A Manual of Abhidhamma

by Nārada Thera | 80,494 words | ISBN-13: 9789380336510

In the Abhidhammattha Sangaha there is a brief exposition of the Law of Dependent Origination, followed by a descriptive account of the Causal Relations that finds no parallel in any other philosophy. Edited in the original Pali Text with English Translation and Explanatory Notes by Narada Maha Thera....

Consciousness Pertaining The Sensuous Sphere


Immoral Consciousness (akusala cittāni)

§ 4.

tattha katamam kāmāvacaram?

§ 4.

Amongst them what is Kāmāvacara?

(Consciousness Rooted in Attachment)

1. Somanassa-sahagatam, ditthigatasampayuttam, asankhārikam ekam

One consciousness, unprompted, accompanied by pleasure, connected with wrong view

2. Somanassa-sahagatam, ditthigatasampayuttam, sasankhārikam ekam,

One consciousness, prompted, accompanied by pleasure, connected with wrong view

3. Somanassa-sahagatam ditthigatavippayuttam, asankhārikam ekam

One consciousness, unprompted, accompanied by pleasure, disconnected with wrong view

4. Somanassa-sahagatam ditthigatavippayuttam, sasankhārikam ekam

One consciousness, prompted, accompanied by pleasure, disconnected with wrong view

5. Upekkhā-sahagatam, ditthigatasampayuttam, asankhārikam ekam

One consciousness, unprompted, accompanied by indifference, connected with wrong view

6. Upekkhā-sahagatam, ditthigatasampayuttam, sasankhārikam ekam

One consciousness, prompted, accompanied by indifference, connected with wrong view

7. Upekkhā-sahagatam, ditthigatavippayuttam, asankhārikam ekam

One consciousness, unprompted, accompanied by indifference, disconnected with wrong view

8. Upekkhā-sahagatam, ditthigatavippayuttam, sasankhārikam ekan' ti

One consciousness, prompted, accompanied by indifference, disconnected with wrong view

Imāni attha'pi Lobhasahagatacittāni nāma

These eight types of consciousness are rooted in Attachment

(Consciousness Rooted in Ill-will or Aversion)

9. Domanassasahagatam, patighasampayuttam, asañkhārikam ekam

One consciousness, unprompted, accompanied by displeasure, connected with ill-will

10. Domanassasahagatam, patighasampayuttam, sasañkhārikam ekan' ti

One consciousness, prompted, accompanied by displeasure, connected with ill-will

Imani dve'pi Patighasampayuttacittāni nāma.

These two types of consciousness are connected with Ill-will.

(Consciousness Rooted in Delusion or Ignorance)

11. Upekkhā-sahagatam, vicikicchā-sampayuttam ekam,

One consciousness, accompanied by indifference, and connected with doubts,

12. Upekkhā-sahagatam, uddhacca-sampayuttam ekan 'ti

One consciousness, accompanied by indifference, and connected with restlessness.

Imani dve' pi Momūhacittāni nāma
Icce'vam sabbathā pi dvādasakusala-cittāni samattāni.

These two types of consciousness are rooted in sheer Ignorance.
Thus end, in all, the twelve types of Immoral Consciousness.


Atthadhā lobhamūlāni-dosamūlāni ca dvidhā
Mohamulāni ca dve'ti-dvādasākusala siyum.

Eight are rooted in Attachment, two in Ill-will, and two in Ignorance.
Thus there are twelve types of Immoral Consciousness.



8. Akusala, Kusala, Vipāka, Kiriya-

In the previous section consciousness was broadly classified under four divisions according to the planes in which it is experienced. With respect to its nature it divides itself into four classes. Some types of consciousness are immoral (akusala), because they spring from attachment (lobha), aversion or ill-will (patigha), and ignorance (moha). Opposed to them are the moral types of consciousness (kusala), because they are rooted in non-attachment or generosity (alobha), goodwill (adosa), and wisdom (amoha). The former are unwholesome as they produce undesirable effects (anittha vipāka), the latter are wholesome as they produce desirable effects (ittha vipāka). Both kusala and akusala cittas constitute what, in Pāli, are termed kamma. Those types of consciousness that arise as the inevitable results of these kusala and akusala cittas are called vipāka (resultant) cittas. It should be understood that both kamma and vipāka are purely mental. The fourth type of consciousness is called kiriya which, for want of a better term, is rendered by "karmically ineffective", "inoperative" or "functional".

9. Three Roots (Mūla)-

Lobha, dosa, and moha are the three roots of evil. Their opposites are the roots of good.

