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The Function of Javana

When we see, hear, smell, taste, experience an object through the bodysense or through the mind-door, there is not only one citta experiencing the object through the appropriate doorway, but a series or process of cittas. A rūpa which impinges on one of the senses is experienced by a process of cittas. When that sense-door process is over, the object is experienced by cittas arising in a mind-door process. Cittas in sense-door processes and in mind-door processes arise and fall away continuously.
We may not know that both in a sense-door process and in a mind-door process there are akusala cittas or kusala cittas arising. Because of our accumulated ignorance we do not clearly know our different cittas and we do not recognize our more subtle defilements.
In a sense-door process the object is experienced first by cittas which are not kusala cittas or akusala cittas; it is experienced by kiriyacittas and by vipākacittas. The five-door-adverting-consciousness (pañca-dvārāvajjana-citta) is an ahetuka kiriyacitta (without beautiful roots or unwholesome roots). It is succeeded by one of the dvi-pañca-viññāṇas (the five pairs of seeing-consciousness, hearing-consciousness, etc.) and this citta is ahetuka vipāka. Then there are two more ahetuka vipākacittas: the sampaṭicchana-citta which receives the object and the santīraṇa-citta which investigates the object. The santīraṇa-citta is succeeded by the votthapana-citta (determining-consciousness) which is an ahetuka kiriyacitta. The votthapana-citta determines the object and is then succeeded by kusala cittas or by akusala cittas. In the case of those who are arahats there are no kusala cittas or akusala cittas succeeding the votthapana-citta but kiriyacittas. When the cittas of the sense-door process have fallen away, cittas of the mind-door process experience the object. First there are bhavanga-cittas and then the mano-dvārāvajjana-citta arises which has the function of adverting to the object through the mind-door. The mano-dvārāvajjana-citta is succeeded by kusala cittas or by akusala cittas in the case of those who are not arahats. The mano-dvārāvajjana-citta is not kusala or akusala, it is ahetuka kiriyacitta.
Since cittas arise and fall away very rapidly it is hard to know the different cittas which arise. Often we may not even know when we have kusala cittas or akusala cittas. For example, after there has been seeing we may not realize when there is attachment to the object, when there is aversion towards it, or when there is ignorance of realities. If we study the Dhamma we will learn about our cittas in detail and we will also come to know our more subtle defilements. Ignorance of our akusala cittas is dangerous. If we do not know when we have akusala cittas we will continue to accumulate akusala.
The kusala cittas and akusala cittas which arise perform a function; they perform the function of javana or “running through the object” (50). In the sense-door process the votthapana-citta has determined the object already when the javana-cittas arise. Thus, the kusala cittas or akusala cittas which follow have as their only function to “run through” the object. There is not just one moment of citta which performs the function of javana, but usually there are seven cittas in succession which perform this function (51). As we have seen (in chapter 12) one material unit, a sense-object which is experienced by cittas in a process, equals sixteen or seventeen mental units. Such numbers should be seen as a comparative notion. Within a process of cittas the duration of javana occupies seven moments. Since cittas arise and fall away extremely rapidly we cannot count these seven moments, it all takes place in a flash.
The javana-cittas arising in one process are a sequence of seven cittas of the same type. If the first javana-citta is kusala, the succeeding six cittas are also kusala cittas; if the first javana-citta is akusala, the succeeding six cittas are also akusala cittas. Do we know when the javana-cittas are akusala cittas rooted in lobha, dosa or moha, or when they are kusala cittas? We are ignorant most of the time, even of javana-cittas.
There are fifty-five kinds of citta which can perform the function of javana. There are twelve akusala cittas performing the function of javana, namely: eight lobha-mūla-cittas, two dosa-mūla-cittas and two moha-mūla-cittas (52).
There are eight kāmāvara kusala cittas (53), which are called mahā-kusala cittas, performing the function of javana.
There are eight mahā-kiriyacittas of the arahat (kiriyacittas, “inoperative cittas”, which are not ahetuka, but accompanied by sobhana hetus) performing the function of javana. The arahat has mahā-kiriyacittas instead of mahā-kusala cittas since he does not accumulate any more kamma. Mahā-kiriyacittas are of the sensuous plane of consciousness; they are not jhānacittas or lokuttara cittas.
