Class one
2007 Consciousness and its Objects: Sept 18

Association with people of integrity is a factor for stream-entry.
Listening to the true Dhamma is a factor for stream-entry.
Appropriate attention is a factor for stream-entry.
Practice in accordance with the Dhamma is a factor for stream-entry.
Samutta Nikaya 55.5

Aaron: Here he points out requisites for stream entry, or Sotapanna, the first level of enlignment. Sila; true dhamma; concentration and mindfulness; and practice. What I say below unfolds from this teaching...

What follows are notes that will support our class work, not a summary of the class.

Before we start to practice, the everyday mind is very busy, trying to fix, to control, and to escape discomfort. We take everything that arises and dissolves in our experience personally, and build a "self" on these experiences of objects coming and going. Hence, we suffer. As we settle in to practice, mind becomes more calm and clear. We train in sila and also in mindfulness. As attention settles, sila deepens, and as sila deepens, attention settles more, and we begin to understand the dhamma. This is the familiar balance of sila, panna and samadhi of which we often speak.

Some of you were at the Teacher Training Intensive, and some not, so a bit of review is useful. We spoke of the traditional dharma path. Visuddhi Magga, or Path of Purification, delineates a traditional chain of insights and knowledges and what is necessary to open to and progress through these knowledges. The first knowledges in the Path of Purification are:

1. Knowledge of Delimitation of Mind and Matter

2. Knowledge of Discerning Cause and Condition

In #1, Delimitation of Mind and Matter, we see the every day mind or mundane consciousness taking mundane objects as the focus. This everyday consciousness involves the 5 body consciousnesses and mind consciousness. This is the first of the knowledges, delimitation of mind and matter. Here we learn about nama and rupa. As Aaron put it when he first taught me this many years ago:

The ear, and the object of sound, are rupa, absolute realities, or paramattha dhammas. The sense organ mind, and object of the mind are rupa. They are things... Rupa is material phenomenon. It exists, but does not experience. The ... mind exists, the object of mind exists, but they do not experience without consciousness.

Nama, mental phenomenon, is of two types, citta and cetasika. We call these functions of consciousness. They are also paramattha dhammas. Citta, consciousness, is that which knows or experiences an object. For a citta, there must be an object. Hearing consciousness is nama and is a citta. Mind consciousness is nama and is a citta. The thought or any object of mind is rupa. Rupa is an object and does not experience. When the thought is a plan, that is an object and does not experience. When the thought is a concept, the same is true.

Through practice, we begin to understand this distinction of mind and matter. We're on our way.

We deepen into #2, knowledge of Discerning Cause and Condition. That is, we begin to develop an understanding of dhamma by this watching of objects arising and falling away. But there is still a self as watcher.

At this stage of practice, Aaron says (070824TT intensive): moves through this path simply on account of having made the commitment to live one's life with non-harm. So we start with sila. In Thailand, long before there was any formal practice (I'm talking about hundreds of years ago in Thailand, I don't know what it's like now), but long before they were taught any formal meditation practice, young children were taught sila, to take the precepts, to live the precepts. Not as a vow which the breaking of brings forth punishment, but rather as a deep commitment in the heart. Not to steal, not to lie, not to take another's life or do harm to another.

This is literally the beginning of the path of purification. One commits oneself ever more deeply to this path and finds that one cannot live it the way one wants to live it. Greed comes up, and you take more than your share, or fear comes up and you do harm to another being. And these arisings lead you automatically into the practice of meditation because you seek to understand why you reacted in these ways. When you have no intention to do harm, why are you doing harm? And how can you respond more skillfully to these impulses? As you begin to meditate, you observe how objects arise in the mind and the body out of conditions. And when the conditions dissolve the objects pass away.

So the list here happens automatically. Given sila, we have knowledge of dukkha and how it relates to sila; this brings forth an intention to be mindful, and to hold to the practice of sila. As mindfulness deepens, we have #1 on your list, Knowledge of Delimitation of Mind and Matter, which is a fancy way of saying mind objects arise in the mind and body objects arise in the body. Very simple, it doesn't need fancy terminology.

Rupa, the form aggregate. Nama, the mind aggregates: mind consciousness. For example if the bee stings, that sensation that's touching the flesh, the nerves of the body, the sting is rupa, form aggregate. The insect has a stinger, the body has skin, the stinger penetrates the skin, there are nerves, the sting is rupa. It arose out of conditions. When the sting venom dissolves in the body, the sensation of stinging stops.

