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Objects and Doors

Citta knows or experiences something, it experiences an object. There cannot be any citta without an object. When an object presents itself through one of the five senses or through the mind-door, do we realize that it is citta which experiences an object? So long as we do not see things as they really are, we think that a self experiences objects, and, moreover, we take objects for permanent and for self. For example, when we see a log of wood, we are used to thinking that the object which is seen at that moment is a log of wood; we do not realize that only visible object is the object which can be seen. When we touch the log of wood, hardness or cold, for example, can be experienced through the bodysense. We take the log of wood for a thing which lasts, but what we call “log of wood” are many different rūpas which arise and fall away. Only one characteristic of rūpa can be experienced at a time, when it presents itself. If we develop understanding of the different characteristics which appear through different doorways we will be able to see things as they really are.
The ariyan sees life in a way which is different from the way the non-ariyan sees it. What the non-ariyan takes for happiness (in Pāli: sukha), is for the ariyan sorrow (dukkha); what for the non-ariyan is sorrow, is for the ariyan happiness. In the Kindred Sayings (IV, Saḷāyatana-vagga, Third Fifty, chapter IV, paragraph 136) it is said in verse:
Things seen and heard, tastes, odours, what we touch,
Perceive-all, everything desirable,
Pleasant and sweet, while one can say "it is",
These are deemed "sukha" by both gods and men.
And when they cease to be they hold it woe.
The dissolution of the body-self
To ariyans seems "sukha". Everything
The world holds good, sages see otherwise.
What other men call "sukha", that the saints
Call "dukkha"; what the rest so name,
That do the ariyans know as happiness.
Behold a Dhamma that's hard to apprehend.
Hereby are baffled they that are not wise.
Darkness is theirs, enmeshed by ignorance:
Blindness is theirs, who cannot see the light...
The Buddha taught about objects, experienced by cittas through different doors, in order to cure people of their blindness. When we study the teachings we learn that there are six classes of objects (in Pāli: ārammaṇa), which can be known by citta.
  1. 1.
    The first class is: visible object or rūpārammaṇa. The object which
    is experienced through the eye-door can only be the kind of rūpa
    which is visible object. We can call it visible object or colour, it
    does not matter how we name it; but we should know that it is just
    that which is visible, that which appears through the eyes. Visible
    object is not a thing or a person we may think of. When we think
    that we see a tree, animal or man, we think of concepts and such
    moments are different from seeing, the experience of what is
  2. 2.
    The second class of ārammaṇa, is sound (saddārammaṇa).
  3. 3.
    The third class is smell (gandhārammaṇa).
  4. 4.
    The fourth class is taste (rasārammaṇa).
  5. 5.
    The fifth class is tangible object, experienced through the bodysense (phoṭṭhabbārammaṇa). Tangible object comprises the following rūpas:
    • the Element of Earth (64) (in Pāli: paṭhavi-dhātu) or
      solidity, which can be experienced as hardness or softness
    • the Element of Fire (in Pāli: tejo-dhātu) or temperature, which
      can be experienced as heat or cold
    • the Element of Wind (in Pāli: vāyo-dhātu) or motion, which can
      be experienced as motion or pressure
      • Solidity (earth), cohesion (water), temperature (fire) and
        motion (wind or air) are the four principle rūpas
        (mahā-bhūta-rūpas). Rūpas arise in groups or units of
        several kinds of rūpas and the four principle rūpas always
        have to arise together with any other kind of rūpa, no
        matter whether it is in the body or external. Cohesion or
        fluidity (the Element of Water, in Pāli: apo-dhātu) cannot
        be experienced through the bodysense. When we touch water
        the characteristics of hardness or softness, heat or cold,
        motion or pressure can be directly experienced through the
        bodysense. The characteristic of cohesion can be experienced
        only through the mind-door; it is, as we will see, included
        in the sixth class of ārammaṇa, the dhammārammaṇa.
  6. 6.
    Dhammārammaṇa comprises all objects other than those included in the first five classes of objects, as will be explained later on. Dhammārammaṇa can be experienced only through the mind-door.
If one has not developed “insight”, right understanding of realities, one does not clearly know which object presents itself through which doorway, one is confused as to objects and doors; thus, one is confused about the world. The ariyan is not confused about the world; he knows the objects which appear through the six doors as nāma and rūpa, not self.
