The Characteristic of Lobha
Cittas are of different types. They can be classified as kusala cittas (wholesome cittas), akusala cittas (unwholesome cittas), vipākacittas (cittas which are result) and kiriyacittas (cittas which are neither cause nor result). All these kinds of cittas arise in a day, yet we know so little about them. Most of the time we do not know whether the citta is kusala, akusala, vipāka or kiriya. If we learn to classify our mind we will have more understanding of ourselves and of others. We will have more compassion and loving kindness towards others, even when they behave in a disagreeable way. We do not like the akusala cittas of others; we find it unpleasant when they are stingy or speak harsh words. However, do we realize at which moments we ourselves have akusala cittas? When we dislike other people’s harsh words, we ourselves have akusala cittas with aversion at that moment. Instead of paying attention to the akusala cittas of others we should be aware of our own akusala cittas. If one has not studied the Abhidhamma which explains realities in detail, one may not know what is akusala. People may take what is unwholesome for wholesome and thus accumulate unwholesomeness without knowing it. If we know more about different types of citta we can see for ourselves which types arise more often, kusala cittas or akusala cittas, and thus we will understand ourselves better.
We should know the difference between kusala and akusala. The Atthasālinī (Book I, Part I, chapter I, 38) speaks about the meaning of the word “kusala”. The word “kusala” has many meanings; it can mean “of good health”, “faultless”, “skillful”, “productive of happy results”.
When we perform dāna (generosity), sīla (good moral conduct) and bhāvanā (mental development), the citta is kusala. All different kinds of wholesomeness such as the appreciation of other people’s good deeds, helping others, politeness, paying respect, observing the precepts, studying and teaching Dhamma, samatha (tranquil meditation) and vipassanā (development of “insight”, right understanding of realities), are included in dāna, sīla or bhāvanā. Kusala is “productive of happy results”; each good deed will bring a pleasant result. The Atthasālinī (Book I, Part I, chapter I, 39) states about akusala:
“A-kusala means “not kusala”. Just as the opposite to friendship is enmity, or the opposite to greed, etc. is disinterestedness, etc., so “akusala” is opposed to “kusala”...
Unwholesome deeds will bring unhappy results. Nobody wishes to experience an unhappy result, but many people are ignorant about the cause which brings an unhappy result, about akusala. They do not realize when the citta is unwholesome, and they do not always know it when they perform unwholesome deeds.
When we study the Abhidhamma we learn that there are three groups of akusala cittas. They are:
  • Lobha-mūla-cittas, or cittas rooted in attachment (lobha)
  • Dosa-mūla-cittas, or cittas rooted in aversion (dosa)
  • Moha-mūla-cittas, or cittas rooted in ignorance (moha)
Moha (ignorance) arises with every akusala citta. Akusala cittas rooted in lobha (attachment) actually have two roots: moha and lobha (16). They are named “lobha-mūla-cittas”, because there is not only moha, which arises with every akusala citta, but lobha as well. Lobha-mūla-cittas are thus named after the root which is lobha. Akusala cittas rooted in dosa (aversion) have two roots as well: moha and dosa. They are named “dosa-mūla-cittas” after the root which is dosa. Akusala cittas rooted in moha (ignorance), have only one root which is moha. Each of these three classes of akusala cittas includes again different types of akusala citta and thus we see that there is a great variety of cittas.
Now I shall deal first with lobha-mūla-citta. Lobha is the paramattha dhamma (absolute reality) which is cetasika (mental factor arising with the citta); it is a reality and thus it can be experienced.
Lobha is “clinging” or “attachment”. The Visuddhimagga (XIV, 162) states:
...lobha has the characteristic of grasping an object, like birdlime (lit. “monkey lime”). Its function is sticking, like meat put in a hot pan. It is manifested as not giving up, like the dye of lampblack. Its proximate cause is seeing enjoyment in things that lead to bondage. Swelling with the current of craving, it should be regarded as taking (beings) with it to states of loss, as a swift-flowing river does to the great ocean.