Lobha, from lubh, to cling, or attach itself, may be rendered by 'attachment' or 'clinging'. Some scholars prefer 'greed'. Craving is also used as an equivalent of lobha.

In the case of a desirable object of sense, there arises, as a rule, clinging or attachment. In the case of an undesirable object, ordinarily there is aversion.

In Pāli such aversion is termed dosa or patigha. Dosa is derived from dus, to be displeased. Patigha is derived from 'pati', against, and  'gha' (han), to strike, to contact. Ill-will, hatred are also suggested as equivalents of 'patigha'.

Moha is derived from muh, to delude. It is delusion, stupidity, bewilderment. It is 'moha' that clouds an object and blinds the mind. Sometimes 'moha' is rendered by ignorance.

According to Abhidhamma, moha is common to all evil. Lobha and dosa do not arise alone, but always in combination with moha. Moha, on the other hand, does arise singly-hence the designation 'momūha', intense delusion.

Diametrically opposed to the above three roots are the roots of kusala. They not only indicate the absence of certain evil conditions, but also signify the presence of certain positive good conditions. Alobha does not merely mean non-attachment, but also generosity. Adosa does not merely mean non-anger or non-hatred, but also goodwill, or benevolence, or loving-kindness (mettā). Amoha does not merely mean non-delusion, but also wisdom or knowledge (ñāna or paññā).

10. Vedanā or Feeling-

Feeling or, as some prefer to say, sensation, is a mental state common to all types of consciousness. Chiefly there are three kinds of feelings -namely,

  • somanassa (pleasurable),
  • domanassa (displeasurable),
  • upekkhā (indifferent, neutral, equanimity or neither pleasurable nor dis-pleasurable).


  • dukkha (physical pain)
  • sukha (physical happiness)

there are altogether five kinds of feelings.

Somanassa is an abstract noun formed of 'su', good, and 'mana', mind. Literally, the term means good-mindedness, i.e., a pleasurable feeling.

Similarly 'domanassa' ('du', bad, and 'mana', mind) means bad-mindedness i.e., a dis-pleasurable feeling.

The third feeling is neutral. Indifference is used here in this particular sense, but not in the sense of callousness. Sukha is composed of 'su', easy, and 'kha' to bear, or to endure. What is easily endured is 'sukha' i.e., happiness. Dukkha (du, difficult), pain, is that which is difficult to be endured. Both these sensations are physical.

According to Abhidhamma there is only one type of consciousness accompanied by pain, and one accompanied by happiness. Two are connected with a dis-pleasurable feeling. Of the 89 types of consciousness, in the remaining 85 are found either a pleasurable feeling or a neutral feeling.

Somanassa, domanassa, and upekkhā are purely mental. Sukha and dukkha are purely physical. This is the reason why there is no upekkhā in the case of touch which, according to Abhidhamma, must be either happy or painful. (See Upekkhā, Note. 42)

11. Ditthi-

This term is derived from 'dis', to see, to perceive. It is usually translated as view, belief, opinion, etc. When qualified by 'samma', it means right view or right belief; when qualified by 'micchā', it means wrong view or wrong belief. Here the term is used without any qualification in the sense of wrong view.

12. Sankhārika-

This is purely a technical term used in a specific sense in the Abhidhamma. It is formed of 'sam', well and 'kar', to do, to prepare, to accomplish. Literally, it means accomplishing, preparing, arranging.

Like dhamma, sankhāra also is a multi-significant term. Its precise meaning is to be understood according to the context.

When used as one of the five 'aggregates' (pañcakkhandha), it refers to all the mental states, except vedanā and saññā. In the paticca-samuppāda it is applied to all moral and immoral activities, good and bad thoughts. When sankhāra is used to signify that which is subject to change, sorrow, etc., it is invariably applied to all conditioned things.

In this particular instance the term is used with 'sa' = co-; and a = un, Sa-sankhārika (lit., with effort) is that which is prompted, instigated, or induced by oneself or by another. 'Asankhārika' (lit., without effort) is that which is thus unaffected, but done spontaneously.

If, for instance, one does an act, induced by another, or after much deliberation or premeditation on one's part, then it is sa-sankhārika. If, on the contrary, one does it instantly without any external or internal inducement, or any premeditation, then it is asankhārika.

13. Vicikicchā-

This is an ethic-religious term. Commentary gives two interpretations.

(1.) Vici = vicinanto, seeking, inquiring; - kicch, to tire, to strain, to be vexed. It is vexation due to perplexed thinking.

(2.) Vi, devoid + cikicchā, remedy (of knowledge). It means that which is devoid of the remedy of knowledge.

