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 21 - Roots

Cittas are variegated on account of the associated Dhammas, sampayutta Dhammas, which are roots, hetus.

The realities which are saṅkhāra Dhammas, conditioned Dhammas, cannot arise just by themselves, without being dependent on conditions for their arising. There are three kinds of paramattha Dhammas which are saṅkhāra Dhamma: citta, cetasika and rupa. Citta is dependent on cetasika as condition for its arising and cetasika is dependent on citta for its arising. Some cittas are dependent on both cetasika and rupa as conditions for their arising. Rupas are dependent on other rupas as condition for their arising. Some rupas are dependent on citta, cetasika and other rupas as conditions for their arising.

Cittas are variegated on account of the different roots, hetus, which accompany them. Some cittas arise together with cetasikas which are hetus, whereas other cittas arise without hetus. Only six cetasikas are hetus:

lobha cetasika is the hetu which is lobha
dosa cetasika is the hetu which is dosa
moha cetasika is the hetu which is moha

three akusala hetus

alobha cetasika is the hetu which is alobha
adosa cetasika is the hetu which is adosa
paññā cetasika is the hetu which is amoha [1]

three sobhana hetus

Dhammas other than these six cetasikas cannot be root- condition, hetu-paccaya. The cetasikas which are not hetus condition citta while they arise together with it, but they are not a condition by way of hetu-paccaya, by being roots. Hetu-paccaya is only one condition among the twentyfour principal conditions for phenomena.

The six cetasikas which are roots, hetus, can be compared to the roots of a tree which make it thrive and become fully grown, so that it flowers and bears many fruits. When the six kinds of hetus arise they even so make the Dhammas they accompany thrive and develop so that they can produce many fruits, evermore, again and again. Those who are not arahats still have both akusala hetus and kusala hetus. For the arahat there are no akusala hetus nor are there kusala hetus. The cetasikas alobha, adosa and paññā (amoha) which accompany the kiriyacitta which performs the function of javana in the case of the arahat are indeterminate roots, avyākata hetus, roots which are neither kusala nor akusala [2] .

Indeterminate Dhammas, avyākata Dhammas, are realities which are neither kusala nor akusala, namely: vipākacitta, kiriyacitta, vipāka cetasikas, kiriya cetasikas, rupa and nibbāna.

As we have seen, the six hetus can be classified as twofold: as the three akusala hetus of lobha, dosa and moha, and as the three sobhana hetus of alobha, adosa and paññā. In this classification the term sobhana, beautiful, is used and not kusala. The hetus which are kusala arise only with kusala citta and this conditions kusala vipāka, the result, which arises later on. Whereas sobhana hetus arise with kusala citta, they can arise with kusala vipākacitta [3] and they arise with sobhana kiriyacitta. Thus, sobhana hetus do not merely arise with kusala citta.

The four paramattha Dhammas can be classified as twofold by way of not hetu, in Pali: na-hetu, and hetu:

  • citta: not-hetu, na-hetu
  • cetasika: only six of the fifty-two cetasikas are hetu, the other fortysix cetasikas are not-hetu, na-hetu
  • rupa: not-hhetu, na-hetu
  • nibbāna: not-hetu, na-hetu

Citta and forty-six cetasikas are na-hetu. Some cittas and cetasikas are accompanied by cetasikas which are hetus, they are sahetuka citta and cetasika [4] . Some cittas and cetasikas are not accompanied by hetus, they are ahetuka citta and cetasika.

