Abhidhamma in Daily Life (by Ashin Janakabhivamsa)

by Ashin Janakabhivamsa | 66,666 words

English translation of "Abhidhamma in Daily Life" by Professor Ko Lay. Revised by Sayadaw U Silananda, International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University, Yangon, 1999...

Two Kinds of Moha

Not knowing (delusion) is moha. It is of two kinds, namely, anusaya-moha and pariyutthana-moha. The term anusaya means inherent tendency or lying latent. The term pariyutthana means rising up. Therefore, delusion, which lies latent in the mind of beings, is called anusaya moha, the latent delusion. The delusion that occasionally arises together with the consciousness is called pariyutthana moha, the rising-up delusion.

Anusaya Moha

Just as there is poison in a tree that bears poisonous fruits; just so in the mind-continuum of beings, there is an element, dhatu, which keeps hidden the Dhamma that ought to be known. That element is called anusaya moha, the latent delusion. Because of the concealing action of anusaya moha, worldlings, puthujjhanas, are unable to realise penetratingly the three characteristics of anicca (impermanence), dukkha (suffering) and anatta (non-self); neither do they grasp the Four Noble Truths nor Paticcasamuppada, (the Law of Dependent Origination) in a comprehensive manner.

Worldlings cannot identify the latent delusion with their limited knowledge. Nowadays, even though people claim to know about anicca, dukkha, anatta, etc., through book learning, their knowledge is superficial; it is not clear, penetrative realisation. Even when one becomes a Stream-winner (Sotapanna), Once-returner (Sakadagami) or Non-returner (Anagami), anusaya moha only becomes thinner and thinner. Only when one attains Arahantship, is the anusaya moha dhatu, the latent delusion, completely eliminated. Therefore, even at the moment of performing good deeds or wholesome actions before becoming an Arahant, anusaya moha is present; it is only lying latent and quiet.

Pariyutthana Moha

When moha rises together with the mind it is said that the bad mind, the unwholesome one, has appeared. Because of the concealing nature of this pariyutthana moha, evil consequences which one may suffer in future are not understood. And the evils of unwholesome actions of the present are also not understood. Therefore, even the learned and virtuous cannot see the evils of moha and will commit wrong deeds when moha arises. This moha, in the domain of evil, is the most wicked. In this world all wickedness and stupidity originate from moha; moha is the tap root of all evil.

The Wise Overwhelmed by Delusion

The Bodhisatta, Haritaca by name, having renounced the world, abandoning his immense wealth of eighty crores of money, became a hermit and attained the great supernatural powers, jhanas and abhinnas. Then, as the rains were heavy in the Himalayas, he came to Baranasi and stayed in the King’s garden. The king of Baranasi was his old friend who was fulfilling the Paramis (Perfections) to become the Venerable Ananda. Therefore, as soon as he saw the hermit, he revered him so much that he asked him to stay in the royal garden and supported him with four requisites; he himself offered the hermit morning meals at the palace.

Once, as a rebellion broke out in the country, the king himself had to go out to quell it. Before setting out with his army, he requested the queen again and again not to forget to look after the hermit. The queen did as told. One early morning, she took a bath with scented water and put on fine clothes and lay down on the couch waiting for the hermit.

The Bodhisatta came through space with his supernormal power, abhinna, and arrived at the palace window. Hearing the flutter of the hermit’s robe, the queen hastily rose from her couch and her dress fell off her. Seeing the queen divested of her clothes, the anusaya moha which lay dormant in his mind-continuum, rose to the stage of pariyutthana moha, and filled with lust, he took the queen’s hand and committed immoral transgression like a monster ogre.

Note: We should consider the stupidity arising through moha in this story seriously. If such moha did not appear in him, he would not have committed such an evil deed even with the king’s consent. But at that time, being overwhelmed by the darkness of delusion, he was unable to see the evil consequences of his deed in the present and the future existences throughout the samsara, and consequently, committed that improper transgression. The jhanas and abhinnas, which he had acquired through practice for all his life, were also unable to dispel the darkness of moha; instead, being overwhelmed by moha the power of jhanas and abhinnas themselves vanished from him.

But the hermit, being already quite matured in the Paramis (Perfections), learnt a bitter lesson and greatly repented his deed on the return of the king. He endeavoured again to gain his jhanas and abhinnas and contemplating: “ I have done wrong because of dwelling in close proximity with the people,” returned to the Himalayas.

Not Knowing is Not Always Moha

As moha is explained as not knowing, some people think that not knowing a subject which one has not studied not knowing places where one has not been to, not remembering names which one has not been acquainted with, are also moha. Such kind of not knowing is merely lack of knowledge; it is not real moha at all; hence it is not an unwholesome mental factor; it is merely the absence of recognition, or perception, sanna, that has not perceived it before. Even Arahants have such a kind of not-knowing, let alone ordinary common worldling.

Even the Venerable Sariputta, who is second only to the Buddha in wisdom, taught a meditation practice inappropriate to a young bhikkhu. Thinking that the young bhikkhu was at the lustful age, he prescribed asubha kammatthana, meditation on unpleasant objects (e.g., decaying corpses) which did not go with his pupil’s disposition. Even though the pupil meditated for four months, he could not get the slightest nimitta, sign of concentration.

Then he was taken to the Buddha who created and gave him a lotus blossom suitable to his disposition, and he was delighted. And when the Buddha showed him the lotus flower withering, he felt samvega, a religious sense of urgency. The Buddha then gave him the discourse designed to make him realise the characteristics of anicca, dukkha and anatta and he became an Arahant. Herein note the infinite knowledge of the Buddha; and also note that there are things not known even to the Venerable Sariputta who was already free from delusion.

Thus, even the Venerable Sariputta did not know things beyond his ken. Thus, not knowing things which have not been taught and those which belong to the domain of the Buddhas, is not moha. It is merely the frailty of their knowledge or learning. For example, take the case of a man who cannot see a far away object in broad daylight. It is not due to a barrier concealing the object from eyesight; it is only because of the weakness of his eyesight.

Gross and Fine Moha

The moha which cannot discern between what is unwholesome or vice and what is wholesome or virtue is rather gross. The moha which prevents realisation of anicca, dukkha, and anatta nature of mind and matter, the Four Noble Truths, and the Law of Dependent Origination, is comparatively fine moha. The mind which is accompanied by moha is called “delusive mind, foolish mind” and one who is overpowered by delusion is called variously “the fool, the nincompoop, the dumb, the dull, the wild, the stupid, the useless.”

“This world is in utter darkness. Only few people in this world can perceive extraordinarily. Just as only a few birds can escape from the net, people who can be reborn in the abode of devas after death are very few in number.” (Dhammapada, v. 174)

Here ends the explanation about Moha, Delusion.

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