Comment on page

The Functions of Tadārammaṇa and Cuti

An object which impinges on one of the senses can be visible object, sound, odour, flavour or tangible object. Each of these objects is rūpa. They arise and fall away, but they do not fall away as rapidly as nāma. As we have seen (in chapter 12), rūpa lasts as long as seventeen moments of citta. When a sense object which is rūpa impinges on one of the senses, a process of cittas occurs which arise in a particular order and perform each their own function while they experience that sense object. The first citta of that process, the pañca-dvārāvajjana-citta, five-door-adverting-consciousness, does not arise immediately. First there have to be bhavanga-cittas and these are: atīta-bhavanga, past bhavanga, bhavanga-calana, vibrating bhavanga, and bhavangupaccheda, arrest-bhavanga or last bhavanga before the current of bhavanga-cittas is arrested. These bhavanga-cittas do not experience the rūpa which impinges on one of the senses. The pañca-dvārāvajjana-citta, which is a kiriyacitta, adverts to the object and is then succeeded by one of the dvi-pañca-viññāṇas (seeing-consciousness, hearing-consciousness, etc.) which is vipāka, the result of a good deed or a bad deed. There is, however, not only one moment of vipāka in a process, but several moments. The pañca-viññāṇa (sense-cognition) is succeeded by sampaṭicchana-citta (receiving-consciousness) which is vipāka and this citta is succeeded by santīraṇa-citta (investigating-consciousness) which is also vipāka. The santīraṇa-citta is succeeded by the votthapana-citta (determining-consciousness) which is kiriyacitta. This citta is succeeded by seven javana-cittas (55) which are, in the case of non-arahats, akusala cittas or kusala cittas. All cittas, starting with the pañca-dvārāvajjana-citta, experience the object which impinges on one of the senses. Counting from the atīta-bhavanga, fifteen moments of citta have elapsed when the seventh javana-citta has fallen away. If the rūpa which has impinged on one of the senses and atīta-bhavanga arose at the same time, that rūpa can survive two more moments of citta, since the duration of rūpa equals seventeen moments of citta. Thus, after the javana-cittas there can be two more moments of citta which directly experience the object. These cittas, which are vipākacittas, are tadārammaṇa-cittas or tadālambana-cittas. They perform the function of tadārammaṇa or tadālambana, which is translated as “registering” or “retention”. Tadārammaṇa literally means “that object”; the citta “hangs on” to that object. When the tadārammaṇa-cittas have fallen away the sense-door process has run its full course. There is, however, not always a complete sense-door process. When a rūpa which impinges on one of the senses, more than three moments of bhavanga-cittas may pass before a process starts and then the process cannot run its full course. Since rūpa does not last longer than seventeen moments of citta, it falls away before the tadārammaṇa-cittas could arise. Thus, in that case there are no tadārammaṇa-cittas (56).
Only in the sensuous plane of existence kamma can, after kāmāvacara javana-cittas (of the sense-sphere), produce the vipākacittas which are the tadārammaṇa-cittas, “hanging on” to the sense object (57). For those who are born in rūpa-brahma-planes where there are less conditions for sense-impressions, and for those who are born in arūpa-brahma planes where there are no sense-impressions, there are no tadārammaṇa-cittas (58).
Summarising the cittas which succeed one another when a rūpa impinges on one of the senses and becomes the object of cittas of a sense-door process which runs its full course:
  1. 1.
    Atīta-bhavanga (past bhavanga)
  2. 2.
    Bhavanga-calana (vibrating bhavanga)
  3. 3.
    Bhavangupaccheda (arrest-bhavanga)
  4. 4.
    Pañca-dvārāvajjana-citta (five-door-adverting-consciousness)
  5. 5.
    Dvi-pañca-viññāṇa (the five pairs of seeing-consciousness, etc.)
  6. 6.
    Sampaṭicchana-citta (receiving-consciousness)
  7. 7.
    Santīraṇa-citta (investigating-consciousness)
  8. 8.