Mind consciousness is what knows the stinging sensation. Nama, mind. If aversion arises to the stinging sensation, that's mind, nama. If anger at the insect comes up, that's mind. These are all resultant from conditions. Certainly conditions inter-relate. If there wasn't a sting, the aversion to the sting would not have arisen. Yet maybe a different aversion would have arisen.

But these objects are all arising out of conditions and passing away, impermanent and not self. We state it very simply: whatever has the nature to arise has the nature to cease. It is not me or mine. You've heard me say this many times.

At the beginning stage of practice, we may still be pulled aside by the objects that arise. An unpleasant object comes into our everyday consciousness, aversion arises as anger, and getting caught in the stories, hatred arises. There is much contraction of mind and body and unwholesome karma or conditioning. The same may happen with a pleasant object leading to grasping and clinging and greed.

But as we deepen in intention to non-harm and deepen in both mindfulness and concentration a shift begins. A different part of the mind begins to look at the arising and passing away of objects without so much self-identification. Up until this point, we have not experienced access concentration nor understood the distinction of everyday consciousness and pure awareness. These levels of consciousness have not yet been needed.

At the stage where we begin to see that objects arise and pass away free of a separate self, we may ask, who is experiencing this? There is no "who". The self falls away, yet consciousness continues to perceive objects. There is observation that when this occurs, although something may still be experienced as unpleasant, and may even give rise to aversion due to the habit energy, there is nothing that really sticks. Mind doesn't get lost in hatred or in creating stories. It's like ripples on water. As long as we reach out from within the water to try to quiet the ripples we create more ripples. Left alone, they dissolve on their own.

This stage of the path is variously called Purification by Knowledge and Vision of what is Path and what is not Path, or Purification of Doubt.

The next insight knowledges, and the first that are part of the deeper path, are:

3. Knowledge by Comprehension: a deeper understanding of the three characteristics in all conditioned experience.

This knowledge follows Purification by Overcoming doubt (is a fruit of...) and serves as ground for Knowledge of Arising and Passing Away, which Knowledge occurs in 2 phases, undeveloped and mature.

4. Immature Knowledge of Arising and Passing Away - The immature phase of this knowledge ends when one has moved through the imperfections of insight by mental noting. As the mature phase opens, we move into the next purification.

As the imperfections of insight arise and we merely note their arising and passing, not caught in them as "good" nor in any way (but knowing them as pleasant if this is the case), we open into the mature phase. The knowledge becomes matured by our work with the imperfections of insight.

Then we come to the next purification, Purification by Knowledge and Vision of the Way: as we know what is not path, we develop certainty about what is Path.

4. mature Knowledge of Arising and Passing Away: We begin to see how everything in the conditioned realm arises and passes. Not only do sensations and thoughts pass, but the consciousness which notes these arising ad passing also passes.

These knowledges may be passed through slowly, or in a flash, just a few moments. There is no "right" way. It's important though to persevere at this stage, to give a lot of time to sitting with the whole process.

Tonight in class, we'll try to understand the quality of mind that is able to allow the ripples to settle, or phrased differently, allow these knowledges to deepen. For this to happen, we drop the self-identification with thoughts and sensations and begin to know the deeper level of awareness.

Access concentration is a vital part of this phase, as is also what we term Pure Awareness. To understand these forms of consciousness and open to them, it will help to understand more about citta and cetasika. The reason this understanding helps is that when mind is able to better analyze experience and understand it, it ceases to build stories. Think of the experience of the primitive man who sees an eclipse and believes, "Something is eating the sun!" and further believes that only through some kind of prayer, purification or sacrifice will he get the sun back. Great fear may arise, and strong reaction. But if he understands the phenomenon and mind simply notes that the moon is passing through, blocking the view of the sun, no personal story is created. The sight may be experienced as pleasant or unpleasant, and may serve as cause for joy or sadness together with other mental objects, but the viewer isn't sucked into reaction. In the same way, when we're able to analyze experience, we understand it and cease to take it personally.

