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 16 - Citta And Cetasika

The "Atthasālinī" mentions several aspects of citta:

Citta is so called because it clearly knows an object
Citta is so called because it arises in its own series by way of javana
Citta is so called because it is result conditioned by accumulated kamma and defilements
Each citta is so called because it is variegated (vicitta) according to circumstances, because of the accompanying Dhammas (sampayutta

The fact that cittas are variegated (vicitta) means that all of them are different. They are variegated because of the accompanying Dhammas. Citta is saṇkhāra Dhamma, it arises because of conditions, and it is conditioned by different combinations of cetasikas. Cetasika is another kind of paramattha Dhamma which arises and falls away together with the citta, experiences the same object as the citta and arises at the same physical base as the citta. Therefore, the cetasikas which are the accompanying Dhammas arising together with the citta are the condition that cittas are variegated.

The cittas of one person are completely different from the cittas of any other person. Different accumulated kamma of the past conditions the result, the vipāka in the present, to be varied for different people. Animals and human beings in this world are different because of the diversity of the cause, of kamma. The outward appearance and bodily features of living beings are different, and they also experience different worldly conditions of gain, loss, honor, dishonor, well-being, misery, praise and blame. All these factors are just results which arise from various causes of the past. Past causes condition the results in the present to be varied for different people, from birth to death. It is unknown on which day and at which moment we shall depart from this world. Nobody can tell in which situation he will die, outside his home or inside, on land, in the water or in the air, due to sickness or due to an accident. It all depends on kamma which has been performed in the past. Not only the vipākacittas in the present are variegated for different people, but also the cittas which are causes in the present, kusala cittas and akusala cittas, are variegated. These are the condition that the results arising in the future will also be varied.

The diversity of cittas is endless. They are variegated because of the cetasikas which arise together with the citta, the sampayutta Dhammas. We should know what the meaning of sampayutta Dhamma, associated Dhamma, is. There are four kinds of paramattha Dhammas: citta, cetasika, rupa and nibbāna. Citta and cetasika are realities which have to arise together, they cannot be without each other, they cannot be separated from each other. When they have arisen together they also fall away together. They share the same object and they have the same base, place of origin, in the planes where there are five khandhas, that is, nama and rupa. These are the characteristic features of their being associated Dhammas, sampayutta Dhammas.

The characteristics of sampayutta Dhammas, citta and cetasikas, have been explained in detail so that it can be clearly known that nama is completely different from rupa. When we listen to the teachings and study them, conditions are gradually being built up (as saṅkhārakkhandha [1] ) for the arising of sati and paññā. Thus sati of satipaṭṭhāna will investigate and be aware of the characteristics of nama and rupa, one at a time, until these appear as clearly distinct from each other, as being not associated, sampayutta, although they can arise at the same time.

The "Atthasālinī" (I, Book I, Part II, Analysis of Terms, Ch I, 70) states:

...For in rupa-Dhammas and arupa-Dhammas (nama-Dhammas) which are produced together, rupa arises together with arupa (nama), but it is not associated or conjoined with it. Likewise arupa with rupa, and rupa with rupa. But arupa is always accompanied by, coexistent, associated and conjoined with arupa....

Thus, being associated is a characteristic which only pertains to namas, to citta and cetasika which arise and fall away together and experience the same object. Rupa is completely different from nama. Rupa is not a Dhamma which experiences an object. Although rupas arise and fall away together they cannot be associated Dhammas. The realities which are associated Dhammas can only be nama-Dhammas, elements which experience something. They are closely conjoined, since they arise at the same base, share the same object and fall away together.

In the "Atthasālinī" it has been stated as to the fourth aspect of citta, that each citta is variegated (vicitta), according to circumstances, because of the accompanying Dhammas, sampayutta Dhammas.

There are fiftytwo kinds of cetasikas in all, but not all of them accompany each citta. Cittas are different because of the amount of cetasikas and the different types of cetasikas which accompany them. It depends on the type of citta and on its jāti (nature) by which cetasikas it is accompanied. The eighty-nine types of citta which arise are different as to their jāti which may be kusala, akusala, vipāka or kiriya, one of these four jātis. The classification of citta by way of jāti is a classification as to the nature of citta. Citta which is kusala by nature cannot be anything else but kusala, no matter for whom, where or when it arises. The citta which is akusala cannot be anything else but akusala, no matter for whom it arises. Akusala is akusala, no matter whether one is a monk or lay follower, no matter what rank one has, of what race one is, which color of skin one has. The nature of citta cannot be changed, because citta is a paramattha Dhamma, an absolute or ultimate reality. When the associated Dhammas, the cetasikas, are akusala, the citta is akusala. When the associated Dhammas are sobhana (beautiful), citta can be kusala, kusala vipāka or sobhana kiriyacitta (of the arahat), in accordance with the jāti of the citta [2] .

