Cetasika – Connection to Gathi

Abhidhamma can be a very useful tool to clarify various concepts given in the suttas, especially if different people try to interpret suttas in different ways; see, “Sutta – Introduction“. Furthermore, it provides minute details on how the human mind gets the physical body (which is just a “shell” made out of inert matter) to do any and all bodily tasks.

1. In the introductory posts in Abhidhamma we saw that there are seven universal cetasika (mental factors) that arise with  each and every citta (loosely translated as a thought); citta is pronounced “chiththä” and cetasika pronounced “chethasikä”.

  • Those 7 universal cetasika are essential in forming any kind of citta, whether it is an immoral (akusala) citta, a moral (kusala) citta or a citta that does not do any kamma. For the moment, let us concentrate on the 54 types of cittas in the kama loka.
  • The rest of the cetasika provide “character” to cittas. Whether a given citta is good or bad depends on whether a “good” or “bad” set of cetasika arise with it; see, “Citta and Cetasika – How Vinnana (Consciousness) Arises“. They are listed in the post “Cetasika (Mental Factors)” and you may want to print it out for reference when reading this post. There is no need to memorize them.  With time, one may even know them by heart.
  • Out of the 54 cittas in the kama loka, there are 12 akusala citta and 8 kusala citta. Other 34 are vipaka citta and kriya citta that do not generate kammic power.
  • It may sound confusing all these terms, but you will get used to them! Try to get the essence.

2. Then there are six cetasika called  particulars (also called occasionals) or pakinnaka that MAY appear in any type of citta. Therefore they do not determine the PURPOSE of the citta, but they HELP with any type of purpose that was intended.

  • For example, viriya cetasika could be in a kusala citta and it can also be in an akusala citta. In either case, the viriya cetasika will HELP intensify the effort with that citta.

3. Out of a total of 52 cetasika, the other 39 (= 52-7-6) cetasika determine whether a given citta will be  an akusala citta or a kusala citta.

  • There are 14 cetasika (called asobhana or immoral or bad cetasika) that could be present in an akusala citta; out of those, 4 ALWAYS are present in any akusala citta; those 4 are asobhana universals.
  • The other 25 cetasika (called sobhana or moral or good cetasika) can be present only in kusala citta, and 19 of those are ALWAYS in any given kusala citta; those 19 are sobhana universals.
  • Therefore, 11 cetasika (7 universal plus 4 universal immoral) arise with each and every akusala citta. There may be other immoral and particular cetasika  as well.
  • There are 26 cetasika (7 universal plus 19 universal moral) arise with each and every kusala citta. Thus there are only 6 more moral cetasika that that do not arise with each and every  kusala citta.

4. Therefore, it is those sobhana and asobhana cetasika that determine the kammic nature of a citta. If we want to get rid of all akusala citta, what we need to do is to remove the 14 asobhana cetasika from our minds (they come up automatically with our gathi and asavas).

  • In other words, our sansaric habits (“gathi“) and cravings (“asavas“) are embedded in those 14 asobhana (and sobhanacetasika such as lobha and dosa. For example, one may have dominant “lobha gathi” (excess greed) or “dosa gathi” (strong hate); but normally, we have a mixture of many different inter-mixed gathi.
  • In the same way, cultivating good “gathi” and “cravings” (basically for moral deeds) leads to “good cetasika“.
  • As we follow the Noble Eightfold Path, those 14 asobhana cetasika are reduced. When reaching the Sotapanna stage, the two asobhana cetasika of ditthi and vicikicca are REMOVED, and all others are reduced to some extent. In particular, lobha is reduced to raga level and dosa is reduced to patigha. This why a Sotapanna will never be born in the apayas.
  • Raga has 3 components: kama raga, rupa raga, and arupa raga, corresponding to attachment to the kama loka, rupa loka, and arupa loka respectively. At the Sakadagami stage, kama raga and patigha are REDUCED to the level that one will never be born at or below the human realm.
  • At the Anagami stage, both those ( kama raga and patigha) are REMOVED and thus all bonds to the kama loka are broken and one will never be born again in the kama loka. Of course other remaining asobhana cetasika are reduced too.
  • All asobhana cetasika are removed at the Arahant stage.

5. Thus we can see that this is yet another way of looking at what is involved in attaining Nibbana. All these different ways of explaining are fully inter-consistent. There are more, but I am providing links to a few below.

Nibbana – Is it Difficult to Understand?

The Way to Nibbana – Removal of Asavas

Key to Sotapanna Stage – Ditthi and Vicikicca

What Are Rupa? (Relation to Nibbana)

6. We can easily see why four immoral universal cetasika arise with each and every akusala citta. These four are: moha (delusion or moral blindness), ahirika (shamelessness of wrong), anottappa (fearlessness  of wrong), and uddacca (restlessness).

  • We do not realize, but when we get greedy or hateful enough, we can become morally blind. One loses any sense of decency just for a short time, but that is enough to commit an immoral act.
  • Then we lose the fear of doing wrong and the shame of doing wrong because at that instant our minds are covered (it takes only a fraction of second to generate a thought and sometimes even to act on it if the javana is strong enough). This inevitably leads to a restless mind (uddacca) too.

7. Now let us discuss the 7 pairs in the universal moral cetasika list, starting with the pair of kayapassaddhi (tranquility of mental body, which in turn lead to tranquility of the physical body itself); cittapassaddhi (tranquility of consciousness). All these 7 pairs are states of mind and body that correspond to some “cooling down”. When one is doing a kusala kamma, the body and mind both relax and “cool down”. This is the first glimpse of Nibbana as one is already in the mundane eightfold path.

