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For a synopsis of their contents see: Guide through the Abhidhamma Pitaka by Ven. Nyanatiloka.


This work was composed some time between the 8th and the 12th century A.D. It has been translated into English and published by the P.T.S. under the title of “Compendium of Philosophy”, and by Ven. Nārada, Colombo, under the title of “A Manual of Abhidhamma”. It has also been translated by the Venerable Bikkhu Bodhi as “A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma”. Moreover, it has been translated together with its commentary as “Summary of the Topics of Abhidhamma” and “Exposition of the Topics of Abhidhamma”, by R.P. Wijeratne and Rupert Gethin.


In chapter 3 and the following ones I will explain more about akusala, kusala, vipāka and kiriya.


Cittas are classified as 121 when one takes into account the lokuttara cittas of those who have cultivated both samatha and vipassanā and attain enlightenment with lokuttara jhānacittas, lokuttara cittas accompanied by jhāna-factors of different stages of jhāna, absorption. This will be explained in chapter 23.


There are seven types of cetasika which have to arise with every citta.


See chapter 19 for the meaning of sobhana. Sobhana cittas include not only kusala cittas, but also vipakacittas and kiriyacittas which are accompanied by sobhana cetasikas.


I am using the translation by T.W. Rhys Davids, Part I, Dover Publications, New York.


There are twenty-eight classes of rūpa in all.


Saṅkhāra dhammas are conditioned dhammas that arise together depending on each other. The Pāli term “saṅkhata” is also used. Saṅkhata means what has been put together, composed by a combination of factors. Saṅkhata dhamma is what has arisen because of conditions.


In Pāli: asaṅkhata: not conditioned, the opposite of saṅkhata. In the Dhammasangaṇi nibbāna is referred to as asaṅkhatā dhatu, the unconditioned element. Sometimes the term visaṅkhāra dhamma, the dhamma which is not saṅkhāra (vi is negation), is used.


See chapter 1.


Saṅkhāra has different meanings in different contexts. Saṅkhāra dhamma comprises all conditioned realities. Saṅkhārakkhandha comprises fifty cetasikas.


The experiences through the senses which are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and body-consciousness are vipākacittas, the results of kamma. When these cittas experience a pleasant object they are kusala vipāka, the result of kusala kamma, and when they experience an unpleasant object they are akusala vipāka, the result of akusala kamma.


In the English translation “dukkha” is sometimes translated as “suffering”, sometimes as “ill”. Here the English text uses the word “suffering”.


In Pāli: brahmacariya.


Mūla or hetu are the Pāli terms for root. There are three akusala hetus: lobha, dosa and moha. Akusala cittas are classified by way of the accompanying roots.


ekaṃ means “one”. The ṃ at the end of a word is pronounced as “ng”.


As we have seen (in Ch 4), wrong view accompanies lobha-mūla-cittas. Whenever there is wrong view there is clinging to such view.


Paṭigha is another word for dosa.


I am using the translation by the venerable Bhikkhu Ñanamoli, Buddhist Publication Society, Wheel 7, Kandy, Sri Lanka.


Wrong view.


The Pāli text is abridged, but also included are: the ear...the nose...the bodysense, all realities appearing through the six doors.


The Sangha is the order of monks, but it also means the “ariyan Sangha”, the noble persons who have attained enlightenment.


The Brahma-faring is the “holy life” of the monk who develops the eightfold Path in order to become an arahat. In a wider sense: all those who develop the eightfold Path leading to enlightenment, laypeople included, are “faring the Brahma-faring”, in Pāli: brahma-cariya.


See chapter 5.


In Pāli “a” is a negative.


“dvi” is “two” and “pañca” is “five”.


The arahat does not perform kusala kamma or akusala kamma, deeds which produce results. For him there is no kamma which could produce rebirth.


In Pāli: Paṭiccasamuppāda. The teaching of the conditionality of all nāmas and rūpas of our life.


He feels bodily pain, not mental pain.


The P.T.S. translation has: at the thought “This is such and such”, comes to know eye-consciousness that is a pleasant experience.


“Pañca” is five, “dvāra” is door, “āvajjana” is adverting or turning towards.


Votthapana can be translated as “fixing”, “establishing” or “determining”.


Except in the case of arahats who have neither kusala cittas nor akusala cittas, but kiriyacittas instead.


Among the 89 types of citta there is no special type of citta which is votthapana-citta; the mano-dvārāvajjana-citta serves the function of votthapana.


The “Evil One”. Māra stands for everything which is unwholesome and dukkha, suffering.


