Cetasika (Mental Factors)

Revised January 24, 2020

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.

1. There are 7 cetasika that are in each and 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).

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

  • Saññā and vēdanā are in pancakkhandha.
  • Cētanā determines kamma; it 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 is different from phassa; see, “Difference between Phassa and Samphassa“.
  • Jivitindriya maintains life, and
  • Manasikāra can be either yoniso manasikāra (important in attaining the Sōtapanna stage), and ayoniso manasikāra can lead to accumulation of akusala kamma.

3. There are six cetasika that also 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 Sankappa;  vicāra (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 Sammā Vayāma;  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 cittā, kusala or akusala. Vitakka, vicāra, 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 an immoral direction too.

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

  • Mōha (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:

  • Lōbha (greed);  ditthi (wrong view);  māna (conceit);  dōsa (hatred);  issa (envy);  macchariya (avarice, also pretending one does not have wealth);  kukkucca (worry, also feeling low); Tīna (sloth, sluggishness);  middha (torpor);  vicikicca (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“.

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:

  • Saddhā (faith);  sati (moral mindfulness) can become Sammā 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: Sammā vaca (right speech);  Sammā Kammanata (right action);  Sammā Ājiva (right livelihood).
  • Two Illimitables (limit-less): karuna (compassion);  mudita (appreciative joy; joy at other’s moral success).
  • Paññā or paññindriya (wisdom or wisdom faculty). Samma Ditthi leads to paññā.

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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