  • This is why the Buddha said that the state of the mind does affect the state of the body. When one starts on the lokottara eightfold path, these cetasika all get stronger,one starts feeling the “niramisa sukha“, and thus one becomes motivated to follow the Path.
  • But it is important to emphasize (as I have stated many times), things COULD get worse before getting better. When one is depriving the mind of things that is has gotten used to, it does not like that. Until it clearly sees the benefits of staying in the Path, it may try to pull one strongly in the “wrong direction”. One needs to be persistent, and this is where the satara iddhipada (chanda, citta, viriya, vimansa) need to be cultivated aggressively.

8. It is important to realize that the 19 universal moral cetasika can arise in ANYONE regardless of one’s religion or any other “label”. When doing a good deed (or speech or thought), these moral cetasika ALWAYS arise. They can arise when one is on the mundane eightfold Path (nothing to do with a religion per se); see, “Buddha Dhamma – In a Chart“.

  • Also note that hiri (shame of immoral deeds) and ottappa (fear of the consequences of immoral deeds) are the two that are opposed to the immoral ones of ahiri and anattappa.  This means regardless of the religion, one has been able to sort out right from wrong (moral from immoral) in that instance.
  • Then there is saddha (faith) and sati (mindfulness), both of which grow even more after embarking on the Path. Here, saddha is not the faith in Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, but the faith that such a moral act will bring about good outcomes.
  • And sati is NOT Samma Sati, but just the mindfulness of being involved in a moral act. However, once one gets on the lokottara eightfold Path, it can become Samma Sati.
  • The other two familiar ones are alobha and adosa cetasika; they are of course opposite to the immoral ones of lobha and dosa. Alobha is not mere absence of lobha, but also embodies generosity. Adosa is not mere absence of dosa, but embodies compassion.
  • Then there is tatramajjhattata (neutrality of mind; “majjhatta” means “in the middle”). This is not upekkha, which is one of the saptha bojjanga; see, “37 Factors of Enlightenment“.
  • Thus far, we have discussed the 19  universal moral cetasika in #7 and #8. Now let us discuss the 6 moral cetasika that arise only with some kusala citta.

9. It is easier to list those 6 moral cetasika that do not necessarily arise with each kusala citta. These are the ones that NEED TO BE CULTIVATED with true comprehension of anicca, dukkha, anatta.

  • They are: Samma Vaca (speech that is conducive to eliminate “san“), Samma Kammanta (actions that are conducive to eliminate “san“)  Samma Ajiva (life style that is conducive to eliminate “san“), karuna (“Ariya” compassion), mudita (“Ariya” appreciative joy), and panna (wisdom) which is the same as Samma Ditthi.
  • Of course those are developed to some extent when someone lives one’s life morally, but they will NEVER grow to higher stages until one understands anicca, dukkha, anatta at least to some extent.
  • This is why samma vaca is not just “good speech” or samma kammanta is not just “good deeds”. Samma (“san” + “ma“) means “with the intention of removing ‘san‘”, i.e., done with an understanding of anicca, dukkha, anatta; see, “Why is Correct Interpretation of Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta so Important?“.

10. However, amoha does not mean wisdom (panna)! Amoha is not a cetasika, but is a root cause. It is in all kusala citta in the sense that the immoral cetasika of moha is not present at that moment, i.e., the mind is not “covered”.

  • Some people interpret amoha to be panna; not so. Panna (wisdom) or lokottara Samma Ditthi needs to be cultivated via comprehending anicca, dukkha, anatta, and starts when one is on the Sotapanna magga; see, “Buddha Dhamma – In a Chart” and “What is Unique in Buddha Dhamma“.
  • The more panna one has, it is more likely that one would be generating amoha thoughts more frequently!
  • No matter how intelligent one is, one cannot start cultivating panna until one hears about the correct interpretations of anicca, dukkha, anatta.

11. Now let us briefly revisit the 6 particulars (also called occasionals) or pakinnaka that we mentioned in #2 above. They are: vitakka (focused application), vicara (sustained application);  adhimokkha (dominate), viriya (effort), piti (joy);  chanda (desire).

  • As we can readily see, these six can be in kusala or akusala citta and make them stronger.
  • This is why it is said that “dhammo ha vé rakkati dhammacari” or “dhamma will guide one in the direction of dhamma that one follows”, applies to both moral AND immoral paths.
  • Vitakka (focused application of thoughts), when cultivated in the lokottara Path, can become samma sankappa. Similarly, viriya (effort) can become samma vayama

12. Therefore, abhidhamma helps us understand the connection between cetasika and gathi, and how “bad gathi” are removed at each stage of Nibbana (see #4 above). We can also see from the above discussion how 8 of the cetasika (related to “good gathi“) turn to components of the Noble Eightfold Path when one starts on the Sotapanna magga. Actually, we discussed only 7 above (they are highlighted in bold red). The eighth one is the universal cetasika, ekaggata (one-pointedness) that can become samma samadhi.

13. This world is very complex. And the Buddha has analyzed it in many different ways. But they are all self-consistent. If one can get some traction, there is no other pleasure better than the pleasure of finding out about this world, pleasure of Dhamma.

  • It is said that, “sabba rathin Dhamma rathin jinathi“. Here “rathi” means “taste”, thus “from all tastes in the world, taste of Dhamma wins”. The “taste of Dhamma” optimizes for an Anagami.
  • However, when one attains the Arahanthood, it is said that one has lost all interest in all worldly things, including that of Dhamma. That is why the Buddha said, “A boat should be used just until one crosses a river; one should not carry it after crossing the river.  Just like that even my Dhamma needs to be used only to find the true nature of this world, and then it should be discarded too”.
  • When one reaches the Anagami stage, one would have lost all cravings for worldly pleasures (in kama loka), but one really likes to learn Dhamma at every opportunity. And there is no end to it. This is why the Buddha gave the above advice, especially for the Anagamis.
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