by Nina van Gorkom | 1999 | 122,172 words

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Chapter 7 - Vitality And Attention

Jivitindriya And Manasikara

Jivitindriya (life-faculty or vitality) and manasikara (attention) are two other cetasikas among the seven universals which arise with every citta. As regards jivitindriya,[1] this cetasika sustains the life of the citta and cetasikas it accompanies. According to the Atthasalini (part IV, Chapter I, 123, 124)[2] the characteristic of jivitindriya is "ceaseless watching", its function is to maintain the life of the accompanying dhammas, its manifestation the establishment of them, and the proximate cause are the dhamas which have to be sustained.

The function of jivitindriya is to maintain the life of citta and its accompanying cetasikas. It keeps them going until they fall away. Since jivitindriya arises and falls away together with the citta, it performs its function only for a very short while. Each moment of citta consists actually of three exttemely short periods:

  1. the arising moment ( uppada khana)
  2. the moment of its presence, or static moment (tithi khana)
  3. the dissolution moment (bhanga khana ).

Jivitindriya arises with the citta at the arising moment and it maintains the life of citta and the accompanying cetasikas, but it cannot make them stay beyond the dissolution moment; then jivitindriya has to fall away together with the citta and the accompanying cetasikas. The Atthasalini states concening jivitindriya:

...it watches over those states (the accompanying dhammas) only in the moment of (their and its) existence, as water over lotuses, etc. And although it watches over them, arisen as its own property, as a nurse aver the infant, life goes on only by being bound up with these states (accompanying dhammas) that have gone on, as the pilot on the boat. Beyond the dissolution mornent it does not go on, owing to the non-being both of itself and of the states which should have been kept going. At the dissolution moment it does not maintain them, owing to its own destruction, as the spent oil in the wick cannot maintain the flame of the lamp. Its effective power is as its duration.

Citta and cetasikas cannot arise without jivitindriya which maintains their lives and jivitindriya cannot arise without citta and the accompanying cetasikas. When, for example, seeing arises, jivitindriya must accompany seeing. Seeing needs jivitindriya in order to subsist during the very short period of its life. When seeing falls away jivitindriya also falls away. Then another citta arises and this citta is accompanied by another jivitindriya which sustains citta and the accompanying cetasikas during that very short moment of their existence. Jivitindriya has to arise with every citta in order to vitalize citta and its accompanying cetasikas.

The cetasika jivitindriya which vitalizes the accompanying nama-dhamrnas is nana. There is also jivitindriya which is rupa.( 1 See Vsuddhimagga XIV, 59). Rupa-jivitindriya is a kind of rupa produced by kamma and it maintains the life of the other rupas it arises together with. Ropas arise and fall away in groups, some of which are produced by kamma, some by citta, some by nutrition and some by temperature. Jivitindriya is part of only the groups or rupa which are produced by kamma. It maintains the life of the rupas it accompanies and then it falls away together with them.

We used to take life for something which lasts. we cling to life and we take it for'mine' and 'self'. However, there is no physical life nor mental life which lasts. life-faculty is sakhara dhamma, conditioned dhamma, which does not stay and which is not self. The study of the reality of jivitindriya can remind us that life lasts only for a moment and then falls away to be succeeded by a next moment.



Manasikara, attention, is another cetasika among the universals which arises with every citta. (2 There are aIso two kinds of citta which are called manasikara (Atthasalini 133 and Visusshimagga XIV, 152). One kind of citta which b manasikara is the panca-dvaravajana-citta (five-sense-door adverting-consciousness). The first citta of the 'sense-door process', which adverts to the object; it is called 'controller of the sense-door process'. The other kind of citta which manasikara is the mano-dvara-vajana-citta (mind-door adverting-consciousness) which adverts to the object through the mind-door and is succeeded by the javana cittas. It is called 'controller of the javanas'.) The Atthaslini (I, Part IV, Chapter 1,133 which defines manasikara in the same wording as the Visuddhimagga (XIV, 152) states concerning the catasika which is Manasikara:

...It has the characteristic of driving associated states towards the object. the function of joining (yoking associated notes to the object, the manifestation of facing the object. It is included in the sankharakkhandha, and should be regarded as the charioteer of associated states because it regulates the object.