Lobha is sometimes translated as “greed” or “craving”; it can be translated by different words, since there are many degrees of lobha. Lobha can be coarse, medium or subtle. Most people can recognize lobha when it is very obvious, but not when it is of a lesser degree. For example, we can recognize lobha when we are inclined to eat too much of a delicious meal, or when we are attached to alcoholic drinks and cigarettes. We are attached to people and we suffer when we lose those who are dear to us through death. Then we can see that attachment brings sorrow. Sometimes attachment is very obvious, but there are many degrees of lobha and often we may not know that we have lobha. Cittas arise and fall away very rapidly and we may not realize it when lobha arises on account of what we experience in daily life through the six doors, especially if the degree of lobha is not as intense as greed or lust. Every time there is a pleasant sight, sound, odour, taste or tangible object, lobha is likely to arise. It arises many times a day.
Lobha arises when there are conditions for its arising; it is beyond control. In many suttas the Buddha speaks about lobha, points out the dangers of it and the way to overcome it. The pleasant objects which can be experienced through the five senses are in several suttas called the “five strands of sense-pleasures”. We read in the Mahā-dukkhakkhandha-sutta (“Greater Discourse on the Stems of Anguish”, Middle Length Sayings I, no. 13) that the Buddha, when he was staying near Sāvatthī, in the Jeta Grove, said to the monks:
And what, monks, is the satisfaction in pleasures of the senses? These five, monks, are the strands of sense-pleasures. What five? Visible objects cognizable by the eye, agreeable, pleasant, liked, enticing, connected with sensual pleasures, alluring. Sounds, cognizable by the ear ...Smells, cognizable by the nose ...Tastes cognizable by the tongue ...Touches, cognizable by the body, agreeable, pleasant, liked, enticing, connected with sensual pleasures, alluring. These, monks, are the five strands of sense-pleasures. Whatever pleasure, whatever happiness arises in consequence of these five strands of sense-pleasures, this is the satisfaction in sense-pleasures.
The satisfaction in sense-pleasures is not true happiness. Those who do not know the Buddha’s teachings may think that attachment is wholesome, especially when it arises with pleasant feeling. They may not know the difference between attachment and loving kindness (mettā), phenomena which may both arise with pleasant feeling. However, a citta accompanied by pleasant feeling is not necessarily kusala citta. When we learn more about akusala cittas and kusala cittas and when we are mindful of their characteristics, we will notice that the pleasant feeling which may arise with lobha-mūla-citta (citta rooted in attachment) is different from the pleasant feeling which may arise with kusala citta. Feeling (vedanā) is a cetasika which arises with every citta. When the citta is akusala, the feeling is also akusala, and when the citta is kusala, the feeling is also kusala. We may be able to know the difference between the characteristic of the pleasant feeling arising when we are attached to an agreeable sight or sound, and the characteristic of the pleasant feeling arising when we are generous.
The Buddha pointed out that lobha brings sorrow. When we lose people who are dear to us or when we lose the things we enjoy, we have sorrow. If we are attached to a comfortable life we may have aversion when we have to endure hardship or when things do not turn out the way we want them to be. We read in the Greater Discourse on the Stems of Anguish, which was quoted above, that the Buddha spoke to the monks about the dangers in the pleasures of the senses:
And what, monks, is the peril in sense-pleasures? In this case, monks, a young man of family earns his living by some craft ...He is afflicted by the cold, he is afflicted by the heat, suffering from the touch of gadflies, mosquitos, wind, sun, creeping things, dying of hunger and thirst. This, monks, is a peril in pleasures of the senses that is present, a stem of ill...
If, monks, this young man of family rouses himself, exerts himself, strives thus, but if these possessions do not come to his hand, he grieves, mourns, laments, beating his breast and wailing, he falls into disillusionment, and thinks: “Indeed my exertion is in vain, indeed my striving is fruitless.” This too, monks, is a peril in the pleasures of the senses that is present...
And again, monks, when sense-pleasures are the cause ... kings dispute with kings, nobles dispute with nobles, brahmans dispute with brahmans, householders dispute with householders, a mother disputes with her son, a son disputes with his mother, a father disputes with his son, a son disputes with his father, a brother disputes with a brother, a brother disputes with a sister, a sister disputes with a brother, a friend disputes with a friend. Those who enter into quarrel, contention, dispute and attack one another with their hands and with stones and with sticks and with weapons, these suffer dying then and pain like unto dying. This too, monks, is a peril in the pleasures of the senses that is present...
