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....

Summary of Functions

Kicca - Sangaho

§ 6.

Kicca-sangahe kiccāni nāma patisandhibhavangāvajjanadassana-savana-glāyana-sāyana-phusana-sampaticchana-santīrana-votthapana-javana-tadālambana-cutivasena cuddasavidhāni bhavanti.

Patisandhi-bhavangā-vajjana-pañcā-viññāna-tthānādivasena pana tesam dasadhā thānabhedo veditabbo

Tattha dve upekkhā-sahagata-santīranāni c'eva attha mahāvipākāni ca nava rūpārūpāvipākāni c'āti ekūnavīsati cittāni patisandhi-bhavanga-cutikiccāni nāma.

āvajjanakiccāni pana dve. Tathā dassanasavana-ghāyana-sāyana-phusana-sampaticcha-nakiccāni ca.

Tīni santīranakiccāni.

Manodvārāvajjanam'eva pañcadvāre votthapanakiccam sādheti.

āvajjanadvaya-vajjitāni kusalākusalakriyā cittāni pañcapannāsa javanakiccāni.

Atthamahāvipākāni c'eva santīranatta-yañc'āti ekādasa tadālambanakiccāni.

Tesu pana dve upekkhā-sahagata-santīrana-cittāni patisandhi-bhavanga-cuti-tadārammana-santīrana vasena pañca kiccāni nāma.

Mahāvipākāni attha patisandhi-bhavanga cuti-tadārammana vasena catukiccāni.

Mahaggatavipākāni nava patisandhi-bhavanga-cutivasena tikiccāni.

Somanassa-sahagatam santīranam-tadālambanavasena dukiccam.

Tathā votthapanañ ca votthapanā-vajjanavasena.

Sesāni pana sabbāni'pi javana-manodhātuttikā-pañca viññānāni yathāsambhavam' eka kiccāni ' ti .

§ 7.

Patisandhādayo nāma kiccabhedena cuddasa
Dasadhā thānabhedena cittuppādā pakāsitā
Atthasatthi tathā dve ca navatthadve yathākkamam
Ekadviticatupañcakiccatthānāni niddise.



[Number in brackets points to following Notes.]

§ 6.

In the summary of functions (17) there are fourteen kinds - namely,

  1. relinking - patisandhi (18)
  2. life-continuum - bhavanga, (19)
  3. apprehending - āvajjana (20)
  4. seeing, 5. hearing, 6. smelling, 7. tasting, 8. contacting (21)
  5. receiving - sampaticchana (22),
  6. investigating - santīrana (23),
  7. determining - votthapana (24),
  8. Javana (25),
  9. retention - tadālambana/tadārammana (26), and
  10. decease - cuti (27).

Their classification (28) should be understood as tenfold - namely, 1. relinking, 2. life-continuum, 3. apprehending, 4. fivefold sense-impressions and so forth.

Of them nineteen types of consciousness perform the functions of relinking, life-continuum, and decease

They are:-

  1. two types of investigating consciousness accompanied by indifference (29),
  2. eight great resultants (30), and
  3. nine Form-Sphere and Formless Sphere resultants (31 ). (2 + 8 + 9 = 19).

Two perform the function of apprehending (32).

Similarly two (33) perform the Functions of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, contacting, and receiving (34).

Three (35) perform the function of investigating.

The mind-door consciousness performs the function of determining (36) in the five sense-door (thought-process).

With the exception of two apprehending types of consciousness (37) the fifty-five (38) types of immoral, moral, and functional consciousness perform the function of javana.

The eight great resultants and the three types of investigating consciousness, (totaling eleven) (39), perform the function of retention.

Of them the two types of investigating consciousness, accompanied by indifference, perform five functions such as relinking, life-continuum, decease, retention, and investigating.

The eight great resultants perform four functions such as relinking, life-continuum, decease, and retention.

The nine Sublime resultants perform three functions such as relinking, life-continuum, and decease (40).

The investigating consciousness, accompanied by pleasure, perform two functions such as investigating and retention.

Similarly the determining consciousness (41 ) perform two functions such as determining and apprehending.

All the remaining types of consciousness - javana, three mind-elements (42), and five sense-impressions - perform only one function as they arise.

§ 7.

The types of consciousness are declared to be fourteen according to functions such as relinking and so forth, and ten according to classification.

It is stated those that perform one function are sixty-eight; two functions, two; three functions, nine; four functions, eight; and five functions, two respectively.



17. Kicca or Function.

In the first chapter consciousness was classified chiefly according to the nature (jāti) and planes or states (bhūmi). In this section the different functions of all the 89 types of consciousness are explained in detail.

Each consciousness performs a particular function. Some types of consciousness perform several functions, under different circumstances, in various capacities. There are fourteen specific functions performed by them all.