The Discourse on the Six Sixes (Middle Length Sayings III, no. 148) is very helpful for the understanding of realities which present themselves through the six doors. When the Buddha was staying in the Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery, he explained to the monks about the six “internal sense-fields” and the six “external sense-fields” (in Pāli: āyatana). The six “internal sensefields” are the five senses and the mind. The six “external sense-fields” are the objects, experienced through six doors. The Buddha explained about six classes of consciousness (seeing, hearing, etc.) which arise in dependence on six doors and on the objects experienced through these doors. He also explained about six kinds of contact (phassa), six kinds of feeling conditioned by the six kinds of contact, and six kinds of craving conditioned by the six kinds of feeling. Thus there are “Six Sixes”, six groups of six realities.
The Buddha then explained about the person who has attachment, aversion and ignorance with regard to what he experiences through the six doors. We read:
“Monks, visual consciousness arises because of eye and visible object, the meeting of the three is sensory impingement (65) ; an experience arises conditioned by sensory impingement that is pleasant or painful or neither painful nor pleasant. He, being impinged on by a pleasant feeling, delights, rejoices and persists in cleaving to it; a tendency to attachment is latent in him. Being impinged on by a painful feeling, he grieves, mourns, laments, beats his breast and falls into disillusion; a tendency to repugnance is latent in him. Being impinged on by a feeling that is neither painful nor pleasant, he does not comprehend the origin nor the going down nor the satisfaction nor the peril of that feeling nor the escape from it as it really is; a tendency to ignorance is latent in him...”
The same is said with regard to the other doorways. We then read about the person who has developed the wisdom which can eradicate attachment, aversion and ignorance:
“ ...He, being impinged on by pleasant feeling, does not delight, rejoice or persist in cleaving to it; a tendency to attachment is not latent in him. Being impinged on by a painful feeling, he does not grieve, mourn, lament, beat his breast or fall into disillusion; a tendency to repugnance is not latent in him. Being impinged on by a feeling that is neither painful nor pleasant, he comprehends the origin and the going down and the satisfaction and the peril of that feeling and the escape as it really is, a tendency to ignorance is not latent in him. That he, monks, by getting rid of any tendency to attachment to a pleasant feeling, by driving out any tendency to repugnance for a painful feeling, by rooting out any tendency to ignorance concerning a feeling that is neither painful nor pleasant, by getting rid of ignorance, by making knowledge arise, should here and now be an end-maker of dukkha - this situation exists.
Seeing this thus, monks, the instructed disciple of the ariyans turns away from eye, turns away from material shapes, turns away from visual consciousness, turns away from impact on the eye, turns away from feeling, turns away from craving. He turns away from ear, he turns away from sounds ...He turns away from nose, he turns away from smells ...He turns away from tongue ...he turns away from tastes ...He turns away from body, he turns away from touches ...He turns away from mind, he turns away from mental states, he turns away from mental consciousness, he turns away from impact on the mind, he turns away from feeling, he turns away from craving. Turning away he is dispassionate; by dispassion he is freed; in freedom is the knowledge that he is freed, and he comprehends: Destroyed is birth, brought to a close the Brahma-faring, done is what was to be done, there is no more of being such or so.”
Thus spoke the Lord. Delighted, these monks rejoiced in what the Lord had said. And while this exposition was being given the minds of as many as sixty monks were freed from the cankers without grasping.
While the Buddha explained to the monks about the objects appearing through the six doors, the monks were mindful of nāma and rūpa while they listened; they developed right understanding and several among them could even attain arahatship.
As we have seen, dhammārammaṇa, the sixth class of objects, can be experienced only through the mind-door. It includes all objects other than the sense objects. Dhammārammaṇa can again be subdivided into six classes. They are:
  1. 1.
    The five sense-organs (pasāda-rūpas)
  2. 2.
    The subtle rūpas (sukhuma-rūpas)
  3. 3.
  4. 4.
  5. 5.
  6. 6.
    Concepts and conventional terms (paññatti)
The first class of dhammārammaṇa comprises the five sense-organs (pasāda-rūpas); they are the rūpas which have the capacity to receive sense-impressions. The pasāda-rūpas themselves do not experience anything, they are rūpa, not nāma; they function as the doors through which cittas experience objects. The pasāda-rūpas can only be known through the mind-door, not through the sense-doors. For example, we know that there is eyesense, because there is seeing, but we cannot experience eyesense through the eyes.