There are different planes of existence where one can be born and not in all of them are both nāma and rūpa. In some planes there is only nāma and in one plane there is only rūpa.


Paṭisandhi means relinking, it “links” the previous life to the present life. It is usually translated as rebirth-consciousness, but, since there is no person who is reborn, birth-consciousness would be more correct.


See Ch. 4. Kusala cittas can arise unprompted, spontaneously, or prompted, induced either by someone else or by one’s own deliberation.


Ñāṇa is wisdom (paññā).


This will be explained in chapter 20, Planes of Existence.


For the difference between rūpa-jhāna, fine-material jhāna, and arūpa-jhāna, immaterial jhāna, see chapter 22.


The terms mahā-kusala, mahā-vipāka and mahā-kiriya are used for kāmāvacara cittas.


See Ven. Nyanaponika, “Abhidhamma Studies”, The Problem of Time.


The commentaries count the duration of rūpa as sixteen or seventeen moments of citta. Although the scriptures do not expressively mention these numbers, they refer to the different cittas in processes which each perform their own function while they experience an object, as I explained in my preface.


According to the Atthasālinī II, Book I , Part X, Ch 2, 269, the object is in that case weak.


The atīta bhavanga, which is merely one moment of bhavanga which elapses before the bhavanga calana and the subsequent bhavangupaccheda preceding a sense-door process, is not counted again before the mind-door process starts.


I will explain in more detail about these cittas in Chapter 14.


That is: eye, visible object and eye-consciousness.


Javana is sometimes translated as “impulsion” or as “apperception”.


In the “Book of Conditional Relations” it has been explained under “repetition condition” that kusala khandhas are followed by kusala khandhas and akusala khandhas by akusala khandhas. The commentaries, the Visuddhimagga ( XIV, 121) and the Atthasālinī (II, Book I, Part X, chapter II, 270) state that there are six or seven moments of javana. The number of seven is not expressively stated in the scriptures, but when we consider the number of cittas in the mind-door process during which enlightenment is attained, as we will see in chapter 24, we have an indication that the number of javana-cittas as given by the commentaries is based on canonical tradition. In different parts of the scriptures the javana-cittas of this process are denoted by particular names and in this way we can know the number of these cittas.


See Ch 4, 6 and 7.


Kāmāavacara cittas are cittas of the sensuous plane of consciousness, not jhānacittas or lokuttara cittas. Details will be given in Ch 19.


Lokuttara cittas will be explained in chapter 23 and 24.


See chapter 14.


The “Abhidhammattha Sangaha”, Ch 4, Analysis of Thought Processes, calls sense objects “very great” when the process runs its full course; it calls them “great” when the process is interrupted after the javana-cittas; it calls them “slight” when the process is interrupted after the votthapana-citta; it calls them very slight when the process does not start.


See Visuddhimagga XIV, 122.


Birth in a rūpa-brahma plane is the result of rūpāvacara kusala citta (rūpa-jhānacitta) and birth in an arūpa-brahma-plane is the result of arūpāvacara kusala citta (arūpa-jhānacitta). Those who develop jhānacitta see the disadvantage of sense impressions, they want to be freed from them.


The “Abhidhammattha Sangaha”, in Ch 4, Analysis of Thought Processes, calls the object, experienced through the mind-door, when the process runs its full course, a “clear object”. If the mind-door process is interrupted after the javana-cittas, the object is called “obscure”.


See chapter 10.


See chapter 11.


In Pāli: brahma-cariya: pure or holy life. This term is not only used for the monk’s life, but also with regard to all those who develop the eightfold Path which leads to the eradication of all defilements.


Those who have attained the third stage of enlightenment, the stage of the anāgāmī, non-returner, are completely free from the five “lower fetters”.


Here earth, water, fire and wind do not denote conventional ideas; in Buddhism they are names for characteristics of realities.




This does not mean “worldly” as it is understood in conventional language.


See chapter 14.


The Pāli text has dhammā, and the English text has here “mind-states”.


See chapter 15.


See chapter 11, 12 and 15.


The name “heart-base” cannot be found in the scriptures. The “Book of Conditional Relations”, the seventh book of the Abhidhamma, refers, under “support condition” (nissaya paccaya), to the heart-base as “that rūpa” which is the material support for the “mind-element” and the “mind-consciousness element”. These “elements” are the cittas other than the pañca-viññāṇas.


See also Book of Analysis, Vibhaṅnga, II, Analysis of Bases. Also in other parts of the scriptures, including the suttas, there is reference to this classification.


There is no self who could control them.


Dhātu is derived from dharati, to hold or to bear. Dhātu is that which bears its own intrinsic nature; it is a reality which has its own characteristic.