Seeing-consciousness which sees visible object which appears is accompanied by only seven cetasikas: by contact, feeling, remembrance, volition, life faculty, one-pointed-ness and attention. Contact, phassa cetasika, performs the function of contacting the visible object which impinges on the eye-sense. Feeling, vedanā cetasika, performs the function of feeling; in this case it is upekkhā vedanā, which feels indifferent about visible object. Remembrance or perception, saññā cetasika, performs the function of remembering visible object which appears through the eye-sense. Volition, cetanā cetasika, which performs in this case, since it is neither kusala nor akusala, the function of coordinating and inciting citta and the accompanying cetasikas to accomplish their own tasks. Life faculty, jīvitindriya cetasika, performs the function of watching over citta and the accompanying cetasikas, maintaining their life, but only so long as they are present. One-pointed-ness or concentration, ekaggatā cetasika, performs the function of focusing on the object which appears. Attention, manasikāra cetasika, performs the function of being attentive to the visible object. These seven cetasikas are not hetus, thus, seeing-consciousness is ahetuka vipākacitta. Lobha-mūla-citta which may arise after seeing is accompanied by two cetasikas which are hetus: lobha, the Dhamma which enjoys what appears and clings to it, and moha, the Dhamma which is ignorant of realities. Thus, lobha-mūla-citta is sahetuka citta, accompanied by roots.

When we take into consideration hetu and na-hetu, and also sahetuka and ahetuka, saṅkhāra Dhammas can be classified as follows:

  • rupa: is na-hetu and ahetuka
  • citta: is na-hetu; some cittas are sahetuka and some are ahetuka.
  • cetasika: forty-six cetasikas are na-hetu; some cetasikas are sahetuka and some are ahetuka. Six cetasikas are hetu: lobha, dosa, moha, alobha, adosa and paññā; the cetasikas which are themselves hetu are sahetuka, accompanying other hetus, except moha which accompanies moha-mūla-citta. Moha is in that case ahetuka.

Lobha cetasika is sahetuka because each time it is accompanied by another hetu, by moha. If moha cetasika does not arise lobha cetasika cannot arise either. Dosa cetasika is also sahetuka, since it has to be accompanied each time by moha. Moha which accompanies lobha-mūla-citta is sahetuka, because it arises in that case together with the hetu which is lobha. Moha which accompanies dosa-mūla-citta is sahetuka, because it arises in that case together with the hetu which is dosa. Moha which accompanies moha-mūla-citta is ahetuka, because moha is in that case the only root, it does not arise together with lobha or dosa.

Contact, phassa cetasika, which accompanies each citta, is not-hetu, na-hetu. Whenever citta arises together with a cetasika which is hetu, the accompanying phassa is sahetuka. Whenever ahetuka citta arises, the accompanying phassa is also ahetuka. Thus phassa, which is na-hetu, is sometimes sahetuka and sometimes ahetuka.

Our daily life consists of sahetuka cittas as well as ahetuka cittas. When one has not listened to the Dhamma and studied it, one does not know when there is sahetuka citta and when ahetuka citta. The Buddha explained in detail which cittas are ahetuka and which cittas are sahetuka. He explained by which types of hetus and by which types of other cetasikas sahetuka cittas are accompanied, and he indicated the number of accompanying Dhammas.

  • Moha-mūla-citta is accompanied by one hetu, by moha; it is eka-hetuka (eka means one).
  • Lobha-mūla-citta is accompanied by two hetus, by moha and lobha; it is dvi-hetuka (dvi is two).
  • Dosa-mūla-citta is accompanied by the hetus of moha and dosa; it is also dvi-hetuka.

As regards kusala citta, this must be accompanied by sobhana hetus, otherwise it would not be kusala. Kusala cittas can be differentiated as unaccompanied by paññā cetasika and as accompanied by paññā cetasika. Kusala citta which is unaccompanied by paññā arises with two hetus, with alobha, non-attachment, and adosa, non-aversion, thus, it is dvi-hetuka. Kusala citta which is accompanied by paññā arises with three hetus: alobha, adosa and amoha, thus, it is ti-hetuka (ti means three). Kusala citta cannot be accompanied by one hetu, it needs to be accompanied each time by at least the two hetus of alobha and adosa.

Root-condition, hetu-paccaya, is one condition among the twenty-four conditions. A conditioning factor is a Dhamma which assists other Dhammas and conditions their arising or maintains them, depending on the type of condition. Phassa cetasika, for example, is different from lobha cetasika, but both phassa and lobha are conditioning factors which assist other Dhammas, citta, cetasika and rupa, in conditioning their arising. However, since the characteristic and function of phassa are different from those of lobha, these two cetasikas are each different kinds of conditions.