    Votthapana-citta (determining-consciousness)
  9. 9.
  10. 10.
    ditto kusala cittas or akusala cittas
  11. 11.
    ditto (in the case of non-arahats)
  12. 12.
    ditto “running through the object”
  13. 13.
  14. 14.
  15. 15.
  16. 16.
    Tadārammaṇa-citta (registering-consciousness)
  17. 17.
The tadārammaṇa-citta experiences an object not only through the five sense-doors but also through the mind-door. In the sense-door process tadārammaṇa-citta can arise only when the object has not fallen away yet. If tadārammaṇa-cittas arise in a sense-door process they can also arise in the succeeding mind-door process. The tadārammaṇa-citta is a vipākacitta which can experience an object through six doors. For example, when visible object contacts the eyesense and the process runs its full course, the tadārammaṇa-cittas arising in that process experience the object through the eye-door. The tadārammaṇa-cittas of the mind-door process which succeeds the eye-door process experience that object through the mind-door (59). When the object which contacts the sense-door is unpleasant, all the vipākacittas in that process and thus also the tadārammaṇa-cittas, if they arise, are akusala vipāka. The tadārammaṇa-cittas of the succeeding mind-door process are also akusala vipāka. When the object which contacts the sense-door is pleasant, all vipākacittas of that process, including the tadārammaṇa-cittas, are kusala vipāka. It is the same with the tadārammaṇa-cittas of the subsequent mind-door process.
The function of tadārammaṇa can be performed by eleven different types of vipākacitta: by three ahetuka vipākacittas (unaccompanied by hetus, roots) and by eight sahetuka vipākacittas (accompanied by sobhana hetus, beautiful roots).
If the tadārammaṇa-citta is ahetuka, the function of tadārammaṇa is performed by the ahetuka vipākacitta which is classified as santīraṇa-citta. As we have seen (in chapter 9), there are three kinds of santīraṇa-citta: one type is akusala vipāka accompanied by upekkhā (indifferent feeling), one type is kusala vipāka, accompanied by upekkhā, and one type is kusala vipāka, accompanied by somanassa (pleasant feeling). As stated before (in chapter 11), santīraṇa-citta can perform more than one function at different occasions. Santīraṇa-citta performs the function of santīraṇa (investigating the object) when it arises in a sense-door process and succeeds sampaṭicchana-citta. Apart from the function of investigating the object, santīraṇa-citta can also perform the functions of paṭisandhi (rebirth), bhavanga and cuti (dying). In those cases santīraṇa-citta does not arise within a process of cittas. Moreover, santīraṇa-citta can perform the function of tadārammaṇa. Apart from the three ahetuka vipākacittas which can perform the function of tadārammaṇa, there are eight sahetuka vipākacittas or mahā-vipākacittas which can perform the function of tadārammaṇa.
All the time cittas arise and fall away, performing different functions. The last function of citta in life is the function of cuti (dying). When we say in conventional language that a person has died, the cuti-citta (dying-consciousness), which is the last citta of that life, has fallen away. The cuti-citta is succeeded by the paṭisandhi-citta (rebirth-consciousness) of the following life.
Death is unavoidable. Everybody, no matter whether he is in one of the unhappy planes, in the human plane or in one of the heavenly planes, has to have cuti-citta. We read in the teachings about birth, old age, sickness and death. Old age is mentioned immediately after birth, before sickness is mentioned. The reason is that as soon as we are born, we are already ageing, we are already on our way to death. We read in the Sutta-Nipāta (The Group of Discourses, chapter III, paragraph 8, The Barb, vs. 574-587, Khuddaka Nikāya):
The life of mortals here cannot be predicted by any sign, and (its duration) is uncertain. (It is) difficult and brief, and it is combined with misery.
For there is no means whereby those born do not die. Even (for one) arriving at old age there is death, for of such a nature are living creatures.
Just as for ripe fruit there is constantly fear of falling, so for mortals who are born there is constantly fear of death.
