Change of Mindset Due to an Ārammaṇa

March 21, 2022; revised June 20, 2023

Idappaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda starts with an ārammaṇa or a sensory input.

Numerous Changes of Mindset in a Day

1. Think about how often our “mood” or “mindest” changes during even an hour.

  • Consider person X eating a meal and experiencing a good mindset; he enjoyed the food. That mindset arose due to an ārammaṇa, the taste of the food.
  • Suppose X saw a long hair on the plate halfway through the meal. For some people like X, that new ārammaṇa of “seeing the hair on the plate” is enough to ruin the meal and get into an angry mindset. Suppose X was eating at a restaurant, and he called the waiter and angrily complained.
  • The waiter apologized and promised to bring X a fresh meal. Soon as X heard that, he again became happy. X finished his meal and came out of the restaurant with a happy and content mindset.
  • While walking, X saw one of his worst enemies, Y. The sight of Y brought in a new “strong ārammaṇa” and changed X’s mood again. He started thinking about the problems that the person had caused, and he got angrier by the minute.

2. As you see, our mindset and thoughts change rapidly. The examples that we discussed above can be explained via Idappaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda, which we discussed in the previous post: “Idappaccayatā Paṭicca Samuppāda – Bhava and Jāti Within a Lifetime.”

  • Each mindset discussed above resulted from a new ārammaṇa coming through one of the six senses.
  • In chronological order, those mindsets were triggered by tasting food (jivhā viññāṇa), seeing the hair (cakkhu viññāṇa), waiter saying that he will get a fresh serving (sota viññāṇa), and seeing Y (cakkhu viññāṇa).
  • All those triggers were vipāka viññāṇa or different types of “consciousness.” They happened to be that way. The meal could have been not tasty; if you didn’t see the hair, that would have prevented you from getting into an angry mindset, etc.
Pāli Word for “Mindset” Is “Bhavaṅga

3. The word “bhavaṇga” comes from “bhava” + “aṇga” where “bhava” means “existence” and“aṇga” means “part of.” Thus, “bhavaṇga” means “part of existence at that time,” which is the “mindset at that time.”

  • There is also a “natural bhavaṇga” that we are born with. If the mind is not focused on a “strong ārammaṇa,” the mind falls back to that “natural bhavaṇga.” Thus, we can say that our mind is in the “natural bhavaṇga” state while we sleep.
  • However, once we wake up and start getting bombarded with all kinds of ārammaṇa coming through the six senses, our “mindset” or “temporary bhavaṇga” can change many times a day, as we saw above.
  • I will be using “mindset” and “temporary bhavaṇga” interchangeably so that you will get used to the meaning.
  • Now you can start seeing the difference between Upapatti PS and Idappaccayātā PS. In the former, “bhava” refers to “human existence,” while in the latter, “temporary bhava” is the mindset (or existence) lasting a relatively short time.
Only “Strong Ārammaṇa” Can Bring in a “Temporary Bhavaṇga

4. During the day, we get bombarded with an uncountable number of ārammaṇa, i.e., sensory inputs comping through the six senses. Yet, we don’t pay attention to most of them, i.e., they are “weak ārammaṇa” and not strong enough to “grab our attention.” In such cases, there is no change in the “bhavaṇga” or “mindset.”

  • So, what kind of ārammaṇa “grabs our attention” and changes the “bhavaṇga” state?
  • That would be one we “really like,” “really dislike,” or “something unusual or something we cannot understand.” In the latter case, we could get into a “confused state of mind.” A “strong ārammaṇa” is usually associated with “lobha,” “dosa,” and “moha.”
  • Let us examine the examples in #1 to clarify.

5. Taste of food was a “strong ārammaṇa” that changed the mindset from the “natural bhavaṇga” state to a good “temporary bhavaṇga” state. Here, the ārammaṇa was associated with lobha (attachment via liking.)

  • Then another “strong ārammaṇa” of “seeing the hair” flipped the mindset to an angry “temporary bhavaṇga” state. That ārammaṇa was associated with dosa (attachment via dislike.)
  • Hearing the waiter promising to bring a new meal was a new “strong ārammaṇa” made a good “temporary bhavaṇga” again. That ārammaṇa was associated with lobha (attachment via liking.)
  • Seeing Y on the road was enough for X to get into a bad state of mind (with dosa) again.

6. To summarize: Our minds usually are in the “natural bhavaṇga” state that comes with human existence. It can change to a different “temporary bhavaṇga” by a ‘strong ārammaṇa.” Depending on how strong that ārammaṇa is, the “temporary bhavaṇga” can stay for minutes to hours to many days.