Phassa cetasika is nutrition-condition, āhāra-paccaya. This type of condition brings its own fruit or result, in this case feeling [5] . This type of condition is different from root-condition, hetu-paccaya; a root is a firm foundation for the Dhammas it conditions. As we have seen, the hetus have been compared to the roots of a tree which make the tree thrive and develop. However, a tree does not solely depend on the roots for its growth and development. It also needs earth and water, it needs nutrition so that it is able to bear fruits. If, on the other hand, the roots are lacking, earth and water alone will not be able to make it grow and prosper. Thus, a tree needs different conditions for its growth. Even so, there are six hetus which are root-condition but besides these there are also other types of conditions. Phenomena condition other phenomena in different ways.

In the seventh Book of the Abhidhamma, the "Conditional Relations", the "Paṭṭhāna", all the different ways of conditionality have been expounded. The first condition which is mentioned is root-condition, hetu-paccaya. Thus we can see the importance of the Dhammas which are hetus. When during a cremation ceremony the monks chant texts from the Abhidhamma, they start with "hetu-paccaya", comprising the six hetus of lobha, dosa, moha, alobha, adosa and amoha. Thus it is emphasized that the Dhammas which are these hetus bring results, that they condition rebirth, and that in this way the cycle of birth and death goes on.

There are many kinds of conditions and all of them are important. The Buddha did not teach solely root-condition, hetu-paccaya. Nor did he teach solely object-condition, ārammaṇa-paccaya. In the case of object-condition the object is a condition for citta to arise and to know that object. The Buddha taught all the different conditions in detail. He taught twenty-four principal conditions and also other conditions which are derived from some of the principal conditions.

The rupa which is eye-sense, cakkhupasāda rupa, does not arise from hetu-paccaya, but from other conditions. In its turn it is a condition for other Dhammas as faculty-condition, indriya-paccaya. It is leader in its own function: it is the faculty which conditions seeing-consciousness to arise and to see the visible object which appears. Thus, it conditions seeing-consciousness by way of faculty-condition, indriya-paccaya. If there would not be the rupas of eye-sense, ear-sense, smelling-sense, tasting-sense and body-sense, the body would be like a log of wood. One would not be able to see, to hear or to experience the other sense objects. The five pasāda rupas, the senses, are faculty-condition, they are leaders in performing their function, each in their own field. Eye-sense is the leader as to its own function of receiving visible object, it is the condition for seeing-consciousness to arise and to see visible object. The other rupas could not perform this function. It depends on the keenness of the eye-sense whether what appears through it is clear or vague. This has nothing to do with someone’s will or wish, it depends on the eye-sense which is faculty-condition for seeing.

Each kind of Dhamma is a condition for the arising of other Dhammas and there are different ways of conditionality. Lobha, dosa, moha, alobha, adosa and paññā condition other Dhammas by being their roots. Many times a day akusala hetus arise, they arise more often than kusala hetus. At times there are kusala hetus and when these gradually develop and become more powerful, akusala hetus will dwindle. Paññā should be developed so that the characteristics of realities can be known as they are. It is paññā, the hetu of amoha, which understands realities as they are. So long as paññā does not clearly know the characteristics of realities, the akusala hetus of lobha, dosa and moha are bound to thrive and develop. There is no reality other than paññā, amoha, which can eradicate the akusala hetus. When one studies the Dhamma, understands the characteristics of the realities appearing through the six doors, and develops satipaṭṭhāna, the kusala cetasika amoha or paññā will gradually grow. When one realizes the four noble Truths at the attainment of the first stage of enlightenment, the stage of the sotāpanna, different kinds of defilements are eradicated in conformity with that stage. It is at the attainment of Arahatship that all defilements are eradicated.

