A Survey of Paramattha Dhammas

by Sujin Boriharnwanaket | 129,875 words

A Survey of Paramattha Dhammas is a guide to the development of the Buddha's path of wisdom, covering all aspects of human life and human behaviour, good and bad. This study explains that right understanding is indispensable for mental development, the development of calm as well as the development of insight The author describes in detail all ment...

Chapter 6 - Different Aspects of the Four Paramattha Dhammas

Citta, cetasika, rupa and nibbāna are paramattha Dhammas, they are reality. Citta, cetasika and rupa which arise and fall away in succession, present themselves so that they can be cognized, and thus it can be known that they are reality. For example, when we see color, hear sound or think, cittas arise and fall away in succession, performing different functions. Some cittas see color, others hear sound, and others again are thinking, depending on the type of citta and the conditions which cause its arising. The sequence of citta, cetasika and rupa is extremely rapid and that is why we do not notice the arising and falling away. People may believe that rupa gradually changes and that citta arises when a person or other living being is born, that the same citta lasts during life and falls away only when that person or being dies. If we do not study and investigate the Dhamma, and if we do not develop sati, mindfulness, and paññā, understanding, in order to realize the characteristics of citta, cetasika and rupa which are appearing, then we shall always be ignorant of the true nature of nama Dhamma and rupa Dhamma, of citta, cetasika and rupa which arise and fall away in succession all the time.

The Dhammas which arise, can arise because there are conditioning factors for their arising. They cannot arise without conditions. The venerable Shariputra gained confidence in the teaching of the Buddha when he met the venerable Assaji, one of the monks among the group of the first five disciples of the Buddha. The venerable Shariputra was so impressed by the venerable Assaji’s comportment that he followed him, asking him who his preceptor was and what his preceptor was teaching.

The venerable Assaji answered[1] :

"Ye dhammā hetuppabhavā tesaÿ hetuÿ Tathāgato āha, tesañca nirodho, evaÿvādī Mahasamaṇo ti".

This means:

"Whatever Dhamma arises from conditions, the Buddha teaches the conditions and also the cessation thereof. The great Ascetic teaches thus."

If the Buddha had not taught the Dhammas and the ways they are conditioned, as he had realized through his enlightenment, there would not be anybody who would know which Dhamma arises from which conditions. There would not be anybody who would know the Dhammas which are the conditions for the arising of each type of citta paramattha Dhamma, cetasika paramattha Dhamma and rupa paramattha Dhamma. The Buddha had through his enlightenment penetrated the true nature of all Dhammas. He taught that all Dhammas which arise do so because of the appropriate conditions, and he also taught which are the conditions for the arising of Dhammas. Dhammas cannot arise without conditions.

We say of people, of other living beings or of devas that they are born, but in reality citta, cetasika and rupa are born. When a specific type of citta accompanied by cetasikas arises together with rupa we say in conventional language that a person is born. When citta and cetasikas arise with the rupa of a deva (being of a heavenly plane), we say that a deva is born. People, other living beings and devas have different kinds of births because the conditions for their births are different. The conditions which cause different births are numerous and they are most intricate. However, the Buddha, when he attained enlightenment, penetrated by his omniscience the true nature of all Dhammas as well as all the different factors which are the conditions for their arising. He taught the true nature of each Dhamma and he explained that whatever Dhamma arises has conditions for its arising. The Dhammas which arise are saṅkhāra Dhammas, conditioned Dhammas.

We know that there are citta, cetasika and rupa, because they arise, and they arise because of the appropriate conditions. Hence citta, cetasika and rupa are saṅkhāra Dhammas[2] . The Buddha’s teaching is complete as to the letter and the meaning. The Buddha gave further explanations of Dhamma subjects the meaning of which people could misunderstand. He added words which described the meaning, making it even clearer. People could misunderstand the Buddha’s teaching that the Dhammas which arise because of conditions are saṅkhāra Dhamma ; they might believe that the Dhammas which arise could continue to exist. Hence the Buddha taught that saṅkhāra Dhammas are also saṅkhata Dhammas, Dhammas which have been conditioned[3] . Saṅkhata Dhammas are the Dhammas which have arisen and then fall away[4] . The Buddha used the term saṅkhata Dhamma as well as the term saṅkhāra Dhamma in order to explain that a Dhamma arises because there are conditions for its arising and that when the conditions fall away that Dhamma which has arisen because of conditions also must fall away. Saṅkhata Dhamma is the Dhamma which has arisen and then falls away. Hence, saṅkhāra Dhamma, the Dhamma which is compounded by conditioning factors is also saṅkhata Dhamma[5] . The paramattha Dhammas which are citta, cetasika and rupa are saṅkhāra Dhamma as well as saṅkhata Dhamma.

  • Sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā - All conditioned Dhammas are impermanent
  • Sabbe saṅkhāra dukkha - All conditioned Dhammas are dukkha
  • Sabbe dhammā anattā - All Dhammas are non-self[6]

 

All Saṅkhāra Dhammas are Impermanent

All conditioned Dhammas are impermanent. The decay and the impermanence of rupa Dhamma is apparent but the impermanence of nama Dhamma is hard to notice. We read in the "Kindred Sayings" (II, Nidāna-vagga, XII, the Kindred Sayings on Cause, 7, the Great Chapter § 61, The Untaught) that the Buddha, while he was staying near Sāvatthī at Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park, said to the monks:

The untaught many folk, monks, might well be repelled by this body, where the four great Elements come together, they might cease to fancy it and wish to be free from it. Why so? Seen is the growth and decay of this body, where the four great Elements come together, the taking on (at birth) and laying down of it (at death). Hence well might the many folk be repelled by it, cease to fancy it, and wish to be free from it.

Yet this, monks, what we call thought, what we call mind, what we call consciousness (citta), by this the untaught many folk are not able to feel repelled, they are not able to cease fancying it or to be freed from it. Why so? For many a long day, monks, has it been for the uninstructed many folk that to which they cling, that which they call "mine", that which they wrongly conceive, thinking- that is mine, this I am, this is myself. Hence the untaught many folk are not able to feel repelled by it, are not able to cease fancying it, are not able to be freed from it.... But as to this, monks, what we call thought, what we call mind, what we call consciousness: one citta arises when another perishes, day and night....

Although citta, cetasika and rupa arise and fall away all the time, it is hard to understand this and to become detached, to eliminate clinging to nama and rupa. Nama and rupa must be investigated and understood by paññā so that clinging can be eliminated. We read in the "Dhammapada" vs. 277-280 (Minor Anthologies) that the Buddha said:

"All saṅkhāra Dhammas are impermanent", when one discerns this with wisdom, one turns away from dukkha; this is the Path to purity.

"All saṅkhāra Dhammas are dukkha", when one discerns this with wisdom, one turns away from dukkha; this is the Path to purity.

"All Dhammas are non-self" (anattā), when one discerns this with wisdom, one turns away from dukkha; this is the Path to purity.

If one does not realize the arising and falling away of nama Dhammas and rupa Dhammas so that clinging to wrong view can be eliminated, one cannot penetrate the four noble Truths and become an Aryan, a "noble person" who has attained enlightenment. The Aryan understands the meaning of "awakening" or Buddhahood, the Buddha’s enlightenment. He understands this not merely by theoretical knowledge of the Dhammas the Buddha taught, but by direct understanding of the Dhammas the Buddha had penetrated by his enlightenment. The Aryan has eradicated all doubt concerning the Dhammas the Buddha had penetrated, because the Aryan has realized those Dhammas himself[7] . The Aryan has realized the meaning of "Buddhahood" because by attaining enlightenment he has penetrated himself the true nature of the Dhammas the Buddha taught. The person who understands and sees the Dhamma, sees the Tathāgata[8] . The person who studies the Dhamma and practices the Dhamma in order to penetrate the true nature of realities can attain enlightenment and eradicate defilements depending on the stage of enlightenment he has realized, be it the stage of the "stream winner" (sotāpanna), the "once-returner" (Sakadagami), the "non-returner" (Anagami) or the arahat[9] .

 

All Saṅkhāra Dhammas are Dukkha

All saṅkhāra Dhammas, conditioned realities, arise and then fall away, be it wholesome citta or unwholesome citta, be it rupa which is beautiful or rupa which is ugly, they all arise and fall away alike. The arising and falling away of realities, their impermanence, means dukkha, un-satisfactoriness. The nature of dukkha inherent in all saṅkhāra Dhammas is not merely dukkha, suffering, in the sense of bodily pain, illness, or tribulations, or suffering caused by separation of what we like and association of what we dislike. The nature of dukkha inherent in all saṅkhāra Dhammas is their impermanence; when they have arisen they fall away and thus they should not be taken for happiness. Some people may wonder why all saṅkhāra Dhammas are dukkha, why even the citta which experiences happiness and enjoys pleasant objects is dukkha. Even the citta which experiences happiness does not last and thus it is dukkha. All saṅkhāra Dhammas, citta, cetasika and rupa, are dukkha because they are impermanent, they do not last.