We then read about many more perils in pleasures of the senses, and about the bad results they will cause in the future. The Buddha also explained about the satisfaction and peril in “material shapes”. We read:
“And what, monks, is the satisfaction in material shapes? Monks, it is like a girl in a noble’s family or a brahman’s family or a householder’s family who at the age of fifteen or sixteen is not too tall, not too short, not too thin, not too fat, not too dark, not too fair - is she, monks, at the height of her beauty and loveliness at that time?”
“Yes, Lord.”
“Monks, whatever happiness and pleasure arise because of beauty and loveliness, this is satisfaction in material shapes.
And what, monks, is peril in material shapes? As to this, monks, one might see that same lady after a time, eighty or ninety or a hundred years old, aged, crooked as a rafter, bent, leaning on a stick, going along palsied, miserable, youth gone, teeth broken, hair thinned, skin wrinkled, stumbling along, the limbs discoloured...
...And again, monks, one might see that same lady, her body thrown aside in a cemetery, dead for one, two or three days, swollen, discoloured, decomposing. What would you think, monks? That which was former beauty and loveliness has vanished, a peril has appeared?”
“Yes, Lord.”
“This too, monks, is a peril in material shapes...”
What the Buddha told the monks may sound crude to us, but it is reality. We find it difficult to accept life as it really is: birth, old age, sickness and death. We cannot bear to think of our own body or the body of someone who is dear to us as being a corpse. We accept being born, but we find it difficult to accept the consequences of birth, which are old age, sickness and death. We wish to ignore the impermanence of all conditioned things. When we look into the mirror and when we take care of our body we are inclined to take it for something which stays and which belongs to us. However, the body is only rūpa, elements which fall away as soon as they have arisen. There is no particle of the body which lasts.
One may cling to the body with wrong view, in Pāli: diṭṭhi. Diṭṭhi is a cetasika which can arise with lobha-mūla-citta (citta rooted in attachment). Sometimes there is lobha without wrong view, diṭṭhi, and sometimes with wrong view.
There are different kinds of diṭṭhi. The belief in a “self” is one kind of diṭṭhi. We may cling to mental phenomena as well as to physical phenomena with the wrong view of self. Some people believe that there is a self who exists in this life and who will continue to exist after this life-span is over. This is the “eternity-belief”. Others believe in a self who, existing only in this life, will be annihilated after this life-span is over. This is the “annihilation-belief”. Another form of diṭṭhi is the belief that there is no kamma which produces vipāka, that deeds do not bring their results. There have always been people in different countries who think that they can be purified of their imperfections merely by ablution in water or by prayers. They believe that the results of ill deeds they committed can thus be warded off. They do not know that each deed can bring about its own result. We can only purify ourselves of imperfections if the wisdom is cultivated which can eradicate them. If one thinks that deeds do not bring about their appropriate results one may easily be inclined to believe that the cultivation of wholesomeness is useless. This kind of belief may lead to ill deeds and to the corruption of society.
There are eight types of lobha-mūla-citta and of these, four types arise with wrong view, diṭṭhi (in Pāli: diṭṭhigata-sampayutta; sampayutta means: associated with). Four types of lobha-mūla-citta arise without wrong view (in Pāli: diṭṭhigata-vippayutta; vippayutta means: dissociated from).
As regards the feeling which accompanies the lobha-mūla-citta, lobha-mūla-cittas can arise either with pleasant feeling or indifferent feeling, never with unpleasant feeling. Of the four types of lobha-mūla-citta which are accompanied by diṭṭhi, two types arise with pleasant feeling, somanassa (in Pāli: somanassa-sahagata; sahagata means: accompanied by); two types arise with indifferent feeling, upekkhā (in Pāli: upekkhā-sahagata). For example, when one clings to the view that there is a self who will continue to exist, the citta can be accompanied by pleasant feeling or by indifferent feeling. Of the four lobha-mūla-cittas arising without diṭṭhi, two types are accompanied by pleasant feeling and two types are accompanied by indifferent feeling. Thus, of the eight types of lobha-mūla-citta, four types arise with pleasant feeling and four types arise with indifferent feeling.
In classifying lobha-mūla-cittas there is yet another distinction to be made. Lobha-mūla-cittas can be “unprompted”, asaṅkhārika, or “prompted”, sasaṅkhārika. “Asaṅkhārika” can be translated a “unprompted“, “not induced”, or “spontaneous”; sasaṅkhārika can be translated as “prompted” or “induced”. The Visuddhimagga(XIV, 91) states about lobha-mūla-citta that it is “sasaṅkhārika” “when it is with consciousness which is sluggish and urged on.”
