Thursday, November 1, 2012
Ultimate Realities in Buddhism
Any entity that is not created, imagined, artificial or supposed to exist is said to be real. The quality of being real is reality or real existence (Hornby, 1974). According to Ahbidhamma (Higher Doctrine) in Buddhism, there are two types of Realities or Truths (Sacca): the conventional truths (Sammuti Sacca) an the Ultimate or Absolute Truths (Prama: ttha Sacca). Conventional truths are ubiquitous and subject to change. For instance a child becomes and adult with the passge of time. These are mostly names given to objects for identification purposes. Every human being has a name for identification. Proper names and common names alike are conventional truths. One would remember the old definition of a noun as the name of a person, place or thing.
But in Abhidamma absolute truths (Paramatha Sacca) are subject to exhaustive discourse. For instance “Man” according to ultimate truth is a compound of the body and the mind (na:ma-ru: pa). The body is a mass of changing states: a mass of waves, a volume of vibrations nothing stable and nothing static, while the mind is a process or a stream of thought-moments where every thought or consciousness rise and vanishes in succession. Thus, there is nothing permanent in this psychophysical stream called man (Anandamaitreya, 1983). According to Abhidamma there are four absolute truths. These are Cittas (mind/consciousness) Cetasika (mental factors), Rupa (physical phenomena/material form/elements of matter) and Nibbana (the supreme happiness/the summum bonum of Buddhist practice). The Citta, Cetasikas and Rupa are conditioned, impermanent and interdependent on one another. Nibbana is an unconditioned reality. It is neither created nor formed.
Citta or Vinnana (mind/consciousness) has been defined as the awareness of an object (A: rammana vija:nana lakhanan cittan). The mind operates through psychological laws or conditions known as citta niyama in Buddhism. Without anyone’s control or command, citta waves conform the flow of consciousness of beings appearing and disappearing according to the mental process. (Pemaloka, 2002). There should be an object and contact (passa) with it for consciousness to arise. There are six sense faculties. These are the portals or doors through which the objects enter the field of cognition. The eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind are these doors. The mind unlike the other doors can receive its own mental objects as well as the objects of the other five physical senses. In this manner six types of consciousness are established.
These are, eye-consciousness, ear consciousness, nasal/nose consciousness, lingual/taste consciousness, body consciousness and mind consciousness respectively. There are four levels of consciousness of the mind. These are thoughts related to the sensuous realm (kamma-lo:ka), which are linked with visual forms (ru:pa) sounds (sadda) odours (gandha), tastes (rasa) and tangible objects (photthabba). This level is ka:mavacara citta or Sense Sphere Consciousness which are 54 in number and exist in 11 planes.
The second level is the subtle corporeal level or the Form or Fine Material level (Ru: pavacara citta) where some people who have inhibited the arising of unwholesome thoughts pertaining to sensual enjoyment develop thoughts of a wholesome, relaxed and clam nature. These subjects are said to be born in the subtle corporeal realms after death. It is a higher level of the mind. There are 15 cittas in this category and can exist in 16 planes. The Third level is known as the incorporeal realm/Formless or immaterial level (Aru:pa:vacara citta). There are a few who are disgusted with material or corporeal existence and develop a mind after sublime concentration which is devoid of all attachments and defilements connected to materiality. Such persons after death are reborn into a state of incorporate existence (there is mind but no body). There are 12 such cittas and these can exist in four planes.
The last or the highest level the superabundance consciousness (Lokuttara citta) which are eight in number according to one analysis, but according to another analysis there are 40 such cittas. Those individuals who perceive the unsatisfactoriness of existence in the aforementioned three levels of existence, develop their minds to be pure and serene through the practice of vipassana or insightful meditation which leads to an intellectual understanding of the doctrine they gradually pass through the eight stages of consciousness and finally fix their minds on nibbana, the only superabundance object. This is the lokuttara citta stage. No plane of existence has been ascribed to the lokuttara state.