18. Patisandhi, literally, means re-linking.

The type of consciousness one experiences at the moment of conception is termed patisandhi citta. It is so called because it links the past with the present.

This patisandhi citta, also termed 'rebirth-consciousness,' is conditioned by the powerful thought one experiences at the dying moment, and is regarded as the source of the present life-stream. In the course of one particular life there is only one patisandhi citta. The mental contents of bhavanga, which later arises an infinite number of times during one's lifetime, and of cuti, which arises only once at the final moment of death, are identical with those of patisandhi.

19. Bhavanga. Bhava + anga = factor of life, or indispensable cause or condition of existence.

One experiences only one thought-moment at any particular time. No two thought-moments coexist.

Each thought-moment hangs on to some kind of object. No consciousness arises without an object, either mental or physical.

When a person is fast asleep and is in a dreamless state he experiences a kind of consciousness which is more passive than active. It is similar to the consciousness one experiences at the initial moment of conception and at the final moment of death. This type of consciousness is in Abhidhamma termed bhavanga. Like any other consciousness it also consists of three aspects - genesis (uppāda), static (thiti) and cessation (bhanga). Arising and perishing every moment it flows on like a stream not remaining the same for two consecutive moments.

When an object enters this stream through the sense-doors, the bhavanga consciousness is arrested and another type of consciousness appropriate to the object perceived arises. Not only in a dreamless state but also in our waking state we experience bhavanga thought-moments more than any other types of consciousness. Hence bhavanga becomes an indispensable condition of life.

Mrs. Rhys Davids and Mr. Aung compare bhavanga to "Leibniz's state of obscure perception, not amounting to consciousness, in dreamless sleep.

One cannot agree because bhavanga is a type of consciousness. There is no obscure perception here.

Some identify bhavanga with sub-consciousness. According to the Dictionary of Philosophy sub-consciousness is ''a compartment of the mind alleged by certain psychologists and philosophers to exist below the threshold of consciousness." In the opinion of Western philosophers sub-consciousness and consciousness coexist. According to Abhidhamma no two types of consciousness coexist. Nor is bhavanga a sub-plane.

The Compendium further states that

"bhavanga denotes a functional state (or moment ) of sub-consciousness. As such it is the sub-conscious state of mind - 'below the threshold' of consciousness - by which we conceive continuous subjective existence as possible. Thus it corresponds to F. W. Myer's 'subliminal consciousness'".

( p.266)

The Dictionary of Philosophy explains ''subliminal (sub, under + limen, the threshold) as allegedly unconscious mental processes especially sensations which lie below the threshold of consciousness." Strictly speaking, it does not correspond to subliminal consciousness either.

There does not seem to be any place for bhavanga in Western Psychology.

Bhavanga is so called because it is an essential condition for continued subjective existence.

Whenever the mind does not receive a fresh external object, one experiences a bhavanga consciousness.[1] Immediately after a thought-process, too, there is a bhavanga consciousness. Hence it is called vīthimutta - process-freed. Sometimes it acts as a buffer between two thought-processes .

Life continuum[2] has been suggested as the closest English equivalent.

According to the Vibhāvini Tīkā bhavanga arises between,

  1. patisandhi (relinking) and āvajjana (apprehending),
  2. javana and āvajjana,
  3. tadārammana and āvajjana,
  4. votthapana and āvajjana, and sometimes between
  5. javana and cuti, and
  6. tadārammana and cuti.

20. āvajjana-opening or turning towards.

When an object enters the bhavanga stream of consciousness the thought-moment that immediately follows is called bhavanga-calana, (bhavanga vibration). Subsequently another thought-moment arises and is called the bhavanga-upaccheda (arresting bhavanga). Owing to the rapidity of the flow of bhavanga an external object does not immediately give rise to a thought-process. The original bhavanga thought-moment perishes. Then the flow is checked. Before the actual transition of the bhavanga it vibrates for one moment. When the bhavanga is arrested a thought-moment arises adverting the consciousness towards the object. If it is a physical object, the thought-moment is termed five-door cognition (pañcadvārāvajjana). In the case of a mental object it is termed mind-door cognition (manodvārāvajjana).

In the sense-door thought-process, after the āvajjana moment, arises one of the five sense-impressions.

See Ch. 1, N. 27.

āvajjana arises between bhavanga and pañca-viññāna (sense-impressions), and bhavanga and javana.

21. Pañca-viññāna (sense-impressions) arise between five-door cognitions (pañcadvārāvajjana) and receiving consciousness (sampaticchana). Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and contacting are collectively termed pañca-viññāna.

22. Sampaticchana arises between five sense-impressions and investigating consciousness (santīrana).

23. Santīrana arises between receiving consciousness and determining consciousness (votthapana).

24. Votthapana = Vi + ava + thā, to stand, to fix, to rest, lit., thorough setting down.

It is at this moment that the nature of the object is fully determined. This is the gateway to a moral or immoral thought-process. Discrimination, rightly or wrongly employed at this stage, determines the thought-process either for good or evil.