 

All Dhammas are Anattā

All Dhammas are anattā. All four paramattha Dhammas, citta, cetasika, rupa and nibbāna are anattā. They are not self, they are not under anyone’s control.

Nibbāna is paramattha Dhamma, it is reality. Nibbāna is not saṅkhāra Dhamma, it is visaṅkhāra[10] Dhamma, unconditioned Dhamma. Nibbāna is the Dhamma which does not arise[11] , it is the opposite of saṅkhāra Dhamma. Saṅkhāra Dhamma is the Dhamma which arises because of conditions whereas visaṅkhāra Dhamma is the Dhamma which does not arise, which is unconditioned.

Nibbāna is asankhata Dhamma, the Dhamma which is not sankhata[12] . Sankhata Dhamma is the Dhamma which arises and falls away whereas asankhata Dhamma is the Dhamma which does not arise and fall away. Nibbāna does not arise and fall away because it is not conditioned.

Citta, cetasika and rupa, which are saṅkhāra Dhammas, are lokiya, "mundane". They are susceptible to destruction[13] . Nibbāna, which is visaṅkhāra Dhamma, is lokuttara. The word lokuttara means beyond the world, supra-mundane, free from the world[14] .

Summarizing paramattha Dhammas, they are:

  • nama Dhamma: (which knows an object): | citta paramattha, 89 or 121 cittas |
  • saṅkhāra Dhamma | cetasika paramattha, 52 cetasikas |
  • rupa Dhamma: | rupa-paramattha, 28 rupas |
  • nama Dhamma (which does not know an object): | nibbāna paramattha |
  • visaṅkhāra Dhamma
  • asankhata Dhamma

 

The Five Khandhas

The five khandhas, groups or aggregates, comprise:

  1. rupakkhandha (all rupas),
  2. vedanākkhandha (feelings),
  3. saññākkhandha (remembrance or perception),
  4. saṅkhārakkandha (all cetasikas, except feeling and remembrance)
  5. and viññāṇakkhandha (all cittas)[15] .

 

Paramattha Dhammas and Khandhas

  • Citta is viññāṇakkhandha
  • Cetasika is vedanākkhandha, saññākkhandha, saṅkhārakkhandha
  • Rupa is rupakkhandha
  • Nibbāna is not khandha. It is free from khandha (khandha vimutta)

The term khandha refers to the Dhamma which can be described as past, future or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near. Hence khandha is sankhata Dhamma, the Dhamma which is conditioned, which arises and falls away, and thus, it can be described as past, present, future, etc. Whereas asankhata Dhamma, nibbāna, is the Dhamma which does not arise, which is unconditioned[16] . It cannot be said of nibbāna that it has arisen, that it has not yet arisen, or that it will arise. It cannot be described as past, future or present. Therefore, visaṅkhāra Dhamma, nibbāna, is not khandha, it is free from khandha (khandha vimutta).

We read in the "Kindred Sayings" (III, Khandhā-vagga, First Fifty, Ch 5, § 48, The Factors) that the Buddha, while he was at Sāvatthī, explained to the monks about the five khandhas and the five upādāna khandhas, khandhas of grasping:

I will teach you, monks, the five khandhas and the five khandhas that have to do with grasping. Do you listen to it.

And what, monks, are the five khandhas?

Any rupa, be it past, future or present, inward or outward, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, - that is called rupakkhandha. Any feeling, any perception, any group of "activities" (or "formations", saṅkhārakkhandha), any consciousness, be it past, future or present, inward or outward, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, that is called viññāṇakkhandha. These five, monks, are called the five khandhas.

And what, monks, are the five khandhas that have to do with grasping (upādāna khandhas)? Any rupa, monks, be it past, future or present... be it far or near, goes together with the āsavas (intoxicants[17] ), and is a condition for upādāna, grasping. That is called khandha of grasping, upādāna khandha. Any feeling... any perception... any group of "activities"... any consciousness, monks, be it past, future or present... be it far or near, goes together with the āsavas, and is a condition for upādāna, grasping. These are called the five upadāna khandhas.