According to the nature of arising (ja:ti) of cittas, they are looked upon as belonging to three types: as resultant states or effects of consciousness or effects of previous kamma (kamma vipaka) as in the case of eye or ear consciousness; as causes of kammic action through body, speech or mind (causative citta) as in the case of an wholesome action is caused by a wholesome thought (kusala citta), and thirdly as kiriya cittas (functional consciousness/minds) as in the thoughts and actions of arahats who do not generate fresh kamma.
Cittas can also be classified in accordance to their association with wholesome and unwholesome mental factors as he: tu/mula (rooted) which can be wholesome (kusala) or unwholesome (akusala). The three akusala cittas are greed (lobha) hatred )Dosha) and delusion (moha) respectively. Cittas are associated with feeling (vedana).
Some many be pleasant (sukha ve:dana). Some may be painful (dukkha vedana) and some indifferent (upekka ve:dana). A citta that arises after deliberate premeditation is called a sasankarika citta which can be wholesome or unwholesome. A thought that arises spontaneously is called asanka: rika citta which too may be wholesome or unwholesome in character.
For instance in a greedy person the asankarika and sasankarika cittas may be unwholesome at all times. About the existence of one’s mind or consciousness Abhidamma declares that it can exist in two forms, namely as the primary from of mind passive from of mind (bhavanga) and the active form. The Bhavanga citta flows from conception to death of an individual and it is stimulated to its active form from stimulations received from the six senses into a thought process (citta vi:thi) A complete thought process comprises seventeen thought moments (citta khana) starting from bhavanga contact with the object (athita bhavanga) bhavanga vibration (bhavanga chalana), bhavanga that dissects the flow (bhavanga upaccheda), consciousness turning towards the object through the sense door (panchadavara vinnana), creation of the appropriate consciousness (vinnana as eye consciousness) receiving the object (sampaticcana citta) investigating the object (santirana citta) determinig the nature of the object (votapana citta), These eight thought moments are ahetuka and either kiriya or vipaka in nature, purely functional or resultants. From then onwards the mind begins to investigate whether the thought process is wholesome or unwholesome on ethical grounds.
Thus it enters the javana stage. There are seven such thought moments which produce new kamma following the seventh javana stage the thought is registered in two thought moments (the 16th and the 17th). These are called tada:lambana. At the second stage of registering, the bhavanga which has been on a stimulated situation so far is interrupted and gesstimulated by another thought process.
The entire process of stimulation is so rapid and there is no super power to control it. But through mindfulness the javana states could be governed by one’s will.
At the time of one’s death the five javanas are weak and can only determine the rebirth consciousness and may or may not be followed by the two registering moments (tadalambana). The death consciousness (cuti citta) arises which is similar to bhavanga citta. The jaana just before the cuti citta arise from a kammic process to determine the rebirth consciousness (patisandi vinnana).
The Cetasikas are the second variety of ultimate realities in Buddhism. These are the mental factors that arise and perish together with the consciousness. In the Abhidamma there are 52 kinds of cetasikas. While feeling (vedana) and perception (vinnana) are taken separately the other mental factors (50 in numbers) are collectivly known as sankaras (volitions).
Feeling is momentary and arises with every type of mental action. It is an impersonal process. There are three types of feelings-pleasant (sukha vedana) unpleasant (dukkha vedana) and indifferent (upekkha vedana). But in the Abhidamma there are five kinds as mentally agreeable (cetasika sukhas vedana) feeling and mentally disagreebale (cetasika dukkha vedana) feelings or somanassa and domanassa vedana are added to it.
Again feeling is classified into six types in relation to organs of contract as eye-contact, ear contact etc. Generally the human beings consider feeling to be individualized and personalized and link it with the self who causes suffering. In Buddhism the importance of wise consideration (yo:nisomanisika:ra) of feeling is emphasized because of the transient nature of feeling.
Perception (sanna) is the awareness of object’s specific characteristic, and it is linked to the six senses. Like feeling perception too is momentary and impersonal. Perceptions are distorted by one adhering to four perversions (vipallasa). Some people consider impermanent entities as permanent ones. Some identify unsatisfactory (dukka) as pleasure (sukha). Some think of having a soul (atma) for soullessness (anatma). Some perceive impure (asuba) as pure (suba).