There is no special class of consciousness called votthapana. Manodvārāvajjana (mind-door consciousness) performs the function of determining.

Votthapana arises between

  1. investigation and javana,
  2. and investigation and bhavanga.

25. Javana derived from ju, to run swiftly.

This is another important technical term which should be clearly understood.

Ordinarily the term is employed in the sense of swift. Javanahamsa, for example, means swift swan; javana-paññā means swift understanding. In the Abhidhamma it is used in a purely technical sense.

Here Javana means running. It is so called because in the course of a thought-process it runs consecutively for seven thought-moments or five, hanging on to an identical object. The mental states occurring in all these thought moments are similar, but the potential force differs.

When the consciousness perceives a vivid object usually seven moments of Javana arise in the particular thought-process. In the case of death or when the Buddha performs the Twin Psychic Phenomenon (Yamaka Pātihāriya) only five thought moments arise. In the Supramundane Javana process the Path-consciousness arises only for one moment.

This javana stage is the most important from a ethical standpoint. It is at this psychological stage that good or evil is actually done. Irrespective of the desirability or the undesirability of the object presented to the mind, one can make the Javana process good or bad. If, for instance, one meets an enemy, a thought of hatred will arise almost automatically. A wise and forbearing person might, on the contrary, harbour a thought of love towards him. This is the reason why the Buddha has stated in the Dhammapada (V. 165)

"By self is evil done,
By self is one defiled,
By self is no evil done,
By self is one purified."

True indeed that circumstances, habitual tendencies, environment, etc., condition our thoughts. Then the freewill is subordinated to the mechanistic course of events. There is also the possibility to overcome those external forces and, exercising one's own freewill, generate either good or bad thoughts.

A foreign element may be instrumental, but we ourselves are directly responsible for our own actions.

Of the normal seven Javana thought moments, the first is the weakest potentially as it lacks any previous sustaining force. The Karmic effect of this thought-moment may operate in this present life itself. It is called the ditthadhammavedaniya kamma. If it does not operate, it becomes ineffective (ahosi). The last is the second weakest, because the sustaining power is being spent. Its Karmic effect may operate in the immediately subsequent life (upapajjavedaniya). If it does not, it also becomes ineffective. The effects of the remaining five may operate at any time till one attains Parinibbāna (aparāpariya-vedanīya).

It should be understood that moral and immoral javanas (kusalākusala) refer to the active side of life (kamma-bhava). They condition the future existence (upapattibhava). Apart from them there are the phala[3] and kriyā javanas. In the Kriyā javanas, which are experienced only by Buddhas and Arahats, the respective cetanās lack Kamma creative power.

It is extremely difficult to suggest a suitable rendering for Javana.

''Apperception'' is suggested by some.

The Dictionary of Philosophy defines apperception as "the introspective or reflective apprehension by the mind of its own inner states. Leibniz, who introduced the term, distinguished between perception (the inner state as representing outer things) and apperception (the inner state as reflectively aware of itself). In Kant, apperception denotes the unity of self-consciousness pertaining to either the empirical ego (empirical apperception) or to the pure ego (transcendental apperception)."

(p. 15.)

Commenting on Javana Mrs. Rhys Davids says:-

""I have spent many hours over Javana, and am content to throw apperception overboard for a better term, or for Javana, untranslated and as easy to pronounce as our own 'javelin.' It suffices to remember that it is the mental aspect or parallel of that moment in nerve-process, when central function is about to become efferent activity or 'innervation.' Teachers in Ceylon associate it with the word 'dynamic.' And its dominant interest for European psychologists is the fusion of intellect and will in Buddhist Psychology...."

(Compendium of Philosophy, p . 249).

Impulse is less satisfactory than even apperception. As Mrs. Rhys Davids suggests it is wise to retain the Pāli term.

See Compendium of Philosophy, pp. 42-45, 249.

According to the Vibhāvini Tīkā javana occurs between:

  1. votthapana and tadārammana,
  2. votthapana and bhavanga,
  3. votthapana and cuti,
  4. manodvārāvajjana and bhavanga,
  5. manodvārāvajjana and cuti.

26. Tadālambana or Tadārammana, literally, means 'that object.' Immediately after the Javana process two thought-moments, or none at all, arise having for their object the same as that of the Javana. Hence they are called tadālambana. After the tadālambanas again the stream of consciousness lapses into bhavanga.

Tadālambana occurs between

  1. javana and bhavanga
  2. and javana and cuti.