Both these interpretations indicate a perplexed or undecided frame of mind. Doubt, perplexity, skepticism, indecision are used as the closest English equivalents.

Reasoning or investigation for the sake of understanding the truth is not discouraged in Buddhism. Nor is blind faith advocated in Buddhism.

 [Vicihicchā is the inability to decide anything definitely that it is as such. Buddhaghosa-Majjhima Nikāya Commentary.]

14. Uddhacca-

This is formed of u = over, and - dhu, to tremble, to get excited. Literally, it means 'over-excitement' or 'rousing up'. A confused restless state of mind is meant here. It is the antithesis of one-pointedness. Atthasālini explains uddhacca as disquietude, mental distraction or confusion.

15. Kusala and Akusala-

This section deals with akusala types of consciousness. Akusala is the direct opposite of kusala. Atthasālini gives the etymological meaning of kusala as follows:-

(1.) ku, bad, + sal, to shake, to tremble, to destroy. That which shakes off, destroys evil or contemptible things is kusala.

(2.) kusalu, to cut.

 Kusa is from ku, bad, and si, to lie. That which lies contemptibly is kusa, vice. Kusala is that which cuts off vice.

(3.) a.) ku, evil, bad, + su, to reduce. That which reduces or eradicates evil is kusa, knowledge or wisdom. Kusa, so derived, + lu, to cut. That which cuts off (evil) by wisdom is kusala.

b.) Kusa, so derived, + la, to take. That which is grasped by wisdom is kusala.

(4.) Kusa grass cuts a part of the hand with both edges. Even so kusala cuts off both sections of passions - those that have arisen and those that have not arisen.

With regard to the connotation of the term the Atthasālini states:-

"The word kusala means 'of good health' (ārogya), 'faultless' (anavajja), 'clever' (cheka), 'productive of happy results' (sukha-vipāka)".

With the exception of 'clever' all the other three meanings are applicable to kusala.

Kusala is wholesome in the sense of being free from physical and mental sickness through passions.

Kusala is faultless in the sense of being free from the fault of passions, the evil of passions, and the heat of passions.

Here sukha-vipāka does not necessarily mean pleasurable feeling. It is used in the sense of physical and mental buoyancy, softness, fitness, etc.

Atthasālini further states kusala is used in the sense of having accomplished with wisdom (kosallasambhūtatthena; kosallam vuccati paññā).

Judging from the various meanings attached to the term, kusala may be interpreted as wholesome or moral. Some scholars prefer 'skillful'.

Akusala would therefore mean unwholesome or immoral.

Kusala and akusala correspond to good and bad, right and wrong respectively.

16. How are we to assess whether an action is kusala or akusala? What is the criterion of morality?

In short what is connected with the three roots of evil is akusala. What is connected with the three roots of good is kusala.

As a seed sown on fertile soil germinates and fructifies itself sooner or later, according to its own intrinsic nature, even so kusala and akusala actions produce their due desirable and undesirable effects. They are called vipāka.

17. Kiriya or Kriyā, literally, means action.

Here Kiriya is used in the sense of ineffective action. Kamma is causally effective. Kiriya is causally ineffective. Good deeds of Buddhas and Arahats are called kiriya because kamma is not accumulated by them as they have gone beyond both good and evil.

In Abhidhamma vipāka and kiriya are collectively called avyākata (Indeterminate), that which does not manifest itself in the way of an effect. The former is avyākata, because it is an effect in itself, the latter, because it does not produce an effect.

Illustrative Examples for the Twelve Different Types of Immoral Consciousness:

18. Attachment

(1.) With joy a boy instantly steals an apple, viewing no evil thereby.

(2.) Prompted by a friend, a boy joyfully steals an apple, viewing no evil thereby.

(3.) (4.) The same illustration serves for the third and fourth types of consciousness with the difference that the stealing is done

without any false view.

(5.) (6.) (7.) (8.) The remaining four types of consciousness are similar to the above with the difference that the stealing is done with neutral feeling.


(9.) With hatred one murders another without any premeditation.

(10.) With hatred one murders another after premeditation.

19. Killing:- According to Abhidhamma killing is invariably done with ill-will or aversion. Prompted by whatever motive, one, as a rule, kills with a thought of ill-will. Where there is ill-will (patigha) there is displeasure (domanassa). Where there is displeasure there is ill-will in a subtle or gross way.