The (XN, 152) adds that the proximate cause of manasikara is an object.

The cetasika manasikara which can be translated as attention is the 'controller of the object' because it turns the citta towards the object. However, also at the moments we are, as we call it in conventional language, 'distracted' and we think that we are without attention, there is still manasikara with the citta since it accompanies every citta. Also when there is moha-mula-citta accompanied by uddhacca (restlessness), citta cognizes an object; manasikara accompanies the citta and 'joins' citta and the other cetasikas to that object. Every citta needs manasikara in order to cognize an object.

There is citta at this moment and thus there must also be manasikara. Manasikara is different from phassa which contacts the object so that citta can experience it, and it is different from ekaggata cetasika which focuses on one object. Manasikara has its own task while it assists the citta in cognizing the object. Manasikara has attention to whatever object presents itself through one of the six doors and it 'joins' citta and the accompanying cetasikas to that object.

Manasikira is different according as it arises with different types of citta. When, for example, seeing arises, it is accompanied by Mamasikara which joins seeing and the accompanying cetasikas to visible object. Seeing is vipaka and thus manasikara is also vipika Shortly after the seeing there can be attention to the shape and form of something and then the object is not visible object but a concept, At that moment there is another type of citta acocmpanied by another manasikara, At each moment manasiktra is different When there is lobha-mula-citta, akusala citta rooted in attachrnent, manasiklra which accompanies lobha-mirla-citta is also alrusala. When there is kusala citta the manasikara which accompanies the kusala circa is also kusala.

When manasikara accompanies a citta which cultivates samatha, it'joins' citta and the other cetasikas to the meditation subject, such as a corpse or the Buddha's virtues. When the citta is rupavacara kusala citta, the accompanying manasikara is also rupavacara; it is different from manasikara which is kamvacara (belonging to the sense sphere). Rupavacara citta experiences the meditation subject with absorption and the accompanying manasikara 'joins' citta and the accompanying cetasikas to that object. The manasikara which accompanies arupavacara citta is still more tranquil and more refined than the manasikara which accompanies rupavacara citta. When manasikara accompanies the citta which develops vipassana, right understanding of nama and rupa, there is attention towards the nama or rupa which is the object of mindfulness at that moment; manasikara assists the citta and joins it to that nama or rupa. When manasikara accompanies lokuttara citta, manasikara is also lokuttara and it joins citta and the accompanying cetasikas to the object which is nibbana.

We are likely to have a concept of self which has attention to this or that object, but attention, manasikara, is a conditioned dhamma, it is conditioned by the citta and the cetasikas it accompanies, it arises and falls away together with them. At each moment there is a different citta and thus also a different manasikara.

The seven universals have each their own specific characteristic, function, manifestation and proximate cause and they have different qualities as they arise with cittas of different jatis and of different planes of consciousness. Summarizing the seven 'universals', they are:

  1. phassa (contact)
  2. vedana (feeling)
  3. sanna (remembrance)
  4. cetana (volition)
  5. ekaggata ( concentration or one-pointedness)
  6. jivitindriya (life faculty)
  7. manasikara (attention)

All the 'universals' arise with every citta and they share the same object with the citta. They are all of the same jati as the citta they accompany and of the same plane or consciousness. In the planes of existence where there are both nama and rupa, cetasikas arise at the same 'base', vatthu, as the citta they accompany and thus they may arise at the eye-base, ear-base nose-base, tongue-base body-base or heart-base.

Cetasikas never arise by themselves, they always accompany citta and other cetasikas. Therefore, when we study cetasikas, we should also study the different cittas they accompany.

There are other cetasikas besides the 'universals' which can arise with the citta, but there have to be at least the seven 'universals' with every citta.

