November 28, 2022
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    CITTA The Knowing factor

    September 13, 2019

    “Manopubbangama dhamma, Manosettha Manomaya, manasa ce padutthena…..” All mental phenomena have mind as their forerunner; they have mind as their chief; they are mind-made…. - Dhammapada.

    In the Anguttara Nikaya Upakkilesa Sutta, the Buddha says - “Bhikkhus, there are these five defilements of the citta (pancime cittassa upakkilesa), defiled by which the citta is not malleable, wieldly and not luminous, but brittle and not properly concentrated for the destruction of the defilements (kilesas.) What are the five? Sensual desire, ill will, drowsiness and dullness, restless and remorse and doubt.”
    Again in the Anguttara Nikaya, Pratama Sutta, the Buddha says - “Luminous, bhikkhus, is this citta, but it is defiled by adventitious defilements.”(Pabhassaramidam bhikkhave cittan, tanca ko agantukehi upakkilesehi upakkilittham). Then again we see in the Ovadhapatimokkha the following - “Sabbapapassa akaranam, Kusalassupasampada, Sacitta pariyodapanam, Etam Buddhanasasanam….” (Refraining from all wrongdoing, bringing goodness to perfection. With the purification of the Citta, this is the teaching of all Buddhas.)

    In the Satipatthana Sutta, referring to the Four Foundations of Mindfulness it is said, “Citte cittanupassi viharati” - contemplates Citta in the Citta.Here you will see that the Buddha refers to two separate states - Mano - Mind, and Citta. The English translation of Mano is mind, but there is no separate English translation for the word Citta. In English both the Mano and Citta are referred to as mind. This causes the difficulty in understanding the difference between the mind and the citta.


    In Nama-Rupa, Nama refers to the mental factors: vedana (feelings), Sanna (memory or perceptions), sankhara (thoughts or mental arisings) and Vinnana (consciousness.) All these conditions arise in the mind, and no sooner they arise, they cease. Thus the mind is subject to arising and ceasing, and as such it falls under the laws of the three characteristics - anicca (impermanence), dukkha (unsatisfactoriness) and anatta (non-self.)

    What we talk about as the mind, all this movement and activity, is just the conventional mind. Movement is the nature of the mind. All the thinking is merely the movement of the mind. As soon as these arise, they pass away; they don’t really exist in themselves. The mind grasps these arisings, resulting in dukkha.


    The citta is the essential ‘knowing’ of the mind. Unlike Nama-Rupa that arise and cease, citta does not arise and therefore does not cease, and it is of utmost importance. It is not the mind created by thoughts. It does not grasp at anything that arises in the mind. It only knows the arising. It is the ‘knowing factor,’ just ‘bare awareness’ or ‘that which knows,’ which is common to all living beings. Citta under the influence of avijja, creates the five aggregates (khandas.) It creates everything. Citta is the essence of a living being. Anything that lacks citta cannot be alive - it will be just inert material.

    Good and bad, and other judgmental ideas are the activities of the citta. The citta in its pure form - that is, the pure citta - does not manifest any conditions or bring about any activities whatsoever. It only knows. For example, happiness and suffering, good and evil, that arise in the citta, are all conditions of the consciousness (vinnana) that flows out from the citta.

    Citta and vinnana are not identical. Vinnana results from contact between an external sense sphere and its specific internal sense base. For example, form, together with the eye, causes the arising of eye-consciousness - “Cakkunca rupeca uppajjati cakku vinnana.” This arising is impermanent, and specific to the sense organ. When vinnana arises there is also duality: subject and object. For example - ‘I’ see ‘that.’ But this is completely unnecessary for the pure citta.

    In this knowing or bare awareness, there is no subject. It is not a ‘thing.’ It has no form or appearance. You can know it, but you cannot see it. It is not an external object which can be sensed by any sense organ. It is beyond all labels, beyond all measuring, beyond leaving a trace or beyond all comparisons. It is not something that is made or arisen, and as such it cannot be destroyed, nor is it subject to change or cessation. Thus, this citta does not arise, and therefore it does not cease. Therefore the true nature of the citta does not fall under the laws of the three characteristics - anicca, dukkha and anatta.

    The citta contaminated with the defilements (kilesas) - avijja citta, is the one which pushes the khandas (Nama-Rupa) around. It’s their master. The avijja citta uses the khandas for developing whatever the kilesas want. And it is this avijja citta that causes all the trouble.

    It is important for us to understand that the defilements are in the citta and not in the khandas. If the kilesas were in the body- Rupa, or in the mind - Nama, instead of being in the citta, then when Nama-Rupa ceases to function or dies, all the kilesas would disappear, and there would be none left, for rebirth to occur. But the fact is, the kilesas are in the citta, which does not die. So the kilesas carry on and go to the next life. Because of that, we go through this cycle of birth and death again and again. The citta forms the very foundation of sansara. It is this contaminated Avijja citta that wanders from birth to birth, governed by kamma which is deeply engraved in it.

    The citta under the influence of kilesas makes the khandas take up those aspects of the kilesas. Let us consider anger. Anger starts off in the citta, and this triggers a response in the khandas. It starts off with consciousness becoming aware of it, and then memories associated with it begin to arise. Then the process of thinking builds it up and causes anger to increase. This then causes feelings to arise. These feelings came from the anger inside the citta. This brings us back to the citta and the kilesas. It is these kilesas that are pushing us around all the time.

