will not necessarily be beautiful and rich. Although the people who saw Jānussoṇi’s carriage praised it as the best of carriages, it would not be the best just because people praised it as such. The Buddha said that in reality, Jānussoṇi’s carriage was a miserable, ugly thing.

The Buddha further said to Ānanda that the best of carriages is a term that may be applied to the eightfold Path. This is an excellent way because it liberates one from all that is wrong. By the noble eightfold Path one can become an ariyan and attain nibbāna. The wisdom carriage, the Dhamma carriage, is the best vehicle, the best battle carriage. Nothing can surpass this carriage, and with it, the defilements can be conquered.

Thus, we see the difference between the carriage of Jānussoṇi and that of the Dhamma. There can be wrong view and wrong practice just because of seeing something. Some people may believe that white is an auspicious colour that conditions them to become pure, and without defilements. However, the Buddha said that in reality, Jānussoṇi’s carriage was a miserable, ugly thing because it caused people to have wrong view. They had thought it was the best of carriages. The understanding of things as they are has nothing to do with the colour of someone’s clothes or ornaments. When satipaṭṭhāna arises and is aware of the characteristics of the realities that appear, it can be said that it is the vehicle of paññā that leads to the eradication of defilements.