Just as vessels made of clay by a potter all have breaking as their end, so is the life of mortals.
Young and old, those who are foolish and those who are wise, all go into the power of death, all have death as their end.
When they are overcome by death, going from here to the next world, the father does not protect the son, nor the relatives the (other) relatives.
See, while the relatives are actually looking on, (and) wailing much, each one of the mortals is led away like a cow to be slaughtered.
Thus the world is smitten by death and old age. Therefore wise men do not grieve, knowing the way of the world.
Whose path you do not know, whether come or gone, not seeing both ends you lament (him) uselessly.
If lamenting (and) harming himself a deluded person should pluck out any advantage (from his action), a wise man would do that too.
For not by weeping and grief does one obtain peace of mind. His misery arises all the more, his body is harmed.
He becomes thin and discoloured, harming himself by himself. The departed ones do not fare well thereby. Lamentation is useless.
Not abandoning grief a person goes all the more to misery. Bewailing the dead man he goes under the influence of grief...
If one is not wise, one grieves, but for those who develop the eightfold Path, there will be less sorrow. For him who has attained the stage of the arahat, there will be cuti-citta, but it will not be succeeded by paṭisandhi-citta. Then the end to birth, old age, sickness and death has been reached.
We read in the Gradual Sayings (Book of the Threes, chapter VII, paragraph 62, Terror, V and VI):
Monks, these three terrors part mother and son. What three?
A mother cannot bear to see her son grow old. She says, “I am growing old. Let not my son grow old.” The son likewise cannot bear to see his mother grow old. He says, “I am growing old. Let not my mother grow old.” And it is the same with regard to getting sick and dying. These are the three terrors that part mother and son.
But, monks, there is a way, there is a practice that leads to the abandoning, to the overpassing of these three terrors that part mother and son, a way which joins mother and son. What is that way, what is that practice which so leads?
It is just this Eightfold Way, to wit: Right view, right thinking, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. That is the way, that is the practice...
The eightfold Path eventually leads to the end of birth, old age, sickness and death. If one is not an arahat, there will be a paṭisandhi-citta succeeding the cuti-citta. Before the cuti-citta arises, there are only five javana-cittas instead of seven, because the javana process is weaker due to the nearness of death (Vis. chapter XVII, 143). These are the last javana-cittas of that lifespan. If akusala kamma produces the rebirth of the next life there will be an unhappy rebirth. In that case the last javana-cittas are akusala cittas and they experience an unpleasant object. If kusala kamma produces the rebirth there will be a happy rebirth. In that case the last javana-cittas are kusala cittas and they experience a pleasant object (60). These javana-cittas experience an object through one of the sense-doors or through the mind-door. The object that presents itself to the dying person may be the past kamma that will condition his rebirth, a sign of past kamma, a sign of his future destiny or any object that is experienced through one of the senses (Vis. XVII, 136-146). The tadārammaṇa-citta which has as function to register the object may or may not follow. Then the cuti-citta arises, the last citta of this present life. The cuti-citta is succeeded by the paṭisandhi-citta of the following life and this citta experiences the same object as the last javana-cittas arising before the cuti-citta of the previous life. Whatever that object may have been, the paṭisandhi-citta of the new life and also all bhavanga-cittas arising in the course of that new life and finally the cuti-citta of that life experience that object. There is sometimes a misunderstanding that the cuti-citta of the previous life determines one’s rebirth, but this is not so. The only function of the cuti-citta is being the last moment of a lifespan. The cuti-citta is vipākacitta produced by the kamma which produced the paṭisandhi-citta and the bhavanga-cittas of the life which is just ending; it is of the same type as these cittas and it experiences the same object. Past kusala kamma or akusala kamma which will produce one’s rebirth conditions the last javana-cittas to experience a pleasant object or an unpleasant object.
The paṭisandhi-citta, the bhavanga-cittas and the cuti-citta in one lifespan are the same type of vipākacitta and they experience the same object. There are nineteen types of citta which can perform the function of paṭisandhi (61) and the function of bhavanga, and these same nineteen types of citta can perform the function of cuti.