 

The Three Paramattha Dhammas classified as Five Khandhas

Citta Paramattha Dhamma -all 81 (or 121) types are:

  • Viññāṇakkhandha
  • Cetasika Paramattha Dhamma - 52 types:
  • vedanā cetasika is: Vedanākkhandha
  • saññā cetasika is: Saññākkhandha
  • 50 cetasikas are: Saṅkhārakkhandha
  • Rupa Paramattha Dhamma - all 28 types are: Rupakkhandha

 

The Five Khandhas classified as Three Paramattha Dhammas

  1. Rupakkhandha -- is: Rupa Paramattha Dhamma (28 rupas)
  2. Vedanākkhandha -- is: Cetasika Paramattha Dhamma (vedanā)
  3. Saññākkhandha -- is: Cetasika Paramattha Dhamma (saññā)
  4. Saṅkhārakkhandha --is: Cetasika Paramattha Dhamma (50 cetasikas)
  5. Viññāṇakkhandha --is: Citta Paramattha Dhamma (89 or 121 cittas)

 

Questions

  1. Which paramattha Dhammas are saṅkhāra (conditioned) Dhamma?
  2. Are saṅkhāra Dhammas saṅkhārakkhandha (khandha of activities)?
  3. Is visaṅkhāra (unconditioned) Dhamma sankhata Dhamma?
  4. Which khandha is asankhata (unconditioned) Dhamma?
  5. Is asankhata Dhamma lokiya (worldly) or lokuttara (supramundane)?
  6. Is citta saṅkhārakkhandha?
  7. Is cetasika saṅkhārakkhandha?
  8. Which paramattha Dhamma is vedanākkhandha (the khandha of feeling)?
  9. Which khandha is not paramattha Dhamma?
  10. Which paramattha Dhamma is not khandha?

Footnotes and references:

1.

Book of Discipline IV, Mahavagga, the Great Division, 38.

2.

saṅkhāra is derived from saṅkharoti, to combine, put together or compose.

3.

saṅkhata is the past passive participle of saṅkhāroti: what has been put together, composed.

4.

Gradual Sayings I, Book of the Threes, Ch V, § 47.

5.

Dhammasangaui, Buddhist Psychological Ethics, Book III, Part I, Ch III, the Short Intermediate Set of Pairs.
Santi Phantakeong explains in his Lexicon, that saokhara Dhamma and sankhata Dhamma refer to the same realities, but that these different terms have been used to explain more clearly the nature of conditioned Dhammas. Saokhara Dhamma refers to: Dhamma which depends on other Dhammas which condition its arising, whereas sankhata Dhamma refers to: Dhamma which, apart from being conditioned, is Dhamma which arises and falls away.

6.

Khuddaka Nikāya, Maha-Niddesa, Suddhaṭṭhaka Sutta, "The Purified", no. 4. Not translated into English. See also Dhammapada (Minor Anthologies), vs. 277-280.

7.

Kindred Sayings V, Maha vagga, Book IV, Kindred Sayings on the Faculties, Ch V, S 3, Learner.

8.

Kindred Sayings II, Middle Fifty, Ch 4, S 87, Vakkali.

9.

Minor Anthologies, "Verses of Uplift", Ch V, S 5, Uposatha Sutta.

10.

Vi is a particle which here denotes negation.

11.

Minor Anthologies, "The Path of Discrimination", Treatise I, On Knowledge, Ch I, section 1, 18.

12.

The particle "a" denotes negation. See Gradual Sayings I, Book of the Threes, Ch 5, S 47.

13.

The Pali term lujjati, to be broken up, has been associated in meaning with "loko", the world. See for example Kindred Sayings IV, Second Fifty, Ch 3, S 89.

14.

Uttara means higher, beyond. Lokuttara is beyond the world. The cittas which experience nibbana when enlightenment is attained are lokuttara cittas. This will be explained further on.

15.

"The Book of Analysis", I, Analysis of the Aggregates, 1-32.

16.

"Buddhist Psychological Ethics", Book III, Part II, Appendix II and Book III, Part I, Ch III, S 1086.

17.

A group of defilements.