The five sense-organs are classified as gross (olārika) rūpas. Altogether there are twenty-eight kinds of rūpa of which twelve are classified as gross and sixteen as subtle (sukhuma). The gross rūpas include, besides the five sense-organs, the sense objects which can be experienced through the five sense-doors; these are seven rūpas, that is to say: four rūpas which can respectively be experienced through the four sense-doors of eyes, ears, nose and tongue, and the three rūpas of solidity, temperature and motion which can be experienced through the door of the bodysense. Thus, there are altogether twelve gross rūpas. As we have seen, the sense objects have been classified separately, they are not included in dhammārammaṇa.
There are sixteen kinds of subtle rūpa and these have been classified as the second class of dhammārammaṇa. They include, for example, nutritive essence (ojā), bodily intimation, kāya-viññatti, the rūpa which is the physical condition for expression through the body, such as gestures or facial expression, and vocal intimation, vacīviññatti, the rūpa which is the physical condition for speech or other ways of vocal intimation.
Citta is another class of dhammārammaṇa. Cittas experience different objects, ārammaṇas, but citta itself can be ārammaṇa as well. Kusala cittas, akusala cittas and many other types of citta can be the object experienced by another citta.
The class of dhammārammaṇa which is cetasika comprises all fifty-two cetasikas. Feeling is a cetasika. Painful feeling, for example, can be known by citta; then the object of citta is dhammārammaṇa. When one experiences hardness the object is not dhammārammaṇa but tangible object (phoṭṭhabbārammaṇa), which is included in the fifth class of objects. Hardness and painful feeling can appear closely one after the other. If one does not realize that hardness and painful feeling are different ārammaṇas and if one is ignorant of the different characteristics of nāma and rūpa, one will continue taking them for self.
Citta can experience all objects. Also nibbāna can be experienced by citta. Nibbāna is dhammārammaṇa, it can only be experienced through the mind-door. Thus, citta can experience both conditioned dhammas and the unconditioned dhamma, which is nibbāna. The citta which experiences conditioned dhammas is lokiya citta, “mundane” (66). The citta which, at the attainment of enlightenment, directly experiences nibbāna is lokuttara citta, “supramundane citta”.
Another class of dhammārammaṇa is concepts(paññatti), that is to say, both ideas and conventional terms . Thus we see that citta can know both paramattha dhammas, absolute realities, and concepts which are not real in the absolute sense.
A concept or a conventional truth is not a paramattha dhamma. We can think of a person, an animal or a thing because of remembrance of past experiences, but these are not paramattha dhammas, realities which each have their own unchangeable characteristic, no matter how one names them. When there is thinking about a concept, it is nāma which thinks; thinking is a paramattha dhamma but the concept which is the object of thinking is not real in the absolute sense.
Paññatti can mean a concept or idea which is not real in the absolute sense as well as a conventional term. Conventional terms can denote both realities and things which are not real. A term which in itself is not a paramattha dhamma, can denote a paramattha dhamma. For instance, the terms “nāma” and “rūpa” are paññatti, but they denote paramattha dhammas. It is essential to know the difference between paramattha dhamma and paññatti. If we cling to the terms “nāma” and “rūpa” and continue thinking about nāma and rūpa, instead of being aware of their characteristics when they appear, we will know only paññattis instead of realities.
Summarising the objects which citta can experience: five classes of objects which are rūpas, namely, visible object, sound, smell, taste and tangible object ; the sixth class, dhammārammaṇa, which is again subdivided into six classes, including: citta, cetasika, the rūpas which are the five senses, subtle rūpas, nibbāna and also paññatti.
Different objects can be experienced through different doorways (in Pāli: dvāra). For example, the eyesense, the pasāda-rūpa which has the capacity to receive visible object, is a necessary condition for citta to experience visible object. If there were no pasāda-rūpa in the eye, citta could not experience visible object. This rūpa is the means, the doorway, through which citta experiences visible object.
Cittas arising in the sense-door processes know their objects through the doors of the eye, the ear, the nose, the tongue and the bodysense. As regards the door of the bodysense, the pasāda-rūpa which has the capacity to receive tangible object such as hardness, softness, heat, cold, motion or pressure, is any part of the body where there is sensitivity for such impressions. Thus, any part of the body can be body-door, except those parts which have no sensitivity.