Arahats also have kāmāvacara cittas; they see, hear or think of objects experienced through the senses. However, there are no kusala cittas or akusala cittas arising on account of what is experienced.
For the arahat there is also an ahetuka kiriyacitta performing the function of javana, which may arise when he smiles: the hasituppāda-citta or the smile-producing consciousness.
Those who attain rūpa-jhāna (fine-material jhāna) can have five types of rūpāvacara kusala cittas performing the function of javana, since there are five stages of rūpa-jhāna. Arahats who attain rūpa-jhāna can have five types of rūpāvacara kiriyacittas which perform the function of javana.
For those who attain arūpa-jhāna (immaterial jhāna) there can be four types of arūpāvacara kusala cittas performing the function of javana, since there are four stages of arūpa-jhāna. Arahats who attain arūpa-jhāna can have four types of arūpāvacara kiriyacittas performing the function of javana.
Those who directly experience nibbāna have lokuttara cittas. There are four stages of enlightenment and at each of these stages lokuttara kusala citta or magga-citta (“path-consciousness; “magga” means path) and lokuttara vipākacitta or phala-citta (“fruit-consciousness”; “phala” means fruit) arise. Thus there are for the four stages of enlightenment four pairs of lokuttara cittas: four magga-cittas and four phala-cittas (54). Lokuttara magga-citta produces result immediately, in the same process of cittas. The phala-citta citta succeeds the magga-citta in the same process. Kusala kamma that is not lokuttara, supramundane, does not produce vipāka in the same process but it does so later on. The magga-citta performs the function of javana, “running through the object” which is nibbāna, and the phala-cittas also perform the function of javana. The vipākacittas other than the lokuttara vipākacitta do not perform the function of javana. Thus, all eight lokuttara cittas perform the function of javana.
There are fifty-five cittas in all which perform the function of javana. Summarising them, they are:
  • 8 lobha-mūla-cittas (cittas rooted in attachment)
  • 2 dosa-mūla-cittas (cittas rooted in aversion)
  • 2 moha-mūla-cittas (cittas rooted in ignorance)\
  • 8 mahā-kusala cittas (kāmāvacara kusala cittas)
  • 8 mahā-kiriyacittas
  • 1 hasituppāda-citta (ahetuka kiriyacitta of the arahat which may
    arise when he smiles)
  • 5 rūpāvacara kusala cittas (rūpa-jhānacittas)
  • 5 rūpāvacara kiriyacittas (rūpa-jhānacittas of the arahat)
  • 4 arūpāvacara kusala cittas (arūpa-jhānacittas)
  • 4 arūpāvacara kiriyacittas (arūpa-jhānacittas of the arahat)
  • 4 magga-cittas (lokuttara kusala cittas)
  • 4 phala-cittas (lokuttara vipākacittas)
It is useful to know that when akusala cittas arise on account of an object, not merely one akusala citta, but seven akusala cittas arise in one process and this process of cittas can be followed by other processes with akusala javana-cittas. Each time we dislike something there are processes of cittas which experience the object, and in each of these processes there are seven akusala javana-cittas. Countless akusala cittas may arise on account of something we dislike or are attached to.
There is no self who can prevent akusala cittas from arising; as soon as the votthapana-citta in the sense-door process has determined the object, this citta is succeeded by akusala cittas already, and as soon as the mano-dvārāvajjana-citta has adverted to the object in the mind-door process, this citta is succeeded by akusala cittas already. The cittas which arise in processes do so in a fixed order. When the first javana-citta has arisen it has to be succeeded by the following javana-cittas. The first javana-citta conditions the second one and this again the following one; each subsequent javana-citta is conditioned by the preceding one.
Processes with kusala javana-cittas and processes with akusala javana-cittas can arise shortly one after the other. For instance, people have the intention to offer food to the monks. However, when someone has bought the ingredients for the food he is going to offer, he may find the cost rather high. At that moment there may be cittas with stinginess and then the javana-cittas are akusala cittas. Thus we see that accumulated defilements can appear at any time when there are conditions, even if one has the intention to do a good deed.
It is during the time of the javana-cittas that we accumulate wholesomeness or unwholesomeness. There is no self who can control javana-cittas, but knowing the conditions for wholesomeness will help us to have kusala cittas.