The "Atthasālinī" (I, Book I, Part IV, Ch II, Section of Exposition, 142) states that the Buddha has accomplished a difficult matter, namely, that he classified cittas and cetasikas, designated them and gave them a name. The "Atthasālinī" uses a simile to illustrate this:

...True, it would be possible to find out by sight, or by smell, or by taste the difference in color, smell and taste of a variety of waters or a variety of oils which have been placed in a jar and churned the whole day, yet it would be called a difficult thing to do. But something of greater difficulty has been accomplished by the supreme Buddha, who brought out the designation of nama Dhammas, after making an individual classification of them, namely of citta and the cetasikas which have arisen on account of one object....

Nama is more complex and intricate than rupa, but the Buddha has for each kind of nama designated four characteristic features:

  1. the specific characteristic which appears
  2. the function
  3. the mode of manifestation
  4. the proximate cause or immediate occasion for its arising

Citta is the "leader", the "chief", in knowing an object. The "Atthasālinī" (II, Book I, Part VIII, Ch I, the first Path, 214) states that citta is a base (bhūmi). It is the ground or soil for the accompanying cetasikas which are dependent on it. If there would not be citta, there could not be, for example, the cetasika which is pleasant feeling, because then there would be no foundation for it. Whenever pleasant feeling arises, the citta is the base on which the accompanying feeling depends. Thus, citta is the base on which the associated Dhammas (sampayutta Dhammas), happy feeling and the other accompanying cetasikas, are dependent.
As we have seen, citta can be classified by way of the four jātis of akusala, kusala, vipāka and kiriya. No matter to which citta one refers, one should know of which jāti it is. Vipāka is the result of kamma, and since there are both kusala kamma and akusala kamma, there also have to be both kusala vipāka and akusala vipāka.

When one refers to the result of akusala kamma, one should call it "akusala vipāka", and one should not abreviate it as "akusala". Akusala vipākacitta is the result of akusala kamma, it is not of the jāti which is akusala, and kusala vipākacitta is the result of kusala kamma, it is not of the jāti which is kusala.

Kiriyacitta which is again another kind of citta is not kusala, akusala or vipāka. It is a citta which arises because of conditions other than kamma-condition (kamma-paccaya), it is not result. Neither is it a cause which can condition the arising of vipāka. The arahat has instead of akusala cittas or kusala cittas kiriyacittas, because he has no longer conditions for akusala and kusala. There is for him only vipākacitta, result of past kamma, and kiriyacitta.

The Buddha did not only classify cittas and cetasikas by way of the four jātis of kusala, akusala, vipāka and kiriya, he also used other methods of classification. He classified all Dhammas as threefold (Atthasālinī, Book I, Part I, Mātikā, Ch I, The Triplets, 39):

  1. kusala Dhammas
  2. akusala Dhammas
  3. indeterminate (avyākata) Dhammas

All paramattha Dhammas which are not kusala Dhammas or akusala Dhammas are indeterminate Dhammas, avyākata Dhammas [3] . Thus, when citta and cetasika are classified according to this threefold method, the cittas and cetasikas which are avyākata Dhammas are: cittas and cetasikas which are vipāka, and cittas and cetasikas which are kiriya. The four paramattha Dhammas of citta, cetasika, rupa and nibbāna can be classified according to the threefold classification of kusala Dhamma, akusala Dhamma and avyākata Dhamma. Then the four paramattha Dhammas are classified as follows:

  • kusala citta and cetasikas: kusala Dhamma
  • akusala citta and cetasikas: akusala Dhamma
  • vipākacitta and cetasikas: avyākata Dhamma
  • kiriyacitta and cetasikas: avyākata Dhamma
  • all rupas: avyākata Dhamma
  • nibbāna: avyākata Dhamma


  1. Can rupa be associated Dhamma, sampayutta Dhamma, with nama?
  2. Can rupa be sampayutta Dhamma with rupa?
  3. Is color which appears through the eyes kusala Dhamma or avyākata Dhamma? Explain the reason.
  4. Is seeing-consciousness kusala Dhamma, akusala Dhamma or avyākata Dhamma? Explain the reason.
  5. Can nibbāna be kusala Dhamma?
  6. Which citta has no jāti?
  7. With which Dhamma can citta be associated Dhamma, and when?
  8. Can one type of citta be associated Dhamma with another type of citta?
  9. Can akusala Dhamma be associated Dhamma with kusala Dhamma?
  10. With which Dhamma can nibbāna be associated Dhamma?

Footnotes and references:


In combination with other wholesome qualities comprised in saṅkhārakkhandha, the khandha of formations or activities.


Sobhana cetasikas are wholesome qualities which can accompany cittas of three jātis. Further on the term sobhana will be explained more in detail.


Avyākata means undeclared. They are not "declared" as being kusala or akusala.

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