27. Cuti is derived from cu, to depart, to be released.

As patisandhi is the initial thought-moment of life so is cuti the final thought-moment. They are the entrance and exit of a particular life. Cuti functions as a mere passing away from life. Patisandhi, bhavanga and cuti of one particular life are similar in that they possess the same object and identical mental co-adjuncts.

Death occurs immediately after the cuti consciousness. Though, with death, the physical body disintegrates and the flow of consciousness temporarily ceases, yet the life-stream is not annihilated as the Karmic force that propels it remains. Death is only a prelude to birth.

Cuti occurs between

  1. javana and patisandhi,
  2. tadārammana and patisandhi,
  3. and bhavanga and patisandhi.

28. Thāna, lit., place, station, or occasion. Though there are fourteen functions yet, according to the functioning place or occasion, they are tenfold. The pañca-viññāna or the five sense-impressions are collectively treated as one since their functions are identical.

29. One is akusala-vipāka (immoral-resultant) and the other is kusala-vipāka (moral-resultant).

Rebirth (patisandhi) in the animal kingdom, and in peta and asura realms takes place with upekkhāsahagata santīrana (akusala vipāka). Bhavanga and cuti of that particular life are identical with this patisandhi citta.

Those human beings, who are congenitally blind, deaf, dumb, etc., have for their patisandhi citta the kusala vipāka upekkhā-sahagata santīrana. Though deformity is due to an evil Kamma, yet the birth as a human is due to a good Kamma.

30. Namely, the kāmāvacara kusala vipāka. All human beings, who are not congenitally deformed, are born with one of these eight as their patisandhi citta.

All these ten pertain to the kāmaloka.

31. Namely, the five rūpāvacara vipāka and the four arūpāvacara vipāka.

Lokuttara (Supramundane) phalas are not taken into consideration because they do not produce any rebirth.

Nineteen classes of consciousness, therefore, perform the triple functions of patisandhi, bhavanga and cuti.

32. Namely, the manodvārāvajjana (mind-door cognition) and the pañcadvārāvajjana (sense-door cognition), mentioned among the 18 ahetuka cittas. The former occurs when the mind perceives a mental object, and the latter when it perceives a physical object.

33. Namely, the ten types of moral and immoral resultant sense-impressions (kusala-akusala vipāka pañca-viññāna).

34. Namely, the two types of receiving consciousness, accompanied by indifference, mentioned among the ahetukas.

35. Namely, the two accompanied by indifference, and one accompanied by pleasure. It is the first two that function as patisandhi, bhavanga and cuti.

It should not be understood that at the moment of rebirth there is any investigation. One consciousness performs only one function at a particular time. This class of consciousness only serves as a rebirth-consciousness connecting the past and present births.

The investigating consciousness, accompanied by pleasure, occurs as a tadālambana when the object presented to the consciousness is desirable.

36. There is no special consciousness known as votthapana. It is the manodvārāvajjana that serves this function in the five-door thought-process.

37. Namely, the manodvārāvajjana and the pañcadvārāvajjana, two of the ahetuka kriya cittas. As they do not enjoy the taste of the object they do not perform the function of Javana. The remaining kriya citta, smiling consciousness, performs the function of Javana.

38. Namely, 12 immoral + (8 + 5 + 4 + 4) 21 morals + 4 lokuttara phalas (Fruits) + (1 + 8 + 5 + 4) 18 functionals = 55.

The term used is not vipāka but phala. The vipākas (resultants) of kāma, rūpa and arūpa lokas are not regarded as Javanas. The Supramundane Paths and Fruits which occur in the Javana process are regarded as Javanas though they exist only for a moment.

39. These eleven are vipāka cittas (resultants). When they perform the function of retention (tadālambana), there is no investigating function.

The investigating consciousness, accompanied by pleasure, performs the dual functions of investigating and retention.

40. In their respective planes.

41. Manodvārāvajjana,

42. Manodhātu is applied to the two classes of receiving consciousness (sampaticchana) and five-door cognition (pañcadvārāvajjana). All the remaining classes of consciousness, excluding the ten sense impressions (dvipañca-viññāna), are termed mano-viññāna dhātu.

Footnotes and references:


Cp. Susupti or deep sleep mentioned in the Upanishads. "In it the mind and the sense are both said to be inactive". Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy, p. 258.


Radhakrishnan says .... Bhavanga is sub-conscious existence, or more accurately existence free from working consciousness, bhavanga is sub-conscious existence when subjectively viewed, though objectively it is sometimes taken to mean Nirvana Indian Philosophy, p. 408....This certainly is not the Buddhist conception. Bhavanga occurs in the waking consciousness too immediately after a citta-vīthi (thought-process). Bhavanga is never identified with Nibbāna.


Note the terrn used is phala (Fruit), but not vipāka. In the lokuttara javana process the Path-Consciousness is immedlately followed by the Fruit-Consciousness.

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