Five doors are rūpa and one door is nāma. The mind-door is nāma. The cittas of the mind-door process experience an object through the mind-door. Before the mind-door-adverting-consciousness, mano-dvārāvajjana-citta, arises, there are the bhavanga-calana (vibrating bhavanga) and the bhavangupaccheda (arrest-bhavanga). The bhavangupaccheda, the citta preceding the mano-dvārāvajjana-citta, is the mind-door. It is the “doorway” through which the mano-dvārāvajjana-citta and the succeeding cittas of the mind-door process experience the object. It is useful to know through which door cittas experience different objects. For example, visible object, rūpārammaṇa, can be experienced both through the eye-door and through the mind-door. It is experienced through the eye-door when it has not fallen away yet. When it is experienced by the cittas in the mind-door process following upon that eye-door process, it has just fallen away. When visible object is experienced through the mind-door the cittas only know visible object, they do not pay attention to shape and form or think of a person or a thing. But time and again there are also mind-door processes of cittas which think of people or things and then the object is a concept, not visible object. The experience of visible object conditions the thinking of concepts which arises later on.
In both the sense-door process and the mind-door process javana-cittas arise (67); these javana-cittas are, if one is not an arahat, either kusala cittas or akusala cittas. When visible object is experienced through the eye-door, one does not yet perceive a person or a thing, but, already in the sense-door process, attachment to what is seen can arise, or aversion towards it, or ignorance. Defilements are deeply rooted, they can arise in the sense-door processes and in the mind-door processes. We may think that the enslavement to objects which are experienced through the different doorways is caused by the objects. Defilements, however, are not caused by objects, they are accumulated in the citta which experiences the object.
We read in the Kindred Sayings (IV, Saḷāyatana-vagga, Fourth Fifty, chapter III, paragraph 191, Koṭṭhika) that Sāriputta and Mahā-Koṭṭhika were staying near Vārānasi at Isipatana, in the Antelope Park. Koṭṭhika said to Sāriputta:
“How now, friend? Is the eye the bond of objects, or are objects the bond of the eye? Is the tongue the bond of savours, or are savours the bond of the tongue? Is mind the bond of mind-objects (68), or are mind-objects the bond of the mind?”
“Not so, friend Koṭṭhika. The eye is not the bond of objects, nor are objects the bond of the eye, but that desire and lust that arise owing to these two. That is the bond. And so with the tongue and the mind is the desire and lust that arise owing to savours and tongue, mind-objects and mind.
Suppose, friend, two oxen, one white and one black, tied by one rope or one yoke-tie. Would one be right in saying that the black ox is the bond for the white one, or that the white one is the bond for the black one?”
“Surely not, friend.”
“No, friend. It is not so. But the rope or the yoke-tie which binds the two, - that is the bond that unites them. So it is with the eye and objects, with tongue and savours, with mind and mind-objects. It is the desire and lust which arise owing to them that form the bond that unites them.
If the eye, friend, were the bond of objects, or if objects were the bond of the eye, then this righteous life for the utter destruction of dukkha could not be proclaimed. But since it is not so, but the desire and lust which arise owing to them are the bond, therefore is the righteous life for the utter destruction of dukkha proclaimed...
There is in the Exalted One an eye, friend. The Exalted One sees an object with the eye. But in the Exalted One is no desire and lust. Wholly heart-free is the Exalted One. There is in the Exalted One a tongue ...a mind. But in the Exalted One is no desire and lust. Wholly heart-free is the Exalted One.
By this method, friend, you are to understand, as I said before, that the bond is the desire and lust that arise owing to things.”


  1. 1.
    Through which doors can motion be experienced?
  2. 2.
    Through which door can bodysense be experienced?
  3. 3.
    What class of ārammaṇa (object) is cohesion?
  4. 4.
    What class of ārammaṇa is lobha-mūla-citta (citta rooted in
  5. 5.
    Through which door can lobha-mūla-citta be experienced?
  6. 6.
    Through which doors can lobha-mūla-citta experience an object?
  7. 7.
    What class of ārammaṇa is cold?
  8. 8.
    What class of ārammaṇa is painful bodily feeling?
  9. 9.
    What class of ārammaṇa is unpleasant mental feeling?
  10. 10.
    What class of ārammaṇa is paññā (wisdom)?
  11. 11.
    Is the word “peace” an ārammaṇa? If so, what class?
  12. 12.
    How many doors are rūpa and how many nāma?
  13. 13.
    Can visible object be experienced through the mind-door?
  14. 14.
    Through how many doors does citta know dhammārammaṇa?
  15. 15.
    How many classes of ārammaṇa are known through the mind-door?