    Conventional realities (sammuti) - kilesas and asavas (outflowings of the mind,) get involved with the citta and make citta’s behaviour to conform to theirs. No matter how refined, they are simply conventions which are anicca, dukkha and anatta. Birth and death is an affair of the kilesas. But the citta which is overtaken by the kilesas always carries with it this birth and death. The deceits of these kilesas bring about fear, worry, dreadfulness, love and hate, etc. to this citta. Thus the citta is always overtaken by fear and worries. But these conditions are not intrinsic to the pure citta.

    These thought formations (sankharas) in the citta brought about by this conventional mind makes the citta to ripple, like the waves on the surface of water, losing its stillness. But if no conditions arise at all, then one can experience the citta’s inherent quality of ‘knowing.’

    If one is to attain true tranquility in one’s citta, then one has to free the citta from all these ripplings brought about by these mental arisings. “Aniccavata sankhara, …. thesam upasamosukho” (.. tranquilization of all these mental arisings, is the greatest happiness.) Then one will see that the citta is free of form, occupying no space, and beyond all boundaries. It cannot be classified as something that ‘exist’ or does ‘not exist.’ This is because it cannot be known or be aware by way of the six senses.

    This essential knowing experienced by the average person differs from the essential knowing of an Arahant; because the average person’s citta is still Avijja citta, which is contaminated within. The citta in its pure form, is completely devoid of all contaminations, free from all asavas. It is devoid of fear, worry, birth and death and is unconnected with a subject or with forms.

    In its natural state the citta is empty. It is like the void, empty of everything. There is no confusion, good or evil, happiness or unsatisfactoriness. The pure citta is in a state of total calmness. Emptiness that is without limitation, and that cannot be conceived or measured. The nature of emptiness itself never changes, for what is there to change? Therefore this state is permanent (nicca.) The citta now exist totally independent of the body. One who totally purifies his citta, is one who will never have another existence. This is absolute freedom (vimutti.) This is Nibbana. This is beyond all conventions and worldly realities - lokottara, beyond any worldly descriptions. This pure citta exist in all of us, but the kilesas have taken hold of it.

    The pure citta of the living Arahant is without any kilesas giving orders. When a thought arises in him, it simply forms, and it simply disappears. Kilesas being completely destroyed there is no grasping of the thought. He now understands the supreme truth about the natural citta. The Arahant’s citta simply knows, without any ‘subject’ experiencing the knowing. This pure citta which is totally empty knows that ultimately nothing exists, and that there is nothing that is not delusion (moha.)

    How can one experience this Citta?

    Here’s a very brief explanation.

    It is not that easy for us to experience this pure citta. However we can experience this ‘Luminous’ citta (Pabhassara citta.) Buddha gives us the method - “Luminous, bhikkhus, is this citta, but it is defiled by adventitious defilements.” This means, it is like the clouds that cover the luminosity of the moon. Mentioned above are these clouds or defilements. So our effort is to remove these defilements at least temporarily. This citta can be experienced only when your mind has attained a high level of samadhi, and is said to be in a state of one pointedness (ekaggata.)

    Maintaining good sila, at all times, start meditating. Here the meditative object (kammatthana) used is anapana sati (mindfulness of breathing in and out.) I will not go into details of this method here. When you continue developing your mindfulness on the breath, your concentration (samadhi) will continue to get stronger, and your feeling of the breath will totally disappear. Although there is some breathing, yet there is no feeling of it. As the samadhi continues to get stronger, the feeling of your extremities - fingers, then hand, arms, toes, feet and legs, will start slowly disappearing. At this stage your citta is getting concentrated towards the centre of your body leaving the feeling of the extremities.

    Continuing the concentration, you now reach a state where one no longer experiences a body. This stage is then followed by the total disappearance of all the mental factors, i.e. feeling, memory, thought and consciousness, arising from the six senses; for no longer are these senses active. Remember this does not mean you are unconscious. Your awareness is now very sharp, and you are experiencing only the ‘knowing’. There are no thoughts of a “You” or “I” or “Me” experiencing here. All thoughts of a ‘person’ are gone; because at this stage both Rupa and Nama has ceased to function, and with it any notion of a ‘self’.

    With the samadhi continuing to get stronger, ‘you’ now experience a remarkable luminosity all around. This luminosity is amazing, magnificent and mesmerizing; something that you have never experienced. It is limitless without any boundaries, and is beyond description. This is this Pabhassara citta - the luminous citta.

    The five hindrances are totally suppressed at this stage. You can now experience in front an area of intense luminosity, from which this luminosity is radiating. This is the true Avijja manifesting itself as this intense luminosity, senses been cut off, trying to deceive you that you are enlightened. This is still the Avijja Citta. For, if this is the pure citta then it has to be totally empty, without any luminosity.

    You will remain in this state for a varying period of time depending on how strong your mindfulness (sati) is.

    After you come out of this state, you will not know for how long you were in it. This is because while in that state there is no time and space. You will notice that some change has occurred in you, where you are no longer moved by your surroundings. This state will remain for a period of time and once again you will revert back to your normal self. This experience will remain in your memory as if it happened yesterday, immaterial of how many years have passed.

    In the Pottapada Sutta (Digha Nikaya - #9,) the Buddha says - “Perception arises first, Pottapada, then knowledge; and from the arising of perception comes the arising of knowledge”.

    What is the knowledge you have now gained with this experience?

    1. Nama-Rupa and Citta are two separate entities.

    2. Citta can exist without Nama-Rupa, therefore rebirth is a reality.

    3. Although Nama-Rupa disappeared, Citta remained, and is not subject to aniccata.

    4. “Self” is an illusion which is brought about by Nama-Rupa, as long as the latter existed.

    5. You have gained confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, through your own experience (aveccapasadena samanna gato hoti).

    6. The path you followed is the only way to liberation.

    long bannar

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