Again from Aaron:

Cittas are classified in many ways. They may be wholesome or unwholesome. They may be the result of, or motivator for wholesome or unwholesome mind and body states, or both. They may also be inoperative, that is, neither resultant nor motivating. There are said to be 121 distinct types of citta. There is an entire classification scheme here, which is not necessary to this discussion. It is sufficient to recognize that the citta may be rooted in aversion, or grasping, in kindness or generosity and so forth. It may be wholesome, derived from the wholesome, and give rise to the wholesome. It may be unwholesome, derived from the unwholesome, and give rise to the unwholesome. These are but a very few examples.

This tone of the citta relates to the cetasikas, another category of nama. These are mental factors that arise with consciousness and modify it. Phassa, contact, vedana, feeling, sanna, perception, are cetasika. Feelings of pleasant, unpleasant or neutral modify the consciousness of hearing, for example. ...What is important is just to know the grasping mind, the spacious mind, and such. There is the consciousness of hearing with spaciousness; there is hearing with aversion; there is hearing with joy. with grasping, with confusion. For your practice, all you need to know is such as, "hearing compounded with aversion has arisen", or "mind is spacious and energetic." You must know these textures of mind. We have discussed this often.

Let's look at Aaron's words, Phassa, contact, vedana, feeling, sanna, perception, are cetasika. We start with contact (phassa) We have rupa, the eye, and also rupa, an object. When these come together, consciousness arises, in this case seeing consciousness. But it's a bit more complex. First there is phassa, contact, eye touching object. In Visuddhi Magga XIV, 134 we find a technical definition. In her book on Cetasikas1, Nina von Gorkom puts this material in clearer terms.

Phassa is different from what we mean in conventional language by physical contact or touch. When we use the word contact in conventional language we may think of the impingement of something external on one of the senses, for example the impingement of hardness on the body sense. We may use words such as touching or impingement in order to describe phassa, but we should not forget that phassa is nama, a cetasika which arises together with the citta and assists the citta so that it can experience the object which presents itself through the appropriate doorway. When hardness presents itself through the body sense there is phassa, contact, arising together with the citta which experiences the hardness. Phassa is not the mere collision of hardness with the body sense, it is not touch in the physical sense. Impact is the function of phassa in the sense that it assists the citta so that it can cognize the object.

I'm quoting only brief sections of von Gorkom's book, The whole book is available on line at the footnoted site and I recommend it to any of you who want to explore this inn greater depth. It is a free dhamma book and may be downloaded.

Feeling (vedana) comes next. Feeling accompanies every citta. These are our feelings of pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. Again from von Gorkom:

We may think that we all know what feeling is and we believe that it is easy to recognize pleasant feeling and unpleasant feeling. However, do we really know the characteristic of feeling when it appears or do we merely think of a concept of feeling? Throughout our life we have seen ourselves as a 'whole' of mind and body; also when we consider our feelings we think of this 'whole' which we take for 'self. when someone asks us : 'How do you feel?' and we answer, for example, 'I am happy', we do not know the characteristic of happy feeling, which is a mental phenomenon, a nama; we cling to the 'whole' of mind and body. Thus we only know concepts, not realities.

Is there feeling now? We think that we can recognize pleasant feeling or unpleasant feeling, but are we not mixing up feeling with bodily phenomena? Feeling is nama, quite different from rupa. So long as we do not distinguish nama from rupa we cannot know the characteristic of feeling as it is.

Whenwe study the Abhidhamma we learn that 'vedana' is not the same as what we mean by feeling in conventional language. Feeling is nama, it experiences something. Feeling never arises alone; it accompanies citta and other cetasikas and it is conditioned by them. Thus, feeling is a conditioned nama. Citta does not feel, it cognizes the object and vedana feels.

Next is perception (sanna):

Sanna, which can be translated as perception, recognition or remembrance, is another cetasika among the seven 'universals' which accompany every citta. Sanna accompanies every citta, there is no moment without sanna. Sanna experiences the same object as the citta it accompanies but it performs its own task: it 'perceives' or 'recognizes' the object and it 'marks' it so that it can be recognized again.

The Atthasalini (I, Part IV, Chapter 1, 110) states about sanna:

...It has the characteristic of noting (In Pali: sanjanati, cognizing well) and the function of recognizing what has been previously noted. There is no such thing as perception in the four planes of existence without the characteristic of noting. All perceptions have the characteristic of noting. Of them, that perceiving which knows by specialized knowledge has the function of recognizing what has been noted previously. We may see this procedure when the carpenter recognizes a piece of wood which he has marked by specialized knowledge...