These distortions are the result of ignorance, delusion, greed and hatred which are mental defilements. The development of memory is an outcome of the interplay of several factors. But perception plays a key role. When an object is encountered for the first time, the mind recognizes its distinctive mark through perception. When it is encountered in the second instance perception is very quick in identifying it.
The Sankharas are the remaining 50 cetasikkas. There are four groups.; namely; the universal mental factors (sabha citta sankaras), the particular mental factors (pakinnaka), the unwholesome mental factors (akusala sankara) and pretty or beautiful mental factors (sobana cetisikas).
Out of the seven universal mental factors two; feeling and perception have been described already. The other five are contact (phassa) or coming in contact with a sense organ, concentration (e:kaggatata) or focus on one object, attention (manisikara) or mind getting bound to be object, psychic life (jivintgriya) or the vital force required to support the menal factors and volition (cetana) or the act of willful action by body, word or mind.
There are six particular or specific mental factors. Unlike the universals these are not found in all minds. These are initial application, (vitakka), continued application (vicara) resolution (adhimokka), effort (viriya) joy (pitti) and the desire to act (chanda).
The fourteen unwholesome mental factors are: delusion or ignorance (moha), shamelessness (ahirika), fearlessness of evil (anottappa), restlessness (uddhacca), attachment (lobha), false view (ditti), conceit (ma:na), hatred (Dosa),e Navy(issa), selfishness (ma:cchariya), worry (kukkuccha), sloth (thina), torpor (midda) and doubt (vicikiccha) respectively. False views (ditti) can be believing in a self (sakkaya ditti), externalism (sassantha ditti) and denying the effects of kamma (natiditti), noncausality (ahetuka ditti) and denying moral law (akiriya ditti).
There are 24 beautiful mental factors (so:bana sankhara). These are; confidence/faith in the three jewels (saddha), mindfulness/alertness(sati), shame of evil(hiri), fear of evil (otappa)non-attachment (alobha), loving
kindness (metta), equanimity (upekkha), composure of body (Kayo pasandhi), composure of mind (citta pasandi) buoyancy of body (kaya lahuta) buoyancy of mind (mano lahuta), pliancy of body (kaya muduta), plinacy of mind (mano muduta), body efficiency (kaya kammannata) mental efficiency (mano Kammannata), physical/body proficiency (kaya pagunnata), mental proficiency (mano pagunnata), physical/body rectitude (kaya ujukata) mental rectitude (mano ujukata), right speech (samma vaca) right action (Samma kammantha), right livelihood (samma a:ji:va), compassion (karuna), sympathetic joy (mudita) and wisdom (panna) respectively.
The object of meditation is largely to clean the mind from unwholesome thoughts and develop wholesome thoughts. Thus through insightful meditation (vipassana bhavana) wisdom (panna) crystallises out to fully comprehend the
three key characteristics of existence impermanence (anicca), unsatisfactoriness (dukka) and selflessness (anatha). The third ultimate reality is material form or matter which is called Rupa or the material phenomena/matter or material form. The Abhidamma has identified 28 kinds of material phenomena.
These are the four primary elements (cattari maha bhutani), which include the earth element/solidity (pathavi dhatu), the water element/fluidity/adhesion (a:po:dhatu), the fire element/heat (tejo dhatu) and the wind element/motion (vayu dhatu) which are insightfully put into discourse by the Buddha in the Maha Rahulovada Sutta (Discourse No. 63 in Majjima Nikaya).
Then there are 24 secondary ones that are dependent upon the primary four elements. Out of these 24, there is a set of 14 secondary elements which are called directly caused secondary elements (nipphanna) which cover the five sensory receptors, like the matter of the eye, ear etc (pasada rupani), the four stimulating elements like sound and sight etc. (gocara rupani), the two gender elements (bhaava ru:pani) the male and female respectively, the mind base/heart base (hadaya vatthu), the life element (ji:vitendriya) and the nutrient element (a:ha:ra ru:pa). The remaining ten are indirectly caused secondary elements (annipphanna).