The noble persons of the stages of the sotāpanna, the Sakadagami and the Anagami are called "learners", sekha puggala. They have to continue to develop paññā until, at the attainment of Arahatship, akusala hetus as well as kusala hetus do not arise anymore. The arahat who has eradicated all defilements and has reached the end of rebirth, has also no more kusala hetus, because these would be a condition for the arising of kusala vipāka in the future, endlessly. The arahat has cittas accompanied by alobha, adosa and amoha, but these are indeterminate roots, avyākata hetus, which do not condition vipāka in the future. One may wonder whether one will ever reach that stage. We shall reach that stage one day if we are patient and persevere with the development of right understanding, day in day out. There were many people in the past who attained Arahatship and if it would be impossible to attain this result there would not have been anybody who attained it. However, it cannot be attained as quickly as one would hope, the result is in conformity with the cause. If paññā does not arise yet, if it does not develop, defilements cannot be eradicated. Paññā can be gradually developed, stage by stage, and then it will be able to penetrate the true characteristics of realities. In this way defilements can be eradicated.

We should never forget the aim of the study of citta, cetasika and rupa. The aim is the development of satipaṭṭhāna, thus, the understanding of the true characteristics of citta, cetasika and rupa, just as they naturally appear, one at a time. This is the truth the Buddha realized through his enlightenment and taught to others. It may happen that one has studied the Dhamma but does not practice in conformity with what one has learnt. That is an inconsistency. When one has studied the realities from the texts but one does not learn to directly know them as they are when they appear, it is impossible to eradicate defilements.

The akusala hetus of lobha, dosa and moha which arise are of the jāti which is akusala, they cannot be of another jāti. The akusala hetus condition the arising of akusala citta and they are accumulated evermore and carried on to the future. The three sobhana hetus of alobha, adosa and paññā can be of the jātis which are kusala, vipāka and kiriya, as they accompany kusala citta, kusala vipākacitta or kiriyacitta. As we have seen, sobhana comprises more Dhammas than kusala. Sobhana Dhammas comprise realities which are kusala, kusala vipāka and sobhana kiriya.

When all Dhammas are classified as three groups, namely as kusala Dhammas, akusala Dhammas and indeterminate Dhammas, avyākata Dhammas, the six cetasikas which are hetus are classified as nine in the following way:

  1. three akusala hetus, namely, lobha, dosa and moha
  2. three kusala hetus, namely, alobha, adosa and paññā
  3. three avyākata hetus, namely, alobha, adosa and paññā


  1. What is root-condition, hetu-paccaya, and which paramattha Dhammas are root-condition?
  2. What is indeterminate root, avyākata hetu, and which are the indeterminate roots?
  3. What is avyākata Dhamma and which realities are avyākata Dhammas?
  4. What is the difference between kusala hetus and sobhana hetus?
  5. Which realities are na-hetu, not-root?
  6. What is sahetuka and which realities are sahetuka?
  7. Which of the hetu cetasikas are ahetuka and which are sahetuka?
  8. Which akusala cittas are accompanied by one root, eka-hetuka, and which are accompanied by two roots, dvi-hetuka?
  9. Can kusala citta be eka-hetuka? Explain this.
  10. Is contact, phassa cetasika, hetu or na-hetu? Can it be ahetuka or sahetuka? Can it be eka-hetuka, dvi-hetuka or ti-hetuka, thus, accompanied by one root, two roots or three roots?
  11. When hetus are classified as nine, which are they?


Footnotes and references:


alobha is non-attachment, adosa is non-hate or kindness, amoha is paññā.


As we have seen, the arahat does not perform kamma which can produce result, and thus kiriyacittas perform the function of javana.


Kusala vipākacitta can be accompanied by sobhana hetus or it can be ahetuka, without hetus.


"Sa" means with.


Material food, contact, cetanā and viññāṇa can be āhāra-paccaya. In the case of āhāra-paccaya, the conditioning Dhamma maintains the existence of and supports the growth of the conditioned Dhamma.