The Atthasalini then gives a second definition:

Perception has the characteristic of perceiving by on act of general inclusion, and the function of making marks as a condition for repeated perception (for recognizing or remembering) (I am using the translation of the ven. Nyanaponika, Abhidhamma Studies, page 69, BPS, Kandy, 1976), as when woodcutters 'perceive' logs and so forth. Its manifestation is the action of interpreting by means of the sign as apprehended, as in the case of blind persons who 'see 'an elephant (3 Here I use the English translation of the Visuddhimagga, XIV, 130, instead of the English text of the Atthasalini, the commentary refers to a story in the "Udana" (Verses of Uplift, Minor Anthologies, 68-69) about blind people who touch different parts of an elephant. Each of them interprets in his own way what an elephant is Iike: the Person who touches the head believes that the elephant is Iike a pot, since he remembers whet a pot is Iike; the person who touches the manifestation, like lightning, owing to its inability to penetrate the object. Its proximate cause is whatever object has appeared, like the perception which arises in young deer mistaking scarecrows for men.) .Or, it has briefness as tusks believes that it is Iike a ploughshare, and so on. Thus, there is recognizing of a sign or label which was made before.

The Visuddhimagga (XIV, 130) gives a similar definition. We can use the words perceiving, noting, recognizing and 'marking' in order to designate the reality which is sanna, but words are inadequate to describe realities. We should study the characteristic and function of sanna.

Sanna is not the same as citta which is the 'leader' in cognizing an object. As we have seen, sanna recognizes the object and it 'marks' it so that it can be recognized again. This is explained by way of a simile: carpenters put tags or signs on logs so that they can recognize them at once by means of these marks. This simile can help us to understand the complex process of recognizing or remembering. What we in conventional language call "remembering" consists of many different moments of citta and each of these moments of citta is accompanied by sanna which connects past experiences with the present one and conditions again recognition in the future. This connecting function is represented by the words 'recognition' and 'marking' (1 See Abhidhamma Studies, by the Ven. Nyanaponika, 1976, page 70, where it is explained that the making of marks and remembering is included in every act of perception.) when the present experience has fallen away it has become past and what was future becomes the present, and all the time there is sanna which performs its function so that an object can be recognized. If we remember that sanna accompanies every citta, we will better understand that the characteristic of sanna is not exactly the same as what we mean by the conventional terms of 'recognition', 'perception' or 'marking' . Each citta which arises falls away immediately and is succeeded by the next citta, and since each citta is accompanied by sanna which recognizes and 'marks 'the object, one can recognize or remember what was perceived or learnt before.

Volition (cetana) is offered next. This is intention at all levels. It directs or coordinates experience.

Concentration (ekaggata) or one pointedness. Von Gorkom says:

The characteristic of citta is cognizing an object and thus, every citta which arises must have an object. There is no citta without an object and each citta can know only one object at a time. Ekaggata is the cetasika which has as function to focus on that one object. Seeing-consciousness, for example, can only know visible object, it cannot know any other object and ekaggata focuses on visible object. Hearing-consciousness can only know sound it cannot know visible object or any other object and ekaggata focuses on sound.

Last are vitality (also interest) (jivitindriya) and attention (manasikara).

Jivitindriya (life-faculty or vitality) and manasikara (attention) are two other cetasikas among the seven universals which arise with every citta. As regards jivitindriya, (1 Jivitam means "life", and indriya means "controlling faculty".) this cetasika sustains the life of the citta and cetasikas it accompanies. According to the Atthasalini (part IV, Chapter I, 123, 124) (2 See also Dhammasangani19.) the characteristic of jivitindriya is "ceaseless watching", its function is to maintain the life of the accompanying dhammas, its manifestation the establishment of them, and the proximate cause are the dhamas which have to be sustained.

The function of jivitindriya is to maintain the life of citta and its accompanying cetasikas. It keeps them going until they fall away. Since jivitindriya arises and falls away together with the citta, it performs its function only for a very short while. Each moment of citta consists actually of three exttemely short periods:

the arising moment ( uppada khana)

the moment of its presence, or static moment (tithi khana)

the dissolution moment (bhanga khana ).