The Buddha, out of compassion, taught people the way to have less akusala. He encouraged them to perform all kinds of kusala, no matter whether it is dāna (generosity), sīla (morality) or bhāvanā (mental development). He taught the development of the wisdom which can eradicate all kinds of akusala. There are different degrees of wisdom, paññā. If there is understanding of what is kusala and what is akusala, there is paññā, but it is not of the degree that it can eradicate akusala. When paññā has been developed to the degree of “insight-wisdom”, it will become clearer that there is no self who develops wholesomeness and abstains from ill deeds. However, only the paññā of the sotāpanna has eradicated the wrong view of self. So long as there is the concept of self, defilements cannot be eradicated.
The person who is not an ariyan (noble person who has attained enlightenment) may be able to observe the five precepts, but there is a difference between him and the sotāpanna, the ariyan who has attained the first stage of enlightenment, who does not transgress them. The non-ariyan may transgress the five precepts when there are conditions for it, whereas for the sotāpanna there are no more conditions for transgressing them. Moreover, the sotāpanna who observes sīla does not take the observing of sīla for self any more, since he has eradicated the latent tendency of wrong view. Thus his sīla is purer. He is on the way leading to the eradication of all defilements.
When we are not mindful of realities, we take the objects we experience for “self”. When paññā realizes the objects which are experienced as nāma and rūpa, elements which do not last and which are devoid of self, there is less opportunity for akusala javana-cittas.
In the Visuddhimagga (I, 55) we read about the “Elder” Mahā-Tissa:
...It seems that as the Elder was on his way from Cetiyapabbata to Anurādhapura for alms, a certain daughter-in-law of a clan, who had quarrelled with her husband and had set out early from Anurādhapura all dressed up and tricked out like a celestial nymph to go to her relatives’ home, saw him on the road, and being low-minded, she laughed a loud laugh. (Wondering) “What is that?”, the Elder looked up, and finding in the bones of her teeth the perception of foulness, he reached Arahatship. Hence it was said:
"He saw the bones that were her teeth,
And kept in mind his first perception;
And standing on that very spot,
The Elder became an Arahat."
But her husband who was going after
her saw the Elder
and asked "Venerable sir, did you by any chance
see a woman?" The Elder told him:
"Whether it was a man or woman
That went by I noticed not;
But only that on this high road
There goes a group of bones."
Mahā-Tissa was not absorbed in the object he experienced, nor entranced by the details. He realized when he perceived the woman’s teeth the “foulness of the body” and he did not take what he perceived for “self”. The perception of the “foulness of the body” can remind us not to see the self in the body, but to realize bodily phenomena as rūpas which do not stay. Mahā-Tissa saw things as they are; the paññā arising at that moment was to the degree that it could eradicate all defilements.
There are countless javana-cittas in a day with lobha, dosa and moha, and therefore we should not be heedless. We read in the Kindred Sayings (IV, Saḷāyatana-vagga, Kindred Sayings on Sense, Second Fifty, chapter V, paragraph 97, Dwelling heedless) :
At Sāvatthī was the occasion (of this discourse)...
“I will teach you, monks, of the one who dwells heedless, and of the one who dwells earnest. Do you listen to it.
And how, monks, does one dwell heedless?
In him, monks, who dwells with the faculty of sight uncontrolled, the heart is corrupted by objects cognizable by the eye. In him whose heart is corrupted there is no delight. Without delight there is no joy. Where joy is not, there is no calm. Without calm one dwells in sorrow. The sorrowful man’s heart is not composed. When the heart is not composed, one has not clear ideas. Through not having clear ideas he is reckoned as one who dwells heedless.
(And it is the same with regard to the faculties of taste, touch and mind.)
And how, monks, does one dwell earnest?
In him, monks, who dwells with the faculty of sight controlled the heart is not corrupted by objects cognizable by the eye. In him whose heart is not corrupted delight is born. In one delighted joy is born. When one is joyful the body is calmed. He whose body is calmed feels at ease. Composed is the heart of him who is at ease. When the heart is composed one’s ideas are clear. Through having clear ideas one is reckoned as one who dwells earnest.
(And it is the same with regard to the faculty of taste, touch and mind)
Thus, monks, is one a dweller in earnestness.”


  1. 1.
    Are there for the arahat only lokuttara cittas performing the
    function of javana, or can he also have kāmāvacara cittas (cittas of
    the sense sphere) performing the function of javana?
  2. 2.
    Are there vipākacittas which can perform the function of javana?