  •  In the examples discussed above, “temporary bhavaṇga” states lasted only for short times, less than an hour. In the Abhidhamma language, such ārammaṇa are categorized as “mahantārammaṇa” (“mahanta + ārammaṇa” or “strong ārammaṇa.”)
  • However, a very strong ārammaṇa can keep that “temporary bhavaṇga” state for many days. For example, upon hearing the death of a parent, one may get into a “sad mindset” that can last even weeks. They are “very strong ārammaṇa” or “atimahantārammaṇa” (“ati + mahanta + ārammaṇa”.)
How Does an Ārammaṇa Change the Mindset (Bhavaṇga)?

7. It is CRITICALLY important to understand how the mindset (temporary bhavaṇga) changes due to an ārammaṇa.

  • As we discussed, a new ārammaṇa comes via a new sensory input coming through the six senses. Thus, it is one of the following: cakkhu, sota, ghāna, jivhā, kāya, or mano viññāṇa. They are ALL vipāka viññāṇa. They provide sensory input. We see, hear, taste, smell, touch, or recall a memory. That, by itself, cannot change our mindset.
  • For example, an Arahant will also see attractive things or taste a delicious meal. But no matter how delicious that meal is, it will NOT change the mindset of an Arahant.
  • But the person in our example in #1 above got “attached” to the tasty meal. That is normal for an average human, and so are the other “mood swings” that the person went through in #1. But it is essential to understand how each of those swings in the mindset took place.

8. Delicious taste from the meal was a vipāka viññāṇa, specifically a jivhā viññāṇa. The pleasant taste experienced was a natural vipāka vedanā associated with that vipāka viññāṇa. If an Arahant had eaten the same meal, he would have experienced its delicious taste. But what happens immediately after taking the first few bites would be very different for X and the Arahant.

  • X got attached to the taste of the meal. In the Dhamma language, he started generating vaci abhisaṅkhāra that naturally would arise for an average human. He started thinking about how delicious the meal was AND how he might return to the restaurant for the same meal. Those thoughts were lobha-based (i.e., greedy) vaci abhisaṅkhāra. They were a strong version of saṅkhāra, i.e., abhisaṅkhāra. Thus, they arose via “avijjā paccayā abhisaṅkhāra” in Idappaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda.
  • That immediately led to the second effect of “deciding to return to the restaurant in the future to have the same meal.” That expectation is a kamma viññāṇa. That kamma viññāṇa or the “expectation” was the result of abhisaṅkhāra, i.e., “(abhi)saṅkhāra paccayā viññāṇa.”

9. Those abhisaṅkhāra and kamma viññāṇa arose in powerful javana citta that ran through X’s mind while he was enjoying the meal. His mindset (temporary bhavaṇga) also changed to a “happy state.”

  • So, here is the time sequence: (i) experience of a delicious taste (vipāka viññāṇa), (ii) arising of “happy but greedy thoughts” or vaci abhisaṅkhāra in javana citta, (iii) arising of a future expectation of having the same meal (creation of a kamma viññāṇa), and (iv) registration of that experience as a “temporary bhavaṇga” state.
  • Note: Javana cittā are a special type of citta that makes a kamma viññāṇa more than just “consciousness.” kamma viññāṇa has an expectation/desire. Abhisaṅkhāra (with strong feelings) arise in javana citta and make javana citta become kamma viññāṇa.
  • As we know, vipāka viññāṇa are of six types: cakkhu, sota, ghāna, jivhā, kāya, and mano viññāṇa.
  • On the other hand, kamma viññāṇa are ALWAYS mano viññāṇa. We create kamma viññāṇa with javana cittaSuch kamma viññāṇa arises via “(abhi)saṅkhāra paccayā viññāṇa” in any type of Paṭicca Samuppāda.
No Change in Mindset (and No Javana Citta) in an Arahant

10. Now, let us see what would happen to Arahant if he had the same meal.

  • The Arahant would have tasted the meal to be delicious too. Thus, the vipāka viññāṇa (jivhā viññāṇa) was the same.
  • But since an Arahant would not generate any lobha, dosa, or moha thoughts, vaci abhisaṅkhāra that arose in X will not occur in the Arahant. Thus, such a powerful javana citta would not have arisen in the Arahant.
  • Thus, the Arahant will not generate any future expectation to taste it again, i.e., no kamma viññāṇa. 
  • Furthermore, the Arahant would not generate a “happy mindset” or “temporary bhavaṇga” state. An Arahant will always have a neutral mindset.

11. Thus, abhisaṅkhāra in javana citta, establishing a new expectation (kamma viññāṇa), and change in the bhavaṇga (mindset) will occur ONLY IF one attaches to a strong ārammaṇa.

  • Those are the drastic differences between X and an Arahant eating the same meal.
  • The following posts discuss why such javana citta with lobha, dosa, and moha would not arise in an Arahant: “Paṭicca Samuppāda During a Lifetime.”
  • It is critical to realize that an Arahant does not need to control the arising of such defiled thoughts. It happens automatically. The root causes for arising of such thoughts had been removed from the mind of Arahant.
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