Cetasika (Mental Factors)

Revised January 24, 2020; May 15, 2020; June 8,2020; August 25, 2022 (re-organized)


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

Universal Cetasika

2. Seven cetasika are in every citta. These are called universals (sabba citta sādhārana):

  •  Phassa (contact);   vēdanā (feeling);  saññā (perception);  cētanā (volition); Ekaggata (One-pointedness) can become Sammā Samādhi;  jivitindriya (life faculty);  manasikāra (memory).
  • They appear in ALL possible 89(121) types of citta.

3. Since they are universals, the above cetasika appears in both kusala and akusala citta. All are important mental factors:

  • Saññā and vēdanā appear as two of the khandhas in pañcakkhandha.
  • Cētanā determines kamma by incorporating relevant cetasika according to the mindset. Cētanā is the cetasika that “puts together a citta” by automatically incorporating other relevant cetasika according to one’s “gati.”
  • Ekaggata is the salient factor in Samādhi.
  • Consciousness cannot arise without phassa. Note that samphassa differs from phassa; see “Difference between Phassa and Samphassa.”
  • Jivitindriya maintains life.
  • Manasikāra can be either yoniso manasikāra (important in attaining the Sōtapanna stage), and ayoniso manasikāra can lead to the accumulation of akusala kamma.
Occasional Cetasika (May Appear in Kusala or Akusala Citta)

4. six cetasika CAN appear in both types of cittā: kusala and akusala. However, they are found in only particular types of cittā. They are called particulars or pakinnaka:

  • Vitakka (focused application) can become Sammā Saṅkappa.  Vicāra is “sustained application.” Adhimokkha is the cetasika that makes another cetasika dominate a given citta; for example, to get uddacca, vicikicchā, or paṭigha to strengthen.
  • Viriya (effort) can become Sammā Vayāma.  Piti is joy, and chanda is desire (not greed.)
  • Those 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 actions.

5. Just like universals, these particulars can appear in either type of cittā, kusala or akusala. Vitakka, vicāra, and piti are jhāna 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 an immoral direction too.
Asobhana Cetasika Appear Only in Akusala Citta

6. There are 14 asobhana cetasika (non-beautiful mental factors) that appear only in akusala citta. Out of those, four universals appear in ALL akusala citta:

  • Mōha (delusion);  Ahirika (shamelessness);  Anottapa (fearlessness in the 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:

  • Lōbha (greed);  diṭṭhi (wrong view);  māna (conceit);  dōsa (hatred);  issā (envy);  macchariya (extreme greed, also pretending one does not have wealth);  kukkucca (worry, also feeling low); thīna (sloth, sluggishness);  middha (torpor);  vicikicchā (doubt arising from temptations).
  • Lōbha and dōsa 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.”
Sobhana Cetasika Appear Only in Kusala Citta

7. Twenty-five sobhana cetasika (beautiful mental factors) appear only in kusala citta. Out of those, 19 of them appear in every kusala citta and thus are called beautiful universals:

  • Saddhā (faith);  sati (moral mindfulness) can become Sammā Sati; hiri (shame of wrong); ottappa (fear of wrong); alobha (absence of greed); adosa (absence of hate/anger, of which mettā or “loving-kindness” is a part); tatramajjhattatā (neutrality of mind, of which upekkhā is a part); kāyapassaddhi (tranquility of mental body); cittapassaddhi (tranquility of consciousness); kāyalahutā (lightness of mental body);  cittalahutā (lightness of consciousness); kāyamudutā (malleability of the mental body); cittamudutā (malleability of consciousness);  kāyakammaññatā (wieldliness/pliability of the mental body);  cittakammaññatā (wieldliness/pliability of consciousness); kāyapāguññatā (proficiency of mental body);  cittapāguññatā (proficiency of consciousness);  kāyujjukatā (rectitude of mental body);  cittujjukatā (rectitude of consciousness).

The other 6 are “occasionals” that appear in only particular types of kusala citta:

  • There are three abstinences: Sammā Vācā (right speech);  Sammā Kammanata (right action);  Sammā Ājiva (right livelihood).
  • Two Illimitables (limit-less): karunā (compassion);  muditā (appreciative joy; joy at other’s moral success).
  • Paññā or paññindriya (wisdom or wisdom faculty). Sammā Diṭṭhi leads to paññā.
Other Relevant Information

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

  • Immoral roots are highlighted in red.
  • Moral roots are highlighted in purple. Note that amoha is not a cetasika; instead, it is paññā that represents the absence of moha.
  • As a rule, sobhana and asobhana cetasika CANNOT appear together in a given citta.
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