See Chapter 14.


The rebirth-consciousness, the bhavanga-citta (life-continuum) and the dying-consciousness.




Dependent Origination, the conditional arising of phenomena.


Right understanding of what is possible according to conditions and what is impossible.






Wheel means here: vehicle or means of success.


See chapter 15. Tadārammaṇa-citta is either ahetuka or sahetuka, accompanied by hetus. Tadārammaṇa-citta which is sahetuka is called mahā-vipākacitta, since it belongs to the sense sphere.


Mahā-kusala cittas, mahā-vipākacittas and mahā-kiriya cittas are always kāmāvacara cittas, cittas of the sensuous plane of consciousness.


Bhūmi is plane; in this case, plane of citta, not plane of existence. The difference between plane of citta and plane of existence will be explained in chapter 20.


Asañña means: without saññā, perception or remembrance, and satta means: being.


This has been referred to in the “Mūga-Pakkha-Jātaka”,VI, no. 538.


The five khandhas of clinging.


See Visuddhimagga IV, 105, where the hindrances are mentioned as being specifically obstructive to jhāna.


In the suttas we also come across translations of jhāna as “trance” or “musing”. Trance, however, gives a wrong association of meaning.


See also the Atthasālinī, “The Expositor ”, Part V, chapter I, 165.


See chapter 2.


An example is Nanda’s mother, about whom we read in the Gradual Sayings, Book of the Sevens, chapter V, paragraph 10.


For example, in the “Middle Length Sayings” I, no. 21, Discourse on Fear and Dread.


Both rūpa-jhāna (“material jhāna”) and arūpa-jhāna (“immaterial jhāna”, for which the meditation subject is no longer dependent on materiality) are developed in different stages of jhāna. Arūpa-jhāna is more refined than rūpa-jhāna.


A Pacceka Buddha is a “Silent Buddha” who has attained enlightenment without the help of a teacher, but who has not accumulated wisdom and the other excellent qualities, the “perfections”, to the extent that he is able to teach others the eightfold Path.


The meditation subjects of rūpa-jhāna are connected with materiality, they are learnt by sight, touch or hearsay.


The fourth rūpa-jhāna. Here the counting is according to the “fourfold system”.


The Sphere of Boundless Space, ākāsānañcāyatana.


Just as in the case of rūpāvacara kusala citta, arūpāvacara kusala citta cannot produce vipāka in the same lifespan. Therefore it performs only the functions of paṭisandhi, bhavanga and cuti.


Also translated as “supernormal powers” or “higher intellectual powers”.


This will be further explained in chapter 23.


Magga means path. The lokuttara kusala citta is called magga-citta or path-consciousness.


See Visuddhimagga chapter XX and XXI and “Path of Discrimination” I, Treatise on Knowledge, chapters V-X.


asaṅkhata, unconditioned, not proceeding from conditions.


saṅkhata, conditioned. This is translated into English as “compounded” or “constructed”. It is that which has been “put together ” (sankharoti), produced, by the association of different conditions.


This attainment is called phala samāpatti, attainment of fruition.


A magga-citta, lokuttara kusala citta, and a phala-citta, lokuttara vipākacitta, at each of the four stages of enlightenment.


See chapter 22.


See Visuddhimagga, chapter XXI, 129-136, and also “The Path of Discrimination” (Paṭisambhidāmagga) I, Treatise on Knowledge, chapter VI-chapter X.


See chapter 23


The names of the cittas arising in the process during which enlightenment occurs are not only in the commentaries but also in the scriptures, in the Path of Discrimination and in the Book of Conditional Relations, the Paṭṭhāna. In the Paṭṭhāna, the “Feeling Triplet”, under Proximity Condition, are mentioned: anuloma, gotrabhū, magga-citta and two phala-cittas. Since different names are given to these javana-cittas we can know their number. The names parikamma and upacāra do not occur, but the Visuddhimagga (XXI, 130) states that the three first mahā-kusala cittas in that process can be called by one name: they can be called repetition or preliminary work (parikamma), access (upacāra), or conformity (anuloma). The process where enlightenment occurs is not an ordinary process; it is a process with different types of citta performing the function of javana. Still, this example makes it clearer that the commentaries, when they stated that there are usually 7 javana-cittas in a process, based this on the canonical tradition (see chapter 14).


dhātu, which literally means element.


Upādi: substratum of life, the five khandhas. Sa: with, sesa: remaining.


An-upādi-sesa: without the khandhas remaining.


asaṅkhata, the unconditioned reality.
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