Suppose, for instance, a little child, who cannot discriminate between right and wrong, smilingly kills an ant. He does not know that he is committing the evil of killing. He is only playing with it. Now, does he cherish any ill-will towards the ant? Is there any hatred or ill-feeling in his case? It is difficult to say so. What type of consciousness does he experience at that moment? It cannot be the 9th and 10th types because he innocently does it with joy, fondling the object. Could it be the third type of consciousness rooted in "lobha"?

An adult who kills for sport does experience the 9th or 10th type of consciousness. There is ill-feeling at the moment of killing.

What about vivisection? A scientist may vivisect without the least compunction. His chief motive may be scientific investigation for consequent alleviation of suffering. Yet, there is the thought of killing.

Does one experience ill-will when one kills a wounded animal with the object of putting an end to its suffering? Moved by compassion, one may do so; yet there is ill-will at the moment of killing, because there is a certain kind of aversion towards the object. If such an action is morally justifiable, could one object to the wholesale destruction of patients suffering from acute chronic incurable diseases?

It was stated above that there is ill-will where there is displeasure.

When, for instance, one feels sorry for having failed in an examination, does one harbor ill-will at that time? If one reflects on the meaning of the term patigha, the answer will become clear. There is no doubt a subtle kind of aversion over the unpleasant news. It is the same in the case of a person who weeps over the death of a dear one, because it is an unwelcome event. Anāgāmis and Arahats never feel sorry nor grieve, because they have eradicated patigha or dosa (hatred or ill-will).

Great was the lamentation of Venerable Ananda, who was a Sotāpanna Saint, on the passing away of the Buddha; but Arahats and Anāgāmis like Venerable Kassapa and Anuruddha, practiced perfect equanimity without shedding a tear.

20. Ignorance

(11.) A person doubts the existence of the Buddha, or the efficacy of the Dhamma, owing to his stupidity.

(12.) A person is distracted in mind, unable to concentrate on an object.

As these two types of consciousness are feeble, due to stupidity or dullness of mind, the accompanied feeling is neither pleasurable nor displeasurable, but neutral.

21. The ten kinds of akusala (evil) in relation to the twelve types of immoral consciousness.

There are ten kinds of evil committed through deed, word and thought.

(1) Killing (pānātipāta), (2) Stealing. (adinnādāna), (3) Sexual Misconduct (kāmesu-micchācāra).

(4) Lying (musāvāda), (5) Slandering (pisuna-vācā), (6) Harsh speech (pharusa-vācā), (7) Vain talk (samphappalāpa).

(8) Covetousness (abhijjhā), (9) Hatred (vyāpāda), and (10) False view (micchā-ditthi)[1].

All these akusalas are committed by the afore-mentioned twelve types of akusala consciousness. Killing is generally done by the 9th and 10th types of consciousness. Stealing is generally done with the first eight types of consciousness.

Sexual misconduct is committed with the first eight types of consciousness.

Theft may be committed with a hateful thought too. In such a case there is the possibility of stealing with the 9th and 10th types of consciousness.

Lying may be uttered with the first ten types of consciousness; and so is slandering.

Harsh speech is uttered with the 9th and 10th types of consciousness. Vain talk may spring from the first ten types of consciousness. Covetousness springs from the first eight types of consciousness. Hatred springs from the 9th and 10th types of consciousness. False views spring from the 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 6th.

22. Eradication of the Akusala Cittas by the four classes of Aryan disciples.

A Sotāpanna (Stream-Winner) eradicates the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 11th types of consciousness as he has destroyed the two Fetters (samyojana)-sakkāya-ditthi (Self-illusion) and vicikicchā (Doubts).

A Sakadāgāmi (Once-Returner), who has attained the second stage of Sainthood, weakens the potentiality of the 9th and 10th types of consciousness, because he has only attenuated the two Fetters - kāmarāga (Sense-desire) and patigha (Hatred).

An Anāgāmī (Never-Returner), who has attained the third stage of Sainthood, eradicates the above two types of consciousness as he has completely destroyed the said two Fetters.

An Arahat does not give rise to any of the twelve akusala cittas as he has eradicated the remaining five Fetters too - namely, rūparāga (Attachment to rūpa jhānas and Form-Spheres), arūparāga (Attachment to arūpa jhānas and Formless-Spheres), māna (Conceit), uddhacca (Restlessness) and avijjā (Not-knowingness or Ignorance).

(sīlabbata paramasa - Indulgence in wrongful rites and ceremonies, one of the ten Fetters, not mentioned above, is eradicated by a Sotāpanna).

Footnotes and references:


(a) Denying the result of Kamma (Natthika-ditthi), (b) Denying both the cause and the result (Ahetuka) and (c) Denying Kamma (Akiriya-Ditthi):- These constitute wrong views.

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