There are ten types of cittas which are accompanied only by the 'universals', not by other cetasikas.

These are the five pairs' (dvipancavinnana) which are:

  1. seeing-consciousness,
  2. hearing consciousness,
  3. smelling-consciousness,
  4. tasting-consciousness and
  5. body-consciousness.

These cittas ate ahetuka (rootless) vipakacittas which can be either kusala vipaka or akusala vipaka and therefore, they are "five pairs".

When seeing-consciousness arises, each of the'universals' which accompanies it performs its own function.

1. Phassa wich accompanies seeing-consciousness is eye-contact (cakkhu-samphassa). It contacts vsible object. When there is eye-contact there is the coinciding of eye-base, visible object and seeing-consciousness.

2. Vedana, which is in this case indifferent feeling, experiences the 'taste' of visible object.

3. Sanna 'marks' and remembers visible object.

4. Cetana coordinates the tasks of the accompaning dhammas. Since seeing-consciousness is vipakacitta, cetana merely coordinates, it does not 'will' kusala or akusala.

5. Ekaggata performs its function of focusing on visible object; it does not focus on any other object.

6. Jivitindriya sustains citta and the accompanying cetasikas until they fall away.

7. Manasikara 'drives' citta and the accompanying cetasikas towards visible object. Seeing-consdousness needs the accompanying 'universals' in order to cognize Visible object; it could not arise and cognize its object without the assistance of the accompanying cetasikas.

As we have seen, only the dvi-pancavinnanas are not accompanied by other cetasikas besides the 'universals'. All the other cittas which arise in the sense-door process and in the mind-door process and also the patisandhi-citta, rebirth-.conciousness, the bhavanga-citta, life-continuum, and the cuti-citta, dying-consciousness, are accompanied by other cetasikas besides the 'universals'.

The universals' have different qualities as they arise with different cittas. For example, when kusala citta arises all the accompanying cetasikas, the 'universals' included, are kusala as well. Vedana, feeling, which accompanies kusala citta can be pleasant feeling or indifferent feeling. Cetana, volition, which accompanies kusala citta has a double function: it coordinates the tasks of the accompanying dhammas and it 'wills' kusala. If it motivates wholesome deeds it is capable of producing the appropriate result when it is the right time for it. Thus, kusala cetana is different from cetana which accompanies vipakacitta.

When the citta is akusala, all the accompanying cetasikas are akusala as well. Vedana which accompanies akusala citta can be pleasant feeling (in the case of lobha-mula-citta), unpleasant feeling (in the case of dosa-muIa-citta), or indifferent feeling (in the case of lobha-muIa-citta and moha-muIa-citta). As regards cetana which accompanies akusala citta, this has a double function: it coordinates the accompanying dhammas on the object and it 'wills' akusala. If it motivates unwholesome deeds it is capable of producing the appropriate result when it is the right time. Ekaggata, concentration or one-pointedness, which accompanies akusala citta is different from ekaggata which accompanies kusala citta. Thus we see that mental phenomena which arise together condition one another. If we have more understanding of the many different conditions for the phenomena which arise, it will help us to see them as elements, not as a person, a self.



  1. Does manasikara, attention, arise when we are sound asleep?
  2. Can manasikara be lokuttara?
  3. Do nama-jivitindriya and rupa-jivitindriya have different functions?
  4. Which types of citta are accompanied only by the seven 'universals' and not by other cetasikas?
  5. Each of the 'universals' has its specific characteristic, function, manifestation and proximate cause. Why can each one of them still have different qualities at different moments?
  6. Through how many doors can the 'universals' experience an object?
  7. Can the 'universals' experience a concept?
  8. When the citta is akusala citta, it is accompanied by akusala. cetasikas. Are the accompanying 'universals' akusala as well?
June 18, 2001

Footnotes and references:


Jivitam means "life", and indriya means "controlling faculty".


See also Dhammasangani19.

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