The lobha-mūla-cittas which are sasaṅkhārika can be prompted by the advice or request of someone else, or they arise induced by oneself. When the cittas are sasaṅkhārika, they are “sluggish and urged on”; they are not keen, they are weaker than when they are asaṅkhārika.
Of the four lobha-mūla-cittas arising with diṭṭhi, two types are unprompted, asaṅkhārika, and two types are prompted, sasaṅkhārika. As regards the lobha-mūla-cittas arising without diṭṭhi, two types are unprompted, asaṅkhārika, and two types are prompted, sasaṅkhārika. Thus, of the eight types of lobha-mūla-cittas, four types are unprompted and four types are prompted.
It is useful to learn the Pāli terms and their meaning, because the English translation does not render the meaning of realities very clearly.
The eight types of lobha-mūla-citta are:
  • Accompanied by pleasant feeling, with wrong view, unprompted.
    (Somanassa-sahagataṃ, diṭṭhigata-sampayuttaṃ, asaṅkhārikam ekaṃ
    (17)).
  • Accompanied by pleasant feeling, with wrong view, prompted.
    (Somanassa-sahagataṃ, diṭṭhigata-sampayuttaṃ, sasaṅkhārikam ekaṃ).
  • Accompanied by pleasant feeling, without wrong view, unprompted.
    (Somanassa-sahagataṃ, diṭṭhigata-vippayuttaṃ, asaṅkhārikam ekaṃ).
  • Accompanied by pleasant feeling, without wrong view, prompted.
    (Somanassa-sahagataṃ, diṭṭhigata-vippayuttaṃ, sasaṅkhārikam ekaṃ).
  • Accompanied by indifferent feeling, with wrong view, unprompted.
    (Upekkhā-sahagataṃ, diṭṭhigata-sampayuttaṃ, asaṅkhārikam ekaṃ).
  • Accompanied by indifferent feeling, with wrong view, prompted.
    (Upekkhā-sahagataṃ, diṭṭhigata-sampayuttaṃ, sasaṅkhārikam ekaṃ).
  • Accompanied by indifferent feeling, without wrong view, unprompted.
    (Upekkhā-sahagataṃ, diṭṭhigata-vippayuttaṃ, asaṅkhārikam ekaṃ).
  • Accompanied by indifferent feeling, without wrong view, prompted.
    (Upekkhā-sahagataṃ, diṭṭhigata-vippayuttaṃ, sasaṅkhārikam ekaṃ).
As we have seen, lobha-mūla-cittas can be unprompted or prompted. The Atthasālinī (Book II, Part IX, chapter III, 225) gives an example of lobha-mūla-cittas, accompanied by diṭṭhi, which are prompted. A son of a noble family marries a woman who has wrong views and therefore he associates with people who have wrong views. Gradually he accepts those wrong views and then they are pleasing to him.
Lobha-mūla-cittas without diṭṭhi which are sasaṅkhārika arise, for example, when one, though at first not attached to alcoholic drink, takes pleasure in it after someone else persuades one to drink.
As we have seen, lobha-mūla-cittas can be accompanied by pleasant feeling or by indifferent feeling. Lobha-mūla-cittas without diṭṭhi, accompanied by pleasant feeling, can arise, for example, when we enjoy ourselves while seeing a beautiful colour or hearing an agreeable sound. At such moments we can be attached without wrong view about realities. When we enjoy beautiful clothes, go to the cinema, or laugh and talk with others about pleasurable things there can be many moments of enjoyment without the idea of self, but there can also be moments with diṭṭhi, moments of clinging to a “self”.
Lobha-mūla-cittas without diṭṭhi, accompanied by indifferent feeling, may arise, for example, when we like to stand up, or like to take hold of different objects. Since we generally do not have happy feeling with these actions, there may be lobha with indifferent feeling at such moments. Thus we see that lobha often motivates the most common actions of our daily life.

Questions

  1. 1.
    When there is lobha is there always pleasant feeling, somanassa, as
    well?
  2. 2.
    Does diṭṭhi, wrong view, arise only with lobha-mūla-citta?
  3. 3.
    How many types of lobha-mūla-citta are there? Why is it useful to
    know this?
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