Cetasika (Mental Factors)

Cetasika (mental factors; pronounced “chethasikä”) appear concomitantly with citta (thoughts; pronounced “chiththä”), and they cease together with citta. They define the character (good or bad or neutral) of the citta.

1. There are 7 cetasikas that are in each and every citta. These are called universals or sabbacittasadharana:

  •  Phassa (contact);   vedana (feeling);  sanna (perception);  cetana (volition); Ekaggata (One-pointedness) can become samma samadhi;  jivitindriya (life faculty);  manasikara (memory).

2. Since they are universals, the above cetasikas appear in both kusala and akusala citta. All are important mental factors:

  • Sanna and vedana are in pancakkhandha.
  • Cetana determines kamma; it is the cetasika that “puts together a citta” by automatically incorporating other relevant cetasikas according to one’s “gathi“.
  • Ekaggata is the salient factor in samadhi.
  • Consciousness cannot arise without phassa. Note that samphassa is different from phassa; see, “Difference between Phassa and Samphassa“.
  • Jivitindriya maintains life, and
  • Manasikara can be either yoniso manasikara (important in attaining the Sotapanna stage), and ayoniso manasikara can lead to accumulation of akusala kamma.

3. There are six cetasikas that also CAN appear in both types of cittas: kusala and akusala. However, they are found in only particular types of cittas. They are called particulars or pakinnaka:

  • vitakka (focused application) can become samma sankappa;  vicara (sustained application);  adhimokkha (dominate). Adhimokkha is the cetasika that makes another cetasika in the citta to dominate; for example, to get uddacca, vicikicca, or patigha to strengthen.
  • viriya (effort) can become samma vayama ;  piti (joy);  chanda (desire, not greed).
  • These are important cetasika and play key roles in morality/immorality since they can appear in both kusala and akusala citta. For example, when one’s mind is covered with deep ignorance (moha), one may enjoy immoral deeds (piti), makes a liking for them (chanda), and strive more (viriya) to do such acts.

4. Just like universals, these particulars can appear in either type of cittas, kusala or akusala. Vitakka, vicara, and piti are jhana factors as well.

  • Viriya and chanda are two factors in the four bases of mental power; see, “The Four Bases of Mental Power (Satara Iddhipada)“.
  • Adhimokka is important in decision making by making another cetasika dominant. All these factors can go in the immoral direction too.

5. There are 14 asobhana cetasikas (non-beautiful mental factors) that appear only in akusala citta. Out of these, there are four universals that  appear in ALL akusala citta:

  • Moha (delusion);  Ahirika (shamelessness);  Anottapa (fearlessness in wrong);  uddhacca (restlessness or agitation).
  • Both shamelessness and fearlessness of wrong encourage doing immoral acts. Restlessness causes unwise decision making.

The other 10 are occasionals that appear in only particular types of akusala citta:

  • Lobha (greed);  ditthi (wrong view);  mana (conceit);  dosa (hatred);  issa (envy);  maccariya (avarice, also pretending one does not have wealth);  kukkucca (worry, also feeling low); Thina (sloth, sluggishness);  middha (torpor);  vicikicca (doubt arising from temptations).
  • Lobha and dosa are two of the three immoral roots.  Sloth and torpor normally rise together and are opposite of viriya; they are listed as one factor in Five Hindrances; see, “Key to Calming the Mind“.

6. There are 25 sobhana cetasika (beautiful mental factors), and 19 of them appear in each and every kusala citta, and thus are called beautiful universals:

  • Saddha (faith);  sati (moral mindfulness) can become samma sati; hiri (shame of wrong); ottappa (fear of wrong); alobha (generocity); adosa (loving kindness); tatramajjhattata (neutrality of mind); kayapassaddhi (tranquility of mental body); cittapassaddhi (tranquility of consciousness);  kayalahuta (lightness of mental body);  cittalahuta (lightness of consciousness);  kayamuduta (malleability of mental body);  cittamuduta (malleability of consciousness);  kayakammanuta (wieldiness of mental body);  cittakammanuta (wieldiness of consciousness); kayapagunnata (proficiency of mental body);  cittapagunnata (proficiency of consciousness);  kayujjukata (rectitude of mental body);  cittujjukata (rectitude of consciousness).
  • There are three abstinences: samma vaca (right speech);  samma kammanata (right action);  samma ajiva (right livelihood).
  • Two Illimitables (limit-less): karuna (compassion);  mudita (appreciative joy; joy at other’s moral success).
  • Panna or pannindriya (wisdom or wisdom faculty). Samma ditthi leads to panna.

7. Mental factors in the Noble Eightfold Path are highlighted in blue.

8. Immoral roots are highlighted in red. Moral roots are highlighted in purple.

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