Jivitindriya arises with the citta at the arising moment and it maintains the life of citta and the accompanying cetasikas, but it cannot make them stay beyond the dissolution moment; then jivitindriya has to fall away together with the citta and the accompanying cetasikas. The Atthasalini states concening jivitindriya: watches over those states (the accompanying dhammas) only in the moment of (their and its) existence, as water over lotuses, etc. And although it watches over them, arisen as its own property, as a nurse aver the infant, life goes on only by being bound up with these states (accompanying dhammas) that have gone on, as the pilot on the boat. Beyond the dissolution mornent it does not go on, owing to the non-being both of itself and of the states which should have been kept going. At the dissolution moment it does not maintain them, owing to its own destruction, as the spent oil in the wick cannot maintain the flame of the lamp. Its effective power is as its duration.

Citta and cetasikas cannot arise without jivitindriya which maintains their lives and jivitindriya cannot arise without citta and the accompanying cetasikas. When, for example, seeing arises, jivitindriya must accompany seeing. Seeing needs jivitindriya in order to subsist during the very short period of its life. When seeing falls away jivitindriya also falls away. Then another citta arises and this citta is accompanied by another jivitindriya which sustains citta and the accompanying cetasikas during that very short moment of their existence. Jivitindriya has to arise with every citta in order to vitalize citta and its accompanying cetasikas.

Manasikara, attention, is another cetasika among the universals which arises with every citta. (2 There are aIso two kinds of citta which are called manasikara (Atthasalini 133 and Visusshimagga XIV, 152). One kind of citta which b manasikara is the panca-dvaravajana-citta (five-sense-door adverting-consciousness). The first citta of the 'sense-door process', which adverts to the object; it is called 'controller of the sense-door process'. The other kind of citta which manasikara is the mano-dvara-vajana-citta (mind-door adverting-consciousness) which adverts to the object through the mind-door and is succeeded by the javana cittas. It is called 'controller of the javanas'.) The Atthaslini (I, Part IV, Chapter 1,133 which defines manasikara in the same wording as the Visuddhimagga (XIV, 152) states concerning the catasika which is Manasikara:

...It has the characteristic of driving associated states towards the object. the function of joining (yoking associated notes to the object, the manifestation of facing the object. It is included in the sankharakkhandha, and should be regarded as the charioteer of associated states because it regulates the object.

The above information may seem very dense, yet it's just a brief and minute piece of Abhidhamma. Its use to us is that we start to conceptually understand that all that we experience, all that arises to the sense doors, is impersonal and not self. When I see something that brings up anger, or stated differently, when one of the sense organs and an object come together in such a way that anger arises, I personally find it useful to remind myself that all these functions are occurring and that the experience of anger is the result. It's a bit like watching a scary scene in a movie and reminding oneself of the excellence of the acting and sets that brings such strong illusion.

As noting deepens and we begin to experience in this way, using Aaron's 'stream flowing to the sea' metaphor, access concentration will open. It's not something we DO, so much as invite and allow.

What is access concentration? If you have not read last year's transcripts, I urge you to do so, even if you were in the class. I'd like not to repeat myself too much here. I'll past the entire document in this email to make it easy for you to find. From page 2 of that transcript: the mind settles down into that holding the object and penetrating into it, everything seems to shift a bit into a more slow motion so that we see the objects coming toward us, the beginning of the arising, the middle, and strong presence. In that presence, we see pleasant and unpleasant and then we move into attraction and wanting or into dislike and pushing away.

If we do not take these as objects, we swing back and forth. Here's the object and liking it, ooooh! Pulled to it. Then mindfulness, coming back to center for a moment, and back to the object, and then another object, and ooooh! We're swinging back and forth. But as practice settles down so that we note the beginning of pleasant and unpleasant, and if aversion or grasping do arise we note them as objects, we stay right on course, just experiencing this apple pie smell and "pleasant" as new objects, and then "wanting more" as a new object. But we're right on track. Mindfulness doesn't waver. It stays with the objects as they arise.

Tonight I'll lead you through a guided meditation to help you to recognize and stabilize access concentration. Then we'll talk more about it.

Our intentions tonight are, 1) to understand the experience of access concentration, even if it's not stable, 2) to understand the preliminary part of the path and at what stage access concentration is necessary for further progress and 3) to understand a little of the abhidhamma structure, specifically the meanings of citta and cetasika and their relationship, so you can use this understanding as part of mind's way of noting experiences. Aaron and my intention for this class is that it be deeply experiential and support practice.

1 By Nina van Gorkom:

Cetasikas -

The Buddhist Teaching on Physical Phenomena (Rupas)-