If someone suffers great pains before he dies because of an accident or sickness, the last javana-cittas arising before the cuti-citta will not necessarily be akusala cittas. There may be akusala cittas with aversion when he feels the pain, but the last javana-cittas may be kusala cittas, depending on the kamma which will produce his next birth.
We read in the Gradual Sayings (Book of the Sixes, chapter VI, paragraph 2, Phagguna) that the Buddha visited the venerable Phagguna who was very ill. Phagguna had attained the second stage of enlightenment (the stage of the sakadāgāmī, once-returner); he was not yet completely freed from the “five lower fetters”. We read in the sutta that the Buddha said to Phagguna:
“I hope, Phagguna, you’re bearing up, keeping going; that your aches and pains grow less, not more; that there are signs of their growing less, not more?”
“Lord, I can neither bear up nor keep going; my aches and pains grow grievously more, not less; and there are signs of their growing more, not less.
Lord, the violent ache that racks my head is just as though some lusty fellow chopped at it with a sharp-edged sword; lord, I can neither bear up nor keep going; my pains grow more, not less...”
So the Exalted One instructed him, roused him, gladdened him and comforted him with Dhamma-talk, then rose from his seat and departed.
Now not long after the Exalted One’s departure, the venerable Phagguna died; and at the time of his death his faculties were completely purified.
Then went the venerable Ānanda to the Exalted One, saluted him, and sat down at one side. So seated, he said:
“Lord, not long after the Exalted One left, the venerable Phagguna died; and at that time his faculties were completely purified.”
“But why, Ānanda, should not the faculties of the monk Phagguna have been completely purified? The monk’s mind, Ānanda, had not been wholly freed from the five lower fetters; but, when he heard that Dhamma teaching, his mind was wholly freed.
There are these six advantages, Ānanda, in hearing Dhamma in time, in testing its goodness in time. What six?
Consider, Ānanda, the monk whose mind is not wholly freed from the five lower fetters, but, when dying, is able to see the Tathāgata: the Tathāgata teaches him Dhamma, lovely in the beginning, lovely in the middle, lovely in the end, its goodness, its significance; and makes known the brahman-life (62), wholly fulfilled, perfectly pure. When he has heard that Dhamma teaching, his mind is wholly freed from the five lower fetters (63). This, Ānanda, is the first advantage in hearing Dhamma in time.
Or ...though not just able to see the Tathāgata, sees his disciple, who teaches him Dhamma ...and makes known the brahman-life ...Then is his mind wholly freed from the five lower fetters. This, Ānanda, is the second advantage...
Or ...though not able to see the Tathāgata or his disciple, continues to reflect in mind on Dhamma, as heard, as learnt, ponders on it, pores over it. Then is his mind wholly freed from the five lower fetters. This, Ānanda, is the third advantage in testing its goodness in time...”
The same is said with regard to the monk who has attained the third stage of enlightenment (the stage of the anāgāmī), and who, after hearing Dhamma in time and testing its goodness in time, can attain the stage of the arahat.
Summary of functions (kicca) of citta:
  1. 1.
    Paṭisandhi (rebirth)
  2. 2.
    Bhavanga (life-continuum)
  3. 3.
    Āvajjana (adverting, through the sense-doors and through the mind-
  4. 4.
  5. 5.
  6. 6.
  7. 7.
  8. 8.
    Experiencing tangible object through the bodysense
  9. 9.
    Sampaṭicchana (receiving)
  10. 10.
    Santīraṇa (investigating)
  11. 11.
    Votthapana (determining)
  12. 12.
    Javana (impulsion, or “running through the object”)
  13. 13.
    Tadārammaṇa (or tadālambana, registering)
  14. 14.
    Cuti (dying)


  1. 1.
    Why can tadārammaṇa-citta not arise in the rūpa-brahma planes and in
    the arūpa-brahma planes?
  2. 2.
    By how many types of citta can the function of cuti (dying) be